Thursday, April 30, 2009

27. "This One is Mine" - Maria Semple


It is not called "Holly-weird" for nothing.

Violet is fighting to be a super mom and super wife in the middle of HelL.A. Her husband, David, is a music deal-maker, but he has a super mean, self-absorbed streak. Duh. It's L.A.

Violet meets Teddy Reyes, a Hep-C positive musician barely scraping by. He woos her with promises of poetry and glimpses of a different life. Meanwhile, David's sister is attempting to capture her own bit of the spotlight as she seduces a mildly autistic sports betting (but not gambling) TV personality.

It all ends up being a huge satiric view of the helL.A. lifestyle. If you read the book, keep that in mind. It is not a romance, it is not killer-funny. The characters are sad shells of human beings, where one is judged on the ability to spot a fake Hermes bag.

Though it is not mentioned (anywhere, that I have seen), this is also a great book about post-partum depression. Violet has all of the trademark symptoms, and by relating to that, it makes the downward spiral of her world more believable.

Semple, a former L.A. script writer for "Arrested Development" and "Ellen," among others, chews and spits out every quirk and richy-rich craze... except the drugs. Where were the drugs? Despite my few gripes, I held this book in my hand for a day and read it during every spare moment.

3.5 out of 5.0 Nik a L.A.s.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

XX. Other books...

Convince me to give any of these another shot:

  • THE SHARPER YOUR KNIFE, THE LESS YOU CRY
  • SHADOW COUNTRY
  • KIERON SMITH, BOY
  • LUSH LIFE

26. "Infinite Jest" - David Foster Wallace

Slap me, please. Preferably within the first 25-30 pages. I've been flipping through books at an incredible pace, but I've finished only one.

What knocked you out of your seat? I'm frustrated with stinker books (like this one with its rambling paragraphs that repeat-repeat-repeat like a skipping record for five irrational pages.

25. "The Rum Diary" - Hunter S. Thompson


Semi-autobiographical, this novel revolves around the shady industry when journalism meets public relations in the "new" paradise of 1960s Puerto Rico. To knock back self-loathing and job fears, the reporters sit around and knock back drinks.

Paul Kemp left New York for this new adventure, but his fears about growing old without roots or love begin to create more issues that need self-medicating. When he falls for a good friend's girl, Paul balances his work life and his social life with a few good shots of rum.

Is it Thompson's best work? No, but it is an honest portrayal of the times, written in the maniacal style that has made him famous.

3.25 out of 5.0 150 Whats?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

24. "Bend with the Knees and Other Love Advice from My Father" - Benjamin Drevlow


As most of my readers know, I often mix books. It's like drinking cocktails. I don't want my pineapple juice to be lonely; therefore, the vodka must join the party.

I've been mixing Drevlow with Hunter S. Thompson, and I never thought that I'd say that I've found the new Thompson.

The two men are decades (and mortally) apart, but Drevlow's book of short stories (fiction, though very close to fictionalized memoir) is very similar to Thompson's biting humor, if he had lived in northern Wisconsin. Reading both authors is like sitting at the bar and soaking up stories along with your alcohol (which I did with one of these authors - make your own guesses).

Bend With the Knees switches from booze cruises to suicides within a matter of pages, but it is Drevlow's voice (and use of himself as a character) that is reminiscent of Thompson. For example, in The Rum Diary, Thompson uses brittle cracks to describe the other journalists in Puerto Rico. In a description of a air-headed writer wannabe, Drevlow writes of "How I'd filet the entitlement out of her gills." It's edgy with a wedge of lemon to shock the senses.

4.5 out of 5.0 Vodka Lemons.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

23. "Drood" - Dan Simmons


Oh, Bibliolatry, please forgive me. I still adore and worship you and your amazing taste.

Dan Simmons continues to confound readers using historical events as a backdrop to some creepy shite. In this case, the relationship between Charles Dickens and his friend, Wilkie Collins, after Dickens survives a train wreck and meets the infamous figure, Drood.

Who is Drood? Well, that would be spoiling the surprises. In short, Drood is a powerful mesmeric of London's underworld. Is he a form of Dickens's fiction? Or does he literally haunt the writer to his death, leaving Collins to write the monster's biography?

Wilkie Collins is not the most reliable character. While he prides himself on specifics of detail, he is under the influence of mega-doses of laudanum all of the time. However, his growing jealousy and hatred of Dickens is perfectly written because even *I* grew tired of the doddering fool by the middle of the book.

Could this novel have been edited from its original 700+ pages? Absolutely. Is this as compelling as Simmons's THE TERROR? Not a chance. Did I still sequester myself for the final 200 pages? Yes, but I'm a bad, bad person who ignores others.

4.25 out of 5.0 Stingers.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

XX. "The Afterlife" - Donald Antrim


I need to read this, but when Dan Simmons's book, Drood, came into my possession, everything else faded away.