Archive for the ‘Light Reading’ Category

Review of The Sweet Potato Queens’ Field Guide to Men

Monday, May 12th, 2008

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The Sweet Potato Queens’ Field Guide to Men:  Every Man I Love Is Either Married, Gay, or Dead, by Jill Conner Browne

Well, this book is very irreverent and, how shall I say this?  Not very respectful toward men.  But oh my goodness, it is funny! 

As the author says herownself:  “The reader should not infer any degree of fairness intended by these descriptions; they are used purely for the sake of conversation and, we hope, for laughs.  It is not in my job description to be fair to men or to even seem fair to them.  It’s a little late in the history of the entire world to introduce an element of fairness, and beyond even my considerable powers to bring it to bear, anyway.”

She goes on to describe, with great hilarity, many types of men you’ll find out there:  The Bud Spud, the Dud Spud, the Crud Spud, the Fuddy-Dud Spud, the Pud Spud, the Blood Spud (also known as the Man Who May Need Killing), the Scud Spud, and finally every woman’s dream, the Spud Stud.

And so it goes.  I should mention that Jill Conner Browne does not confine herself to mocking men, but also gives plenty of hearty laughter toward those of us who love them — and the things we’ll go through to try to attract them.

I’m afraid, in my present Being-Divorced state, the chapter I found most utterly hilarious was “Surviving the Wang Wars” about all the delightful ways women have gotten revenge on men who didn’t treat them as well as they deserved.

“Alas and alack, love does occasionally derail, and when it does, it usually wipes out entire neighborhoods, releases a massive cloud of terminally toxic gas, and the cleanup can take years.  And while it may be true that it is not always their fault when things go awry, it is no less true that we certainly believe that it’s always their fault and we want 100 percent of all the blame to be laid not so much at their feet but rather on top of their bodies, making it impossible for them to breathe and continue living in any real sense of the word.  What would really make us just oh so happy is to be allowed to murder them ten different times in ten different ways and then finally feed the remains to the wood chipper.  But hardly anybody ever really gets to do that.  And so, barring that ultimate satisfaction, a number of Queens have demonstrated characteristic Queenly Resourcefulness in their dealings with errant mates in ways that are not likely to land the perpetrator in the slammer, and that’s a Good Thing.  I share them with you as food for thought — fodder for your consideration as alternative strategies should you find yourself currently in possession of a man who is just beggin’ to be killed.”

Now, I should mention that the Sweet Potato Queens do not advocate criminal activity.   Jill Conner Browne says, “Even in Louisiana they will sometimes put you in jail if you kill one.  We’ve stated repeatedly that we are unequivocally against killin’ ’em, even when they practically beg for it by their every word and deed.  If you do, you will miss quite a few St. Paddy’s parades in Jackson while running from the law, and you’ll be a Yam on the Lam.”

if you’re feeling tempted to commit violence, The Sweet Potato Queens will get you laughing so hard about it, you won’t need to any longer.

With lots of silly but all too true insights, I think the uplifting message of the book is summarized in this paragraph:

“Throughout this book, I’ve been carrying on about men and finding them and getting them and keeping them and deciding whether or not to kill them, and if so, how, and so on.  And that’s all funny and mostly true and all that, but the real truth is you are enough — just the way you are, just who you are.  You are a complete entity, a whole person, right there in the skin you’re in.  You don’t need to have a guy to be happy.  Admit it:  You have more fun with a gang of girlfriends than you’ve had on the absolute best date of your entire life.  If somebody comes along who treats you right and makes you happy and you can do the same for him, well, that’s just dandy.  But I’m telling you, the only way that I know to get and keep a happy, healthy relationship is first to create a happy and healthy life for yourself without one.  This is your life to live.”

Preach it, Sister!

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on the main site at:

www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/spq_field_guide_to_men.html

Review of The Miracle at Speedy Motors, by Alexander McCall Smith

Sunday, May 4th, 2008

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Books, New York, 2008.  214 pages.

Starred Review

I love the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency!  This is now the ninth book in the series.  I do recommend starting at the beginning.  You will grow to know and love these characters, adding to the charm of the books.  You will understand exactly why Mma Makutsi’s uncle asks a bride price of precisely 97 cows.

I dearly wish I could sit down to a cup of red bush tea with Precious Ramotswe.  (I would never admit that I like black tea better!)  She is a woman of wisdom, peace, and compassion.

Reading this book is the next best thing.

“Mma Ramotswe was right: evil repaid with retribution, with punishment, had achieved half its goal; evil repaid with kindness was shown to be what it really was, a small, petty thing, not something frightening at all, but something pitiable, a paltry affair.”

Find this review on the main site at:

www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/miracle_at_speedy_motors.html

Buy from Amazon.com

Review of The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen, by M. T. Anderson

Sunday, September 9th, 2007
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M. T. Anderson’s Thrilling Tales:
The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen
by M. T. Anderson

Reviewed September 9, 2007.
Harcourt, Orlando, 2006. 243 pages.

This book, another “Thrilling Tale” in the spirit of Whales on Stilts, is a delightful spoof of children’s series books. Both my sons, ages 18 and 12, read this book, and laughed so much and read bits aloud so often, I simply had to read it myself. It may not be great literature or a terribly compelling story, but it is hilariously clever.

Katie Mulligan, her friend Lily, and Jasper Dash, Boy Detective, are ready for a vacation, so they take advantage of a coupon for a free dinner at the Moose Tongue Lodge and Resort. Once there, they learn that the coupons are fake—and many other people, all stars of series books, have received them as well.

Then the Hooper Quints are kidnapped on their way to the hotel. Which of the dashing detectives will be able to solve the mystery? Then a valuable necklace is stolen while people are out searching for the quintuplets. Are the two mysteries tied together?

The story isn’t the point of this book. It’s got lovely unlikely plot twists, just like the series books they are spoofing would have.

Here’s the first section that my 12-year-old felt he HAD to read to me. It’s talking about how Jasper Dash’s books are somewhat out of date.

Often, if you go to a town library and under Keyword Search type “Jasper Dash,” you’ll come up with a list of his books—and beside each one, it says: “Withdrawn. Withdrawn. Withdrawn. Withdrawn.” This means that they are no longer in circulation. Some librarian has taken them off the shelf, wiping away a tear, and has opened the book to the back, where there’s a pouch for a card dating back to the time of the Second World War, and she’ll crumple up the card, and then she and her fellow librarians will take special knives and slice away at the book and will eat the pages in big mouthfuls until the book is all gone, the whole time weeping, because they hate this duty—it is the worst part of their job—for here was a book that was once someone’s favorite, but which now is dead and empty. And the little cheerful face of Jasper Dash, heading off to fight a cattle-rustling ring in his biplane, will still be smiling pluckily as they take their Withdrawal Knives and scratch his book to pieces.

(How did he know?)

A section my 18-year-old was compelled to read to me was actually on the back flap:

M.T. Anderson is seven monkeys, six typewriters, and a Speak & Spell. It took them ten years to write The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen. Their previous books include Adf2yga^vvvv, WpolwOox.S Ppr2dgn shr Elssf, and The Riverside Edition of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Adf2yga^vvvv was a National Book Award finalist. The M. T. Anderson Monkey collective is located outside Boston. Its hobbies include flash cards, hopping, and grooming for lice. It divides its time between the parallel bars and the banana trough.

 

Who wouldn’t want to read a book with such a blurb?

Here is the review on the main site:  http://www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/linoleum_lederhosen.html

Caddy Ever After, by Hilary McKay

Sunday, August 12th, 2007

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Caddy Ever After

by Hilary McKay


Reviewed August 12, 2007.
Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster), New York, 2006. 218 pages.
Starred Review. I love the Casson family! Their delightful chaos and artistic creativity are authentic and warm-hearted.

Each of the books features one of the children of the family. In this one, Caddy gets to be in the title and has the most dramatic story, but each kid gets a long section to tell. In many ways, the story is truly about obsessive, creative Rose, who gets to begin and end.

The book begins with Rose telling us about why the Ghost Club has been banned from her school, and her daring rescue attempt.

Then Indigo takes up the story. He begins, “I can only think of two things that Rose is good at. One is art and the other is loving.” Indigo goes on to tell how Rose inspired him to invite Sarah to the Valentine Dance, and how he figured out a way to get her to go, despite her wheelchair.

Saffron then tells about how she lets down her friend Sarah and is haunted by a balloon. Then she ends up lost and stranded with Rose, and they are saved by someone whom Caddy thinks is probably the “Real Thing.”

So Caddy plans a wedding, but Rose is terribly upset. Because Caddy is planning to marry someone who isn’t darling Michael.

Once again, Hilary McKay weaves an absolutely delightful tale.