Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Friday, December 26, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
So it is with a great deal of satisfaction that I can report I have actually finished my Christmas shopping for this year! Yay me! A few gifts were things I picked up throughout the year, but most of the presents I'm giving to the kids on my list are ~ wait for it ~ books. Yep, this year, almost everyone is getting books.
I found some great ones, too ~ a big popup book called Narnia for a 3-year old girl, Swing, a "Scanimation" picture book for a couple of boys 3 and 5 (it's so fascinating I almost bought one for myself), Artemis Fowl (the first in the series) for a 12-year old boy, and Beedle the Bard for my godson who is 8. I wasn't sure what to get a 17 year old girl of my acquaintance, though I was leaning toward The Book Thief, so I got her a gift certificate to Borders.
The best part of buying books as gifts is that, if I'm careful with them, I can read them before I give them away (except the pop-up which is wrapped in plastic to keep it safe). I have already spent a lot of time looking at Swing because it is, as I said before, fascinating. The pictures actually move, and they look so real! If you think this might interest someone you know, check it out on the Borders website, where the creator discusses it and how he does it.
Anyway, if you're hung up with your holiday gift-buying and aren't sure what to get one or more of the people on your list, my advice is "think books."
Oh, did I mention that I picked up a couple of books for myself while I was there? Depending on how you look at it, that is either a perk or a problem. I personally look at it as a very good thing, though my credit card bill next month is going to be painful to look at. :)
Happy Chanukkah / Merry Christmas / Joyful Kwanzaa / Blessed Yule! And may the coming year bring bountiful blessings of happiness, health, and prosperity to you all.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I shrugged off the warning about it being bawdy but found myself feeling a bit anxious that the nontraditional grammar and split infinitives might put me off the story, but then I reminded myself that one thing that Chris Moore can do well is write, so I shrugged that off too.
I peeled off the wrap-around label and checked out the back of the book. There was that warning label again. Also a Cast of Characters, which included King Lear, Cordelia, and all the rest of the characters from the Bard's play, as well as a couple of fools (Pocket and his apprentice Drool) and a Ghost ("there's always a bloody ghost"). Aha! I exclaimed. It's a retelling of Shakespeare's tragedy. Brilliant.
I began reading immediately, but after I was half through the second chapter (they are not long chapters), I put the book down on the bedside table, somewhat in shock, and turned out the light. Apparently, I am not so inured to ~ what did the warning label call it? vulgarity and profanity ~ as I thought, and I wasn't sure I wanted to continue reading it.
A couple of days passed, and I thought of the book a few times a day, and glanced at it when I got into bed, but I picked up something else to read both nights. But something about the story and the characters and, let's face it, the utterly outrageous naughtiness of it, called to me, so on the third night I picked it up again and read a little more. And it wasn't quite so crude, or maybe I just got used to the language and the images conveyed. So I read a few more chapters before it again got to be too much, though there were a few giggles this time amongst the wide-eyed gasps. And I began to appreciate the dialogue a lot more (that's another thing I've always felt that Chris does really well, is dialogue). Like this bit:
Obviously, of course, I broke through previously well-hidden vestiges of prudery ~ a leftover of my Catholic-school upbringing, no doubt ~ and dove into the clever hilarity and surreal wickedness with relish. And glad I am that I didn't let prudishness stop me from reading Fool, which turned out to be much more than crude vernacular & slapstick. Oh, it was certainly vernacular enough, and I did enjoy a few good out-loud laughs and a lot of chuckles, but, like Lamb, it was much more than that. It might have started out almost too crazily, with too much crudity, too many odd characters and improbable scenes, but it soon settled into a rhythm, and the insanity abated into just zaniness, the crudity into merely colorful language, and the characters became familiar ~ weird but familiar ~ and then new characters, some of them from other of Shakespeare's plays, joined the party, and the fool began to change and grow and started to really matter to me. And the ending was ~ well, I really liked the ending.
"...The castle's awash in intrigue, subterfuge, and villainy - they'll be
wanting comic relief between the flattery and murders."
"Intrigue and villainy?" Drool displayed a gape-toothed grin.
Imagine soldiers dumping hogsheads of spittle through the crenellations atop the
castle wall - thus is Drool's grin, as earnest in expression as it is damp in
execution - a slurry of good cheer. He loves intrigue and villainy, as
they play to his most special ability.
"Will there be hiding?"
"There will most certainly be hiding," said I, as I shouldered an escaped
testicle into his cod. [Note: you have to read it. I am not going to
"Listening of cavernous proportions - we shall hang on every word as God on
"And fuckery? Will there be fuckery, Pocket?"
"Heinous fuckery most foul, lad. Heinous fuckery most foul."
"Aye, that's the dog's bollocks, then!" said Drool, slapping his
thigh. "Did you hear, Mary? Heinous fuckery afoot. Ain't that
the dog's bollocks?"
So, I'm planning to read the whole novel again, because I think I may have missed some really good bits in the first few chapters while I was being prudish. And also just because I want to enjoy it all over again.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
As a reward for my fortitude (at least that's what I like to tell myself), Hachette Books sent me a copy of Gods Behaving Badly, a debut novel by Marie Phillips (click here to listen to a podcast interview). Gods Behaving Badly is about Greek gods and a couple of mortals with whom they cross paths. According to Kerry Fried in Newsday, it is "[t]he most amusing and instructive collision between gods and mortals since A Midsummer Night's Dream." High praise indeed, but is it true? Personally, I love the title, but the jury (of one ~ me) isn't in yet, though I can say that I've read the first chapter and it already had me laughing out loud.
Being a Greek god is not all it once was. Yes, the twelve gods of Olympus are
alive and well in the twenty-first century, but they are crammed together in a London townhouse-and none too happy about it. And they've had to get day jobs: Artemis as a dog-walker, Apollo as a TV psychic, Aphrodite as a phone sex operator, Dionysus as a DJ.
Even more disturbingly, their powers are waning, and even turning mortals into trees--a favorite pastime of Apollo's--is sapping their vital reserves of strength.
Soon, what begins as a minor squabble between Aphrodite and Apollo escalates into an epic battle of wills. Two perplexed humans, Alice and Neil, who are caught in the crossfire, must fear not only for their own lives, but for the survival of humankind. Nothing less than a true act of heroism is needed-but can these two decidedly ordinary people replicate the feats of the mythical heroes and save the world?
So, after the month I've had, I need a few laughs. I'm going to bed now to snuggle beneath the comforter and read more of Gods Behaving Badly.
But, first: The Giveaway! Leave a comment to this post and you will be entered to win a copy of Gods Behaving Badly. Put a link to the contest on your blog, and your name will be entered twice. For each five comments, one copy will be given away, up to five copies. So leave a comment, tell your friends, post a link on your blog. The contest will run through 12:00 p.m. (PDT) December 24, so if you win, it will be a nice
early late Christmas present! (Sorry, contest open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only.)
I'll be back in a couple of days with my review.
And here it is, finally, my review: I thought it was a wonderful read, light and amusing without being fluffy, serious without being depressing. Imagine if you will the mighty Greek gods of Olympus ~ Zeus, Hera, Athena, Artemis, Mars, Persephone, Apollo, Hermes, and Pluto (not the Disney dog) ~ living all together (except for Persephone and Pluto who live in Hades) in a rundown tenement in London. And imagine these formerly powerful and amoral gods and goddesses trying to fit into modern times. Dysfunctional doesn't come near to what things are really like for them, especially now that their powers are in decline. I mean, think of it: Aphrodite as a phone sex operator, Artemis as a dog walker, Eros as a born-again Christian convert who doesn't believe in Christ but really really wants to.
The story begins when Artemis discovers that her brother Apollo has turned Kate, a mortal female who had apparently resisted his lovemaking, into a tree. She and their aunt, Aphrodite, force Apollo to swear on the River Styx that he will refrain from harming any more mortals unnecessarily for a decade or until they get their power back, whichever comes first. Things get interesting when Artemis hires Alice, a mousy, almost unbelievably ordinary mortal woman, to clean house for them. Unfortunately, Apollo has fallen madly in love with Alice (aided by an arrow shot by a certain god of love who will remain nameless), but Alice is too much in love with Neal, a painfully shy guy who is too afraid of rejection to ask her out on a date though he pretty much adores her too.
As happened all too often in mythology when the gods played with human emotions and lives, the games take a deadly turn of events, and Neal has to make a choice to turn his back on Alice or become the most unlikely hero that ever was.