Category Archives: Humor

Review: The Lion Is in by Delia Ephron

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; Reprint edition (January 29, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0452298938
  • Source: Publisher

Three women are on the run. Tracee is a kleptomaniac, running from a life spiraling out of control. Her best friend, Lana, is alcoholic who just happened to be with Tracee when she decided to bolt. She stole a great deal of her father’s money and drank it away, so Tracee is really the only person of value in her life right now. Rita is a minister’s wife, desperate to escape her dull-drum life. She just happened to come across Tracee and Lana on the side of the road and joined in on their journey. When their car breaks down on a rural highway in North Carolina, they are forced to seek shelter in what they thought was an abandoned nightclub. Turns out, it wasn’t abandoned, just neglected. When they find a caged lion inside, everything changes.

Tracee, afraid that her past crimes will catch up with her, is unable to anyone to help with the broken down car. Instead, the three women agree to work at the nightclub, sharing a single salary, in order to earn the money to repair the car.  In doing so, each of the women embark on a journey of self discovery and healing, the impetus for such a grand transformation is the lion, Marcel, himself. Something about this caged king of the jungle sets each of the women free, allowing them to break through the restraints binding them to their current lives an allowing them to evolve into completely different, incredibly strong, women.

In each of these women, Ephron has created extremely flawed characters that readers can’t help but connect with. Compassion, friendship, and understanding are characteristics of this book that make it a truly heartwarming read. Personally, I read it in one sitting, sad when I finally turned the last pages. I wasn’t ready to let go of the characters quite yet. Days later, I still miss them, and I find myself wondering what the women (and Marcel!) are doing now.

If you are looking for a witty, humorous, uplifting read, The Lion Is in is the book for you. Highly, highly recommended.

Review: Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (May 22, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0307395057
  • Source: Publisher

Clover is a mom in her early fifties. Due to her husband’s busy schedule as a pediatrician, she gave up her passion as a journalist to attend to her children’s very busy social schedules. Her routine consists of making lunches, transporting her children to and from activities, cleaning the house and making dinner. She’s never really noticed by her family, including her husband Arthur, unless one of these obligations goes unfulfilled.

One morning, she steps out of the shower, looks in the mirror as she brushes her teeth, only to find she can’t see herself. It isn’t due to the steam on the mirror; she’s literally invisible. Obviously, she panics, pulling her son out of bed, questioning of he can see her. A college-graduate that has returned home as he struggles to find a job, Nick barely lifts his head to acknowledge his mother’s presence, much less look at her.

Minutes later she walks past a mirror and Clover is able to see her reflection. Puzzled by what happened, slightly concerned that these were symptoms of a stroke, Clover rushes to her best friend Gilda’s house across the street. Clover explains what happened, but Gilda takes it all in stride, assuming Clover’s claims of being invisible aren’t literal. She assures Clover that all women their age feels this way:

It’s just the plight of a woman after a certain age. No one can see you…we’re nothing but the ghosts of our former selves.

Clover goes on with the rest of her day, returning to her regular routine. The next morning, however, she wakes up to find herself invisible again. Once again, her husband and her children don’t notice. The clothes she’s wearing are visible, just not her body. Her family barely glances at her all morning, completely ignorant of the fact she’s not there.

At Gilda’s recommendation, Clover goes to the doctor who, like her children, barely acknowledge her existence. Continued to be shocked that no one other than Gilda has noticed a problem, Clover once again continues with her regular routine. Until, that is, she spots an advertisement in the paper announcing a meeting of invisible women.

At this meeting, Clover discovers a large group of women who are going through the very same experience as she. She soon realizes they all have something in common: They were all prescribed the same cocktail of drugs to battle medical issues for women of their age, including hormone replacement therapy, calcium supplements, and antidepressants. One pharmacological company is responsible for their current situation. However, like the people in each of these women’s lives, the drug company is oblivious to these women.

Meeting these other invisible women inspires Clover. She uses her “disability” to her advantage and begins to follow her family around during the day. She’s able to experience their lives in a way she was unable to before. She sees how stressful Arthur’s day is a t work, understands the frustrations her children are experiencing. She begins to repair damage to these relationships, a repair that perhaps couldn’t have been possible otherwise. Additionally, along with another invisible woman, Clover takes on the drug company that put them in this situation in the first place. In the end, her disability provides her strength to make right the wrongs in her life, giving Clover a confidence she hadn’t felt in years.

Calling Invisible Women is, without a doubt, the most unique take on the plight of women who have been forgotten and ignored by their loved ones.  While I am nearly 15 years younger than Clover, I can state that there are times I have felt ignored or taken advantage of by my boys and husband. And, like with Clover’s case, this isn’t intentional. We all get caught in the daily routine of life, forgetting to be thankful for what we’ve been given. And while in this case the victims are women, I’m certain almost any individual can sympathize with Clover’s plight, feeling unappreciated or unacknowledged.

Clover embraces her invisibility with a great deal of witty humor. I’m not certain I could remain as calm as she did, given the circumstances. This leads me to the main issue I had with Clover’s character: she forgives her family for their ignorance about her condition. She sees how busy her husband’s work day is and forgives him, almost too easily. I don’t know that I would be as forgiving. Sleeping in the same bed as a person, having sex with that person, only to be oblivious to the fact they are invisible? Granted, there is a real need to suspend disbelief while reading this novel, for obvious reasons. Given there is a great deal of things I gained while reading this book, I can overlook this one issue.

In the end, Calling Invisible Women is a book that I find a large number of individuals, not only women, can relate to. Highly recommended.

Mx3 Review: The Monsters Corner: Stories Through Inhuman Eyes by Christopher Golden

It’s a monster-filled day today on the blog! Earlier today, you got to read a guest post by Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award winner and supernatural fiction author Chelsea Quinn Yarbro on the lore behind monsters.  And now, for more moster fun:

 

  • Paperback:400 pages
  • Publisher:St. Martin’s Griffin (September 27, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0312646135
  • Source:  Publisher

 
Christopher Golden’s childhood love of monsters inspired him to reach out to some of the hottest supernatural writers for this anthology of short stories. Unlike most monster anthologies, these stories are all from the monster’s point of view. Readers get a unique vantage point: inside the monsters’ heads.  They learn their motives, their feelings, their motivation.

Here is a synopsis of just a few of the stories:

The Awkward Age by David Liss: Neil is a quiet, socially inept fourteen year-old-boy.  When he is invited to a friend’s house for a sleepover his parents, Pete and Roberta, are overjoyed! They allow the sleepover to occur, desperate for their son to make friends.  The sleepover goes well despite the fact they never met the child, Mason. They decide to return the favor, asking the elusive Mason to sleep over at their home. Mason’s appearance astonishes them; Mason isn’t a boy, but a girl. She makes no attempts to hide or explain this.  In fact, this isn’t her only secret.  She’s not a human girl, but a ghoul, surviving off the flesh of human beings…

Torn Stiches, Shattered Glass by Kevin J. Anderson: It’s the late 1930s, set in Nazi Germany. A monster, Franck, attempts to survive in a world where people hate those they don’t understand.  He’s used to this; he’s remained hidden for a century, only returning to his birthplace after seeking vengeance upon his master, Victor. He thought he would be safe, surounded by those attempting to survive the attacks by the Nazis. When he attempts to stand up and protect them, however, he is seen for what he is to them: a horrible, dangerous monster.

Big Man by David Moody: A horrific accident caused Glen Chambers to transform into a horrid creature: growing at an obscene rate, causing destruction across the country. His body sized increased so quickly it became difficult for him to find places to hide.  Despite the changes his body is making his mind, his conscience, is still intact. While appearing to be a monster on the outside, Glen remains human on the inside. He didn’t mean to kill those thousands of people, destroy all those schools and buildings.  At his size, it’s difficult to control his actions.  Instead of fulfilling the promises to obtain a secure location for him to live, the military wants to destroy him.

The Lake by Tananarive Due: Abbie Lafleur is a Boston-native, moving to Florida to accept an English teaching position at Graceville Prep.  She buys a lakeside colonial requiring a substantial amount of work.  It had a lot of potential and Abbie liked that.  The house’s true selling point was the lake and the isolation. No one had told her never to go swimming in Graceville’s lakes in the summer, especially children and women of child-bearing age.  Swimming in the nude, as Abbie opted to do, is absolutely forbidden.  Abbie, ignorant of these rules, takes advantage of the isolated lake & begins to take nightly swims  in the lake…in the nude.  It’s not long before she notices a change in herself: a think webbing of skin forms between her toes, painful slits open beneath each rib.  Abbie is transforming with each swim she takes in the lake.  The boys from her class who she asks to help her with repairs around the house have no idea what they are in store for..

These are but a small sampling of the nineteen never before published stories that make up this anthology.  Additional authors include: Chelsea Cain, Kelley Armstrong, Gary Braunbeck, Nate Kenyon, Sarah Pinborough and more! The stories really run the gamut of horror: some are quite tame while others are quite violent and gory.  Additionally, you won’t find any of your typical monsters (vampires, werewolves, etc.) included in this anthology. Instead, readers get a glimpse of more unfamiliar creatures like Mothman, Golem, man-eating plants, & more.

A highly-recommended addition to your Halloween reading!

 

 

Review: Me Again by Keith Cronin

  • Hardcover: 322 pages
  • Publisher: Five Star (August 17, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1432825038

Thirty four year old Jonathan Hooper awakens. Not from a brief nap but a stroke-induced, six-year long coma. The stroke has removed most of his memory. Additionally, he has to learn to talk, to walk, to write again. The coma has caused his body to wither away, a shell of what it used to be.

The stroke, and the ensuing coma, have transformed Jonathan into a completely new man. The man he was before was dishonest, criminal, lacking any real sort of relationship with his family. While he remembers nothing of his family, it warms him to understand they are there for him despite his previous behavior.

Without a doubt, all of these changes and revelations are also extremely isolating. The only true friend he has now is Rebecca, a woman he meets in the hospital’s long-term recovery unit.  She, too, is a victim of a stroke.  Her husband doesn’t recognize the woman she is now.  To be honest, she doesn’t want to be the person she was: a showy, materialistic, trophy-wife.  Instead, she much prefers to continue to be the quiet, meek woman she’s become.  Despite her knack for saying the exactly wrong thing at any given time, Jonathan is drawn to her.

With Rebecca’s help, in addition to that of other individuals from his past, Jonathan is able to overcome the many hurdles the fall into his path to recovery.  This includes a number of secrets, both recent and decades-old, that his parents keep from him, all in an attempt, seemingly, to protect him.

Me Again is a beautifully uplifting tale of recovery, rediscovery, and change. While there is a great deal of humor within this novel, several serious themes lay buried just below the surface.  It is a book that will make you laugh, cry, shout out in anger, but above all, reflect and contemplate on your very own life. Cronin is such a talented writer; it astounds me that this is his debut novel. Where has this man been hiding?  I guarantee, without a doubt, that this is an author we’ll be hearing a lot from, for that I am hopeful! Destined for the screen; I’m already plotting the actors to play the main characters in my mind. Highly recommended!

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for giving me the opportunity to participate in this tour. Please be sure to check out the other stops:

Monday, September 12th:  girlichef
Tuesday, September 13th:  Bibliophiliac
Thursday, September 15th:  Stephanie’s Written Word
Monday, September 19th:  Lit and Life
Wednesday, September 21st:  Book Club Classics!
Thursday, September 22nd:  Unabridged Chick
Monday, September 26th:  Sarah Reads Too Much
Thursday, September 29th:  
Girls Gone Reading
Monday, October 3rd:  Life in the Thumb
Wednesday, October 5th:  Coffee and a Book Chick
Thursday, October 6th:  Well Read Wife
Monday, October 10th:  Estella’s Revenge
Tuesday, October 11th:  Caribousmom
Thursday, October 13th:  Book Reviews by Elizabeth A. White
Monday, October 17th:  A Cozy Reader’s Corner
Tuesday, October 18th:  Rundpinne

 

 

 

Review: Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult (April 5, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0399157409
  • Source: Publisher
  •  

    Twenty-something siblings Lacy & Paul live together in a small rural town in Northern California.  They get by on a pretty substantial crop of marijuana growing in their basement.  When a headless body is discovered on their property, for obvious reasons they can’t report it to the police.  Instead, they move the body & wait for the police to discover it on their own.  A few days later the body reappears and Lacy & Paul are forced to become amateur sleuths & attempt to identify the still headless, more decomposed body, and the killer.

    Heads You Lose isn’t your typical murder mystery.  The authors, Lisa Lutz (of the Spellman series fame) and David Hayward (poet) are not only collaborators on this book, they are former romantic partners. The book is written in alternating chapters written by each of the authors. Lutz wrote the first chapter & all odd-numbered chapters; Hayward wrote the even ones. Neither author was allowed to undo something written by the other; they wrote the book blind, not collaborating or discussing what the other was working on.  Footnotes & brief messages within and between the chapters are the authors commentary to one another.    This unique aspect of the creation of this book really added to the overall reading experience.

    One of my favorite chapters was one in which Hayward wrote in “Dick and Jane” format (completely with simple words and large font) after Lisa complained about the “fancy words” he used in his chapters.  Here is a brief segment of this chapter:

    Irving the cat was on the porch.  He was eating a dead bat.  Chomp, chomp, chomp, went Irving.

    Paul petted Irving.  ‘Hello, Irving,” said Paul.

    ‘Meow,’ said Irving.

    So, not only is Heads You Lose a pretty intriguing mystery, it’s also a battle between these former lovers.  Issues from their relationship pop up in the commentary to one another; issues never resolved yet also not forgotten. It is all done in a light, humorous manner, however.  I quite literally was preventing from reading this book in public due to the outbursts of laughter generated by each chapter.

    I’ll admit it: when I heard about the premise & creation of this novel, I was skeptical.  How is it possible collaborate on a novel without talking to one another.  However, I trust the opinion of the publicist who pitched this book to me and decided to take the plunge. Lutz & Hayward were able to pull it off, to my amazement! Ultimately, I think it was best that they work on this novel in two separate locations; had they been in the same room I think there might have been a real murder to solve!

    I highly recommend this to all fans of suspense & thriller fiction. It wouldn’t hurt to have a dark, sick sense of humor as well! Have a box of tissues handy, not because the book is sad but due to the tears of laughter that rush down your face as you read this hilarious piece of fiction!

    Following are two videos I couldn’t resist sharing.  They allow you to see the authors as they really are, their interactions between one another.  Also, be sure to check out the authors’ blog for a bit of comic relief as well!