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review 2017-02-15 07:44
The Big Over Easy (Nursery Crimes, #1)
The Big Over Easy - Jasper Fforde

This book...  I have so many random thoughts about this book.  In no particular order:


1.  Easily the most highly quotable book I've ever read.  Including books of quotes.  
One of my favourites:


Mr. Pewter led them through to a library filled with thousands of antiquarian books.

'Impressive, eh?'

'Very,' said Jack.  'How did you amass all these?'

'Well,' said Pewter, 'you know the person who always borrows books and never gives them back?'


'I'm that person.'


Don't know why, but that cracked me up.


2.  I'm pretty sure Fforde had no intention of writing a satire (based on what I've found on the interwebs) about the sensationalism of the free press, but this is definitely a case of current events shaping a reader's interpretation of the text.  I had a really hard time reading this and not drawing parallels.


3.  I'm equally sure he definitely meant to write a satirised murder mystery and this was easily the closest I've ever read to my blog's namesake movie, Murder By Death, which in my totally biased opinion is the acme of mystery satire.  Which brings me to another quote:


Dog Walker's Face Body-Finding Ban


Anyone who finds a corpse while walking their dog may be fined if proposed legislation is made law, it was disclosed yesterday.  The new measures, part of the Criminal Narrative Improvement Bill, have been drafted to avoid investigations looking clichéd...


Now this is legislation I can get behind.


4.  I wish I'd picked this book up directly after reading The Well of Lost Plots.  It makes no difference to someone new to Fforde's books, but I think those that have read TN would feel a stronger connection to the characters here when The Well... was still fresh in the memory.


5.  Prometheus has an incredible monologue on pages 271-273.  A popular fiction novel that can weave serious philosophy into its narrative always earns huge bonus points with me.


6.  Oh, yeah - good mystery plot too!


Off to order the second one...

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review 2017-02-14 23:08
Food: A Love Story
Food: A Love Story - Jim Gaffigan

This was my first exposure to the comedy of Jim Gaffigan.  I went with audio because I figured it would come the closest to seeing him live; he's the narrator, so you experience this book presumably the way it was intended to be delivered.


It was good.  At no point did I ever want to fast forward, or yell at him through my car speakers.  I found almost all of it amusing, and there were some great one liners, but other than one out-loud chuckle, most of the humour remained at the amusing level.


If asked about my favourite bit, I'd definitely say it's the part where he talks about McDonalds, and how everybody has their own McDonalds, whether it's Star Magazine, or the hidden stash of chocolate, or the Ben and Jerry's in the freezer, we all have a McDonalds equivalent.  This had me talking back to my dashboard: "Yeah, that's right, I never thought of it like that - we do all have our own McDonalds!".  


The narration was... ok.  I don't think anyone could have done it better - but there was, especially at the beginning, a bit of stiffness; a sense that he hadn't seen the material for some time before he started recording the narration.  Sometimes, he really got into it and then the narration was great; the listener got a good idea of how great he'd be in a live show.


I'm glad I listened to it; it was entertaining.  If Gaffigan were ever to make it this far on tour, I definitely pony up the money to see him live.

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review 2017-02-05 17:54
American Housewife, by Helen Ellis
American Housewife: Stories - Helen Ellis

My first thoroughly enjoyable read of the year. Despite never having been a housewife (or wife, period) myself, I felt like this short story collection's ideal audience. There are plenty of films and books that cover similar ground--the details, drudgery, absurdity, and even darkness of being a housewife--but Ellis manages to make the content fresh through voice and form.


All the stories made me laugh out loud or grin sardonically, from the first, brief portrait of a modern housewife, to the email exchange between two passive aggressive--and then just aggressive--ladies occupying the same building (my favorite), to the Dumpster Diving with the Stars reality show. Some stories, like the first, are flash fiction and read like prose poems to me. Others are fuller, like the ending story about contemporary novel writing in the age of sponsorship and social media. In that story and others, the horror of aspects of our culture becomes real.


Satisfying and sharp-tongued (without looking down on its characters), this collection completely won me over from the start.

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review 2017-01-15 05:45
Turbo Twenty-Three (Plum, #23)
Turbo Twenty-Three - Janet Evanovich

I've long ago stopped expecting anything different from these... I think the last really different plot was maybe 11?  But I still keep happily coming back for more because I'm hooked on the characters.  All of them: Connie, Ranger, Morelli, Grandma, Stephanie's mom, Vinnie... even LuLu (who's sometimes a bit too over the top).


Number 23 isn't any different.  Total formula, but Evanovich got an extra star out of me because she's pretty much ended the whole who-will-she-choose? charade (no, that's not a spoiler) and she adds some truly classic, rip-snorting, laugh out loud moments.  There's always at least one in every book, but this one had me laughing out loud at least 4 times.  That might be a new record for me.  She might churn these out in her sleep, but she still has the ability to set up the best comedic moments in just a sentence or three.  


As long as she keeps me laughing, I'll keep coming back.  

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review 2017-01-12 05:21
You're Saying It Wrong
You're Saying It Wrong: A Pronunciation Guide to the 150 Most Commonly Mispronounced Words--and Their Tangled Histories of Misuse - Kathryn Petras,Ross Petras

Subtitle: A pronunciation guide to the 150 most commonly mispronounced words and their tangled histories of misuse.


It's pretty straightforward: a word per page, with the correct usage, how it's mispronounced and this historical reasons for both the correct and incorrect usage, sometimes more speculative, sometimes more factual.


I was off to a rip-roaring start with the first word:  acai, which I've always pronounced (although always suspected in error) ah-KAI, when it is actually supposed to be ah-sigh-EE.  But I'm happy to say that I've been pronouncing most of the 150 correctly (although not always; I remember a few of these mispronunciations from my childhood).  There are a couple of words here that MT and I have debated over the years (as he's an Aussie, I'm a Yank) and it turns out that at least one of them he has been right about all this time.  Shhh... don't tell him.


The authors take care to mention in the introduction that as this is a pronunciation guide, (and they are Americans) they are focusing on the American pronunciations, although they do use the OED as a main source and occasionally point out where the UK differs.


The biggest surprise to me was "spitting image" (they throw in a few common phrases).  If you have ever used this phrase (or spittin' image if you're from the South), like I have, you've been saying it wrong.  The original, and correct phrase is spit and image.  Nobody knows why but it is clearly the historical usage winner.  I'm also rather appalled that I've been mispronouncing Van Gogh's name all these years and my BFF lives in the Netherlands and has not corrected me!  (It's van GOKH or van KOKH, roughly).  


Written in a laid back style that doesn't take itself seriously, but is still very well researched, with a notes section in the back, this is a handy little reference for those times when you're just not sure you're saying it right, or if you're in the midst of a lively debate with, say, your husband from another country.  Just make sure you look it up before he does.

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