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- (4/26) Secrets of the Wholly Grill by Lawrence G. Townsend.
- Very funny satire about a software company that invents an
e-grill (you hook it up to the web and tell it what you're cooking and it
downloads all the information on cooking time and then grills the meat
using lasers). To market the grill, they send out free BBQ sirloin steaks
to every household in the U.S. The steaks have a shrink-wrapped user
license agreement on it that makes customers swear they'll only cook the
steak on an official "wholly grill." Unwrap the steak, and you're bound
by that agreement. But when one user finally gives up on his wholly grill
after trying to logon for hours and being unsuccessful, he grills it on
his Weber and it promptly bursts into flames and blinds his dog. Other
customers immediately become physically addicted to the BBQ sauce and
can't stop buying and eating wholly grill products -- ONLY wholly grill
products. And meanwhile, a nosy
reporter has gone undercover in the Thinksoft labs and discovered a lot of
very suspicious activity. Soon the court cases are piling up and the
whole thing starts to sound an AWFUL lot like another court case we're all
familiar with -- against a company called Microsoft.
Though the satire is a little TOO heavy-handed at times, the "in" jokes
just made me laugh out loud. Townsend is clearly very familiar not only
with the Microsoft case and the company's famous technology, but with all
the rumors about the company and its "microserfs," as well. This is a
funky, bizarre, hilarious, and kooky story, full of characters who can be
described much the same way. Thoroughly enjoyed this. A blast.
(4/22) Burn Factor by Kyle Mills.
Decent thriller about an FBI computer geek named Quinn Barry.
Quinn dreams of one day becoming an agent, but when her latest program,
designed to replace an older, clunkier DNA search engine used to track
samples of DNA from crimes around the country, finds more matches
than the original, her boss decides she's failed and transfers her to an
even lower-level position. Quinn's curiosity about the five extra matches
that were discovered gets the best of her, though. And when she discovers
that the original engine had a glitch in it, one clearly put there for the
sole purpose of keeping those five matches from ever surfacing, she can't
help but think this is her chance to redeem herself. Hoping to be able to
prove her mettle by tracking down the killer herself, she quickly orders
the case files and starts going over the suspects. Of course, as in all
mysteries of this type, as soon as the amateur detective starts detecting,
the bad guys
know it and start trying to kill her. Though this was a little slow in
places, overall I had a pretty good time reading it. I'll definitely be
looking for some of his other books soon. Recommended!
(4/18) The World Below by Sue Miller.
Eloquent novel about three generations of women, the eldest
and youngest being the main focus. The eldest, Georgia, grew up in Maine
in the early 20th century. After losing her mother at a young age,
Georgia takes over raising her siblings until, at 19, she is diagnosed
with TB and sent to a sanitorium. Finally freed of the burden of
caretaking, she blossoms, ultimately falling in love and marrying.
In the present day, the story focuses on Georgia's granddaughter,
Catherine. She, too, lost her mother at a young age and though Georgia
had tried to take custody of her and her sibs, her father had refused to
allow it. As a result, Catherine too grows up restrained with
responsibilities, suffering bitter disappointment and compromise all the
way. As a twice-divorced adult, she finally gives up on her life as it is,
retreating to her now-deceased grandmother's house in Maine. There, she
uncovers the parallel story of Georgia's youth -- and she, too, becomes
freed from the restraints of her difficult life.
Moving, lyrical, and at times very funny, this was a joy to read.
(4/15) Sex and Murder.com by Mark Richard Zubro.
Decent mystery about the bizarre murders of two computer
geniuses and a series of police officer killings along Interstate 90. Are
the murders related? Are the two cops in charge of the investigation ever
going to stop with the witty banter long enough to find out? Well, okay,
so the banter is fun and the plot was pretty good. But this novel was
a lot longer than it needed to be, full of entire pages that I could've
skimmed without missing anything. That gets kind of tedious after awhile.
Nevertheless, I'll probably look for another by Zubro before giving
(4/12) The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola
Extremely entertaining novel based on the authors' true
experiences working as nannies for various rich couples in New York City.
Though the fact it's sort of a true story is pretty disturbing, given that
the parents featured in the novel essentially treat their kids like
fashion accessories (my Hermes bag, my Prada shoes, and my perfect toddler
named, oh wait, what's my kid's name again?), I couldn't put this book
down and frequently caught myself laughing out loud. For the first half,
I just plain enjoyed the story, writing, and humor. By the second half,
though, I was reading the book SOLELY in anticipation of the nanny's
revenge. And while she ends up being FAR more restrained at the end than
I think any real human would've been capable of, I still love her, if only
for her sheer devotion to her young charge. Oh, and for the whole panty
thing (long story). Great fun -- highly recommended!
(4/8) He Sleeps by Reginald McKnight.
Strange novel about an American anthropologist who decides to
spend a year living in Dakar, Senegal to study African urban legends.
While I expected this book to mostly be about African folklore and
culture/society, it instead mostly focuses on the main character,
Bertrand, and his strange and complicated relationship with first his wife
and then the African family he shares a house with in Dakar. His wife,
whom he left back in the States, decides she wants a divorce -- which he
is shocked by though since he never wanted to live with her (instead,
demanding that they both keep their separate homes after the marriage), I
was more shocked by the fact they'd lasted as long as they did. (Oh, and
did I also mention he'd already had one affair in the States and then,
right in front of his wife, packed a ton of condoms in his suitcase for
this solo-trip to Africa?). The African family consists of a gorgeous
woman (Kene) that Bertrand open drools over and her husband Alaine who
Bertrand thinks doesn't like him (which also surprises him a LOT more than
it surprised me, given the drooling). Bertrand comes home one day to find
a live chicken in his sofa, an act of black magic he suspects Alaine of.
Soon after, he becomes plagued by strange dreams that leave him
All in all, not really at all about African urban legends and Senegal.
Instead, about an arrogant American who is constantly shocked when people
don't like him, even though he's a Big Dumb Jerk. Strange one. But
clearly readable, since I got all the way through it. I probably won't
seek out the author's other works, though.
(4/6) Still Waters by Jennifer Lauck.
After I finished Lauck's first memoir, "Blackbird," I shut the
book thinking, "Oh God, I hope there's a sequel so I can find out if
Jenny's okay." And here, at last, it is. It was equally riveting, too --
I read both books in under two days. Lauck's story is horrifying and
engrossing, and her ability to overcome the obstacles she encounters and
emerge from the course of her troubled youth not only "okay," but damn
smart, strong, and successful is pretty inspiring. The only complaint I
have is that this book is packed full of highly disruptive typos. Not the
kind you barely notice, but instead the kind that render whole sentences
nonsensical, forcing you to step out of your groove and reread them a few
times, trying to figure out what the heck the author was TRYING to say
there. I'm sorry, but that's just inexcusably sloppy. What, you get a
bestseller and suddenly nobody bothers to edit your books? Yee-gads.
Still, those things are sometimes corrected by the time the paperback
comes out (keep your fingers crossed). So, wait until then and pick this
one up. Even with the typos, it's still a story not to be missed. The
whole series -- recommended!
(4/3) Misconceptions: Truth, Lies, and the Unexpected on the
Journey to Motherhood by Naomi Wolf.
This is a fascinating book about Wolf's experiences with the
American medical establishment during her first pregnancy a few years ago.
Though she found medical personnel to be greatly supportive of her and her
plans for birth, their radical 180 when the contractions began just
astounded her. Her birth plan was largely ignored and she was eventually
pressured into having a C-section.
Afterwards, she began to research the "lies" doctors tell their OB
patients -- the statistics they don't keep or won't give out, the way they
ignore their patients' wishes and force them into often-unnecessary
medical procedures for the sake of convenience (although, note, Wolf's
second pregnancy also ended in a C-section, even though she went with a
midwife that time, so it seems like hers were probably medically necessary
both times), etc. And while I'd want to do my own research before taking
all of Wolf's words at face value (something I am sure she'd approve of
rather than be offended by), this book has certainly raised a lot of
questions in my mind and successfully convinced me that I ought to be
asking them when my turn in the OB ward comes around. Recommended!
(4/1) The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde.
Extremely original and comic mystery about a new kind of cop
-- a "Literatec" (Literature Detective) named Thursday Next whose job it
is to track down forgers and forgeries of classic works of literature.
When a notorious time-bending criminal named Acheron Hades steals an
original Mark Twain manuscript, Thursday gets put on the case. Hades can
appear and disappear at will, which makes catching him hard. And, even
worse, he can appear in any shape, which means finding him in the first
place nearly impossible. When he breaks into Jane Eyre (long story) and
kidnaps Jane, though, Thursday doubles her efforts, enlisting Rochester
Think this sounds incredibly crazy and strange? Oh good, then I did it
justice in my description. But even though it had a few problems
(occasionally, the author and Thursday go off on rambling, lengthy
tangents that don't add much to the story -- a lot like Jane Eyre in that
respect, actually), it's so hilariousand fun that this didn't really
bother me. Any fan of classic literature will love the inside jokes (a
stuffy character named "Millon De Floss," for example) and sci-fi lovers
will get a kick out of the time travel and dimension-hopping. It's also a
pretty decent, albeit unorthodox, cop mystery. And if I haven't covered
your favorite genre yet, you'll at the very least have fun with the wacky
characters (everything Thursday's father said cracked me up) and
fast-paced, original plot. Can't wait for the sequel! Highly
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