Book Review: “Right Ho, Jeeves” by P.G. Wodehouse
Book Reviews / June 26, 2014

While some of the “Jeeves” books are collections of short stories, this one is a solid (though not very long) novel. Its plot, similar to many other adventures of Bertie and his man Jeeves, has to do with mending two broken betrothals, saving an endangered marriage, distributing prizes at a boys’ school, and staving off the resignation of a supremely gifted French chef, all upon a summer holiday in the Worcestershire countryside. In its dimensions, it appears to be a trifling piece of entertainment. In its style of narration, it partakes of the stylish slang of a British upper-class dandy riding the crest of fashion à la 1934.

Book Review: “Scumble” by Ingrid Law
Book Reviews / June 18, 2014

In her debut novel “Savvy”, Ingrid Law introduced us to the big, unconventional Beaumont family, in which each child manifests a unique superpower (called a “savvy”) on his or her 13th birthday. The challenge is to recognize what that savvy is and scumble it, or figure out how to control it, before something big happens. Otherwise, people could get hurt, or even worse, outsiders might find out about the family’s secret. In this sequel, we meet some of the Beaumonts again, as well as their cousins the O’Connells and the Kales. The birthday kid this time is Ledger “Ledge” Kale, whose special ability to “Bust! Things! Up!” literally brings down the house at a family wedding reception.

Book Review: “Timeless” by Gail Carriger
Book Reviews / June 17, 2014

The fifth and final book of “The Parasol Protectorate” confronts Lady Alexia Maccon, née Tarabotti, and her team of supernatural sleuths, with a mystery that reaches back into ancient Egypt. Intertwined with this mystery are a present-day murder case, a dark secret that threatens to break up the pack of werewolves led by Alexia’s Alpha husband, and the lingering puzzle of the father she never knew. And so a racy, funny series of romantic whodunits, blending vampires, werewolves, 1870s steampunk, and complex but convincing world-building, comes to an exciting and richly satisfying conclusion.

Book Review: “The Serpent’s Shadow” by Rick Riordan
Book Reviews / June 6, 2014

The third and (for now) final book in the “Kane Chronicles” begins with an apology “for any inconvenience the end of the world may have caused you.” As the story unfolds, narrated alternately by siblings Carter and Sadie Kane, you’ll become increasingly inclined to accept their apology. Some catastrophes are really hard to prevent. And though the young Kanes often feel responsible even for things that are out of their control, they are finally ready to save the world, once and for all, from the ancient Egyptian serpent-god Apophis and the chaos he represents.

Book Review: “Side Jobs” by Jim Butcher
Book Reviews / May 27, 2014

Here’s what you want to know about these stories in general: Their writing was spread out over most of the years Butcher has been working on the Dresden Files. They fill cracks in the canon between the Dresden novels and blanks in the background of Harry and his friends. They spotlight a rich variety of themes, tones, and secondary characters. They cover a range of moods between deep cold terror and urgent panicky thrills, between laughter and tragedy, between light detective jobs with a side of magic and crises that shake the fabric of creation. Two of them are told from the point of view of characters other than Harry, while he himself remains in the background. And yet all of them are charged with the unmistakable energy of fun that we have come to associate with a certain wisecracking, tough-as-nails wizard.

Book Review: “The Last Werewolf” by Glen Duncan
Book Reviews / May 17, 2014

Jake Marlowe gets the news in the first sentence of this book that he is the last of his kind. At age 200, he is only middle-aged for a werewolf. But his days are numbered. Solitary hunters by nature, werewolves have been unable to… er, reproduce… ever since a sort of sterility virus ensured that no one would survive being turned into one of the lycanthropic undead. And though the vampires envy their ability to have sex—indeed, they hardly stop shagging between full moons—it has been ages since there was a female werewolf to mate with. So long, in fact, that Jake has never met one. The last time he experienced true love was with his mortal wife, who unfortunately was one of his first victims, along with their unborn child, 167 years ago.

Book Review: “Bite Me (A Love Story)” by Christopher Moore
Book Reviews / May 8, 2014

The opening chapter of this book was so insanely fast-paced that I thought, “There’s no way the author can keep this up; and even if he does, I’m not going to like it.” Fortunately, this turned out to be because this is the third book of a trilogy, and there was a lot of background from the previous two books to catch up on. Leave it to me to start a trilogy with the third book! Now I’m going to have to go back and read “Bloodsucking Fiends” and “You Suck”, both subtitled “A Love Story.” One could seriously apply the title “Love Story” to this entire trilogy (as one website actually does). But that wouldn’t do justice to a series of hilarious, raunchy, and sometimes touching books that give a refreshing shakedown to an all-too-earnest genre: the vampire novel.

Book Review: “The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove” by Christopher Moore
Book Reviews / May 5, 2014

The off-season is usually a sleepy time in the scenic coastal town of Pine Cove, California. This fall, however, events conspire to make it a madcap emergency, combining crime, craziness, a man-eating monster from the depths of the ocean, and an epic wave of horniness. Fasten your Adult Content Advisory: It’s going to be a raunchy comedy from the author of “Practical Demonkeeping”, which shares this book’s setting and some of its characters.

Book Review: “Untold” by Sarah Rees Brennan
Book Reviews / April 19, 2014

In Book 2 of “The Lynburn Legacy”, a dark ultimatum looms over the outwardly charming town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. The evil sorcerer Rob Lynburn means to return the town to its old ways, in which the sorcerous few held power over the non-magical many—an arrangement whereby good weather and prosperous fortunes were given in exchange for blood sacrifice. Rob and his sorcerers demand a victim—a human victim, mind you—on the winter solstice, not only to show that the town submits to them but also to ramp up their magical mojo. Standing in the way are Rob’s estranged wife Lillian, the lady of Aurimere manor; his half-sibling sons Jared and Ash, who epitomize every teen girl’s dilemma between the sexy bad boy and the really nice guy; and epitomizing every teen girl, high school newspaper editor Kami Glass and her brave but very mortal friends.

Book Review: “The Idiot” by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Book Reviews / March 27, 2014

Published in a series of magazine issues in 1868-69, this is one of the masterpieces by the author of “Crime and Punishment” and “The Brothers Karamazov”. It made me laugh a great deal, but it is not a comedy. Its climax is mysterious and chilling, but it is not a thriller. Dickensian in its large cast of vividly colorful characters and satire on the society of its time, it is not quite a picaresque. Tragic to a truly disturbing degree, it is too subtle and complex to make grand opera, too often given to immensely long talky scenes, featuring too many characters, to translate well into film—though the attempt has often been made to adapt it for stage or screen. It’s a great novel in which a sensitive reader can feel himself totally immersed, only to be shocked out of “willing suspension of disbelief” when its author breaks the fourth wall and begins commenting on his characters as fictional creations. Though it may come as a surprise to those of us who grew up watching a copy of the novel collecting dust in a reverential spot on our parents’ bookshelf, looking so serious and sophisticated that we could hardly imagine trying to read it, it happens to be a vastly entertaining novel. Once you read it, you will not forget it.