Friday, May 29, 2009

Immortality Inc.

By Robert Sheckley

The year is 1958. A man, driving along a highway at night, crashes his car. He feels the steering column pierce his chest. He feels his head smash into the windshield. He dies.
But he doesn't. He awakes in a hospital bed. He feels fine. He has no scars or wounds from the crash. And he soon finds out that it is not 1958. It is 2110. The man is told he is part of an experiment. His living mind has been snatched from the moment of his death and brought into the future and placed into the body of a volunteer who sold his body to support his family and had his mind erased.
Naturally our man is upset and uncertain. He doesn't know what to do with himself and the corporation that performed the experiment has now backed out for fear of government reprisals. He is on his own, a man with obsolete skills living in a world vastly different from what he knew before.
And if that wasn't bad enough he is now being plagued by a zombie and by a ghost. These creatures are side effects of the mind transference process. Now the man not only has to adapt to future society he also has to figure out what the zombie wants and why the ghost is out to get him.
And a strange society it is where people sell their bodies to be used as hosts for rich people's minds and where science has proven the existence of the afterlife, although they don't have a handle on what the afterlife actually is, they just know it is real. So death is a lot less frightening, in fact there is even insurance that will guarantee the policy holder's entrance to the afterlife.

This was an OK book. It has a lot of interesting ideas about death and the afterlife. It was written in the 1950s so it is dated, for instance, a giant computer that uses paper tape and punch cards. I guess I'd say it was a fair read.

New Words

Hebephrenic: hebephrenia is a form of schizophrenia. "The forms of ghostly madness could be categorized like madness on Earth. There were the melancholics, drifting disconsolately through the scenes of their great passion; the whispering hebephrenic, chattering gay and random nonsense; the idiots and imbeciles who returned in the guise of little children; the schizophrenics who imagined themselves to be animals, prototypes of vampire and Abominable Snowman, werewolf, weretiger, werefox, weredog."

Teredos: marine worms that damage untreated wood by drilling holes in it. "Then you look the boat over. You see that the frames are cracked, teredos have gotten into the rudder post, there's dry rot in the mast step, the sails are mildewed, the keel bolts are rusted, and the fastenings are ready to let go."

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Saturday Night

By Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad

A look at the long running NBC TV show, from 1975 when it began to 1985. Points out all the infighting and stress among the principals involved, whether actors, writers, directors, producers. Although it looked like a lot of fun apparently it wasn't that much fun, especially after it became a big hit in its third and fourth years. Competition for recognition and respect became more brutal and some were left bleeding by the wayside. It stopped being a happy little family and turned into an anger factory. Some of the antics that occurred are just unacceptable. And the viciousness, that was disheartening to read about. But if it is details about the first ten years you are looking for then this is the book to read. It is chock full of lots of interesting and surprising details and was an amazing and captivating read.

For another review, see

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Confession

By James E. McGreevey

James McGreevey was the governor of New Jersey who resigned when his love affair with another man was about to be revealed to the public. In The Confession McGreevey tells of his life, starting with childhood and how he hid his homosexuality and how he became interested in politics and how it all ended up so badly.

So this is his confession, but more than his confession, it is an insider's look at making it in politics. Reading this book was a revelation. The amount of time and energy McGreevey put into running for and maintaining public office was just astonishing. From what he says, that is par for the course for politicians. It is a constant round of meetings, dinners, speeches, parties, gatherings, special occasions, public occasions, schmoozing, boozing, shaking hands, making nebulous promises, raising money, oiling the movers and's just nuts. Beats me how anyone does it.
As far as deceiving his wife and cheating on her with a man and on some of the questionable practices done in fund raising, McGreevey tries to sound repentant. But it just comes across as a tad stagy and insincere, like Jimmy Swaggart's teary confession in front of the cameras. Yeah, he's sorry, they're all sorry...sorry they got caught!
Still, even though I didn't buy into McGreevey's contrition, I did like reading his book. The stuff about the rat race of politicking was really an eye-opener and just that part alone made the book worth reading.

New Words
Babka: A sweet Polish yeast bread that usually features almond and raisins; recent variations feature chocolate and cinnamon. "'This is the strangest looking soda bread I've ever seen,' I [McGreevey] remarked brightly. He [a Polish pastor] was aghast. 'Soda bread? What soda bread? This is babka.'"

Ad hominem: In an argument, this is an attack on the person rather than on the opponent’s ideas. It comes from the Latin meaning "against the man." "The New Yorker made fun of him [Congressman Michael Huffington] for 'washing his hands frequently,' a nasty little jab at his masculinity that even George Will, no friend of gay rights, condemned as 'ad hominem."

Consigliere: A counselor or advisor, especially to a mafia boss. "They agreed to the appointment, which would make him [Golan Cipel] part scheduler, part policy strategist, part consigliere."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

An Accidental Goddess

By Linnea Sinclair

Gillie is not your average woman. She has magical powers, she is a powerful Kiasidira, which is like a wizard. She is the protector of the Khalar people and enemy to the Fav'lhir who wish to destroy the Khalar.
During a battle to wipe out the Fav'lhir sorcerers, Gillie's spaceship took a hit that pushed it through a rift in space and about 350 years into the future. Her crippled ship was found and towed to a Khalaran deep-space station, Cirrus One. Gillie was unconscious when the ship was rescued and woke up to find, to her dismay, that she was declared a goddess some 350 years in the past when she supposedly sacrificed herself to save the Khalar people. Fortunately, no one realizes Gillie is the goddess, the Lady Kiasidira, and Gillie wants to make sure on one ever does. As the protector of the Khalar people, she is loath to destroy this religion they have built around her actions in the past. It would be disconcerting to their society to be told they have been praying to a fraud for hundreds of years. Also, even though she is a very special person, Gillie just wants to be treated like any other person. She doesn't crave the spotlight or adulation. Also, she has developed a crush on the hunky Admiral in charge of the station, Mack, and she fears the truth would destroy a very promising relationship. All she wants is some time to allow her ship to repair itself, with her help, and to get to know Mack a lot better. But this is not to be when Gillie realizes that the Fav'lhir, whom she thought she'd taken care of, are back and are once again moving against the Khalar, whom they regard as inferiors since they do not possess powers like the Fav'lhir and like Gillie's people, the Raheira. And they are launching their offensive at the station, Cirrus One, with the help of some infiltrators inside the station. Once again, Gillie has to sally forth to do battle to protect the Khalar and in the process has to reveal her true colors.

An interesting combination of romance and fantasy and science fiction, at first I was rather dismayed at the romantic element as I thought it would be the main driver of the story like any romance novel is. But that was not the case. The romance is an important part of the story but it is not the main focus. There is plenty going on in this story besides the romance (which is not explicit, I am glad to say) and plenty of action and magical confrontations and it is all pretty exciting and quite a good story to read. I did feel it kind of had a slow start but after a while it really caught my interest and I enjoyed it a lot.

New Word

Phratry: Family; people descended from a common ancestor. '"It's a very old phratry. Carries a significant amount of power behind it."'

Saturday, May 16, 2009


By James P. Blaylock

Everybody wants the homunculus. This little man-like creature from outer space has strange powers including the power to animate the dead and the power to drive men insane. Trapped fifteen years ago in a small box on a flying blimp powered by a perpetual motion machine, now the the blimp's course is declining and may soon come down on Hampstead Heath in London. Good guys and bad guys are all aiming to get their hands on this damned illusive homunculus, no matter the consequences.
Set in Victorian era Britain, this strange novel features an evil hunchbacked zombie-creating doctor who can even reanimate a skeleton using a gland he harvests from a live carp, a debauched millionaire with a string of brothels, a pimply-faced punk with delusions of grandeur and an obsession with an innocent young woman, a crazed evangelist who thinks he is the second coming of Christ and who wants the doctor who reanimate his mother who has been dead for many years, and numerous zombies who subsist on blood pudding.
The good guys are not as striking or as interesting but include a scientist who is building his own space ship and really, really wants to find the homunculus' space ship which has been hidden away in one of the millionaire's brothels. There is also a toymaker who builds fancy toy boxes and ingenious devices which feature prominently in the story as the homunculus is imprisoned in one of these puzzle boxes but which box no one but the toymaker knows for sure.
So the good guys and the bad guys are plotting against one another and they all want the homunculus which may soon be landing in London. Lots of head bashing, slogging through London's sewers, grappling with one another, gun play, kidnappings, consumption of mass quantities of alcohol, bombs going off, buildings demolished, interspersed with comedic moments and wrapped in a Victorian atmosphere that would make you swear the novel was written in the 1880s and not the 1980s make for a story that is unforgettable. Not to mention the Marseilles pinkle!

I enjoyed this book quite a lot, especially the more ridiculous parts. Still it was rather disappointing that the homunculus, the focus of so much desire and greed, makes only the briefest of appearances, despite serving as the title character of the book. What it was doing on Earth, how it had such impressive powers, how it could survive for years trapped in a little box with no food or water are never addressed. Perhaps the book only rates a "fair read" but it is a really memorable tale, kind of like reading Dickens for the first time, so I guess I should really rate a "good read."

New Words

Serried: Crowded together in rows; shoulder to shoulder. "Leaves and dust and bits of paper whirled through the darkness, across Battersea Park and the pleasure boats serried along the Chelsea shore, round the tower of St. Lukes's and into darkness."

Costermongers: A costermonger is a street seller of fruit and vegetables. The term, which derived from the words costard (a type of large ribbed apple) and monger, i.e. "seller", came to be particularly associated with the 'barrow boys' of London who would sell their produce from a wheelbarrow or wheeled cart. "The city was stirring. The carts of ambitious costermongers and greengrocers already clattered along to market, and silent oyster boats sailed out of Chelsea Reach toward Billingsgate."

Bummarees: A bummaree is a dealer at Billingsgate fish market or a porter at Smithfield meat market. "It was with the dawn that the blimp was sighted over Billingsgate. The weathered gondola creaked in the wind like the hull of a ship tossing on slow swells, and its weird occupant, secured to the wooden shell of his strange swaying aerie like a barnacle to a wave-washed rock, stared sightlessly down on fishmongers' carts and bummarees and creeping handbarrows filled with baskets of shellfish and eels, the wind whirling the smell of it all east down Lower Thames Street, bathing the Custom House and the Tower in the odor of seaweed and salt spray and tidal flats."

Spindrift: Spray blown up from the surface of the sea. "The street was silent and wet, and the smell of rain on pavement hung in the air of the tobacco shop, reminding the Captain briefly of spindrift and fog."

Latakia: An aromatic Turkish tobacco. "Nothing, it seemed to him, was worth losing your sense of proportion and humor over, least of all a steak pie, a pint of ale, and a pipe of latakia."

Trismegistus: Greek, it means "thrice-blessed" or "thrice-greatest". For more info visit this site at Roanoke. "There was no one beyond the seven of them whom they could trust, and no one, certainly, who had any business at a meeting of the Trismegistus Club."

Benthamite: A follower of Jeremy Bentham, an English utilitarian philosopher and social reformer of the 1700s. "It was his moneyed air that was so annoying -- an air that betrayed a sort of Benthamite smugness and superiority, that exclaimed its own satisfaction with itself and its faint dissatisfaction with, in this case, William Keeble, who had been surprised in his nightshirt and cloth cap and so was automatically one down."

Cheval glass: A vertical mirror hung between two vertical posts, also called a free standing mirror; a full length mirror supported by a frame and four feet. "Wind whistled beyond the casement while St. Ives squinted into the little cheval glass atop his nightstand."

General paresis: A form of neurosyphilis (syphilis affecting the central nervous system -- the brain and spinal cord). "There's a reference to a successful experiment in which he spawned mice from a heap of old rags, and another in which he revivified an old man from Chingford, who was dying of general paresis."

Anacharis and ambulia: water plants. "Trailing anacharis and ambulia, Pule wrenched at his fish, slamming it against the stone monolith as he rolled against it."

Choke damp: Asphyxiating gas, largely carbon dioxide, accumulated in a mine, well, etc. "Deener, wary of choke damp, breathed through a kerchief tied over his nose and mouth."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Treasure Hunt

By George Sullivan

Treasure! Laying on the ocean bottom, buried in mud and sand, lost Spanish galleons, wrecked on the reefs, their gold, silver, gems scattered across the sand. What a dream! To find those fabulous lost treasures!
But it ain't easy. First you have to figure out as close as you can the location where the ship sank. Then you have to spend tons of money on men and equipment searching the ocean floor for signs of the wreck. Sign include stones that served as ballast in these top-heavy vessels, bits and pieces of wreckage such as coins, dishes, urns, pottery. Even after finding these bits and pieces it may be years until the main wreck site can be located. This is because the ship may have been moved by the ocean during rough weather.
Mel Fisher is a man who had what it takes to spend many years and much money to track down and locate one of the wealthiest treasure ships to be discovered by treasure hunters. His divers recovered "almost 1,000 silver bars, each weighing about seventy pounds, some 140,000 silver coins. They also found 315 emeralds. And they found gold - bars and disks, coins and jewelry... Altogether, the gold, silver, and jewels were worth about $150 million. The treasure represented the climax of a sixteen-year search..."
This book details that search, the pain and effort, the cost and struggle and the thrill of discovery. It even briefly discusses the history of the Spanish in the Americas and the role the treasure played in Spain. It's an interesting and exciting story, and as the book points out, many Spanish ships sank in the waters around Florida, maybe even hundreds. And only a few a been found so far.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Zoo in My Luggage

By Gerald Durrell

Gerald Durrell was an experienced animal collector, someone who goes out into the country and acquires animals which are then shipped to zoos. After doing this for a number of years for various zoos, he decided he wanted to start his own zoo back in England, his home country. A Zoo in My Luggage is his account of his collecting trip in the late 1950s to the Cameroons in Africa to gather animals for his own zoo. He kind of put the cart before the horse, acquiring animals before he had an actual zoo in which to place them.
So off he goes to the Cameroons, a place he had been to twice before, accompanied by his wife Jacquie, to Bafut, a mountain kingdom there. Relying mainly on local hunters, Gerald paid for interesting and unusual animals they captured. He and his companions often helped out with captures too, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.
Of course, dealing with wild animals poses many problems. They have to be housed, fed, doctored; all their needs attended to. As his menagerie grew, the demands to keep them fed and healthy became greater and greater. Still, Gerald's experience collecting animals enabled him to successfully gather several hundred animals, monkeys, birds, lizards, snakes, apes, mongoose, toads and ship them safely back to Britain. Now if only he had some place to put them all ...

This was a pretty fun book to read. It has lots of funny stories about Gerald's collecting days, lots of stories about animal antics and stories about dealing with the locals. He did get his zoo started, in Jersey, and it exists to this day. Gerald was one of the first people to realize the threat posed to animal populations by human activities and to advocate for their protection. This book is a really enjoyable look back at another, more innocent time and well worth reading.

For another review see Curled Up.

New Words

Jiggers: The female sand flea (Tunga Penetrans) is also known as the chigger, jigger, chigoe, bicho do pé or sand flea. The female feeds by burrowing into the skin of its host. The flea’s abdomen becomes enormously enlarged so that it forms a round sac with the shape and size of a pea. They can infest humans and are mostly found on the feet. For more about jiggers see Feed the Children. "Two patas monkeys brought in; both had severe infestation of jiggers in toes and fingers. Had to lance them, extract jiggers and as precaution against infection injected penicillin."

Pottos: A potto is small primate (Perodicticus potto) from the tropical rain forests of Africa. For an image see Wikipedia. "Have found simple, rapid way of sexing pottos."

Ciné: Refers to one or more of the home movie formats including 8 mm, 9.5 mm, 16 mm film, and Super 8. "I poured out the drinks, and as we sipped them I explained the mysteries of ciné photography to the Fon, showing him how the camera worked, what the film itself looked like and explaining how each little picture was of a separate movement."

Eton wall-game: A vigorous form of football played on a strip of ground 5 meters wide and 110 meters long just beside a slightly curved brick wall and is played only at Eton College. For more info see Economic Expert "Uttering wild screams of fear they [monkeys] fled in a body to the farthest corner of the cage, where they indulged in a disgracefully cowardly scrimmage, vaguely reminiscent of the Eton wall-game, each one doing his best to get into the extreme corner of the cage, behind all his companions."

Lèse-majesté: the crime of violating majesty, an offense against the dignity of a reigning sovereign or against a state. "Later, when we got to know him [a dignified chimpanzee] better, he allowed us to become quite familiar with him and call him Chum [short for Cholmondeley St John], or sometimes, in moments of stress, 'you bloody ape', but this latter term always made us feel as though we were committing lèse-majesté."

Touracos: A touraco is a large brightly crested bird of Africa. "On the remains of what had once been a lawn, fourteen monkeys rolled and played on long leashes, while in the garage frogs croaked, touracos called throatily, and squirrels gnawed loudly on hazel-nut shells."

Marquee: A large tent with open sides, often used for outdoors entertainment. "But I was chiefly worried by the fact that winter was nearly upon us, and the animals could not be expected to survive its rigours in an unheated marquee."

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Devil Bones

By Kathy Reichs

A Temperance Brennan novel

Forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan is called upon to investigate human remains that may be tied into devil worship or some pagan cult. In the process she reconnects with an old high school boyfriend and her boyfriend from Canada makes an appearance after having been out of her life for months and her ex-husband is getting married.
During the course of the investigation, one of the police officers is gunned down and her grief and guilt and frustration add up to a night of binge drinking for Temperance so serious that she experiences a black out and can't remember what she did during the binge.
After mouthing off to the media one too many times, Tempe finds herself without a job. Things can't get much worse but they do when the killer gets the jump on Tempe and on Slidell, a police investigator. Things just go downhill from there.

This was a pretty good story although I was kinda surprised that these crack investigators didn't tumble to the fact that the body found on the beach had been frozen before being dumped. I figured that out right away and I'm not known for my brains. Also I was disappointed when the killer turned out to be a very minor character. I don't like it when the solution to a mystery turns out to be some person who is only briefly mentioned. That just doesn't seem kosher. Still, the most interesting part of the story is Tempe herself and her own problems. Her character is what continues to draw readers to the stories, her character is what drives it and her dilemmas are the most fascinating part of the story.

New Words

Bimodal: Having two modes or forms. "A bimodal assortment of homes lined both sides of the street."

Friday, May 08, 2009

A Dirty Job

By Christopher Moore

Charlie's life is in crisis. He has just lost his young wife, who suddenly and unexpectedly died shortly after giving birth to their daughter Sophie. If it wasn't for the baby he might well have given up. Then, in addition, he finds himself with an unexpected and troublesome new responsibility: picking up the souls of the recently deceased and shepherding them into their new body. Fortunately, this new sideline fits right in with Charlie's current job for he is the owner of a secondhand shop.
This requires a word of explanation. In the world of this story, souls do not necessarily come attached to a baby when it is born. In fact, most people live for decades before they acquire a soul. Also, the soul is contained within an inanimate object which can be something as mundane as a music CD or as weird as silicone breast implants. So Charlie is mystically given the name of a person who will soon be dead and he goes to them and acquires their soul which is contained in some object, like a necklace, and he puts the object in his shop where it will be bought by some body that needs a soul. I know, it sounds really peculiar. But that is the major premise of the story.
Anyway, not only does Charlie find himself ferrying souls, he also has to deal with the forces of darkness which are stealing souls and devouring them to make themselves stronger so they can take over the world. This part of the story is just your typical nebbishy good guy with unknown special powers taking on the bad scary demon guys (or gals, in this case) intent on ruling the world and making things hard for humanity. But with the help of his friends and even of his little daughter and some hell-hounds, Charlie may be able to save the world.

The author tells a pretty good tale and has quite an imagination. The novel has its lighter moments though the tone is pretty dark overall. The novel has a kind of a half-assed happy ending, not too satisfying but somewhat amusing, at least the author probably thought it was amusing. But this is a guy who thinks the term fuck puppet is amusing, or at least that is what I guess since he uses it over and over. Overall, I found the story interesting and even occasionally funny, though a lot less funny than I was hoping it would be. Or maybe its humor just didn't appeal to me.

New Word

Bricolage: A term used in several disciplines, among them the visual arts and literature, to refer to the construction or creation of a work from a diverse range of things which happen to be available; a work created by such a process. "Well, it wasn't really a bookstore anymore - it still had a couple of tall cases of books, but the rest of the store was a bricolage of bric-a-brac, from plumbing fittings to football helmets."

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Diary of a Chav

By Grace Dent

First off, what is a chav? A chav is a poor, working class person in Britain. More especially, it's those kids who hang out on the street wearing track suits and hoodies and athletic shoes and lots of flashy jewelry and who are regarded by their elders as a menace to society, what we used to call juvenile delinquents. For a deeper look into the word, see Michael Quinions' website, World Wide Words.
So, in this case, the chav (which she strongly denies being) is Shiraz, a young British teen (she's 15) who has brains and talent but no ambition to speak of. Except of someday starring on Big Brother because she has a big mouth and thinks she could bring a lot of controversy to the show and makes heaps of money so doing.
The book is presented in diary format with entries describing the trials and tribulations of her young life: a smelly brother, an alienated older sis, a loud mouth mother and a quiet father, an obese pet dog, small breasts, fears of being a lesbian (she isn't), and friend who gets so wrapped up in a boy that she forgets to be a friend. Still, in the end, after some hairy adventures, one of which involves a mashed rat, Shiraz gets her act together and manages to bring a little more peace and understanding to her family at the same time.

Hey, it's not a deep read but it's the kind of thing that teens would probably enjoy reading a lot. I liked the book, mainly for its look at a pretty average teen's life in Britain today. Very interesting, I felt.

The book is chock full of British teen slang but the author provides a glossary at the back, which really came in handy, some of which I have included here in my new words list.

New Words

Baps: breasts.

Barney: an argument.

Bashment: a party.

Bhaji: any of various Indian dishes of fried vegetables.

Bint: annoying woman.

Blank: to ignore someone.

Blinding: amazing, incredible.

Boffins: scientists, engineers, and other people who are stereotypically seen as engaged in technical or scientific research.

Bogtrots: diarrhea.

Bredren: brothers or brother.

Busking: performing in public places for money; doing street perfomances.

Buzzing: feeling really excited.

Chattering classes: people who write newspapers and TV shows and who seem to know everything.

Chuck a sickie: call in to work sick when you're not.

Chuffed: happy, pleased.

Cotch: to hang out or stay someplace.

Dossing: being idle, doing nothing.

Duffers: elderly people.

Earwigging: listening in to other people's conversations.

Eid: the annual Islamic festival that ends Ramadan.

Fangita-eater: lesbian.

Fit: handsome.

Fizzing: angry, irate.

Flash: fancy, posh.

Flog: to sell something.

Front someone out: stand up to someone.

Gaff: house, home.

Geezer: a man, a guy.

Get the hump: take offense.

Gob: the mouth; also to spit.

Gobby: talkative.

Goolies: testicles.

Grass someone up: tattle on.

Grime: a type of UK rap, dance music.

Grime collective: a group of people who make grime music.

Gutted: to be very disappointed.

Hacked off: annoyed.

Hackiest look: a dirty look.

Have a butcher's at someone: to take a look at.

Keema nan: bread stuffed with a layer of minced meat curry then baked.

Kip: sleep.

Knackered: tired.

Knob: penis.

Kofta: meat or vegetable ball popular in the Balkans, the Middle and Far East.

Lairy: aggressive, ready to fight.

Lemon: lesbian.

Liberty: a person who does whatever they want.

Lush: handsome, gorgeous.

Mardy: sulky.

Minge, Minging: ugly.

Minger: ugly person.

Mufties: female crotch.

Mush: the mouth.

Narky: in a bad mood; takes offense easily.

Norks: breasts.

Pakora: a fritter.

Passanda: a mild curry.

Pepperami: a pork sausage snack.

Pikey: a gypsy or any poor person.

Pissed: drunk.

Quids in: rich, wealthy.

Rabbit on: talk too much.

Rudegirl: tough girl, gang girl.

Scrounging: begging.

Skint: broke, no money.

Skiving: skipping work or school.

Skunk: marijuana.

Slagging: talking bad about someone.

Snog: kiss.

Staffy: bull terrier.

Strop: a hissy fit.

Swot: a studious student who gets good grades.

Take the mikey: to make fun of someone or have a joke with them; tease.

Tat: junk, garbage, worthless stuff.

Trackie: track or sweat suit.

Trollop: a woman of loose morals.

Up the duff: pregnant.

Waffling on: talking on and on.

WAGs: wives and girlfriends, said of football players' women.

Well: very.

Well butterz: very ugly.

Welly: plastic, waterproof boots.

Wind-up merchant: someone who enjoys playing tricks on people or getting people all wound up or annoyed.

Whinge: whine, moan, complain.

Wishful Drinking

By Carrie Fisher

A memoir, adapted from the author's one-woman stage show, in which she explores what it is like to deal not only with addiction but with mental illness and with the consequences of her parents' fame and her own fame.
A daughter of privilege and of a broken home, Fisher's life came with a lot of baggage. Add to that the instant stardom brought about by that famous movie, Star Wars at the tender age of 19 and it's a life that could be a stumbling block for anyone, no matter how self-possessed and stable they may be. And Fisher apparently wasn't all that stable although she managed to star in three blockbuster movies and write several novels, while abusing alcohol and medications and suffering from undiagnosed bipolar disease.
All this the author skates over lightly, cracking jokes the whole time but never really getting too personal, never really getting into much detail. If you want to read a down-and-dirty memoir of addiction, read Cupcake Brown's. Fisher takes a lighter approach, which reads more like a comedy act, not unsurprisingly. Still it was an amusing and yet sad read that gives the reader a little glimpse of life in the limelight. I enjoyed it.