Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Inn at Lake Devine

By Elinor Lipman
Natalie Marx and her family liked to vacation at a lake in Vermont. On the opposite shore of where they stayed was an inn that looked very inviting. So one year the mother wrote, asking about staying there. The response she received included the line, "Our guests who feel most comfortable here, and return year after year,  are Gentiles." In other words, no Jews.
Natalie, a young teen, was challenged and perturbed by this rebuff. The inn and its proprietors became a minor obsession. So at camp later, when one of her bunk mates mentioned that she and her family were going to be staying there, Natalie talked the girl, Robin, into inviting her along. And Natalie finally got to walk on forbidden ground.
The inn was a family-owned and operated concern. The father, Mr Berry, was a very nice, friendly man and his two sons were also personable and friendly. The problem was the wife, Mrs Berry. She was the one who ran the hotel, with Mr Berry and the boys as her assistants. And Mrs Berry was the one who had the no Jews policy. Although her antagonism was very subtle and not overt, still it was there and Natalie felt it.
A decade passes. Natalie lost contact with Robin. Then a camp reunion is proposed and in the course of events, Natalie learns that Robin works at a shoe store close by. She stops in to say hello and the two reconnect. Turns out Robin is getting married and the wedding is to be held at the Inn at Lake Devine and she invites Natalie to attend. So she does and it turns out to be one of the best and worst weeks of Natalie's life.

This story had it good points and its not-so-good points. I liked the Natalie character, she is amusing and smart and determined. I liked the Berrys, except for Mrs Berry. The plot is believable and interesting but I do wish the author could have done something other than kill off one of the characters, it took the story in a dark and unhappy direction. Also, the root of Mrs Berry's prejudice is never explored. And how the rest of the Berry family could not be aware of it, as they claimed: that part didn't ring true. And finally, the book was not as funny as I was hoping it would be. It had some amusing moments, but that is all.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Nymphos of Rocky Flats

By Mario Acevedo
He used to be a soldier. He used to be normal. But that was before Iraq. He came back changed. Into a vampire, that is. So now Felix Gomez is a private investigator, of course.
A friend from college calls, asking for help. He works for the government at Rocky Flats, a government facility that used to produce nuclear weapons. Seems like there has been a sudden outbreak of nymphomania among the female employees at the facility. The friend asks Felix's help investigating the source of the outbreak, which may have something to do with contamination. He wants Felix to go undercover at the facility and do some snooping for him. He is offering $50,000 dollars if Felix completes the assignment and at that price Felix won't say no, even though he has his doubts about snooping at a heavily guarded federal compound. So Felix moves to nearby Denver and sets himself up in the bogus position his friend has prepared for him.
Things heat up pretty fast. It isn't long before Felix realizes he is being followed and then someone tries to kill him. The local vampire community of Denver discovers a troop of vampire hunters is in the area and have already killed some vampires. As Felix looks into the nymphomania incidents, he finds a tenuous connection between the incidents and Area 51 and the Roswell UFO sighting. Maybe he will get it all figured out if people would just stop constantly trying to kill him.

Felix is a likable character and the action is non-stop as he tumbles from one desperate situation to another.  He is a modern vampire, able to go out in the daytime if he wears protective clothing, heavy makeup and sunscreen and sunglasses. He can also eat regular food, with the addition of blood to make it more digestible. He has the classic vampire powers, like changing into a wolf and hypnotizing humans with his gaze. But even though he is a vampire, he seems like a pretty decent person. And I enjoyed reading about him a lot. This was a good, exciting and interesting read.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Impossible Bird

By Patrick O'Leary
Two brothers shared an odd, traumatic experience when they were kids. Adults now, they live separate lives. Mike is a world traveler, shooting commercials in exotic locations. Dan is a professor with a wife and child. The two brothers awake to find their lives out of joint, both lost in a fog of forgetfulness and confusion.
Mike is approached by some thugs who have mistaken him for Dan. Then he is told he has to find Dan. Meanwhile, Dan's son has been kidnapped and the ransom is that Dan has to find Mike. In the course of events, it is revealed that Mike and Dan are both dead and are living in an artificial construct created by aliens who find the concept of death abhorrent and have been recreating dead people from the moment of their deaths. But many of the people who have been recreated are not happy to find themselves in this artificial world and have organized against the aliens behind it all. And naturally, there are many recreated people that are perfectly happy to be in this brave new world. So Mike and Dan are drawn into this conflict between the two sides, each side vying for the brothers' allegiance. In the struggle between the two sides, the brothers will find each other and come to terms with the anger and lies that kept them apart for so long.

This story was interesting, surprising, often rather confusing, but at the end, just depressing. I think if it wasn't for the bleak ending, I would have enjoyed it a lot more. But I just didn't care for the ending and it kind of spoiled the whole thing for me.

American Fuji

By Sara Backer
Gaby used to be an English professor at Shizuyama University in Japan but she was suddenly and without explanation fired. Now she works for a Japanese fantasy funeral company, selling elaborate funerals to grieving families.
Alex, a psychologist, is in Japan on a book tour, but he is also there to investigate the death of his son in a motorcycle crash. He has a lot of questions about it but was unable to get any answers, especially to the question of why his son's body was missing its heart. He meets Gaby and talks her into helping him with his investigation, to be his interpreter and his liaison between himself and a culture that he is finding very difficult to understand and deal with.

This is a mystery novel and a romance novel, with the defensive and prickly Gaby gradually warming to the hurting and bewildered Alex. She helps him unravel the mystery of his son's death and he helps her unravel the mystery of her sudden firing from her position at the university.
I don't know if it is a fair depiction of the Japanese or not. I don't know anything about Japan. But I did enjoy this story very much. It grabbed me and held my interest from the very start.

Walking in Circles before Lying Down

By Merrill Markoe

Dawn has so far not exactly made a success of her life. She works at a doggy-daycare and does dog-walking on the side. And no one in her life is giving her much encouragment and support, not her parents (divorced), not her sister, and not her boyfriend. Especially not her boyfriend, who has announced that he is leaving her because he has fallen in love with someone else. And that is when Dawn started hearing her dog and all dogs talk.
Is she losing her mind? Has she been blessed by the dog fairy? Well, it really doesn't matter, because even though it may seem she is losing her grip, Dawn is finally starting to take charge of her own life.

This is kind of your typical "chick lit:" girl falls for bad guy, bad guy breaks her heart and her life goes to hell, then girl begins to face reality, meet sweet new guy, and get her life back on track. Yay, girl power!
But what makes this story a little better is the talking to dogs. The dogs are funny and cool and wise (maybe too wise) and very doggy. These dogs say things that you could really think dogs would say. If they could talk. Which they can't. But if they could they would talk like the dogs in this story. The conversations between Dawn and the dogs are the best and most entertaining part. They take just another boring chick lit novel to a whole better and funnier level.

The Darwin Awards: Evolution in Action

By Wendy Northcutt

The Darwin Awards commemorate those poor fools who improve the human gene pool by taking themselves out of it. Most of the items in this collection have been verified, a few have not and a few are also included that didn't result in anyone dying but do illustrate human stupidity.

The Darwin Awards started online but is now available in print, with Evolution in Action the first in the series. I know it is not kind to laugh at others misfortunes and tragedies, but some of the things people get up to are just ridiculous and you can't help laughing. This book is about death but nonetheless it is very funny. Very funny indeed.


By Lily Proir

Arcadio is a lonely man. So when a new woman arrives in his small community, he decides she is the mate he for whom he has been longing. Unforutnately the woman, Fernanda, is not interested. So Arcadio set out to woo her but nothing works. He falls into a deep depression and is hospitalized in a coma. Meanwhile Fernanda is working in a butcher shop for  Primo, who is also smitten by Fernanda. He also sets his sights on her, but she seems to be just as indiffferent to Primo as she is to Arcadio.
Meanwhile, the district nurse, Concetta is in love with the local physician, Dr. Croce and he with her, but their reticence prevents them from declaring themselves. Also, Concetta's mule, Gezabel, is in love with Arcadio, but of course her love is unrequited. The  mule serves as the narrator of the story.

Well, this was a kind of silly story, with strange nonsense like an angel baby sprouting wings and flying away and other such things. I suppose some folks like that kind of stuff, but I am not one of them. I think I would have enjoyed the story a lot more without all the baloney. But, if you can get past the nonsense, then it is a pretty good story about two men chasing after the same woman, a woman who is probably not worth all the effort put forth on her behalf.

Blade Dancer

By S. L. Viehl

It's the future and humanity takes a dim view of aliens and human/alien crossbreeds. So Jory Rask has been very careful to keep her alien attributes well hidden. A professional ball player, she is famous and popular, as long as no one finds out the truth. Her mother, who is an alien, becomes ill and dies. Her mother was also living on Earth illegally and so Jory tries to hide her body in a grave in the desert, only to be caught in the act and the truth of her birth revealed to the world. She gets deported, sent in to space and out of human territory and she decides to visit her mother's home world, a place Jory has never seen. There she connects with a group of young half-breeds like herself. Although her mother's people are more accepting of crossbreeds than humans, but even so the crossbreeds feel isolated and constrained and decide to travel off-planet with Jory. Because it turns that their mothers were a group of females who were captured by slavers of various breeds, including humans,  and subsequently raped and impregnated by their captors. And after they were rescued, they all returned to their native planet, except for Jory's mother, who chose to take her baby to live in hiding and exile on Earth. So now the group of young people has found each other and have banded together and decided to track down and bring to justice the male creatures who dishonored their mothers. But first they will have to get some training and so they all agree to enroll in a school for elite assassins, the Tana.

I guess my major objection to this story was the idea of alien/human crossbreeds. I just didn't find that whole concept believable.  But if you can put that aside, then it is a pretty good story about a group of outcasts who manage to bond and overcome the obstacles in their way.