Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Heads You Lose

By Lisa Lutz and David Hayward

This is a book with a little bit of a different premise. We, the readers, are to be let in on the writing process of a mystery story. Novelist Lutz and poet Hayward, who used to be together, are going to share the writing of the book jointly, each submitting alternating chapters with critical notes by the other contributor.
So the story starts out with the two main characters, Lacey and Paul, brother and sister small-time pot growers in a small California town, discovering a headless body of a man on their property.
Not wanting the police poking around because of the pot-growing, they wrap the body in a tarp and haul it out to the countryside. Problem solved. But then the body returns. And Lacey, upon a closer examination, thinks it is the body of her ex-boyfriend, shady meth dealer Hart. Now she decides she wants the police involved, so she and her brother clear all the marijuana plants out of their basement and into a willing friend's place. And then Lacey calls the police.

The book teems with loads of suspicious characters and shady operators. The two authors argue back and forth about each other's choices in their chapters and leave each other snarky notes and footnotes. They variously try to sabotage each others choices by amending and overwriting and just plain killing off the characters they don't care for. At one point Hayward introduces a stripper girl friend for Paul and Lisa then portrays the stripper as a clueless fool at which point Hayward reveals she is actually a secret intellectual. Hayward also introduces a hippy-type fellow named Terry who Lisa kills off later on. Hayward then brings out a cousin of Terry's who looks and sounds just like Terry, named Harry, and Lisa then kills the Terry clone off in short order.
The suspects multiply as do the bodies, but the ending ties it all together for the most part, so neatly that I think the two authors had it planned out beforehand and all that nonsense and arguing about where the story was going was fake.

I did like the ending of the story but I can't help but feel that all the rivalry between the two authors was just a load of hooey -- a gimmick to help sell the book. But even though it felt like I was being conned, I still enjoyed the story a lot.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Rosie Project

By Graeme Simsion

Don Tillman has decided it is time he was married. In his late thirties and a college professor, Don has never been on a second date or even on many first dates. Don has standards and few women ever manage to measure up. So he comes up with the Wife Project, a questionnaire designed to weed out the unsuitable candidates. Now all he needs is some lonely women who would be willing to fill out the questionnaire. Then he meets Rosie.
Rosie seems to possess every attribute that Don does not want in a wife. She smokes. She drinks alcohol. She is always late. She doesn't eat meat. She doesn't exercise regularly. She seems disorganized. She's a barmaid. But she is also smart, interesting, vibrant and attractive. And she wants Don's help. She wants to find her biological father, and Don, a geneticist, can give her that help.
Soon the Wife Project takes a backseat to the Father Project as Dan and Rosie work together to trace her biological father, gathering DNA samples from a large group of unknowing men that Rosie's dead mother may have slept with. Dan's orderly life gets turned upside down and, at the same time, becomes much more interesting and entertaining. Rosie adds so much to his life that was missing and he didn't even know was missing. But, he tells himself, she is so not right for him! Isn't she?

Don sounds like a person with Asperger's Syndrome, but it is never stated that he does have Asperger's. He is smart, super-organized, and socially inept. Anyway, he is an odd fellow and doesn't relate well to other people. When Don explains to Rosie that he isn't good at understanding what other people want, she replies sarcastically, "Tell me something I don't know." And Don tells her that "...the testicles of drone bees and wasp spiders explode during sex," totally missing that she was being sarcastic. Or did he? Turns out Don isn't quite the boob he sometimes pretends to be. Whether he has Asperger's or not, Don is a memorable character and I enjoyed reading about his search for a life partner and love. This was a good, fun, and entertaining story.

Thursday, March 06, 2014


By Tracey Garvis Graves

Chris and Claire Canton have been going through a rough patch in their marriage. Chris lost his well-paying job and was unemployed for quite a time. He became depressed and isolated himself from his wife and two young children. Finally, it got so bad Claire insisted that he see a doctor, who put him on antidepressants. But the pills destroyed his libido, furthering the space between him and his wife. Then he landed a new job that required he spend a lot of time travelling. The end result, money coming in but intimacy going out.
Claire feels more and more lonely. Chris is gone a lot and when he is home, he is working on the computer, trying to stay on top of his increasingly demanding job. Then one day, Claire gets stopped by a policeman because her car's tail light is out. The policeman, Daniel, is very good looking and Claire notices. Then when she see him at a parade, she talks to him briefly about getting some traffic signs in her neighborhood. Over time, she sees more and more of Daniel and they become friends. Daniel is divorced and is lonely like Claire.
Although Claire makes it clear to Daniel that they will never be more than friends, their feelings for each other continue to deepen and grow. And Chris, wrapped up in his work, remains oblivious to Claire's growing estrangement.
Somebody better start paying attention to this marriage before it is too late.

This was an interesting story. Plus I learned some things about diabetes. Claire is a diabetic and reading about her coping with it was enlightening and made me realize what a hard time my uncle, who also had type one diabetes, must of had dealing with his diabetes. I remember my grandma telling me about how he had one of those insulin reactions when dining alone at a restaurant.
Anyway, I found the story engrossing and suspenseful and I had a great deal of sympathy for what they were going through. Good read.