September 30, 2004
The World According to Garp by John Irving

The World According to Garp by John Irving: a novel about the illegitimate son of nurse and feminist, Jenny Fields, and the people that inhabit his world.

T.S. Garp was born to Jenny Fields, an independent minded woman and young nurse during World War II. Jenny becomes a nurse at the Steering School for boys and raises Garp there. After Garp graduates, he and Jenny move to Vienna where she writes the novel that will make her popular as a feminist leader and Garp begins his writing career.

I don’t want to give anything away, so I’m going to keep this review intentionally vague. The book covers Garp’s life as a writer and a father, his marriage, and the lives of his family and friends, including Roberta, a former Eagles tackle who is now a woman after having a sex change operation.

The World According to Garp was both funny and sad, reflective and exciting. I found the writing style to be very inviting and I’m not surprised that this book made Random House’s Modern Library 100 Best Fiction Books of the 20th Century. I highly recommend it.

September 21, 2004
Dead Famous by Ben Elton

Dead Famous by Ben Elton: a murder takes place in front of approximately 47,000 people, but the police have no idea who committed the crime.

House Arrest is an English reality television show like Big Brother that’s in its third year of production. There are ten contestants, thirty cameras, forty microphones, and 24/7 coverage. When the book begins, we are on day twenty-nine and Chief Inspector Coleridge is attempting to figure out who committed murder, witnessed by 47,000 people via a live Internet feed, that took place on day twenty-seven.

Coleridge himself is in his fifties and is quite old-fashioned. He cannot understand what would prompt someone to go live in a house, giving up their privacy in a desperate attempt to become famous or why the world would be interested in these people. Nonetheless, he’s determined to find the killer.

At first, I had the hardest time getting into Dead Famous. I felt like I’d been dropped into the story midway through and it was difficult for me to keep the characters straight. About fifty pages or so in, though, I found the story really catching my attention, especially since the identity of the murder victim themself isn’t revealed for quite some time.

While I wouldn’t say that the ending of the story was completely unexpected, it still took me a while to see it coming and, all in all, once the book got past its slow start, I really enjoyed reading it.

September 17, 2004
Santa Steps Out: A Fairy Tale for Grown-ups by Robert Devereaux

Santa Steps Out: A Fairy Tale for Grown-ups by Robert Devereaux: in December of 1970, the Tooth Fairy, naked except for a necklace of blood-flecked teeth, decides upon a plan - a plan to seduce Santa Claus.

You see, before the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and even God are who they are now, they used to be creatures from Greek mythology with completely different aspects and desires. The Tooth Fairy, though, is the only one that retains her persona from that time and she’s done with the way things are now. Her seduction of Santa Claus sets in motion events that have huge repercussions not just for these magical creatures, but for several humans as well.

At first, I had great difficulty getting into the book and I suspected that I wasn’t going to like it. Yes, Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy are having wild, kinky sex (occasionally in the bed of a sleeping child, nonetheless). Yes, it’s terribly shocking to see figures from our childhood given such base emotions. But is it a good read?

I was inclined to say no and half believing I wasn’t even going to finish the novel when, for whatever reason, I found myself becoming more interested in the story and the characters and wondering how it was going to turn out. While it never will never make my favorite book list, Santa Steps Out did manage to hold my attention and I enjoyed the way the book ended.

September 12, 2004
Cool Dead People: Obituaries of Real Folks We Wish We'd Met a Little Sooner by Jane O'Boyle

Cool Dead People: Obituaries of Real Folks We Wish We’d Met a Little Sooner by Jane O'Boyle: a quick little book that tells the tales of people that have passed on.

Jane O'Boyle collected obituaries of over one hundred interesting people (categorized into trailblazers, curators, problem solvers, advocates, and dreamers) and put them in this small book so that we could all learn more about them. While some of the people in here may be known to many, most of them are people that I’d never heard of, doing things I’d never known about. As she put it, “they are everyday people like you and me who did extraordinary things. And that makes them cool.”

As a poker player, I was particularly happy to find the obituary of Stuey Ungar, one of the greatest poker players ever that died at the young age of forty-five. While an incredible card player, he was also a hopeless gambler and addict and even lost $1,000,000 on one football game once.

At a mere 143 pages with larger than average type and smaller than average pages, the book takes hardly any time at all to read, but it’s still pretty darn interesting.

September 07, 2004
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: a fabulous book that defies classification that I’ve reread several times.

At the beginning of Outlander, the year is 1945 and we are introduced to Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, who is on a second honeymoon in Scotland with her husband Frank. One night, while at a local stone circle, Claire touches one of the stones and is transported back in time to 1743.

She quickly draws the attention of both the Scottish and the English and is emboiled in plots and deceptions. To complicate matters further, there’s James Frasier, a tall, handsome Scot on the run from the English that Claire finds herself drawn to.

This novel, the first in a series of several, is an amazing read. It’s well over eight hundred pages, but I never feel like it’s too long - in fact, I’m always anxious to start the next one right away. The writing is wonderful and the characters so full of life that you can’t help but believe they are real. You also get a history of Scotland and England’s struggles at the same time.

I’m hard pressed to put this book into a category. It’s clearly a romance, but it’s also got elements of history, science fiction, fantasy, and even mystery. While some may be put off at its length, I still highly recommend it and its sequels to anyone looking for a great read.