Tag Archives: christopher moore

2 Sentence Book Reviews: Fiction

i’m overdue for some book reviews, and will be posting reviews of 24 books this week. as i’ve done in the past, i’m posting two sentence book reviews. in each case, the first sentence is a summary of the book; and the second sentence is my thoughts on the book. i include a 1 – 5 star rating also. and occasionally, i’ll have an additional note.

today, five Fiction books:

one more thingOne More Thing: Stories and Other Stories, by B.J. Novak
5 stars
a collection of mostly humorous essays–mostly fiction, but not all–from The Office writer and exec producer (and ryan, on the show). i found these wonderfully entertaining even when they weren’t laugh-out-loud funny.

serpent of veniceThe Serpent of Venice: A Novel, by Christopher Moore
5 stars
a hilarious, lusty, and fantastical mash-up of The Merchant of Venice, Othello, and The Cask of Amontillado (yes, you read that correctly). moore is my favorite comedic writer, and this one is absurdly over-the-top in the best possible way.

worst person everWorst. Person. Ever., by Douglas Coupland
4 stars
dirtbag TV cameraman gets an assignment on a tropical island for a ribald Survivor-type show, where nothing more could go wrong, and nothing can spare him from his a-hole self. reads more like chuck palahniuk than douglas coupland, but is biting commentary on our cultural obsessions.

brutal youthBrutal Youth: A Novel, by Anthony Breznican
5 stars
4.5 stars
a lowly freshman makes his way through his first year at a parochial school full of systemic (even endorsed) bullying. great characters and wonderful honesty, with development and insight into teenagers.
*note: this is not a young adult fiction book, but a fiction book about teenagers. in my observation, one difference is that these teenagers talk like real teenagers.

your fathers, where are theyYour Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?, by Dave Eggers
4 stars
a lonely and disturbed man shackles a series of captives on an abandoned military base in order to question them, to make sense of his life. more light-hearted (sort of dark comedy) that my summary would lead you to believe, this isn’t eggers’ best work (i believe eggers to be one of the 20 best living fiction writers), but it’s interesting and insightful.

on deck for tomorrow: six nonfiction books

2 sentence book reviews, part 3

it’s a crazy week for me — a few days in colorado for an event at group publishing, and a few days in the san bernardino mountains with my family and another family. so, i think it’s time to post a week of 2 sentence book reviews!

i’ve got 44 lines for 22 books. the first sentence of each review is a summary, and the second sentence is my opinion. hope you appreciate the brevity!

part 1: five general fiction books
part 2: three general non-fiction and two young adult fiction books
part 3: four illustrated books or graphic novels and one humor book
part 4: four christian living books and three theology and ministry books

Illustrated Books and Graphic Novels

The Griff: A Graphic Novel, by Christopher Moore and Ian Corson
2 stars
Chris Moore’s attempt at a graphic novel about giant birds that invade earth and a motley collection of humans who attempt to stop the carnage. Occasionally funny, often confusing (as if plot points were left out), and mostly worth skipping.

Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama, by Alison Bechdel
5 stars
An autobiographical graphic attempt to understand the author’s complex relationship with her mother. A bit self-absorbed at times, but brilliantly drawn, and ultimately, a wonderful story of reconciliation with one’s own story.

Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History, by Art Spiegelman
5 stars
The holocaust biography of the author’s father, told in graphic form, with animals (in human personification) as the characters. Compelling, moving, and an important creative contribution to Holocaust stories.

Britten and Brülightly, by Hannah Berry
3 stars
Graphic novel murder mystery, told from the perspective of a depressed private investigator. Absolutely stunning illustration technique almost, but doesn’t quite make up for a story that’s confusing at times, and, ultimately, a real downer.


This Is a Book, by Demetri Martin
5 stars
A perfectly strange collection of stories, jokes, comedic drawings, and bits refusing categorization. Dave Barry with more cynicism; Chris Moore without a storyline; John Stewart and Stephen Colbert without politics or cameras; I’ll read anything Demetri Martin writes from here on out.

2 sentence book reviews, part 1

it’s a crazy week for me — a few days in colorado for an event at group publishing, and a few days in the san bernardino mountains with my family and another family. so, i think it’s time to post a week of 2 sentence book reviews!

i’ve got 44 lines for 22 books. the first sentence of each review is a summary, and the second sentence is my opinion. hope you appreciate the brevity!

part 1: five general fiction books
part 2: three general non-fiction and two young adult fiction books
part 3: four illustrated books or graphic novels and one humor book
part 4: four christian living books and three theology and ministry books

first up: general fiction

Unholy Night, by Seth Grahame-Smith
5 stars
Somehow, the same mind that brought us Pride and Predjudice and Zombies, and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Killer, rewrites the birth of Christ as a wild thriller involving an master thief and a mystic with a treasure-trove of evil powers in his tool box. Fully respectful to biblical story, this book can easily sit on my shelf next to Christopher Moore’s wonderful Lamb.

Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d’Art, by Christopher Moore
4 stars
Moore’s weirdness takes on the world of 19th century impressionist painters in the evil muse who provides their brilliance and the color blue. Not as laugh-out-loud funny as Moore’s best works, but still a fun read with tons of historical fiction context.

A Hologram for the King, by Dave Eggers
4 stars
A despondent and lonely man seeks redemption and hope in a presentation (and expected cash-cow contract) with a Middle Eastern king. Eggers is one of my top-10 authors, but this fairly depressing work is not his best (though it’s still better than so many other books).

Whiteout, by Ken Follett
3.5 stars
A thriller involving a deadly virus, high-stakes security, thugs, and family dysfunction, with a little romantic longing thrown in the mix. The romantic bits literally made me laugh out loud with their cheese and lack of believability, but the story is otherwise good.

Bag of Bones, by Stephen King
3 stars
ghost story involving a grieving writer and the historical sins of a small town. more a picture of grief and writer’s block than a scary story.

mini book reviews, part 2 (of 2)

seriously, where else would these three books be reviewed together?

Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace, by Gordon MacKenzie
5 stars

several years ago, when i became the president of youth specialties, mcnair wilson suggested i needed to read this book. it’s one of very, very few books i’ve ever read three times (the current time was because i assigned it as reading for my youth ministry coaching program cohort, and had to re-read it to be prepared for the book discussion). it is such a brilliantly unique little book. the very form of the book models the point of the book (and how rare is that!?). mackenzie spent most of his adult life working at hallmark cards, where he moved through a variety of creative roles, ending in a strange “listening” role with a title he gave himself: creative paradox (seriously, that was his job title). at its core, the book is about creativity. but it’s central theme is that all organizations (and believe me, you church workers will resonate with this) naturally become ‘hairballs’ of policy, procedure, expectations, rules, assumptions, and org charts. in order to maintain creativity while being part of a human organization, one must move into orbit. the orbit has a gravitational pull that keeps you connected to the organization. getting pulled into the hairball isn’t good; but shooting off on your own trajectory — breaking with gravity — isn’t good either. more inspirational than practical, the book will stir your imagination, and get you longing for those days when you live into the creative being you were made to be.

Bite Me: A Love Story, by Christopher Moore
4 stars

chris moore is, hands down, no competition, absolutely, without question, the funniest novel writer living today. i like funny books. and i’ve read a bunch of ’em, by a bunch of authors. there are many funny authors. but no one comes close to chris moore. the other day, my son asked me what some of my all-time favorite books were, and the first one i mentioned was moore’s lamb: the gospel according to biff, christ’s childhood pal. max asked why it was on my list, and i responded that no other book is both so insightful and so drop-dead hilarious. all that said, even moore — who in his less-than-best books is still hilarious — can’t get 5 stars on every book. he’s written a couple vampire stories in a row, and i sincerely hope it’s not a lazy rut, brought on by our current national obsession with all things fanged. set, again, in san francisco, but narrated by a teenage girl who is a shockingly annoying proto-goth wannabe vampire (and, for a few chapters, a shockingly annoying proto-goth actual vampire), moore invents wonderfully unique characters and re-introduces characters from previous books. he regularly introduces plot turns and turns-of-phrase that leave my head spinning with “how did he ever come up with that!?” so, not moore’s most inventive work, since it follows the same basic formula and setting as his last (without actually being a sequel). but, even a not-as-inventive chris moore book is wildly more inventive and hilarious than most.

Angry Conversations with God: A Snarky but Authentic Spiritual Memoir, by Susan E. Isaacs
4 stars

isaacs has written one of those rare spiritual memoirs — like anne lamott and others — that are completely jesus-y, but still fall outside the mainstream of what would be published by most evangelical book publishers. it’s a jesus-y book with a massive dose of snarkiness and a smattering of swearing. unlike lamott, isaacs is a cradle christian wrestling with holding onto a faith (and an association with the church) that is simply not working for her — one in which she blames god for the series a deep frustrations she’s experiencing in life. she weaves the tale, primarily, through a series of scripted marital counseling sessions, with three primary voices: her own, that of her therapist, and the voice of god (and occasionally the voice of jesus). she admits, and her therapist regularly reminds her, that the voice of god is not really the voice of god, but the voice of her interpretation of god. as isaacs slowly, in fits and starts, moves toward a new kind of re-engaged and sustainable faith, her voice of god seems to come more and more into alignment with what god would actually say. she’s a very funny writer (with a background in acting, screenwriting, and improv comedy). and she pulls no punches when taking swings at the parts of the church that mislead, abused, or annoyed her. the resolve is somewhat to-be-expected, but still a good reminder of truth. maybe i don’t need to read books that confirm my own snarkiness; but maybe it’s a good mirror.

blitzkrieg book reviews, part 1

during my blogging hiatus i still read books! here are the first 10 (of 20) mini-reviews, in no particular order…

The Wild Things by Dave Eggers
dark and almost suffocating, eggers novelization of the screenplay based on the classic sendek book (where the wild things are) is brilliant, but not a pick-me-up! i was, however, made continually happy by my limited-edition furry cover edition (never have i so enjoyed petting my book whilst reading it).

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
eggers has been in my top-10 authors, mostly for his not-quite-nonfiction books (like a heartbreaking work of staggering genius, and what is the what); so i was intrigued to read this hurricane katrina nonfiction (without any fictionalizing). it doesn’t have the wit that eggers brings into even dark stories elsewhere. but the story itself is so remarkable, i had to remind myself it wasn’t fictionalized). this is a “how does this happen in this country?” story. i felt like i was exercising stewardship by reading it.

Fool by Christopher Moore
chris moore’s books are always funny, and work for me as stories most of the time (this time included). what a way to tell the king lear story (from the perspective of a twisted court jester, that is)!

This Book Does Not Exist: Adventures in the Paradoxical by G. Michael Picard and M. Hayden Picard
i wanted to like this book. but, man alive, is it ever poorly executed. the writing is boring and repetitive. and the layout has to be, literally, the worst i have ever seen in a book; it’s almost completely unreadable. i gave up after about 8 re-starts (making it about 1/2 way through). new title suggestion: this book shouldn’t exist, but, unfortunately, does.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman
i read a good amount of YA fiction to keep current on what teens are reading, and gain insight into their world. and even of the YA books that are well written, many aren’t books i would give to my own 15 year-old daughter. but this is one of those great exceptions: a brilliantly creative story idea, told with craft and great characters, and it brings up all sorts of things to ponder. this is what YA fiction should be like. set in the near future, america has resolved the right to live/choice wars by creating a new “compromise” where life is protected from conception, but that teenagers can be “unwound” — the dismantling of all their parts, every cell of which is kept alive and used for something else. the story follows three “unwinds” as they wrestle with the implications of their impending process.

Motley Rock Stories by Jack Valentine
this self-published autobiography tells the rock-and-roll story of the first drummer to play upside down (long before tommy lee), and played – and lived with – mick mars, who went on to motley crue fame. the writing isn’t perfect, by any stretch (which is often the case with self-published books), and the author seems to still have some issues he hasn’t fully worked out; but it’s a fun insider look at the world of an on-the-brink-of-success rocker from the 70s. and he happens to attend the same church i do, and his kids have all gone through our youth group!

Notes from the Teenage Underground by Simmone Howell
well written and creative, this is one of those YA books i’d wrestle with giving to its target audience (let’s say, 14 – 16 year olds). there’s great realism and a peek into teenage relationships (particularly, girls’ relationships, focusing on an urban-hip girl named gem and her identity seeking). but there’s also a good dose of sex, drugs and alcohol. yup, those aspects can be part of the realism, i understand. but they seemed, at times, more about making the book “sexy” than actually adding to the storyline. still, a very well written book.

Deadly Viper Character Assassins: A Kung Fu Survival Guide for Life and Leadership by Jud Wilhite, Mike Foster
this little book had so much cool potential, but has understandably caused quite a stir among asian american christians (and others). it gave me flashbacks to the skits that teach episode, even though the content of the books is completely different. and while the writing is accessible, and the suggestions are all good and well, there’s not much new insight or depth. i felt like i was reading something i’d read (and heard) many times before, but in hipster packaging that’s causing massive problems for the authors and publisher.

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
while i’d read and loved gladwell’s earlier books, i was reluctant to read this because of all the hype surrounding it. but the hype was accurate, and this book will shape my thinking even more than “the tipping point” or “blink”. we all hold to some myths about success that are so common, we’re convinced they’re fact. gladwell patiently (via reporting on research and great storytelling) turns over rock after rock, exposing the counter-intuitive truth about how and why people succeed (or don’t).

A Tale of Two Youth Workers: A Youth Ministry Fable by Eric Venable
wow! what an excellent little book, written as a fable, about faith development in teenagers. not only should every youth worker (and parent of a teen) read this book, it really has implications for anyone interested in faith development. a quick read, and very well written.

island of the sequined love nun

Island of the Sequined Love Nun, by Christopher Moore

well, shoot.

christopher moore has risen to being favorite humorous fiction writer. i started with lamb, still in my list of favorite books. then i ventured into some of this other stuff (i’ve read fluke, the stupidest angel, you suck, and a dirty job, and loved them all).

this one was funny, to be sure. and no writer out there can match moore’s absolute wackiness in characters and storylines.

but this one, unfortunately, was just too raunchy, over and over, for my enjoyment. maybe i’m puritanical; but it just didn’t seem the raunchiness was necessary to the extent it was present.

this is one of his older books; so maybe i just need to stick to newer christopher moore books.

monday morning update

sorry i TOTALLY spaced on posting my monday morning update last week. in the midst of the pittsburgh national youth workers convention, it didn’t even cross my mind. more particularly, i was in a wrestling match with god (losing, i might add), and an update post was seriously the last thing i was thinking of last sunday night and monday morning.

but here we go, back to it…

the weekend that was: after a few busy ones, this was a nice, low-key weekend. friday night, max, jeannie and i went to trader joe’s, and all chose whatever we wanted for dinner. given that max had, the day before, declared “the four major food groups of max” as chocolate lava cake, lasagna, orange juice, and syrup, he decided to make those four his dinner (much to our chagrin and amusement). i had a pre-cooked beef roast, some cubed sweet potatoes (to which i added butter and brown sugar), and some rice pudding for dessert. we watched ‘journey to the center of the earth‘ on pay per view, then i stayed up way too late catching up on some tivo’d stuff.

saturday was my kids’ school’s ‘harvest faire’ (they’re kinda into seasonal festivals for the whole community). it was a stunning day, weather-wise, and we had a nice relaxed time, chatting with peeps and such. in the evening, we all read books, then liesl and i caught up on 4 episodes of ER!

sunday was church (to which i hadn’t been in weeks), the san diego chargers game at our friends’ house (with chili, which was perfect for a cooler day), and ‘to do list’ stuff in the evening. i’m writing this sunday evening, and we have a fire going in the fireplace, jeannie and max are reading harry potter, liesl is studying in her room, and life is good.

where i am at the moment: in my writing spot this morning, then off to work. but this is a new week in many ways. i sold my mini cooper on friday, and we’re going to try to live through the end of the year with the one car. since jeannie has to drive the kids to school down in san diego, living with one car basically means i’m the one with no car. i have writing mornings planned most days this week, and my writing spot is 5 blocks from home and one block from a san diego trolley stop. there’s also a stop about two or three blocks from ys. it’s $5 round trip, which is a bit of a rip off, but should be do-able. i’m asking for a longboard skateboard for christmas, which would make the walks on either end a bit quicker. it’s going to force me to slow down a bit more — i can’t just say, “hey, i need to be at work in 7 minutes,” and leave. i think there’s a chance i will enjoy this, once i get used to it a bit; but i could be wrong, it might drive me crazy!

we’re pretty sure we’re going to buy jeannie a prius in january. our other car is a saturn vue. i’m toying with selling it while it still has a little value, and getting a vespa, or (maybe?) a piaggio mp3. since i only drive about 5 miles to work, and the weather here is almost universally nice, it seems like it would be practical much of the time.

on my to-do list this week: it’s mostly a catch-up week. but i have 3 or so hours blocked off every morning (except one) to work on the middle school ministry book. i really need to keep making significant progress on this, if i’m going to finish by january 1. i have four chapters done now, and about 9 to go for my half of the book (i’m co-authoring with scott rubin of willowcreek). i also have to re-write the opening session for ys one day this week (third or fourth revision).

procrastinating about: oh, not a whole lot, really. i’m finally making good progress on the middle school ministry book. jeannie and i have some work to do on our taxes, and we’ve been seriously procrastinating about that.

book i’m in the midst of: two, i guess. i’m a few pages away from finishing christopher moore’s island of the sequined love nun; and i’m about a 100 pages into dave livermore’s upcoming release, Cultural Intelligence: Improving Your CQ to Engage Our Multicultural World (which i’ve been asked to read and write an endorsement for — that’s on my “to do” list this week also!).

music that seemed to catch my attention this past week: ok, this is a wild one. an amie street email (my favorite website for exploring new stuff) suggested a band to me a week ago. the band is called “king kahn and the shrines.” the album is “the surpreme genius of king khan.” i have listened to it non-stop most of the week.

how to explain? combine old skool funk and blacksploitation music with a bit of the rougher edge of dave matthews, with some doses of rolling stones, the doors, and a bit of punk sensibility. i don’t know, but it’s infectious, and i recommend giving king khan a listen. tasty morsels of fuzzy, buzzy, crunchy goodness.

next trip: nothing this whole week! woo-hoo! my next trip isn’t until the following week, when i head to nashville for the next nywc.

how i’m feeling about this week: okee-dokee! nothing freaking me out too much — should be a good one!