Gobble Gobble

Sorry i haven’t written all week. Monday was Thanksgiving and I woke up with a runny nose, sore throat, and every muscle in my body ached. Turkey day in our house was canceled sadly. I wasn’t in the mood or physically able to cook, clean, and then entertain. The usual tryptophan induced sleep was replaced by a Nyquil comma that night.

Since my home wasn’t filled with guests and I didn’t have to make idle chit chat I thought I would take the time to write you a post. I was sick of laying down and had to get up and do something. I didn’t see a movie last weekend so I wrote you a book review. Well 9 book reviews technically. I really should do these more often. That is going to take too long. I am going to do 3 book reviews here and 6 in the next one. You will see why when I get to it. Through sniffles and sneezes I began to write but as you can tell it still took me a while to finish.

“Alternatives to Sex” by Stephen McCauley

Even though the title may suggest it, it is not a self help book. Every time someone asked me what I was reading I got the raised eyebrow of the wink-wink-nudge-nudge variety. And I would have to explain to each person that it was a novel and not some scandalous sex-ed book.

William Collins is our protagonist. He is a real estate agent who lives and works near Boston, Mass. Even though there is a booming market he can’t seem to get his sales figures to where they should be. This is due to the fact that every night he goes home to compulsively clean his already immaculate home, iron every crease out everything he owns, and go online to cruise for a random hookup. He also has to contend with his passive-aggressive tenant, Kumiko, who manages to avoid paying her rent while getting him to do her laundry. And his best friend Edward, the flight attendant, who he worries about. In walks Charlotte O’Malley and Samuel Thompson. They are what seem like a happy couple; wealthy suburbanites looking for a place in the city to combat their empty nest syndrome. William believes he could learn how to turn his life around with the advice from the perfect pair as he tries to find them the ideal property.

This book is a well written character study. The people seem real and complete with all their flaws and neuroses out for every one to see; you can easily envision yourself bumping into these people someplace as you go about your day. McCauley is really good at describing the individuals, not just physically but also their demeanor and mental state. His descriptive abilities don’t stop there. With places he instills a mood, the essence of the environment. It is not just about walls and furniture but about comfort or levity.

The story itself I found a little frustrating. It is really a peek into William Collins’ world. Things happen but nothing really happens at the same time. Even though getting to rummage through his mind or being the fly on the wall keeps you occupied and interested by the end of the book the one thing that popped into my head was, “is that it?”. It seemed incomplete.

“Alternatives to Sex” is a good light read. I wouldn’t call it fluff, there are many good aphorisms that make you stop and think, but it is easy enough to spend a quiet afternoon.

“First Contact – Or, It’s Lather Than You Think (Parrot Sketch Excluded)” by Evan Mandery

Now this one is going to be tricky to explain without making it sound completely balls out crazy. It is one of those books that goes so many places that you see the small connections but are never really sure how it is going to come together at the end. It is complicated (not confusing) and that is half the fun of it.

This book is about Ralph Bailey, attache to the President of the United States, a young man in a menial yet very prestigious place. The President, a God-fearing man who is really into fitness and for some reason can’t find the right pair of underwear. Jessica, a young idealist who realized that she didn’t want to be a lawyer but give stuffed toy to kids who can’t afford them and move to Tibet. Then there are Rigelians, a super smart intelligent race that is going to make first contact with earth. Many things about them are very similar to humans. They have grocery stores, attics, and teenagers, they just call them different names. There is also the end of the world to contend with, a number of raccoons, and the mention of parrots, sketch not included.

Did that make sense? I think that is the gist of it. Like many good books it is hard to give a synopsis in one short paragraph but I think I covered the bases.

This is a good, smart, intelligent book. And don’t let the fact that the crux of the book is first contact lead you to believe that this is a science fiction novel. There are elements of that but it is not about spacecraft, or fancy technologies, or little green men, it is about living life, opening your eyes to new view points, and the relationships between individuals.

Mandery’s writing style is very fluid jumping from one place to another without missing a beat. It is like sitting and listening to someone tell you a story. There is a clear point A and point B but the journey in between is a wonderful twisted road filled with factual tidbits and sidebars.

His descriptions of people, places, and things unimagined are clear and easy to comprehend. The text is not verbose or filled with jargon, for the most part it is concise except for a few areas where he meanders into areas that are not crucial to the plot but help to understand the world in which this story exists.

“First Contact – Or, It’s Later Than You Think (Parrot Sketch Excluded)” is a great novel with a ridiculously long title. It is hilarious, strange, and down right surreal at points but it is all around enjoyable. I found it to be a page turner and I think you will too.

“Amazing Absorbing Boy” By Rabindranath Maharaj

Am I allowed to review a book that i never bothered to finish? Maybe that is all I need to say about it. I began this book with high hopes that were dashed in just a few pages. Indigo.ca describes the plot as

Samuel is just 17 when his mother dies and he is called to live with the father he has only heard of. He leaves his village in Trinidad and flies to Toronto, where he finds his father living in a place called Regent Park. Samuel is lonely in this “big mall of a country,” but he has his memories of superheroes – his mentors – to guide him, including the memory of an unusual friend who was two superheroes in one, as he sets out to explore what Toronto has to offer.

The description of the story reminds me of myself.; coming from Trinidad to Toronto and having a love of comics and superheroes. It made me interested in seeing how another person would experience the drastic change between the two countries. But within a couple pages I found myself bored and disinterested in the characters and environments laid before me. It was very … dry.

I can’t say much about the book because I didn’t get very far and that took me a few weeks to get though. I was determined at first to make it through but reading the book seemed more like work than fun. It was like I was thrown back to high school with some exhausting text book open in front of me stuck on the first line, “Welcome to the wonderful world of fungus.”

I can’t recommend “The Amazing Absorbing Boy”. Maybe in a few years i will come across it sitting on my bookshelf dust covered and yellowing and I may have nothing left to read. I may pity that book instead of heading to the bookstore and give it another shot.


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