Sunday, February 27, 2011

#7 Between the Bridge and the River by Craig Ferguson

I recommended this book to my mother before reading it just because I know that she is a huge Craig Ferguson fan.  After she finished she insisted that I read it because "it is weird and just him."  So I tried it out and I have to say that it is really funny, a little gross, and mostly impossible, I highly recommend it.  I also realized that my mother has a much sicker sense of humor than I realized.

The story is focused on four men, Fraser, George, Leon, and Saul.  Fraser and George grew up together in Scotland but have not kept in touch.  Fraser is a TV religious personality with no real faith, but he rates well with old women and gay men.  George is a lawyer with terminal cancer, miserable in his life until he meets Claudette, a French woman who always falls in love with men that die on her.  Leon and Saul are brothers raised in the deep south, both with famous fathers and an insane mother that is forced to give them up fairly early.  Leon has an amazing voice, much like his father, and finds that he needs little else to get by.  Saul is morbidly obese, perverted, and controls his brother for his own purposes.  These two travel around trying to find their fortune, which they due thanks to Leon's singing ability.

Religion is both skewered and loved in this book.  Ferguson ironically brings up the prejudices and ridiculousness of the prejudices between the different sects of Christianity.  The entertainment industry, Scotland, America, France, and serial killers are treated in much the same way.  And I can't forget the improbable people met along the way, like Carl Jung.  It's hard to describe this book because it is just so odd, sick, and hilarious.  I never thought that cannibal serial killers could be funny, but Ferguson found a way.

#6 The Moose that Roared by Keith Scott

I picked up this book because I loved Rocky and Bullwinkle as a kid and I still think that it is one of the funniest shows ever created.  So I figured that a look behind the scenes would be interesting, mostly so I could figure out exactly why the animation was so bad (their funders were really cheap).  Overall though, this wasn't as interesting as I thought and I found that I didn't want to finish it, it became a chore.

The book is about Jay Ward Productions, the company that brought us the fabulous Rocky and Bullwinkle, Dudley Do-Right, Fractured Fairy Tales, George of the Jungle, and even Captain Crunch (this one was news to me).  Jay Ward was a WWII vet and new real estate agent when he was crushed by a truck that came through his new office.  Needless to say, Ward had lasting issues from that event, probably PTSD, but it is never confirmed.  Once he is recovered, Ward decides to do something different with his life, so he and a friend start to make cartoons.  Their first, Crusader Rabbit, gets picked up and becomes a success, but due to some shady characters, it is taken away from them.  Ward goes off on his own to create a new show, which after a few attempts becomes Rocky and Bullwinkle.  Production was plagued by low budgets, inept production, humorless networks, and overzealous censors.  This is my favorite of the notes from network censors:
I find the whole tenor of this episode objectionable.  Juvenile delinquency is not something to be treated flippantly.  Please have Tom become something other than a mixed up JD with a souped up butterfly, leading a juvenile gang on 'candy heists'.
The networks were convinced that kids wouldn't get the humor, they especially disliked Fractured Fairy Tales, even canceling it at one point.  Massive requests from viewers brought it back luckily.  Throughout it all though, Ward Productions had fun.  There were a few famous publicity stunts that kept people watching, like lobbying for Moosylvania statehood and a picnic at the Plaza, with real grass and ants.  While it didn't last long, this production company had fun creating cartoons that could be enjoyed by adults and kids alike.  They refused to talk down to kids and as a result their cartoons are beloved to this day.

You can tell right away that Keith Scott is absolutely devoted to this subject.  He grew up on the show and went on to become a voice actor himself, even doing characters from the show for the movies.  I loved his little puns throughout the book, what Rocky fanatic wouldn't, but the book unfortunately never really got interesting.  It ended up being too much about the insiders when I really wanted more about the wonderful shows that they created.

Monday, February 7, 2011

#5 The Waxman Murders by P.C. Doherty

Ok, there is the possibility that I made a mistake in starting in the middle of a series, but it's just a mystery series so I shouldn't make that much of a difference.  It isn't even that I had a hard time understanding anything, I was just incredibly bored with this book.  Normally I would have given up after fifty pages, but I am determined to finish at least fifty two books this year and they can't all be winners. 

The Waxman Murders is the fifteenth of Doherty's Hugh Corbett mysteries.  Corbett is a clerk for King Edward I of England and it seems that he regularly solves mysteries and conspiracies for his employer.  He is assisted by two men and an array of spies.  This book starts in 1300, the pirate Adam Blackstock, owner of the Waxman, was killed when he obtained a map to supposed buried treasure in Suffolk.  Blackstock's half-brother, a former monk and now a "hunter of men", helped him smuggle goods into England and disappeared after Adam's death.  Three years later, one of the men that killed Blackstock is found murdered with his family and another is receiving threats.  Add to that a former ward of the king who is accused of murdering her husband, it seems like your up for an entertaining read. 

Unfortunately, this book was just boring.  My mind wandered so often while I was reading it that I had to repeat passages several times.  I'm sure that Doherty is being historically accurate, but that doesn't mean that the story can't be interesting.  I really had no sympathy for anyone but the killer (and it's pretty obvious who it is) which, again, could be because I started the series so late.  After reading this one though, I will definitely not be looking for the first fourteen, I don't need any help sleeping.

Friday, February 4, 2011

#4 The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale

After reading Heathpie's excellent review of this book I decided that I needed to check it out.  Summerscale's book is definitely well-written and engrossing.  I was so caught up in the story that I missed my stop one morning on the way to school. 

The book tells the true story of the murder of the 3 year old Saville Kent and the mania that the English public experienced after the crime.  In 1860 England was caught up with the allure of detectives and one of the first and brightest, Mr. Whicher, was sent to solve the mystery.  The Kent's secrecy keeps them suspect and the middle-class felt threatened by the intrusion of the lower-class detectives prying nature. 

The family was full of jealousies stemming from the second marriage of Samuel Kent, Saville's father, to the former governess and the questionable relationship that they had before his first wife's death.  The children from the first marriage seemed to be given a lower status within the family and there are concerns about Saville's nursemaid as well. 

England went insane over this case.  It seems that everyone tried their hand in solving the murder and most became frustrated when Whicher settled on his main suspect.  The public moved from respecting detectives to seeing them as low-class connivers who wanted nothing more than to take down their social betters. 

This book was engaging and fun, if a little slow at the end, and does have a satisfying conclusion.  I highly recommend this book to others but I can't really expand much on that, it has all been said before.