Nicotine-Induced Haze

290239 by
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

If a shotgun wielding redhead jammed a double barrel between my lips, told me to reach my hands toward the stars, spit a glob of chewing tobacco six inches from my left foot, and then asked me this dreaded question: What is the theme of LIGHTNING FIELD? I’d tell her I have no idea, shut my eyes tight, and hope her nicotine-induced haze didn’t include a trigger pull, as she offered up a bit of mercy on my soul.

What I can tell you, though, is infidelity and the fragility of the human spirit run rampant through this tale, faster than a mouse running through a maze with a shotgun three inches from his bum. And there’s a certain lack of cohesiveness many folks might find intriguing. I found it interesting but not overly so.

But emotional damage thundered through me of the constant variety with the blackened hearts of the blackened souls of these blackened and damaged characters, many of whom paid witness to the bleakness of human suffering. And I found myself rushing toward the end, in the hope that some of my sanity might return in full force, or I’d even settle for half-mast, as the fragility of the human spirit rested rather resolutely on the pending outcome.

Walking Spanish

6365854-1 by
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

First person plural isn’t a voice I often see in fiction, even though I did happen to read two of these books rather close together. Both had omniscient voices taking a look at multiple characters (the former was a family and this one was an office). Both were humorous, and both strung zany along with a dog leash and shock collar, zapping my mind at the most inopportune of times, and jolting my reality with more than just innuendo. But that’s where the similarities end, and I must say I couldn’t be more pleased with the resulting differential equation.

If you’ve ever considered your coworkers weird, and believed wholeheartedly that you were the normal individual in this corporately bureaucratic world, this book is for you. If you’ve ever walked down the hallway and had to physically restrain yourself from throttling a coworker about the neck, this book is for you. If you’ve ever wondered why management couldn’t get their shit together, and instead started firing people left and right without any rhyme or reason, and you found yourself sucking your thumb on the unemployment line, this book is for you. If you’ve ever wanted to walk out of a corporate meeting, because the idiot behind the podium has diarrhea of the mouth, and can’t seem to close his mouth for more than two seconds to answer a flippin’ question, even as you’ve waved your hand in the air for the past five minutes, this book is for you. If you’ve ever wanted to strip to your underwear and run through the halls screaming that the entire office staff, including administrative assistants and accountants, are all a bunch of morons, and that you’re done with this place, this book is for you.

So, yeah, at this point we’ve probably pretty much included everybody. And that’s okay, because as the economy pretty much shoves its thumb up its own butthole, you’re going to need a good laugh as you’re walking Spanish (shitcanned) and polishing the turd. THEN WE CAME TO THE END delivers laughter and chuckles amidst the corporate machine otherwise known as greed, and I couldn’t help but get caught up in the debauchery.

Football Punting Bride

11511599 by
My Rating: 5/5 Stars

I never considered a professional dishwasher as a viable career option. Although for a brief period of time in my misguided youth, I did practice the art of a sanitation worker, aka garbage man, even going so far as to toss random cans and paper boxes into my mom’s shopping cart when her back was turned at the grocery store. But now I may have to rethink my present career path and the financial stability of my family by turning in my shirt and tie for a white smock and a pair of rubber gloves. In order to complete the picture, though, I will need to become mentally unstable, although given the instability of artists this shouldn’t be particularly difficult. And I will need to relocate my wife to Wyoming, but I’m sure with the right amount of persuasion—and the fact that it’s only a few states away—this shouldn’t be a difficult task to accomplish either. I mean, let’s face it, there are worse places to live, like Mississippi or Montana. And I may need to seek out the affections of rowdy rodeo girls and prescription popping blondes, but again, that could easily be explained away as well.

Kelly Palamino is my new literary hero, even if he’s mentally unstable, hears voices in water, including streams and toilets and showers, and visits a psychiatrist once a week, because he shot tequila directly into his veins and nearly caused his own cardiac arrest. He may be more than half-crazy, but he’s just so damn loveable. His voice nearly caused me to laughably combust on multiple occasions. He falls in love with a football punting bride, and focuses his varied talents on the singular act of winning her over, taking male focus and drive to a whole new level.

Colette Hart may be nearly as crazy as he is, but that just makes him love her all the more. She’s eccentric and beautiful and just so gosh darn wonderful that I rooted for Kelly every step of the way, even when he had more than a few setbacks and nearly exceeded his expiration date. While he might have had more than a bit of trouble with love in the past, he certainly doesn’t have any trouble with devotion. And he has no trouble categorizing his women: Platonics and Romantic Interests.

Every red-blooded male needs a thrill-seeking best friend like Cora Ann. She’s young and vibrant and perky, and has her own hang-glider. What more could a man ask for?

Even the structure of SEX AND SUNSETS appealed to me, delving into the past and present with nearly equal abandon, and tapping into the tangential thoughts of our expert narrator. I don’t know if I’d give it a ten, but it certainly comes pretty darn close.

Love Child

17557765Insane City by Dave Barry
My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Dave Barry and Carl Hiaasen need to have a love child. I’ll let the medical professionals work out the logistics, and Congress appropriate the funds. But as a lover of satire and humor and all things bright, beautiful, and wonderful in the universe, this needs to happen. Now. INSANE CITY doesn’t even begin to describe the colossal aftermath of this potentially dystopian universe, but that’s the price you pay for greatness. Miami, we’re about to hit the mother lode. And the future never looked brighter, or bleaker, depending on whether or not you think the glass is half-full or half-empty.

Since I look at the glass as half-full, I can’t help smiling ear to ear, laughing manically, tapping my chin, and pounding my desk in triumph, right before I smack my head and knock myself unconscious for about three hours. I’ll come to in a puddle of drool, possibly sucking my thumb, and steadfast in the belief that my name is Sally or Sarah or Roberta or maybe it’s Steve. No matter what happens, though, I’ll have thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

If I were to sum up his first solo novel in more than 10 years, I’d say I’m thoroughly glad Dave Barry didn’t plan my bachelor party. This novel is batshit crazy, and only one step removed from certifiably insane. I laughed uproariously to the point that folks in Arizona probably wondered what the fuck was going on, and Texas citizens probably wanted to top the outstanding noise intrusion.

If you like characters that are better off locked up in jail, shoved in the direction of the guillotine, or slipped the needle with copious amounts of an unidentifiable clear liquid that turns stars into rainbows and dogs into cats, then this book is definitely for you. There’s a douche tweeter, an orangutan who wants to mate with any human female in sight, bedroom divas, pompous assholes, bridal princesses, plastic surgery poster children, a flatulent stripper, a record executive turned spiritual healer who uses religion as a way to get laid, a groom posse, a married man with no ethical code when it comes to humping with the opposite sex, and a Haitian refugee. There’s enough pot to fuel the state of California for an entire year, and more humping songs and picture perfect porn than a dark lit theatre in the middle of the night. In other words, comedy, this is your paradise, and I was thrilled to be along for this wild ride, even if I did end up with whiplash, a broken nose, and a lump on the back of my head the size of a silver dollar.

So if comedy is the elixir of the soul and the key to the fountain of youth, then this novel might add a few years to your life. Or then again, it might not, but either way it was an entertaining experience of which all humor lovers should partake.

By the way, you need to leave sanity at the door and enter at your own risk. And if you want to have the wildest ride imaginable, you should totally have Dave Barry plan your bachelor party. I’m sure he’s more than willing to entertain offers.

Eccentric Read

8710152Fender Benders by Bill Fitzhugh
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Money turns otherwise rational people into shitheads, and people with more money than sense often turn out to be the biggest shitheads of all. And fame amplifies small idiosyncrasies into major catastrophes, to include drug use, fornication, and anger management issues. These themes run rampant in Bill Fitzhugh’s masterpiece.

Eddie Long, a talented artist looking for his big break, gets it on both ends: Megan Taylor, a newly attached love interest, who is the pitch-perfect gold digger and Big Bill, a record executive with three ex-wives, who’s as unscrupulous as any political fat cat in the DC metropolitan area. Big Bill talks with one hand and shoves every bill he can find down the front of his massive drawers with the other, mostly off of unsuspecting artists too wet-behind-the-ears to notice. And he talks faster than a locomotive without brakes.

As for the best way to describe this book, it’s like Metallica combined with Carrie Underwood and Eminem. For the first part of FENDER BENDERS, I felt like I had wrapped an axle around a tree, but the car was still running, and so I checked my rearview to make sure no one had seen me or the tree, and then I peeled back out onto the highway and kept my eyes on the horizon. Sure, this novel can be discombobulated at times, mostly near the first half of the book, but like my torn up wheels, as long as it helps me reach my final destination, I’m willing to get a bit sidetracked along the way, especially when the payoff makes me glad I took a slight detour. And it all comes together like a 100 piece orchestra reaching the dramatic crescendo.

As for the insights into the music industry, they were refreshing, completely believable (clearly Mr. Fitzhugh has done his homework), and not overdone, at least not any more outlandish than the rest of the novel, which had me in stitches at times. But I ended up getting rather peeved at Nashville, the music industry, and all the ways artists get ripped off in the name of stuffing some fat cat’s bank account. The starving artist never comes out ahead, no sir. Sure, it’s easy to take this novel tongue-in-cheek, but what really caused the air around me to turn hotter than a sauna is that there’s an element of truth, and possibly even more so than just an element, in what this novel brings to light about overzealous pocket stuffing. I mean, when lawyers are showing more morals than record executives clearly there’s a level of corruption proliferating that would make even Enron and WorldCom blush.

If Bill Fitzhugh ever ended up in his own story, he’d be placed in a straightjacket, handcuffed to a bed, and pumped so full of meds, he’d think the world was painted in rainbows with popsicle sticks. So for those of you who like humor, with eccentric characters and eccentric reads being your modus operandi, then you might want to hop in your Mercedes and head on down the highway, where the tea is always sweet, the shrimp are always fried, and your only source of music is country.

Happy Pills

15831621Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Bernadette Fox might just be the craziest person I have never met. If she consumed enough “happy” pills to actually become a fully-functioning member of society, she’d end up comatose from an overdose and spend the next six years of her life breathing through a respirator. Calling her eccentric gives Randy Quaid, Charlie Sheen, and Courtney Love a bad name. Or to put it another way, Bernadette Fox makes Adrian Monk look like Tom Brady.

Audrey Griffin needs to be treated with electric shock therapy until she ejaculates her back teeth. And her son Kyle (he’s 15), at the age of 21, will be in prison for the rest of his natural life or his body parts will be tossed into storm gutters and unmarked graves. Oh, and Mrs. Griffin probably should experience a form of hell. In her case, she should be forced to sit in front of a TV with headphones on and have her highlight reel played for her on repeat until her ears and eyes bleed.

Holy fuckballs! This may be the most insane novel I’ve ever read. It’s hard for me to ascertain its exact level of brilliance because I feel like I need to be in a straitjacket, hooked up to an electric chair, while wearing a metal helmet and a metal diaper.

Composed entirely of emails, report cards, receipts, random musings, rants, raves, Bee’s voice, Bernadette’s history, and the preparations for a family trip to Antarctica that are being conducted by an Indian named Manjula Kapoor via the Internet, the first several parts had me entertained and enthralled and nearly hypnotized with delusions of madness and mayhem. There’s a dog named Ice Cream, a friend named Kennedy, a husband named Elgie, the astute services of Delhi Virtual Assistants International, a giant mud sliding billboard, traumatized kindergartners (with possible PTSD), psychotic breaks, selfish and self-pitying delusions of grandeur, and the former home of the Straight Gate School for Girls (the Fox/Branch residence) that probably should have been condemned sometime in the past decade.

Like the rest of WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE, the ending proved zany and whacky and maybe a bit farfetched. But I didn’t like it. In fact, I hated it with a passion, and wanted to beat it with a baseball bat, and then wait till it stood up, and then proceed to whack it again. *BEGIN SPOILER* You fled to Antarctica and then the only communication with your fifteen year-old daughter is a letter that she never received, and then to dump the entire contents of your life onto her via a large unmarked envelope. And then to place sole blame for all of your marital problems on your husband, while you sleepwalked through an entire marriage. Seriously? *END SPOILER*

So if you like Seinfeld and Arrested Development (and if you don’t, I feel sorry for your loss, and you probably deserve a hug), then you might just find yourself enjoying this novel.

Straitjacketed Humor

16071701Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

If I ever visit Key West, I’ll smuggle aboard enough food rations to last me twice as long as my planned stay, refrain from eating at any restaurant within a sixty-mile radius, catch my own fish from my hotel balcony, and cook them from my own grill on said balcony, setting off all smoke detectors in a three-room radius. To that end, I’ll probably increase my life expectancy by six years, and I won’t go to sleep with cockroach-filled nightmares.

If writing zany characters were an occupation unto itself, Carl Hiaasen would have fit the requirements long ago and placed himself firmly within its trenches. This go round we are treated to a hairless capuchin monkey that was fired from Pirates Of The Caribbean and who developed an unhealthy attachment to Johnny Depp, hurls his own feces, and is addicted to Dunhill tobacco. He also subsists on conch fritters and other fried foods, most of which have his cholesterol levels shooting through the roof and have aided in his current hairless ailment; a daughter who sees dollar signs and would sell her soul to the devil himself for a million dollars instead of grieving over her deceased pa; a child sex offender named Plover Chase who exchanged grades in AP English for bedroom antics of a more than questionable nature; a Dragon Queen who likes to fornicate on a Rollie scooter; an assistant medical examiner who likes to have sex on her operating table amid sixty or so stiffs and in the middle of a hurricane; one sodomized surgeon; and a restaurant inspector who counts cockroaches with a homemade roach-vacuuming concoction.

There’s enough satire and madness and mayhem to satisfy the attention span of a gnat with a Medicare scam large enough to interest the FBI, one spec house up in flames faster than a blowtorch applied to rice paper, questionable corpses, scorned ex-lovers, dubious alliances, and the ever lingering environmental issues found in many of his tales…You know, your typical Carl Hiaasen novel.

While I can only speculate on his writing methods, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn he sits at his desk chair in a straitjacket pecking at his keyboard with the tip of his nose or dictating his stories into a voice recorder to be later typed by his secretary. And he does it all with a large grin and swag smile, inching up the chaos with each turn of the page. Because that’s exactly what happens here.

While BAD MONKEY certainly held my attention and had more than its share of laugh out loud moments, I couldn’t help but compare this novel to his earlier work, and I felt like he came up a little short. But on the bright side, there’s more than enough fuckwads and shitweasels to occupy an entire wing at an insane asylum. And in the end, that was enough for me to like this tale.

Mexican Hairless Beaver

17911278Beat The Reaper by Josh Bazell
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Hey fuckhead,

Yep, you, the one with the track marks running down both arms trying to slide off into oblivion, with the tilted head and the faraway expression, staring at the sun like it’s some four-headed monster ready to steal your dreams, twitching for your next fix like some random dog left out in the rain too long, with a stutter-stepping walk and attitude, veering off from the rest of the universe like a bad dream; you might want to sit this one out, otherwise you might have more than just a fogged-up brain on your hands. You may want to study a medical chart and have your CT scanned and actually study ligaments and tendons and muscles and bones and maybe even pass an anatomy class, although that might be too much to ask, because you’re about to get your ass kicked, and you’ll need to be able to piece yourself back together later, with the doctor’s help of course. And frankly that’s what you’re going to need: loads and loads of help.

The medical industry is encased in a shitstorm the likes of which your coke-snorting ass has never seen, and it’s about to get worse for you and your fellow fuckhead Americans. And if you can stop being a worthless piece of horseshit for more than one fucking minute, you might actually have a prayer at making it in this world, instead of ending up in some premature, unmarked grave all by your lonesome staring at the bottom of a coffin at the age of twenty-two with your eyes wide open.

The good news is you’ll die of lethal injection, probably at the hands of some no-name doctor, when all you did was go and see the man about a head cold. So at least you’ll have that going for you. Because if I really wanted to kill you, I could shove a cork down your throat or jack you full of potassium until your eyes bleed, or I could have one of the Latvian nurses on my floor, who is really nothing more than a worthless piece of shit, who smokes more weed than she does rounds and surfs the Internet like she has a gun held to her head, ignore your ass for the rest of your miserable life, peppering your chart with the standard healthy readings when really you’re secretly dying of stomach cancer.

And don’t forget that I’ve worked for the mob, hell they brought me into their family, not the one where I had to prove that I’m worthy by killing some innocent individual while he was sleeping, or watching TV in the middle of the afternoon, but the one where I was sitting around the dining room table on a Sunday afternoon shooting the shit. I spent my formative years in dojos studying everything from tae kwon do to kempo, so I know over 100 ways to make your ears bleed, so if you don’t get yourself straight and step the fuck off, I’ll plant your ass at the bottom of a cesspool, and I’ll work the next 120 hours without even batting an eyelash.

Yep, I might just be the craziest son of a bitch you ever met. I pop Moxfane tablets like they’re caffeine pills; I take powernaps in a coat closet; and I’ll smear a pint of blood all over myself for the right cause. I have what you might call a rapid-onset addiction to bloodshed, and I killed four men while I was still taped to a chair along with countless other fuckers that I’d rather not mention since I’m in WITSEC, so I really have no qualms about killing an innocent, or in your case, not-so-innocent individual.

And while you may not think you’re a dumbfuck, and that you’re actually being clever by trying to jump my ass while I’m wearing scrubs, there are at least forty different kinds of stupidity, and over the course of our less than five-minute interlude, you exhibited every single one of them, and probably about a dozen others that haven’t even been medically diagnosed yet. So, yep, you’re fucked, and that’s even without your latest fix.

Oh, and whatever you do, don’t go to Sicily. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.


Dr. Pietro Brnwa (Bearclaw), intern

P.S. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll get some Mexican hairless beaver before you die.

P.P.S. Don’t be such a fuckhead, fuckhead.

DISCLAIMER – I really liked this book and this voice, so much in fact that I couldn’t write this review any other way.