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R&R 131 | The Stupidest Angel

Aaaaand we're back! I'm going to do my best in 2012 to balance work & personal photography projects! Here's the first review for 2012! Yes, Christmas is over, but I didn't finish this book until after Christmas, which makes an untimely review acceptable. Make-up (and some photoshop to enhance the eyes and dead-looking skin) is inspired by Super 8's easy zombie make-up 😀

Christopher Moore
The Stupidest Angel: A Heart-Warming Tale of Christmas Terror
First published in: 2004
This edition: Orbit, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-84149-690-0
Genre: satire, fantasy
Pages: 243
Cover illustration by Steve & Sian Stone; design by Peter Cotton (LBBG)

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In a nutshell?

It was Christmas, 2011. I'd just finished reading a book, and being a complete Christmas buff, wanting to get in the mood, I wanted to read a Christmas book. What to do, what to do? I hadn't yet gotten around to ordering my intended read for the year's holidays, the newer version of Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris, which would contain 12 stories instead of the 6 that are included in my older edition. So I repeat: what to do, what to do?

Why, reread The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore, of course!

Joshua Barker hopes he doesn't get into too much trouble for not being home on time. As he tries his best to make his way home, he just wishes that he won't be punished too badly. When he witnesses Santa (also known as Dale Pearson: scumbag) being hit over the head with a shovel, and falling over lifelessly, Joshua realizes he's REALLY in for it now. Please please please, somebody, ANYBODY, make this go away. Bring Santa back to life?

Enter Raziel (of Lamb fame), a beautiful blonde hunk of angelic being, who's – unfortunately – as dumb as he is magnificently gorgeous. In search of a child on earth to grant one wish to ("a Christmas miracle!"), he figures, "Sure! Let's bring the dead back to life!"

So obviously crap really hits the Pine Cove fan. Theophilus Crowse (Pine Cove's sole police presence) already has his work cut out for him in a town full of crazies, which includes Theo's own wife Molly, former Z-list actress best known for her role as Kendra: Warrior Babe of the Outland, and her psychosis. Add zombies to that list, and it's really no wonder the poor guy is at a total loss. Luckily, he has help in the form of a heartbroken biologist, a Warrior Babe with bonus voice in her head, Santa's ex-wife, a pilot and a chatty fruitbat with pink sunglasses.

I first read this heart-warming tale of Christmas terror riiiiiight before I started the Reading & Reviewing project, Christmas 2007. I remember being at my inlaws' farm the day I read most of the book, and how Broer (Wil's dad) asked me, "what are you reading?" and I replied, "Oh , someone's killed Santa and there are zombies, too". And Broer, perplexed, just started giggling (he's a giggler), because that was an answer he wasn't expecting. I think prior to that day, Wil's parents must have (mis)taken me for a Very Serious Reader.

When I visited Wil's parents again on Christmas 2011, I told Broer I'd started reading 'the one about Santa' again, and his eyes twinkled as he remembered that I told him about it 4 years ago. How could you forget a book about Santa murderin's & zombies? There hasn't quite been a book like it yet, and that's pretty much what you can say about every single one of Christopher Moore's books, most of which deserve to be read at least 2 times.

The Stupidest Angel has been the first one I've reread, though, possibly because it was one of the first I read (I was a Moore-virgin until the summer of '07, when I read A Dirty Job) and the timing was right, also because it was Christmas… but also because I have a soft spot for Moore's Pine Cove setting and characters, originally from the book The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove. I feel Theo, Molly + narrator, Mavis and Gabe make up for the funniest group of characters yet, with awesome dialog and interactions. A great addition to the cast is Skinner the Dog; I think it's so funny how Moore will sometimes shift to Skinner's point of view: "Will that guy give me food?" It's an example of why I appreciate Moore's humor so much. He's just a tad silly, but in an unpretentious, brilliant and memorable way.

The Stupidest Angel is a delightful treat of a book: unconventional, ridiculous and funky. Buy it, read it and then put it in someone else's 2012 Christmas stocking, and when they've read it, ask to borrow it so you can read it again during Christmas 2013.

In a nutshell

Pros:
– It's really unforgettable & worth a reread
– Moore's best characters & setting are in this one
– Unconventional and original. Love that.
– Made of awesome: giggleworthy material aplenty

Cons:
– None! (You should know what you're in for with Christopher Moore.)

R&R 117 | Fluke

Yay, the first review of 2011! Reading & Reviewing celebrates its 3 year anniversary this Wednesday! 🙂

Christopher Moore
Fluke, or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings
First published in: 2003
This edition: Perennial, 2004
ISBN: 0-06-056668-x
Genre: humor, fiction
Pages: 321
Cover illustration and typography by Ruth Marten

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If after reading COYOTE BLUE, LAMB, A DIRTY JOB and THE STUPIDEST ANGEL I thought Christopher Moore had crazy thoughts, well, I ain't read nothin' yet. FLUKE, OR, I KNOW WHY THE WINGED WHALE SINGS made that pretty clear to me.

Moore starts innocently enough, with his marine-biologist Nate Quinn stumbling, one glorious day, upon a peculiar whale sighting: he could have sworn he saw the words "BITE ME" written on this particular humpback whale's tail.
…Nahhh. Nuh uh. Impossible. His assistant Amy didn't see it, so it must have been his imagination or something. Shaking off this, well, hallucination, Nate focuses on his work: finding out why whales sing. What do they mean when they sing?
This keeps him busy for a while, but when his office is broken into and destroyed, Nate can't help but to think that something very fishy is going on here…

You all know about my love for Christopher Moore by now. I expect you to know about it this love, which remains intact, despite the mess that is FLUKE.

FLUKE is quirky and informative the first 100 pages or so, which I've really enjoyed reading: there's lots of background info on whale research. And I'm fascinated by whales, I freakin' adore whales – so naturally reading about whale research grabs my attention. Christopher Moore really makes an effort to get to know as much as possible on the subject, and to make it understandable to us without sounding like a droning college professor who'd much rather be someplace else. Christopher Moore is hilarious and you learn something, too.

He's an opinionated fellah and takes a stand: throughout the book, Moore's concerns about the environment can be discovered in between the jokes and one-liners, and an afterword has the author make a passionate case for saving whales. Moore scores a bunch of points with me there. (Did I mention yet that I adore whales? Yes? Well, I can't say it enough.) I love to laugh, but I appreciate that this story stems from a deeper, serious concern.

Apart from the whale lovin', what also makes Fluke's beginning highly entertaining are the characters and their interactions. Kona, the white Rastafarian wannabe from Jersey, born and raised Preston Applebaum, is particularly colorful and memorable. Nate's not a terribly exciting character, but he's a likable guy-next-door-who-sees-the-words-"bite-me"-on-whale-tails.

Moore keeps you guessing for a while, you're never really sure what is up. I like that vague mysterious atmosphere, wondering what the deal is with the whale.

Then all is revealed, and Moore jumps the shark whale: FLUKE spins out of control, and while Moore is an absurdist author and you should expect to enter his latest version of Bizarro World at any given moment, this time it's just too much. I hoped Moore would keep up the whale mystery story and go somewhere crazy with that, but he just doesn't go in the direction I had hoped for (from whales Moore went to Goo, whaley-boys and a resurrected Amelia Earhart). Kudos for being surprising; Chris Moore always manages to blow you out of the water with his imagination. But this time, it doesn't work for me, and this is coming from a fan of his.

FLUKE is a much slower read from here on out, less interesting and a lot less funny, which kinda pains me to admit. Moore just goes overboard, and FLUKE sinks. Not even the whales can do much to save it, unfortunately. (Though I still adore whales.)

Just let me say this though: don't let this review discourage you from trying a book by Christopher Moore. I've read so many of his books, and so far FLUKE's really been the only let down. That's about 1 out of 7. Try LAMB, BLOODSUCKING FIENDS or A DIRTY JOB – I've enjoyed those the most, and I'm confident that they'll give you a much better idea of Christopher Moore and his work than FLUKE does.

R&R 107 | Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story

It's been a while since I've updated, but I've got a good excuse: wisdom teeth extraction recovery. I'm still healing but all's going well, and I felt like picking up the blog again. Have been doing lots of reading the past week, let's add some reviewing to that, starting with a very fun book by Christopher Moore!

Christopher Moore
Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story
(first in a series)
First published in: 1995
This edition: Simon and Schuster, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-4165-5849-1
Genre: humor, vampires
Pages: 290
Cover design & illustration by William Staehle

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You know, I'd just finished two Sookie Stackhouse novels back to back when I started reading BLOODSUCKING FIENDS. It took me a while to get into, probably because I wasn't sure I felt like reading another vampire story. Don't get me wrong, I love anything supernatural, and I think vampires are my most favorite sub-category. But if you've been following my project and blog for a while, you also know that I love variety in books.

Nonetheless, I was too curious. Christopher Moore is irresistible to me (yes you are, big guy), and I was curious about his take on vampire fiction. And BLOODSUCKING FIENDS had me giggling from the start. I was helpless against one-liners such as, "He won't last longer 'n a fart on a hot skillet". Moore knows just how to woo a reader. My resistance to yet another vampire book also didn't last much longer than said fart on said hot skillet.

Moore's vampire is a feisty redhead (instant relatability) named Jody, a baby vamp, who struggles to get used to her new undead status. Mentor-less, she's kind of on her own: from dealing with cravings to super hearing to PMS, she's alone in this one. It would be easier if she could walk in daylight, but alas, the sun's effects on Jody more closely resemble that of skin frying than skin sparkling. Unfortunately, the world doesn't really cater to those who roam about in the wee hours of the night. What's a lone vamp to do? Oh! Find a human minion to take care of her bizniz, that's what.

Jody quickly finds a willing one in the form of C. Thomas Flood (or: Tommy), a guy a couple years Jody's junior who falls for the persistent redhead immediately. So what if she's a little quirky? Love is in the air, mutual, and things seem to be going well, until Jody meets her maker. Her vampire maker, that is. And this fellah is looking to cause some trouble for the two lovebirds.

Often I wonder if Moore is on crack (fish people, a giant horny lizard, shall I go on?) when he writes his books, but I love it that he puts his wild imagination into words and shares the crazy. He's unconventional and makes his own rules.
BLOODSUCKING FIENDS tones it down a little, but you know what, I really liked that. Vampire spoofing is entertaining and insane enough; Moore wisely decided that it had enough comedic value. One of the most memorable moments: Jody goes to a vampire support group – she being the only real one, the rest just vampire groupies, wannabees. I thought it was hilarious. Sometimes less is Moore.

BLOODSUCKING FIENDS, which is the first in a series (YOU SUCK and BITE ME follow), is still a delicious kind of nuts though, so if you like Moore for the crazy, FIENDS won't disappoint. I decided very early on that I would continue reading the sequels, a good sign for a "pilot" novel.

The humor combined with vampire lore reminds me a lot of the humor of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, though the latter of course also dealt with issues such as impossible love, sacrifice, the death of a parent (among many more losses), the apocalypse. Moore definitely keeps it strictly campy and fun, providing giggles and pleasant reading throughout.

The story's setting is A+; San Francisco, which Moore also used for a backdrop in A DIRTY JOB. Speaking of A DIRTY JOB, a familiar character joins the cast of BLOODSUCKING FIENDS: The Emperor (plus canine entourage) – a welcome addition. When I watch TV shows, I'm such a sucker for cross-overs. I love it when fandoms hook up and make beautiful babies together. The same goes for books. Moore's characters regularly step out of their own books to visit others, which I see as a little treat for fans of his books.

What bothered me is that there were some errors in editing; an example is the mention of a nightclub, one moment its name is 753, the other time it's 754. Which is it? But you know, that's all I have to complain about. A little bit of messy editing.

I'd say that this book is a very good one to start with if you're new to Christopher Moore. It's definitely one of my favorites of his already, and I really can't wait to see what else he comes up with, vampire-wise.

R&R 082 | The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove

Christopher Moore
The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove
First published in: 1999
This edition: Spike books, 1999
ISBN: 0-380-97506-8
Cover: no idea 😛

R&R 082 | The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove

As with most… no, all of Christopher Moore's books, you know something weird is going to happen. But you never really can predict what; Christopher Moore's books can go anywhere. There's a funny build-up in Lust Lizard; something odd and big comes to Pine Cove, and Moore hints at it brilliantly. (I said "Uh oh" to no one in particular a few times.) So what is it then? (The title contains a subtle hint.)

How about a giant lizard whose first order of business in Pine Cove is humping a giant fuel truck? Because that's it. Really.

When chronically stoned semi-constable Theophilus Crowe is sent to investigate Bess Leander's suicide, he's mistrustful about the situation; something odd is going on… Meanwhile, Bess Leander's suicide forces Pine Cove's very own psychiatrist Val Riordan to question her frequent and fast decision to prescribe anti-depressants to her patients without so much as an actual intake or therapy session.
So when Val drastically decides to take everyone in Pine Cove off their meds, she knows it's unethical, but she also wonders for herself: how is it ethical to just drug everyone without a blink? Val even states that some of her patients "don't even need them [pills]". Placebos it is!

Christopher Moore writes the craziest fiction, but his absurdist escapades usually do get me thinking about the serious things in life. This time, he criticizes excess snap-your-fingers prescriptions of anti-depressants, and how they help keep patients at ease, but do they fix the initial issue underneath?

Now that their 'pills' no longer work, the people of Pine Cove decide en masse to drown their sorrows at the local bar, with a melancholy soundtrack provided for by a blues performer, who's new in town. Pine Cove is aroused alerted by a sudden explosion, and when Theo is sent there to investigate that, he finds giant footprints near an explosion site… Something's out there. Something big. But when you've always puffed the magic dragon on a regular basis, no one is going to believe you when you insist there's a real dragon loose in town.

Steve, our Lust Lizard, is literally a lust lizard, who has been hidden from the world for a long, long time – until a power plant leak forced Steve out of its hiding place. Where to go? A vendetta against a certain blues performer inspires Steve's decision to head to Pine Cove, where he becomes the new neighbour of crazy former B-movie action actress. Molly Michon may be nuts, but she is one of the few people who sees the new double trailer next to hers for what it really is.

Being (for what he knows) the only one left in his species, attempted multiplyin' with a fuel truck is of course on the top of Steve's list. After that, it's time to spread some lovin' to Pine Cove's multitude of depressed residents. Giving of a lust-inducing pheromone to lure prey, the whole town is suddenly ferociously horny. Steve has a reason for being again: To hump. To multiply. And to chow down. Uh oh.

It's up to Theo, Molly (oh, and Gabe the biologist) to put an end to Christopher Moore's madness.

Completely nuts, but I really enjoyed this one. The book reads with ease, very comfortably – it's like watching a movie. A sick movie, but a movie; the text is comprised of scenes ("meanwhile, in the bar…") which one can visualize easily. The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove is funny and well written, with a great setting and colourful characters – of which there are plenty, but they are well developed nonetheless. By reading Christopher Moore's hilarious Christmas book The Stupidest Angel, I had already familiarized myself with the town of Pine Cove and its inhabitants, and I already loved them then1.

Christopher Moore has room for everyone in this book: even a dog's point of view is taken into account. One of the characters in this book a pharmacist who has a fetish for all things fish, dolphins especially. (The gross picture you have in your head? That's pretty much, um, how that is with this guy.) Barmaid slash robot Mavis has had so much work done on herself, she gives Heidi Montag a run for her money. And Molly Michon, former warrior movie babe turned loony has-been, is one of my favourite CM characters; out of everyone she is supposed to be the crazy one, but to me she pretty much seemed like the most sane character in all of Pine Cove.

Christopher Moore's A Dirty Job and Lamb are still at the top of my list, but both of the Pine Cone set novels have been a real pleasure to get through. Insanely zany, I spent a few chilled out afternoons on the sofa thanks to Pine Cove and Steve.

1. Pine Cove was first featured in Practical Demonkeeping (1992), followed by The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove (1999) and finally in The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror (2004).

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R&R series © Karin E. Lips 2008, 2009 and beyond