Always Look on the Bright Side of Life – Eric Idle

idleI grew up watching Flying Circus, and loved it, even though I was really too young to understand or decipher the accents (“Spam” notwithstanding). I’ve passed my love of Monty Python onto my kids, even visiting Doune castle to buy coconuts and recreate Holy Grail (with my daughter playing Terry Gilliam, I as Graham Chapman), like thousands of other daft tourists.

Your face will ache from smiling while reading this, and it’s chock full of name-dropping, which, TBH, is everyone’s secret shameful reason for reading a celebrity memoir (AmIRightAmIRight – NudgeNudge!) And there are lots of photos, which I appreciated. This book made me laugh out loud while I was sneak-reading at my kid’s Open House at his elementary school. Whoops.

I loved all the anecdotes of Eric hanging out with famous people, and the backstory of how many sketches came to be. I even learned about some projects of his that I was unaware of, having been unfortunately born too late (stupid 1975) and in the wrong country (stupid Yank) to encounter many of them on the BBC. I paused many times while reading to get on YouTube and catch up.

Eric’s kind heart is obvious, as shown through his endearing friendships with George Harrison and Robin Williams, not to mention all the Pythons. He’s had a rich life full of love and good friends. Laughter really does bring people together. I’d love to hang out with him sometime. I’ll even supply the booze.

If you love Python, or saw the title of this book and began to whistle, or just know him as the guy from the Figment ride at Disney World, you can’t go wrong with this one. It’s entertaining, hilarious, and insightful. Highly recommended.
Many thanks to Penguin First to Read for the advance copy in exchange for my review.

French Exit – Patrick DeWitt

french exitFrances Price in French Exit reminds me of a blue-blood, eccentric friend of my mom’s who was so blind to her wealth that once, while enjoying her first experience dining at a Waffle House, asked if they had Russian dressing for her salad. Another time a waiter explained that there was no smoking allowed inside the restaurant, and she casually waved her cigarette in the air and said, charmingly disarming him, “Well, let’s just pretend, shall we?”

French Exit is the story of the disdainful and weary Frances Price, widowed and rapidly running out of money, and her feckless son, Malcolm. Shocked to  learn of their dwindling funds, Frances and Malcolm flee to Paris in order to stay rent-free in a friend’s apartment. Accompanying them in their getaway is Small Frank, the aloof cat that Frances believes houses the soul of her dead husband. Once in Paris, Frances and Malcolm unintentionally acquire a coterie of hangers-on that create madcap antics while attempting to contact Frances’s dead husband (who is cavorting around the Paris streets as a cat). Trust me, it actually makes sense.

This story is chockablock full of quirky, clueless, insolent characters that are completely endearing. You can’t help but love them. They are full of entitlement and haughtiness that lends itself to deadpan humor and dry satire. Their complacency, however, is only a fine sheen over their much deeper heartbreak and tenderness.

French Exit is ultimate DeWitt. Enjoyable through and through.

Many thanks to Edelweiss and HarperCollins for an advance copy in exchange for my review. When DeWitt writes his next book, can I review it, pleasepleaseplease?

 

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Stuart Tuton

7 deaths
Publication Date: Sept 18, 2018

In case you’re as confused as I was, this is the same book as The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. An extra ½ death was added into the title for the US publication, for reasons I can only speculate. Perhaps the discrepancy is due to the similarity of another recently-published book, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Regardless, that extra ½ death is just one more reason you may need an aspirin and a glass of wine after reading this book.

Our main character is trapped on an estate with numerous guests all planning to attend a party that evening where a murder will happen at exactly 11pm. Our protagonist (giving away his name is almost a spoiler) inhabits eight people, or “hosts”, during this one day in an attempt to solve the murder. Honestly, giving away any more information will inhibit your reading experience. Nothing is linear, time is relative, and the mystery is never straightforward.

This book is “Quantum Leap” + Memento + “Sherlock”, a triumph of complexity. Like the author mentioned in the Q&A at the end of the book, there are fourteen things happening at 1:42 pm and you have to keep it all together. If you can’t, don’t worry. The author leads you through the muddle and you never get so lost that you’re floundering. A little confusion and some mental staggering only make the story more interesting.

I couldn’t stay away from this book. Even though I may not have followed every detail in the mystery and despite being perplexed multiple times, I enjoyed this immensely. I looked forward to reading it every chance I could. It is a whirlwind of clues and twists and red herrings. Seldom do I read a book that captivates my attention from beginning to end. The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle had quite a strong grip on me, and kudos to the author for keeping everything straight.

Many thanks to Netgalley, Bookish First, and Sourcebooks for the advance copy in exchange for my review.

The Waiter – Matias Faldbakken

the-waiter-9781501197529_hrI really didn’t know what star rating to give this. I enjoyed reading it, and there were some astute observations, some of which made me smile or chuckle, but as far as actual plot goes, there really wasn’t one. This book has been inaccurately likened to A Gentleman in Moscow, but it reminded me more of Nicholson Baker than Amor Towles.

The Waiter shows us a slice of life in the shabby yet historic restaurant, The Hills. The regulars come in at their usual times, and the waiter passes the time with his observations of their motives and facades of personality. There is also an endearing little girl, Anna, whose father frequently dumps her at the restaurant who charms the waiter and brings some joy into his mundane life.

I enjoyed the descriptions of the patrons, the wry humor, and nods to Old World sensibilities. It was an interesting book, but one I wouldn’t recommend to a casual reader as it is more about nuanced character interaction than plot.

Many thanks to Netgalley and Gallery / Scout Press for this advance copy in exchange for my review.

The Travelling Cat Chronicles – Hiro Arikawa

Nana, a stray cat named for his crooked tail that looks like the number 7, has no patience for:

  •             People trying to grab him from his carrier by his scruff
  •             Humans chastising him for not eating what he kills
  •             Being pet on his tail
  •             Other cats

Nana, however, is loyally bonded to Saturo ─ no other human understands Nana like Saturo does. Saturo also adores Nana, but for reasons not initially revealed, he is on quest to find Nana a new home. Saturo and Nana embark on a journey, and Nana discovers the friends of Saturo’s past and the hardships Saturo endured before adopting him.

cat

The Travelling Cat Chronicles appealed to what I love about cats ─ their haughty independence, their tenacious loyalty, and their finicky inability to be appeased. I also appreciated the Japanese setting that explored the beauty of the country as well as the culture of daily life that was new to me.

Told from Nana’s perspective, this book was amusing with quips that will charm cat lovers. I’ve always thought that each cat has a Person ─ the one they bond to, the one they love above all others. Saturo is Nana’s Person, forever, no matter what happens.

Many stars for this book.

Thanks to Penguin’s First to Read program for the advance copy in exchange for my review.