Thursday, August 27, 2015

'The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins'

Sometimes, I'm in the mood to read strange, wonderful, gritty stories.  Stories that surprise me.  Who, in the name of all that is crazy and holy, doesn't like surprises?

'The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins', by Irvine Welsh (he of 'Trainspotting' fame), is no exception.  

It's rough, it's sexy, it's full of characters who have personalities that turn on a dime.  When I was halfway through it, I thought, "Who needs a plot?"  Welsh is that good.  

When Lucy Brennan, a Miami Beach personal fitness trainer, disarms an apparently crazed gunman who was chasing two frightened homeless men along a deserted causeway at night, the police and the news media are not far behind.  Within hours, Lucy becomes a hero.  But her celebrity is short-lived:  The 'crazed gunman' turns out to be a victim of child sexual abuse and the two men are serial pedophiles.

The only witness, the depressed and overweight Lena Sorenson, is thrilled with Lucy's heroism, and becomes obsessed with her.  She enrolls as a client at Lucy's Body-sculpt gym.

But when the truth comes out about the pedophiles, Lucy's transition from hero to villain is complete.  Although Lucy tries to shake it off, her solution is to imprison Lena and make her lose weight.  When Lucy can't stop thinking about the sex lives of some famous Siamese twins who are in the news, the real problems start.

I found it amazing how well Welsh turned the tables.  You can feel the anger and sexual longing in Lucy, and her dedication to her health and fitness is somewhat alarming.  In Lena, we have an obese artist who, at first glance, seems happier just to stay on the sidelines and eat until her pain goes away. But when Welsh presents the backgrounds of these women on a silver tray, it makes the story even more interesting.  
Author Irvine Welsh

There are more characters, but to me, they were merely window dressing (although that doesn't diminish the author's skill at creating them).  But each one has a place, a set place.

It's all about the two women.  Their strengths and weaknesses.  Their needs and longings. The way they dance around each other, with twists and turns....and surprises.

I loved this book.  And despite its grittiness, you'll like it, too.  Actually, the grittiness gave this story the familiar mark of Irvine Welsh.  

And welcome to the good, ol' U.S.A., Mr. Welsh!

'The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins', published by Doubleday, a division of Random House, can be found at your local library, and your favorite independent bookstore.  ISBN 978-0-385-53938-8

Saturday, August 8, 2015

'Scents and Sensibility'

I know.  You don't have to say it.

Book Hog's been out of circulation for a while.  Okay, okay.  Out of circulation for a long time. The job I held for three and a half years has finally come to a close, and I've been spending a lot of time looking for a new one.  You see, I managed the book section of a non-profit thrift shop, and it was one of the best jobs I've ever had.  Imagine going through boxes and boxes of treasure (well, not all treasure), determining their value, and sometimes finding first edition/first printing, SIGNED books.  Merchandising the section any way you wanted (of course, my boss had to approve all moves).  But I felt appreciated, and we sold quite a few books; I became known as 'The Book Lady'.  I remembered my lessons from the various bookstores in which I worked, and they served me well.  Man, I miss it!

Anyway, I've been searching for a new job, and when it gets discouraging, I read.  

When I received a packet of advance copies from one of my favorite publishers, I was so happy to spot a copy of Spencer Quinn's new one, 'Scents and Sensibility'.  I immediately grabbed it and read it s-l-o-w-l-y.  I hate to see any of the 'Chet and Bernie' books end too quickly, but it's hard to hold myself back sometimes.

I was also very happy to discover that Quinn has moved the action back to the desert, where Chet and Bernie run the Little Detective Agency.  And I was glad to learn more about the pup that looks suspiciously like Chet...

Private Investigator Bernie Little and his canine partner, Chet, return home from their last adventure only to encounter some alarming developments.  First off, Bernie's wall safe is missing, and with it, his grandfather's watch, his most valuable possession.  Meanwhile, old Mr. Parsons, the next door neighbor and owner of Chet's best friend, Iggy, is under investigation for being in possession of a saguaro cactus illegally transplanted from the desert.  Chet and Bernie go deep into the wild to investigate, but will they find that Mr. and Mrs. Parsons have a terrible secret in their past?

Chet and Bernie find worse things happening in the desert, far worse than cactus smuggling, and all connected to a strange desert festival called Cactus Man. Their search uncovers leads that take them back to a long-ago kidnapping, and a criminal who sees at once what Chet and Bernie mean to each other and knows how to exploit it.

Author Spencer Quinn, with Audrey and Pearl
In every C&B book, there is a moment in the story where you find yourself crying (especially if you love animals).  This one is no exception.  But this time, Chet has help from the unlikeliest source.  And learning more about Mr. and Mrs. Parsons and their beloved dog, Iggy, made the story richer. Once you commit yourself to it, you find yourself becoming addicted to a wonderful, funny, and heartwarming mystery series.

I can't get enough of Chet and Bernie.  Read the books.  Wipe away tears, and laugh yourself silly.

And I still think that Spencer Quinn is part dog.

'Scents and Sensibility' is now available at your library and favorite independent bookstore.