Monday, November 30, 2009

Book 4 - Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal - Christopher Moore

Jesus H. Christ, I loved this book! Or, more accurately, Jesus H. Christ made me love this book.

A few years ago one of my friends pointed out an interesting fact. The gospels focus on the birth of Jesus, and then you never hear another thing about him until he starts preaching, just before the crucifixion. Ever wonder what happened between the birth of Christ and his crucifixion? Lamb is the missing gospel according to Biff. Biff was Jesus's best friend ever since he stumbled on the six-year-old Messiah resurrecting lizards in the desert. Biff is hardly a Christ-like figure. He has sex (a lot), curses, learns to fight, and is generally a pain in the ass.

Biff was resurrected in the present day by the soap-opera obsessed angel Raziel in order for Biff to write his gospel. Biff and Joshua (Jesus's real name) grew up in Nazareth together and both fell in love with Maggie (Mary Magdalene). Joshua knows from the beginning that he is the son of God, even though Biff thinks he's nuts. Joshua realizes that he can't learn how to be the Messiah just hanging around Nazareth, so he and Biff set off on a journey to visit each of the three wise men. The first wise man, Balthasar, lives in a fortress with his concubines. Joshua and Biff hang around for a few years, learning about Taoism and other Asian religions/philosophies. Then they study with Gaspar for a few years at a Tibetan monastery. Finally, they travel to India and study with Melchoir. The boys, now men, return to Jerusalem and Joshua/Jesus begins preaching, gathering apostles, and know the rest.

I love that Moore has Joshua/Jesus learn about all of the other established religions before starting his own. Quite a bit of Christianity has it's roots in other religions. Not all of this book is wacky hijinks. There are quite a few poignant moments as well. This book was a blast to read, and I am sure that I will be re-reading it again and again. Put this on your shelf next to Good Omens. They would be great companions.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Book 3 - Rollergirl: Totally True Tales From The Track - Melissa "Melicious" Joulwan

May 16 is my anniversary with my fiance. This last year was our ninth. His response was, "Sorry for wasting your life". We have that kind of relationship. Think Al & Peg Bundy, but with 7 dogs. Since I am very much a no-frills kind of girl, we really hadn't made any big plans. That afternoon, some of my friends came by the store and asked if we wanted to go to the roller derby bout that night.

My response, "Hell yes!"

Seriously, what better way to celebrate your epic romance than by getting drunk and watching girls beat the shit out of each other? I was sold!

That night we watched Birmingham's own Tragic City Rollers whip each other around the track, dodging blockers, and seriously kicking ass. I turned to my fiance and said, "I want to do that!" So in July, I bought some skates and started practicing. I still suck, but I'm getting better.

Rollergirl is the story of how modern flat-track roller derby started in Austin, TX with the Texas Rollergirls. Roller derby in the '70s was run by men, for men. The modern derby revolution was by the skaters, for the skaters. In today's leagues, the skaters do all of the jobs. The skaters do the promotions, advertising, set up the bouts, recruit new skaters, set up insurance, and a thousand other jobs. Nobody gets paid. In fact, most skaters pay dues on top of buying and maintaining their equipment.

Rollergirl also stresses the importance of creating a derby persona with an accompanying alias. It's no fun for me to skate as Blake Surrock. Ick! How boring! Instead, I am Boldly Going to Kick Your Ass as Commander Strikeher, #7of9! Plus, if I get too out of control, I get to say, "That wasn't Blake that knocked her down, that was Strikeher!" It's a great way to work out aggression.

If you are interested in roller derby, you will probably enjoy this book. If you want to become interested in roller derby, you will probably enjoy this book. If you don't give a shit, then you will not find this book interesting at all. That's OK, I wouldn't want to read a book about football.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Book 2 - The Loved Dog: The Playful, Nonaggressive Way to Teach Your Dog Good Behavior - Tamar Geller

Two years ago I had an office job, and I hated every second of it. I frequently had screaming, crying panic attacks on the way to work. I broke out in stress rashes and had trouble sleeping. Then one night, I woke up at 3 AM, and Fight Club was on HBO. Then the next night it happened again, and the next. I took it as a sign from Tyler Durden to quit my soul-crushingly terrible job. So I started looking. I knew office work just wasn't for me, and that I needed to do something that I would actually enjoy.

Previously, my fiance and I had taken dog obedience classes at our local pet store. We took the classes with our three dogs, and really enjoyed learning positive training techniques to communicate with our dogs. One Saturday afternoon, trying to kill time, we went back to the pet store to look around and ran into our old trainer. She was walking her foster dog, a beautiful Basset Hound, who immediately jumped up on me and licked my face. And I fell in love. She then told us that she would be leaving to become a full-time teacher, and she wished someone would take over her classes that actually cared about dogs. My response was, "Me me me me me me me me!!!!!!!"

Two years later, and I'm a dog trainer, and we adopted that Basset Hound, Murray. We also have six other dogs, all rescued, and we both volunteer with a local rescue group. Hell, right now I have a dog in my garage that my fiance found at work today. My life is dogs and I love it!

As a professional dog trainer, I didn't learn earth-shatteringly new techniques from Tamar Geller's book, but I do appreciate that there is another advocate for training dogs humanely and respectfully. How can you expect a dog to remain "Man's best friend" if your method of training involves alpha rolls, prong collars, shock collars, and outright abuse?

The first half of the book focuses on Tamar Geller's history. Tamar grew up with abusive/neglectful parents. She witnessed her parents abusing her dog when she was 12. She joined the Israeli Army and also witnessed animal abuse there. Then one day, she watched wolves playing in the wild. She realized that they didn't teach each other by bullying and intimidation. The older wolves trained the younger ones using playful games. She decided that she wanted to work with dogs, and opened a doggy day-care center.

The second half focuses on Tamar's training techniques. She states that dogs have seven needs: sense of security, companionship, understanding the hierarchy, surprises/excitement, food and exercise, mental stimulation, and love and connection. Then she spends several chapters teaching various standard training commands.

This book was very easy to read. I have read some training books in the past that put me to sleep. I really enjoyed the way she described the techniques, and why it is important to be PATIENT when working with dogs. That is definitely the most frustrating part of my jobs. It's rarely the dogs, it's usually the owners!

At the end of the book, she has a small chapter on Puppy Mills and the horrors that go on there. One of my dogs was a puppy-mill throw away, and he is scared of everything and everybody. I have seen first-hand what the effects of these doggy concentration camps can do. Do not EVER buy a dog from a pet store. It has probably come from one of these death traps. Please, please, please check your local shelter first. I can almost guarantee you will find your new best friend there. And if you come to Alabama, I'll even train him for you!

Don't breed or buy while shelter pets die!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Book 1 - Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story - Christopher Moore

This is my first review of everything ever, so if you don't have something nice to say, SHUT THE FUCK UP!


This is my third Christoper Moore novel, and so far, I've enjoyed all that I have read. I read "A Dirty Job" last summer and absolutely adored it. A few weeks ago, I picked up "You Suck" at the library, and got several chapters into it before I realized that it was the sequel to "Bloodsucking Fiends". I hate it when I do that! Oh well.

"Bloodsucking Fiends" is the story of Jody, an attractive 26-year-old woman living in San Francisco that is attacked one night and slowly realizes that she has been turned into a vampire. Then she does what any of the rest of us would do in her position: find a minion to do her bidding. Enter Tommy. Tommy is an aspiring writer/19-year-old stockboy from Incontinence, Indiana. He's been in San Fran for about 10 minutes when he meets Jody who almost immediately asks him to move in. Wanting to get laid, he immediatly agrees. What results is a story that is part murder-mystery, part adventure, part romance, and all hilarious.

In Moore's novels, the main characters are somewhat interesting, but the best characters are usually the supporting players. My favorite is the self-proclaimed Emperor of San Francisco. He is a homeless man who defends his city with the help of his Golden Retriever, Lazarus, and his Boston Terrier, Bummer. He may or may not be completely out of his mind. When he takes the dogs on a vampire hunt, he dresses them in armor and brandishes a wooden sword.

It's hard not to fall in love with a book that includes turkey bowling, floor-polisher water skiing, and bronzed turtles. If you like books that lean toward the absurd, then "Bloodsucking Fiends" is for you, and if you enjoyed this book, read the sequel, "You Suck". I actually liked the sequel more, just because Abby Normal cracked me up.

*I actually finished this book a week ago, but my laptop crashed, and I've been sharing a laptop with my fiance. Today I drove to the library to write my review, so appreciate my committment, dammit!