“My dad works at an advertising agency and my mom anchors the local evening news. They are both very good-looking for old people, and I’m not being arrogant but just stating a fact when I say I inherited the best from both of them.” – Ashley, We Are All Made of Molecules
Ashley is the best-looking and most popular person in high school. Stewart, not so much. Stewart is a certifiable genius. Ashley? Well, let’s just say she’s a few fries short of a Happy Meal.
Sometimes it takes an alien to tell us humans how to live.
The Vonnadorians are advanced beings who come to our messy, wet planet and think we, The Humans, are inferior. They believe we are not ready for more technological progress so they eliminate Professor Andrew Martin, who has made a breakthrough in mathematics which would change the course of humanity’s future. Naturally, they replace him with an alien look-alike who is ill-prepared for his mission to erase any knowledge of the Cambridge professor’s work--and to destroy anyone who knows about it.
Author Gideon Defoe has established a successful micro-franchise with his comedic novels about the misadventures of the dim-witted yet lovable Pirate Captain, beginning with The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists and continuing throughout the 2000s and 2010s to the latest installment, The Pirates! In an Adventure with the Romantics. Defoe’s ridiculous tales are dominated by the presence of the Pirate Captain, a man who never found a boast too ridiculous to make, a ham too large to eat, or an amount of money too large to spend. It is this last attribute that forces him and his bizarre crew into their latest adventure. Deeply in debt, they decide to take some wealthy intellectuals on an “authentic” pirate adventure in hopes of making some quick money. Unfortunately for them, those intellectuals turn out to be Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, and Mary Godwin, and a variety of bizarre, hilarious events ensue.
Mr. Ali is a bored gentleman, a bit of a perfectionist, and—much to his wife’s chagrin—recently retired and constantly underfoot. Mr. Ali clearly needs something to do with his cleverness. His rather small house with carefully tended garden and comfortable veranda is a beautiful, small haven in the heart of a busy Indian city, but it is not enough to hold the interest of a man so distinguished and wise. And so, The Marriage Bureau for Rich People began in the Alis’ front room.
Discworld, Terry Pratchett’s satirical fantasy series, has entertained lovers of fantasy novels since the publication of its first installment, The Color of Magic, in 1983. Over the course of dozens of novels, the focus of Pratchett’s satire in the series changed. Early entries like The Color of Magic tended to be broad parodies of fantasy and role-playing conventions and characterizations. However, later novels such as Night Watch, Thud, and Unseen Academicals became much more focused on satire of real-world concepts of race, class, and current societal issues. Unseen Academicals is a strong example of the style of the later Discworld installments. On its surface level a novel about a group of wizards trying to win a “football” game, Unseen Academicals is a sprawling satire of modern attitudes towards sports fandom, social class, and the cloistered nature of academe.
"Irish businessman will pay large amount of U.S. dollars to meet a fairy, sprite, leprechaun, or pixie."
The ad was posted on the Internet. Indeed, it generated numerous fraudulent responses, but the person who placed it only needed one true lead for his purposes. He had studied all he could in the mundane world he inhabited, but he knew the important secrets of the Fairy would only be known by others of their kind. However, in Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer, the Irish businessman posting the ad did not mention that he was stupendously rich—and rather young. In his mind, the latter certainly did not signify.
What if you had never noticed the small things in life? Having lived a privileged life defined by ceremonies and duties, would you have had the time to notice the subtle changes in behavior of the people around you when upset, worried, or flustered? And what would make you start noticing? This is the premise for the brilliantly witty audiobook The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett.
In this audiobook, richly-narrated by the author, the Queen, having never read for pleasure, stumbles upon a bookmobile outside the gates of Buckingham Palace and feels duty bound to check out a book. While she dutifully finishes the first book she checks out, she feels duty bound once again to check out a second book, which is the one that captures her attention and leads to her rabid consumption of books. Helping the Queen on this journey is Norman, a kitchen boy in the palace, who is promoted to page after his encounter with the Queen in the bookmobile. With Norman as her accomplice, the Queen is introduced to an array of authors and begins to see the world through other people’s eyes.
No one can see women of a certain age. We--I am of a certain age--are nothing but the ghosts of our former selves. We have a contentious relationship with mirrors just like Snow White’s stepmother. We fight aging with Botox, HRT, calcium, and even anti-depressants. Clover Hobart in Calling Invisible Women has contemplated figurative invisibility, but one fall day she becomes literally invisible.
After thinking she has had a breakdown or a stroke, Clover becomes proactive and explores the possibilities of invisibility. This novel has laugh-out-loud moments, is well-plotted, has great characters, and has thoughtful ideas about women and aging.
There are six things very wrong with my life:
I have one of those under-the-skin spots that will never come to a head but lurk in a red way for the next two years.
It is on my nose.
I have a three-year-old sister who may have peed somewhere in my room.
In fourteen days the summer hols will be over and then it will be back to Stalag 14 and Oberfuhrer Frau Simpson and her bunch of sadistic “teachers."
I am very ugly and need to go into an ugly home.
- I went to a party dressed as a stuffed olive.
And so begins Angus, Thongs and Full-frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison. It is the diary of Georgia, a British fourteen-year-old whose wit and dry humor will keep you laughing out loud and receiving annoyed looks from your sister who’s “trying to do her homework.”
Most people know what it feels like to be stuck in limbo somewhere between departure and destination. Even if your journey was perfectly planned, there are so many things that can easily go awry and impede your progress. In Dear American Airlines, that agonizing stasis is symptomatic of much more than an airline’s incompetence or a missed connection. It characterizes the 53 years that Benjamin R. Ford has been living and drawing breath.
While en route from New York to Los Angeles, Bennie’s flight is abruptly canceled. Even though the sky is bright and the clouds look picturesque, rather than ominous, American Airlines claims foul weather has interfered with the scheduled flight. As a consequence, Bennie finds himself trapped in Chicago’s O’Hare airport with no way out. But he does have a pen, some paper, and the desire to complain to American Airlines.
The entirety of Jonathan Miles’s poignant and humorous novel is written in the form of a letter of complaint. At first, Bennie’s explicit goal is to write and get his ticket refunded. As the letter progresses, however, it becomes quite clear that a check from American Airlines will not resolve Bennie’s existential crisis.