Take A Peek Book Review: Secondhand Souls

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

Secondhand Souls

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

In San Francisco, the souls of the dead are mysteriously disappearing—and you know that can’t be good—in New York Times bestselling author Christopher Moore’s delightfully funny sequel to A Dirty Job.

Something really strange is happening in the City by the Bay. People are dying, but their souls are not being collected. Someone—or something—is stealing them and no one knows where they are going, or why, but it has something to do with that big orange bridge. Death Merchant Charlie Asher is just as flummoxed as everyone else. He’s trapped in the body of a fourteen-inch-tall “meat” waiting for his Buddhist nun girlfriend, Audrey, to find him a suitable new body to play host.

To get to the bottom of this abomination, a motley crew of heroes will band together: the seven-foot-tall death merchant Minty Fresh; retired policeman turned bookseller Alphonse Rivera; the Emperor of San Francisco and his dogs, Bummer and Lazarus; and Lily, the former Goth girl. Now if only they can get little Sophie to stop babbling about the coming battle for the very soul of humankind…

The author with "squirrel people". Image via wunc.org

Christopher Moore with “squirrel people”.
Image via wunc.org

My Thoughts:

Here’s a slightly edited version of what I wrote on Goodreads:

I’ll just say it: Christopher Moore can pretty much do no wrong. Take his earlier books: Enormous lizards? Artificial whales? Stupid angels and Jesus? Shakespeare, Impressionist painters… you get the drift. For ultra-weird but extremely funny (and even touching) stories, you really can’t beat the Author Guy’s books.

Secondhand Souls is a sequel to A Dirty Job, which is an awesomely hilarious, entertaining, occasionally crude, always crazy tale — and Secondhand Souls lives up to it, not quite perfectly, but awfully darn close. The characters we love are back, in different places in their lives (and even in different bodies), but still themselves. Plus, there are some memorable new characters, including a Golden Gate Bridge painter named Mike, a mysterious man dressed all in yellow, a lovesick ghost, and a banshee with a fondness for tasers, among others.

San Francisco itself is a star, and seeing such a crazy adventure unfold in our beloved city is at least half the fun.

Who am I kidding? It’s all fun. The logic of the story gets a little thin at times, and forget about character development: We’re plopped down into the lives of the characters from A Dirty Job, and either you remember them or you don’t. But, it doesn’t really matter. If you’re a Christopher Moore fan, you need to read this. And if you’ve never had the pleasure, I’d say put this one on hold and read (at least) A Dirty Job — and possibly a few others — before picking up Secondhand Souls.

 

And for a more articulate review, here’s what my friend Heidi had to say about it:

Of all Christopher Moore’s novels, which range from the adolescent and ridiculous (Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings) to the pretty much perfect (Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal), the ones that Charlie Asher lives in are my favorites. Secondhand Souls is of course the sequel to A Dirty Job, which introduced us to Charlie, beta male junk shop owner, and the hidden world of the Death Merchants. (Also: a devastatingly cool record-shop owner called Minty Fresh, a toddler who may-or-may-not be Death and her pet Hellhounds, Lily the PerkyGoth, Audrey the Buddhist nun, The Emperor of San Francisco, The Morrigan and The Squirrel People, among others.) Read that before you read this, or you’ll be really lost. In fact, you probably are already.

With the whole bizarre gang back in play — plus some new additions — Secondhand Souls is not a mere cheesey sequel (though cheez plays a critical role); it’s more like visiting with batshit crazy old friends. Unfortunately for them it turns out, due in large part to the events in A Dirty Job, there’s a dangerous backlog of uncollected souls lurking around San Francisco, and Charlie and friends are once again embroiled in the danger and magical maneuvering that is dealing with the powers of darkness rising. Fortunately, they are more than weird enough to handle the crisis. I don’t want to spoil the plot, so I’ll just say it’s hilarious.

Maybe I love these books because they capture San Francisco’s magic in ways that ring true in my heart. It’s like an idealized version of my hometown — in the topography of Moore’s books I basically live across the street from Minty’s shop, and nobody ever has to step over homeless people sleeping in the vestibule. Crazy people are really helpful geniuses, and even normal folks can afford the rents. (I find all this somehow reassuring, as magic is in short supply around here these days.) Also, the characters have more fun talking to each other than anybody ever has had in the history of ever. (Except maybe “The Gilmore Girls.”) For nutty-but-somehow-deep dialogue, you really can’t beat Christopher Moore. 5 whole-hearted, sunny-yet-deeply-morbid stars.

(With thanks to Heidi, for letting me borrow her review! For more awesome Heidi reviews, you can find her here on Goodreads.)

So hey – if you’re new to Christopher Moore, this is not the place to start! Maybe spend some time with Practical Demonkeeping or The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, or even his first novel set in San Francisco, Bloodsucking Fiends. Bask in the absurd and wacky, soak up his crazy but somehow perfect tricks of language, and just enjoy the WTFness of it all. When you’re ready for true brilliance and lots of heart, read Lamb. Or harken back to Shakespeare as you never knew it with Fool and The Serpent of Venice. Uh oh, I feel a Christopher Moore retrospective post coming on! Stay tuned… and meanwhile, get thee to a copy of A Dirty Job as soon as possible.

Going now.

Need a cheez. (Read Secondhand Souls and this will make sense.)

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The details:

Title: Secondhand Souls
Author: Christopher Moore
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication date: August 25, 2015
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Fiction/Humor/Supernatural
Source: Purchased

Thursday Quotables: Secondhand Souls

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Welcome back to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

NEW! Thursday Quotables is now using a Linky tool! Be sure to add your link if you have a Thursday Quotables post to share.

Secondhand Souls

Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore
(published August 25, 2015 )

This is a little bit of a cheat for me, as I haven’t quite started this book! My shiny new copy arrived this week, right on release date, but I’m trying to be a responsible adult and finish the book I’m already reading before diving in. Couldn’t resist reading the first couple of pages, though — and I was immediately plunged back into the insane but delightful world first encountered in A Dirty Job.

Sigh. This looks awesome, and I desperately need some FUN in my reading!

It was a cool, quiet November day in San Francisco and Alphonse Rivera, a lean, dark man of fifty, sat behind the counter of his bookstore flipping through the Great Big Book of Death. The old-fashioned bell over the door rang and Rivera looked up as the Emperor of San Francisco, a great woolly storm cloud of a fellow, tumbled into the store followed by his faithful dogs, Bummer and Lazarus, who ruffed and frisked with urgent intensity, then darted around the store like canine Secret Service agents, clearing the site in case a sly assassin or meaty pizza lurked among the stacks.

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Click on the linky button (look for the cute froggie face) below to add your link.
  • After you link up, I’d love it if you’d leave a comment about my quote for this week.
  • Be sure to visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

Wishing & Waiting on Wednesday: Secondhand Souls

There’s nothing like a Wednesday for thinking about the books we want to read! My Wishing & Waiting on Wednesday post is linking up with two fabulous book memes, Wishlist Wednesday (hosted by Pen to Paper) and Waiting on Wednesday (hosted by Breaking the Spine).

I realize that I haven’t done one of these wishlist posts in quite a while… but how could I resist?

Secondhand Souls

This week’s pick:
Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore
(to be released August 25, 2015 )

In San Francisco, the souls of the dead are mysteriously disappearing—and you know that can’t be good—in New York Times bestselling author Christopher Moore’s delightfully funny sequel to A Dirty Job.

Something really strange is happening in the City by the Bay. People are dying, but their souls are not being collected. Someone—or something—is stealing them and no one knows where they are going, or why, but it has something to do with that big orange bridge. Death Merchant Charlie Asher is just as flummoxed as everyone else. He’s trapped in the body of a fourteen-inch-tall “meat” waiting for his Buddhist nun girlfriend, Audrey, to find him a suitable new body to play host.

To get to the bottom of this abomination, a motley crew of heroes will band together: the seven-foot-tall death merchant Minty Fresh; retired policeman turned bookseller Alphonse Rivera; the Emperor of San Francisco and his dogs, Bummer and Lazarus; and Lily, the former Goth girl. Now if only they can get little Sophie to stop babbling about the coming battle for the very soul of humankind…

I love Christopher Moore pretty much always, and I’m really looking forward to this sequel to a book that thoroughly entertained me. Now I just need to squeeze in a re-read of A Dirty Job before the end of August!

What are you wishing for this Wednesday?

Looking for some bookish fun on Thursdays? Come join me for my regular weekly feature, Thursday Quotables. You can find out more here — come play!

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I’m building a Book Blog Meme Directory, and need your help! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!

Blog Tour & Book Review: The Serpent of Venice

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Book Review: The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore

The Serpent of Venice: A NovelI’m thrilled to be participating in the blog tour for the brand-new Christopher Moore novel, The Serpent of Venice.

Christopher Moore writes about demons, sea monster, and vampires. Also about Jesus and Impressionist painters, talking fruitbats and humpback whales. In other words, this is an author who defies categorization, yet one thing is for sure: If you don’t fall on the floor laughing at least a few times reading any of his many novels, well… you’re probably doing it wrong!

Moore’s trademark humor is firmly in place in his newest novel, The Serpent of Venice, a follow-up to his 2009 novel Fool. Fool is a retelling of King Lear, with the king’s fool Pocket serving as main character and very clever (and occasionally obscene) narrator. In The Serpent of Venice, Moore returns to Shakespeare with the further adventures of Pocket, using as his framework not one but two Shakespearean plays, plus a little Edgar Allan Poe for good measure.

Loosely weaving together the plotlines of The Merchant of Venice and Othello (trust me, it works), with a bit of The Cask of Amontillado thrown in as well, The Serpent of Venice follows Pocket the Fool as he maneuvers his way through the devilish machinations of a host of scheming bad guys. He meets up with Shylock and his daughter Jessica, confronts the evil Iago, befriends the great general Othello and his wife Desdemona — and plays all sides against one another, with daring, wit, agility, and plenty of Christopher Moore’s trademark “heinous fuckery most foul”.

Remarkably, Moore weaves the source material into his outrageous new work almost seamlessly, so that for those who enjoy such things, it’s possible to take certain scenes and follow along paragraph by paragraph, and compare back to the same scene in the Shakespearean plays. Combining these works, modernizing the language as needed, adding in raucous humor and heaps of vulgarity — plus Marco Polo, a sea serpent, and a monkey named Jeff — may sound like a crazy mess, but in The Serpent of Venice, there’s a certain beauty to the wackiness, and it really  holds together in a way that’s a wonder to behold.

Fans of the author will be gratified, as always, by his quirky, irreverent approach to language, not afraid to take some of the most honored works in the English canon and stand them on their ears:

“Thou mendacious fuckweasel,” said Emilia, almost spitting it, disgusted now rather than hysterical.

“Methinks the lady doth protest too much,” said Iago.

“Methinks the lady protests just the right amount,” said Emilia. “Methinks the lady is just getting fucking started protesting.”

Even from the book’s very beginning, we get a dose of prime Moore in the introduction “The Stage” that lets us know what we’re in for:

Strangely, although most of the characters are Venetian, everybody speaks English, and with an English accent.

Unless otherwise described, assume conditions to be humid.

For me, one of the most amazing pieces of this book is the author’s afterward. After laughing my way through the book itself, it was fascinating to read about the author’s research, his careful study of the source material, the decisions he made about the setting and time periods, and the historical elements woven into the story. Without being too preachy or teachy, he manages to convey a ton of information in these few short pages, so that I walked away from The Serpent of Venice not just having laughed, but also having learned about Venetian history in the 13th century, racism and anti-Semitism in Shakespeare’s time… and what Christopher Moore really thinks about *ahem* being intimate with dragons.

Either Christopher Moore’s crazy approach to life and writing appeals to you or it doesn’t — and if it does, The Serpent of Venice is a treat. Fans will absolutely want to read The Serpent of Venice, and will not be disappointed. If you’ve never read anything by Christopher Moore — and you like to laugh and you’re not easily offended — I’d say give him a try! For Shakespeare with a twist, start with Fool and then read The Serpent of Venice… and if those appeal to your sense of offbeat humor, you’ll end up wanting to read everything else in the author’s catalog of funny, weird, and wonderful books.

About the Author:

CMooreChristopher Moore is the author of eleven novels, including the international bestsellers, Lamb, A Dirty Job and You Suck. His latest novel is Fool, a retelling of King Lear from the perspective of Pocket, the Fool.

Chris was born in Toledo, Ohio and grew up in Mansfield, Ohio. His father was a highway patrolman and his mother sold major appliances at a department store. He attended Ohio State University and Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara. He moved to California when he was 19 years old and lived on the Central Coast until 2003, when he moved to Hawaii.

Before publishing his first novel, Practical Demonkeeping in 1992, he worked as a roofer, a grocery clerk, a hotel night auditor, and insurance broker, a waiter, a photographer, and a rock and roll DJ. Chris has drawn on all of these work experiences to create the characters in his books. When he’s not writing, Chris enjoys ocean kayaking, scuba diving, photography, and sumi-e ink painting. He divides his time between Hawaii and San Francisco.

Christopher Moore’s website: http://www.chrismoore.com/

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The details:

Title: The Serpent of Venice
Author: Christopher Moore
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication date: April 22, 2014
Length: 336 pages
Genre: Adult fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours

tlc logoFor further information, visit the author’s website or stop by TLC Book Tours to view other blog tour hosts.

Flashback Friday: Bloodsucking Fiends

It’s time, once again, for Flashback Friday…

Flashback Friday is a chance to dig deep in the darkest nooks of our bookshelves and pull out the good stuff from way back. As a reader, a blogger, and a consumer, I tend to focus on new, new, new… but what about the old favorites, the hidden gems? On Flashback Fridays, I want to hit the pause button for a moment and concentrate on older books that are deserving of attention.

If you’d like to join in, here are the Flashback Friday book selection guidelines:

  1. Has to be something you’ve read yourself
  2. Has to still be available, preferably still in print
  3. Must have been originally published 5 or more years ago

Other than that, the sky’s the limit! Join me, please, and let us all know: what are the books you’ve read that you always rave about? What books from your past do you wish EVERYONE would read? Pick something from five years ago, or go all the way back to the Canterbury Tales if you want. It’s Flashback Friday time!

My pick for this week’s Flashback Friday:

Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore

(published 1995)

From Goodreads:

Jody never asked to become a vampire. But when she wakes up under an alley Dumpster with a badly burned arm, an aching neck, superhuman strength, and a distinctly Nosferatuan thirst, she realizes the decision has been made for her. Making the transition from the nine-to-five grind to an eternity of nocturnal prowlings is going to take some doing, however, and that’s where C. Thomas Flood fits in. A would-be Kerouac from Incontinence, Indiana, Tommy (to his friends) is biding his time night-clerking and frozen-turkey bowling in a San Francisco Safeway. But all that changes when a beautiful undead redhead walks through the door … and proceeds to rock Tommy’s life — and afterlife — in ways he never imagined possible.

OK, I’ll just say right up front that I love absolutely everything by Christopher Moore. I’ve yet to read a book of his that didn’t make me choke on my coffee from laughing too hard.

This is not your average vampire book. No sparkles, no teen angst, no brooding. It’s laugh-out-loud funny (spit-out-your-coffee funny), and deserves a gold star for best use of San Francisco settings and lore in a way that’s totally off the wall. And if you like Bloodsucking Fiends, check out the sequels, You Suck and Bite Me.

So, what’s your favorite blast from the past? Leave a tip for your fellow booklovers, and share the wealth. It’s time to dust off our old favorites and get them back into circulation! 

Note from your friendly Bookshelf Fantasies host: To join in the Flashback Friday bloghop, post about a book you love on your blog, and share your link below. Don’t have a blog post to share? Then share your favorite oldie-but-goodie in the comments section. Jump in!