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Thursday, December 30, 2010

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: Practical Demonkeeping

TITLE: Practical Demonkeeping
AUTHOR: Christopher Moore
NARRATOR: Oliver Wyman
PUBLISHER: HarperAudio
DATE OF PUBLICATION: August 1, 2009 (first published 1992)
FORMAT: Unabridged CDs - 8 hours
GENRE: Fiction
ISBN: 978-0061770500


In Christopher Moore's ingenious debut novel, we meet one of the most memorably mismatched pairs in the annals of literature. The good-looking one is one-hundred-year-old ex-seminarian and "roads" scholar Travis O'Hearn. The green one is Catch, a demon with a nasty habit of eating most of the people he meets. Behind the fake Tudor fa├žade of Pine Cove, California, Catch sees a four-star buffet. Travis, on the other hand, thinks he sees a way of ridding himself of his toothy traveling companion. The winos, neo-pagans, and deadbeat Lotharios of Pine Cove, meanwhile, have other ideas. And none of them is quite prepared when all hell breaks loose.


After reading a more serious book, such as Memoirs of a Geisha, I like to balance it out with something a little more wacky and zany...enter Christopher Moore!

My massage therapist recommended Moore to me as an author that is very readable, whose books don't involve a lot of complex thoughts that could be forgotten if the book is read over long periods of time. I had lamented to her how much I missed reading adult literature for pleasure, and she suggested Moore books primarily because I could set them down and may not necessarily be able to pick it back up again for a while and I wouldn't have to go back 50 pages to re-read what had last happened to refresh my memory. She was right! Although it took me much longer than I would have like to read his books (pre-iPod), I was thrilled that I actually managed to squeeze in about ten minutes of reading a day!

Practical Demonkeeping is about a man named Travis who unknowingly summons a demon named Catch. As a result, Travis becomes his Master with one of the benefits being perpetual youth. Travis wants nothing more than to get rid of Catch, and his life revolves around trying to find a way to send catch back to where he came from him.

This was not my favourite Moore novel, but it was pretty good. Narrator, Oliver Wyman, is a pleasure to listen to.

MY RATING: 3.5 stars!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: Memoirs of a Geisha

TITLE: Memoirs of a Geisha
AUTHOR: Arthur Golden
NARRATOR: Bernadette Dunne
PUBLISHER: Random House Audio
DATE OF PUBLICATION: November 8, 2005 (first published 1997)
FORMAT: Unabridged CDs - 18 hours, 9 minutes
GENRE: Historical Fiction
ISBN: 978-0739321676


According to Arthur Golden's absorbing first novel, the word "geisha" does not mean "prostitute," as Westerners ignorantly assume--it means "artisan" or "artist." To capture the geisha experience in the art of fiction, Golden trained as long and hard as any geisha who must master the arts of music, dance, clever conversation, crafty battle with rival beauties, and cunning seduction of wealthy patrons. After earning degrees in Japanese art and history from Harvard and Columbia--and an M.A. in English--he met a man in Tokyo who was the illegitimate offspring of a renowned businessman and a geisha. This meeting inspired Golden to spend 10 years researching every detail of geisha culture, chiefly relying on the geisha Mineko Iwasaki, who spent years charming the very rich and famous. 

The result is a novel with the broad social canvas (and love of coincidence) of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen's intense attention to the nuances of erotic maneuvering. Readers experience the entire life of a geisha, from her origins as an orphaned fishing-village girl in 1929 to her triumphant auction of her mizuage (virginity) for a record price as a teenager to her reminiscent old age as the distinguished mistress of the powerful patron of her dreams. We discover that a geisha is more analogous to a Western "trophy wife" than to a prostitute--and, as in Austen, flat-out prostitution and early death is a woman's alternative to the repressive, arcane system of courtship. In simple, elegant prose, Golden puts us right in the tearoom with the geisha; we are there as she gracefully fights for her life in a social situation where careers are made or destroyed by a witticism, a too-revealing (or not revealing enough) glimpse of flesh under the kimono, or a vicious rumor spread by a rival "as cruel as a spider." 

Golden's web is finely woven, but his book has a serious flaw: the geisha's true romance rings hollow--the love of her life is a symbol, not a character. Her villainous geisha nemesis is sharply drawn, but she would be more so if we got a deeper peek into the cause of her motiveless malignity--the plight all geisha share. Still, Golden has won the triple crown of fiction: he has created a plausible female protagonist in a vivid, now-vanished world, and he gloriously captures Japanese culture by expressing his thoughts in authentic Eastern metaphors.


This book by Arthur Golden has been on my "To Be Read" list for a long time! I thought the narrator, Bernadette Dunne, did a beautiful job. I think I enjoyed this book much more hearing it than reading it, as I could hear the names and words spoken in the way that they were meant to be. I have always been fascinated with other cultures, so this book was a real treat.

The book is about a young girl, Sayuri, who is sold into slavery to a geisha house in Gion, Japan. As she gets older, she must learn the geisha ways and traditions of the geisha, including: the tea ceremony, how to wear the kimono, the elaborate hair and make-up, the dancing.

The writing was beautiful, and I was totally captivated by this story.

My rating: 4.5 stars!!

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