Category Archives: humor

Exotic Music of the Belly Dancer

Exotic Music of the Belly Dancer
by Brian Sweany
Published by The Writer’s Coffee Shop
254 pages
Genre: literature; coming of age
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
5 / 5

Yeah, the title. I hear what you’re saying, and I had a similar reaction. Huh? That was the best they could do?

The thing is, it works. Everything in this book works.

Welcome to the 1980s, complete with occasional cultural references, and the life of Hank Fitzpatrick. As Hank tells us his story, he takes us back through his life, never flinching from the ugly or unseemly. The fun begins with the opening words:

My morning gets off to its usual start. I wake up. Masturbate. Eat some bacon and eggs. Drink a cup of heavily creamed and sugared coffee. Have a frank discussion with my father about his testicles …

Go ahead. Pretend you didn’t laugh. We both know you’re lying.

Hank takes off from there, recalling a godfather whose legacy is dirty and cruel, a mother whose delight in her family is offset by her reaction to a tragedy, and a father. Oh, a father. Hank’s dad is the dad we all want, a man whose devotion to his family is beyond compare, who teaches his son by example and by proclamation, and whose presence in his family’s life is vital and dynamic.

Hank doesn’t so much aspire to be his father, or even to live up to him, as he does to have as much fun as he can. This includes copious amounts of alcohol and sex. In high school, Hank falls in love, and his devotion to this girl is as intense as that he shares with his friends and, yes, family. Hank’s coterie of chums does not vary; his boyhood friends are his friends into adulthood. He may all but set up a turnstile into his bedroom, but he’s actually a pretty devoted man. The high school girlfriend comes and goes in his life, perhaps because Hank is averse to change. As he says at the start of the book, his days take a predictable turn. He finds comfort in that.

But life is about as predictable as a horse race. You absolutely cannot rely on anything except change, and that’s where Hank struggles to adapt. He copes by indulging in booze and broads, leaning on his friends for help. Many times while reading this, I wish I had a Hank in my life. He gives as good as he gets, even if there were times I wanted to shake him. He made me laugh and he made me cry, he made me cringe and he made me fist pump with joy. His voyage from boy to man takes him all over the place emotionally, and he takes us right along with him.

You will need to fortify yourself with a box of tissues, because there will be times you cry. You also may find yourself gobsmacked with shock at some of the things that happen. But isn’t that what happens in life?

Read this book. Then come back and thank me for telling you about it.

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Filed under coming of age, humor, literature, run don't walk and read this book

Etiquette for the End of the World

Etiquette for the End of the World
by Jeanne Martinet
Published by Liza Dawson Associates
278 pages
Available on
3.5 / 5 cupcakes

For some women, finding themselves on the cusp of forty, unmarried, childless, and recently dumped by both boyfriend and employer is akin to the apocalypse. And for Tess Eliot, it sure does seem that way. When she is hired by WOOSH, World Organization for Omniscient Solstice Harbingers, to write a book, Tess thinks her luck is starting to turn. Except for one teensy little problem. The WOOSH’ers believe the supposed Mayan prediction that the world will end on December 21, 2012, and the book Tess is to write is about how we should behave toward one another when the world ends.

This silly sounding premise might make you leery to read this book, but you should not worry. Etiquette for the End of the World is charming, entertaining, and humorous. WOOSH may want a book about the end of the world, but they want a funny book about the end of the world, and Tess is just the person to write it. Naturally snarky, she uses her talents to offer up a humorous take on etiquette as the world ends.

She also meets Peter, a George Clooney lookalike who charms her in spite of a nagging sense that he is too good to be true. Peter is a fundraiser for WOOSH, and clearly attracted to Tess. When she meets him at the bar she frequents, Richie, the bartender, approaches Peter with no small amount of suspicion. Maybe he really is too good to be true. Richie, on the other hand, is solid. He counsels Tess on her romantic and professional failings, and when she starts to suspect that there is something afoot at WOOSH, he supports her concerns. Too bad he’s gay, because Richie could be the perfect guy.

This is a romantic comedy of sorts. Parts of it are quite funny, and Tess engages in a couple of romances. She also has to make peace with her brother, Stuart, to whom the family beach house and money were left when their father died. Tess doesn’t understand why he won’t split the inheritance with her, but Stuart has his reasons.

The mystery angle of the book will spark your interest. What exactly is going on with WOOSH? Is there something nefarious happening, or is it merely a group of quirky fatalists? As Tess begins to dig into WOOSH, she uncovers information that leads her to believe the former, and we become curious right along with her.

While this is a pleasant little book, it is not something that will stick with you after you’ve read it. There are problems: some of the things that bother Tess about Peter are never explained, and the ending is far too neat and tidy. Still, though, it’s a sweet story that you will enjoy reading. Who knew the end of the world would be so funny?

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Filed under humor, it's not exactly the end of the world as we know it, romance