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'Bad Dates' Provides Some Good Laugh Therapy

September 03, 1998

Take two "More Bad Dates" stories and call me in the morning! Having devoured Carole Markin's new book, "More Bad Dates and Other Tales From the Dark Side of Love," I would prescribe any of her wacky, hilarious, insightful tales as a sure-fire tonic for the heart, mind and spirit.

Single or married, young or old, male or female, people will resonate to these laugh-out-loud true accounts (confessions) from real folks from all walks of life and locations. No matter how good or bad you may feel, you'll feel better after reading about the mortician who took his date to pick up a dead body, or the woman's date who stole hubcaps and made her drive the getaway car, or the man's date whose dog dropped dead when he petted it --or the minister who handed his date a Xeroxed list of the 10 points of his "perfect woman" (which included big breasts) and proceeded to evaluate her. Not to mention the pharmacist who dates as Elvis Presley.

Together, all of Ms. Markin's stories present an amazingly funny pageant of the human dating and mating condition.

JEANNE LUCAS

West Hills

*

Nearly every paragraph of "Chocolate Jesus," Stephan Jaramillo's second novel, made me laugh. The Rev. Willie Domingo leads a most unusual church--the Church of the Returning Vegetarian Christ. The faith embraces vegetarianism and physical fitness, operates a radio station (KGOD) and convinces its congregation that the end of the world is coming soon.

The reverend is quite unhappy with the chocolate Jesuses produced by Bea's Candies. The owners, Wilbur Bea and his elderly mother, and their new employee, Sydney Corbet, have their own reasons for producing the special chocolates.

Sydney's writings in his journal and his letters to Mrs. Paul's Seafood, the chief of police and Dan Rather are amusing, the works of a twisted mind. I was truly sorry to see this book end. It was so much fun being transported to a strange town of truly weird characters.

SUSAN L. BARRETT

Rossmoor

*

Written almost 60 years ago, Antoine de Saint-Exupery's "Wind, Sand and Stars" captures our imaginations and carries us back in time. Saint-Exupery's vivid descriptions of the work of early airmail pilots in Africa and South America make us part of an exotic time and place long gone. He makes us long to hear more stories of early morning flights in bad weather, of what it feels like to land a plane in sand, and of his thoughts during long night hours around a desert campfire. I was born far too late to know him, yet his writing has made me a devoted friend.

STEPHANIE COOLEY

Ontario

"Days of Cain," by J.R. Dunn, is ostensibly a science fiction novel about time travel. But the reader soon discovers it is that and much more.

Gaspar James is a guardian of history (called "the Moiety"). One of his former trainees, a woman named Alma Lewin, has put together a team of renegades. Instead of "protecting the integrity of the Moiety," which is their sworn duty, they are working to change it--by stopping Hitler. Their target? Auschwitz. James is sent to find Lewin and stop her.

This is by no means a trivialization of the Holocaust for the sake of fiction. Rather, it is a harrowing look inside the camps and a thoughtful discourse on whether, given the ability, one should go back and change past events, even the Holocaust. Dunn gives arguments for both sides of the question but offers no easy answers. He leaves the decision to the reader.

ALYSSA LUPO

North Hollywood

*

Is there anyone out there tired and fed up with explicit sex and unlimited graphic descriptions of it in so many books nowadays? I am. Do you wish A.J. Cronin was still alive to write more of his inspiring stories?

Boy, do I have a book for you! It has no frequent four-letter words except "ain't" and maybe "love." It's "At Home in Mitford," by Jan Karon, who writes humorously and knowingly about Father Tim, a caring, sixtysomething minister in a small mountain town who has a pony-sized dog called Barnabas and a red-haired freckle-faced boy named Dooley. Father Tim's life is complicated by a gorgeous divorcee who moves next door to him and immediately borrows a cup of sugar.

A bit like Andy and Opie Taylor's Mayberry, Mitford has a Main Street Grill, the local grocery store, the Lord's Chapel and a popular barbershop. "The little town you want to call your own" is alive with interesting people, such as Sadie, the 90-year-old village matriarch, and a scrappy housekeeper named Puny. Father Tim has doubts and thorny personal decisions to make: Is he really, finally able to find the perfect woman and true love at his age? If you're looking for an uplifting, sensitive and well-written story, here it is.

And thank God there are three sequels: "These High Green Hills," "A Light in the Window" and "Out to Canaan."

ETTA ALEXANDER

Los Angeles

* What's that book in your beach bag (or carry-on, or on your night table)? Is it any good? Send us a review! We're especially interested in hearing about fiction that you don't find reviewed in The Times, but feel free to send us your opinions of whatever it is you are reading. Keep the reviews short (200 words, tops) and send them (with your phone number) to READERS REVIEWS, Life and Style, The Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles CA 90053, or fax them to (213) 237-0732. We'll print the most interesting ones every other week. Sorry, but no submissions can be returned.

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