Thursday, December 27, 2007

Starcross by Philip Reeve & David Wyatt (kid's book)

This book is terrific! It is so funny and entertaining. It sort of reminds me of a cross between the magical air of The Invention of Hugo Cabret and the quirky strangeness of a Jasper Fforde novel. It's the second in a series (which I didn't know when I picked it up), and now I've got the first one on my list to read as well.

Before I Die by Jenny Downham (a book for older teens and up)

This book, about a British teenager who only has months to live (she has leukemia), has been getting rave reviews. I thought it was okay, but I didn't think it was *great.* And I swore to myself that I wouldn't cry at the end, but of course I did.

Seeker by Jack McDevitt

Another rousing space odyssey/mystery by Jack McDevitt, my current favorite SF author. This one focuses on the fate of a mysterious colony that was lost nine thousand years prior to when the story takes place. I enjoyed it, but I must confess that the ending was disappointing to me -- the villian seemed too contrived, and detracted from the overall story of the lost colony. But maybe that's just me.

Running to the Mountain by Jon Katz (memoir)

I really enjoy Jon Katz's writing. He is thoughtful and interesting and I love his honesty and occasional crankiness. This book is an account of the time he spent alone (with his dogs) in a remote part of New York State, away from his wife and daughter and their life in suburban New Jersey.
"I'm not nearly as afraid of dying as I am of the hinges inside my mind and soul rusting closed. I am desperate to keep them open, because I think that if they close, that's one's first death, the loss of hope, curiosity, and possibility, the spiritual death. After that, it seems to me, the second one is just a formality." (p. 11)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Bourne Ultimatum (movie)

This movie rocks! It's an action flick with a brain. And Matt Damon's not bad to look at either. :)

Now Face to Face by Karleen Koen

Ugh. I'm glad I am done with this trilogy. By the end, I was just slogging through because I was curious to see what happened to the characters. The author kept changing viewpoints every few pages so I could never really get into a character's head, because by the time I did, she changed the viewpoint. And there was way too much court intrigue, melodrama and mishegas. And way too many bad things happened to this one person, ostensibly the main character of the book. It got to the point where I would just roll my eyes because the level of horrible things she had to deal with got to be kind of unrealistic. And frankly, by the end of this loooooong book, I didn't like ANY of the main characters! At all! So I really didn't care what happened to them.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cauldron by Jack McDevitt

A very enjoyable, intelligent sci-fi book. I really do enjoy Jack McDevitt's writing.

The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex (kid's book)

A hilarious, sweet book. Thanks to Michelle C for recommending it. It's a bit hard to describe, though... so I'll just quote from the book flap.
"Twelve-year-old Gratuity 'Tip' Tucci is assigned to write five pages on 'The True Meaning of Smekday' for the National Time Capsule contest, and she's not sure where to begin: when her mom started telling everyone about the messages aliens were sending through a mole on the back of her neck? Maybe on Christmas Even, when huge, bizarre spaceships descended to Earth, and aliens -- called the Boov -- abducted her mother? Or when the Boov declared Earth a colony, renamed it 'Smekland' (in honor of glorious Captain Smek) and forced all Americans to relocate to Florida via rocketpod?"

Friday, December 14, 2007

Through a Glass Darkly by Karleen Koen

Jeez! This book was kind of depressing! It's a historical novel set in the early 1700s. Very well-written and interesting, but practically everyone dies, and not in a pretty way either. I kept reading it because the writing is really good, but every time someone else bit the dust I wondered who would be left standing at the end.

Still, the story was compelling enough to make me check out the sequel, which is another fat book called Now Face to Face, so I can find out what happens to the people who actually managed to survive the first book.

I might try reading something a little lighter in between though.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Cures for Heartbreak by Margo Rabb (teen novel)

Well-written and interesting.

Polaris by Jack McDevitt

Very enjoyable mystery/science fiction.

The Design of Future Things by Donald A. Norman

I have thought Donald A. Norman is really neat ever since I read The Psychology of Everyday Things back in grad school. This book is an interesting companion to that one. In this book, Norman stresses that technology and human beings have to work out better ways of communicating with each other. He writes: "as machines start to take over more and more... they need to be socialized; they need to improve the way they communicate and interact and to recognize their limitations. Only then can they become truly useful."
And, this is SO important in my opinion, "we must design our technologies for the way people actually behave, not the way we would like them to behave."
If you like thinking about human-machine interfaces or user-interface design (or even if you've just had a really bad experience with a piece of technology) you might get a kick out of this book!

Waitress (movie)

Just saw this cute, quirky movie and really enjoyed it. The main character is in an unhappy marriage and spends her time dreaming up new pies to bake. She calls them things like "I hate my husband pie" and "Bad baby pie" (this is after she finds out she is pregnant with an unwanted child). For more info about the movie check out IMDB at

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Dark Angels by Karleen Koen

A very satisfying historical novel set in England in the reign of Charles II (late 1600s). I highly enjoyed it. This is the "prequel" to Through a Glass Darkly, which I have now added to my long list of things to read.
If you were a fan of The Other Boleyn Girl or if you enjoy historical fiction, you should definitely give this a chance. It's one that I will be recommending a lot.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Omega by Jack McDevitt

What a fantastic sci fi adventure. I've never read anything by Jack McDevitt before but now I am planning to track down everything he's ever written. He not only writes interesting SF but he actually puts time and thought into character development, so that I feel invested in the fates of even the minor characters. I read this book on the train and barely noticed the time passing. In fact, I was annoyed when I got to my station because I had to stop reading long enough to get off the train and navigate to my next destination. Now THAT'S the mark of a good book.

Oh yes, and I am definitely in the "infatuation" phase of the Seven Steps of Falling in Love with an Author, as described by the folks at Unshelved...

T is for Trespass by Sue Grafton

Ah, one of the great benefits of working in a public library. I snarfed the new Sue Grafton book practically out from under the nose of Pat D, our book linker, and spirited it home last night to read it. It was another satisfying trip into the world of Kinsey Millhone, Private Investigator. If you're a fan of Sue Grafton's work I think you will like this one.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen

Beautiful writing, but kind of a depressing book. I kept waiting for things to get better but they never did... bad things just kept piling onto each other.

By the way, this book is a fictionalized account of how the Influenza Pandemic of 1918 affected one small town in Washington State. For a terrific, gripping nonfiction account of this Pandemic, I highly recommend New York Times science writer Gina Kolata's "Flu : the story of the great influenza pandemic of 1918 and the search for the virus that caused it." This was a really fascinating book.

Dauntless (The Lost Fleet, Book 1) by Jack Campbell

Military SF. Not too bad, but I wasn't really in the mood.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Options: The secret life of Steve Jobs (a parody by Fake Steve Jobs)

This was a pretty amusing (and fast) read. I enjoyed it. The book originated as a blog - - which is still being published.

Luna by Julie Ann Peters (teen novel)

An interesting book written from the perspective of a girl whose older brother is transgendered -- he thinks he is a girl trapped in a boy's body. This was a National Book Award finalist. It was good, but I liked Peters' latest, Between Mom and Jo, better.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Wood Wife by Terri Windling

I think I would have enjoyed this book more if I'd been in a different mood.

Define "Normal" by Julie Anne Peters (teen novel)

I liked this book about two very different high school girls who slowly learn to become friends and help each other through difficult times.

Family of Strangers by Susan Beth Pfeffer (teen novel)

A well-written novel about a dysfunctional family and how one of its members tries to get help.

Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library by Don Borchert

A funny look at life in a small branch library in California. Many of the situations that Borchert describes will ring bells with other public librarians. It's a good read.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Between Mom and Jo by Julie Ann Peters (teen novel)

Wow, what a great book! Thirteen-year-old Nick is heartbroken when his biological mom and his mom's partner, Jo, break up. During the course of the book Nick tries to figure out where everything went wrong, who he is and how he can deal with this new life. This is a powerful and moving, well-written book. I enjoyed it very much.

Stick to Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain! by Scott Adams

A collection of very entertaining, short essays on whatever topics Adams feels like writing about on any given day, ranging from "How to dance" to "Chinese Striptease Funeral" and beyond. The book is collected from entries in Adams' blog - I really enjoyed it.  

The Rejection Collection Vol. 2: The Cream of the Crap by Matthew Diffee

More cartoons that didn't make it into The New Yorker -- not necessarily because they weren't funny enough, but because they were too un-PC or too gross. (My kind of humor. I found most of the cartoons in here to be screamingly funny.)

The Professor's Daughter by Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert (graphic novel)

Entertaining... but I had a little trouble following the story. It could be that there's something wrong with me rather than the book. I did enjoy the illustrations and drawings.

Milk Eggs Vodka: Grocery Lists Lost and Found, by Bill Keaggy

Yes, an entire book consisting of pictures of old grocery lists that people tossed to the ground when they were done with them. I enjoyed the first few pages, but then it got a bit old, and some of the author's snarky comments were kind of annoying. This is a great book to borrow from a library!

It Takes a Worried Man by Brendan Halpin

Loved this book. It's a memoir, based on a journal that Halpin kept during the year his wife battled with breast cancer. Honest, sad, brutal and funny. I  also really enjoyed Halpin's memoir of teaching, which is called Losing My Faculties. If you haven't read this guy's nonfiction work, you should definitely try it - it's quite powerful stuff.

Cottage for Sale, Must be Moved by Kate Whouley

I enjoyed this memoir of a Cape Cod woman's purchase of a small cottage, which she then proceeded to move 20-odd miles down the road to join onto her existing house. It is quite a good look at all the trials and tribulations that go into tackling a major building project like this. If you enjoyed Tracy Kidder's House, you will probably enjoy this as well.

Friday, November 09, 2007

How Ya Like Me Now by Brendan Halpin (teen book)

Very, very good book. When Eddie's dad died last year his mom fell apart, and got hooked on oxycontin. Eddie's barely been managing to keep things together. When his mom finally gets busted and sent to rehab, Eddie gets sent to live with his aunt, uncle and cousin Alex. This sounds like a grim tale and in many ways it is, but Halpin writes with such humor, honesty and authenticity that it's a hard book to put down. By the end, both Eddie and his cousin have learned a lot about how to deal with life. Note: I also very much enjoyed Halpin's previous teen book, Donorboy. And he's written a couple of memoirs that are also good.

Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik (book 4 in the Temeraire series)

I wasn't that big of a fan of Black Powder War, the third book in this series, but boy, this one really kept me riveted. If you haven't yet been introduced to this series, do yourself a favor and pick up the first one -- His Majesty's Dragon. In this alternate universe, set in the 1800s during the Napoleonic Wars, everything is much the same as in our universe, except there are dragons -- and the dragons are part of the military. I don't want to say more except that I highly recommend this series.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Goldilocks and the pile of library books

No, that's not the title of an actual book. It's how I felt last night as I tried to find a book that would catch my interest.
Repossessed, by A. M. Jenkins (teen). Rejected (though I did skim it very rapidly to see if I was missing anything.)
The Falconer's Knot by Mary Hoffman (teen). Rejected -- set in 13th century Italy and I just didn't feel like slogging through a period book right now.
The Spell Book of Listen Taylor by Jaclyn Moriarty (teen). Rejected -- I could swear I tried to read this book before (and didn't like it then either). I've liked other things by this author, but this one left me cold.
Why We Read What We Read by Lisa Adams and John Heath (nonfiction). Rejected. The book was too heavy and uncomfortable to hold, and I think the authors could have done with a little more editing. I would have read this if it was a magazine article but it just didn't do anything for me as a 340-page (heavy) book.

Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

This is a really interesting look at happiness and the human brain. It's accessible, well-written, scholarly and funny, all at the same time. I really enjoyed it and it gave me a lot of food for thought.

Millicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Yee

Recommended to me by Diane D. What a fun book! Millicent Min may be only 11 years old, but she has an astronomical IQ and is going into her last year of high school. Being really smart isn't the same thing as having high emotional intelligence... and through the course of the summer, as Millicent finds her first real friend and tries to tutor the stupid Stanford Wong so he won't fail English, she learns and grows a lot. This is a funny, well-written book! Am looking forward to reading the sequels.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Lost Light by Michael Connelly

A very satisfying thriller, one that kept me guessing until the end. (It did get kind of violent at the end but I skipped that part.) This is one of the Harry Bosch series that Connelly writes about a cop in the Los Angeles police department.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Someday this pain will be useful to you, by Peter Cameron

Eighteen-year-old James Sveck lives a privileged life in New York City but is still unhappy and filled with existential anxiety. He can't relate to people very well, especially people his own age, and he is not sure what he wants to do with his life. His closest friend is probably his grandmother. During the course of the book we watch James try to come to grips with his life, and realize that he must make certain compromises if he wants to cultivate relationships with other people.
This is a well-written book, but I found the protagonist to be a bit too precious and precocious. For me, there wasn't enough humor in the book to balance out the extreme levels of teen angst.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Fire Within by Chris D'Lacey

This is the first in a trilogy. I liked the writing, but I just couldn't get into the book, and for a really stupid reason. I didn't like one of the names of the characters! So every time I started really getting into the book, this character's name would pop up and it would drag me out of the reality of the book as I thought to myself "Dang, I hate that name."   So, I had to give up. Oh well.

Surf's Up (movie)

I loved Surf's Up! It is a clever cartoon -- the kind that kids will enjoy, but adults might enjoy even more. It's a "mockumentary" about a penguin named Cody who wants to be a surfer. If you enjoyed Best in Show you will definitely like this as well. Give it a try.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Scratch (documentary film)

What an interesting documentary. It traces the history of "turntablism" -- the art of making beats by "scratching" a record back and forth under a turntable's needle -- from its beginnings to the present. A surprising number of the people interviewed in this film got their first exposure to "scratching" when they saw it being done at Herbie Hancock's "Rockit" performance at the 1984 Grammys. I myself remember how awesome that was. If only I had channeled my admiration for scratching into something positive... then I could have been the "Scratchin' Librarian." That would be cool. (Or maybe just uncomfortable.) Anyhoo... this is a very fun documentary. I love Netflix -- imagine trying to find this at your neighborhood Blockbuster? Forget about it.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Look me in the Eye by John Elder Robison

This wonderfully-written memoir is fantastic - by turns hilarious and sad. Robison, an "Aspergian" (as he calls himself), grew up at a time when Asperger's Syndrome was not known or diagnosed. For most of his life he wondered what was wrong with him, that he could not connect with or make friends with people. During his twenties, he worked as a sound engineer for bands such as KISS, and his account of that time is quite interesting. Finally, in his 40s, someone suggested that he might have Asperger's. Learning that his quirks and idiosyncracies had an actual diagnosis helped Robison realize that he was not alone. He has also developed a lot of good coping strategies and has painstakingly taught himself to interact more successfully with people. Interestingly, he theorizes that as he learned how to interact better with people, he lost some of his savant-like abilities to look at machinery and circuits and understand how they worked. (If Robison's story sounds a bit familiar, that's because he is the older brother of Augusten Burroughs, author of Running with Scissors.)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Babymouse: Skater Girl by Jennifer and Matthew Holm

As usual, Babymouse rocks my world. This time she wants to become an Olympic-class ice skater. But is she up to the challenge? It means no more cupcakes(!), and no more after-school fun skating on the pond with best friend Wilson and the gang, because she'll be too busy practicing.
You'll have to read the book to find out the rest of the story, 'cause I ain't telling. Babymouse: Skater Girl is available now, in a library near you (in the kid's section).

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Grail Bird by Tim Gallagher

What a fantastic book! This is an entertaining, well-written non-fiction account of the author's search for ivory-billed woodpeckers in the swampy bayous of Arkansas. Ivory-bills have long been considered an extinct species by ornithologists. Gallagher and some colleagues are convinced they've seen ivory-bills. But have they? The story of their current-day search for ivory-bills is interspersed with snippets of history about the ivory-bills descent into extinction (and boy, was it helped into extinction by mankind; we seem to have a strange need to shoot everything we see, *especially* if it's almost extinct).
Highly readable, interesting and enjoyable! Thanks to Bob N for recommending this to me, after I made him check out Kingbird Highway by Kenn Kaufmann.

The Spellkey by Ann Downer

Thanks to Jessica B for recommending this young adult fantasy book to me. I enjoyed it. It is not a new book -- it was published in 1987 -- but I had never heard about it till Jessica told me about it.

Hero by Perry Moore

This young adult novel is entertaining and interesting. It definitely kept my attention!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Houston, we have a problem

Hi, my name is Mary and I just discovered that I may have a problem. I now have so many piles and shelves of unread books scattered through my house that it just took me 10 minutes to locate a book I knew I had bought -- not only because I had to go into every room in the house, but also because I kept getting distracted by all the OTHER great books I came across during my search. Sigh. If only I could get the cat to go out and earn a living wage so that I could stay home and catch up on my reading...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

Very funny and enjoyable!

D. A. by Connie Willis

Not a bad little novella from Connie Willis, but not her best effort either. She's turned to more lightweight stuff lately. I still enjoy her meatier stuff more, like Doomsday Book and Passage.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The River of Doubt by Candice Millard

Last night I finished this nonfiction account of Theodore Roosevelt's journey down an uncharted river of the Amazon. Wait! Where are you going? Come back here and listen! Are you one of those people who still thinks that nonfiction is dry and boring? Then you haven't read this book. It was so engaging and interesting and well-written (and such an amazing tale of a harrowing journey that I wondered how any of them made it out alive) that I couldn't put it down! I actually resorted to the "Mary-gulp" method of reading, where I get so excited about what's going to happen next that I skim the book more than I should. (It gets me to the end faster, but it sure doesn't help my retention rate after I close the book.)
Thanks to Kim and Diane for recommending this book -- I really liked it.

The Bourne Ultimatum (movie)

I forgot to mention that I went to see this movie with my friend Janet last weekend. I had enjoyed both of the other Bourne movies and was expecting to like this one too -- and I was not disappointed. Matt Damon makes an excellent tortured action hero, in my opinion. Plus, there was violence, but not too much blood and gore, which means I only had to clutch at Janet 3 times during the movie, which is not bad considering how much clutching and eye-hiding I have done at other movies with more violent content.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Kingbird Highway by Kenn Kaufmann

I loved this book! It's a memoir of Kenn Kaufmann's time on the road in 1973, hitchhiking around the U.S. trying to see as many different bird species as he could in one year (birders call this a "Big Year."  He was still a teenager. People who don't bird (and yes, it's a verb to those who do it) are usually a bit surprised to realize that there is a very thriving birding subculture, and this book is terrific at evoking what the world of birding was like in the early 1970s. Kaufmann (who has since written several field guides to North American birds and wildlife) is an excellent writer and he makes birding sound fun even to people who don't think they would enjoy it. Here's part of his description of a "Big Day" he did with some other birders in Texas (a Big Day means trying to find as many different bird species as you can in one long day, beginning before dawn and ending no later than midnight. It's a very active pursuit, as you can see from the following!):
"Pulling up to the Texas City Dike, we leaped out of the car like gunslingers, binoculars blazing. In a matter of moments we had checked off two dozen new birds. Two Common Loons floated low in the water, like enemy submarines. Several White Pelicans and a flock of Eared Grebes were valuable bonuses. Among the Ring-billed gulls and Royal Terns we picked out two Herring Gulls, a Caspian Tern, and a Sandwich Tern. In less than five minutes we were back in the car driving away."  (pp. 179-180)
See what I mean? He's a great writer, makes it exciting, and frankly, it's also cool just to read along and get familiar with all the weird bird names. (Eared Grebe?!)

She Got Up Off The Couch by Haven Kimmel

This is a terrific memoir of a girl growing up in a small Midwestern town, whose life is constrained by the borders of the town but not by her imagination and her adventures. It ranges from laugh-out-loud funny to downright sad. I enjoyed every last word of it. If you liked Bill Bryson's Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid or if you enjoy reading memoirs of growing up in quieter times (but no less complicated times), you might want to give this book a try.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume, edited by Jennifer O'Connell

Women of a certain age (like me) grew up reading Judy Blume's books as comfort against the raging storms of adolescence. The women who wrote the essays in this book are honest about the painful days of being a teenager, and also talk about how much Judy Blume helped them survive. If you grew up loving Judy Blume, if her books spoke to you when you were a young girl or a teenager, then I think you will also enjoy this collection of essays.

Dog Days by Jon Katz

Katz's latest book talks about life on Bedlam Farm in upstate New York, where he lives with his menagerie (including an overly-friendly cow named Elvis). I am not sure he'd be happy with the comparison, but I sort of think of him as writing in the style of a modern-day James Herriot. He writes about his life on the farm, observes his animals with wit and humor, and talks openly about the physical pains and problems that plague him as he gets older, and how he deals with them. The book was both funny and touching. And I always enjoy reading Katz' insights -- not only about dogs, but about the other animals on his farm, and also about himself.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

I enjoyed this engrossing book. It sort of reminded me of Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier -- it's a great old-fashioned gothic novel, replete with strange summonses from the country, odd stories, brooding heroines, and just enough suspense to keep me reading, without too much suspense that I felt the need to read the last few pages first! I recommend this book. It's a fun and entertaining read.

How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman, MD

A fascinating and gripping book. We hope that doctors are "superhuman" and know more about things than we do, but it would be better for everyone if we all realize that doctors are just as human as the rest of us are, they screw up just as often, and they certainly don't know everything. Like the rest of us, doctors also have biases (some that they may not even be aware of), and they may also have hidden agendas. Scary stuff, but it's good to have it out in the open, because that's the only way we can address it and try to make things better. Expecting our doctors to be infallible superhumans only sets them up to fail, and sets us up for disappointment.

"Uncertainty creeps into medical practice through every pore. Whether a physician is defining a disease, making a diagnosis, selecting a procedure... he is walking on very slippery terrain. It is difficult for non-physicians, and for many physicians, to appreciate how complex these tasks are, how poorly we understand them, and how easy it is for honest people to come to different conclusions." (David M Eddy, professor of health policy at Duke Unversity, quoted on pp 151-152)

So what can we do about this? Groopman suggests: "Informed choice means, in part, learning how different doctors think about a particular medical problem and how science, tradition, financial incentives, and personal bias mold that thinking. There is no single source for all of this information... so a patient and family should ask the doctor whether a proposed treatment is standard or whether different specialists recommend different approaches, and why." (p 233)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The New Work of Dogs: Tending to Life, Love, and Family by Jon Katz

Another very interesting and readable book about dogs and their changing roles in our lives. Katz interviews several people in his hometown of Montclair, NJ about their relationships with their dogs, from the "Divorced Dogs Club" (women whose dogs have helped them get through divorce) to the woman whose Welsh corgi keeps her company and comforts her as she battles cancer, to the young boy who wants a "tough" dog to help him feel tougher on the streets. Katz treats all his subjects (including the dogs) with compassion and understanding. I enjoyed this book.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Ghost Brigade and Old Man's War by John Scalzi

Two great military sci-fi books by Scalzi! Really glad I stumbled upon him. If you are a fan of military SF (think Lois McMaster Bujold, David Weber, even some early Heinlein) then you are in for a treat with this series.  Old Man's War is the first in the series, but it's the one I actually read the last -- I don't think you need to read them in chronological order, if you don't want to. Highly enjoyable.

The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett

I have enjoyed Ann Patchett's writing since I read Bel Canto a couple of years ago. I found this book (her first) at a yard sale and it sat, unread, on my shelf for a couple of years till I finally pulled it out the other day. I really enjoyed it. Patchett truly has a way with words. If you are a fan of Anne Tyler or Elizabeth Berg or Alice Hoffman, I think you would enjoy this book as well.

Katz on Dogs: A Commonsense Guide to Training and Living with Dogs by Jon Katz

Those who know me well know of my desire to have a dog, but so far this has been thwarted both by the fact that I am already owned by a strong-willed cat, and also that I can't take a dog to work with me. That doesn't mean that I can't read books about dogs and dream, though.
What I found most interesting is Katz' assertion that, when choosing a training method for your dog, you have to consider not only what is best for your dog, but what is best for you as well. Human beings are remarkably consistent in our inconsistency, and this confuses dogs, so we need to find ways to make ourselves more consistent in what we ask from our dogs.
Jon Katz has written an excellent, practical, down-to-earth book about dogs and humans and our relationships to each other. This book was very well-written and enjoyable. I look forward to reading more of his work.

Here if You Need Me by Kate Braestrup

This book's been getting a lot of press lately, and for good reason -- it's really good. Kate Braestrup's life changed unexpectedly when her husband died in a car crash. This memoir chronicles the years after his death, during which she continued to raise their four young children while attending seminary to become a minister. Her story is interspersed with interesting anecdotes from her current job, as chaplain for the Maine game warden service, and her thoughts on how differently people perceive religion and God. I very much enjoyed this book, and would recommend it for anyone; however, those who've enjoyed Anne Lamott's books on religion and spirituality would probably especially enjoy this.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Act of God by Susan R. Sloan

Wow, this was a terrific legal thriller. I was really impressed. Susan Sloan's writing, her insights into characters, and the surprises she pulls out of her hat at the end of her books are amazing. Why have I never heard of this woman before? Highly recommended.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Wild Fire by Nelson DeMille

This book scared me. FBI agent John Corey must try to foil a plot in which some Americans want to detonate nuclear bombs on American soil, to provoke the U.S. to retaliate on all Middle-Eastern countries by launching a full-scale nuclear attack.
Frankly, I got so freaked out by the whole concept that I skipped right to the end just to make sure the plot had failed, and then I tossed the book aside. Yes, I'm a wussy. So what. 

Fox Evil by Minette Walters

This woman knows how to write psychological thrillers. It was really hard to put down. I highly recommend this one, as well as her latest book, which is called The Devil's Feather.

The Sharing Knife: Legacy (book 2) by Lois McMaster Bujold

What is this?! Lois McMaster Bujold all of a sudden starts peppering her books with sex scenes? Oh, wait a second - that's not what I expect from the woman who brought us the excellent Miles Vorkosigan military-science-fiction series. But I forgot -she has decided she's bored with Miles and now she's writing this new fantasy series, which I guess is okay as fantasy series go, but it's NOT a Miles Vorkosigan novel!

Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff

Hmm. I must say I liked Matt Ruff's earlier books better than this one, his latest. However, it was definitely interesting. I'm not sure I could describe it, though. Booklist gave it a starred review, if that means anything to you. You can read more about it (including reviews) at -- I have no more to say!

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (Fantasy)

This guy definitely knows how to turn a phrase, and I was very impressed by his inventive use of curse words. But I have to say, the way in which he kept jumping back and forth from distant past to the present, and then back to the near past, made this book a little more difficult to read than I thought it needed to be. Lynch was, I'm sure, trying to be clever -- but I just wanted a good escapist yarn and I didn't want to have to work that hard to get it!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Territory by Emma Bull

What if magic worked in the Old West? An interesting and enjoyable read - Emma Bull is a good writer. I really liked the main female character - would have liked to see more of her. I'll be interested to see if Emma Bull writes any more books with these characters -- the way the book ended, it seems that more books could definitely be written.

Monday, August 06, 2007

An Isolated Incident by Susan R. Sloan

Wow! What a great book, and quite a serendipitous find. The book turned up on our dusty list (meaning no one has checked it out in 5 years) so we pulled it off the shelf to evaluate it. When I picked up the book I could feel grains of sand under the Mylar jacket, meaning someone had probably taken it to the beach, which is often an indication that a book is good (or, okay, at least exciting). So that led me to read the inside cover, and I thought "Hey, this does look good!" I had never heard of the author, but I decided to take the book home. I picked it up and started reading it and couldn't put it down. It gripped me to the end.
A 15-year old girl is murdered on a small island in Washington state. It turns out she is pregnant. Because the island is only accessible by ferry, the murderer was most likely also an islander. The citizens of the island are outraged. Who could have done such a terrible thing? In the zeal and rage of a community shattered by violence, you see some pretty nasty bigotry and racism emerge that have been kept well-hidden for years.
Sloan has a way with words. She did a really good job with this novel. I highly recommend it, and I'm looking forward to checking out her other books.

The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes by Jennifer Crusie, Eileen Dreyer and Anne Stuart

Ehh. I think I would have liked this book if I'd been in a different mood. It's a cute premise - three sisters with magical powers. And I like the authors. I just didn't care for the format - each short chapter told things from a different sister's viewpoint, and whenever I felt like I was just getting into a character, the chapter changed and boom! I had to get used to a different sister's perspective. Even though I didn't like the book much right now, it does have good writing, and there were some funny parts. I might try to pick it up again later and see if I'm in a more receptive mood for it.

The Water's Lovely by Ruth Rendell

I really really enjoyed this psychological thriller... until the end, which I didn't care for too much. But the hours of reading pleasure that I got from it until that point make it well worth the read. I literally couldn't put it down. I resented every moment I was forced to spend away from the book. The suspense and the sense that you never quite knew what was going to come next were terrific. I am looking forward to reading more Ruth Rendells (or maybe some of her Barbara Vine books).

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Fancy stuff

You might wonder why I don't ever include pictures of the book covers in my reviews. Well, I'll tell you -- it's because I'd rather spend my time reading, not fussing around with Blogger and adding graphics! So, if you want great graphics and pretty reviews, you'll have to go elsewhere. Sorry.

The Secret Servant by Daniel Silva

I have enjoyed other Silva novels more, but this one definitely kept my interest. He certainly knows how to write a thriller.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Last Colony by John Scalzi

Very enjoyable-- the best military SF that I have read in quite some time. Thanks to Nichole for recommending this author to me!

Sister Mine by Tawni O'Dell

Not bad, not bad... but I don't think it could figure out whether it wanted to be a mystery, a romance, or "serious" fiction. I kind of got whiplash.

Self Storage by Gayle Brandeis

Very readable. A good choice for a post-Harry-Potter readathon.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling

Ahhhh! A very satisfying end to a wonderful series.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Book 1 and 2 down -- onto book 3

I've re-read Harry Potter books 1 and 2, and I started on Book 3 last night. Man, those books are heavy (especially if you have the hardcover). I think I'll need a crane in order to keep Book 7 up to my face so I can see it! I am hoping to get to Book 7 by Sunday--- so back to the reading grindstone.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism by Roy Richard Grinker

Dense, but interesting book. Grinker is a social anthropologist whose daughter is autistic. One of his most interesting theories, I believe, is that there really isn't an autism epidemic -- he argues that the way psychiatrists and psychologists define autism has changed over the years, and that's why more cases are being reported now. He also argues that a diagnosis of autism in the U.S. allows kids to get access to more and better treatments than other diagnoses would. What's also interesting is the time he spends looking at how autistic people (and their families) are treated in other countries -- in Africa, Korea, and India.

Two sections that stuck with me: "Anyone who tells you that psychiatric diagnosis is a strictly scientific exercise is fooling you. In making a diagnosis, doctors consider the educational options, the treatments, the economics, even the sensitivities of the parents, who may prefer or dislike certain diagnoses." (p 135)

And, "In the view of anthropologist Arthur Kleinman, a disease occurs when something is wrong with our bodily organs or systems, whereas an illness is the experience of negative or unwanted changes in our bodies or our ability to function in society. Autism is thus both a disease and an illness, and it cannot be otherwise." (p. 230)

I found Grinker's perspective fascinating. One doesn't think of a disease as having social factors involved, but clearly, especially with respect to diseases that can't always be easily measured, they do.

Austenland by Shannon Hale

Very cute! I enjoyed it a lot. Thanks to Meredith for recommending it.

An embarrassment of riches

Okay, I finally caved in and went to buy Harry Potter Book 7. My plan was to skim books 1 - 6 quickly, so that I could dive in and read Book 7 before some well-meaning soul (or TV show, or magazine article) accidentally tells me the ending.

So I picked up Book 1 last night to skim it. But I forgot one thing -- J. K. Rowling is a darn good writer, and the books are written really well, and the descriptions are awesome... and I just don't think I can skim them! I want to savor them. Even if it means that I will still be reading Harry Potter when I'm 80. Even if it means that I'll have to wait to read Thursday Next: First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde, which is tantalizing me with its presence by my bedside. Even if I did just go to Borders last night and buy ANOTHER book, which is now on the large, teetering "to be read" pile by my bedside.

Now if you'll excuse me, I must get back to reading.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Harry Potter - a bone to pick

No, I haven't read Book 7 of Harry Potter yet. And yes, I definitely plan to do so. But first I have to re-read books 1 - 6 and refresh my memory (given the abysmal retention rate of what I read)
But that's not my bone to pick. I was reading the Newark Star-Ledger this weekend and they were talking about the Harry Potter books and how they've started a resurgence in the popularity of fantasy fiction for kids and teens. I'm not arguing with that statement, but THEN they said something about how there are all sorts of Harry Potter "knock-offs," including the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman (the first one of which, The Golden Compass, will be coming out as a movie later this year.)
All right, first of all -- the first Harry Potter and the first one in this series by Pullman came out in THE SAME YEAR -- 1997 -- so one can hardly accuse Pullman of riding on Rowling's coat-tails. (Not only that, but Pullman was a well-respected published children's/teen author well before then, with his Ruby in the Smoke trilogy.)
Second, I would argue that the word "knock-off" sounds derogatory, like the Pullman books are second-rate to Harry Potter, which they are not -- I think they are just as good.
Come on, Star-Ledger -- do your homework. It's great that Harry Potter opened the door for more great fantasy being read by kids and teens, but let's call HP what it is -- a "gateway book" to all the other great fantasy books that were published before and after it -- and not give it credit for what it's not. It wasn't the fantasy book upon which all other fantasy books are based.
I will now get off my soapbox.

Reading Rampage!

I had a reading frenzy this past weekend. But just in case you're jealous at the amount of time I have to read, I'll tell you that in a week, I probably won't remember half of the plot of what I have read. That's because when I'm in a mood to do some escapist reading, I don't usually stop to savor the books that I'm reading. I get excited (because they're written well) and I start reading faster and faster until bam! I'm at the end of the book and I'm not sure what happened. There's a lot of skimming happening. So my retention levels are very unimpressive.

Fool Moon by Jim Butcher

The second book in The Dresden Files -- pretty good, but as with the first book, I had to close my eyes and skim some of the more gruesome descriptions of how people die. Ech.
These books are entertaining, and I'll keep reading them, but I think I do like Tanya Huff's Blood Price series (about a PI in Toronto and her vampire sidekick solving supernatural crimes) better.

Y: The Last Man Volume 9: Motherland by Brian K. Vaughan (graphic novel)

I was all excited because I thought this was the last volume in the series, but from the way it ended up, I'm pretty sure I'm wrong, because there are still a boatload of loose ends to be tied up. As usual, this was an excellent (if violent) read and a good addition to the series.

Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich

Highly amusing brain candy. I just love reading the hilarious descriptions of Stephanie's hapless exploits, her bad luck with cars, and her crazy family (especially Grandma Mazur, who refuses to go anywhere without her ".45 long barrel named Elsie. It wasn't registered, and she didn't have a permit to carry concealed. Grandma thought being old gave her license to pack. She called it the equalizer.")

See what I mean? Funny as heck. I don't read an Evanovich book for the plot, I read it for the funny descriptions and the crazy situations Stephanie Plum always seems to get herself into.

The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

I finished The Queen of Attolia and was pretty disappointed in it. It was very violent and it didn't end up at all the way I had expected it to. In fact, I disagreed with the author very much about how it ended! Still, the characters were compelling enough that I wanted to find out more, so I did read the third book in the trilogy, The King of Attolia -- and boy, was I glad I did. I think I liked that one the best of all three. A lot of libraries have these books shelved in the children's room, but the more I think about it, the more I believe they'd be better off in the teen section.

Boy Proof and Queen of Cool by Cecil Castellucci

I didn't like these teen novels as much as I liked Castellucci's teen graphic novel, The Plain Janes, which I recently read. These novels actually felt like they might work better as graphic novels.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci (graphic novel)

This is Castellucci's first graphic novel but she has written several teen novels in the past. I picked up this graphic novel in Borders the other day as I was browsing that section, mainly because it looked interesting. And it was - I really enjoyed it. I am now planning to work my way through the other books that this author has written. And I hope that there will be sequels to The Plain Janes.

The Essential Hybrid Car Handbook by Nick Yost

An interesting, if brief, overview of several different kinds of hybrid cars currently available, and what's in development at the major automobile manufacturers.

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (juvenile)

Wow, thanks to Tara and Meredith for recommending this book to me. I really enjoyed it. In fact, I couldn't put it down and stayed up too late last night finishing it. And then when I got into work this morning, I immediately checked out the sequel and started reading IT at lunch. If you like fantasy and adventure stories, you might want to try this -- wow.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Slipknot by Linda Greenlaw

This is the first foray into fiction by Greenlaw, who has written several nonfiction books about the sea and being a boat captain. It's not bad for a mystery, though I found the narrator's coyness about why she has returned to Maine a bit annoying. (Note to narrator: Don't keep dropping small bits of information about the mysterious happenings between you and your former mentor: just spit out what happened so we can all process it and move on. I get that you're tortured, I really do. You don't need to bang me over the head with it 46 times throughout the book.)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Storm Front by Jim Butcher (first in a series)

I really enjoyed this book, and it was a lovely way to spend a warm summer afternoon. Harry Dresden is a wizard living in Chicago trying to eke out a living. He sometimes does consulting work for the local police force. They call him in to investigate some murders that were done by magic, and he gets entangled in some nasty stuff and has to figure out how to get out alive. This is the first in a series, and I'm looking forward to reading the others.
One review that I read said you'd probably like Jim Butcher's work if you like Laurell K. Hamilton and Tanya Huff. I am not a fan of Laurell K. Hamilton -- her stuff is too violent for me -- but I am a big fan of Tanya Huff, and I can see some similarities. (Blood Price, Tanya Huff's book about a tough-talking Toronto P.I. and her vampire sidekick, was recently made into a Lifetime TV series. The series is okay, but Huff's book is better.)

A League of Ordinary Gentlemen (documentary movie)

First let me say that I adore Netflix. I like documentaries a lot but can rarely find them in the local video store, but Netflix has a huge supply of them and they'll mail them right to me. Plus, they will then recommend other documentaries I might like, based on what I've already rated. That's how I stumbled upon this gem. It's a look at the Professional Bowling Association (which was failing until some retired Microsoft executives bought it for $5 million and began to revive it) and the players who bowled in the 2003 season. (Did you know that in the '50s, bowling was more popular than football on TV? It hasn't always had the reputation as a dorky sport that it is desperately trying to overcome now.) I found this documentary to be very entertaining and informative.

And after we were done watching it, Trisha and I turned on the Wii and did some bowling of our own!

The Dip: A little book that teaches you when to quit (and when to stick) by Seth Godin

Well, the book certainly is little, I'll give it that. However, to me it seemed a bit too simplified. To paraphrase: in anything you want to do you may encounter a Dip, a cul-de-sac, or a cliff. Quit before you start if you are going into a cul-de-sac or a cliff, but keep pushing through the hard stuff if it's a Dip, so you can get to the other side and be the best. Certainly interesting advice, but Godin doesn't really back it up with info on how you'll know if you're headed into a dead end or about to fall off a cliff. He just says to stay away from those, and lean into the Dip, and when you get to the other side, voila, you'll be the best!

So -- my review is "eh."

Friday, July 13, 2007

Thirst and Why I Wake Early by Mary Oliver (poems)

I am not usually a big fan of poetry, but I came across a Mary Oliver poem when I was reading Oprah Magazine the other day and it really spoke to me. So I checked out these two thin volumes of poetry from the library. I think Mary Oliver really does a good job of reminding us how wonderful the world is -- that we should keep our eyes and ears open to all the magical things that are happening around us. This is a good lesson to learn, in this very-often grim world.

The Perfect Thing: how the iPod shuffles commerce, culture, and coolness by Steven Levy

Ever since I read Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution I have been hooked on Steven Levy. This man is terrific at humanizing the people behind technology. I loved Insanely Great, his story about the origins of the Macintosh, and his current book about the iPod revolution is great as well. Here's an interesting factoid: the book was designed with random "chapters" in order to simulate the shuffle function of the iPod.
If you love your iPod or even if you are just curious about what all the fuss is about iPods, you'll probably enjoy this interesting and well-written book.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Home and Office by D. Shipley & W. Schwalbe

Very interesting, indeed. The book discusses the ways in which email is similar to other correspondence, how it is different, and what the pitfalls of email can be. It also discusses email etiquette (when to CC someone, when to BCC them, what kids of things are appropriate to send via email). It's written in a down-to-earth, easily accessible style. I enjoyed it and I learned a lot.

Monday, July 02, 2007

How to Handle Difficult Parents: A Teacher's Survival Guide by Suzanne Capek Tingley

This is a short, honest, thoughtful, to-the-point, funny book. Offering practical tips on how to deal with parents who exhibit "helicopter mom" or "caped crusader" behaviors, it shows teachers how to set and maintain boundaries, and in what situations to pass the baton to school administrators. I'm not a teacher and I still learned a lot from it, but I'm sure it would be even more useful to teachers. Highly recommended.

Crashing Through: A True Story of Risk, Adventure, and the Man who Dared to See by Robert Kurson

First let me say that I have been a big fan of Robert Kurson ever since I read his previous nonfiction book, Shadow Divers, an excellent book about a group of New Jersey deep-sea divers who found a U-boat off the coast of New Jersey where no U-boat should have been. Their quest to identify the U-boat was really gripping and interesting.
This new book tells the story of Mike May, who was blinded at age three by a chemical explosion. In his mid-40s, he learns that there may be an experimental surgery that can allow him to see again. Should he have the surgery? There are risks involved, true, but Mike May is no stranger to risk -- he held the World Paralympic Downhill Skiing record for almost 20 years. The story of Mike and his family as they journey down this path is really interesting and engaging. The story of what happens (and what doesn't happen) after the operation is intriguing as well. I really enjoyed this book.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg

I haven't read an Elizabeth Berg novel in a while, but they are always a treat. Her observations about the fragility of families, the ways in which we are tied together, are always insightful. And her writing is beautiful. I couldn't put this one down. I didn't want it to end. I really enjoyed it.

Department of Lost and Found by Allison Winn Scotch

What do you do if you're a high-powered lawyer working for a busy and somewhat sleazy politician, and you wake up one morning and discover that you have stage 3 breast cancer? Then, on top of that, your boyfriend decides he can't handle it and he dumps you? Well, this novel is about thirty-year-old Natalie Miller, who is trying to regain control of her spiraling-out-of-control life. I enjoyed it. I wouldn't say it's high literature, but it was entertaining and interesting nonetheless.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Ultra: Seven Days, by the Luna Brothers (graphic novel)

Clever and amusing tale of three female superheroes who are trying to manage their love lives, their relationships with their parents, and the day-today stuff of every day life, in between smacking down bad guys. My only beef: this was obviously first published in comic form, and when they republished it in bound graphic novel form, they didn't leave enough of an inner margin, so it was hard to read the stuff at the inner edges of the pages. I suppose I could have ruthlessly broken the spine of the book, but that seems cruel. It's not the book's fault that the publisher is an idiot and didn't leave enough of an inner margin. Plus, the book didn't fall open nicely - maybe it was bound too tight. I felt like I had to wrestle it open and apply continual force to get it to STAY open. Let's just say I really had to *work* to read this. 

Name All the Animals by Alison Smith (memoir)

When 15-year-old Alison Smith's older brother dies in a horrific car accident, her family is shaken to its core. Her parents cling even more firmly to their faith in God, while Alison herself decides that God no longer exists -- ironic, since she attends Sisters of Mercy convent school. This memoir is by turns sad, funny, heartbreaking and uplifting. I really enjoyed it. Beautiful writing, too.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Play Dead by David Rosenfelt

This is Rosenfelt's latest book, revolving around the case of a man who was unjustly imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit. Five years later, Paterson lawyer Andy Carpenter gets involved with a golden retriever who has been abused. During the course of trying to save the golden, Carpenter discovers that the dog had belonged to the imprisoned man -- and was supposed to have died five years ago. This is a funny, fast read. I enjoyed it very much!

Rattled by Debra Galant

Debra Galant came to speak at our library a few months ago. I had heard about her, but I hadn't read her book yet. She was such an interesting, engaging and funny speaker that I decided I had to buy a copy of her book. I just finished reading it yesterday and boy, was it funny. All I will say is: if you live in suburbia, and especially if you live in New Jersey, you'll probably find something funny in this book.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Woods by Harlan Coben

Could... not... put... this... book... down.
Another fabulous offering from the talented Mr. Coben. He's the reason I look so haggard and bloodshot this morning -- I had to read till late in the night.

Camp Babymouse by Jennifer & Matthew Holm (graphic novel)

If you haven't read a Babymouse book yet, you are in for a treat! Babymouse goes to camp, where she discovers that even though in her mind she is an intrepid camper, the reality is somewhat different. She even has trouble making friends. And what the heck is "bug juice" made of, anyway? It all seems a bit much until she makes a friend. This is another excellent installment of the Babymouse series. I highly recommend ALL of them.

Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks (teen novel)

Thanks to Dodie for recommending this terrific book to me! Cadel is not an ordinary boy. By the tender age of seven he's learned to hack into computer systems all over the world. His parents are at their wit's end so they send him for therapy with Dr. Thaddeus Roth. The lessons Cadel learns from Dr. Roth are probably not the ones his parents thought he would learn... but then again, are they his parents? Through Dr. Roth, Cadel discovers that his real father is mad scientist Dr. Phineas Darkkon, currently serving time in a maximum-security prison. Dr. Roth and Cadel's father want him to study the different facets of evil, so they send him to attend an institute where he learns about forgery, poisoning, misinformation, lying, and much more. Now Cadel has to choose: does he really want to be evil, or does he want to try and break free of their clutches? A really entertaining read. I had a hard time putting it down. Someone told me this is going to be the beginning of a series and I hope it is!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Divorce that book!

I cut this article out when I first saw it in the New York Times several years ago:

The article talks about the joys of not finishing a book that you aren't enjoying! If you are one of those people who feels the need to finish every book you start, maybe this article will help you see that there are much better things you can do (and better books you can read) -- so if you're not enjoying something: Stop reading it! (Unless you're studying to be an air traffic controller. Then by all means, keep reading the manual. Please.)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen

I enjoy Sarah Dessen's teen novels. The novels are usually written from the perspective of teenaged girls who are trying to make sense of their relationship with their family, their schoolmates and their friends. They are well-written and thoughtful, but I think they are probably best for older teens, maybe 8th grade and up. Adults would also enjoy them! 

The Starfish and the Spider by O. Brafman & A. Beckstrom

Dodie recommended this book to me and I just started reading it. It's fantastic -- everything I could ever want in a business book. Lucid, funny, and well-written. I love reading nonfiction written by people who realize that nonfiction can be engaging and exciting and interesting -- not like those textbooks they used to make me read in school.

The book's main message is that sometimes a decentralized organization is better able to survive than a hierarchical organization -- for example, if a starfish loses a leg (is it called a leg on a starfish? Hmm, I think it might be an arm) then it can adjust and cope while a new arm is being grown.

The discussion in this book reminds me of one of my favorite books, Where Wizards Stay Up Late by Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon. That book talks about the origins of the Internet and how the people who came up with the idea for the network deliberately chose to build a network whose pathways were distributed -- so that information could travel many different paths to get to a destination, which would make the network much more durable and stable than if there was only one pathway you could travel (and then what happens if a server goes down along the way?)

I really do love it when similar ideas pop up in books that I am reading or have read. It's so interesting to make these connections.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Where do I find stuff to read?

Hey - there are lots of great resources to help you find something to read that will be of interest to you. Here are two of 'em.

NextReads -- monthly e-newsletters in over 20 categories -- catnip for booklovers. Sign up at Long Hill Library's web site:

BookPage Xtra -- monthly e-newsletter delivered to your in-box.

Friday, June 08, 2007

White Corridor by Christopher Fowler

Oh, Christopher Fowler, you disappoint me. Your elderly detectives Arthur Bryant and John May are so wonderful on their own -- why must you introduce a second storyline which includes a peek into a serial killer's mind? I know this may sound cranky, but I would much rather spend time with my friends Bryant and May than with some serial killer I hardly even know. So, I did the only thing I could -- I quickly skimmed all the serial killer sections, and only slowed down when I got to a Bryant and May section. The descriptions of the two detectives and their interactions with each other are priceless. (At one point, the technologically inept Bryant asks May whether he can find out some information "on that interweb thingie.")

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Courtney Crumrin in the Twilight Kingdom by Ted Naifeh (graphic novel)

This is the third volume in the series. I have liked everything I've read by Ted Naifeh because he writes such strong female characters. And I like the art, too. I'd recommend this to late-middle-schoolers and up.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius: Volume 3

I just can't even tell you how much these books make me laugh. I really can't begin to express how much I love them. I can tell you that I think I have now read all four of the trade paperbacks, and I don't believe Mr. Winick is writing them anymore, which makes me very sad. But I will now commence to read everything else he's ever written.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Courtney Crumrin and the Coven of Mystics by Ted Naifeh (graphic novel)

Courtney Crumrin is an orphan who lives with her uncle Aloysius, a warlock. Courtney is a girl after my own heart -- she kicks some serious butt. This graphic novel is really enjoyable. It's rated Y for kids 7 and above. Ted Naifeh really knows how to build a great story. I enjoyed one of his other books, Polly and the Pirates, as much as I enjoy this series.

the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Scott Pilgrim is dating Ramona Flowers, a mysterious deliveryperson for Amazon. But in order to date her, he must vanquish her seven evil ex-boyfriends. It has its cute moments but the story really doesn't grip me, especially since I think the main character is kind of clueless and annoying. I'm done with it now. (Sorry Tara, I know you like this series.)

Monday, May 28, 2007

Dreamgirls (movie)

Yes, I finally got around to seeing Dreamgirls last night. It was a good story, and Jennifer Hudson can really sing, but I really didn't LIKE any of the characters. Effie was a prima donna, the other girls were just too willing to do whatever the men told 'em to do, and most of the men were either druggies (Eddie Murphy), cold calculating jerks (Jamie Foxx's character) or spineless (the guy who played Effie's brother). And frankly, the movie could have been shorter and still gotten the point across... (but that would've meant they couldn't shoehorn all those musical numbers in.)
Instead of Dreamgirls, I recommend another movie about the music scene in the '60s -- Grace of My Heart with Illeana Douglas. Now *that* movie is amazing.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Some Nerve by Jane Heller

Not bad, not bad. A nice frothy bit of escapism, and it was written pretty well too. It took me about an hour to skim through and hit all the high points. An enjoyable Sunday afternoon read.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

What's Al Gore Reading?

There was an article in the May 28, 2007 issue of Time Magazine. I had to laugh at myself, because while I did skim the article, I got very excited when I saw that the picture included with the article was of Mr. Gore sitting in his office, in front of his bookshelf. Oh joy! I could look at the books on his shelf and see what he has been reading! (I saw a copy of The Dilbert Principle by Scott Adams, along with a lot of other books I'd never heard of, most of which would undoubtedly be way over my head.)

Were it not for the Internet, I might never know that I am not the only person who enjoys looking at other peoples' bookshelves. There are several Flickr groups full of hundreds of people who upload pictures of their bookshelves. Check out and and you'll be treated to a smorgasborg of bookshelves. Or do a search for books by color to see the radical way that some people shelve their books by color, not by subject and/or author. Oh Melvil Dewey, you must be turning over in your grave right now.
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Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen

I really enjoyed this book. Anna Quindlen writes a biweekly column for Newsweek and she comes across as a down-to-earth, practical and compassionate member of American society. Rise and Shine is the story of two sisters living in New York City. The younger sister, Bridget, is a social worker in the projects in the Bronx, and Meghan, the older sister, is the high-powered star of a nationally-syndicated morning show. The book is narrated by Bridget, and at first you think that she is the sister with more problems, but slowly you realize that maybe Meghan's life is not as great as it appears.

I found this book to be well-written, moving, heartbreaking, and ultimately redeeming. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

YALSA releases Teens Top 10 2007 ballot list

YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association, in case you're curious) just released the ballot for the 2007 Teen Top 10 Books. During Teen Read Week this coming October, teens can vote for their favorite books. As I scanned the ballot, my eyes halted at the description of Shannon Hale's book River Secrets. The blurb says: "Razo is one of Bayern's weaker soldiers. He is sure he is only on the important Tira mission out of pita." Wait, what? Out of pita? What is this, some sort of coming-of-age tale about bread products? Or could it be the nefarious spell-check daemon has struck again? Pita is, after all, a word, though I doubt it's the word that was meant here. I'm pretty sure he's only on the mission out of pity. But maybe it'd be worthwhile to read the book -- because maybe it is all about the bread products.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Lucia, Lucia by Adriana Trigiani

Wow, what a great book. It really gripped me and was almost impossible to stop reading. Every time I picked it up, I got sucked right back into the action. What did I like about the book? Well, I loved the narrator. Lucia Sartori is a talented seamstress in the early '50s in New York City. She lives with her big Italian family, and she works at B. Altman with a bunch of other talented women. She isn't sure whether she wants to get married because it probably means she would have to give up her career. I loved reading about her big family. I loved reading about the fashions of that era -- how people dressed up even to go to the grocery store. I loved reading about her.

What I didn't think worked so well: the beginning and the end of the book, which are jarring to me because they are told from the perspective of Lucia's young neighbor, who is the person to whom Lucia, now in her 70s, is telling the story. But if you can ignore those parts, the rest of the book is a terrific read. (Or heck, you might even like those parts.)

Looking forward to reading more Trigiani! The joy I feel in discovering a new author that I like reminds me of a strip recently published in Unshelved, the comic for librarians (bet you didn't know we librarians have our own comic strip to read!): Seven Stages of Falling In Love with an Author.

Friday, May 18, 2007

What Got You Here Won't Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith (business book)

What holds you back in life --  at your job, or in your personal life? Goldsmith's premise is that even successful people can have behavioral traits that keep them from achieving even more. By framing his book in terms of behavior, instead of in terms of personality traits, Goldsmith makes it clear that he believes people can change their behavior and how they act around other people -- but only if they choose to.
I really enjoyed reading this book. I saw a lot of things in the book that other people around me fall prey to, which makes me wonder -- which of these things do I do that I'm just not seeing? (It's that whole Johari window concept -- it's a lot easier to point out what is wrong with OTHER people than with yourself. "Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but don't notice the log in your own eye?")

Polly and the Pirates by Ted Naifeh (graphic novel)

My evil friend Tara recommended this awesome graphic novel to me. Why is she evil? Because this is the first in a series and the second one hasn't come out yet, so I can't find out what happens to Polly next. This was a really fun, entertaining book. Polly is a proper young lady in boarding school who is abducted by pirates who tell her that her mother (who died when Polly was young) was Pirate Queen Meg. The pirates need Polly's help in locating a missing treasure map. At first Polly is all prim, proper and prissy, but after a while she begins to cut loose and really revel in her pirate-grrrl side. Give it a try, I think you will enjoy it! Just don't blame me when you finish it and begin jonesing for the as-yet-unpublished volume 2.

Orbit by John Nance

I wanted to like this book. I really did. I saw a really good review of it in a catalog I respect. But first I had a hard time with it because it was written in the present tense, which I find kind of jarring. "Kip is stirring his oatmeal. He thinks to himself, 'I am stirring my oatmeal.'"  It would have taken me some time to overcome that, but then Kip was having marital problems and he was ogling this woman who was helping him prepare for his trip into space... frankly, it felt kind of like a male version of a romance novel/thriller, and I just couldn't get past the 20th page. But I'm sure SOMEONE will enjoy it!! Just not me.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Wave Hill Gardens in New York

My mom and I took a bus tour to Wave Hill Gardens in New York City today. It was GORGEOUS, let me tell you. Lots of birds, bees, beautiful flowering trees, and ample opportunities to take pictures (which we did with abandon. Digital cameras are great.)  And the best part was that someone else made all the arrangements and did all the driving. Know what that means? Yes! It's true! I got to read on the way there instead of paying attention to traffic. It was great. We signed up for the tour through the Chatham Adult School, and I am already looking forward to when their fall catalog comes out so we can plan a few more trips.

The Chamber by John Grisham

Sadly, I just couldn't quite keep up the momentum to get through this thriller. Maybe I just wasn't in a Grisham mood, but the characters didn't grab me and I only made it through the first 100 or so pages. (Of course, I then read the end to see how things turned out. I am a bad, bad person.)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Boy Who Was Raised By Librarians by Carla Morris and Brad Sneed (kid's book)

Trisha, my pal and a children's librarian herself, recommended this delightful book to me. Melvin is a curious child and he knows right where to go for answers. The three librarians at Livingston Public Library are always delighted to answer his questions throughout his childhood and adolescence. Why? Because "that's what librarians do." The ending is delightful and the book is charming and fun. (Okay, yes, as a librarian I may be slightly biased, but still. Read it!)

That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown by Cressida Cowell & Neal Layton

Meredith recommended this cute book to me because I'd said I am a big fan of Knufflebunny by Mo Willems. Emily and her toy rabbit Stanley (isn't that a great name for a rabbit?) spend their days going on adventures and having a great time. But the Queen is jealous and she keeps trying to persuade Emily to give Stanley to her. A very enjoyable read!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Adventures of Barry Ween: Boy Genius 2.0 by Judd Winnick (graphic novel)

Another scatological and politically-incorrect guffaw-fest! I had this book on order from Amazon but it was taking too long, so I bought it from someone on e-Bay. In this installment, Barry takes down some government agents who kidnap his friend Jeremy; he and Jeremy get accidentally transported back to the Wild West; and Jeremy tries to adopt a foul-mouthed alien who's on the lam because he's been skimming money from his alien "mob bosses." Warning: this book is not for kids or for the faint-of-heart. But I do love it.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Absolutely, Positively Not by David LaRochelle (teen book)

Thanks to my librarian pal Beth L. for recommending this funny, charming book to me! Sixteen-year-old Steven is worried that he might be gay, so he does all sorts of things to prove to himself that he's not (learning how to belch, trying to buy a Playboy, etc). Still, he finally ends up at the conclusion that yep, he's gay. This is one of those refreshing teen books that isn't filled with black depression and angst. Yes, there's angst, but the author (writing in Steven's first-person voice) does a great job of infusing Steven's situation and outlook with humor and wit. What a great read! I stayed up too late reading it, always a good sign.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

I love crossword puzzles

I think I neglected to mention here that I recently subscribed to the New York Times crossword puzzle online. Most mornings I print out the crossword and try to get through it. I can usually get through Monday - Tuesday okay, and sometimes even Wednesday-Thursday. (Did you know the Times crosswords get progressively harder as the week goes on, with Saturday being the hardest?)  Sundays are usually do-able, but it takes me a couple of [extremely enjoyable] hours.
Sometimes, when I don't know an answer, I will Google it or use as a solving aide. I also own 2 or 3 crossword dictionaries and I'm not afraid to use them\. Some people consider this cheating, I know, but I just consider it as brushing up my librarian skills.
My neighbor Melissa is also into crosswords. She does them in pen, which I find amazing, and I am in awe of her. She and I know a lot of the same things but we also have different spheres of knowledge. So we've been taking the Sunday Times crossword down to the donut shop the last few weeks, and working on it together. Last week she told me the answer to a clue that I didn't know (it was a French word), and I told her who the lead singer of Nine Inch Nails was.  (And then she laughed at me when I sang her the first stanza of Head Like A Hole.) That's a pop culture answer that my grandfather, for instance, would never get. He doesn't think the puzzles are as much fun now that that whippersnapper Will Shortz is editing them, because Will allows a lot of pop culture and current events into the clues. But that's what I like about them.
Many people feel very strongly about their crossword puzzles. There's a guy who blogs about solving the daily Times puzzle at Cruciverbalism, by Stanley Newman, is also really interesting. And of course, I highly recommend the documentary Wordplay , which is a terrific look at the seamy underbelly of crossword puzzling. (Not really. They all seem like very nice people.)
Anyway, sometimes I am more in a crossword mood than I am in a reading mood, so when I'm not posting much, it's probably because I'm off in a corner trying to figure out a crossword (or a puzzle of a different variety, when I'm feeling like I want to "mix it up.")

Birding is fun!

I was sitting outside reading "The No A**hole Rule" and enjoying the wonderful weather. Eventually I became aware of some birds calling back and forth to each other. I thought I recognized the call but wanted to confirm it by sight, so I got my binoculars and walked down the road a bit to try and spot them. A little girl came riding by on her bicycle and I smiled at her. She asked me, "Is that a tufted titmouse?"  Wow! It blew me away! "Yes, it is," I answered. "You have good ears."
I can't even imagine knowing the call of a tufted titmouse at her age. I was so impressed! Wow.

The No A**hole Rule: Building a civilized workplace and surviving one that isn't, by Robert Sutton

Great book. It has some useful things to say about what it's like to work (or live) in a culture where being a jerk is either rewarded, or just tolerated. Sutton gives an example of a salesman who was a high producer but who was making the people around him miserable. His company totaled up the amount of lost productivity and docked this guy's bonus that amount at the end of the year -- the TCA (total cost of a**hole).
Sutton is not saying that your workplace should be all nice, all time time. He quotes Karl Weick's approach to confrontation in the workplace: "Fight as if you are right; listen as though you are wrong."
The other thing I found interesting is that jerkdom is contagious. If you work with jerks, you are more likely to exhibit jerk behavior. And it can happen to *anyone* -- no one is immune from occasionally being a jerk. Just make sure you are not chronically being a jerk. 

The Collected Alison Dare, Vol. 1 -- by J. Torres and J. Bone (graphic novel)

Not bad -- kinda cute. I bet teens would find it more amusing than I did. I don't think I'd pick up the next volume of this, nor is it something I'd really go out of my way to recommend. I think part of the problem is that I just didn't get much of a sense of character development, and that's a really important thing to me. Take, for example, the graphic novel Grease Monkey by Tim Eldred. Plenty of character development there! And I love it.

The Good Shepherd (movie)

Saw this movie with my parents last night. Matt Damon plays a CIA spy who is slowly sucked down a slippery slope into soullessness and despair... all without moving a facial muscle. It was definitely a good movie, but the ending was depressing and confusing, and I must confess that I enjoy Matt Damon more when he's being more active (like in the Bourne movies). This movie actually reminded me a bit of The Quiet American, with Brendan Fraser and Michael Caine -- also a good movie about the underworld of spies and what happens to people when they get sucked down into it.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Adventures of Barry Ween: Boy Genius by Judd Winick (graphic novel)

I laughed harder than I have in weeks when I read this graphic novel! How can I describe it? Well, Barry Ween is a ten-year-old boy genius (I know, I know... you can get that much from the title) with an extremely foul mouth and a firm desire to take over the world. When his evil science experiments cause rifts in the space-time continuum, he calls on his best friend Jeremy for help. When Jeremy accidentally drinks one of Barry's potions and turns into a giant dinosaur, Barry clones him and transfers his brain into the new body. I can't even describe the amount of pleasure I got from reading this fun book -- but I'm warning you, some of the language is not suitable for young folks.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

I really did enjoy this book for the most part. I think Picoult did a great job switching between the viewpoints of the different characters and bringing out what each person was worried about -- which made it interesting when she switched to another person's viewpoint, because I had more knowledge of what was going on behind the decisions that other people made that affected each person. (Does that even make sense?) Anyway, it was quite an interesting and sad book. I really liked it up until the end and then, I'm afraid I have to agree with my friend Heather, the ending did not fit the rest of the story. So it disappointed me at the end. But I think I'd still recommend it.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Girl from the South, by Joanna Trollope

An enjoyable train-read. Not my favorite Trollope, but quite serviceable!

Friday, March 30, 2007

It's okay to be the boss: the step-by-step buide to becoming the manager your employees need, by Bruce Tulgan

Tulgan's main premise is that companies are suffering not from an epidemic of micromanagement, but from undermanagement. Many people in managerial or supervisory positions simply don't feel comfortable "being the boss" -- doing the often unpleasant tasks that come with the territory. Tulgan acknowledges that it can be difficult to be the boss (especially if you want to be a good boss), but he provides a good roadmap in this book.
And if you're going to be the boss, why not try to be the best boss you can be?

The Family Markowitz by Allegra Goodman

I really love Allegra Goodman's writing. This is one of her earlier books but I just got around to reading it now. It was very good, but not as great as her latest book, Intuition. That book I could NOT put down. I'm not sure if I can explain what it is about Goodman that I love so much. She seems to get so deeply into her characters' heads, switching viewpoints seamlessly and making it look effortless. If you haven't tried her books, I highly recommend her.

First Degree by David Rosenfelt

Very good thriller -- but one of the plot points seemed eerily similar to one of his past books. And I saw it coming a mile away. Still, I love the fact that these books are set in and around Paterson, NJ, which means there are lots of times when I think to myself "Hey! I know exactly where he's talking about!"

Monday, March 19, 2007

Alright, Still by Lily Allen (Music)

This is a terrific album, one of the best I've heard in a long time, and it has some great songs on there for people who have recently broken up with someone. Lily Allen rocks my world.

Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane Vol 2: The New Girl, by Sean McKeever

Cute graphic novel about Peter Parker (aka Spiderman) and Mary Jane's time together in high school. Teenage girls will probably really enjoy this snapshot of high school life (with bits of superhero thrown in). I enjoyed the writing and the art.

Making Room: Finding space in unexpected places by Wendy A. Jordan

Roz recommended this lovely book to me. It was wonderful to just page through and see all the neat ways that people can find for storing things, creating work surfaces, even making a place for the dog to sleep. It inspired me! Then I realized I would have to hire a contractor to get any of this stuff done, and I became uninspired rather quickly (since that is a daunting task). Still, it's a good book for dreaming!

First Degree and Bury the Lead by David Rosenfelt

David Rosenfelt, where have you been all my life? You are such a funny writer, plus you write about places in New Jersey that I've actually been to. I can't believe it took me so long to find you. Keep writing please, I'm almost to the end of your ouvre (I can spell it, even if I can't pronounce it.)

Angus and Sadie by Cynthia Voigt

I've been a big fan of Cynthia Voigt for years -- Homecoming is one of my favorites. This book is geared to a younger audience but it is just as delightful. It's told from the perspective of two border collie puppies adopted into a farm family in Maine, and how they (and their new people) adjust to their new life. Very enjoyable!

PMS Murder by Laura Levine

Cathy V recommended this book to me. Frothy and fun! I am looking forward to reading the others in the series. You'd probably enjoy it if you like the Stephanie Plum mysteries by Janet Evanovich.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Aliens are Coming by Meghan McCarthy

A fun, inventively illustrated kid's book that tells the story of the 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast and the havoc it caused. The illustrations are fantastic -- I especially like the drooling aliens on the front cover.

The Game by Diana Wynne Jones

This short novella for teens is just not as good as Jones' earlier works, like Howl's Moving Castle and the Christopher Chant series. It seemed disjointed and confusing. Or maybe I am just getting old and crotchety.

The Day My Mother Left by James Prosek

I was seduced into reading this book by the beautiful pictures of birds on the cover. The book itself didn't do a whole lot for me. There were a lot of really good smaller stories in it, but as a whole it just didn't pull together (for me -- but someone else may really love it).

Waist-high in the world by Nancy Mairs

An interesting memoir by a woman who has been seeing the world from the perspective of her wheelchair for the last 10 years (she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at age 29). Her language is a bit flowery and her writing was a bit too cerebral for my taste, but she definitely had some interesting insights and I'm glad I read the book.

The Nature of Jade by Deb Caletti

It took me a while to decide how I felt about this book, but I finally decided that I mostly felt annoyed by it. The main character is an 18-year-old girl (Jade) who suffers from anxiety attacks and is trying to figure out what her place in the world is. The book is told from Jade's perspective, and keeps switching confusingly between present-tense and past-tense narration.  A lot of Jade's observations about people and their behavior were very interesting, but then she'd say something that just made me feel like she was being overly "precious."
This was one of those books that took me a couple of weeks to read, because it just wasn't doing it for me, but I was reluctant to give up. I finally decided that I just didn't care too much about Jade or her family and so I skimmed the last 100 pages.
Teens may well enjoy this book, and other adults may too. I don't think Caletti is a bad writer (though the constant switching between tenses was confusing to me), but I just didn't connect with her characters in this book.

Extreme Animals: The toughest creatures on earth, by Nicola Davies

This is a fun kid's book with great, clever illustrations. It gives interesting facts about weird animals in a highly accessible, fun way. I learned a lot and giggled a bit too.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Book enthusiasm

I was just re-reading some of my book reviews and noticed a few things:
1. I use an awful lot of exclamation points. Sorry about that. I guess I just get excited when I read a good book.
2. I don't usually review books that I don't like. Why is that, you may wonder? Because if I don't like a book, I don't finish it. There are lots and lots of books out there that I've tried and then rejected. Sometimes I may go back to the book later and enjoy it (I've found that with some books, I have to be in a certain mood to read them). But my philosophy is that with all the thousands of books that are out there waiting to be read, why should I waste my time on one that doesn't grab me?
3. It is kind of appalling to me how many of the books that I've reviewed here that I don't remember reading. I guess that's one of the dangers of being a fast reader -- I often don't take in too many of the details. I once came across some detailed notes that I'd taken about a book that I had read six months ago -- but had no recollection of either reading the book, or taking the notes. The ironic thing? The book was The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers by Daniel Schachter. (A very good book, by the way.)

Book Frenzy!

Ahhh.. I spent all of Saturday curled up in bed with the cat, reading book after book. I got through 5 books in all (2 of them were graphic novels, and one was really more of a short story than an actual book, so don't be too impressed). I ended up with a gargantuan headache but it was WORTH it! I just love taking an entire day to do nothing but read. Mmmm.

Inside Job by Connie Willis

A cute little novella -- fun and breezy. But I must admit, I was hoping for something a bit more substantial from Ms. Willis, especially given her earlier (excellent) books such as The Doomsday Book and Passage (both of which I highly recommend).

The Shape of Snakes by Minette Walters

I love the way this woman writes! She creates an amazing sense of psychological suspense. The book is narrated by Mrs. Ranelaigh (now that I think of it, I'm not sure I ever found out her first name!), who moves back to England with her family 20 years after a woman was killed right outside her house. At first you think nothing of this, but then you start to realize that this woman is bent on either revenge, or justice (she's been convinced that the victim was murdered, but she could not convince anyone else of it at the time.) The book makes great use of the "unreliable narrator" concept. I had a hard time putting it down. In short, I've never met a Minette Walters book that I didn't like. Give her a try!

Born on a Blue Day: A Memoir by Daniel Tammet

Really enjoyed this book! It's a memoir by a British guy who grew up a bit different from other people, and was finally diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome in his 20s. Tammet is one of those unique people who has synesthesia -- meaning that when he thinks of numbers, he thinks in terms of colors and shapes. His special relationship with numbers means that he can do some really amazing things. (At one point, he memorized the first 25,000 digits of Pi for a fundraising effort.) But don't take my word for it -- read the first few paragraphs of his book here, and see what you think:

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Wow. Thanks to Trisha for recommending this book to me. It's a magical combination of words and pictures. As Trisha said, "you just never know what's going to happen next, when you turn a page." Will you be confronted with a wonderful picture, or words that help advance the story? I don't want to tell you too much, but I can tell you that this is a really neat book and well worth a look. For more of a taste of what the book's about, check out the website at 

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

I had a little trouble following this graphic novel, especially at the beginning, since it jumped around a lot. But I persevered, and was happy that I did. It's a really good tale of a kid growing up different (and struggling with the desire to fit in, even though he's never really going to be able to). This book won the Printz award and was also nominated for a 2006 National Book Award for excellence in young people's literature.
To read more about it, check Amazon (which lists publisher reviews as well as reviews from people who've read it): 

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Shug by Jenny Han

Charming (and painfully accurate story) about a twelve-year-old girl growing up in the South with a dysfunctional family, a secret crush on the boy next door, and a fierce and independent perspective on the world. Very enjoyable!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Mr. Wrong: Real-Life Stories About the Men We Used To Love, edited by Harriet Brown

Roz recommended this book to me and I loved it! These essays are witty and wise, and in many cases laugh-out-loud funny. Most of the time when I finished an essay I felt a profound sense of relief that I'd never actually encountered the "Mr. Wrong" the author wrote about. These are cautionary tales written by women who have been to bad places, and spent time with the wrong people, then wrote about it to hopefully save the rest of us from a similar fate.

All of these essays are worth reading, but I'd like to share a passage from one by Susan Jane Gilman. She writes: "If we'd received half as many cultural messages about, say, how to choose a mutual fund or split an atom [as we have received about how to find Mr. Right]. we women would occupy every slot on the Forbes 400 list and have first-strike nuclear capabilities by now.... Amazingly, it may be the twenty-first century, but finding Mr. Right continues to be exalted as the Holy Grail for females."

Read it -- you'll like it!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Last Juror by John Grisham

I had never read this 2004 Grisham book, and I enjoyed it very much. I took it on the train into the city and I hardly noticed the time flying by. I love books where I can just dive in and get completely absorbed by the story. I enjoyed the narrator's perspective on life in a small Southern town, and the suspense had me guessing till the end. A very good page-turner!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Opposite of Fate by Amy Tan

I've really been enjoying this book, which is a collection of essays and speeches and small "bits and pieces" that Tan has written over the years. In fact, this is the Tan book I've most enjoyed since I devoured "The Joy Luck Club" several years ago. I highly recommend it!

Trust the Man (movie)

This was a cute little movie about relationships and what it takes to keep them going. The title really didn't do it justice, though. (I wonder if a committee came up with it?) I am a big fan of David Duchovny, he's always nice to watch, and Julianne Moore and Maggie Gyllenhaal are also good. I recommend this!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

No, it's not a typo -- she really DOES spell her first name that way. (I remember the first time I heard of her, I had a hard time finding her books in the library catalog and had to go to Amazon in order to find out that she spells her first name differently.)
A teen reader recommended this book (the story of a high school girl in love with a vampire) to me -- she said it was amazing. And I do think it's well-written, but I guess I'm just not that into seventeen-year-old love anymore. After the first 100 pages or so, I got kind of bored and just skimmed through the rest of it. I don't think I'll read the sequel, New Moon, either. But I will say that this has reminded me of a series that I adored several years ago -- Tanya Huff's fantastic "Blood" series. Now there's a main female character who I can relate to, a tough, butt-kicking Canadian ex-cop (who is now a PI, with a vampire partner). The first one in the series is called Blood Price, if you're interested in checking it out.

Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Full disclosure: I love Susan Elizabeth Phillips' books. They are fun, sassy, sexy and well-written, and this one is no exception. One of the best things about working in a library is that sometimes I am able to sneak books home to read them before the release date. That's what I did with this one -- snuck it home, made some tea, grabbed some chocolate and settled in for a nice evening with two characters that I really enjoyed spending time with. I even laughed out loud (okay, snorted) a couple of times. What more can I ask from a good romance novel?

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Promethea by Alan Moore (graphic novel)

I just finished reading volume 5 of the Promethea graphic novel series. Well, actually, I spent the afternoon immersed in volumes 2 - 5. And may I just say: wow. Intriguing, fascinating, funny, moving... and with several kick-butt female main characters. What's not to like? I highly recommend this five-volume series.

The Closers by Michael Connelly

I really enjoyed this thriller. It's one of Connelly's "Harry Bosch" series, but I doubt you have to read them in any order -- this is the first one I've read. It grabbed me from the beginning and I looked forward to every time I could sit down and read a few more pages of it. I liked how everything came together at the end, too. I felt that it was a strong ending, which is refreshing, because so many of these thriller writers seem to get bored and just slap any old ending on!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Side Effects by Amy Goldman Koss

I enjoyed this short little book, which is written from the perspective of a teen who's been diagnosed with leukemia. Honest, brutal and funny.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers

Someone came up to the circ desk while I was working there today and she was checking out "The Nine Tailors" by Dorothy Sayers. I love Dorothy Sayers, so we got into a conversation about her, and I told her my favorite Sayers novels were the three where Lord Peter gets involved with Harriet Vane (my ultimate favorite is Gaudy Night, in case you are interested.)
Luckily for me, the person who was checking out the book didn't mind talking books with me. (Some people tend to look at me as if I'm a crazy person and back away slowly.) She then told me "Oh! I have a book you would love to read! It's by Jasper Fforde. It's called The Eyre Something."
So I said "Oh! I love Jasper Fforde! Is it "The Eyre Affair?" It was so, SO nice to talk to someone else who loved that book. It's a hard book to get people to check out because it seems so strange. And it is strange, but it's a great book. In my opinion it's the best book in that series -- the later books didn't quite measure up.

I'd Rather Eat Chocolate: Learning to love my low libido, by Joan Sewell

Rock on, Ms. Sewell! This funny, honest and interesting book is a great antidote to all those articles and books on how to increase your sex drive. (There's a great dream sequence in the book where Sewell imagines a man going on Oprah and explaining sadly that his high sex drive is ruining his marriage, and what can he do to fix the problem? It put a different spin on things.)  

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory

A very satisfying read! I enjoyed it as much as The Other Boleyn Girl (also good).
One of these days I will have to go back and re-read Margaret George's "The Autobiography of Henry VIII," which is the first novel about this period that I read. I remember it was really good too.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson

Laugh-out-loud funny. I'm actually listening to this one on CD - it's great entertainment on the way to and from work. I am a Bill Bryson fan and this book does not disappoint.

The Sharing Knife by Lois McMaster Bujold

This is the first in a new fantasy series by Bujold. It was well-written, but I didn't enjoy the balance of romance and fantasy. It seemed too gooily (is that a word?)  romantic for my taste. AND, it's not a Miles Vorkosigan novel (that's the military SF series that Bujold also writes). But still a good read.

Good Girls by Laura Ruby

I enjoyed this young adult novel. It also made me glad I'm not growing up in today's technology-filled world. The protagonist makes one stupid mistake, someone captures it on a cell phone and sends it around to everyone in school, and next thing you know she's persecuted and treated like a slut and everyone hates her. (Thank God when I made stupid mistakes in high school, no one was standing there with a camera documenting it. That would have made the experience indescribably worse than it already was.)