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):