Sunday, December 21, 2008

Books I've read lately

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher  - an enjoyable and interesting, frothy and funny memoir
Double Identity by Margaret Peterson Haddix - (teen) - recommended to me by a 7th grader at Lunch in the Library with Ms. Lommel last week. Fantastic book! I couldn't put it down. The next day I foisted it onto another person who I know will enjoy it.
Warriors: Into the Wild by Erin Hunter (kids/teen) - also recommended at Lunch in the Library. I read enough of it to get a feel for it, but for some reason I've never been a big fan of books written from the perspective of animals (Watership Down, the Redwall series, etc) -- except maybe for Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. So I stopped reading it. But the writing was good and I could see why all the kids love it.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (teen) -- WOW. Amazing book, unputdownable. The first in a trilogy. Now I have to wait for the others. Meanwhile I plan to go to the library on Monday and check out the first one in Collins' series for younger kids, the Gregor series. How have I missed this author??
Black and White and Dead All Over by John Darnton -- thanks to Pat D for the recommendation. I enjoyed this interesting, well-written mystery -- and learned a lot about the newspaper publishing business along the way.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Looking for something to read?

My favorite book review magazine, Bookmarks, is tracking the top 10 book lists from magazines and newspapers across the country. Browse their selection at 

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin

I have been meaning to read this history of Abraham Lincoln's rise to the presidency, and his presidency during the Civil War, since it came out in 2005. I finally managed to do it! It took me about 3 weeks but it was well worth it. It was a fantastic, interesting, wonderful book that made history come alive for me.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Recent books read

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. Extremely interesting. This man could describe watching paint dry and I'd read him. This book talks about how we think about success, and how factors that we haven't even considered also play into whether someone will be a success or not. I couldn't put it down. Fascinating.
Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron and Bret Witter. A very heartwarming read, and enjoyable. Warning: ending is sad.
A Supremely Bad Idea: Three Mad Birders and their Quest to See It All by Luke Dempsey. At the beginning of the book there was a nice balance between the author's snarkiness and his wonder at all the interesting and wonderful birds he was seeing, but after a while the snark factor took over and I decided not to finish the book.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Books I've been reading

The Other Side of the Island by Allegra Goodman (teen). I've always enjoyed this writer's adult fiction (Intuition is one of my favorite books ever) and this was quite an enjoyable foray into teen literature.
Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell.  Not a bad read, but certainly more lightweight than I've come to expect from this writer. If you really want to see what she is capable of, read The Sparrow or A Thread of Grace.
Unexpected Blessings: Finding Hope and Healing in the Face of Illness by Roxanne Black (nonfiction) -- A good read for anyone who lives with chronic illness. Black (who suffers from lupus) provides some good perspective and food for thought.
Science Fair by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson (teen) -- a fun read that made me laugh out loud several times. It seemed to drag on a bit long, but maybe that's because I have the attention span of a gnat lately.

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly

Another great thriller from Mr Connelly-- just what I was looking for!

The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent

A grim but interesting tale about a girl growing up during the time of the Salem Witch Trials. Slightly uneven but gripping.... I stayed up till 1:30 am to see how it ended (I couldn't put it down).

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Book lineup

Recent reads:
Children of Green Knowe by L. M. Boston.  I enjoyed this kid's book, which I discovered after I'd read the Penderwicks book and was casting around for something similar to read.
Janes in Love by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg (graphic novel for teens) -- sequel to The Plain Janes, very satisfying.
Good As Lily by Derek Kirk Kim and Jesse Hamm (graphic novel for teens) -- got good reviews, interesting premise, but too many words (and too-small print). Am I getting old and crotchety? I hope not. Probably this is just one of the books that I'd do better reading at another time.
Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve (kid's book). The tale of young Gwyna, who meets Myrddin (aka Merlin), falls in with Arthur's band and poses as a boy (among other things). I am not finished with this one yet but am quite liking it. I always enjoy Philip Reeve's books.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Flights Against the Sunset by Kenn Kaufman

I loved this book of short essays on birding, interspersed with Kaufman's musings on his relationship with his parents and his visits to his mother's room in the care facility where she is living. (One of my favorite essays was "Hell's Birders," about a gang of Harley-riding hardcore birders.)
I really enjoy Kenn Kaufman's writings about birding (Kingbird Highway was also excellent).

Forever Changes by Brendan Halpin (teen/young adult)

If Brendan Halpin wrote a version of the phone book I would probably read it. Ever since I read his book Donorboy I have really enjoyed all his writing - his fiction as well as his memoirs.
This book is wonderful - about a nineteen-year-old high school senior who has cystic fibrosis and is trying to decide what her life means (and what she should do with the rest of it). Really well done. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Half-finished/skimmed books

I haven't found anything in the last couple of days to hold my interest. But here's what I've been skimming and half-finishing:
Mothstorm: The Horror from Beyond Georgium Sidus! by Philip Reeve. The third in the Larklight series (for children). Funny, with great illustrations, but I just wasn't in the mood for it at the time.
Midnight for Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo (another kid's book). Have been meaning to read this book for a long time, as it's the first in a pretty popular series for kids. I read enough to know that I would like it, if I was in the right mood. I'll probably go back to it at some point. But at least now I know enough to feel comfortable recommending it to others.
Such a Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster (adult, memoir).  Well, I'm sorry Heather (who recommended this), I gave it a shot. It definitely had some funny bits but the author's constant snarkiness and negative attitude (about pretty much everything) weren't really doing it for me, so I gave up halfway through. (Hey Heather, have you ever read anything by Laurie Notaro? She writes similar funny stuff about her crazy life but for some reason I don't find her as grating. Or maybe, once again, I just wasn't in the right mood.)

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall

I absolutely love the Penderwicks and I love how Jeanne Birdsall writes about them. I have been savoring this book for a couple of months now - I'll read a few pages on my Kindle and then put it down, because I simply don't want it to end. I don't think I can explain quite why I adore these books so much. Part of it is the subtle humor, part of it is the sweet way the family interacts with each other (not too sweet, though -- it's not saccharine), and part of it, I think, is a hope that there are some families out there who are actually like this one!
In any case, I am almost done with the book, and I really hope Ms. Birdsall is planning to publish another one. Can't wait to read it!

Hero of Ages (Book 3 of the Mistborn trilogy) by Brandon Sanderson

I'd been waiting for this book ever since I finished book 2 in early September. I knew its release date. I pre-ordered it from Amazon and then worried that because it came out the day after Columbus Day, I wouldn't get it on the date. Then (thank you Amazon) it was sent one-day UPS on Monday, so I got it!
Then I looked at its hefty size. It is huge! And small print too. And I discovered that it was available in Kindle format. So I thought about it (for about 2 seconds). And then I bought the Kindle version (and donated the hardcover to my library). My brother said "That is SO you." (He meant the part about buying multiple copies of a book.)
But enough about how I got the book (and how many times I bought the book), let's talk about the book. It was excellent, a wonderful end to a terrific series. I am impressed with Brandon Sanderson's world-building skills. How many worlds does this guy have in him? He did a great job in Elantris (a stand-alone novel) and now in this trilogy he really did a terrific job not only of creating an interesting world, but also of creating characters that you care for.
I devoured this book and was very sorry to see it end. I am looking forward to rereading the entire trilogy in a year or so, back to back, so I can enjoy it all over again. Meanwhile, I am delighted that Brandon Sanderson was tapped to write the last book in the late Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. If anyone can bring that big, complicated world and its story to a satisfying conclusion, it'll be this guy.

Books I read this weekend

Off the Deep End by W. Hodding Carter - a pretty funny (and honest) memoir of this 40+ guy's attempt to qualify for the Olympics in swimming.
My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor -  a very interesting account of the author's stroke and recovery. Since she is a neuroscientist she brings an extra level of knowledge to the table.
Frommer's Honolulu & Oahu day by day (2008). Oh yeah, someone's going to Hawaii in a few months. And that someone would be ME! Hot diggity.
Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains by Laurel Snyder (illustrations by Greg Call) - this is a delightful kid's book (recommended to me by Trisha). Very enjoyable.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Business books I've been reading lately

I'm working on a presentation about organizational culture, emotional intelligence at work and that sort of thing. It's been fascinating to prepare for it - I've read lots of very interesting books, including:
Dealing with Difficult People by Roberta Cava
A Survival Guide to Working with Humans by Gini Scott
The Nonverbal Advantage by Carol Goman (fascinating look at how you can learn to read body language and use it to guess what's going on in peoples' minds)
How to Reduce Workplace Conflict and Stress by Anna Maravelas
Authentic Conversations: Moving from Manipulation to Truth and Commitment by Jamie & Maren Showkeir (thanks to Cindy for sending me this one)
The Manager's Book of Decencies: How small gestures build great companies by Steve Harrison -- I really enjoyed and learned a lot from this one
The Civility Solution: What To Do When People Are Rude by P. M. Forni -- this one is a really useful one, good for dealing with any situation in which people are rude.
Coping with Toxic Managers, Subordinates... and other difficult people by Roy Lubit.  Fascinating, well-written, but it's really scary to know how many different types of toxic people are out there.
Corporate Culture: Illuminating the Black Hole by Jerome Want. A very comprehensive look at different factors that influence corporate/organizational cultures

Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing up Scieszka by Jon Scieszka (autobiography)

What a great book - short enough for kids to read but funny enough for people of all ages to enjoy -  especially people who grew up around the time Scieszka (rhymes with "Fresca") and his 5 brothers did. The book had me howling out loud several times throughout, and I forced several of my coworkers to listen to my dramatic recitation of Chapter 33, "Car Trip." They probably didn't thank me for that, but you'll thank me for recommending the book. Trust me. Your kids loved Scieszka's books and series such as Trucktown, The Stinky Cheese Man and the Time Warp Trio -- you'll love this one.

Monday, October 13, 2008

What I've been reading lately

"The Brethren" by John Grisham (thriller) - one I never read before, published in the mid-90s, very good
"A Talent for War" by Jack McDevitt (sci fi) -- one of his early ones, in fact the first in the Alex Benedict series. Okay, but not my favorite.
"Izzy and Lenore: Two Dogs, An Unexpected Journey and Me" by Jon Katz (memoir) -- I always enjoy Jon Katz' memoirs because he is so honest about the ups and down of life, and also of course because I love the descriptions of his dogs and various farm animals. This book was especially moving to me, because it talked about Katz's work as a hospice volunteer with his dog Izzy. (Saw the book in Borders, thought about buying it there, but ended up downloading it to my Kindle and reading it.)
"The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington by Jennet Conant (history - also reading this on my Kindle) --  Very interesting book, engaging and well-written. Kind of depressing because it is clear that shenanigans and immoral doings have been going on in Washington DC since time immemorial... the one problem I have with the book is the cruddy editing. Words are left out every so often, just often enough to rudely yank me out of the world in which I am reading and make me think "Huh?" So then it takes me a while to get back into the flow. Grr.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Partner by John Grisham

I really enjoyed this John Grisham thriller (published in the mid-90s). It was a well-written, intricate thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat until the very end (and even afterwards). One of the best Grisham books I've read!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Introvert Power by Laurie Helgoe

What a wonderful, celebratory book for those of us who are introverts! From the introduction: “Because extroversion lines up so well with American values, we introverts often deprive ourselves of what we most enjoy and thrive on. So, for all of you who draw energy from inside, behind, underneath, or away from it all, welcome home.”

I had "a-ha" moments at many times while I was reading this book. "You mean I'm not the only person who feels this or does this?" It was extremely validating.

I really got a lot out of this book.

The Enemy by Jack Reacher

A very enjoyable Jack Reacher novel, written during the period when he was still an Army MP. Not a new book, but I am catching up on my backlog!

In His Sights: A True Story of Love and Obsession by Kate Brennan

A scary, scary true tale of what it is like to be stalked by a whack-job ex. Remind me never to date again. I don't want this to happen to me.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

Very enjoyable, interesting modern gothic novel. I liked it very much.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Just Grace by Charise Mericle Harper (children's book)

What a cute, delightful book! Harper does the Fashion Kitty series of graphic novels for kids, which I just got hooked on, so I thought I would give this book a try too. I'm glad I did.

Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel (adapted by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin)

This was very enjoyable. I had never been able to get into the Artemis Fowl series of books, but the graphic novel grabbed my interest and now I think I might give the books a try again.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Almost Like Being In Love by Steve Kluger

I can't even begin to convey what a wonderful book this is - a terrific love story, funny, heartbreaking, and so well-written. Towards the end I found myself slowing down my reading because I was sure there was no way the novel could end satisfactorily - things had gotten too complex, something was bound to go wrong -- but dang if the author didn't pull it off amazingly well. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. I borrowed it from the library, but I think I need to own it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory

Oh.... my.... GOD!!!  This was a fantastic book. Wow. I just loved it. It tells the story of Mary, Queen of Scots and her imprisonment in England from three different perspectives: her own, the Earl of Shrewsbury, and the Earl's wife, Bess, who was an amazingly strong woman in her own right.
Just as good as The Other Boleyn Girl, my other favorite historical novel by this author.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Books I've read lately

Safekeeping: some true stories from a life by Abigail Thomas. Very good, I enjoyed it quite a bit.
Fashion Kitty vs. the Fashion Queen by Charise Mericle Harper (children's graphic novel) -- Wonderful!
The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson -- fantastic - the second in a trilogy. The third one is coming out in October. I can barely contain myself!!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger

WOW. Thanks to Stephanie B for recommending this book to me. How did I not find this when it first came out in the late '90s? I really, really enjoyed it. Anyone who likes sports, baseball, novels written in the form of letters, or funny books will probably enjoy this book. I just bought a copy for my dad and fully plan to foist copies of it onto whomever I can convince to take it. WONDERFUL book.

Attitudes of Gratitude: how to give and receive joy every day of your life, by M. J. Ryan

Thought-provoking and interesting book.

Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

An excellent fantasy novel - I had a really hard time putting it down. I have my coworker Deborah B to thank for recommending Brandon Sanderson to me - what a great author. Am looking forward to reading the next book in the Mistborn series.

Lie Down with the Devil by Linda Barnes

Another excellent book in the Carlotta Carlyle, P.I. series -- I really enjoyed it.

A reading weekend

I spent a good portion of this weekend reading. Here's a summary:
Bats at the Library by Brian Lies (picture book - adorable, wonderful.)
Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel (picture book - funny as heck)
Poor Puppy by Nick Bruel (ditto)
Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon & Dean Hale (a fun graphic novel for kids)
Fashion Kitty by Charise Harper (thanks to Trisha for recommending this fun graphic novel for kids)
The Anatomy of Hope: How People Prevail in the Face of Illness by Jerome Groopman

Friday, August 29, 2008

The first step is always to admit that you have a problem.

My name is Mary, and I have a problem. Yesterday I took 2 paper-bound books plus my Kindle to work with me (plus my spare book that is always rumbling around in the back seat, JUST IN CASE).  I stopped at a used bookstore on my way to my grandmother's and bought 2 books. When I got to work, six books that I had reserved through inter-library loan had arrived (okay, 2 of them are picture books so that won't take long). Then our box of advanced reader's copies came in. (Boy was Pat excited to find the latest P.D. James and Michael Connelly in there. I know what SHE is doing this weekend. But I digress.) So I added to my pile an Advanced Reader's copy of a book I've been hearing a lot about. Then while I was creating the new acquisitions list for this month, I noticed a new Linda Barnes had come out and we owned it! (Plus it was on the shelf.) Well, I haven't read any of her mysteries for a while so off the shelf and into my bag it went.
Total books brought to work: 3 (plus a spare)
Total books brought home from work: 12 (plus a spare)
Net gain: 9 books, one herniated back from lifting a very large overstuffed bag, and a realization that I have a serious problem.
But I'll deal with that later. Now I have to go finish my book. (One of them, anyway.)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall (kid's book)

I adored this charming, funny little kid's book. It reminds me of a book I used to read over and over when I was growing up - Five Little Peppers and How They Grew -- only a bit more contemporary. Four sisters and their intrepid dog ("Hound") have all sorts of adventures on their summer vacation. I highly recommend this wonderful book.

Babymouse: Monster Mash by Jennifer & Matthew Holm (kid's book)

Babymouse and Halloween - what could be better? Yet another terrific book in the Babymouse graphic novel series for kids.

The Laughter of Dead Kings by Elizabeth Peters

Another Vicky Bliss novel?! FINALLY! I have been waiting since Night Train to Memphis (1994) for more Vicky Bliss novels. I devoured this in one sitting. It was terrific - just what I would expect from Ms. Peters. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner (kid's book)

Skippyjon Jones is a young Siamese cat who dreams about being "Skippito Friskito, who fears not a single bandito" (picture a cat-like Zorro, wearing a mask). This cute picture book is a lot of fun and would be a great read-aloud for parents to read to their young kids.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Bad Kitty Gets A Bath by Nick Bruel (kid's book)

This book made me giggle helplessly. Anyone who's ever dealt with a cranky cat will get a huge kick out of it. Nick Bruel not only writes well, but as an illustrator, he also catches that special disgruntled look that only cats have perfected. I can't wait to read the earlier picture books he wrote, Bad Kitty and Poor Puppy.

Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan

Oh man, now I have to wait for the 5th book in this series along with everyone else! Hurry up and publish it, Mr. Riordan. I can't wait to find out what will happen next in this wonderful series.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

Some parts were pretty funny but on the whole I agree with most of the reviewers -- this is not Sedaris' best work. I remember when I read Naked, one of his first books -- I laughed so hard I nearly peed my pants. This one is definitely not like that. In fact, Sedaris seems more thoughtful and sad in this one than he has in previous ones.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Flap Art

If you are like me, you spend an inordinate amount of time craning your neck in public places trying to see what people are reading. If you are one of the people who finds this behavior annoying and obtrusive, I apologize, because I can't stop doing it. I also can't stop myself from striking up random conversations with people who are reading books that I like, even though it's clear that they only want to be left alone to read.

To shield yourself from prying eyes (and also play a practical joke on people who are prying), you might want to check out Flap Art at
Some of these are mighty funny.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Sea of Monsters and The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan

Dang, I adore this series! Rick Riordan can really write. I am currently working my way through the fourth book in the series, The Battle of the Labyrinth, which I practically had to wrestle out of some poor kid's hands (he had just returned it, actually, and I snagged it out of the book drop immediately). This is one of those series that is just as much fun for kids as for adults. And I get a big kick out of talking about these books with kids - and then hearing what other books they think I should read as well.

Yay, Percy Jackson and the Olympians! Rick Riordan, please hurry up and write the next book in the series. Meanwhile I will continue savoring Book 4 until I have to finish it. Then I may go back and re-read the whole series again. That's how awesome it is.

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

Thanks to Deborah for recommending this great fantasy novel to me. She was describing it to me, and I thought it sounded interesting, but then she mentioned it was written by the guy who wrote Alcatraz and the Evil Librarians and I knew it had to move to the top of my list! Well-written, interesting and hard to put down. I'm looking forward to reading more of his stuff.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Reader's Bill of Rights

From Better Than Life by Daniel Pennac
The Reader's Bill of Rights
1. The right to not read
2. The right to skip pages
3. The right to not finish
4. The right to re-read
5. The right to read anything
6. The right to escapism
7. The right to read anywhere
8. The right to browse
9. The right to read out loud
10. The right to not defend your tastes

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (kid's book)

I've been hearing about this book for a while now and finally, after reading Vampirates, I thought I'd give this one a try.  WOW. It was fantastic. It completely lived up to the hype I'd heard about it. I couldn't put it down.
Rick Riordan knows how to keep your attention - probably due to the fact that he has been a middle school teacher for several years. This book was interesting and funny and sad and everything good.
The funniest part for me: when the hero and his co-questors attempt to enter Hades, only to discover that it looks like a toll plaza on the Jersey Turnpike and there are three lines to enter: two regular lines and one EZ-DEATH (which is the one moving fastest, of course).
My chief disappointment is that this is book one of a series, and I only checked out the first one from the library. Now it's Sunday and the library is closed, and none of the books are available on Kindle or I'd download the second one right now and start reading! Dag nab it.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

I am grateful to my friend Melissa for mentioning the title of this book while we were sitting around last Sunday reading the papers (she was reading the New York Times Book Review). The title was intriguing enough that I downloaded the first chapter as a sample to my Kindle, and by the time I'd read the first 500 words I was hooked. I have always loved books that are written in the form of letters written between people ("epistolary novels," though I've never been able to pronounce that word). This book is fantastic - letters between a novelist living in post-WWII London and the members of a literary society on the Channel Islands, which had been occupied by the Nazis during the war.
I literally could not put this book down. I read and read and read until I was finished. I highly recommend it. If you're interested in reading more wonderful books in the form of letters, I would also recommend 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff and of course the wonderful Daddy Long Legs (and its "sequel," Dear Enemy) by Jean Webster.

Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean by Justin Somper (kid's book)

Thanks to my friend Trisha for recommending this terrific book to me. The characters are well-rounded, the plot interesting, and I think this book could be really popular with tween boys and girls alike. Newly orphaned twins Grace and Connor must contend with pirates and with "vampirates" in this page-turner. I recommend it highly - and have already downloaded both sequels to my Kindle!

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Handholder's Handbook by Rosette Teitel

Subtitled "A guide for caregivers of people with Alzheimer's or other dementias," this is a very straightforward and useful book. The author's husband suffered a slow decline with Alzheimer's, and she shares the wisdom and knowledge she learned through their last years together.
For me, since I am dealing with a grandmother with dementia, I found chapter nine "The Child Speaks" to be most helpful. It contains some interviews with children whose parents suffered from dementia, and really helped me feel that I am not alone in the thoughts and feelings that I have been experiencing.

Nothing to Lose by Lee Child

Another satisfying Jack Reacher thriller by Lee Child!

Moscow Rules by Daniel Silva

Dang, I do love a good Daniel Silva thriller. (And I've never read a bad one.) When I found out that a copy of this book was available at my local library branch (a browser's copy - first come first served) I jumped out of my chair and raced over there so I could grab it before anyone else did. I managed to stop myself from reading into the wee hours to finish it that very night, but it was difficult. If you haven't read Daniel Silva you are in for a treat, and although they don't have to be read in order, I would probably start with the first one about his recurring Gabriel Allon hero, The English Assassin

How to Be Useful by Megan Hustad

A fascinating look at the world of "how to succeed in business" literature and how it has changed over the past century or so. This is not only a great guide for people just starting out in the workforce, but also for us old geezers who've been out in the trenches for awhile. Everyone can pick up one or two things that are useful from this book - which is the whole point! Loved it.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich

Once again, I laughed out loud (or at least snortled) at least once almost every chapter. What a terrific summer beach read! Evanovich's writing is crisp, her characters are loony, Grandma Mazur is a pip, and who even cares about the plot? (Although the plot wasn't that bad either.)

The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes -- And Why, by Alexandra Ripley

Amazing book - fascinating, well-written, and surprisingly not that depressing. I'm going to quote from the introduction here, since it does a better job of explaining what the book is about than I could.


"All across the nation we have snapped plates of armor onto our professional lifesavers. In return, we have very high expectations for these brave men and women. Only after everything goes wrong do we realize we're on our own. And the bigger the disaster, the longer we will be on our own. No fire department can be everywhere at once, no matter how good their gear."


"This book goes inside the black box and stays there. The Unthinkable is not a book about disaster recovery; it's about what happens in the midst -- before the police and firefighters arrive, before reporters show up in their rain slickers, before a structure is imposed on the loss. This is a book about the survival arc we all must travel to get from danger to safety."

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Sister by Poppy Adams

Thanks to Diane C for recommending this spooky contemporary Gothic novel to me. It was a page-turner... but like Diane, I was left with some unanswered questions after I got to the end. (To say more would probably spoil things for other readers.) If I had to choose between two contemporary Gothic novels I'd pick Diane Setterfeld's The Thirteenth Tale over this one, but it's still a pretty good summer read.

Monday, July 14, 2008

What I Know Now: Letters to my Younger Self edited by Ellyn Spragins

The tagline is "Extraordinary women share the wisdom they wish they'd had when they were younger" and I can't say it any better than that. Some of the letters these women wrote to their younger selves gave me goosebumps. I'm buying this for a bunch of people!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

What I've been reading lately

Lots of trashy magazines

"House of Many Ways" by Diana Wynne Jones - an enjoyable "sequel" to Howl's Moving Castle

"Without A Map" by Meredith Hall. A memoir about what happens when a family abandons their child after she makes a mistake.

"The One Thing You Need To Know" by Marcus Buckingham -- interesting!

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted by Elizabeth Berg

Another wonderful book by the talented Elizabeth Berg. These short stories are funny, touching, and really ring true. This author is wonderful!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Eternity Road by Jack McDevitt

Not bad, not bad -- but I prefer his more futuristic stuff.

The Pinhoe Egg by Diana Wynne Jones

A very satisfying book by the extremely talented Ms. Jones. I am dying - DYING! - to read the sequel to Howl's Moving Castle which came out recently. Unfortunately they didn't have a copy at the bookstore so I guess I'll have to wait till the copy I requested from the library comes in.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I Still Have It... I Just Can't Remember Where I Put It: Confessions of a Fiftysomething by Rita Rudner (memoir)

What a hoot! Rudner is a treasure. I laughed a lot, and this was a very enjoyable read.

Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life by Steve Martin (memoir)

A thoughtful, well-written and interesting look at the great comedic mind of Steve Martin.

The Persuader by Lee Child

Another good Jack Reacher novel, though I tend to prefer the ones that are told in third-person (this one was told in first-person). I have friends who like the first-person ones best, though... there's no accounting for taste.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I Shall Not Want by Julia Spencer-Fleming

Wow, another fantastic book in the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mystery series. After the last book I didn't think it was possible for her to top herself, but she managed to find a way, and boy, is this a readable, wonderful, terrific, passionate and exciting book. If you haven't read this series I highly recommend it. But you'll want to start with the first one, "In The Bleak Midwinter." And then I dare you to be able to stop. Go on, try it.

City of Dogs by Livi Michael

Thanks to Meredith for recommending this neat kid's book to me. I really enjoyed it (she knew I would, there are lots of dogs in it).

Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik

Sometimes I adore being a librarian. We get advanced reader's copies (ARCs)! This book is not actually due to be published till July 8th, but imagine my delight when I found it in the latest box of ARCs. I shrieked with excitement. Everyone else in the office wondered if I had gone a bit cracked.


Anyway, the book (the fifth in the Temeraire series) was wonderful -- well written, thought provoking, and awesome. Yay!

Friday, June 13, 2008

books I've read lately

Skim by Mariko & Jillian Tamakai - an interesting teen graphic novel


Utterly Me, Clarice Bean by Lauren Child - a FABULOUS kid's book, I adored it


The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch - a really good read, thought-provoking, funny and sad

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Dorothy on the Rocks by Barbara Suter

Funny and well written, but ultimately disappointing chick lit.

What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love, and Marriage by Amy Sutherland

Based on an article that originally appeared in the NY Times in 2006 (link here), this is a fascinating look at how we can train other people (and how they can train us) to do things we don't even realize... and how to *avoid* accidentally training someone to do something you don't want to happen. It's hard to put down this book, and I'll definitely keep it close by so I can read through it and refresh my memory when I'm having trouble dealing with a difficult person.

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food by Jennifer 8. Lee

This was a really enjoyable, interesting nonfiction journey through the history and background of Chinese food in America (and elsewhere around the world). It was hard to put down. I learned a lot and I was not bored -- two very important factors!

Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson (teen)

It's about time someone realized librarians' innate capacity for evil and mayhem! I knew I would like this book from the first sentence, which I quote here in its entirety: "So, there I was, tied to an altar made from outdated encyclopedias, about to get sacrificed to the dark powers by a cult of evil Librarians." And I was not disappointed. Hoping mightily for a sequel!

Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by Ori & Rom Brafman

An enjoyable nonfiction book about how we can inadvertently sabotage ourselves without even realizing what we are doing. A quick and interesting read.

The Hard Way by Lee Child

How cool is this - I finished The Hard Way on my Kindle, riding back from my grandmother's house (my brother was driving) and promptly purchased another thriller by the same author while speeding down Route 80. I think I need to lay off the thrillers, though. I was doing some gardening this morning and I came across a small, roundish piece of light-colored rock and my first thought was "Oh no! Someone buried a severed fingertip in my yard!!"  Thankfully it turned out to be rose quartz and not human flesh.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Trunk Music by Michael Connelly

An excellent Harry Bosch thriller with lots of twists and turns. Kept me up late!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Last Coyote by Michael Connelly

Another good Detective Harry Bosch thriller! Hard to put down.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Abortionist's Daughter by Elisabeth Hyde

Wow - I really enjoyed this book. It was pretty un-put-downable.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Recent downloads to my Kindle

One thing I love about my Kindle is that I can download sample chapters of books I'm thinking about reading. Often I can tell during the first chapter whether or not I want to continue reading something. (No, I am not one of those people who feel compelled to finish reading whatever they started, no matter how much they hate it. Life is too short.)

Anyway, here are a few books whose first chapters I just downloaded to my Kindle to try:

Home by Julie Andrews
Go Put Your Strengths to Work by Marcus Buckingham
The City of Ember by Jeanne Duprau
Paranoia by Joseph Finder
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin (have been meaing to read this one FOREVER)
Escape by Laura Palmer.

Bill Bryson's African Diary by Bill Bryson

The only complaint I had about this book is that it is too short. It's actually only 64 pages -- but I didn't know that when I downloaded it to my Kindle! Bryson is always entertaining and this is an enjoyable read. All royalties and profits from this book will be donated to CARE International.

Be Happy Without Being Perfect by Alice Domar & Alice Lesch Kelly

This book was recommended to me by Trisha and I am really learning a lot from it. If you harbor perfectionist tendencies in any area of your life, you might learn some ways of talking yourself down from the ledge with this book. I consider myself a "recovering perfectionist" and I was able to learn quite a few good tips and tricks for how to ensure I don't fall into that trap again. I definitely recommend this book!

It's Easier Than You Think: The Buddhist Way to Happiness by Sylvia Boorstein

A very insightful little book. Boorstein is accepting of her own flaws and the flaws of those around her. She gives some good advice for how to be content with the life you've been given. She writes "I once heard someone say that a sign of enlightenment was the ability to say (and mean it in any moment, 'Well, this isn't what I want, but it's what I got, so okay.'"

Highly recommended.

Pay Attention, For Goodness' Sake by Sylvia Boorstein

Valuable insights and knowledge about how to be a decent human being. I can always tell how much a book has moved me by how many Post-its I use to mark passages that speak to me. This book is pretty much flagged to death with Post-its. Here's one such wise passage:

"My mind, like everyone else's mind, falls into habitual, predictable traps. I get confused. Practice is not about never getting trapped. It's about recognizing traps and choosing freedom. If I pay attention, I won't get stuck forever. I'm determined to do it."

Quiet Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian by Scott Douglas

Amusing and in some places downright insightful commentary on what it's like to serve the public and work in a library.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Infinity Beach by Jack McDevitt

Ehh. It was okay, but there were some plot holes you could drive trucks through. And I didn't like the characters (or the tone of the novel, for that matter) as much as I liked some of McDevitt's other novels.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Semper Mars by Ian Douglas

Quite satisfying military SF.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Dog Says How by Kevin Kling

Very enjoyable essays about the absurdities of life. Kling is a commentator for NPR and a storyteller, which is apparent in the grace with which he tells these stories.

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson

Another excellent read from Laurie Halse Anderson. Raw and vivid and truthful about what it is like to be a teenager.

Friday Nights by Joanna Trollope

I usually enjoy Joanna Trollope but this book did not grab me. Within the first few chapters the author had switched perspective among the four main characters several times, and I never felt a sense of attachment to any of them because each time I got close, she'd switch to writing from a different person's perspective. Not my thing.

When Science Goes Wrong by Simon LeVay

When Science Goes Wrong: Twelve Tales from the Dark Side of Discovery is a fascinating book. I saw the author a few weeks ago on Jon Stewart, which got me interested enough to check out the book. In these essays he describes what science looks like when it doesn't work the way you expect it, or when something goes awry. Really interesting stuff, and well-written, too.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Practically Perfect by Katie Fforde

A very enjoyable escapist read! The best I've read from Katie Fforde in several years.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Rocket Science (movie)

Hard to describe... but I did enjoy it.

The Wedding Date (movie)

I don't know why this is true, but even sappy romantic comedies with weak storylines sound better when half the actors have British accents.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Power Play by Joseph Finder

How awesome is this? I downloaded the first chapter (for free) onto my Kindle, decided that I liked it, and downloaded the entire book in about 5 seconds while sitting in a meeting.
I have never read Joseph Finder before but I enjoy him -- he does a good thriller.

Chindi by Jack McDevitt

Pretty good -- but I didn't enjoy it quite as much as some of the others that he's written featuring Priscilla Hutchins.

Friday, April 04, 2008

The Foreshadowing by Marcus Sedgewick

The first book I read on my Kindle! It was pretty good. So was reading it on the Kindle. :)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Odyssey by Jack McDevitt

Another fantastic, gripping, interesting, terrific sci fi novel by the amazing Jack McDevitt. What a writer. And he has really strong female characters too, which is of course something I think is incredibly important. I couldn't put this book down. I highly recommend it.

Killing Floor by Lee Child

I can see why so many people enjoy Lee Child's "Jack Reacher" novels. This guy is a good writer, keeps you on the edge of your seat. I almost blew off a dinner engagement because I just wanted to stay home and keep reading this, which is the first of the series (but I doubt they really have to be read in order).

Monday, March 31, 2008

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Enchanted (movie)

Charming! Very enjoyable.

Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson

Not bad. But I enjoyed her others better.

Helvetica (documentary)

A fascinating look at the world of typography and graphic design. No, I'm not kidding -- it's really good! Take a look at what IMDB says: -- then do yourself a favor and go rent it.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Murder at Madingley Grange by Caroline Graham

A modern, funny twist on the English country-house murder genre. I had never heard of this author till I found this book languishing on the giveaway shelf at a nearby Starbucks. I really enjoyed it! Can't wait to read more by this author.

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

A fascinating look at human behavior. Ariely, a "behavioral economist," says that we are wrong when we expect people to behave in rational ways. Not only are we irrational in the ways we make our decisions, but we are predictable in our irrationality. This book provided a lot of food for thought, was written well, and was entertaining as well as educational. How much better could things get? I would highly recommend it.

I've been on a teen book kick

Here are three of the really good teen books I've read lately:
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (this one appears on a lot of high school reading lists and I'm glad -- it's really great, and also contemporary
Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson (on the theory that reading one book by an author you like is never enough)
Tithe by Holly Black. Interesting.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Best Military Science Fiction of the 20th Century (anthology)

I had high hopes for this book of short stories, and while there were some pretty good stories in there, I was disappointed in the end. How could they not include a story from Lois McMaster Bujold? And why include a chunk from Ender's Game, which (while very good) isn't really a short story? Oh well.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Tales of a Low-Rent Birder by Pete Dunne

I didn't enjoy this series of birding essays quite as much as I enjoyed Kenn Kaufmann's memoir Kingbird Highway, but there were some great moments here. A very browsable book.

No Dogs in Heaven? by Robert T. Sharp DVM

A fun memoir of what it's like to be a country veterinarian. If you like James Herriot's stuff you will probably enjoy this too.

Crazy in Love by Lani Diane Rich

A very satisfying, funny romance novel. My favorite line: "The Poughkeepsie dive where Jake had set up his appointment with Rhonda Bacon was dark and smelled vaguely like feet and peanuts."  Feet and peanuts? What a combination.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Crawling: a father's first year by Elisha Cooper

An engaging and honest tale of what it's like to be a father -- especially when you weren't sure you wanted to BE a father in the first place -- and how it changes things. Funny at times, touching at others, this is a quick enjoyable read.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Long Hill Library Winter Reading Club

For the next few months I'll be posting book reviews to Long Hill Reads, a blog created for the Long Hill Library's Adult Winter Reading Program. Feel free to visit me there!


Monday, January 07, 2008

Larklight by Philip Reeve

Awesome! Very enjoyable beginning to a series which I hope will continue on for a good long time.

Babymouse: Puppy Love by Jennifer & Matthew Holm

Babymouse rocks, and Volume 8 of this great graphic novel for kids is no exception. Go, Babymouse!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

About Alice by Calvin Trillin

I enjoyed this brief portrait of Alice Trillin, as written by her husband Calvin. His love for his wife shines through every word.

Just One More Thing, Doc: Further Adventures of a Maine Veterinarian by Bradford B. Brown

Enjoyable tales of the interesting life of a large-animal veterinarian, but I didn't find this second memoir as wonderful and compelling as Brown's first book, "While You're Here, Doc."  That one seemed much meatier and more interesting. I highly recommend While You're Here, Doc.

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

A very well-written, interesting look at one man's internal struggle against the constraints of "polite society" in 1870s New York City, where he can never have the woman whom he loves. This book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1921. Thanks to Trisha for recommending it to me.