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.