Sunday, January 31, 2010

Up in the air/Walter Kirn

Up in the air/Walter Kirn 362 pgs.

NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE! brags the cover of this book. I haven't seen the movie yet but hear it has very little in common with the book. From just looking at the reviews of the movie, I must agree. The book was interesting. Ryan Bingham's job as a career transition counselor keeps him on the go. He thinks of his world as "air world". He has given up his apartment and really is a road warrior with no home base. The book focuses on his goal of 1 million frequent flier miles and talks a lot about his relationships with fellow travelers and his family. I really enjoyed the book and would definitely read another by Kirn. - Christa

Saturday, January 30, 2010


Matilda by Roald Dahl, 240pp.

This was another re-read, for my Wednesday kids' book club. I think Matilda is my favorite Dahl book. How can you not love a small, super-intelligent girl who gets the best of the moronic adults around her?

I'm Down

I'm Down by Mishna Wolff pp.273

This bio about a poor white girl growing up in a poor black neighborhood and attending a rich white school tells of her trials and tribulations of trying to fit in with her peers. At times very funny, at others painful to read

Cynthia D

Friday, January 29, 2010

I shudder/Paul Rudnick

I shudder: and other reactions to life, death and New Jersey/Paul Rudnick 318 pgs.

Paul Rudnick is a good writer and this book reminds me of books by David Sedaris (who has the cover blurb). This book is a collection of Rudnick's personal memories intersperse with a fiction "story". I liked all of his personal writing but could have done without the fictional story. - Christa

Blackman's coffin/Mark de Castrique

Blackman's coffin/Mark de Castrique 255 pgs.

Sam Blackman is a military man who loses a leg in Iraq. He gets sent to Asheville, NC to recover and finds himself involved with a murder investigation of fellow military amputee Takima Robertson. This book is full of local detail that checks out with my friend who lives in Asheville. I really enjoyed the complexity of the mystery and history of the area. - Christa

Doctor Who: the writer's tale by RTD

Doctor Who: the Writer's Tale by Russell T Davies and Benjamin Cook. 512 pp.

Russell T Davies has been the "showrunner"--producer, main writer, script editor, etc etc--of Doctor Who since it was relaunched in 2005. Benjamin Cook is a reporter. The book is, as Cook describes it, "a year-long interview, in effect," containing emails between the two men covering February 2007 to March 2008 (series 4 of the show). It's mostly RTD, of course, talking about what's happening that day with the show, but also about his writing process, which is quite interesting. The book also includes scripts for a couple of episodes, and we see them evolve, with RTD talking about why and how he's making changes. As a fan of the show I found it immensely enjoyable, but I imagine it would also be quite fascinating for people who are interested in writing for television even if they have no familiarity with the show whatsoever.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, 183 pp.

I read this a bazillion years ago when I was a kid. Whitewashing the fence, Becky Thatcher, Injun know the drill. Figured I should re-read it before The Big Read discussion I'm involved in. No surprises but there were a few details I didn't remember or thought were in Huckleberry Finn.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Ring of the Nibelung

The Ring of the Nibelung volume 1 by P. Craig Russell pp.200

Always wanting to expand my horizons, I read Richard Wagner's opera based on German mythology in graphic novel form! (Felt a real connection as my maiden name is Wagner).

Cynthia D

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Trotsky: a Graphic Biography

Trotsky: a graphic biography/Rick Geary 103 pg.

This biography gives you a quick idea of Trotsky's life and ideas but is about what you would expect from something this short and graphic. It seems like I wrote a paper in high school about Trotsky but didn't have much memory of any details. Aside from the whole "revolution" and several periods in prisons or exile, I learned from this book that Trotsky liked to hunt and fish. He had 4 kids, all of whom met an early demise. In his later years, he had a brief fling with the artist Frida Kahlo. He was killed by a Stalinist agent who had integrated himself into the Trotsky household. - Christa

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Brooklyn Knight by C.J. Henderson

Brooklyn Knight by C.J. Henderson. 335 pp.

A hugely disappointing book. A museum curator in the vein of Indiana Jones dealing with magic and mayhem in Brooklyn--what's not to like? Well, the prose is so bad that it kept throwing me out of the story, the story isn't that interesting, and the characters are uninteresting except when they're ridiculous. The author note says that Henderson has written comics for 30 years, so I'd expect him to be able to write decent dialogue at least, but no.

Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving

Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving, 551 pgs.

I savored every minute of this one. The main thread spans the life of a widower father and son who flee their logging camp home, weaving in and out of New England and eventually to Toronto, pursued by the past and occupied by the father’s passion for cooking and the son’s for writing. There are many obvious parallels between Irving and the character of the novelist son, allowing for what I assume to be reflections on the author’s own career, political views, and passions. As always, with Irving, there are bears, wrestlers, tattoos, strong women, and accidents aplenty that propel the story and keep the reader wondering, “where could this story possibly go from here?” And as always, at least in recent offerings from Irving, I can’t keep myself from going along for the journey.

Double or Die

Double or Die: A James Bond Adventure by Charlie Higson 371 pages.

Can you imagine a young James Bond: dashing, debonair and rather self-confident? While a student at Eton, he is introduced to baccarat and discovers a talent for gaming... and solving cryptic mysteries, fast driving and dodging bullets. This book is short on the tech toys found in the Alex Rider series by Horowitz; instead it focuses on cerebral acrobatics to help rescue a kidnapped professor. Don't get me wrong. It does have plenty of action -- after all this is Book Three in the Young Bond series.

The Lord of the Rings Movie Trilogy/Brian Sibley

The Lord of the Rings: the making of the movie trilogy/Brian Sibley 191 pgs.

I strongly recommend this for all Lord of the Rings fans. - Susie

Teasing secrets from the dead/Emily Craig

Teasing secrets from the dead: my investigations at America's most infamous crime scenes/Emily Craig 284 pg.

I read this because I find inside stories of true crime interesting. - Susie

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cake Wrecks/Jen Yates

Surely by now you have all heard of Cake Wrecks, that wondrous, terrifying, and hilarious blog of bakery disasters that provides endless hours of entertainment. Now it is in convenient portable book form! Amusing commentary, Horrifying grammatical snafus, misunderstandings, things that are just in poor taste, like please tell me someone, Why a giant headless limbless distended pregnant torso cake is a good idea for someone's baby shower, Why? And you just know it's red velvet, too. This book is a collection of some of the best Wrecks on the blog, from the existential-crisis-inducing "I Want Sprinkles" to the Naked Mohawk-Baby Carrot Jockeys, which just speaks for itself. And there's plenty of new wrecks and behind-the blogscenes information and commentary, which, IMO, makes it a worthwhile read even if you're a regular reader of the blog. like me. Because I have no life. And if you haven't read the blog, this is a great primer. Had a bad day? Need a laugh? Need some schadenfreude? Cake Wrecks. Do it.   191 pp.

Wheel of the Infinite by Martha Wells

Wheel of the Infinite by Martha Wells. 368 pp.

A stand-alone fantasy novel that breaks a lot of standard fantasy rules. It has a non-Western setting--the cities and temples are based on Angkor Wat in Cambodia--and it featurs a middle-aged heroine with a younger man as her love interest. Wells is great at world-building, and she does it in such a way that you absorb the background and culture while you're reading about the characters, rather than bringing the whole story to a standstill while "info-dumping." One of my very favorite novels.

Fired Up by Jayne Ann Krentz

Fired Up by Jayne Ann Krentz. 344 pp.

Krentz's Arcane Society books aren't really a series, but they share a background against which the characters with paranormal powers move. This title, however, is the first of a trilogy; the other two books will be under her pen names, Amanda Quick (historical) and Jayne Castle (futuristic). Krentz is a comfort read for me--I know her couples will end up together at the end, after solving some kind of mystery/suspense question, so I stick around for the witty banter etc. Unfortunately there's more plot than banter in this book, and plot is not Krentz's strong suit. Somewhat disappointing, although I'm sure I'll read the next two anyway.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfield

Leviathan by Scott Westerfield. 440 pp.

An alternate history of World War I a la Steampunk. The powers at war are the Clankers, who want to rule via machinery, and the Darwinists, who genetically alter animals into useful tools for everyday life and war. Add a girl masquerading as a boy in the British Air Service and an unrecognized heir to the Hapsburg throne and you have the makings of a fun tale.

Nice Girls Don't Live Forever, by Molly Harper

Sequel to Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs and Nice Girls Don't Date Dead Men. Paranormal Romance. 336 pages.

I picked up this series because it's about a librarian that gets turned into a vampire. I mean, really. I kept reading it more out of morbid curiosity than for any connection to the characters or attachment to the plot. The third book is an improvement over the first, and a large improvement over the second. In fact, I feel good enough about it now to read more, if it was available.

I Killed: True stories of the road

I Killed: True stories of the road from America's top comics/compiled by Ritch Shydner and Mark Schiff

This book is full of funny stories that happened to various comedians when they were on the road. Many of them are quite crude and a lot of them end with the comic running for the car. Of course I loved it. - Christa

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Life of Pi / Yann Martel 401 p.

One of the most unusual books I've read in awhile.  Pi crosses the Pacific in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger on board.  Can't decide what I think yet, but it was definitely hard to put down.  Anyone else read this?

Lileks, James. Gallery of Regrettable Food. 192 p.

Unlike my previous posting, this is a book I can recommend without reservation.  I laughed so hard while reading it that my kids kicked me out of the room!  Don't limit yourself to a quick perusal of the photos, as terrific as they are.  Lilek's commentary is the best part.  Consider the following: "Dessert?  It's a core sample from a mass grave," and "...this man has just had his buttocks lanced with a hot railway spike," and my favorite, "...Whatever you got that's potted, I'll take it, pal."  Share your own personal highlights here, please!

Patchett, Ann. Patron Saint of Liars. ?p.

Every time I pick up an Ann Patchett book, I always want it to be Bel Canto.  And it never is.  Unless it says B E L  C A N T O on the cover.  But seriously, that was such a great book, and nothing else she's written seems to approach it.  Patron Saint was her first novel.  It has a very readable style and an unusual setting (a home for unwed mothers in '60s Kentucky), but the main character is hard to understand and ultimately unlikeable.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Goth Girl Rising, by Barry Lyga

YA 390 pages. Sequel to The Astonishing Adventure of Fanboy and Goth Girl

While the last volume was told from Fanboy's point of view, this one is Kyra's (a.k.a. Goth Girl's) story. It picks up six months after the conclusion of the last volume, and contains a lot of explanation of why Kyra does what she does. In some respects it's a very thought-provoking book, and sheds a lot of light on both main characters. However, there were times where it felt like Lyga was trying to squeeze every Teen Issue he could into one person's life. It felt believable, though, and the short chapters made it really readable. While the last book had a lot of asides about X-Men, Fanboy's favorite comic, this one focused on Sandman, Goth Girl's book of choice. There's even a recurring section where Kyra writes letters to Neil Gaiman, rather than in a journal. That alone made this book worth reading for a Gaiman fangirl like myself.

The Ersatz Elevator/Lemony Snicket

In the sixth installment of the series, Handler/Snicket starts getting all House of Leaves, as the orphans take up residence in a penthouse apartment of a building which contains a harrowingly long spiral staircase and an even more harrowing elevator shaft, as represented by two pages of soul-killingly black blankness. Their guardians for this book are the Squalors: Jerome is a kindhearted milquetoast and Esme is, well, evil. But a good, well-rounded kind of evil, which is a blessing since the narrative of the stories is formulaic (wonderfully so, but still) and Olaf's regular band of henchpeople has, by this point, started to wear a little thin. Onward to book seven! 259 pp.

When You Reach Me

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead197 pages.

This year's Newbery winner is a keeper. In sixth grade, Miranda's comfortable life in New York City changes. Her best friend, Sal sudenly stops speaking to her. She reaches out to make new friends and to solve a puzzle. She finds scraps of notes that suggests the writer knows her future. The notes seem threatening, but warn her not to show them to anybody. Miranda's favorite book in the world is Madeleine L'engle's Newbery winning A Wrinkle in Time....hmm. This novel shares some of the time warp theories mentioned in A Wrinkle in Time. It also can stand proudly by other vintage award winners that have a mystery/puzzle theme: The Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler by Konigsberg and The Westing Game by Raskin.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Shadow Speaker

The Shadow Speaker by Nnedi Okorofor-Mbachu. 336 pages.

Although the fantasy field of literature is growing by leaps and bounds, this book is unique. The year is 2070 and the setting is West Africa. Fourteen-year-old Ejii has magical powers that she does not understand or is able to control. She leaves home for a journey across the Sahara desert meeting new friends and new creatures. The author has a strong, feminist voice.

The little giant of Aberdeen County

The little giant of Aberdeen County: a novel/Tiffany Baker 341 pg. (audio)

A lot of the themes and situations in this book are not the kind of thing I usually like...Due to some simple mix up or misunderstanding, people spend years of their lives in bad situations and never revisit the situation again, people feel sorry for themselves, and women are frequently portrayed as weak individuals. With that said, I ended up really enjoying this book.

Truly is a huge baby whose mother dies in childbirth. She continues to grow at an unprecedented pace and soon towers over everyone including her blond "princess" older sister and all of the other kids at school. She becomes an orphan at a young age and ends up living with the town out-cast family while her attractive sister goes to the preacher's family. This book follows Truly's life and gives us some history of the town and many of the other characters. In the end, I felt like there was a strong message of the joys of self acceptance and how that can lead to happiness.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

More ways to compete! More ways to WIN!

Do you know how many books you read last year? Do you have a goal for this year? Join the "weighted" competition by sending me the number of books read last year or an average for the last couple of years. We will use a convoluted formula to come up with a score.

How about a goal? Something that you might have to stretch to meet? Send me that number (either books or pages) and be eligible for even more wonderful prizes if you meet your goal.

Where the God of Love Hangs Out, by Amy Bloom

This short story collection consists of two sets of interconnected stories. I enjoyed Amy Bloom's novel, Away, so was looking forward to reading some of her stories, which have been well reviewed. However, I found both of the series rather disappointing, perhaps since I had rather high expectations. The first set concerns the relationship between two middle-aged married couples whose friendship is destroyed by adultery. The second set follows a widowed young women and her teen-aged stepson for the thirty years after his father's death. Their one-night indiscretion echoes down the years. 201 pp.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Order of the Stick. War and XPs by Rich Burlew

Order of the Stick. War and XPs by Rich Burlew. 282 pp.

Order of the Stick started out as a webcomic making fun of Dungeons and Dragons tropes, done in a stick-figure style. It has morphed into a fairly sophisticated fantasy adventure about a group of adventurers trying to save the world from the machinations of an evil lich. (Plus D&D jokes.) This is the third compilation of the online strips, and not only does it contain a lot of plot, it has bonus notes from the author on what he tried to do with certain plot points and how well he thought certain artistic decisions had turned out. I love that kind of stuff, so I really enjoy the printed volumes even though I read the strip online at (warning: strips are posted rather slowly, maybe one per week at this point, so reading the books can be less frustrating than waiting for strips to be posted).

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest. 416 pp.

A steampunk novel set in 1880s Seattle, now a shattered city surrounded by a wall keeping the Blight (a toxic gas) and the rotters (zombies created by the Blight) within. A grittier, grimier setting than many steampunk books, which is fine, but I can't put my finger on quite why this book isn't as much fun as I hoped it would be. It's a fascinating setting, though, and I'll certainly read any follow-up volumes.

Very Easy Circular Knits

Very Easy Circular Knits by Betty Barnden pp.127

I am desperately trying to learn to knit other things besides long rectangular scarves. Cynthia D.

The Children's Book, by A.S. Byatt

A. S. Byatt's sumptuous language and wide-ranging scholarship make this long, complex novel of late Victorian and Edwardian England a delight for lovers of her award-winning earlier novel, Possession. She follows the intricately interwoven lives of the children of several interrelated (in all senses) families to the heartbreaking climax of World War I, all the while informing the reader of Fabian politics, women’s suffrage, museum building, German puppetry, fin de siecle art, fairytales, and pottery glazes, amongst other subjects. Real historical figures intermingle with her fictional characters. Some may find its 675 pages daunting; I couldn’t put it down. As in Possession, there are selections from the “writings” of her characters throughout and the World War I poetry from the trenches is worthy of the best of the real poets of the era.

Experiencing the Kabbalah

Experiencing the Kabbalah: A Simple Guide to Spiritual Wholeness by Chic Cicero & Sandra Tabath Cicero 244 pp.

A Pagan/New Age introduction to the Sephiroth. The author explains the ten Sephirah by personifying each one and having the character explain the traits inherent in each one. Includes planetary, Tarot and other correspondances to the Sephiroth. I read this solely to get a general idea of the Kabbalah before I delve into Israel Regardie's The Middle Pillar which was assigned by my spiritual teacher.

Tumtum & Nutmeg:; Adventues beyond Nutmouse Hall

Tumtum & Nutmeg: Adventures beyond Nutmouse Hall by Emily Bearn 503 pages. (tTis volume contains three complete tales).

This is a whimsical account of a kindly mouse couple who begin to secretly care for the unfortunate motherless children living beyond their cozy cupboard in a ramshackle cottage. This first novel actually is three books in one. In each, outside forces -- a selfish and mouse phobic aunt, a squeamish schoolteacher and pirating pond rats -- threaten the children's well-being. It takes this clever couple, a heroic mouse general, a ballerina army and caged gerbils to save the children's wellfare and home. Children's lit has many well known mouse communities including Mrs. Frizby (O"Brien's Mrs. Frizby and the Rats of NIMH and Avi's Poppy series). Tumtum and Nutmeg are worthy newcomers.This gentle British story with black and white pen and ink illustrations could make a warm read aloud book.

The Amaranth Enchantment

The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry 306 pages.

An orphan, whose parents disappeared at a royal ball, is raised by a bitter, cold step-aunt. At age fifteen her life is thrown into turmoil on one day: when a mysterious women brings an amazing gem to the family jewelry shop, the prince stops in to purchase a bauble for his soon-to-be betrothed, and her uncle dies. A charming rogue causes her to be thrown in prison just when she is about to reclaim all that is rightfully hers.

This is a fresh fantasy for those who like Burnett's A Little Princess. There are no illustrations, but no matter. The authors words paints visual pictures of a heroine like Cinderella, the Matchstick Girl or Bella. It has more emotional depth than Cabot's princess series (which has a modern setting) and is more sustaining than Disney's pack of princesses.

Lord John and the brotherhood of the blade

Lord John and the brotherhood of the blade/Diana Gabaldon 494 pgs.

This would be a good choice ofr anyone who like the Oulander series. There are brief mentinos of Jamie Frasier. - Susie

Preacher, vol 9: Alamo

Preacher, vol 9: Alamo; by Garth Ennis (writer) and Steve Dillon (artist). 224 pages. Graphic Novel.

At first I was a little upset that everything was ended so abruptly in this volume. Then, the more I thought about it, I realized that this is actually a very neat and elegant ending to what's been a mythic story from the beginning. It's fitting. So, as a conclusion to a great series, it was awesome! Overall, I think this series is going on my personal list of best graphic novels.

America's Dumbest Criminals, Jr. Edition

America's Dumbest Criminals: Based on true stories from law enforcement officials across the country, Jr. edition 156 pgs.

I saw this and thought it would be interesting. - Susie

Preacher, vol 8: A Hell's A-Coming

Preacher, vol 8: All Hell's A-Coming; by Garth Ennis (writer) and Steve Dillon (artist). 192 pages. Graphic Novel.

This volume is the calm before the storm: Jesse and Tulip are reunited, and spend most of the book being happy about that. There's some rumblings from the bad guys, and a stand-alone story from Jesse's past, but the gist of this book is quietly setting up the conclusion.

Hero Street, U.S.A./Marc Wilson

Hero street, U.S.A.: the story of little Mexico's fallen soldiers/Marc Wilson 166 pgs.

I read this becasue it covers the Mexican-American contribution to the U.S. during WWII and the Korean War. - Susie

Preacher, vol 7: Salvantion, by Garth Ennis

Preacher, vol 7: Salvation; by Garth Ennis (writer) and Steve Dillon (artist). 256 pages. Graphic Novel.

I'm loving this series, and I think this is my favorite volume. Two of the three main characters are absent, so it's just Jesse and his dog, cleaning up a small Texas town. The feel of this story is more "Old West" than even the rest of the series, and the supporting characters are really well drawn.

Without honor/Jerry Zeifman

Without honor: crimes of Camelot and the impeachment of President Nixon/Jerry Zeifman 243 pgs.

This gives a very interesting and disturbing explanation of Washington politics and the cover-ups of crimes. - Susie

Monday, January 18, 2010

ALA Reading List: Outstanding Genre Fiction (first four categories)


Child, Lee--Gone Tomorrow
Short List
Bazell, Josh--Beat the Reaper
Gardner, Lisa--The Neighbor
Robotham, Michael--Shatter
Steinhauer, Olen--The Tourist

Scholes, Ken--Lamentations
Short List
Redick, Robert V. S.--Red Wolf Conspiracy
Butcher, Jim--Turncoat
Sanderson, Brandon--Warbreaker
Brett, Peter V. --The Warded Man

Historical Fiction:

Cornwell, Bernard--Agincourt
Short List
Moran, Michelle--Cleopatra's Daughter
Kolpan, Gerald--Etta
Stockbridge, Sara--Grace Hammer
Maitland, Karen--The Owl Killers


Evenson, Brian--Last Days
Short List
Cottam, F. G.--The House of Lost Souls
Waters Sara--The Little Stranger
Harwood, John--The Seance
Sokoloff, Alexandra--The Unseen

Notable Books for 2009 from ALA (nonfiction and poetry)

Cullen, Dave--Columbine
Eggers, Dave--Zeitoun
Finkel, David--The Good Soldiers
Grann, David--The Lost City of Z
Guibert, Emmanuel--The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders
Holmes, Richard--The Age of Wonder: how the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science
Keefe, Patrick Radden--Snakehead: An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underworld & the American Dream
McDouglaa, Christopher--Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Ever Seen
Norman Michael--Tears in Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath
Salisbury, Lainey--Provenance: How a Con Man & a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art
Small, David--Stitches: A Memoir
Thompson, Nicholas--The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze,George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War

Alexie, Sherman--Face
Dunn, Stephen--What Goes On: Selected and New Poems 1995-2009

Notable Books for 2009 from ALA (fiction)

For those of you looking for something to read.
Anthony, Jessica--The Convalescent
Atwood, Margaret--The Year of the Flood
Baker, Nicholson--The Anthologist
Chaon, Dan--Await Your Reply
Cleave, Chris--Little Bee
Dexter, Pete--Spooner
Harding, Paul--Tinkers
Li, Yiyun--The Vagrants
McCann, Colum--Let the Great World Spin
Morrison, Toni--A Mercy
Powers, Richard--Generosity: An Enhancement
Toibin, Colm--Brook

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I wonder if sun-rays count....

Green Lantern: Secret Origin - By: Geoff Johns (160 pages)

“It’s not going to make you change the world, but maybe it will provoke some sort of cognitive thought.”

The Green Lantern (secret origins) is actually the story of Hal Jordan (the second Green Lantern). Basically this story takes the concept of the Green Lantern, spices it up with modern day action and leaves you on a semi cliff hanger. I really enjoyed this book, I haven’t been much of a Green Lantern fan, but this writer seems to breathe life into a cold and emotionless franchise.

-- Amber

The Prince/Nicolo Machiavelli

The Prince/Nicolo Machiavelli 153 pgs.

It is always good to learn the rules about how to keep your kingdom. After years of hearing about this book, I finally read it. A lot still seems to make sense. Now if someone would just give me a kingdom so I could test it out. -Christa

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Girl Who Threw Butterflies

The Girl who Threw Butterflies by Mick Cochrane 177 pages.

Eighth grade Molly is trying to come to terms with the accidental death of her father. As an only child who was closer to her father than her mother, Molly recalls happy baseball memories. She decides to drop softball and go out for baseball instead. Since her father successfully taught her how to throw knuckle balls, she becomes the team's secret weapon. Of course, a school bully resents her place on the team, but this is mitigated by a new friendship with an artistic teammate. The relationships between Molly and her mom as well as with her best friend, Celia are sensitive and believable.

The Missing Girl

The Missing Girl by Norma Fox Mazer. 284 pages.

A predatory male obsessively watches five sisters trying to decide who he likes the best. Alternate chapters are from each sister's point of view as they try to survive day to day turmoil in a sad home. The father, recently injured in an accidental fall is in pain and out of work. The mother is neglectful and unaware of her daughters' needs. Yep, it is a psychological thriller but I read about the real stories in the news and don't know if I needed to read this.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Badass, by Ben Thompson

Badass: A Relentless Onslaught of the Toughest Warlords, Vikings, Samurai, Pirates, Gunfighters, and Military Commanders Ever to Live, by Ben Thompson. 334 pages. Nonfiction

I loved this book. The writing style is very, er, immature (image in ten-year-old describing en epic battle, but with more cursing), but highly entertaining. The chapters are short (3-4 pages each, with illustrations), so it was perfect for reading on breaks or before bed, when I didn't want to commit to a longer read. Thompson takes a few liberties with the historical details, but for the most part this facts are accurate, and more entertaining that any history class I've ever had.

I have to include a link to Unshelved's interpreation, as well.

A Brief History of Time/ Stephen Hawking

A brief history of time: from the big bang to black holes/Stephen W. Hawking 198 pg. (audio)

This is one of those books I've been meaning to read since it came out. Oh my, copyright 1988, guess I'm a little behind. My real thrill was finally feeling like I understood the purpose and use of Planck's constant after listening to the really wonderful explanation from Dr. Hawking. That lasted about 24 hours before it all became a muddle again. I guess I'll postpone that career change to physicist again. This is really a great book. - Christa

The cover artist/Paul Micou

The Cover Artist/Paul Micou 286 pg.
This author was mentioned in an interview that I read with Julia Louis Dreyfus who talked about how much she liked his books. The main character is an artists that specializes in nude caricatures for a magazine started by a childhood friend. He has an amazing "partner" in his dog Elizabeth with whom he shares most of his activities and teaches to paint. The story takes place in flashbacks to France after the artist (Oscar) returns home to New York City. There is a beautiful woman, a "misunderstanding" and some funny exchanges with his older brother. Most fun are the 2 art shows of Elizabeth's paintings that leave Oscar a rich man. I would read another book by this author but I'm not sure I would mention him in an interview. - Christa

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, 374 pp.

In the North America of the future, the country of Panam controls its citizens with fear and hunger. Every year 24 teen-agers selected by drawing to compete in a 24-enter-1-survives televised fight to the death called the Hunger Games. The lone winner receives honor and rewards for the district they represent. The losers...die trying. Sixteen year old Katniss becomes the representative of District 12 by volunteering to compete in her younger sister's place. Many of her competitors are bigger and stronger, some are weaker, and one is the boy from her own district who has professed his love for her. A riveting, if brutal, story.  

Divine Misdemeanors, by Laurell K. Hamilton

352 pages

Yes, I read it. I'm not proud. Mediocre writing, and an attempted mystery plot that got wrapped up way too quick and neat. This volume didn't do much to advance the overarching plot of the series, either.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville

The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville, Thriller with a dash of horror, 323 pages
This was a very good read. The characters are all solid and believable, even the most despicable of them show flashes of humor and humanity. None of the characters flinch at much. Fegan, the main character flinches at nothing. He was a very bad man, and what he has done troubles him deeply. The ghosts of his victims haunt him and harp at him until he can drink enough to pass out. While he's drinking, he talks to the ghosts and that worries his former IRA comrades. What the ghosts tell him to do worries them more and sends the book on a mad, bloody path. --Patrick

Leviathan by Scott Westerfield

Leviathan by Scott Westerfield--YA, Steampunk 440 pages (Audio 8hrs 20 min)
This was one of Annie's favorites from last year. I listened to it on a road trip this last Saturday with my Mom. We both really enjoyed it. The WWI setting takes a steampunk turn as the English and French, the "Darwinists", using their genetically modified battle animals, prepare to battle the Autro-Hungarians and the Germans, the "Clankers" with their metal war machines. Good Fun. --Patrick

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson--Science fiction, 470 pages
This is a great book, it's hard to believe that it came out eighteen years ago. Other than references to videotapes, most of the tech-stuff is still beyond me. This was the first book I read by Stephenson, back in 2000 or so, and it is interesting in re-reading it now to see that starting here and through his other books (the ones I've read anyway) that he is consistent in his enthusiasm for cramming huge amounts of information into his stories. It's as if he wants to tell us so many things that he makes up these interesting stories so we will sit still and take it all in. I loved the beginning of the book, meeting Hiro and Y. T., the end seems to come on rather suddenly, as if Stephenson realized he had to wrap it up soon.--Patrick

Every Breath You Take

Every Breath You Take by Ann Rule p. 446

If you're a lover of twisted minds, gory details and fast reads, you can't go wrong with Ann Rule's true crime books .

Iorich by Steven Brust

Iorich by Steven Brust. 319 pp.

The twelfth book featuring assassin Vlad Taltos. I enjoyed this one more than I remember liking the last few books, because Vlad is back in Adrilankha. The Jhereg are still trying to kill him, but his old friend Aliera is in trouble and he decides not to stay away. An immensely enjoyable fantasy romp.

The White Tiger / Aravind Adiga 276 p.

The reviews I've seen of this are dead-on: dark, very funny, tightly written, with a truly original voice. I'm attracted to Indian fiction - to me, some of the most interesting writing in English comes from there. --Kathleen

Monday, January 11, 2010

Angel's Game

Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon 531 pages.
In Barcelona, young David Martin enters the world of writing by penning sensational serials under an assumed name. Neither writing nor true love come easily to him. The girl he worships marries his mentor. Living in an abandoned mansion, he enters a strange agreement with a reclusive French editor that could make him incredibly wealthy or cost him his sanity.
This is the first novel that I have read by Zafon. I don't want to offend his fans, but he could be the Spanish hermano of Stephen King. Both have written about the art and demands of writing. Both explore troubled childhoods. And both describe dark journeys caused by inner demons.

Strange Things Happen : a Life with the Police, Polo, and Pygmies

Strange things happen: a life with the Police, polo, and pygmies by Stewart Copeland. 330 pp.

A really entertaining autobiography by the drummer from 80s band The Police. Copeland's a good storyteller, and the book is presented in short chapters like diary entries--some of the chapters were blog posts originally. That structure is much more flexible than a traditional linear biography narrative. Plus he's had a really interesting life, starting with growing up in Beirut while his father worked with Kim Philby at the CIA. Only the last quarter of the book is about being in The Police. His descriptions of how it feels to be a musician--how it feels to play, or compose, or arrange--were particularly well done.

Ice : a novel by Linda Howard

Ice: a novel by Linda Howard. 198 pp.

Linda Howard's last few books have been romantic suspense novels that, at some point, have a large section featuring the hero and/or heroine escaping from a very difficult physical environment--a house fire, an isolated town with a storm coming on--while simultaneously dodging bad guys of some kind. In Ice she jettisons most of the setup section, where normally we'd get invested in the characters, and immediately starts out with the hazard: oncoming ice storm in rural Maine, complicated by a home invasion by a couple of meth users. The tension is high for most of this short book, and the author is smart enough not to slap a "happily ever after" ending on a 24-hour relationship (although, of course, signs are good that this couple could develop such an ending eventually). A perfectly serviceable book, but not outstanding in any way.

Crawlspace by Sarah Graves

Crawlspace by Sarah Graves. 320 pp.

To be honest, I was disappointed in this mystery, number 13 in the Home Repair Is Homicide series. It's a well-written thriller, but I always enjoyed this series because of the voice of the main character, Jake Tiptree, and her viewpoint on her adopted hometown of Eastport, Maine. However, in the last few books the narration has changed from first person to third person. In this book we spend most of our time with strangers who have come to town rather than Jake, so we've lost Jake's voice and her viewpoint. It's certainly not a bad book, but it's not what I was looking for. 320 pg.

Alcatraz vs. the Knights of Crystallia/Brandon Sanderson

Alcatraz vesus the Knights of Crystallia by Brandon Sanderson. 336 pages.

I've been following this series of a while now, mostly due to my fascination with the cult of evil librarians bent on world domination. I mean, really, what's not to love? This is the third book in the series, featuring the usual amount of cheesy jokes and self-referential humor. These books are like chocolate: you know they're bad for you, but you can't stop. --Annie

Unaccustomed earth/Jhumpa Lahiri.

I re-read this collection of short stories for a book club and it was just as good, or better, than on first reading. Like Alice Munro, one of my very favorite writers in any length fiction, Lahiri's short stories, or novellas, are a rich and complex as a well-written novel of much longer length. Her writing is exact and beautiful. 333 pp.

Trapped/Greg Iles

Trapped/ Greg Iles 415 pgs.

submitted by Susie


Time D-Day: 24 hours that saved the world/Time editors 151 pgs.

Submitted by Susie

No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency

The No. 1 Ladies' detective agency/Alexander McCall Smith 235 pg.

Submitted by Susie

The Dark is Rising

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper, 244 pp.
This was a re-read of the title book of Cooper's award winning fantasy series. On his eleventh birthday, Will Stanton learns he is the newest and last of the "Old Ones", magical immortals who must locate the six hidden medallions to aid the powers of the Light before the Dark can rise. But the Dark has sent the Rider, evil cloaked in black on a black stallion to stop will from completing his quest. 

I read this a dozen years ago when my son was reading it. I enjoyed it then and enjoyed it this time as well.--Karen

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Super Freakonomics/Levitt & Dubner

Super Freakonomics: Global cooling, patriotic prostitutes and why suicide bombers should buy life insurance/Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner 270 pg.

There is something here for everyone and the writing will make you smile. Don't miss this book! - Christa

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Every Patient Tells a Story: Medical Mysteries and the Art of Diagnosis. Sanders, Lisa. 276 p. (I skimmed some parts of this - put me down for 150 p.!)

This was one of Patrick and Christa's favorites of last year. In addition to the interesting anecdotes, I liked the combination of the author's humility about medicine's flaws and her cautious optimism that the system can improve. --Kathleen

Friday, January 8, 2010

Mascot to the rescue

Mascot to the rescue by Peter David. 230 pages
Sixth grader, Josh is not just a comic book addict. He passionately believes that everything that happens to superhero Captain Major's sidekick, Mascot will happen to him. When he finds out that comic book fans vote to have Mascot eliminated, Josh is convinced that he must see Stan Kirby, the creator of the Captain Major series to save his "character". He enlists the help of two misfits to help him reach his goal. Some of the action is translated to comic pages. The budding friendship between Josh and his new friend, Kelsey is sweetly believable.

The Goodbye Time

The Goodbye Time by Celeste Conway 98 pages. This slim, coming of age story is about the shifts in feelings between two best friends. Both Anna and Katie are facing changes in their families involving their brothers. Anna's gifted 15 year old brother is destined to leave for Harvard in the fall; Katie's profoundly mentally disabled brother is about to be institutionalized because of his increasing violent episodes. Will their friendship survive these and other changes as they end fifth grade at their elementary school before starting up at middle school? Except for the "evil" shallow rich girl at school, the rest of the characters are kind-hearted and gracious(even Anna's big brother doesn't mind cooking for his young sister and her friend). A gentle book for fourth grade girls.

The Battle History of the U.S. Marines

The battle history of the U.S. marines: a fellowship of valor/Joseph Alexander with Don Horan and Norman C. Stahl 398 pages

This was very interesting if a bit bulky to carry. - Susie

The Coral Thief

The Coral Thief by Rebecca Stott. 278 pages. This quirky historical fiction tantalizes the reader with many different strains: philosophy, Napoleon, geology and suspense. Set in post revolutionary Paris, Daniel Connor, a young medical student is sidetracked from his studies by a mysterious female passenger sharing his coach to Paris. She disappears with his prized manuscript and fossil but leaves his money. After reading this, I am putting Stott's first novel Ghostwalk on my "To Read" list

Thursday, January 7, 2010

First in Peace/Conor Cruise O'Brien

First in Peace: How George Washington set the course for America/Conor Cruise O'Brien 177pg.

I've been on a Washington kick for awhile and since this was short, how could I not read it? Well, I got more than I bargained for due to the more academic style of writing. An interesting insight? Thomas Jefferson comes across as a real two faced back-stabber. -Christa

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling- 435 pages.
It was a lot of fun reading this (and listening to part of it on CD) with my kids. They had seen the movie, but they are really enjoying the greater detail in the books. Patrick

I'm Dying Up Here/William Knoedelseder

I'm dying up here: heartbreak and high times in stand-up comedy's golden era/William Knoedelseder 304 pages.
The mid-late 70's were a golden age for stand up comedy. This book talks about that time and the many comics who got their start in comedy clubs in New York and Los Angeles and made their way to the big time. This book tells of David Letterman, Jay Leno, Robin Williams, Richard Lewis, Elaine Boozler and many others and their eventual disagreement with club owners over pay issues. I listened to the audio of this during my recent trip to visit the in-laws. I enjoyed learning a bit more about the comics but only if that is a real topic of interest for you would I recommend this book. - Christa
Publish Post

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Urawaza: secret everyday tips and tricks from Japan/Lisa Katayama 143 pages.
Urawaza is defined as 1. a secret trick; 2. an unmapped shortcut. It was thinking this book would tell me all the Japanese secrets to life and happiness. Instead, it is mostly a collection of household tips and tricks. For example a) how to make your nails shiny b) how to get stickers off your mirror c) how to water your plants when you're away on vacation and most importantly d) how to get rid of excess beer foam and e) how to get drunk faster. All in all a crazy little book and not what I was expecting but I did keep a few of the tips.


Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow. 1975. 270 p. Better late than never. Interesting but kind of a mess - I liked The March better. --Kathleen

The Good Thief

The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti. 2008. 478 p. I loved this fairy tale- like story! My favorite character is the landlady who SHOUTS rather than speaks. --Kathleen

In the Kitchen

In the Kitchen written by Monica Ali. 436 pages.

Written by the author of Brick Lane ( which I have not read), this title had great reviews. The reader is pulled inside the dark and gritty world of Gabriel Lightfoot, a successful and ambitious chef. Gabe has a lot on his plate: sick father, girl friend that he wants to marry, young mystery girl who is sharing his flat, plans for a new restaurant, staffing issues and the recent accidental(?) death of an employee. This did not satisfy my craving for a delicious mystery -- perhaps I was too tired from the holidays to savor the somewhat slow pacing.


Monday, January 4, 2010

Peter and the Secret of Rundoon

Peter and the Secret of Rundoon, by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. 482 pages. The third in the Peter and the Starcatchers series, this one has Peter, Molly, George, all of the lost boys, and several others joining in the fight against Ombra and King Zarboff the third in a fight to save the starstuff and the world. There are rockets and pirates (of course) and warriors with poisoned arrows. I re-read it to my sons. It is a fun book, but can take forever to read aloud.

I am a genius of unspeakable evil/Josh Lieb

Full title: I am a genius of unspeakable evil and I want to be your class president by Josh Lieb, 303 pages. This book follows an election for 8th grade class president. One of the candidates is an evil genius on his way to world domination. Fun book.


Welcome to the UCPL Book Challenge. To get credit for reading a book, you must post and entry about your book. Include your name, the title, author, # of pages, and a short entry. You are responsible for keeping track of your own reading. We will add more rules as we make them up ;-)