Sunday, February 28, 2010

His Illegal Self by Peter Carey

I listened to this on our downloadable audio. I am usually a big fan of Peter Carey, but this one had me looking for something else to listen to at the end of the first chapter. Since nothing else was handy, I kept at it. I ended up liking the book, but I had to work on it to keep going through the first half. Dial, one of the main characters, was hard for me to like for a long time. She takes a boy, Che, form the home of his grandmother, and it was only after I understood her mistakes and her motives that I could begin to enjoy her company. -- Patrick

Spooner by Pete Dexter

This is my favorite book so far this year. I read it back in January, and it is still a book that I am very excited about. The book takes its own trail, always going down unexpected paths, and the character who gives his name to the book does likewise. Spooner doesn't see the point in a lot of the things that are expected of him. His older sister, Margaret, is gifted and always does the right thing, but Spooner goes where he must, even if that is, as a child, into his neighbor's house to pee in their shoes, or, as an adult into a tavern where a large crowd of people wants to hurt him. His stepfather, the aptly named Calmer, is his lodestone, pointing out the way he should be going, while at the same time worrying over the path Spooner has chosen. The book has a great dignity following the almost absurd paths its characters follow, and while I sometimes flinched at the situations that Spooner (and Calmer) were in, they never did. Just a great book.--Patrick

How to live in small spaces

How to live in small spaces/Terrance Conran 223 pg.

I love these architectural books that have so many ideas about the use of space. This one is cool because many examples are from other countries including Japan, England, and Spain. There are a lot of pictures that make me think "I could not live in that" but many others that are great ideas. - Christa

Divine Misdemeanors / Laurell K. Hamilton

Divine Misdemeanors by Laurell K. Hamilton. 333 pp.

I thought that the previous volume in the series might actually end it, because it tied up the plot arc that had been running since volume 1. Nope. I actually enjoyed this book more than I have the last few, because there's a "local" plot going on, and the metaplot is just happening in the background. In a way, this volume is a reboot back to the beginning of the series, because Merry is back to being a fae working in the human's just that her circumstances are more complex than they were before. Also, the "adding new lovers/bringing new powers" has been toned down somewhat, which is nice because that was getting pretty boring. I like Hamilton's world-building, but after a couple of volumes the series got so self-absorbed with its own internal rules that it was hard to care about the characters; this one give the characters more breathing room.

The Good, the Bad and the Uncanny / Simon Green

The Good, the Bad and the Uncanny by Simon Green. 275 pp.


A potentially game-changing volume in the Nightside series. (On the other hand, so was the end of the Lilith War, and yet nothing much changed.) The tone of this book felt odd to me; it seemed like Taylor was an onlooker rather than an actor for much of it. Green is not a good writer, but he is a good storyteller, and a lot of his ability to hold an audience is because of the sheer manic pace of his books; this one's pace seemed off to me. It will be interesting to see whether Walker is indeed dead and/or gone forever, and how much Taylor's role is going to change whether he wants it to or not.

New Europe / Michael Palin

New Europe by Michael Palin. 288 pp.

A recent (2007) one of Palin's travel books. Reading this made me acutely conscious of how weak my grasp of recent important events is, especially when he was in the former Yugoslavia talking about the war in the 1990s. My memories of that are embarrassingly fuzzy. (Also my grasp of Central European geography is embarrassingly bad, but I already knew that.) Palin revisits a couple of places that he went in one of his earlier books, Pole to Pole, which makes me want to re-read that now.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Girl Who Played with Fire

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson  503 pp.

This is book two in Larsson's trilogy. It continues the story of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist. In this one Lisbeth is being hunted for the murder of three people. The plot is full of twists and turns which kept my attention but I'm not crazy about the ending. Now I have to wait for book three to be published.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Aunt Dimity Down Under / Nancy Atherton

Aunt Dimity Down Under by Nancy Atherton. 215 pp.

This series is a classic example of the "cozy" mystery: set in a small English village, with recurring characters. The viewpoint character isn't a cop or a detective; the mysteries being solved aren't always murder mysteries, and when they are they're not bloodsoaked horrors or anything. The books aren't riotously funny, but they're amusing. Gently amusing. So when I'm in the right mood, these books are a nice, gentle, unchallenging way to spend a couple of hours. Plus this particular volume had a lot of tourist-y information about New Zealand, since the main character spends a lot of the book visiting there.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ordinary Victories: What is Precious

Ordinary Victories: What is Precious/Manu Larcenet 122 pg.

Another great book in the serious...this time the kitty doesn't die. Marco is dealing with the death of his father, his lonely mother, and his family which includes his 2 year old daughter. Still, the world changes around him and he is not always sure how to deal with it. - Christa

The Gallery of Regrettable Food

The Gallery of Regrettable Food/James Lileks 192 pg.

I'm in complete agreement with Kathleen. This book is great and will amaze as you read through the craziness. You always hear that people were skinnier in the 50's but mostly because they could not eat the food...the proof is in the pictures.

My favorite section is the Jello through the decades. You may have heard me mention the extreme jello creations that are forced on me by the "older" generation (my mom and mother-in-law). This section even mentions Iowa specifically so that explains part of it, I guess. - Christa

This book is overdue!

This book is overdue! How librarians and cybrarians can save us all/Marilyn Johnson 272 pg.

Wow, read this and feel good about working at the library! Marilyn Johnson became interested in the lives of librarians while researching her last book about obituaries. She noted that many of the most interesting obituaries that she found during that research belonged to librarians so she decided they would be the topic of her next book.

She has uncovered some pretty cool library stuff but since she didn't come here, she certainly hasn't uncovered all of it. - Christa

Blood and Guts: A History of Surgery / Richard Hollingham, 319 p.

I realize that I never finished this post. The title says it all here, from a mind-blowing 30-second leg amputation without anesthetic, to current trends in face and hand surgery. The most poignant section for me dealt with the beginnings of plastic surgery during WWI, when the human race's capacity for destruction was way ahead of its skills in reconstruction. The stories of some of these men who endured incredible pain and humiliation over periods of years in order to finally have a nose or jaw of sorts were truly pitiful.

A recurrent theme in this book is that most important advances in surgery happened because of particular surgeons who persisted in trying new techniques in spite of the often horrible consequences for their individual patients. The more humane men (and yes, they were all men, effectively) who couldn't stomach the risk of trying a new way to cut open a living skull also didn't push us any closer to the relatively safe surgeries we have available today. The 'leaders' often seemed more like sociopaths in their callous disregard for their initial outcomes. So maybe sociopaths have their place in society, too.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant
By Anne Tyler
303 p.
One of Tyler’s early but always quirky family stories. The Tull family, Pearl and her children Cody, Ezra, and Jenny seem incapable of finishing a family meal together without some sort of emotional episode. Witness their efforts, spanning three generations, in this classic from Anne Tyler.

Spider-man Noir / David Hine et al.

Spider-man. Noir. by David Hine, Fabrice Sapolsky, and Carmine Di Giandomenico. 112 pp.

I thought this sounded like fun when I heard about it: Spider-man re-imagined to be set in 1933. I'm not a big Spider-man fan but I enjoy good reworkings of established stories, seeing what can be varied while still staying true to the original. I was also looking forward to some nifty art. Well, I liked the art when it showed the city in the background, but most panels were just close-ups of characters, and I did not care for the style. The story seemed disconnected from the original; the characters had similar names, but not much else. Maybe if I were more of a Spider-man connoisseur I'd have liked it better. Although I did enjoy Aunt May as a socialist agitator.

The Hostile Hospital/Lemony Snicket

Okay, so this book really started to give me the creeps, and that's the first time that's happened with this series. This 8th installment of the Baudelaire orphans' trials and tribulations is icky hospital drama and post-traumatic stress thanks to a horrible fire. It also ends on a really bleak and despondent note (yes, yes, I know, they're all rather bleak) but this one was more bleak than cleverly funny, and I get the feeling the rest of the series is going to turn out this way, too. but I'm still loving the series as a whole. 255 pp.

one of those hideous books where the mother dies

Seriously...that is the title: One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies by Sonya Sones  268 pp.

This was another re-read that I'll be discussing at the Lieberman Center. After her mother's death, fifteen year old Ruby is forced to leave her home in Boston to live with the famous actor father she never met. The book is written as a series of poems and emails which makes it really quick reading while still getting the whole story across. I liked it the first time I read it and it still holds up. It should make for some fun discussion with the teens.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Guernsey Literary, etc. 277p.

I loved this, just like everyone else I know who's read it. According to Wikipedia, it's fairly difficult for non-islanders to buy houses on Guernsey - another dream dashed. Maybe some of us could set up a satellite UCPL on the island?

The Lambs of London / Peter Ackroyd 213 p.

I listened to this on audio, and suspect that I would have enjoyed it much more in print (but maybe it had something to do with a long car ride over snowy roads!) Real-life siblings Charles and Mary Lamb have their lives changed by a bookseller who claims to have found a new Shakespeare play.

The Night Watch / Sarah Waters 450 p.

Wow - this was awesome, and I'd never heard of it, but just happened to pick it off my Mom's shelf. The story moves backwards from post-war London, through different stages of the Blitz. It follows 4 main characters, each of whom has a 'forbidden' love: either because they are gay or lesbian, or, in one case, because of an affair with a married man. The backwards movement of the plot doesn't feel gimmicky at all; rather, it feels like a logical way to reveal the characters' secrets. (Unlike Time's Arrow by Martin Amis, for example.) Completely absorbing with distinct, sympathetic characters.

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man (Song of the Lioness, bk 3)

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man (Song of the Lioness, bk 3), by Tamora Pierce; young adult, fantasy; 304 pages

One of my favorite authors is Robin McKinley, in part because the fantasy novels she writes never have a happily-ever-after ending. Conflicts are resolved, but instead of riding off into the sunset, the main character might just decide to take things one day at a time. That's the same sense I got from this book, which is perhaps the closest I've ever come to McKinley's The Blue Sword. While the previous books each covered about four years of her life, this book is a single year for Alanna, as she tries to make a name for herself as a knight. Many of her relationships come to turning point in this volume, but nothing is neat or tidy, and I don't see an easy ending for her in the future. Now that I have a better idea of what to expect from Pierce, I'm really psyched about reading the rest of her Tortall books.

In the Hand of the Goddess (Song of the Lioness, bk 2)

In the Hand of the Goddess (Song of the Lioness, bk 2), by Tamora Pierce; young adult, fantasy; 288 pages

The characters do a lot of growing up in this book, and from an adult standpoint, that made this book more interesting to me. It felt like this book could have been the conclusion to a series, rather than the second of four, which really makes me look forward to the final two volumes. Really good, overall, and looking forward to the next book!

The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver

A lacuna can mean a “hole,” “an emptiness,” or a “missing piece.” All these definitions come into play in some way in Barbara Kingsolver’s newest novel. Set in both Mexico and the United States (specifically Asheville NC), the main character, Harrison William Shepherd (there are plays on all those words, too), is at home in neither. Shepherd is abandoned by his cold American bureaucrat father; haphazardly raised by his Mexican flapper mother; serves as a cook to real artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, and is later secretary to Leon Trotsky, before becoming a bestselling author. The book ranges between Mexican revolutionary politics and the climate of fear during the period of McCarthy’s HUAC investigations without losing sight of the very human Shepherd caught up in the midst of these turbulent times. 507 pp.

Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness, bk 1)

Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness, bk 1), by Tamora Peirce; young adult, fantasy; 240 pages

I started listening to this on CD last week, and as the story progressed, I started thinking of more and more reasons to be in my car listening, until I finally gave up and just finished the book in print. My friends have been bugging me to read these books for years, and having done that, I don't know how I missed them the first time around! Really great story and character development, even when I could kind of see plot twists coming from a long distance.

As a side note, I read the Simon Pulse mass market paperback editions, which are terrible: misplaced quotation marks, mis-spellings, and all other manner of typographical errors. Very frustrating, especially given that I enjoyed the story so much.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Tom Strong book 3 / Alan Moore et al

Tom Strong. Book 3 by Alan Moore, Chris Sprouse and others. 128 pp.

The longest story here ties back to a number of characters and plots we saw in the first two books. I thought this was handled particularly well (plus I just really like the Weird Rider). This is the last volume that has all stories written by Alan Moore.

Tom Strong book 2 / Alan Moore et al

Tom Strong. Book 2 by Alan Moore, Chris Sprouse and others. 196 pp.

More fabulous pulp adventure. We get an extended storyline with an alternate-Earth version of our hero, which has a really great opening bit. Possibly my favorite scene from the series is in this volume, where Tom's wife demonstrates that she is not to be trifled with.

Tom Strong book 1 / Alan Moore et al

Tom Strong. Book 1 by Alan Moore, Chris Sprouse, and others. 208 pp.

Tom Strong is Alan Moore's take on the pulp hero idea of "child raised by scientific methods becomes superhuman, fights crime, the people love him." On the one hand Moore is doing a tribute to all of the good, fun stuff that has been done with this idea; on the other hand, he's gently mocking it too. Since I love pulp heroes, this is one of my favorite Alan Moore titles.

Fantasy in Death / J.D. Robb

Fantasy in Death by J.D. Robb. 356 pp.

The 30th book in this series. I enjoy the series, and this book was a perfectly adequate way to kill a couple of hours, but this isn't one I will return to read again--the plot was meh, and no particularly interesting character developments happened (one of the fun things about this long-running series is the character bits). The story is set in 2060, so there's always some handwaving of "future tech," but I didn't think it was particularly well done in this volume.

Wallace Shawn Essays

Essays by Wallace Shawn   161 pp.

The fifteen previously published essays by playwright/actor Wallace Shawn ("My Dinner with Andre") date from 1985 to 2008 and cover topics as varied as his early theatrical career to the 9/11 terrorism and politics. Also included are interviews Shawn did with political philoospher, Noam Chomsky, and poet, Mark Strand.  Not the most exciting thing I've ever read but good enough to hold my interest.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Mama's Bank Account

Mama's Bank Account by Kathryn Forbes, 204 pp.

This was a re-read of a book I re-discovered while trying to find immigrant themed 'staff picks' titles. I think I first read this back in high school because it was the book that inspired one of my favorite old movies: "I Remember Mama." I have to admit that while reading it the pictures in my mind were of Irene Dunne (Mama), a young Barbara Bel Geddes (Katrin), Oskar Homolka (Uncle Chris), & Ellen Corby (Aunt Trina aka Grandma Walton). And, Marilyn, the JF copy needs replacing. Badly.

A Study in Scarlet/Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

So I've made it my personal mission to work through the Sherlock Holmes canon, and while I'm greatly enjoying the mystery and adventure took me forever and a day to get through this first novel because of the dreadfully long and random interlude to Utah! with the Mormons! who are Pretty Terrible! according to the Victorian mindset. Because they're clearly polygamist villains who force young girls into loveless marriages and set about a chain of events in which one wronged, righteous man spends the rest of his life on a crusade for vengeance. Oh, and also Sherlock Holmes is great at deduction but not really any social niceties.
Really though, this was an enjoyable read once I forced myself to get through the Big Giant Mormon Interlude with the knowledge that it was actually relevant to the larger frame story. And so it was! But clearly Doyle was still finding his feet, here. Also, the edition I have (Brentwood's giant New Annotated novels) is chock full of notes, some of which are helpful for understanding the British-isms, but are mostly more information than I will ever need to know about london cab driving, and lots of wild insane speculation from a bunch of Holmes scholars who 1) have far too much time on their hands nitpicking the accuracy of streets mentioned in the text and 2) seem to be convinced that Holmes and Watson were real people, and Doyle was acting as a literary agent. These scholars are mad. Or is it all one big joke? who knows. The story itself is great. But the notes make it really long. 200 pp.

OOTS. No Cure for the Paladin Blues / Rich Burlew

The Order of the Stick. No Cure for the Paladin Blues by Rich Burlew. 248 pp.

Finished my re-read of this comic series. I had forgotten how screamingly funny some of this stuff is.

At Knit's End: Meditations for Women who Knit Too Much/Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

The famous (or infamous, or famous on the internet) Yarn Harlot gives us a tidy and hilarious book of knitting wisdom for the masses. Despite the title the book is easily relevant to male knitters (yes, they DO exist) since much of the madness revolves around such deadly problems as the Stash and Second Sock Syndrome. At the end of the day, despite the horror at realizing how crazy I've become with my knitting obsession, this book helps me realize that there are people out there are are crazier STILL than me, and that is heartening. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, you are a lunatic. I salute you! 320 pp.

Fables, vol 10: The Good Prince

Fables, vol 10: The Good Prince, by Bill Willingham (writer) and Mark Buckingham (art); graphic novel; 240 pages

I figured the last volume was building up to something great, and this happened to be that great thing. The whole story feels very much like a true fairy tale, complete with narration in the appropriate tone. It was a little slow starting off, but I read most of this in a single sitting, and was very sad when it was over. Really, really excellent.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Afterlife

The Afterlife by Gary Soto, 158 pp.

This book begins when Chuy, a teen-age boy, is knifed in a senseless incident at a dance. He rises from his body and spends the rest of the story as a ghost, floating around town, watching his mourning relatives, meeting and befriending another dead teen-ager, and hindering the acts of local criminals. This is one of three books I will be discussing with students at the Lieberman Learning Center as part of the Great Stories grant. It's a quick but thought provoking read. 

City of Thieves

City of thieves/David Benioff 259 pgs.

I loved the characters in this book. The charming and confident Kolya, Vika the cold blooded killer with a heart (hmmm, that doesn't seem possible), and Lev the one without swagger who I see as the realist. They came together for an amazing week in 1944 during the Nazi siege of Leningrad. The adventures in this book would last a lifetime for anyone but would also forever change the lives of the likable characters. - Christa

Cop in the hood

Cop in the hood: my year policing Baltimore's eastern district/Peter Moskos 196 pgs.

I chose this to read about the author's year as a cop in Baltimore, MD. He gives a critical view of his training and the war on drugs. - Susie

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Participation Points - Alex Awards

Earn participation points by reading all the books in a selected list.

Earn four points for reading all of the Alex Award winners for 2010:

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

The Bride’s Farewell by Meg Rosoff

Everything Matters! by Ron Currie, Jr.

The Good Soldiers by David Finkel

The Kids Are All Right: A Memoir by Diana Welch and Liz Welch with Amanda Welch and Dan Welch

The Magicians, by Lev Grossman

My Abandoment by Peter Rock

Soulless: An Alexia Tarabotti Novel, by Gail Carriger

Stitches: A Memoir, by David Small

Tunneling to the Center of the Earth by Kevin Wilson

A complete list of the titles, with plot descriptions, can be found here.

Marcelo in the Real World

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork; young adult, audio book; 320 pages (about 10 hours, listening)

I enjoyed the story and characters, but this is a case where I would have been better off reading the book. The narrator's style never quite clicked for me, and I had a lot of trouble differentiating between Marcello's internal monologue and dialogue between characters. Also, this book deals with a lot of heavy issues, and there were several points where, had I been reading this, I would have gone back and reread the last few lines, or stopped to think about something for a second. Not really an option when listening to a book on CD.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Walking Dead: A Continuing Story of Survival Horror volume 3 by Robert Kirkman.

The Walking Dead: A Continuing Story of Survival Horror volume 3 by Robert Kirkman. Graphic Novel-304 pages.
Similar to the second volume of this graphic novel series, in that a lot of people are killed by zombies, and then several are killed by their fellow survivors. Don't know if I'll be able to make it through volume 4.--Patrick

The Walking Dead: A Continuing Story of Survival Horror by Robert Kirkman

The Walking Dead: A Continuing Story of Survival Horror volume two by Robert Kirkman. Graphic Novel-264 pages.
In a big departure from the first volume of this graphic novel series, a lot of people are killed by zombies, and then several are killed by their fellow survivors. Fun to read and drawn as if it is all very serious.--Patrick

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall--Nonfiction, Running--Sports--Lifestyle.
A very interesting book, I can see why it made so many best-of-the-year lists. It makes me want to get my (let's change this to) self out and run, and makes me want to start eating better, but at the same time I feel that a lot of the author's assertion about the Tarahumara, about running barefoot, and about what everyone was feeling and thinking during some races twenty years ago went rather unsupported. It's an enjoyable style to read, it keeps the story going, but a lot of it is stuff the author heard from somebody, and we're left to take his word that it's all true without so much as a sources section. -Patrick

Charles Darwin and the Beagle Adventures

Charles Darwin and the Beagle Adventures by A. J. Wood pp.28

This is a fun follow-up to my reading a Darwin bio. This kid's book is loaded with maps, diary entries, flaps, and drawings. It's oversized and the covers close with a magnet.

Charles and Emma: The Darwin's Leap of Faith

Charles and Emma: the Darwin's Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman pp. 268

This is an interesting double bio about both Charles who believed in natural selection and his religious wife Emma.

Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer

It was tough to read this at the same time as My Life in France, Julia Child's valentine to life and food in France -- which featured a lot of meat. Harder still to eat chicken after reading the section on commercial chicken farming. In the end, Foer remains a vegetarian, a more dedicated one than before, and I remained more of a fan of Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma, and remain an omnivore. But Eating Animals a very fair, well researched and reasoned book which makes one think hard about what's for dinner. It's also very well written. 341 pp.

Freedom and Necessity / Steven Brust & Emma Bull

Freedom and Necessity by Steven Brust and Emma Bull. 444 pp.

An epistolary novel set in Great Britain in 1849. Since Brust & Bull are fantasy novelists, I was expecting fantasy. Instead I got plots and politics and philosophy. I was intrigued enough by the plot and the characters to stick around to the end. Unfortunately I don't have a head for philosophy so I'm sure I missed some of the subtleties of the narrative.

Fables, vol 9: Sons of Empire

Fables, vol 9: Sons of Empire, by Bill Willingham (writer) and Mark Buckingham (art); graphic novel; 200 pages

This is another collection that seems to be functioning as a "breather" before jumping into the next big story. The two story arcs were good (I especially enjoyed the Christmas storyline), but I couldn't help but feel that something larger was looming just over the horizon, and it never came in this volume.

Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall

Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall, by Bill Willingham (writer) and too many artists to all name here; graphic novel; 144 pages

This standalone entry retells the story of Arabian Nights with Snow White standing in for Scheherazade. Snow is a diplomat with whom the king falls in love, and Snow winds up telling him stories of Fabletown's residents (past and present) to keep herself alive. The art here is wonderful, with a new artist for each story, and the stories, both long and short, were some of my favorite from the series so far. Most of these are things that happened before or after the famous fairy tales, so it had me thinking about the familiar stories with a whole new interpretation.

Fables, vol 8: Wolves

Fables, vol 8: Wolves, by Bill Willingham (writer) and Mark Buckingham (art); graphic novel; 160 pages


I think this is my favorite volume thus far, mainly because it focuses on my favorite characters, and leads up to a wedding I've been anticipating for a very long time. Mowgli is sent to track down Bigby, and Bigby in turn is sent on a secret mission to the Homelands to strike against the Adversary. Everything was spot on in this entry, and I can't wait to see more of this kind.

Fables, vol 7: Arabian Nights

Fables, vol 7: Arabian Nights, by Bill Willingham (writer) and Mark Buckingham (art); graphic novel; 144 pages

The Fables try to form an alliance with the middle eastern Fable worlds, which are currently under attack by the Adversary. The story here was good, but quieter than the previous entry. I'm starting to notice a pattern of a story arc with Lots of Plot, followed by a lighter or slower collection to give the readers a break. There was action here, but not on the earth-shaking level of volume six.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Quiet, Please

Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a public librarian/Scott Douglas 330 pgs.

Not sure how I missed this when it first came out...There are some good stories here but so many are similar to the stories we live every day. I guess when reading about work shouldn't really surprise you when it reminds you of work. - Christa

Sunday, February 14, 2010

OOTS. Dungeon Crawling Fools / Rich Burlew

The Order of the Stick. Dungeon Crawling Fools by Rich Burlew. 160 pp.

The first proper volume of the comic (that is, the online stuff--the prequel books are stuff that has never appeared online). Wow, has the writer/artist evolved. The stuff here is quite funny, and the art is fine, but it's quite basic compared to the stuff he's doing now.

OOTS. Start of Darkness / Rich Burlew

The Order of the Stick. Start of Darkness by Rich Burlew. 112 pp.

This prequel tells the origin story of the main bad guys before the strip starts. Burlew shows a flair for characterization in what is, basically, a stick figure comic. (Although the art is more sophisticated than you would expect from the description "stick figure.") The bad guys are not monolithically evil; that is, they have differing goals and agendas. Of course, the good guys do too, but it's so easy, especially in fantasy adventures, to just say "bad guys are bad" and leave it at that.

OOTS. On the Origin of the PCs / Rich Burlew

The Order of the Stick. On the Origin of the PCs by Rich Burlew. 72 pp.

A prequel book to the online comics. I was rearranging my graphic novels this weekend and decided to revisit the beginning of this strip, since I just read the latest book. This volume tells the history of the strip's protagonists before they all came together.

Bridge of Birds / Barry Hughart

Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart. 278 pp.

A novel set in "an ancient China that never was," as the author describes it. Narrated by Number Ten Ox, a teenaged peasant who finds an elderly sage to help figure out what has happened to the children of his village. Ox has a pure heart, but the sage, Li Kao, has a slight flaw in his character. Not only do I love the rich setting and the outrageous adventures, I admire the way that Hughart structures his story. One of my favorite books ever; since I just recommended it for our February staff picks, I decided it was time to read it again. Won the World Fantasy Award in 1984. There are two other books featuring Li Kao and Number Ten Ox, but this one is the best.

Top 10 book 2 / Alan Moore et al.

Top 10. Book 2 / Alan Moore, Gene Ha, Zander Cannon. 144 pp.

Finishes out the story arcs begun in book 1. In this volume my favorite part is picking out all of the cameos and in-jokes in the artwork.

Top 10 book 1 / Alan Moore et al.

Top 10. Book 1 / Alan Moore, Gene Ha, Zander Cannon. 206 pp.

"Top 10" is the locals' name for Precinct 10, the police station in the city of Neopolis. Everyone in Neopolis is a "science hero" (what we would call a superhero or supervillain), so how hard is it to be a cop there? Moore does a terrific job of positing how such a setting would work. I think my favorite bits are the pop music lyrics he inserts into the background of some scenes.

In Concert / John Neiman

In Concert: KSHE and 40+ Years of Rock in St. Louis / John Neiman. 288 pp.

A heavily illustrated book that not only discusses KSHE and its history, but also talks about the history of rock music, concerts, etc. in St. Louis from 1967 (when KSHE switched to a rock format) onwards. Lots of interesting stuff. The book is well-researched, if not terribly well written. I think my favorite part was finding out that there was a live music club in the basement of an IGA store in Ferguson from 1967 to 1970--the Castaway--that routinely drew 1000 people to its shows.

The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris

The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris
320 p.

Amazing. An incredible love story, but one that spurs thought on so many "conditions" of the human spirit, the divine, and the natural world. As they say, if you read just one book this year, pick this one.

Eleven Verse Plays

Eleven verse plays 1929-1939 by Maxwell Anderson 1175 pgs.

I chose this because most of the plays are historical fiction -- one of my favorite genres. - Susie

Three Little Words: A Memoir

Three Little Words: A Memoir by Ashley Rhodes-Courter pp.304

Ashley writes of her mostly sad, sometimes horrific life in the System known as foster "care". As she grows older, she becomes an advocate for reform. An eye opener for me as I knew nothing about foster care. Well written and very interesting.

Seduced by Hitler

Seduced by Hitler: the choices of a nation and the ethics of survival/Adam LeBor & Roger Boyes 330 pgs.

I chose this book to find out the authors opinion about how the Nazis corrupted Germany and pro-Nazi non-Germans. - Susie

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Swimming/Nicola Keegan

Swimming: a novel/Nicola Keegan 305 pg.

Pip is a born swimmer and rides her gifts to many Olympic medals. The real story is her struggle against her inner demons and family issues. Her older sister died of cancer at 18, her dad in an airplane mishap, her mother is agoraphobic, one other sister an addict and the youngest sister is kind of a marytr. Her swimming success keeps her from having to deal with her other issues but when she gets injured and retires, she has plenty to figure out. This is the first book by the author and I liked her style. Sometimes it was hard to like any of the characters. - Christa

Fables, vol 6: Homelands

Fables, vol 6: Homelands by Bill Willingham (writer) and Mark Buckingham (art); graphic novel; 192 pages

This book starts out with a Jack story, which, as the name suggests, is pretty light. The mood shifts, though, when we get to the title story arc, in which Boy Blue starts fighting his way across the empire Dread Pirate Roberts style. There's a lot of important plot revelations in this volume, but I was paying more attention to Blue's adventures.

Fables, vol 5: The Mean Seasons

Fables, vol 5: The Mean Seasons by Bill Willingham (writer) and Mark Buckingham (art); graphic novel; 168 pages

This volume was more about the interpersonal relationships of the characters than the action of the last one. Of course, this chapter ends with Snow White and Bigby being separated, and nothing makes me read faster than a couple that should be together, but can't. So I read this very quickly, and, er, the next three volumes.

Fables, vol 4: The March of the Wooden Soldiers

Fables, vol 4: The March of the Wooden Solders by Bill Willingham (writer) and Mark Buckingham (art); graphic novel, 240 pages

Still loving this series. In this volume we finally get a glimpse of what the fables faced when they escaped their Homelands. One of the things that gets me about this series is that I feel like I already know the characters from their respective stories, so when one of them dies, it feels like a very personal loss. Maybe that's just me...

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande. nonfiction-Medicine, Quality Control-209 pages.
Atul Gawande's third book combines his cool medical stories of surgeries going horribly and unexpectedly wrong, with his studies of how we humans deal with and should deal with increased specialization and increased complexity. A lot of time we deal with the specialization and complexity badly (the author uses many examples from surgery), working on our own small parts of projects and not communicating well when things go wrong. Studying which things go wrong, why they went wrong and developing checklists to avoid the same problems in the future are the way airplane pilots and buiding construction crews have dealt with these problems and allowed for greater communication. Gawande posits that adopting these procedures could be of great use in many endeavors. Gawande is, as always, readable, accessible and enjoyable.-- Patrick

Stitches: A Memoir by David Small

Stitches: A Memoir by David Small. Graphic Lit, Memoir. 329 pages
The story of an artist's bleak and sterile childhood. He has a distant father, who endangers his life through hubris and ignorance. He has cold, withdrawn, and unloving mother who bottles her rage and silently wages war on the world. And he has visits to a crazy grandma who does him and others around him bodily harm. He has an older brother who plays his drums and mostly leaves him alone. David is left alone with his art and his books, and eventually his therapist. The illustrations were moving and produced in me a melancholy which grew mainly from the expressions of the characters as they stared at the storyteller. --Patrick

A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore

A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore. Fiction, 322 pages, downloadable audio 12 hours, read by Mia Brown.

Through the first three quarters of the book I was finding some of the characters, their shallowness and their flip dialogue, so annoying that I strongly considered not finishing it (and I complained about it to anyone who would listen). I think I stuck with it just because of the reading challenge. I had spent so much time reading it, I needed to finish it just to count the book and its pages. The end of the book went a long way to redeeming the whole thing. By the end, I was less annoyed with Tassie, and her little witty comments about everything and everyone she encountered as she came somewhat of age. Her sorrows and disappointments were hidden behind her words, no surprise, but as those sorrows and disappointments palpably grew, so did my sympathy for her. Sarah was an even less likeable character, but as she confessed to her past horrible actions, you could see how they haunted her every day. This is a tale of longing, love and loss that could have been too much, but was saved by a well-written ending.--Patrick

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Unnamed/Josh Ferris

The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris 313 pg.

I loved the last book by this author, in fact it was my favorite book of 2008. I'm not "sold" on this new one. Maybe there was just a lot about it I didn't understand...what *was* the significance of the bees, the birds, etc. In the end is it about the stranger living inside of us? Maybe after I think about it some more, I'll be more inclined to praise this book. The writing is very nice but the plot? Can't decide. - Christa

Ordinary Victories/Manu Larcenet

Ordinary Victories/Manu Larcenet 128 pg.

Unshelved featured this graphic novel one Friday. I thought it was great except for the death of a kitty :-(
Really a good story about family relationships and friendships with a little mental illness thrown in. - Christa

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Smoke Screen/Paul Roberts

Smokescreen: one man against the underworld/Paul William Roberts 358 pgs.

This book tells the true story of Cal Broeker who volunteered as an undercover agent with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. This was very interesting. - Susie


This is so much more than a race...Your participation makes you eligible for drawings throughout the year. Every month that you post at least one book, you get a participation point. You can earn additional points by completing challenges or other goals that will appear throughout the year. Since it is still early in the year, here is a long term challenge: Earn 2 points by reading all the books from any genre from the ALA reading List posted by Patrick in January. Earn 6 points for reading all the books on either Notable Books for 2009 list (fiction/nonfiction). Is there another list or award you are interested in? Let us know and we will post it.

Don’t forget about the “weighted” competition…send the number of books you read last year and we will develop scores based on past performance. Make a goal for yourself and win accolades from participants when you meet your goal.

Mennonite in a little black dress

Mennonite in a little black dress: a memoir of going home/Rhoda Janzen 241 pg.

Janzen is a good writer with a good story...Her husband left her a week before a serious car accident so she ended up back at home with her Mennonite parents for an extended stay. She herself had left the church and belief system behind but has a wonderful relationship with her parents and her sister...not as good with her 2 brothers. This tells some history of the church, talks of her childhood, her broken marriage and her recovery. - Christa

Fables, vol 3: Storybook Love

by Bill Willingham (writer), Mark Buckingham, Lan Medina, Bryan Talbot, and Linda Medley (illustrators); graphic novel; 192 pages.

I may have liked the previous entries in this series, but I felt like this was where the book really hits its stride. I've been loving the Snow White/Wolf relationship since the beginning, and there's a significant chunk of this book devoted to that, as well as the usual politics of Fabletown. There's also a few vignettes that are charming all on their own. Checking out the rest of this series for the weekend...

the lastest by Chris Bohjalian

Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian

370 p.

A small town in Vermont is shaken to the core by the apparent murder/suicide of Alice Hayworth and her abusive husband. Narrated in turns by the local minister, the state’s attorney, a bestselling author who is drawn into the story by her own similarly tragic childhood, and the Hayworth’s now-orphaned teenage daughter, the story/murder mystery unfolds in all the unexpected ways that Bohjalian’s readers have come to expect.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris

The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris. Fiction-313 pages (downloadable audio, read by the author 8hrs, 46 min)

One of my favorites of this young year. Tim Farnsworth suffers from a condition that compels him to act in a particular way. No one in the medical community has ever heard of anything like this before (his daughter can't even find it with Google) and meaningful help is hard to come by. As the condition progresses it wreaks havoc on his relationships with his family, and his co-workers. Tim must decide what he can and cannot save in his life. To me, both in plot and character, this was reminiscent of Niffenger's "The Time Traveler's Wife". A wonderful second novel (while completely different in tone and style) by the author of 2008's "And Then We Came to the End". Ferris does a great job reading the audio as well.--Patrick

Check our Catalog.

Downloadable Audio.

The Vile Village/Lemony Snicket

A turning point in the series, the Baudelaire children are, by the end, forced to go on the run from the law. Aside from that it's your standard Unfortunate Event. Notable points include: getting a better idea of the full scope of Why Lemony Snicket's Life Sucks, Klaus Turns Thirteen, and Sunny Starts Walking. Also, the whole sweeping social injustice present in the world of the books seems to skyrocket here, what with the worst (and most absurd) municipal statutes, perhaps, ever used to oppress the orphans further. But hey! they saved the Quagmire triplets! 256 pp.

Back Story

Back Story by Robert Parker pp.291

A nod to the late great detective writer.

Independence Hall

Independence Hall by Roland Smith 292 pages

This is book one in a new series featuring a typical blended family. The parents are lead singers inn a hit band; the step-siblings have their own talents. Narrator Q, short for Quest, is a seriously gifted magician; his new step-sister, Angela has hopes of joining CIA. Her mother was killed in a terrorist explosion, but passed on the spycraft to her daughter. Needless to say, there is lots of action, twists and turns in the plot. A crew of bad guys are trying to snatch Angela. Fortunately, a trio of unlikely looking good guys are doing their best to prevent this, while their clueless, but kind parents are off to perform before the masses.
As always, Roland, author of Zach's Lie provides strong characters, plot and dialogue. This is a page turner that I recommend highly. I am looking forward to Book 2 coming out in April.

Another World / Pat Barker 277 p.

A dysfunctional contemporary family and a dying WWI vet having flashbacks to the trenches. These are standard Barker motifs, and this is a fast, enjoyable read. The ending is a little too neat.
Remarkable Creatures, by Tracy Chevalier

Chevalier’s newest historical fiction is based on the true story of Mary Anning, an uneducated young woman who made remarkable discoveries of prehistoric remains on the beach of her seaside town, Lyme Regis, in the early nineteenth century, and her friendship with a genteel spinster living in reduced circumstances there who shared her fascination with fossils. The themes of social class, the challenge of fossil discovery to literal interpretations of Biblical creation, and the devaluing of the contributions of women to science never obscure the novel’s engaging story. 312 pp.
My Life in France, by Julia Child

The popularity of the movie Julie and Julia has led to renewed interest in Julia Child’s classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and in this recent memoir of her life, which written in her nineties with the help of her nephew grandnephew, Alex Prud’homme. It is delightful and captures both her distinctive voice and the joys finding one’s true work in middle age. And it gives her husband, Paul, who lived his own interesting life, credit for all his behind the scenes support of his 6’2” ebullient wife. 352 pp.

Stitches: a memoir

by David Small; Graphic Novel; 336 pages

For all that this book was mostly pictures, it wasn't an easy read at all. Small endures much as a child, and while the ending is ultimately hopeful, there are images from here that are going to stay with me.

Fables, vol 2: Animal Farm

by Bill Willingham (writer) and Mark Buckingham (art); 128 pages

I felt like the author really hit his stride in this volume. It's much darker than the straightforward mystery of the first story arc, but also much more complex. We also get to learn a bit more about how the fables exist in our world, which is always interesting. On to the next volume!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Crime Beat

Crime beat: a decade of covering cops and killers/Michael Connelly 375 pg.

The author gives an interesting view of his articles on various crimes and the cops who investigated them. - Susie

Thugs and Kisses / Sue Ann Jaffarian

Thugs and Kisses / Sue Ann Jaffarian. 329 pp.

I said I'd try another book in this series before giving up on it. Okay, I'm done. The mystery in this one was better, but I just don't like the main character enough to come back to her again.

City of Thieves by David Benioff

City of Thieves by David Benioff, 258 pages, Fiction
This book buddy / road-adventure story is set in the siege of Leningrad during WWII. Lev is a seventeen-year-old Leningrad resident who is working as a fire warden with his friends and neighbors. His mother and sister have already left the city for a safer haven elsewhere. One night, while on watch, Lev and his friends leave their post to follow a parachuting German pilot, hoping for something to scavenge. When their own soldiers find them there, and Lev goes back to rescue the girl he might love, he is caught, arrested and facing execution for stealing from the state (the corpse and all its belongs became state property when the pilot landed on Russian soil). While awaiting his fate in a prison cell that night he meets Kolya, a charming deserter, who will become his closest friend. The two are spared immediate execution and sent on a crazy errand for the commanding officer. Their quest takes them behind enemy lines, into the arms of a group of resistance fighters. He and Kolya face Odessyean tasks and problems on their journey, many of them brought on by Kolya, with his over-sized sense of adventure and honor. They find danger, friendship and more. We did this for our book discussion group in February. One of my favorites from recent years.

Check our Catalog.
We also have this title on CD, in large print and on Downloadable Audio.

Thle Big Splash

The Big Splash by Jack Ferraiolo 277 pages.

Tongue-in-cheek high school riff channels the spirit of Ray Chandler (The Big Sleep). Organized crime is rampant in Matt's school. Students are terrified that they will be the next to be taken down and turned into Others (once popular kids become scorned, ridiculed lepers after public humiliation via squirt guns filled with vile liquids). Matt is hired to find out who was behind Nikki's "assassination". Dark humor and sly wordplay make this book a hit for me.

Empowered vol. 5 / Adam Warren

Empowered. Vol. 5 / Adam Warren. 203 pp.

I'm not sure why I keep reading this graphic novel series; I'm not the target audience at all. I read the first one when I bought it for the library's collection, and I was intrigued by a particular supporting character, so I guess I'm hoping to find out more about him. Unfortunately we don't in this volume, which was mostly full of everything that annoys me about the series.

Paper Towns

by John Green; Young Adult; 320 pages (about 8 hours of audio)

Another book I've had on my to-read list for a long time. I listed to this on MP3, and the narrator really did a great job with the different character voices, without sounding cheesy, which I was worried about. The story manages to capture perfectly the feeling of winding up high school and starting a new life as an adult, being excited and sad at the same time. There's also a lot of literary references, which the English major in me loved.

Fables, vol 1: Legends in Exile

by Bill Willingham (writer) and Lan Medina (art); Graphic Novel; 128 pages

I was a little hesitant to pick this up, but I'd been recommended it by about a dozen people, so I need to read it. I'm really glad I did! The mystery element of the story was okay, but I really enjoyed setting up the premise of the series: fairy tale characters exiled to live in secret in New York city. I can't wait to pick up the next one.

Outlaw: The Legend of Robin Hood

by Tony Lee (writer), Sam Hart (art) and Artur Fujita (art). Graphic Novel; Young Adult; 160 pages

I picked this up from YALSA's list of the best graphic novels for this year. It was a solid retelling of the Robin Hood myth, and a pretty enjoyable story. It took me a few pages to get used to the art style, and a few more to get used to the very modern quips inserted into a Medieval setting, but it all worked together really well.

The Spirit Lens, by Carol Berg

Fantasy/Mystery, 480 pages.

I've enjoyed Berg's previous books, but this one didn't really work for me. I liked the pursuit of the mystery, but towards the end the main character started making these deductive leaps that I wasn't keeping up with, so I just sort of coasted for the last third of the book.

Halfway to Hollywood / Michael Palin

Halfway to Hollywood: diaries 1980-1988 / Michael Palin. 621 pp.

This is volume 2 of Palin's diaries (I read vol. 1 when it came out a few years ago). He has such a sensible voice. Much of what he writes about is professional--how the writing's going on his next movie, how the shooting's going on this acting job, whether the Pythons will fire their manager--but the regular-life bits, like interviewing headmasters to figure out which school his son will be attending, or taking his mother's elderly neighbor to church--are treated with just as much importance. The diaries are very dense but I never want to put them down once I start.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

How to sew a button

How to sew a button and other nifty things your grandmother knew/Erin Bried 278 pg.

There were a few good hints in this book (cleaning, gardening) but I knew how to pack a sandwich for lunch. Still, a neat idea and the ladies who contributed sound like quite a group! - Christa

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Game Change

Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin and the race of a lifetime/John Heilemann & Mark Halperin 448 pgs.

Sex! Lies! Drama! and did I mention sex? This book has it all, oh yea, also an election that was an important collection of firsts. If you paid any attention at all, this book is better than anything you remember. Sometimes I shudder at the reality of politics, other times I relish it. -Christa

The mystic arts of erasing all signs of death

The mystic arts of erasing all signs of death/Charlie Huston 319 pg.

Man, oh, man, Web is a complete loser. He is unemployed, staying with his childhood friend, he sleeps all the time, he is a real jerk to everyone. Turns out, all he really needs is a low paying job cleaning up the "mess" after a death, a girlfriend that gets him embroiled with a violent and stupid brother in a bizarre crime stealing almonds, and to get beat up several times. This book goes on for many pages grossing you out with the death scenes before clearing up why Web is such a piece of work. It turns into an awesome story. If you can get past the blood, guts and roaches, this book will take you places. -Christa

Border Crossing / Pat Barker 215 p.

I'm so glad Linda and Patrick introduced me to this author. Set in Newscastle, this is an unusual story of a young man who committed a terrible crime as a child, his therapist, and the therapist's marriage.

Miss Lonelyhearts / Nathanael West 56? p.

I read this in college and thought it was weird. When I read it again a few nights ago, I thought it was great. I'm not sure what that means. Miss Lonelyhearts writes an advice column in a New York paper and is taunted by his cynical editor when his readers' troubles overwhelm him.

The Power and the Glory / Graham Greene 221 p.

This is the only Greene I've read. Almost an allegory, about a Mexican priest on the run from the police in an unnamed state in southern Mexico.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson 640 pp.

I read this on recommendations from a couple different people and I'm glad I took the time. I didn't know what to expect and even while reading it I couldn't predict what would happen next. (Well, I tried but was generally wrong.) This book involves a disgraced journalist, a disturbed & victimized young computer hacker, a decades old missing person mystery, serial killings, and a crooked industrialist all combined into a riveting story. Now to start book two in the trilogy.

Lord John and the hand of the devils

Lord John and the hand of the devils/Diana Gabldon 302 pgs.

I read this to continue the Lord John Greg series. - Susie

Smiles to Go

Smiles to Go Jerry Spinelli 248 pages.

Fitting book for February reading. Will Tuppence finds his Friday night Monopoly tournaments with his two best friends morphing into something uncomfortable -- could they be a romantic triangle. He discovers jealous feelings about Mi-Su and is becoming resentful about BT. BT is so laid back, but seems to experience easy success. Will also resents being saddled with his younger rather obnoxious sister, Tabby. Rather light reading from the Newbery winning author of Maniac Magee.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Five Fists of Science

by Matt Fraction (writer) and Steven Sanders (art); Graphic Novel; 112 pages.

So I was googling Mark Twain yesterday, and came across this image of Twain playing in Nikola Tesla's laboratory. Because apparently they were friends. So of course I went looking for more such images, and instead found a graphic novel about the two of them, which we happened to own (thanks, Cindy!). I really enjoyed the concept of the story (Tesla invents mechs, Twain plans to use them for world peace, and they are confronted by an evil group of sorcerers led by J. P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, and Thomas Edison), but the execution was lacking. The first part of the book was wonderful, and I was laughing out loud for much of it. The second half blew it for me, when the art got very dark, and I couldn't distinguish one 19th century mustachioed gentleman from another in a shadowy fight scene.

This was the second time in a month that Tesla has randomly come up in my reading, so I may have to read a bio on him soon.

Order of the Stick. Don't Split the Party by Rich Burlew

Order of the Stick. Don't Split the Party by Rich Burlew. 272 pp.

Book 4 in the series. I am pleased to report that pacing for this volume works much, much better in book form than it did when being posted online. The OOTS don't make any progress on their main quest--defeating Xykon--but at least they're all back together by the end of the book. And all alive again, too. Although the Roy-in-the-afterlife strips are some of my favorites.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Adventures of Blue Avenger, Norma Howe, 230 pages

This is a wonderful book! Yes, it's a young adult book, but a really, really good one!
To sum up: David Schumacher wakes up one morning and decides to change his name to Blue Avenger, the name of the comic book character he has sketched ever since his father died. Obsessed with the question of free will versus fate, Blue has a string of heroic victories and also falls in love with a girl named Omaha Nebraska Brown. Together, they ponder all sorts of philosophical ideas and have a really cute teen-love thing :)
The book is hilarious, but also touching. Blue's "very first four-panel strip dealt with the problem of death. He drew The Blue Avenger cornering Death Incarnate, a menacing figure in a black cape with huge, clawlike tentacles. In the last panel, The Blue Avenger has fearlessly ripped off Death's black cape, revealing underneath a sniveling little coward begging for mercy in his filthy underware."
So yeah. Basically, I love this book, I've read it three times, it'll take you five seconds to read, and will fill you with laughter! So read it :)

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine

The latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine by April Lurie 208 pages.
Fifteen-year-old Dylan has a dysfunctional family life. His mom left home to become an artist. His surgeon father works 24/7 and his older brother may be a drug dealer for his stoner bandmates. His best friend, Angie is making a short film about him, but she still seems to be attached to her former boyfriend. Dylan is a likable character perhaps a tad too virtuous in this seriously flawed family.

Tiger Moon

Tiger Moon by Angonia Michaelis 448 pages.
Safia is sold to become the 8th wife of a rich and cruel merchant. She tries to escape her fate by telling stories about a white tiger, a captured princess, and a thief to a new friend. This has overtones of the Arabian Nights. The saga of the stolen "bloodstone" is compelling and the setting is quite exotic.

Plant Life by Pamela Duncan

Plant Life by Pamela Duncan

321 p.

Laurel Granger returns home to rural North Carolina on the heels of a failed marriage and begins to find her way again, wiser for the lessons she’s learned on her own and for the ones she’s learned by rediscovering family and friends and the ways of life she thought she’d left behind. I loved Duncan’s first novel, Moon Women; this one not as much but still lovely Southern women’s fiction.

Noah’s Compass by Anne Tyler

Noah’s Compass by Anne Tyler

277 p.

The story of semi-retired teacher, Liam Pennywell, and how he comes to terms with his life at a crossroad…disappointments, achievements, failures, relationships or lack thereof, and how he sees himself spending the rest of his life. Not among her best, but an enjoyable book nonetheless.

Booby Trap by Sue Ann Jaffarian

Booby Trap by Sue Ann Jaffarian. 314 pp.

Generally I read mystery series either because I enjoy the recurring characters (maybe sometimes the setting) or because I enjoy the plots. Both characters and plot seemed blah to me in this one. I'll probably try one more, but I don't expect to end up following this series.

The God Engines by John Scalzi

The God Engines by John Scalzi. 136 pp.

Scalzi tries his hand at fantasy rather than science fiction. Well done, but I enjoy his SF more.

The Healing of America by T.R. Reid

The Healing of America: a global quest for better, cheaper, and fairer health care by T.R. Reid. 277 pp.

Reid examines various other countries' health care systems to see what they do that the U.S. doesn't and how they all manage to do it more cheaply. Particularly relevant right now, of course. Excellent for discussion of how these countries, who often get lumped together under the "socialist medicine" rubric, have different systems with varying degrees of free market competition.

Open Season by Linda Howard

Open Season by Linda Howard. 337 pp.

A pretty bog-standard romantic suspense novel, except that the main character is every stereotype imaginable about a small-town female librarian: starchy "old-lady" language, dowdy clothes, lives with her mother, no love life.... I like to read fiction starring librarians, but this character mostly made me roll my eyes.


This is my best effort to show the totals from January. Let me know if you have corrections.

/Books /Pages
Patrick 5 /2,150
Karen 6 /1,725
Christa 14 / 3,477
Kathleen 6 / 2,103
Marilyn 12 / 3,747
Susie 10 / 2,733
Allison 3 / 671
Cindy 10 / 3,424
Annie 8 / 2,420
Sally 1 / 551
Cynthia D. 4 / 1,046
Linda 3 / 1,209
Amber 1 / 160
TOTAL 83 / 25,416