Monday, May 31, 2010


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

Participant/Books /Pages

Karen 5 /1,469
Christa 15 / 4,677
Kathleen 5 / 1,820
Susie 12 / 3,344
Allison 1 / 324
Cindy 8 / 2,569
Annie 11 / 4,022
Linda 4 / 1,687
Eliana 5/1,277
TOTAL 66/ 21,182

Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us

Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us/Daniel H. Pink 242pg.

This book talks about the psychology of motivation both on the personal side and business side. There are a lot of "old fashioned" ideas about how to get the best results out of people, many of which were proven not to work by various experiments and observations. Somehow, these remain popular in schools and work places. Of course, the bulk of the book talks about the RIGHT way to motivate.

I'm not totally sure what this says about the book but right now I'm motivated to take a nap. - Christa

What I'd say to the Martians and other veiled threats

What I'd say to the Martians and other veiled threats/Jack Handey 170 pg.

The first thing I would say to the Martians is that Jack Handey is crazy. Handey is a former writer for Saturday Night Live and is the guy behind the "Deep Thoughts" feature on that show. This book is a collection of essays that are mostly crazy ideas or observations. Very fun to read. - Christa

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Blue Sword/Robin McKinley

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley; young adult, fantasy; 320 pages (about 11 1/2 hours, listening)

After reading so much Tamora Pierce, I really wanted to revisit McKinley, and I hadn't read this book in over ten years. The audiobook version of this was good, but it had clearly been transeferred from a low-quality cassette recording. I was very surprised that Recorded Books hadn't cleaned it up a bit in post-production, but I suppose there's only so much that can be done. I love McKinley's writing style, and this book is great example of her work. The setting is wonderfully vivid, and the characters are great. As with most McKinley, there is a romance, but you'll miss it if you're not paying attention. Wonderful read

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Ghosts of St. Louis

Ghosts of St. Louis by Bryan W. Alaspa 160 pp.

This book was...meh. I've read better ones about the haunted places in the St. Louis area and this one doesn't have nearly the information or creepy tales as those. The subtitle is The Lemp Mansion and Other Eerie Tales and over half of the book is about the history of the Lemp family, their tragic ends, and the author's own experience at the mansion. The remaining chapters are pretty sparse in detail. I find it odd that the author mentions haunted buildings at Webster University but neglects the more famous "exorcism" building at St. Louis U. Disappointing.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet;'s Nest

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest/Stieg Larsson 566 pg.

The 3rd and tragically last book of the Millenium trilogy begins just minutes after the previous book ended. Lisbeth Salander is located by Mikael Blomkvist but to say she is in bad shape doesn't quite do justice to the 3 gunshot wounds and live burial that she has sustained. Lisbeth is airlifted to the hospital while Blomkvist angers the cops. Now go forward 550 pages of recovery, plotting, planning, investigation and intrigues until we get to some great Salander action. Unfortunately, for me, that is the best part of these books. Luckily, I also like the political intrigue, etc. but man, I wish there was more action.

I recently read that Larsson had talked about this being a 10 book series. I could really go for a few more but instead I've not finished the series and that makes me sad. - Christa
Oh yea, I spent my entire day off reading.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Informant: a true story

The Informant: a true story/Kurt Eichenwald 606 pgs.

This book tells about the events that lead up to the prosecution of ADM executives who were involved in a price fixing scandal. I remember when this was in the news and recently, a movie version was made starring Matt Damon. At times I lost interest in this book but had read so much of it, I didn't want to give up on the sweet page count. The first 150 pgs. were great and the last 150 were too...the middle section kind of lost me. In the end, this is an amazing story resulting in the whistle blower getting a longer sentence than the people he reported! Of course it didn't help that he lost his immunity by forgetting to tell the FBI that he had also stolen $9 million from the company.

This case seems to have led to a lot of other price fixing cases as it sort of became obvious that companies everywhere were doing similar schemes. Although this book was hard to follow at times, I'm glad I stuck with it. If you ever decide to go the whistle blower route, try not to be a crazy liar and you will probably end up better off than Mark Whitacre. - Christa

The cartoon introduction to economics: volume one: microeconomics

The cartoon introduction to economics: volume one: microeconomics by Grady Klein and Yoram Bauman 211 pgs.

Ah, the dismal science, I can't tell you how much I love it...or maybe loved it. This is a great intro to several of the basic terms and concepts of microeconomics. I spent much of my undergraduate years studying these ideas and it was fun to see it in comic form. Of course I'm looking for the Macroeconomics issue and wonder how many more volumes are planned? Maybe a little money & banking, international trade, and or econometrics? Who could ask for anything more? - Christa

The Damascened Blade

The Damascened Blade/Barbara Cleverly 287 pgs.

I chose this to continue the series. - Susie

Dead Reckoning

Dead Reckoning: the new science of catching killers/Michael Baten & Marion Roach 267 pgs.

I chose this to get an inside look at forensic science. It was very interesting. - Susie

Fox on the Rhine

Fox on the Rhine/Douglas Niles and Michael Dobson 545 pgs.

I chose this to see how their version of WWII different from what really happened. Alternative history can be interesting. - Susie

The Spellmans Strike Back / Lisa Lutz

The Spellmans Strike Back by Lisa Lutz (fourth in the series). 388 p.

If you haven't run into the Spellman books before, they're a delight (and a very fast read). The Spellmans are a hugely dysfunctional family of private eyes--2 parents, 3 children--who continually spy on, and blackmail, one another. They are also very, very funny. Isabel, our narrator, is the middle child. By the end of this book, she's actually experienced something close to character growth, and the family has stabilized (a bit) into something not quite as dyfunctional as they were in the first book. Rumor has it that this is the last Spellman book; I hope that's true, because the characters have evolved and I'd hate to see this series go the way of the Janet Evanovich "numbers" books where the author makes sure absolutely nothing in the way of character or situation development happens so that she can sell a new book or two every year.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Gate of Gods / Martha Wells

The Gate of Gods by Martha Wells (The Fall of Ile-Rien book 3). 484 p.

Third book in a trilogy--how to talk about it without spoilers? I could reiterate how much I love these books.... One thing I like about this one: the war ends in this book, but that doesn't magically fix everything. The characters who got married for political reasons realize they love one another, but that doesn't make everything all better either--it doesn't even make their relationship all sparkly and perfect. Yay.

A side note: I read this author's blog while she was writing the book. She didn't know whether her publisher would buy it until she finished it. So if you're ever wondering why an author didn't finish a series you were may not be by choice.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Tales From Outer Suburbia: Shaun Tan

Ok, ok, ok. If you know about this book, yes, it does have a lot of pictures. I'm writing about it more so that I can inform people about some of our Young Adult offerings than to get UCPL Book Challenge cred.

It's a cool book. Short stories about this fantasy world, and amazing amazing art that goes with it. Goes without saying that it's a quick read. If you're looking to try a graphic novel with some serious philosophical meaning and beautiful artwork, then this might be the book for you.

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett

I am somewhat mystified by the extreme popularity of this book – the waiting list just grows, and I had to BUY it to read for my book club (I’ve donated my copy, so it will serve a higher purpose…). It’s a well-written page-turner, but no more so than many other books of popular fiction. Although most have really liked the book, including those in my book club, I personally found it uncomfortable reading. The author seems patronizing throughout this tale of idle white women and their “colored help” during formative years of the Civil Rights Movement. She uses her version of “Negro” dialect of the 1960’s, with no corresponding “Southern White” dialect for her white characters. And her main character basically puts others at risk, largely for her own purposes, and then abandons them in the end. I have no personal experience with the uneasy close-yet-distant relationship between Southern whites and the African- American women they employed to work in their homes, often to raise their children, so perhaps am not the best judge of the author’s intentions. The history of this relationship is important, but it seemed to me that the author was working out her own complicated past. 451 pp.

The man from Beijing

The man from Beijing/Henning Mankell 371 pg.

What can we learn from this book? If you are really rich and really crazy, you might feel the need to punish people 100 + years after the fact just because they are related to somebody who wronged your ancestor. Put together with the HIGHLY improbable way discoveries are made and coincidences put people together, if you think too hard about the story, you might be overcome by disbelief. However, it you just take the ride and appreciate the small side stories and characters, Mankell does not disappoint. -Christa


Gateway by Sharon Shinn  280 pp.

A young adult fantasy homage to her hometown written by a local author. Teen-aged Daiyu lives in St. Louis with her family who adopted her from China. She buys a ring from a strange old woman selling jewelry at a booth at Fair St. Louis. Walking under the Arch sends her through a portal to a parallel world--the Gateway to the West was a gateway to this other world where everyone is Chinese. Daiyu ends up in a safe house being trained for a secret mission to help topple the government in power and send the leader back to his own dimension. The next time I see Sharon I'll ask her how long she's had the Arch/portal idea kicking around in her mind.

62 projects to make with a dead computer and other discarded electronics

62 projects to make with a dead computer and other discarded electronics/Sarafan, Randy 252 pg.

There were a lot of cool projects in this book but also a few that didn't really make sense. If I make something out of "recycled" goods, I want it to work well for the purpose that I'm making it for and I don't want there to be a really cheap alternative that works better. Making speakers out of ear buds and funnels, for example, just doesn't make sense. However, the ant farm or terrarium, that would be awesome and work well.

I certainly did enjoy the creativity put into the ideas and now have a few new ideas for projects for myself. - Christa

George, Nicholas, & Wilhelm

George, Nicholas, & Wilhelm: three cousins, three empires, and the road to World War I by Miranda Carter  498 pp.

Think the royals of today are disfunctional? They've got nothing on this bunch. Thanks to Victoria & Albert and their grand plan of making peace in Europe by marrying off their kids & grandkids to all the royal families in Europe we ended up with the war to end all wars. King George V of England was probably the brightest one of the bunch and all three were the dimmest bulbs in the chandelier. He spent all his time hunting or playing with his stamp collection. Tsar Nicholas was so insulated from the outside world that he was clueless to the reality of world affairs not to mention the fact that he truly believed his position was ordained by God and that made him pretty much omnipotent. And Kaiser Wilhelm was...nuts. Chances are Willy was at the very least bi-polar along with being extremely paranoid. I have to say that the smartest thing my great-grandparents ever did was leaving Germany before Willy succeeded in starting the war he threatened during his entire reign.

The Dead Tossed Waves, by Carrie Ryan

The Dead Tossed Waves (companion to The Forest of Hands and Teeth), by Carrie Ryan; horror, romance; 416 pages

The Forest of Hands and Teeth was one of my favorite books of 2009, so I was really excited to start on this one. We learn a bit more about the zombies here, and what the rest of the world has been doing since the Return. It's pretty cool to see the cults and governments that have sprung up, especially since the view in Forest was so limited. In some ways, Waves is more swoony and romantic than Forest (sorry Patrick), but I found myself getting annoyed with the main character more easily. Then again, I got pretty annoyed with the main character in the first book, too, and that didn't affect my enjoyment. I did think that the romance part of the story went from disappointing to downright creepy, but I can't say any more without revealing huge chunks of plot. Overall, I think I liked Forest better, if only because it was scarier. This one seemed a little less realistic (one character is dying of blood loss one day, and running from zombies the next--really??), and didn't have the same breathless pace. It also felt unfinished, so I'm hoping Ryan's next book will be a true sequel, rather than a story set in the same world.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

You Suck: A Love Story-Christopher Moore

What is it with people with the last name Moore? Michael Moore and his documentaries, now this Christopher Moore and his urban fantasy novels...these kids are crazy.

So, how was this book? Well, definitely a fun, quick read. A bit high on the profanity...whores, cussing, bongs. It's a bit much for my taste. I felt like if I were a twenty year old guy, I might have enjoyed those bits more. Other than that, You Suck, which is a sequel to Bloodsucking Fiends, was very funny. It goes into Jody and C. Thomas Flood's vampire escapades, how they try to find ways to humanely feed off the living (semi-successful) and keep their relationship together (a surprise at the end!). Sprinkled in is a hooker named Blue, who is literally dyed blue, with blue hair and blue...well...anyway.

I decided to read it because I was sick, but I think anyone would find a Christopher Moore novel a nice pick me up :)

So yes, not the best thing since poptarts, but certainly a good read!

Purge / Sofi Oksanen 388 p.

I was intrigued by this book when I saw it on the cart, and I wasn't disappointed. Two Estonian women, both of whom have suffered terrible consequences in their generations' respective wars, meet and establish a shaky relationship. It's set in a small farming community in Estonia, and alternates between the early '90s and the WWII era. I love contrasts, and this book sets up a great one: in the midst of periods of terrifying upheaval, these women keep up an intense domestic pace. They can, card, milk and weave while dodging rocks, bullets and knives.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Dead Travel Fast / Deanna Raybourn

The Dead Travel Fast by Deanna Raybourn. 313 p.

I won't repeat the plot precis from Annie's review. I agree wholeheartedly that the setting is essentially a character. The atmosphere is really well done; you can understand how a rational woman like Theodora starts considering supernatural explanations for weird events. (Although--unexpected dog in my room? I'm going to at least look behind the giant tapestries to see if there's a way he could have gotten in....) I may have to try some of Raybourn's other stuff.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bonk: Mary Roach

Blargh. Someone already read this.

Ok, so not to bore you, but yeah, I read this book. Ironically, I too had read Roach's Stiff for a school project, and then when I found out she wrote one about sex, well, I decided to expand my reading to something that I figure my teacher probably wouldn't have approved of.

That said, it's interesting. I did not have the urge to share little bits and facts with the people around me, and most of the time found myself actually hiding the book cover from them, but then again, my peers are immature adolescents and we all know that the adult population has a better way of dealing with these kinds of things than giggling and making "That's what she said" jokes. Or does it? *eyebrow raise*

So yeah. Re: my challenge. Um...joking! Ahhhh! Now the entire staff is going to stampede me >__< It was just my old Napoleon complex acting up. You know, if you're less that 5'3'', you can get a bit pompous from time to time.

Also, P.S. NOW ON MY THIRD BOOK, MOOHOOHWAHAHA. So I guess I'm going back and forth on that challenge thing ;)

The Pacific the Life of Marine Legend John Basilone

The Pacific the Life of Marine Legend/John Basilone 239 pg.

I chose this because it adds more detail to the Basilone's life than is shown in the Pacific on H.B.O. It was a tragedy he died young. - Susie

George and Martha

George and Martha/Karen Finley 105 pg.

This book describes an affair between G.W. Bush and Martha Stewart. I thought it was interesting. - Susie

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mommy Knows Worst

Mommy Knows Worst: Highlights from the Golden Age of bad Parenting Advice/James Lileks 176 pg.

Will I ever get enough of these? The usual genius at work looks at ads from the 40's and 50's about parenting. Some of the comments are a little wordy but the best ones are the short and to the point. Look at page 168 for my favorite. - Christa

Slaughter-House-Five: Kurt Vonnegut

Ahaha! All you other staff members who don't have school and think you're up to your ears in things like grocery lists and laundry must now face the revenge of the high school graduate. That's right. I've been graduated for three days, and I'm already on my second book (hmmph!).

As for the one I just finished. Apparently Slaughter-House-Five is some typical high school novel. I did not know this. Of course, one of my high school friends told me to read it, saying that it would "really make you think."

And so--it did make me think. But not that hard. In the book, Billy Pilgrim flip flops back and forth through time, kind of like the Time Traveler's Wife except Pilgrim gets kidnapped by aliens and taken to a planet where he lives in a zoo with Montana Wildhack under the observation of the Tralfamadorians. So he flip flops between planets too.

The Tralfamadorians see time as a panorama with past, present, and future omnipresent. They don't believe in free will. And apparently pre-birth is infra-red and post-death is ultraviolet. It makes sense in the book.

Fun read. No tear-jerker, and certainly no replacement say for the Dali Lama or Deepak Chopra. But that's nice. It gives a message without religion.

So thumbs up. Read it.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hello Kitty Must Die

Hello Kitty Must Die/Angela S. Choi 250 pg.

Sometimes people are not what they seem. Fiona is a young Chinese American woman who still lives with her parents and can't seem to explain to them that she doesn't want to date the guys they pick. Or worse, marry Don the flabby, lazy but alas, Chinese man with whom they start planning a wedding after 2 dates. Lucky for Fiona, she reconnects with her best friend from high school. Turns out he has a lot of ideas for coping with people who anger you, mostly by killing them. Sean believes that everyone is going to die anyway, some just need a little help. He likes when Fiona helps him choose his victims many of whom seem to meet their maker in a "natural" way.

This book was not what I was expecting but it was pretty fun. Yes, I laughed at the serial killer and all the stuff he taught Fiona. - Christa

Monday, May 17, 2010

The God of the Hive / Laurie R. King

The God of the Hive by Laurie R. King (A Mary Russell novel #10). 356 p.

When someone first tried to tell me that these books featured Sherlock Holmes' wife but "they're really good," I scoffed. But, as it turns out, they are really good. This won't be one of my favorites, because Russell and Holmes are separated for much of it, but it was still quite enjoyable. It's a direct sequel to last year's The Language of Bees, which ended on rather a cliffhanger; this volume ties things up nicely. I think part of the reason I enjoy these books is that King manages to produce the slightly more formal diction (and Britishness) of classic mysteries without being annoying about it.

Burning Lamp / Amanda Quick

Burning Lamp by Amanda Quick (Dreamlight trilogy book 2). 328 p.

Amanda Quick is Jayne Ann Krentz's pen name when she writes fiction in historical rather than modern-day settings. This is a sequel to Fired Up, which I read in January. This one is a bit better that the first, because she doesn't have to spend so much of her page count setting up plots. Still, I prefer her older historicals, before she dragged in paranormal powers and had to spend so much time talking about them and how they work; she's much better at entertaining characters, rather than plot. Also, the male lead in this one is a "crime lord," which could have been interesting had she spent any time making him seem scary rather than just mildly eccentric, but she didn't.

The Witch's Boy/Michael Gruber

The Witch's Boy, by Michael Gruber; young adult, fantasy; 400 pages (about 7 hours, listening)

Horrible people doing horrible things to other horrible people: that's pretty much the content of this book. The main character is cruel and terrible, and manages to harm anyone who has ever cared about him. There's some attempt at redemption at the end, but it's too little too late. If I had to pick I high point of this book, it would be the retellings of classic fairy tales, often with the witch or wolf as the hero instead of the villain. Still, even that wasn't enough to make this book bearable. Not something I'm going to be revisiting. Also, avoid the audiobook: the narration is good, but somehow, having someone read the terrible things aloud just makes them worse.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the Graphic Novel/Seth Grahame-Smith, et al

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the Graphic Novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, adapted by Tony Lee, art by Cliff Richards; graphic novel, horror; 176 pages

I really wanted to like this as much as I liked the original, it just wasn't happening for me. Part of it was the art, which just seemed rushed (and probably was--as of a few months ago, there was still no artist attached to the project). Also, I had a lot of trouble telling characters apart, though that improved later in the story. The adaptation itself was also mediocre: part of the charm of both the original P&P and PPZ is the narrator's crisp-yet-snarky lines, combined with Lizzie's dialogue. Here, much of that is pared away (we lose the narrator entirely), and the scene shifts are so sudden that it gives the book a very choppy feel. To be fair, I wasn't feeling well when I read this, so I may have let that color my view of the book. Still, I think I was hoping for a lot more.

Trickster's Queen/Tamora Pierce

Trickster's Queen (Daughter of the Lioness, book 2), by Tamora Pierce; young adult, fantasy; 496 pages

I actually read this, instead of listening (the audio was checked out), so it went a little faster. Of course, I'm having lots of fun this this series, so it was already going pretty fast. This is the conclusion of the series, and it's juggling a much more complex plot, as the conspiracy to overthrow the current rules comes to a head. There were times where I got a little lost in all the unfamiliar names and huge numbers of minor characters, but fortunately there's a glossary in the back of the book, and I made heavy use of it. This brings me up to date on Tamora Pierce's Torall books (I won't read her current series until the final book comes out next year), but I've enjoyed them so much I think I may have to read her other series as well.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Tinkers, by Paul Harding

Winner of this year’s Pulitzer Prize, this slim literary work (192 pp.) takes place in a clock-filled room, the clocks chimes silenced, and in an old dying man’s head during his last days. Although it is beautifully written, I expected to be swept away by it but was not. Perhaps having had real deathbed experience recently wasn’t the best preparation for reading it.

Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-eyed Stranger: New and selected stories, by Lee Smith

I happened to have this book with me on a recent visit to North Carolina, where a number of these Southern-themed stories are set. Lee Smith can set a scene and give you an immediate insight into a character’s life in just a sentence or two. It’s what is implied, not stated: “Have a happy holiday! The pretty girl in the wine shop is dressed in a red velvet elf suit, with green tights and high black boots. She carries the carton of wine to put it in the trunk, her tiny skirt hikes up to show her red panties. This is the kind of outfit Lawrence would love, damn his soul.” And we suspect that Lawrence is history, and probably a cad; the holiday is unlikely to be happy; and the abandoned wife is probably drinking too much as well. Wonderfully done. 352 pp.

This Body of Death, by Elizabeth George

The latest installment of this addictive on-going series finds Thomas Lynley called back to Scotland Yard, after walking the cliffs of Cornwall for several months after his wife’s murder, to help investigate the murder of a young woman in a secluded cemetery. Old companions Barbara Havers and Winston Nkata also are involved in the case, which takes them to the New Forest, where ponies run free, the ancient art of thatching roofs is still very much alive, and things are not always what they seem to be. Added to the mix is the new acting supervisor, a woman with as many problems in her personal life as she has relating to her new staff. Elizabeth George, an American who writes as if she had spent her whole life in London, is the master of multi-layered psychological mysteries with memorable characters. I can hardly wait for the next one. 692 pp.

The End/Lemony Snicket

I thought I'd be weeping inconsonably by the time I finished this series, but I only got a little tiny bit ferklempt. Probably because I finished it at the desk. It's a satisfying ending to the Baudelaire's story, but it's also complex, morally ambiguous, full of secrets that will never be answered, and deeply tragic. So it's like Lost, only...much better. And there's no polar bears.  324 pp.


Nocturnes: five stories of music and nightfall by Kazuo Ishiguro  221 pp.

A short collection of short stories with music as a central theme, some loosely connected, others more so. The stories include one about a has-been crooner and a Polish guitarist in Venice, an aficionado of classic American standards who travels to England and confronts his paranoias, the discussions of the crooner's wife and a saxophonist as they recuperate from cosmetic surgery, a guitarist who affects the lives of a pair of Swiss musicians on holiday, and a young classical musicians encounter with a mysterious older woman. Because they are short stories, they don't have the depth of Ishiguro's novels, but they are interesting and thought provoking.

All He Ever Wanted

All He Ever Wanted by Anita Shreve  310 pp.

A well-written but aggravating story. The main character, a college professor, is an annoying, chauvanistic, anti-Semitic prig who falls desperately in love with a woman who does not love him. He coerces her into marriage and they live a reasonably happy life until he discovers that she has bought a small house to use as her own private refuge for quiet afternoons away from him and their children. In a fit of anger he threatens to divorce her and things go downhill from there. I have to admit, I was really hoping something horrible would happen to this guy because he was such a jerk. 

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Ragtime in Simla

Ragtime in Simla 287 pg.

I chose this to continue the series. I've always liked historical fiction and British history - this is both. - Susie

The time of my life

The time of my life/Patrick Swayze & Lisa Niemi pg. 247

I chose this to learn more about Patrick's life. - Susie

Is our children learning?

Is our children learning?: the case against George W. Bush/Paul Begala 160 pg.

I chose this to see what the author had to say about G.W. Bush. It makes him seem awful. - Susie


Rework/Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson 279 pgs.

A great business advice book with occasionally conflicting advice but mostly things that should be common sense. Business, however, has become some weird area of "study" where planning and rules are taught to students without regard to the practicality or necessity of the plan or the rules. Although there are some examples in the book. I wish there were more. - Christa

The Bedwetter

The Bedwetter: Stories of courage, redemption, and pee/Sarah Silverman 240 pgs.

Sarah Silverman is really funny and I was hoping this book would be nothing less than hilarious...but it was something less. In this book, Sarah reveals that she is Jewish and has a preoccupation with poop jokes. Maybe this won't come as too big a surprise to anyone who has ever seen Sarah or even heard of her. I read the last few chapters out loud to my husband and that made it seem MUCH more funny. So my advice is read this aloud to a loved one for maximum enjoyment. -Christa

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Tourist

The Tourist/Olen Steinhauer 408 pg.

I listened to this one on audio and could not help but try to sneak it in any chance I got. This is a great spy story that follows Milo Weaver, a CIA "tourist" which is a super secret department of black ops people. It really did a good job of showing the "expendibility" of the agents and the story was filled with intrigue and action but also very good with the human side. I had never even heard of this author but will certainly read more. - Christa

Nemesis / Jo Nesbo 474 p.

This is the middle title in the Harry Hole mysteries which we have in our collection, and I think it's my favorite. A series of Oslo bank robberies which turn fatal involves an apparent Gypsy mafia ring. Like most Americans, I know practically nothing about Gypsies (Romany), and Nesbo provides some interesting historical detail. There are a few scenes which I have to describe as madcap, (OK, I just wanted to use that word...) particularly those which take place in a small Brazilian coastal town. I won't bother to explain how Harry winds up there, but I really recommend this one.

Asleep: The Forgotten Epidemic That Remains One of Medicine's Greatest Mysteries / Molly Caldwell Crosby 291 p.

Details the epidemic of sleeping sickness (encephalitis lethargica) that spread mysteriously around the globe after WWI, seemingly in the wake of the Spanish influenza pandemic. Crosby uses 7 case studies to frame the different phases of the epidemic, from the beginning of the outbreak, through the long (and unsuccessful) efforts to find either treatment or cure, to the final period in which post-encephalitic patients spent years 'asleep' in institutions, forgotten by almost everyone until a young Dr. Oliver Sacks treated some of them with L-dopa. Very disturbing because, as Crosby explains, no one has ever discovered the exact mechanism by which the disease worked, or why some fell ill and not others. In other words, it could happen again... Less interesting was Crosby's writing style. I think she's a frustrated novelist, and embroiders the text with too much detail. The facts are compelling enough.

Fresh Lies / James Lileks 292 p.

I didn't strain any muscles from hysterical laughter while reading this one, but I still enjoyed it quite a bit. Lileks combines extreme silliness with an obvious intelligence.

The Last Fix / K.O. Dahl, 375 p.

Another Norwegian mystery, and the only I've read by Dahl. Not great - the 'solution' felt tacked on to the end, rather than a natural outcome of events. A former addict and prostitute is murdered, and the list of possible suspects is long.

Trickster's Choice/Tamora Pierce

Trickster's Choice (Daughter of the Lioness, book 1), by Tamora Pierce; young adult, fantasy; 448 pages (about 10 hours, listening)

Yes, I'm still reading Tamora Pierce. And I'm still loving it. This book's protagonist is Alianne of Pirate's Swoop, daughter of Alanna the Lioness, from several books ago. And we dive right into the action: within the first chapter, Aly's kidnapped by pirates and sold in to slavery in a distant country. Before she can escape, she gets caught up in a scheme with the trickster god who once ruled that country, and now wants it back. If Aly can keep the god's chosen one alive long enough for her to claim the throne, he'll send Aly back home, and even get her parents off her back. Of course, Aly's more than cut out for her new job as spy and bodyguard--her father was once the King of Thieves in her home city, and now serves as spymaster to the king, so she's got more than a few tricks up her sleeve. So many of the other Pierce books have been about warriors and heroes--it was refreshing to have a character who specializes in not being noticed, and to watch Aly come into her own as spymaster to another noble house. I started the second book immediately after finishing this, and will report back.

Bonk / Mary Roach

Bonk: the Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach. 319 p.

I really liked Mary Roach's book Stiff when I read it a few years ago--she writes very clearly about science and medicine for the layman, and she's ridiculously funny. So how could I not love her book about sex? I learned some really interesting stuff about scientific research on human sexuality, but of course the amusing anecdotes are what stick in the mind. My biggest problem with the book is that approximately every 2 pages there's something so funny and/or interesting that I have an overwhelming need to share it with someone else, and there's not always someone around. (I did draw the line at making my waiter/waitress listen.)

This World We Live In/Susan Beth Pfeffer

This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer; young adult; 256 pages

I had really enjoyed the first two books in this series. The premise is that an asteroid has knocked the moon closer to earth, causing global climate changes, tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. The first book is the diary of a 16-year-old girl as she and her family try to survive, while the second book follows a different family in New York City. This book brings the two groups together, and an expected romance kicks up between the narrators of the two books (though this book is, like the first, narrated solely by Miranda in her diary). I felt like I should have liked this a lot more than it did, but while the first two books focused on survival, this book seemed more concerned with gooey-eyed romance, which just didn't seem in keeping with the bleakness of the rest of the series. Also, the little sister character that mildly annoyed me in the second book became, if possible, more annoying here (she herself is not annoying, but her perpetual helplessness, and the fact the everyone bends over backwards to accommodate her--because she's just such a good person-- gets really old, really fast).

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Spy wars: moles, mysteries, and deadly games

Spy wars: moles, mysteries, and deadly games/Tennent H. Bagley 313 pg.

I've always loved the spy stuff and this book was great except after reading it you wonder how the CIA could be so stupid...yea, I guess I can see it. Anyway, this book covers a certain KGB defector, Yuri Nosenko, who was clearly a KGB plant. In the end, the CIA refused to second guess themselves and instead built this guy up to be the greatest source they ever had. Funny how when you try to cover up your mistakes, you often make even bigger ones. Even if you just read the final couple of chapters, it is a great lesson on the concept of "group think" and how people can be persuaded by others and there lack of desire to look like they had been wrong all along. - Christa

Reel Spirit

Reel Spirit a guide to movies that inspire, explore and empower/Raymond Teague 438 pg.

I chose this to read about the more spiritual and ethical points of movies I watched for entertainment. - Susie

Trotsky: a Graphic Biography

Trotsky: a Graphic Biography/Rick Leary 102 pg.

I chose this for a brief explanation of Trotsky's life. - Susie

The House on Garibaldi Street

The House on Garibaldi Street: the first full account of the capture of Adolf Eichmann/Isser Harel 290 pgs.

I chose this to see what it took to bring Eichmann to Isreal for an overdue trial. - Susie

The last Kashmiri Rose

The last Kashmiri Rose/Barbara Cleverly 287 pg.

I chose this because it's historical fiction about the British Raj in India and I'm interested in English history. - Susie

The Dead Travel Fast/Deanna Raybourn

The Dead Travel Fast by Deanna Raybourn; mystery, romance, horror; 400 pages

I haven't read a mystery in ages, and I loved this, even if I did pick it up for the gothic horror elements, rather than the whodunit. Theodora Lestrange is a Victorian author who's hoping to make her name with her next novel. She thinks she's found the perfect inspiration when she visits an old school friend in Transylvania, stays in a shadowy castle, and meets the mysterious Count Dragulescu. Of course, shortly thereafter, one of the maids is found dead, and rumors start flying that a vampire is on the loose. The pace is perfect, the setting is a character in and of itself, and the romance between Theodora and the Count is a perfect fit. I did have a small annoyance with the neatness of the ending (not the mystery, which was great, but the relationships between the characters), but that's minor compared to the rest of the story. This really makes me want to reread Jane Eyre or maybe finally tackle Rebecca. Or maybe I'll just watch the movie...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Foiled / Jane Yolen et al

Foiled written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Mike Cavallaro. 160 p.

For some reason I wasn't expecting actual fantasy elements in this story, and they kind of threw me--although I *like* fantasy, so I'm not sure why. Somehow the pieces of this story never come together for me, and the art didn't do much for me either, although I did enjoy the coloring decisions. And a personal nitpick about something the main character says (twice): I play role-playing games, and also read a lot of RPG-related stuff online; I have never ever heard anyone say they "do" roleplaying games. One plays the game.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks / Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. 370 p.

A quite interesting book that raises some serious questions about medical ethics and whether people should be able to have some say over what is done with their tissues once those tissues have been removed from their bodies. Henrietta Lacks' doctor took sample cells while (unsuccessfully) treating her cervical cancer, and those cells have become the foundation of a multi-billion-dollar business, as well as a cornerstone of modern medical research. Yet her family knew nothing about that for years and years and cannot afford medical treatment for themselves. The narrative strands in the book switch from the story of Henrietta's life to the medical research and treatment field to the author's experiences with Henrietta's descendants as she attempts to write the book. Disturbing in a number of ways, but fascinating.

Lady Knight/Tamora Pierce

Lady Knight (Protector of the Small, book 4), by Tamora Pierce; young adult; 464 pages (about 11 1/2 hours, listening)

The conclusion to this series was just as much fun as the rest of it. Kel's finally a full knight, just in time for a war with the country to the north. But instead of being on the front lines of battle, Kel's stuck running a refugee camp far from actual combat. Of course, trouble finds her before the book is out, so there's lots of action to entertain. There's no love interest for Keladry, which was also a refreshing change from previous Pierce series. As if to make up for that, we do get updates on characters from each of the previous two series, and their ongoing lives. This book was definitely scarier than some of the others, and the battle scenes more graphic, but I felt like it balanced it well with scenes of life outside of battles, and the aforementioned relationships. I loved this series, and can't wait to dive into the next one!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Savor the Moment / Nora Roberts

Savor the Moment (The Bride Quartet, book 3) by Nora Roberts. 335 p.

La Nora's (yes, that's what people call her in romance circles online) latest. This 4-book series features four women who've been friends from childhood. Now they run a high-end wedding planning service: a photographer, a florist, a baker/caterer, and an overall planner/coordinator. Naturally, each of them is finding Mr. Right. Book 3, here, was about the baker, and it was...competent, but kinda dull. There's no real character conflict, so the book meanders a bit. It's fine, but it won't end up being one of my favorite Noras. And actually, the whole wedding-planning aspect kind of annoys me; these are of course very high-end weddings, and the conspicuous consumption and planning of minute details (the cake and the dress and the flowers have to have a THEME, and they all have to COORDINATE, and....) around every ceremony makes me say "ick," because that's just not my thing. Clearly these books would be more fun for people who enjoy mentally planning the perfect wedding.

The Politician

The Politician: an insiders account of John Edwards's pursuit of the presidency and the scandal that brought him down/Andrew Young 301pg.

I love a good political scandal but when I read "Game Change" a couple of months ago, this John Edwards thing seemed better than just scandal. That book didn't focus on it too much but mentioned it and also mentioned Andrew Young, the author of this book. I don't remember the exact words from "Game Change" but they said Andrew Young was a bit crazy, a little too devoted to Edwards and maybe a little dumb. If you read Young's book, you will realize they downplayed it quite a bit. Young might be completely least as much as Edwards himself. He tells of all the personal stuff he did for the Edwards put up their Christmas tree, buy gifts for their kids, clean there house when John Kerry was coming over (are we really able to believe that they don't have a dedicated house cleaner or service?). In between the bizarre personal stuff, he mentions that he raised millions of dollars for Edwards campaigns and poverty center. I mean, it only makes sense to have the best fundraiser in your organization driving charity cases to class and getting bird's nests out of your chimney. BUT, this isn't even the scandalous part...To sum up, Young made a statement that he fathered Rielle Hunter's baby and then took her along with his family (wife and 3 young kids) to hideout in various swank accommodations paid for by Edwards supporters. Shall I repeat? He took the crazy pregnant lady and his WIFE AND KIDS and moved all over the country hiding out from the press. He says did all of this because he really believed in John Edwards. Good grief dude, get a clue. I was waiting for the description of the time there was a meeting with too few chairs and Edward's made him get down on all fours and have someone sit on his back (see Bruno the motion picture for an example).

Certainly this book would be good for someone who feels like they are abused by their boss...they would read it and realize nothing *that* bad has happened yet plus they have some limits in mind and self respect left. That is something Andrew Young can only have if he is as cuckoo as he seems. - Christa

Foiled/Jane Yolen

Foiled by Jane Yolen; young adult graphic novel; 160 pages

This got great reviews, and it's by Jane Yolen, so I had high hopes for this book. So, I'm not sure what went wrong. The art was a little more simplistic than what I normally like, but I could work around that. The story was well-written, but felt very unoriginal, and just plain unbelievable in places (even for a fantasy novel). One scene, in particular, was straight out of Twilight, and, since I'm pretty sure Jane Yolen would own Stephenie Meyer in a fight, I was very confused as to how that got there. This is clearly meant to be the first volume in a series, so maybe the story will improve as it goes along, but I don't know that I'll be reading any more.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

White Noise by Don DeLilo-326 pages

Some kid at school sad "Ugh, I hated reading this book for AP, take it off my hands." So I did. And I read it in four days (which for a kid juggling her dream job at the library and way too much homework is impressive). It's an amazing book. "White Noise," a commentary on the absurdity of modern life, deals with the biggies--death, humanity, intimacy, etc. But it's so touching to me. I don't know. Some people I know hated it because it was mostly a mental train of thought, but I thought the relationships between the characters and the emotional journey of the main character were incredible. Speaking of which...the main character is Jack Gladney, a professor of Hitler Studies. His friend Murray is a professor of pop culture and basically thinks everything from tabloids to hair dye is religion. Everything goes awry when a mysterious cloud of toxic Nyodene D is released over Gladney's town, and he gets two and a half minutes of exposure :O's amazing

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Fresh Lies

Fresh Lies/James Lileks 292 pg.

Before he decided to delight us with such gems as "Interior Desecration" and the "Gallery of Regrettable Food", our hero was a humor columnist in Washington D.C. This collection of some of his work had more "great" than "average" samples. This book was published in 1995 so it was fun to read about a presidential trip and the Bush in question was H.W. In that essay, he talks about the fact that almost HALF the reporters on the trip had cell phones. Gee, 1995 seems so much like yesterday but I guess that is just nostalgia talking. Overall great fun. -Christa