Wednesday, June 30, 2010


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

Participant/Books /Pages

Patrick 4/1174
Karen 8 /1,956
Christa 16 / 4,144
Kathleen 5 / 1,649
Susie 14 / 4,592
Allison 1 / 387
Cindy 8 / 2,571
Annie 9 / 3,467
Linda 8 / 2,727
Eliana 10/
Jeff 3/642
TOTAL 86/ 23,309

Dragonbreath Vol. 2

Dragonbreath: Attack of the Ninja Frogs by Ursula Vernon  206 pp.

The second book by one of my favorite artists. Little Danny Dragonbreath still can't breathe fire at will although he can manage a large smoky belch. He and his best friend, Wendell, an iguana, have a developed a passion for martial arts movies & books. With the help of Danny's great-grandad, a Japanese dragon who cheats at Trivial Pursuit, and a group of Samurai Geckos, Danny and Wendell help save an amphibian classmate from Ninja Frogs that are trying to kidnap her. And in the process, Danny learns that girls don't necessarily have cooties.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Honus & Me

Honus & Me by Dan Gutman  139 pp.

This is book one in the "Baseball Card Adventures" series. Joe Stoshack collects baseball cards ever since his dad gave him his old collection. "Stosh" finds a valuable Honus Wagner baseball card while cleaning the attic of an elderly neighbor. He then discovers his magical ability to travel through time while touching baseball cards. Honus Wagner befriends the boy and Stosh is given the opportunity to see Game 7 of the 1909 World Series between the Pirates and the Tigers. Wagner also coaches Stosh on his batting skills.A little bit of romance and a shady baseball memorabilia dealer add to the story. I read this while searching for books for the next Treehouse Book Club.

The solitude of prime numbers

The solitude of prime numbers/Paolo Giordano 271 pgs.

Alice and Mattia are couple of odd balls who find each other. They both suffered seriously traumatic situations early in life from which they have never really recovered. As shown on the cover, they are really two peas in a pod. They are friends but never become romantic partners even though they are clearly meant for each other. In some ways the ending of the book is not satisfying but for me it was kind of refreshing for there not to be some big romantic ending where they find some perfect happiness. The characters are just so damaged that the "happy ending" would have been silly. Not to say that there was a sad ending...I think the book leaves us with the idea that anything is possible for the characters, it just doesn't all get resolved while we are watching. - Christa

B is for Beer

B is for Beer/Tom Robbins 125 pg.

The note on the cover says, "A children's book for grown-ups/A grown-up book for children". There is a bit of a story here about a little girl named Grace who is curious about beer but mostly beer is the star of this book. I heard the author on NPR talking about this book and figured it was a must read. Cute book.

The Disney Touch

The Disney Touch/Ron Grover

I chose this to learn more about the Disney Company. - Susie

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe/Fannie Flagg

I choset his book because I saw the movie. - Susie

Monday, June 28, 2010

The City and the City / China MiƩville

The City and the City by China Mieville. 312 p.

It's impossible to talk about what makes this book special without spoilers. The bare-bones outline is: "Inspector Tyador Borlu attempts to solve a woman's murder, but his investigation is complicated by the touchy political situation with a neighboring city. What Tyador discovers will change his life forever." That's all true. But the really cool thing about this book is the setting. Tyador's city, Beszel, and its neighboring city, Ul Qoma, occupy the same space. Some street are only in Beszel, some only in Ul Qoma, but many areas are "crosshatched," where one building may in Beszel but its next-door neighbor is in Ul Qoma. Members of the cities are taught from birth to unsee the other city; if you're in Beszel, you're not allowed to notice the people or buildings in Ul Qoma, even if they're right next to you. If you touch something in the other city without going through the border crossing legally, or even look at someone in the other city, you're considered to be in Breach. "Breach" is also what they call the people who show up to deal with you if you commit a breach--they're the bogeymen, essentially. Since Tyador's murdered woman seemed to be working with rebel groups who want to unify the two cities into one, he has to deal with Beszel politics and Ul Qoman politics and, eventually, Breach itself. It's a great example of an author positing a situation and then working his story around the premise's ramifications. Very impressive.

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress / Rhoda Janzen 243 p.

I don't read many memoirs, but my neighbor insisted that I read this one. It was definitely funny, and we could probably do a companion presentation with the Gallery of Regrettable Food - Janzen recollects many icky and embarrassing packed school lunches made by her thrifty mother. This was fast and interesting, but I was a little disappointed that Janzen spent so much time making fun of her parents, who frankly sound like some of the nicest people I've never met.

Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann

The interconnectedness of many seemingly disparate lives in New York City rests on the thin wire that Phillipe Petit strung and walked (even reclined on) between the unfinished World Trade Center towers in 1974. God-wracked Irish priests; mother-daughter hookers; a judge and his refined wife, reeling from the sorrow of losing their only on in Viet Nam; an educated opera-loving Black woman living in the projects, and many other characters populate this novel and touch each other’s lives. Beautifully written and realized, but somehow I didn't like the book as much as I felt I should have. Having seen the movie Man on Wire made the image of the tightrope walker, who is fictionalized in this book, particularly effective. 349 pp.

Loving Frank

Loving Frank: a novel by Nancy Horan  377 pp.

This is the historical fiction version of the scandalous and ultimately tragic love affair that took place between Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Borthwick Cheney. Mamah met Frank Wright in 1904 when she and her then husband Edwin Cheney, president of Wagner Electric, commissioned a house. What began as a mutual admiration of each other's intellects evolved into a love affair that by 1909 had each of them requesting divorces from their spouses. After a year long stay in Europe, Wright returned and built the famed Taliesin for Mamah. Even though they tried to escape to the small Wisconsin town, the press still hounded them as did Wright's creditors. The relationship meets a tragic end when a servant at Taliesin murders Mamah, her children, and some of Wright's staff and sets Taliesin on fire. 

Moon Called / Patricia Briggs

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs (a Mercy Thompson novel: 1). 288 p.

I decided to re-read the earlier parts of this series; it's been a while. This is an urban fantasy series where the main character is NOT the strongest, most powerful "whatever" around; Mercy is a shifter who takes coyote form so she's fast, but much less powerful than the werewolves, fae, and vampires that she is aware of around her. Another thing I like about this series: Mercy runs her own automotive garage, so if she decides to run around doing werewolf-related stuff, she has to get her mentor to open the garage for her, or put up a closed sign. That is, she has a *life* that she deals with in addition to whatever plot is happening. Here she's drawn into a werewolf plot because she tries to help out a down-on-his-luck teenager who asks her for work, and she stays involved because of loyalty to some friends who end up in trouble. I much prefer this to the Sookie Stackhouse book I just read.

Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire (Book 2 of the Hunger Games), by Suzanne Collins; young adult; 400 pages

As predicted by just about everyone, I've fallen in love with this series. But I do wish I'd waited until the third book is out before starting this. While The Hunger Games has a pretty good ending (or at least, a stopping point), Catching Fire ends on a huge cliffhanger, with one of the main characters captured by the enemy and a whole lot of people dead or injured. Granted, I only have to wait two months and some change for the third book, but it's gonna be hard. I will point out that I got really, really involved in this book. I spent most of Saturday afternoon reading, and even yelling at the book in several places. Because, you know, it helps. So now I'll be looking for other things to tide me over until Mockingjay is out...

My Sister's Keeper: Jodi Picoult

Ok, this is literally insane. First of all, I'm not supposed to read these sappy New York Times best-sellers. Secondly, I am not supposed to sit down at 4:30 in the afternoon and then close the book at 1:30 in the morning. But that's what happened. I sat down and read this book, and cried at the sad parts, and read it cover to cover of the course of approximately nine hours.

I think what gives the book momentum is what Picoult gets praised for in quotes on the back--the humanity of the characters. It makes it a page turner. It's kind of like figuring what you would do in the same situation by watching the characters make the decision. And then when they make the decision you say "Oh. That makes sense. Yes, that's what people do."

Plot summary: Anna is born as a genetic match for Kate, her leukemia-ridden sister, to whom she donates everything from blood to a kidney. The end is a total shocker. Ta-dah.

This is like when I read the entire Gossip Girl series the summer before 7th grade and I made sure that no one saw me checking out the books. But this was good. Yeah, it's one of those young adult books. But it was really good.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Kennedy's Brain / Henning Mankell 326 p.

A non-Wallander Henning Mankell and my first disappointment with this author. An interesting story, about a woman whose adult son dies in bed with no logical explanation. Her journey to understand his death takes her throughout Europe, Australia, and finally to Africa to a hospice of last resort for AIDS patients. Mankell ends the story unsatisfactorily, hinting without explaining at a huge international conspiracy in which wealthy western nations deliberately foment the AIDS epidemic in Africa. I'm as cynical as the next person, but this was a bit much, especially since he never explained what the motives for this 'strategy' would be, and how it would work.

The poisoner's handbook : murder and the birth of forensic medicine in Jazz Age New York / Deborah Blum. 319 p.

Oh dear. I'm so behind in my blogging that I've already forgotten most of the details from what I know was an excellent book. Blum tells the story of a pivotal period in the history of forensic medicine through an in-depth look at the work of 2 scientists working in the New York Medical Examiner's office in the period around Prohibition. She combines nuts-and-bolts detail about the development of lab techniques for detecting toxins with true crime stories from the era. I learned some fascinating things about Prohibition. The maze of laws kept people from getting their hands on ordinary beer and spirits and left them with the option of drinking truly poisonous (and disgusting) concoctions made and sold by criminals. I'm not doing this book justice here; nevertheless, I strongly recommend it.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog / Muriel Barbery 325 p.

I finally got around to reading this, and really enjoyed it except for the annoying ending. I liked the setting, an exclusive Parisian apartment building which functions as a sort of sociological petri dish where Barbery examines various segments of society: concierges, cleaning women, spoiled university students, wealthy housewives, even legislators. She then injects a foreign 'agent' into the experiment in the form of a rich, mysterious, and slightly Buddha-like Japanese businessman. The result is interesting and affirming.

The Black Minutes / Martin Solares 436 p.

In my quest to trot the globe via noir-ish detective fiction, I've moved from Scandinavia to Mexico. And boy, what a difference. Solares' first novel is a creepy, confusing mystery about little schoolgirls in a fictional coastal town who are abducted and dismembered. The plot covers 2 periods, the 1970s, when the crimes were committed, and the present, when an investigative reporter delving into the earlier cases is murdered. The plot is clever and detailed. I think Solares' main point is that Mexico was (or is?) colossally corrupt, and that this tends to interfere with the administration of justice in a big way. The 1970s police force is rife with graft, and the cops are brutal, towards one another and the public they serve. My biggest problem with the story is the almost total absence of female characters who still have their limbs. The main woman in the story is referred to as 'the girl'. The present day cop relates to his wife by trying to take her clothes off (and he's one of the good guys). Ah, machismo.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Ticking is the Bomb: Nick Flynn

So I have swiftly read my Book Challenge prize :) (PS THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!)

It was REALLY GOOD. I don't really know how to summarize it. Basically it's a memoir that leads up the birth of the author's daughter, but it deals with themes of torture.

Flynn is really p.o'ed about the torture techniques being used in Iraq and Guantanamo, so he criticizes them heavily while using them to examine humanity in general. It's sorta confusing.

But real real good! Read it! :D

Friday, June 25, 2010

Dead in the Family / Charlaine Harris

Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris (the Southern Vampire series, book 10). 311 p.

I assume everyone read Allison's and Annie's reviews of this, so I'll just chime in to say: not the strongest book in the series. A lot of it seemed to be setup for stuff-to-happen-later, which is fine except it was really boring setup. Sookie even comments on how boring it is listening to Eric, her boyfriend, talk about vampire politics, yet the scene continues at length. I'm of the opinion that lampshading clunky tedious exposition is not the best way for an author to handle it--maybe instead the author should figure out a way to, oh I don't know, make it less tedious? Or at least figure out a more interesting way to include it. Most of the non-boring stuff was unnecessary. Although there is a nice bit with a local family discovering that the local vampire they're not too fond of is actually the family matriarch's great-grandfather--the situation was set up in earlier books, and I thought it was handled well.

Shiver/Maggie Steifvader

Shiver by Maggie Steifvader; young adult; 400 pages (about 11 hours, listening)

This is yet another teen paranormal romance (yeah, I need to branch out a bit). Here, the lovebirds are Sam, a werewolf, and Grace, a typical 17 year old girl. The bulk of this book was taken up with those two making googly eyes at each other, which is to say, it wasn't very heavy on the action. I did enjoy this, even if I had some trouble with the real-world parts of the book (I find it very hard to believe that, with all the money that's been spent on reviving the wolf population in the US, that the authorities would allow a wolf hunt; I also had issues with the end, but I can't say much without giving it away). I really liked Steifvader's take on the traditional werewolf myth: changes are controlled by temperature, with everyone turning into wolves as winter sets in. I also enjoyed the way the audio book was set up: Grace and Sam narrate alternate chapters, so they have two actors switching off the reading. The actor voicing Sam was a little hard to listen to in places, but overall, it was an enjoyable read. I'll definitely be picking up the sequel, Linger, when it comes out this fall.

The Real Monsters: Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

This is kind of like that myths book I blogged about earlier. It details the myths of various monsters and then talks about the scientific explanations behind them.

Maybe I'm in a phase, but regardless, this stuff is really interesting. Also, the illustrations are pretty cool, if you're into that kind of stuff.

Anyhoo, I read it right before bed. So I hope I don't have nightmares. :O

I Don't Want To Be Crazy: Samantha Schutz

So...a young adult poetry memoir. Those are usually really, really bad.

This one wasn't so bad. In fact, I kind of embarrassingly liked it. It's about the author's struggle with anxiety disorder. Her story was really relatable, and I think, to use a word I hate, inspirational.

I don't know if anyone over the age of twenty would be able to take it though...I imagine it would be like reading Seventeen magazine. I can still read Seventeen magazine when nobody's looking. Heck, I'm not even really seventeen yet. But you can't. So no poetry memoirs for you.

However, if you so brazenly throw social convention to the wind, I don't think you'll be let down. It's 280 fast-paced pages of a person's real life experience with an incredibly difficult mental disorder. Definitely not boring.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Don't Make Me Think

Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability/Steve Krug 193 pg

Steve Krug is THE GUY on website usability. At least that is what people say. This is a great book that puts things into clearly written suggestions and points out what works well on web sites. I will try to put what I learned to use on our library site. - Christa

Insignificant Others

Insignificant Others/Stephen McCauley 243 pgs

I was excited to see a new book by McCauley. His Alternative to Sex was my favorite book of 2006. This book is also wonderful. I love the characters, I love the writing, I love the path the book takes. Richard Rossi is aging but fighting it with gusto. He has a much younger partner and a lover on the side and a job he likes well enough. The story has to do with the relationships he has with his coworkers, his family, and in his personal life. Richard used to be a psychologist but is now an HR executive. He has insights on other people and a few about himself too. Of course much of his intuition turns out to be wrong but in the end, he learns about himself. Boy, my description makes it all sound sort of lame but it isn' is wonderful and seems so very real and possible. In the end, I'm mostly left with the desire that McCauley write a little faster. - Christa

George Bush, Dark Prince of Love

George Bush, Dark Prince of Love A presidential romance/Lydia Millet 159 pg.

I chose this to see how the author could portray "Bush 41" as a romantic figure. - Susie

Tug of War

Tug of War/Barbara Cleverly 253 pgs.

I chose this to continue the series. - Susie

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Poison Eaters

The Poison Eaters and other stories by Holly Black  212 pp.

This is a short story collection by one of my favorite fantasy authors. It's quite a variety of fantastical stories. The title story was not my favorite. I think the one I liked best was about a library student witnessing a party where the characters of books come to life and then enter other books when the party ends. It certainly had my favorite line in the whole book: "Lo, John Galt hath eaten all the salsa..." to which Wolverine asks "Who's John Galt?" Second on my favorites list is the story about a food eating contest against the Devil.


The Annotated H.P. Lovecraft

The Annotated H.P. Lovecraft / edited and with an introduction by S.T. Joshi. 360 p.

A friend asked me to recommend some Lovecraft Mythos stories, so I got the yen to read him again. Also, I generally enjoy annotations. In this case, the annotations range from very helpful--lots of comments on various scientific details, including the fact that continental drift was a fringe theory in 1936 when the story mentioning it was published--to completely useless--trying to figure out whence Lovecraft derived every character name, even though clearly (by his own admission, quoted here) he sometimes just made them up! The stories were fun to read again; "Colour" and "Mountains" are two of my favorites, and I found "Rats" more enjoyable than I remembered.

The stories included in this volume are "The Rats in the Walls," "The Colour Out of Space," "The Dunwich Horror" and "At the Mountains of Madness." "Rats" is the only non-Mythos story.

The Thoughtful Dresser: The art of adornment, the pleasures of shopping, and why clothes matter, by Linda Grant

From birth, we all wear clothes. What we wear and why we wear particular garments is intrinsic to our sense of self and how we present ourselves to the world. Even those of us who claim to have no interest in fashion or to not care about what we wear are, in fact, making a statement about our beliefs (fashion is shallow and trivial). This, yes thoughtful, book ranges from a meditation on a red high-heeled shoe amongst the heap of shoes displayed at Auschwitz, to the author’s mother’s assertion that “a good handbag makes the outfit,” to the invisibility of older women and the author’s own autobiography in clothes. The author is also a prizewinning British novelist and the writing is excellent. 210 pp.

The Hunger Games/Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins; young adult, science fiction; 384 pages

I knew this series was addictive, but I've been putting off reading it until a little closer to the final volume's release. My timing worked out well, as this was just the thing to shake me out of the reading slump I've been in. The plot's pretty familiar by now, so I won't go into it too much. I will say that I usually don't care for books where each chapter ends in a cliffhanger, but here it worked pretty well. The whole book is one big cliffhanger, anyway, so I didn't think it was gimmicky. I loved the two main characters, and the relationship that develops over the course of the book is wonderfully done. And of course, there was the action, which was great. I loved the idea of a dispassionate group of "gamemakers" who are essentially gods within the confines of the arena. I also love the ending, which has closure enough, but still made me want to dive into the next volume (which I'll be doing shortly).

Monday, June 21, 2010

Never Cry Wolf: Farley Mowat

In this book, Farley Mowat lives among wolves. The most interesting aspect of the book is his process of discovering the true nature of wolves, that they're not really that violent and that they have many "human" virtues.

A nice nature read. No tears. No visceral "Wow" response. Just interesting. Also you have to endure his account of dissecting "scats." So...yes...there are certain parts that are a little gross.

I think the main message of the book, that humans alienate themselves from nature, is probably the most profound and important reason to read it.

The Bucolic Plague, by Josh Kilmer-Purcell

This frothy account of attempting to leave behind the hectic lives the couple, Josh and Brent, have in New York for bucolic environs four hours out of the city is delightful, and often thoughtful as well. Can Brent, on-screen TV doctor on the Martha Stewart show, overcome his need for Marthaesque perfection in the light of living in a restored 200 year old mansion cursed with “zombie flies” that is also a working farm with 80 goats? Can Josh, a former drag queen, juggle his high-powered ad agency job with being the stay-at-home partner? Will Martha wow the locals by attending a party at the Beekman Mansion? Just what is the mystery of the flies that appear and die all over the house? Will the couple’s long-term relationship survive? And what of their new brand, Beekman 1802? Can it flourish during the economic meltdown? A light diversion for a summer evening’s read. 305 pp.

Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman, 298 pages, nonfiction, memoir.
The first book of nonfiction I had read in over a month, Kerman's recounting of her time in federal prison is a rather quiet, contemplative read in which she cops to her minor crimes, celebrates her friends and family on the outside, as well as the women she meets in Danbury, and rails against our criminal justice system. She's serving a 15 month sentence for conspiracy, not because of what she actually did, but because the risks involved in going to trial are too great. Her account of the Danbury prison in Connecticut is well written and interesting. There is nothing being done to prepare the inmates for release and life outside the prison, but it is not a horrible place, not brutal, just mean, petty and unnecessary for most of the women. The federal prison in Chicago, where she spends the last few months of her sentence, (where she is sent to testify against a man she never met, and of whom she has no knowledge), is a different sort of place, here there is nothing for the prisoners to do and little in the way of either supervision or supplies. Many of the inmates here seem to be medicated into a stupor. The waste of human lives and taxpayer money are painfully apparent here. Her arguments are not new, but she does have a fresh perspective.

Elliot Allagash by Simon Rich

Elliot Allagash by Simon Rich, 227 pages, fiction.
Narrator Seymour Hershon tells the tale of his relationship with the title character from the time they were in eighth grade together through the end of high school. Eliiot is a bizarre, deliberately friendless, scheming, alcoholic, multimillionaire teen who controls the world around him with his complicated plans, often using Seymour as his puppet and proxy. Seymour, the least popular child in the school, is willing to do whatever Elliot asks in exchange for Elliot's companionship and the popularity he is promised. It is funny and a bit sad, but unsatisfying in the end, as it all feels a little hollow and unfinished.--Patrick

Elliot Allagash

Elliot Allagash/Simon Rich 227 pg.

Somehow I've read 3 books about middle school/high school boys who are soon to take over the world. Of the 3, this one is the least interesting. Elliot Allagash is insanely rich, spoiled and odd. He finds a classmate at the bottom of the heap and makes him the most popular guy in the school. Unfortunately, every accomplishment is faked and the "subject" Seymour allows this to go on for 4 years while having no original thoughts of his own. I'm sure we are supposed to learn some lesson about working for what you have, etc. but this book doesn't really teach you anything except a book with no likable or relate-able characters can be a chore to read. - Christa

Erasure by Percival Everett

Erasure by Percival Everett, 265 pages, fiction. Our June Book Group title.
In this 2001 novel, written when the Urban Fiction genre was becoming more popular, Thelonius "Monk" Ellison, an English professor and the author of dense, experimental (and unpopular) fiction, finds his life hitting a rough patch. His relationships with his brother and sister change dramatically, his mother's health is rapidly declining, and he finds letters from his late father in which secrets are revealed. At the same time, his literary career has stalled. Angered over the popularity of a new, urban title, We Lives in da Ghetto, and the continued difficulty he has with his own work (books that are parodies of French poststructuralists or re-tellings of Euripides and Aeschylus) being labeled either as African-American fiction, or as "not black enough", he writes his own modernized Native Son, and the consequences both enrich and confound him.

The Handmaid's Tale/Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood; 311 pages

I've been meaning to read this for years and years, but kept putting it off. I'm sorry I did now, since I've apparently been missing out on Atwood all these years. This book was amazingly good, though not necessarily "enjoyable." For anyone not familiar with the story, it's set in a world where the US has been overthrown by religious extremists, and women have been made the property of men. The narrator, Offred, is a Handmaid, one of a caste who's sole purpose is to reproduce, then yield their children to other women to raise. So while the book was very uncomfortable or downright depressing to read, I was unable to put it down (it helped that this was a much faster read than most of the "literary" fiction I've picked up recently). I'm glad my mom decided to read this at the same time as me, as it gave me someone to discuss it with. And believe me, there was a lot of discussion going on. I'll definitely try to work some more Atwood into my reading this year.


Kapitoil/Teddy Wayne 311 pg.

I have a problem with TOO MANY BOOKS checked out and I'm not even sure why I checked this one out. I considered just bringing it back and not reading it at all but thought I should at least take a quick look. Not to overstate, but after the first 50 pages, I thought this book was destined to be my favorite of the year. I love the protagonists, the way he looks at thing, the way he thinks. The writing is really cool and the way the author lists "new words and idioms" that the character learns at the end of each chapter is interesting. Unfortunately, the end of the book is kind of a sell out, I think. Somehow, it just isn't as satisfying as the rest of the book and so it loses points. Still a very good book. - Christa

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby/F. Scott Fitzgerald 205 pg.

I chose this because I wanted to read several books by Fitzgerald. - Susie

The Vietnam War

The Vietnam War a graphic history/Dwight Zimmerman & Wayne Van Sant 138 pg.

I chose this for a brief history of the Vietnam war. - Susie

Down by the river

Down by the river: drugs, money, murder and family 396 pg.

This gives a dismal picture of attempts to stop the flow of illegal drugs. - Susie

Bushworld: Enter at your own risk

Bushworld: Enter at your own risk/ Maureen Dowd 523 pages.

I chose this to see why the author is critical of G.W. Bush. - Susie

Club Dead

Club Dead/Charlaine Harris 258 pg.

I'm not one to "read up" a series too quickly. I started reading the Southern Vampire series when "True Blood" came out. Now I'm just trying to keep up with the TV series which has gotten farther away from the books. Still, it is interesting to get a bit of perspective on the characters. I admit, True Blood is kind of addictive. The books are pretty good too but so many of you have read them, I guess I'm not giving you any new information. - Christa

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Problem with Murmur Lee: Connie May Fowler

This is hands down one of my favorite books of all time. I've read it three times now.

The story basically revolves around Murmur Lee, who has drowned of unknown causes. Her spirit floats around and watches her friends try to figure out how she died. What I really love about the book is the language, the amazing, outrageous, characters, and the message about life. Every time I read this book, it makes me happy to be alive.

It's a young adult book but, due to sexual content alone, I sometimes wonder why...anyhoo, I think it's a great read. Also-her other book was made into an Oprah movie. So if not me, listen to Oprah!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Refresh, Refresh

Refresh, Refresh by Danica Novgorodoff, James Ponsoldt, and Benjamin Percy

I saw this graphic novel sitting on the shelf at the school library and knew I had to read it. On the cover is Josh, the story's main character, in a desperate stance staring out at potential readers with a bloodied face and wife-beater shirt, arms down with his fingers crossed. This story is one of three boys in rural Oregon whose fathers have left for the war in Iraq. In their struggle to grow to be men without their fathers around they've created a sort of backyard fight club.

Refresh, Refresh is a very short, intense experience that offers an interesting look at the effect of the war on our soldier's children. Although the gritty illustration captured the unsettling tone in the story, I was really left wanting much more from the story itself - like I was just starting to sink my teeth into the graphic experience and then it was over.

I've discovered that Refresh, Refresh is only one in collection of Benjamin Percy's stories about rural life in the Pacific northwest titled Refresh, Refresh: Stories. You can be sure I'll be trying to get my hands on this collection soon because this graphic novel has pulled me in.

Solar, by Ian McEwan

Who knew McEwan could be a laugh-out-loud funny satirist? The writing is as accomplished as in his other books, but the tone is completely different – those who loved Atonement may not like this book, or even recognize it as being by the same author. The unsympathetic protagonist, Michael Beard, winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in his youth, has grown fat, lazy, and is indifferent to the distress he causes to the many women who are inexplicably drawn to him and the colleagues whose work, and in one case, life, he steals. The subject in global warming and in many ways Beard is the embodiment of how humanity has come to this pass – through greed, indifference to others, and our rather touching, if misplaced, faith that science and human brilliance will get us out of any scrape we get ourselves into. 287 pp.

On Writing: Stephen King

So, basically the whole youth floor knows that I'm going to the University of Iowa to write...

Thus, I figured the next snootiest thing for me to do would be to actually read books about writing :D

Actually, I hate books on writing. I think people who write about writing should make friends with people who worry about worrying. That's how obsolete and obnoxious most of them are.


While I didn't LOVE this book, it did manage to make me cry. How is this so, you may ask. Well, I dug the memoir stuff. The part about "how to write" was addressed purely to fiction writers, which didn't really please me much as a poet...Yet, by the end, when he's talking about how he was almost killed by a car and writing helped him recover, I found myself tearing up, much to my chagrin.

Hence, I would say, not a wasteful read whatsoever. It has instilled in me an even deeper love of writing :)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

More not so big solutions for your home

More not so big solutions for your home/Sarah Susanka 154 pg.

I love this author and have read several of her other books. Her whole idea about the home is to make it inviting and usable and NOT having a McMansion. She has great ideas about layout and "scale". I always get good ideas from Sarah. - Christa

Dead End Gene Pool

Dead End Gene Pool/Wendy Burden 280 pg.

The author is the great x 4 granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt. The book tells of some crazy stories that can really only happen to rich people. Unless you are the master/mistress over a household of 20+ servants, you probably really do have different problems. Of course even if you aren't rich but have psychological problems or addiction issues, there are stories here you will recognize. Basically a bunch of crazy people acting crazy. Some of the stories are pretty funny and many are pretty sad. - Christa

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Stranger in the Family / Robert Barnard

A Stranger in the Family by Robert Barnard 249 p.

Taking place in 2009, Barnard's latest novel begins with Kit Philipson's reunion with his birth parents and siblings he hasn't seen since being abducted on a family vacation back in 1989 at the age of three years old. He knows something isn't quite right about the way he fits into the family unit, and he has only recently discovered that he ended up with his adoptive family following this childhood abduction - something that to him is only a vague, foggy memory by now. As he pieces together random information Kit knows there is much more to learn about his abduction, and only after investigating three generations of his family(s) across Europe back as far as the first World War will he be able to tell his story.

I've never really gotten into mystery, but I figured I'd try my luck with this book. I wouldn't call it a "novel of suspense" as the cover indicates, but it did keep my interest. I really like Kit's perception of the characters around him as well as the way Barnard shares the small details of conversations between characters, although they seemed a bit contrived at times. In real life, do people really read this deeply into each and every conversation? I guess when they're are hiding things they do...

Bicycle Diaries

Bicycle Diaries/David Byrne 297 pg.

David Byrne has been a bike rider for years and he usually takes a bike with him (or rents on) when he travels. This book is a sort of travelogue about some of the interesting places he has bicycled through and some not so interesting places. This book is full of his observations and opinions about the biking, the culture, and the history of the cities he features in the book. The author is really a Renaissance man with so many interests that much of what he has to say is appealing. It isn't so much that he is PROFOUND, just really likable and insightful. - Christa

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Burn Me Deadly / Alex Bledsoe

Burn Me Deadly : an Eddie LaCrosse novel by Alex Bledsoe (2nd in the series). 320 p.

These are fun books (the first one is The Sword-Edged Blonde). Basically, Eddie is a hard-boiled detective, only instead of working in L.A. he's in is a medieval sword-and-sorcery setting. Eddie's riding back to town one night after finishing a delivery job, and a barely-dressed damsel-in-distress nearly runs his horse down. He gives her a ride, but before he can figure out if she's conning him, they're attacked, she (and his horse) are killed, and Eddie's left for dead. Now the authorities don't want him to investigate, but guess what? It's fun to watch the author ring the changes on traditional detective tropes in a traditional fantasy setting.

Shanghai Girls, by Lisa See

An enjoyable and well-written generational story set between the 1930’s and post-World War II, but what was most interesting to me was the history and politics behind the novel. The book follows the fortunes of a pair of “beautiful girls” (sisters who pose for calendar art) from pampered, Westernized young women in Shanghai, to brides for “paper sons” in Los Angeles. Chinese immigrants to this country faced a century’s old history of discrimination and exclusion, which only increased their ingenuity in finding ways to get around the law (hence, “paper sons,” who could purchase a “slot” left empty by a dead legal child, and the large number of illegal immigrants who claimed to have been born in San Francisco after the earthquake and fire in 1906 destroyed birth records). However I didn’t realize that, “the Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War in 1949 significantly altered U.S.-China relations and intensified conflict among Chinese American political groups. As the Korean War turned China into an archenemy of the United States, many Chinese Americans lived in fear of political accusations. In the name of investigating Communist subversive activities, the U.S. government launched an all-out effort to break up Chinese immigration networks. The investigation further divided the Chinese American community. When the Justice Department began the "Chinese confession program" in 1956 (it ended in 1966), even family members were pressured to turn against one another.” Like first learning of Japanese internment camps, it was an eye-opener for me. 314 pp.

Battle Cry

Battle Cry/ Leon Uris 475 pgs

I chose this because I saw the movie. - Susie

The Ravenscar Dynasty

The Ravenscar Dynasty/ Barbara Taylor Bradford 540pgs

I chose this because it's English historical fiction. I enjoy this type of novel. - Susie

Monday, June 14, 2010

Methland / Nick Reding

Methland: the death and life of an American small town

Per Christa's recommendation I decided to read Methland. In Methland, St. Louis-native author Chris Reding reports on four years spent travelling among several Midwest towns researching their deterioration in the 80's and 90's with the rise of "the most American drug," crystal methamphetamine. Redland follows up with several key characters over this time 4-year time period to discuss their account of life in rural America and the role meth has played in shaping who they are today.

I found this book to be quite shocking at times, cringing and squirming in my comfy chair as I read some of the ghastly things addicts have done after they've been strung out on meth for weeks on end with no sleep. Living in Missouri we are probably all aware that our home state has the highest number of mom and pop meth labs compared the rest of the nation, but did you know we take this title by a landslide? For real.

It is very depressing to see how a great number of people in our country, and all over the world, have been impacted by drugs like meth. If you're interested in contemplating the many facets of drug addiction or intimately experiencing the effects of meth -just short of touching the stuff yourself - read this book!

Mother Jones

Mother Jones: Raising Cain and Consciousness by Simon Cordery  213 pp.

I knew very little about Mother Jones aside from the fact that she was a union organizer. This small book gives quite detailed descriptions of her travels and travails. In many ways, the legendary Mother Jones was also a legend in her own mind. She frequently inflated or even fabricated stories about herself and the miners and railroad men and their families to make a point. Much of what she said and did would not stand up to the scrutiny of today's mass media, including her claims to be at events she never attended and inflating her age by several years in order to seem older than she really was. Her grand 100th birthday celebration took place when she was in her early 90s. In spite of her not-quite-truthful image, she was a tireless fighter for the rights of mistreated miners and railroad men and opponent of child labor.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Elephant & Piggie/The Riddle of the Stones

So my secret addiction to reading some of the books I shelve is revealed.

I know this totally doesn't count for pages or whatever, but it's what I've been reading so I figured...why not? :)

Elephant & Piggie is awesome. There may not be many words, but these are seriously some of the cutest books to grace the planet. One I read recently was "My Friend is Sad." Omigoodness. So much cuteness. I feel like Mo Willems writes the books for kids AND the adults who read them to them. Yeah, basically Mo Willems is my fave.

Also, couldn't help reading this quick "Riddle of the Stones" book because it summarized the Bermuda Triangle etc. and also had some pretty interesting mysteries in there I had never heard of. It was a fun read as well, so if you're kinda interested in unsolved mysteries and you don't want to read the giant "UNSOLVED" book in the YA section, this book might be for you. Plus, that big purple "UNSOLVED" book is kinda scary. Or maybe it's "UNEXPLAINED." Whatever. I don't have the guts to read it.

So yes, my third book log in 12 hours, but I know this one doesn't count, so it's just for fun.

Read Elephant & Piggie!!! So much cuteness!!!

The Enchantment Emporium / Tanya Huff

The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff. 473 p.

A pretty enjoyable urban fantasy featuring a family of powerful magic-users, the Gales ("wizards" isn't quite accurate but I didn't want to expand our tags list unnecessarily). Allie gets a letter from her Gran willing her a junk shop in Calgary--across the country from her close-knit but sometimes smothering family--so, since Allie just lost her job, she goes to investigate the shop and what happened to her Gran. When she arrives, Allie realizes that the "local community" that the shop serves is the fae community.... Adventure ensues.

A note on the writing: the author clearly made a choice here to not explain things in the text, instead letting the reader pick them up by context. In general I like that approach, but I think she may have overdone it just a tad--especially with the background of the Gale family, which is quite complex and still somewhat confusing to me in spots even though I've finished the book. On the other hand, she does explain what a monkey's paw is and how it works, yet she mentions a Hand of Glory (in passing, true) without any sort of explanation. I would think a casual reader is much more likely to know what a monkey's paw is--there's a Simpsons episode featuring one, right?--than a Hand of Glory.


Erm...I couldn't sleep after I read "Love in the Time of Cholera..."

So I read PUSH! Ok, so other than the office jokes about "Precious based on the novel Push by Sapphire" I had not given this book much thought.

Having read it until 1:15 in the morning, I can now say that I guess I understand the hype, but I must have a stone cold heart, because I didn't cry like everyone said I would.

I mean, it's a really sad book. But. Hmm. Yeah.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Love in the Time of Cholera-Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Why? Because everyone else at writing camp had read it.

In short, the list of classic novels that I have read is...well...outside of English class...two? tops?

So yes, "Love in the Time of Cholera" was just that, a mature novel, which I'm glad it was, since the whole book was about love, which isn't the sort of thing I want to read about unless the writing is mature.

You can see why he got a Nobel. The writing itself is kind of this rich tapestry of language-some of the phrases and wordings just leave you floored.

When I thumbed to the end and saw that the last sentence was "Forever," I kind of rolled my eyes and said, "Really? Nobel Prize?" But no worries, the end was really touching. I'm pretty sure this is one of the only times an author has described love between people over seventy in such caring detail.

In the end, I'm left thinking that masterfully crafted novels are kind of like fancy food. Good. But still.

And that's all. 348 pages, well worth it.

Library Wars, vol 1/Hiro Arikawa

Library Wars, vol 1: Love and War by Hiro Arikawa (author) and Kiiro Yumi (artist); romance, young adult; 200 pages

Awesome. So in this version of Japan, the government has passed laws allowing it to remove any books deemed "objectionable." Fortunately, libraries are protected by the Japanese version of the Freedom to Read statement, but to fight the law, librarians form themselves into a paramilitary organization with special defense forces to protect the books. Fantastic! So this story follows a young woman through her combat/survival training. Since it's shojo (girl's) manga, there's a fair amount of chibi-ness and glitter, and the romance between the main character and one of her instructors is the main plot of the series. I haven't read much manga recently, so it was good to get back into the groove. This was a lot of fun, and I can't wait for the next in the series to come out!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Fallen/Lauren Kate

Fallen by Lauren Kate; young adult; 452 pages

When you have a book called "Fallen," with characters like Gabrielle, Luce, Daniel Grigori, and "Cam" Briel, it's not too hard to figure out the plot. So the fact that the main character couldn't figure out she was surrounded by angels really got to me. I spent most of the book silently snarling at her to wake up, which didn't happen until the very, very end (last 40 pages). Ugh. Otherwise, this is a good read, but clearly riding on Twilight's success. Most of the book is the two main characters being Mysteriously Drawn to One Another, but unable to be together, for theirs is a Forbidden Love. Yeah , okay, I'm getting kind of snarky as a think about it. I read it quickly, and I enjoyed it, but I enjoyed it in the way you really enjoy s'mores: a little is good, but too much and the sugar overwhelms. Also, it's the first in a series, so there's more to come.

The annotated U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence

The annotated U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence/ Jack N. Rakove (ed) 354 pg.

It is the annotated part of this that made it pretty great. I enjoyed the stories about how certain parts came about and what they mean. I have read these documents before but having the narrative was much better. - Christa

You're a horrible person but I like you

You're a horrible person but I like you: the Believer book of advice/Eric Spitznagel (ed) 216 pg.

This book is a series of advice columns printed in The Believer magazine. The letters are all answered by guest columnists who are comedians or writers. Some of the letters and responses are just wonderful but many aren't very special. Of course it doesn't take long to read any of the letters and so you will get a laugh at least every 5 minutes. - Christa

The Secret Adversary

The Secret Adversary/Agatha Christie 232 pg.

This is first of five books featuring a detective duo Tommy and Tuppence. They are young and unemployed after the war and looking for adventure. They fall into their first "job" and realize each others strengths.

It has been awhile since I have read anything by Agatha Christie and I forgot how wonderful the dialog is and how hard it is to figure out the mystery. - Christa

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, by Stieg Larsson

The final book in the late Swedish author’s trilogy. Like some others who have read it, I felt that the emphasis on Swedish politics in this concluding volume drags the action down a bit, but the main characters we have learned to know and care about remain fascinating – particularly the enigmatic Lisbeth Salander. As someone of Scandinavian descent, I found the amount of coffee consumed to be pretty true to my experiences in northern Minnesota – who but a Swede would offer coffee to someone at 2:30 AM who had just narrowly escape disaster? What, you aren’t jangled enough?? I regret that there will be no more in this series as I would love to know more about Lisbeth, Mikael Blomkvist, Erika Berger and the newly introduced Monica Figuerola. 563 pp.

Very Valentine, and Brava Valentine, by Andriana Trigiani

The first two novels of an anticipated trilogy are bubbly and light. Concerning the fortunes of an extended Italian-American family in the handmade wedding shoe business for generations, this could be standard “chick-lit,” but both the characterizations and the really rather lovely writing raise these delightful books far above that somewhat belittling label. Valentine Roncalli, the unmarried and increasingly despairing sister, is the main character in both, but her grandmother, Theodora, who surprises the family at age 80 with a new love, and her brother, sisters, aunts and parents are also wonderfully realized. The non-family member of the shoe business, June, turns out to have had quite a colorful and bohemian life of her own. I look forward to the concluding book. 367 and 332 pp.

Ten Things I Love About You / Julia Quinn

Ten Things I Love About You by Julia Quinn. 377 p.

Julia Quinn writes fun & fluffy romance novels. That's what I was expecting, and that's exactly what she delivered here. Annabel's grandparents have arranged a "good" match for her--a rich, elderly nobleman who wants a young wife to give him an heir so that his nephew won't inherit the title. Annabel's family desperately needs money, so she feels she has no choice but to agree, even though she finds him revolting because he paws her and treats her like dirt and was once her grandmother's lover (ew). So of course she meets Sebastian, who is witty and good-looking and appreciates her personality...and turns out to be the nobleman's nephew, and not rich. Oh, whatever shall she do?

One extra bit of fun--Quinn often uses supporting characters in multiple books. In some of her previous books characters mock gothic novels written by a particular author as being particularly foolish. In this book, it turns out that Sebastian is that author (under a pseudonym, of course).

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Angelology by Danielle Trussoni  451 pp.

Part mystery, part thriller, part fantasy...I don't know what this book wants to be. A secret society of Angelologists fight to keep the evil and now decaying Nephilim, cruel half-human, half-angel creatures, from finding the angelic lyre that could return them to power. The story takes place in the WWII era and the present and centers around Sister Evangeline and Verlaine, an art historian who is searching for the letters of the late Abigail Rockefeller. I listened to this on audio and while I couldn't wait for some sections to finish, other parts were riveting. One part near the end made me laugh--it describes Evangeline feeling like she was enclosed in a glass dome when she hears the music of the lyre and all that came to my mind was the "Cone of Silence" from the old "Get Smart" t.v. show. 17 cds worth was a bit long.

Groo: Death & Taxes

Groo: Death & Taxes by Sergio Aragones  111 pp.

In this graphic novel, Groo the Barbarian decides to give up slaughtering people because everyone is afraid of him. All the kingdoms that he had invaded instituted taxes to raise armies to protect them from Groo. Now that he no longer was a threat the kingdoms begin declaring war on each other to keep their economies going and to justify continuing to collect the taxes. Social commentary in comic form. I liked it well enough to request a couple other Groo titles.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Infinity/Sherrilyn Kenyon

Infinity (Chronicles of Nick, book 1), by Sherrilyn Kenyon; young adult; 480 pages

Kenyon appears to be jumping on the train of adult authors writing new YA series. This novel is set in the same world as her long-running Dark-Hunter series, but this was, surprisingly, not a romance. There was a vague love interest, but the main character is only 14, so it was more of a crush-from-a-distance situation. Another unexpected plus from this book was the fact that the plot centers around football players turning into zombies. Which was awesome. I loved Nick's sarcastic inner voice, (it had me laughing out loud in parts), and there was lots of action, which made this a very quick read. I did wonder about how much of it would make sense to people that haven't read her adult series (I've read a few of them, and even I had some trouble figuring out which faction is which). I'm looking forward to the next book in this series, and seeing the characters mature a bit.

Dead in the Family/Charlaine Harris

Dead in the Family (Sookie Stackhouse, book 10), by Charlaine Harris; 320 pages

I agree with just about everything Allison said in her review: a good read, but kind of a letdown in terms of plot, and clearly setting things up for the next book in the series. I liked that the drama over who Sookie will end up with seems to be at and end (at least for now), but I have to wonder about all the new elements Harris is introducing into the story--and I wonder how they will fit into what used to be a series purely on vamps and shapeshifters. Fun and quick.

Changeless/Gail Carriger

Changeless (The Parasol Protectorate, book 2), by Gail Carriger; mystery; 400 pages

Instead of playing up the romance angle, as Carriger did in her previous book, this entry is a good old-fashioned mystery (with werewolves). The ending was somewhat unsatisfying, as it ends on a cliffhanger (based on the reviews I'm seeing, everyone else had the same problem). I still really enjoyed the book: I had a great time seeing the main characters interact as a married couple, and the general mayhem that surrounds them was wonderful. Overall, this was a quick, light read, and fun, but I should have waited until September when the next book comes out.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Bones of Faerie

Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner  247 pp.

This post-apocalyptic story takes place after the war between man and faerie. It's another fantasy with the Gateway Arch as a centerpiece--who new it was such a magical place? Liza lives with her abusive father who is still rabidly anti-magic even though the war has been over for years. He leaves Liza's infant sister in the woods to die because she shows signs of having magical powers and drives his wife away. When Liza begins having visions of her mother she knows she must go find her as well as keep her abilities from her father. She travels with her friend Matthew, a shape-shifter and Allie, a healer through dangerous forests and waters to the arch to find her mother. It gives an interesting and different twist to the usual stories of Fairy/Faerie/Fey.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Slap

The Slap/Christos Tsiolkas 482 pg.

This book is a collection of chapters from the perspective of many different characters. The central "event" is when a man slaps a child of some acquaintances at a BBQ. In the end, the book seems to be more about the fact that each person in this book is AMAZING LOOKING, really sexy, one just more beautiful than the next...except, of course, the goofy alcoholic and the gay teenager. The author seems to tell us that men have violence and rage just under the surface and barely keep it in check. All they really want is to beat their wives, force themselves on young girls or berate their employees. The women have at least a little more variety but the one who is the most successful and together seems to be staying with her husband only because they are so good looking and look so good together. There are several sexual encounters, most of which are rendered in a very unattractive way.

The book ends with one teen betraying the confidence of another which results in a bizarre confrontation. The teen promptly heads home and tried to kill himself by swallowing everything in the medicine cabinet. A day after getting his stomach pumped and 15 minutes with a psychologist, he is out and prepping for a party with his friends. They go the party, ingest a load of recreational drugs and he has the best time of his life.

Everyone comes across as shallow and sad but the part about being so good that is something I can really relate to. - Christa

Friday, June 4, 2010

Bone and Jewel Creatures / Elizabeth Bear

Bone and Jewel Creatures by Elizabeth Bear. 130 p.

Too bad this novella isn't longer. Bear has created a fascinating setting--Messaline, City of Jackals--and some interesting characters. Bijou the Artificer, who makes the bone and jewel creatures of the title, knows that her time is coming to an end. So does her enemy Kaulas the Necromancer. When her apprentice Brazen the Enchanter brings her an injured feral child, she has choices to make, which leads her to uncover what Kaulas is planning. Wonderfully atmospheric.

The palace tiger

The palace tiger/ Barbara Cleverly 304 pages.

I read this to continue the series. I like historical fiction and British history and this is both. - Susie

Whatever happened to Johnnie Jordan?

Whatever happened to Johnnie Jordan? the story of a child turning violent/Jennifer Toth 299 pg.

I chose this to read about a kid who never had much of a chance for a good life and how "the system" failed him. - Susie

Knuckles and back rooms

Knuckles and back rooms: my life in American politics/Ed Rollins 366 pg.

I chose this to get an inside view of election campaigns. - Susie

Postcards from the edge

Postcards from the edge/Carrie Fisher 226 pg.

I chose this because I think it's a fictionalized version of Carrie Fisher's life and I like her as an actress. - Susie

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Fool Moon/Jim Butcher

Fool Moon (The Dresden Files, book 2), by Jim Butcher; urban fantasy; 352 pages (about 8 1/2 hours, listening)

I've had just about everyone I know recommend these books to me, so I finally broke down and read one. I started on the second book (the first book was checked out), but Butcher did a pretty good job of filling in the blanks for me. I loved Harry Dresden's sarcastic narration, even if Butcher seemed to be laying the noir on a bit thick in places. I did have trouble believing that Harry could take the amount of abuse he gets in this book and still be able to walk, let alone fight bad guys, but I realize Butcher was still finding his feet in this book, so I'm willing to cut him some slack. As the title implies, this was the obligatory werewolf book that usually appears early on in every urban fantasy series. I wasn't too excited about it, but I thought Butcher had a pretty unique take on the werewolf legends here, and I found myself getting caught up in the mystery angle of the story, so it moved along pretty fast. I also blame this book for triggering a long discussion on why Klingons are like werewolves, but that's for another time. All in all, I liked it, and will be trying more in the future.

Invitation to a Beheading-Vladimir Nabokov

This book is a total dreamscape, really hard to follow. I thought it was just the fact that I was reading it in snatches, but actually, the whole novel turns out to be really disturbing and dislocating.

Cincinnatus C., the main character, is sentenced to death as punishment for "gnostic turpitude," described as him being "opaque" or lacking transparency. So the crime itself if very...well, breaking it down "gnostic" + "turpitude" means going against the rules and regulations of gods. It's a very abstract kind of thing, but in the course of the book, it's easier for someone to understand why he would be executed for this sort of thing.

The entire book basically details Cincinnatus's bizarre stay in the fortress jail. No one will tell him when he's to be executed.

In the end, he manages to escape death. But I guess I shouldn't give away how.

The future of the Internet and how to stop it

The future of the Internet and how to stop it/Jonathan Zittrain 324 pgs (audio)

I have to say that the audio books are a little harder for me and this book felt like it was 700 pages. But maybe the book is a little at fault ;-) Although it was interesting and had a lot of nerd words it was a bit too repetitive. Certainly it talked A LOT about the history of the Internet and areas where he is concerned that the great aspects of computers and devices are at risk if we make them too "secure" and foolproof. To give credit, this book really did cover a lot of ground but if I go a LONG time before hearing the word "generative" or "generativity" that will be ok with me. - Christa

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sh*t my dad says

Sh*t my dad says/Justin Halpern 159 pgs.

Justin Halpern found himself 28 years old, dumped by his girlfriend and living at home with his parents. Soon after, he started recording (and sharing on Twitter) things that his father said. His father is a profane philosopher and also hilarious. This book is a delight. - Christa

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, 384 pages.
Skloot writes a very interesting book that is part science, part history and part personal story of her writing the book and the difficult and unususal relationships she developed with the family of Henrietta Lacks. Henrietta Lacks's cells, the HELA line, have lived on for decades after her death. Her husband and her never knew that the cells had been taken and have spent years feeling as if they had been used and lied to by the medical community. Skloot runs into all sorts of problems trying to research this and there is no happy ending for all involved, but it is an interesting, compelling and many-layered book that is well worth the time. One of my staff picks for June.

Dead In The Family/Charlaine Harris

Sooo I like Harris' Southern Vampire Mysteries (AKA the Sookie Stackhouse books, AKA those things HBO's True Blood is based on) because I can generally read them in one sitting, they're entertaining, and they tell a nice concise story.
This latest book was true on all but the last count, because the ending came really abruptly. For a mystery series, this one wrapped up very...inconclusively. It really feels as though the author is just setting things up for the next book. Of course now that I'm caught up on the series and there is, as yet, no next book to be read, this is very frustrating.
On the other hand, I had a blast reading this story, I'm glad Bill's not being such a loser anymore, and perhaps my favorite part was the message that Turning Teenagers Into Vampires Is A Horrible Idea Bound To End In Tears And Bloodshed. Got that, Twilighters? Honestly, if you were a vampire, and you were going to make yourself companions to spend the rest of eternity with, why in the name of all that is holy (or unholy, I guess) would you want to hang out for thousands of years with whiny, melodramatic, uncontrollably hormonal self-centered brats? It makes no logical sense. And in Dead in the Family, it makes for huge bloody disasters. Those are the best kind!
Another plus of this book is that Sookie has kind of toned down on the Mary Sue Ooh Everyone's In Love With Me scale, and that's a great narrative choice was getting kinda bad. But this book was overall quite good, aside from the abrupt and rather lackluster ending.  311 pp.