Saturday, July 31, 2010


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

Participant/Books /Pages

Patrick 4/1663
Karen 11/2,559
Christa 16 / 5,053
Susie 9 / 2,960
Cindy 15 / 5,043
Annie 17 / 4,237
Linda 7 / 1,970
Amber 14/ 2,660
TOTAL 90/ 25,362

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Batman: Heart of Hush/Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen

Batman: Heart of Hush by Paul Dini (story) and Dustin Nguyen (art); graphic novel; 144 pages

Given how horrible the last Hush story I read was, it wouldn't take much to top it. This story more than made up for having to suffer through that last collection. I've enjoyed Paul Dini's previous stories set in Gotham, and Nguyen's art--modern, stylized, and vaguely reminiscent of the animated series that started my Batman obsession--was great. The story rekindles the Batman/Catwoman romance that made me like the original Hush storyline so much. While the the plot is primarily a standard damsel-in-distress story, it does go into a lot of detail on Hush's life before he became a supervillain, with at least half the story told through sepia-toned flashbacks. Lots of fun, and one of the better Batman graphic novels I've read recently.

Basket Case

Basket Case/Carl Hiaasen 317 pgs.

Carl Hiaasen always creates interesting and quirky characters and this book is no different. Jack Tagger is a journalist that has been busted down to obit writer. He becomes obsessed with his own mortality and struggles to get his mother to tell him when his father (who abandoned him shortly after birth) died. All of this is the backdrop for a murder mystery and the revival (in pop culture) of a defunct rock band...and of course there is a little bit of lust that might have turned to love. Very entertaining. - Christa

The botany of desire

The botany of desire: a plants eye view of the world/Michael Pollan 271 pg. 6 1/2 hours listening

Another book that I've been meaning to read for several years. Michael Pollan covers 4 plants, the apple tree, tulip, marijuana, and the potato. You don't have to be a gardener to appreciate this book because there is so much more to each of these plants when you consider their history. Johnny Appleseed, tulip mania, the legal then later illegal pot plant and the implications of the change in status and the potato famine. I was tempted to start turning over my back yard to start a large garden. I look forward to reading more from this author.

FYI: I listened to this as an audio book and really enjoyed the reader. - Christa

The lost city of Z

The lost city of Z: a tale of deadly obsession in the Amazon/ David Grann 339 pg.

When I first saw the cover of this book, I assumed it was a zombie tale. This is what happens when you work long enough with zombie obsessed coworkers...the letter "Z" takes on a whole new meaning. Instead, this is a great non-fiction account of Amazon exploration particularly the disappearance of Percy Fawcett. Fawcett was as much of an authority on the Amazon as anyone of his time. He was a born explorer who was tough and disease resistant. At the time it was not unusual for entire parties to disappear completely and even successful groups regularly lost half of their group to disease, starvation, murderous natives, or even murderous individuals in their own party. I really enjoyed the historical information and also the current day story of the author tracing Fawcett's steps to see if he could uncover anything new. - Christa

The Twentieth Train

The Twentieth Train/ Marion Schreiber 262 pg.

I chose this to learn more about WWII. - Susie

Main Justice

Main Justice/Jim McGee and Brian Duffy 381 pg.

I chose this to read about the insider's view of the Justice Department. - Susie

Memory Wall, by Anthony Doerr

These wonderfully realized short stories have an interconnected theme of memory. The title story, which might be more accurately be called a novella, is set in a near future world where dementia patients can have their memories harvested and taped, to be played back directly into their brains…and these taped memories can be accessed by others as well. One such person is an elderly white woman tended lovingly by day by her black servant. At night she is visited by other blacks who want to find and steal the tape of her memory that holds the location of an important fossil discovered by her husband, who died before it could be removed from its remote location. Fossils are yet another form of “memory.” Set in South Africa, the remnants of apartheid echo as well. The final story also involves an elderly and dying woman, the sole survivor of the Holocaust from a group of girls in an orphanage. An epileptic, visions from this past resurface as she slowly declines and dies. Another outstanding story involves the flooding of the villages in China that disappeared when the Three Gorges Dam was built. Thoughtful and exceedingly well written – odd that only our library so far in our consortium has chosen to add this book to its collection. 256 pp.

The Solitude of Prime Numbers, by Paolo Giordano

Prime numbers are only divisible by themselves and 1. Mattia, a mathematical genius, is fascinated with them. He is a surviving twin – his mentally impaired sister disappears as a young child, partly as his fault. Alice survives a damaging ski accident as a young girl, which leaves her with scars and a limp. She tries to control her life through anorexia, Mattia through cutting. Both struggle, with limited success, to fit in with the “normal” world, but in truth are drawn, as solitaries, “primarily” to each other. The book follows their lives into their thirties, when both have reached a degree of success and happiness. An interesting character study and somewhat disturbing book. The story is set in Italy and was an international bestseller. 271 pp.

Kraken / China Mieville

Kraken: an anatomy by China Mieville. 509 p.

Billy Harrow is a curator at London's Natural History Museum. One day he takes a tour group to see the giant squid display...and the squid has been stolen. No one can figure out how--or why. Billy begins his journey into the London that most people never see, starting with the officers of the Fundamentalist and Sect-Related Crime Unit. The members of the Church of God Kraken consider the squid to be God and Billy to be a prophet, because he was the person who prepped the squid for display. Then things start to get really weird, what with the strike by the Union of Magicked Assistants (i.e., familiars), and the knackers and the chaos Nazis and the Londonmancers, and they all think that Billy knows what's going on and he has no idea. But apparently he's going to play an important part in stopping the end of the world....

I enjoyed this a lot. Some reviews have complained about the "meandering plot," but the plot is: Billy is thrown into a world that he knows nothing about, and he tries to figure out what's going on, so of course it's not terribly linear. The real fun of the book is encountering all of the different weird groups and knacks of magical London. And underneath the surface of the story runs some interesting stuff about belief and its effects.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks/Rebecca Skloot 369 pgs.

I enjoyed the different perspectives in this book...the details about the life and death of Henrietta Lacks and the immortal cells that she left behind. The information about the usefulness of those cells in a range of scientific experiments that resulted in so much good for a lot of people. The modern day struggles of Henrietta's children who never really understood her role in medical research and the earlier struggles of Henrietta herself whose life was hard but she seemed to be a wonderful happy woman. The historic injustice of experimentation and shoddy health care for poor and in particular black people and how that may not have changed enough. This book seems to tell a big story and does it well. The author worked on it for 10 years and her care and dedication shows. - Christa

Monday, July 26, 2010

Last Scene Alive / Charlaine Harris

Last Scene Alive by Charlaine Harris (Aurora Teagarden mysteries #7). 229 p.

I wasn't feeling very well, so decided to re-read a cozy mystery rather than work on the long but fun "real" book I'm reading (Kraken). This is part of a mystery series (no supernatural elements) that Harris wrote before she started Sookie Stackhouse, and I've always been fond of them. Roe, the main character, is a public librarian in small-town Georgia, and I enjoy her inner monologue. This is not one of my favorite books in the series though, because Roe is incredibly self-involved for a lot of it. In the previous volume her husband died unexpectedly, so it's natural that she'd be morose and self-pitying, but jeez it was annoying. Or maybe I was just grumpy because I didn't feel well.

Heidegger and a Hippo

Heidegger and a Hippo Walk Through Those Pearly Gates: using philosophy (and jokes) to explore life, death, the afterlife, and everything in between  by Thomas Cathcart & Daniel Klein   245 pp.

This was another one with a title that grabbed me as it lounged with the other new audiobooks. It's a humorous and yet serious romp through everything mentioned in the title, with jokes. The authors look at philosophical views of death, etc. from the Pre-Socratics to modern philosophers. Interspersed in the explanations are apropos humorous quotes from Woody Allen, Bill Maher, Groucho Marx, and many many more. It's an interesting look at lots of different points of view. I'm glad I chose to listen to it rather than read it.

Cars from a Marriage

Cars from a Marriage by Debra Galant  276 pp.

Okay, the title intrigued me since I'm a little bit of a gear-head. Unfortunately the story didn't. I don't know if it was the wimpy wife in the story who is afraid to drive on the highway or the fact that most of the cars were (yawn) Buicks because that's what her father sold. Maybe it was the fact that it was just one more story of a man & woman, their kids, marriage, fights, make-ups, & infidelities that didn't excite me. Even the alternating chapters written in each of their voices didn't help. There's nothing new here.

But for amusement I did count up the vehicles we've had in 30 years of marriage and it totaled 11 (13 if you add in my son's two). And not a Buick among them.

Batman: Knightfall pt. 1/Chuck Dixon

Batman: Knightfall, part one: Broken Bat by Chuck Dixon (writer) and various artists; graphic novel; 272 pgs

I'm continuing my reading of classic Batman stories with this entry, the first of three parts. Tracking this series down is a study in library resources: part one is at St. Louis County Library, I have to borrow part two through Interlibrary Loan, and part three is at one of the other libraries in our consortium. This installment was enough to make me think it will all be worth it, though. The villain Bane is out to get Batman, but he wants to wear him down first. So Bane breaks open Arkham Asylum, setting all of Batman's enemies loose on the city. In the course of 48 hours, Batman faces down almost every villain he's ever fought, and he still has to fight Bane at the end of it all. I liked this because it's the only time I can think of where Batman is actually tired, or scared, or sick. Dixon does a good job with the characters, even if the art is only so-so. The story (written in 1993) comes off as a little dated in places, but it's forgivable. It also ends on a huge cliffhanger, so I'm eager to get my hands on the next installment.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide/Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn 294 pg.

I follow up the last depressing book I read (Columbine) with this treasure of horrifying stories and statistics about sex slavery, gang rape, murder, and starvation...oh yea, all in the context of the treatment of women and girls. The book is carefully crafted to end on a high note and that is a good thing since the details of the horror make you wonder about all of humanity. This is a real eye opener that makes you wonder what it will take to make it better. There is a list of particularly effective charities and aid organizations listed at the end. - Christa

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan  311 pp.

This is the best book I've read all year. I'm sorry I had it sitting around so long before I got around to reading it. It is the story of two teen boys, both named Will Grayson and is written in alternating chapters in the voices of each of the title characters. One is gay, one is straight. The straight W.G. has a best friend who is a 300 lb. flaming gay football player named Tiny who is producing a musical he wrote about his own life. Gay W.G. meets straight W.G. after being set up for a fake assignation with a male on-line love interest who doesn't really exist. Tiny and gay W.G. end up together. Both W.G.s go through love, heartbreak, misunderstanding, and the gamut of emotions. In spite of the gay/straight, love/heartbreak, etc. parts of the story, it is ultimately about the meaning of friendship and the end had me in a good way.   

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson  563 pp.

Book three in the series and the last (or maybe not). Lisbeth Salander is hospitalized for the massive injuries she suffered at the end of book 2. There she fights for her life physically while preparing to fight for her life in the courts. Journalist Mikael Blomkvist is assisting in proving her innocence and bringing down the corrupt government agents who perpetrated the horrors in Lisbeth's life. It's slow in spots but gratifying to watch the truly evil get picked off, one by one. I was curious to see how this one would end since the series was planned to be longer but it ends in a way that the story can stop there without leaving unfinished business. But the character of Salander is so intriguing, I wish there could have been more--and if rumors of a 4th book are true, there might be.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Superman/Batman: The Search for Kryptonite/Michael Green

Superman/Batman: The Search for Kryptonite by Michael Green; graphic novel; 160 pages

As much as I dislike Superman, I do really enjoy the Superman/Batman titles (a confession: I originally picked them up because I thought it was "Superman vs. Batman"--it's not, more's the pity). In this entry, decidedly more Superman-oriented, Superman decides to make his life easier by gathering up all the kryptonite on earth and flinging it into the sun. Batman makes it easier by using his gadgets to detect all the kryptonite on earth--much more than they thought possible. It's a good story, though I think I would have gotten more out of it had I read more Superman, or at least watched a couple episodes of Smallville.

Agatha Heterodyne and the Heirs of the Storm / Phil & Kaja Foglio

Agatha Heterodyne and the Heirs of the Storm by Kaja Foglio (story), Phil Foglio (story & pencils), and Cheyenne Wright (colors) (Girl Genius vol. 9). 150 p.

This rollicking adventure series continues. As the Foglios put it, "Adventure! Romance! Mad science!" Agatha is a spark--what we would call a mad scientist. Her life is very complicated just now (this is volume 9, after all)--she's still stuck inside Castle Heterodyne, trying to repair its artificial mind so that she can control it, while making sure that an imposter and her group don't gain control first. And she's got to juggle Gil and Tarvek, both sparks who are wooing her (for political as well as personal reasons) and keep them all alive. Secret identities are revealed! Deathtraps are evaded! Agatha makes the imposter Zola cry!

Basically, I love everything about these books, but if I try to explain the plot further we'll be here all day. Ask me if you'd like to know more!

All-Star Batman and Robin/Frank Miller

All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder, vol 1, by Frank Miller (writer) and Jim Lee (art); graphic novel; 240 pages

I picked this up on Cindy's recommendation (not that is was good, but that it was something I should read, for perspective). And now I'm not sure what I can say about this. The "All-Star" series is generally designed for an all-ages audience, which makes the choice of Frank Miller (author of Sin City, 300, and The Dark Knight Returns) as the author really strange. Miller's book is anything but kid-friendly, and his version of Batman is more sociopath than superhero. On top of that, Miller (who we know can write well) writes the characters as all slightly (or not-so-slightly) crazy, and the dialogue is so stilted and redundant that it's almost comedic. Jim Lee's art is fantastic, as always, but gratuitous in terms of how the women were depicted. I've seen Lee's work elsewhere, and that wasn't an issue, so I'm going to blame Miller for that, as well. Overall it was a very strange read, and not necessarily something I would suggest to anyone but the most hard-core Batman fan.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, vol 2/Philip K. Dick

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, vol 2, by Philip K. Dick et al; graphic novel; 112 pages

I'm still really enjoying this series, though I'm less happy to find that this volume ends on a cliffhanger, and the third volume has yet to be published. I think reading this has helped me to understand some of the stranger parts of the movie Blade Runner, for all that they're essentially different stories. The essays in the back of the volume continue to be of high quality, and thought-provoking.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Groo & Rufferto

Groo & Rufferto by Sergio Aragone  111 pp.

One more Groo graphic novel. This one has Rufferto, the dog, transported to the future by the greedy king's wizard. He is appalled and frightened by what he sees of modern life. While he's gone, Groo brings things to a standstill in their own time because he wants his dog returned. He blocks the bridge and won't let the King's soldiers & tax collectors across to do their jobs and won't let the merchants and townspeople cross the other way to get to the town. Once again, Aragone makes wonderful social commentary in classic comic book style.

Under Heaven / Guy Gavriel Kay

Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay. 573 p.

A marvelous, although not fast-moving, book; Patrick's review on 7/12 gives a good summary of the plot. Kay is considered a "fantasy" writer, but there's very little traditional fantasy in this book. He calls the setting "Kitai" but it's essentially Tang-era China, with all of the associated cultural trappings. I'm pretty sure that the overall political situation and rebellion are closely based on actual historical events too. Still, the characters are the reason to read this book, which I highly recommend.


The Groo Nursery by Serio Aragones  92 pp.

This is the second graphic novel about Groo the Barbarian I've read. There are four separate stories in this one each with a moral at the end. Groo is not very bright, in fact, his dog is the smarter of the duo. His efforts to 'help' usually turn out disastrous and most people fear him because of the mayhem that occurs when he is around. My favorite was "The Island of Felicidad" where Groo lands on a peaceful island where life is essentially perfect and his innocent 'helping' results in environmental, economic, and social destruction. I have another Groo volume waiting in the wings.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, vol 1/Philip K. Dick

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, vol 1, by Philip K. Dick (author) and Tony Parker (art); graphic novel, science fiction; 144 pages

This is the first of a series of graphic novels adapting Dick's cyberpunk classic. Of course, I only learned today that volume three is still forthcoming, so I may have to pick up a print copy of the book so I can see how the story ends. The complete text of the novel is here, complete with little "he said" boxes after speech bubbles. My previous exposure to this story came entirely from the movie Blade Runner. I still love that movie, but now I'm beginning to understand why so many purists were upset by the film adaptation: apart from a few character names, the movie is completely different from the book. I really enjoyed this book, and am already mostly through the next volume. As an added bonus, there are essays included from some of my favorite authors, and some I hadn't encountered (I especially recommend Matt Fraction's essay). Really cool.

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos  154 pp.

This is one of the books my Treehouse Book Club is reading this year. Joey Pigza is a kid with serious ADHD. The problem is no one has really treated the problem properly. He gets meds but they only work some of the time. The former teacher in me cringed at the mishandling of this child's problem at the hands of the school personnel. Joey's own descriptions of how he feels inside when he's "wired" are very convincing. He ends up being sent to a "Special Ed. School" after accidentally injuring a classmate. Eventually he hooks up with a sympathetic doctor and gets the medication he needs. This is the first of a series of books about Joey Pigza.

Death in a Prairie House

Death in a Prairie House by William R. Drennan  218 pp.

After I read Loving Frank I was curious about the mass murder and fire that took place at Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin in August 1914. I was also interested in finding out more about Edwin Cheney, the jilted husband of Mamah Borthwick and president of Wagner Electric, since he eventually lived in St. Louis (and I had a family member who worked at Wagner back in the '70s).  This book gives a factual and somewhat dry account of the events leading up to the brutal axe murder and burning of seven people at the famed Wisconsin compound. No one was able to come up with a satisfactory reason why the servant, Julian Carleton, slaughtered Wright's mistress, Borthwick, her two young children, and four of Wright's employees. Carleton drank acid after the crime and subsequently died of starvation in custody while awaiting trial on one of the multiple murder charges. Little information was given about Cheney other than his remarriage and children by his second wife. It is interesting to note that Wright's architectural style changed after the murders. His homes became more fortress-like, with small windows and block-like facades, and the structures were made of more fire-proof materials.

In spite of the tragic nature of this event, Wright's arrogance is very evident...and I'm still not a big fan of his architecture.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

This must be the place, by Kate Racculia

Who is the fascinating and enigmatic Amy? She makes monsters (movie monsters) for a living, and what are we to make of the fact that she abandons all who love her? Is she the monster? The final abandonment, her unexpected death in her early thirties, propels her stricken husband, Arthur Rook, to flee their Los Angeles home and seek out the meaning of a 16 year-old unsent postcard addressed to a friend of her youth, Desdemona Jones. At the Mona’s boardinghouse, where she lives with her daughter Oneida and a small cast of quirky residents, Arthur finds more than he expected. Mona struggles with the reappearance of Amy in her life, her memories of the time they ran away to Ocean City together at fifteen, and Amy’s lasting influence on the choices she has made. Oneida, now fifteen herself, moves from her childish acceptance of her happy life to questioning almost everything about it as she enters the maelstrom of teenage angst. Questions abound. Was Oneida really named after a spoon? How do any of us ever survive high school? Great characters, and an impressive debut novel. 350 pp.

U is for Undertow

U is for Undertow/ Sue Grafton 403 pg.

I chose this to continue the series. - Susie

Folly DuJour

Folly DuJour/Barbara Cleverly 288 pg.

I chose this to continue the series. - Susie

Monday, July 19, 2010

Batman: Hush Returns/A. J. Liberman

Batman: Hush Returns by A. J. Liberman, et al; graphic novel; 208 pages

I loved the first Hush storyline, so I was pretty excited to pick this one up. Unfortunately, the story just kind of fades out halfway through. The first few chapters do a great job of bringing Hush back from (supposed) death, and setting up his plan to finally get Batman. There's a great standoff with the Joker, and a cameo appearance from Green Arrow. But then the story just stops. There's no concluding chapters, no explanation for Hush's attacks on the Riddler throughout the book, no final showdown, and nothing to wind down from the last conflict. There's a page of text explaining several months' worth of plot, then a tacked on chapter that only ties in because Hush is a character in it. Combined with the art style, which I didn't really care for, I was pretty disappointed. I feel like this could have been handled much, much better.

Einstein for Beginners

Einstein for Beginners by Joseph Schwartz & Michael McGuinness  176 pp.

I admit it, I'm a bit of an Einstein groupie. Who knows, maybe I was a physicist in a previous lifetime? Anyway this is an excellent little book that explains a lot of Einstein's more famous work in graphic novel format. Don't let the pictures fool you. There is good information in this little book. There is apparently a series of these books and I've requested Freud for Beginners just to see if it is as informative. After that I may branch out into Darwin and Marx.

The Carbon Diaries 2015/Saci Lloyd

The Carbon Diaries 2015 by Saci Lloyd; young adult; 330 pages

This was another of those books that was creepy because I could see it happening in real life. The year is 2015, and 16 year old Laura is coming to terms with the new carbon rationing system in the UK. Global warming has caused massive climate changes for England, with fierce storms and droughts drastically affecting everyday life. To counter it, residents of the UK are granted a ration of carbon "points" that can be uses towards electricity, hot water, transportation, etc. It's a cool idea, and one that I thought was pretty interesting. As far as the plot goes, I think I was expecting something a little more dramatic; there are dramatic things going on, but Laura's diary doesn't go into great detail, and I felt kind of detached while reading it. I'll still read the sequel, but I don't know if I'd reread this one.

Stork Raving Mad / Donna Andrews

Stork Raving Mad by Donna Andrews (a Meg Langslowe mystery #12). 309 p.

This is lightweight, "cozy"mystery series. Meg is a blacksmith with a large assortment of odd relatives and an amazingly tolerant husband. She's the organized one amidst the large assortment of crazy people surrounding her. In this particular volume Meg is 8 and a half months pregnant with twins, has a house full of college students bunking while their dorm heating is fixed (her husband is a professor), and her mother is trying to redecorate the nursery. Then a hated college administrator shows up and gets murdered in her library.

These books don't have particularly strong mysteries, of course; the pleasure is in revisiting the characters. This one has a pretty good balance of cameos by ongoing characters without overdoing the wacky hijinks. A light, pleasant, fun read.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Columbine/Dave Cullen 417 pg.

Oh my gosh, what a painful book. If your knowledge of the shootings at Columbine High consist of what you remember from the coverage 10 years ago, then you don't really know much about it. Turns out most of the coverage was wrong. Cullen has done a lot of research and done it well. We learn about the perpetrators of the attack, the attack itself, and the aftermath. So much damage was done but the plan was for even more. So much of the response was poor and much was learned and changed since. Hard to read and hard to put down. - Christa

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Feed/M. T. Anderson

Feed by M. T. Anderson; young adult, science fiction; 299 pages (about 5 hours on audio CD)

My first M. T. Anderson book, and I can finally see what all the excitement has been about these past few years. This was an amazing book: funny, satircal, sad and ultimately chilling, because I can see Anderson's world coming to pass. The book is set in the near future: almost everyone is connected to the feed, which delivers music, television, and marketing directly into the brain. The result is a generation driven by corporations, consumerism, and pleasure, with almost no awareness of anything beyond the feed. There's a lot of profanity in this book (just another sign of declining vocabulary in a world where no one has to think), but the overall message is something that I think will really spark discussion. I listened to this on CD, and I have to say this was probably the best audio book I've ever heard. The narrator was spot-on in his tone and use of Anderson's slang, and bits of commercials and news from the feed are present throughout, complete with music and a cast of announcers. I think I've made it clear how much I enjoyed this book. Now I just have to track down some more of Anderson's work...

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Imperfectionists

The Imperfectionists/Tom Rachman 272 pgs

This book is about an English language newspaper published in Rome. At the same time, it is NOTHING about an English language newspaper published in Rome, it is about people who have a connection to the paper but it is so much more. A little bit of history, a bit of psychology, each chapter focuses on an individual and also gives a bit of the history of the founding of the paper and the relationships of the historic principle characters. I was very taken by the individual stories but was sad when I realized the format that I wouldn't hear more from each. Somehow Rachman brings it all together and that is not a problem. The characters all seem very real and their quirks quite possible. Very enjoyable book! - Christa

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Chew v.1 / John Layman et al.

Chew. Vol. 1, Taster's Choice by John Laymon (writer) and Rob Guillory (artist). 128 p.

This book has a really interesting premise: Tony Chu is "cibopathic," which means that when he eats something, he learns all about it. If he eats an apple, he knows what tree it grew it, what pesticides were used on it, when it was picked. If he eats beef, he learns about the cow--including how it died. Needless to say, he's a skinny guy who eats a lot of beets (for some reason his ability doesn't work on beets). After he eats some soup that a serial killer accidentally bled in, he learns some limited information about the killer's victims. When the serial killer commits suicide rather than tell Tony any more, he decides that his need to find out the information trumps the gross-out factor of having to eat part of the guy to find out more. His abilities bring him to the notice of the F.D.A., which is terribly powerful because chicken is illegal following a bird flu epidemic, although of course there are many conspiracy theories about what the govenment is really covering up.... Anyway, I find all of this set up really interesting, but the actual execution lacks something that I can't put my finger on. Partly it's that I don't like any of the characters, and I don't particularly care for the art, although it works well enough for the story being told. I'm curious about where the story will go, but probably not curious enough to bother reading it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Batman: A Death in the Family/Jim Starlin, et al

Batman: A Death in the Family by Jim Starlin (writer), Marv Worlman (writer) and Jim Apargo (art); graphic novel; 272 pages

Every once in a while my Batman obsession rears its head, and I go on something of a comics bender. I've been meaning to read this story arc for a while, but haven't been able to get my hands on a copy. It's something of a classic, so I was please to find it in the consortium. There are actually two story arcs collected here: "Death in the Family" follows the events leading up to the dead of Jason Todd, Dick Grayson's successor as Robin. I wasn't a fan of Todd, and I thought the plotting was pretty thin (the whole thing could have been avoided if Robin had talked to a librarian before jaunting off to Lebanon; of course, Batgirl was indisposed...). I enjoyed the second story arc, "A Lonely Place for Dying" much more. It introduces Tim Drake as the new Robin, and does so in a way that had me grinning throughout. Basically, 13-year-old Drake figures out who Batman is all on his own, notices that he's getting reckless since the death of Robin, and stages in intervention. It had just the right blend of humor and serious story to satisfy my obsession.

I am not myself these days: A memoir, by Josh Kilmer-Purcell

I seem to be on a roll of reading the earlier books by authors whose new releases I have enjoyed. Intrigued to learn what Josh’s days as a drag queen were like before he became the “gentleman farmer” in his recent book, The Bucolic Plague, I picked up his memoir of those times. Like The Bucolic Plague, it is in essence a love story, but an unhappy one. He loves Jack, a gay male escort who lives off his earnings in a Manhattan penthouse; Jack loves both Josh’s persona as “Aqua,” a 7’ 1” tall (in heels and abundant wig) drag queen and his ad-agency daytime self as well. Often hilarious, and sometimes outrageous, their adventures over the months they are together spiral down to into alcohol abuse, crack addiction and a final parting. Like his later book, there is self-reflection, growth, and a great deal of good humor. Also detailed instructions on the hours needed to transform oneself into a drag queen – mostly, it sounds painful and I felt sorry for the goldfish – you’ll have to read the book. I may need to get cable so I can catch his Fabulous Beekman Boys docu-series. 334 pp.

Supernormal Stimuli: How primal urges overran their evolutionary purpose, by Deirdre Barrett

Humankind likes to think that it is immune to “animal instincts,” but is it? This book argues that not only are humans every bit as likely as “lower” animals to respond instinctually to stimuli, but that evolution has not kept pace with modern life and our reactions to serious problems (war, racism, the overabundance of cheap and fattening food) are often shaped by inappropriate drives that no longer serve us well. But by using our big brains, if we are aware of this, we can choose to live differently, and in ways that are better for ourselves and our planet. 190 pp.

The Clothes on their Backs, by Linda Grant

Linda Grant wrote the recent non-fiction book called “The Thoughtful Dresser,” essays on clothes and their meanings to us, which I enjoyed. Her 2008 novel, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, also delves into the meaning of fashion and dress, but primarily concerns the relationships of a young, recently widowed woman, Vivien Kovacs, withHungarian refugee parents, who try to shelter her, and with her newly discovered, and infamous, uncle, who is a pimp, slum lord and a convicted criminal. Although well-written, I found the book slow going and not as compelling as I would have thought from its nomination and from reading her essays. 297 pp.

Big Stone Gap by Andriana Trigiani

Having enjoyed the first two books in this author’s most recent trilogy, I decided to go back to her first book thinking it would be engaging -- and distracting – airplane reading. It was. As in her later novels, the main character is an independent woman of Italian heritage reaching the age when the possibilities for finding happiness in marriage are beginning to become less likely. Ave Maria has recently lost her beloved mother, an Italian woman who married a man from the coal country of Virginia who brought her there. She runs her late father’s pharmacy in the valley town of Big Stone Gap. A cast of memorable characters, a secret from her mother’s past, and the possibility of not one but two romantic interests keep the plot chugging along. Great summer reading and I didn’t worry about the wings falling off even a little. 272 pp.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cry Wolf / Patricia Briggs

Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs (an Alpha and Omega novel: 1). 294 p.

When I was reading Hunting Ground last week, I realized I couldn't remember the plot of the first book in the series, so I picked it up. I think I must not have read this before. Charles, who is enforcer to the head werewolf in all of America, rescues Anna from her pack in Chicago, where she was mistreated. Their wolf natures immediately declare them mates, but Charles and Anna, the humans, hardly know each other. It's interesting that the author starts the story after this point: we don't see Charles saving Anna, or any of her icky life before he rescues her. The focus is on Anna learning to adjust to a completely new life with a man she hardly knows--not to mention some serious intimacy issues that her old life instilled in her, and an ignorance of how some of her werewolf powers work. I prefer the second book in this series to this one, although the backstory here gives some insight into events in related Mercy Thompson series.

The Glass Room by Simon Mawer

The Glass Room by Simon Mawer, 405 pages, fiction.
I read this novel for the upcoming July book group discussion, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The glass room is the most prominent feature of the architectural marvel that is the Landauer House. The house was built by architect Rainer von Abt, who follows the Loos motto that ornament is evil, for newlyweds Liesl and Vicktor Landauer, in the late 1920s. Set in Mesto, Czechoslovakia, the book follows it characters, including the house, through the coming war and then behind the iron curtain. The characters are all very passionate, about art, about politics and about each other. Everyone in the book strays from their monogamous path, with results that surprise them. Shortlisted for last year's Mann-Booker prize. this is a wonderful read. A novel full of feeling, history and life.

Blood and Faith: The Purging of Muslim Spain by Matthew Carr

Blood and Faith: The Purging of Muslim Spain by Matthew Carr, 350 pages, Spanish History.
This was a very interesting book that would have been made a little more comprehensible with some maps, a timeline, and maybe a cast of characters. I know I was vaguely aware of the history of Spain in this period, from the reconquista, through the inquisition, and the expulsion of all Jews living in Spain. I don't recall knowing anything about the forced conversions of the Muslim population, the armed conflicts that resulted from this, and the later expulsion of all of the Moriscos, not only the remaining converted (often in name only) Muslims of Spain, but their devout Christian descendants as well. With an introductory chapter on the history of Islam in Iberia, the book then follows the story from the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella, the Catholic Monarchs, through their daughter, the mad queen Johanna, her son, the Emperor Charles V, his son and grandson Phillips I and II and finally the reign of Phillip III, who went through with the long debated policy of expulsion, and, the author feels, brought about Spain's long-term decline. A balanced and insightful account, which the epilogue and its reliance on the author's opinions concerning parallels to modern day events, undercuts.

I Am A Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want To Be Your Class President by Josh Lieb

I Am A Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want To Be Your Class President by Josh Lieb, 305 pages, Young Adult.
A seemingly hopeless and friendless seventh-grader, who is also the third richest man in the country, (and of course the title character) teams up with the meanest girl in school to finagle, manipulate, and steal the school election. Oliver is ruthless, conniving and willing to steal a priceless Star Wars collectible from an African Dictator, so you know he will stop at nothing. Tatiana is mean, alluring and likes the color pink. A lot of fun to read, this is an hilarious book that Christa had recommended. As usual, she was right.

Fragile Eternity/Melissa Marr

Fragile Eternity by Melissa Marr (follows Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange); young adult, fantasy; 389 pages (about 11 hours, listening)

While I've been enjoying Marr's books on audio, I thought this one dragged a little in the middle. I know many people complain that her books don't really end, but this is the first that I've really felt that way about. While Ink Exchange is mostly a standalone story, Fragile Eternity is a true sequel to Marr's first book, Wicked Lovely. The focus here is on Seth, a mortal who's in love with a Faery Queen. Seth goes on a quest to find a way for them to be together, and is assisted by the embodiment of war, who hopes his actions will result in conflict between the Faery courts. I felt like Marr spent too much time on Seth's story, and then ran out of time/pages to wrap up the larger issues she had introduced. Of course, it's entirely possible that she's setting things up for her next book, which just came out. We'll see.

The Nearest Exit

The Nearest Exit/Olen Steinhauer 404 pg.

The follow up to "The Tourist", we find our hero Milo Weaver back in action. Milo is an agent in a super secret department of the C.I.A. These are the people you call for the serious "missions". They mostly work alone, are highly trained and follow orders without asking pesky questions. This time, while Milo is out proving himself all over again (he took a little break from "field work" after he got married) but there may be a mole in the department. He is fed up with clandestine service but yet can't help wanting to save the place. If you like spy stuff or action stuff this short series is highly recommended. - Christa

Half-Minute Horrors

Half-Minute Horrors edited by Susan Rich  141 pp.

I glanced through this book when it was being processed and decided it was worth a further look. It's a juvenile collection of very short (1-2 page) scary vignettes, poems, and graphic tales by adult and children's book authors. What caught my eye was the 2 page, 2 sentence, graphic version of James' Turn of the Screw, which made me laugh. I was surprised that the works of my favorite authors (Gaiman, Black, Spinelli, et al) were not my favorites. And it might be awhile before I eat lasagna again thanks to M.T. Anderson.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay, 573 pages, fantasy.
Epic tale of one self-effacing and somewhat directionless man (and 250 horses) suddenly caught up in assassination, court intrigue and rebellion in a fictional China-like land's distant past. Shan Tai is in mourning for his father, the late General Shan Gou. To honor him, Shan Tai takes upon himself the task of burying as many of long dead soldiers whose ghosts haunt a deserted borderland battlefield, site of the general's last campaign, as he can in two years. He finds his life and the lives of everyone around him drastically changed by events that cascade from his actions. He becomes wealthy, he loses and finds love and the whole kingdom erupts in a civil war. A quietly relentless tale, with wonderful characters and gripping action. Plus there are ninjas (or at least ninja-like warriors).

They Pyramid and four other Kurt Wallander mysteries

They Pyramid and four other Kurt Wallander mysteries/Henning Mankell 392 pgs. 15 and a half hours of audio

Kathleen got me going on Kurt Wallander and I did enjoy listening to this book instead of reading it. I know that is the only way I'm going to get close on the pronunciations of names and places. Kurt Wallander is a great character. Someone I can relate to...his life is a bit of a mess but not horrible. He asks the questions that many of us have and wonders if he is on the right track. They mysteries are really secondary for me. In this book there is some great interaction between Kurt and his dad, a crazy old guy who occasionally dumbfounds his son. I will certainly continue with this series. - Christa

The Walking Dead 5/Robert Kirkman

The Walking Dead book 5, by Robert Kirkman, et al; graphic novel, horror; 304 pages

In most zombie stories, there's a clear goal: make it off the island, make it to the military base, or find the cure, and then everything will be better. The original concept of this series was to see what would happen if there was no such goal. The authors drifted away from that a little here--the characters finally have a tangible sanctuary for which to aim, but whether they'll actually make it there remains to be seen. Of course, given this series' tendency to kick the reader when she's down, I wouldn't be at all surprised to have the character arrive to some worse disaster. I was worried that, after the major changes at the end of the last volume, this chapter would have nowhere to go. Boy was I wrong. If possible, this book is even darker than the previous entries: there's just as much blood and guts, but the psychological stress of the situation is really starting to take its toll on the characters. There's a little less here in terms of action, but the scenes of people breaking down emotionally or mentally more than make up for it. It's not my intent to make this sound terrible; it's a good, solid horror story, and one that leaves you thinking long after it's over.

Iron Kissed and Bone Crossed / Patricia Briggs

Iron Kissed and Bone Crossed / Patricia Briggs (Mercy Thompson novels: 3 and 4). 287 and 309 pp. respectively.

Finishing up my re-read of this series. Bone Crossed, especially, demonstrates one of the strengths of this series--Mercy deals with fallout from events in previous books, including something really horrible that happens to her in Iron Kissed. Unlike a lot of urban fantasy series, events actually progress, and relationships actually change. Mercy chooses to act in certain ways and then deals with the consequences of her actions. In Iron Kissed she chooses to remain loyal to her fae mentor, despite potentially lethal consequences for him and for her. In Bone Crossed she deals with the fallout of an action she chose to take against the local vampires in book 2. In both of them she deals with her potential romantic relationships with Samuel and Adam.

Planetary 4 / Warren Ellis et al.

Planetary. Vol. 4, Spacetime Archaeology / Warren Ellis, writer ; John Cassaday, artist. 224. p.

Finally we get the end of the Planetary saga! Begun in 1999, this comic was supposed to come out bimonthly, but it was never, ever on schedule; it took until 2009 for the final issue, number 27, to be released. However, since the creative team stayed the same throughout--writer, artist, and colorist (and the beautiful colors add tremendously to the art)--it's remarkably consistent, and told its story from beginning to end. Planetary is an organization of "archaeologists of the impossible," exploring the strange and amazing. Eventually they realize that a group of superheroes called the Four is blocking human accomplishment, and they decide to fight them. This volume finally brings us to the end of the struggle. Along the way, author Ellis plays with all sorts of popular culture tropes--comic book heroes, martial arts movies, pulp fiction. I found it vastly enjoyable.

The Poisoner's Handbook

The Poisoner's Handbook: murder and the birth of forensic medicine in Jazz Age New York/Deborah Blum 319 pg.

There would be no CSI without Charles Norris and Alexander Gettler the first professional medical examiner and toxicologist in New York City. Poisoner's used to have a pretty easy time of it before there were reliable tests to discover chemicals in the body. This began to change in 1918 when Norris and Gettler began working and experimenting with the many bodies that came through their office. They did studies and experiments on animals to determine how much alcohol it took to affect motor skills. I can't even begin to list all of the discoveries they made and how much they influenced, and really created, the field of forensic medicine. A great book. - Christa

Friday, July 9, 2010

Hunting Ground / Patricia Briggs

Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs (an Alpha and Omega novel: 2). 286 p.

This series takes place in the same setting as the Mercy Thompson books, but focuses on different characters--all werewolves. Briggs focuses on the political and social ramifications of werewolf nature, which I find pretty interesting in her setting. Werewolf packs are all about pecking orders and who's dominant. Humans who become werewolves have to learn to deal with their own wolf-natures; to some degree a werewolf's wolf side is a separate personality from that werewolf's human side. In some cases a couple's wolves end up mated, but the human sides of the pairing don't get along. The main couple in this series, Charles and Anna, married almost immediately after meeting, because she was vulnerable and their wolves declared themselves mates, but Anna and Charles, the humans, are still getting to know each other. I like the Mercy Thompson books better because I like Mercy the character more, but these books are fun and well done.


Kick-ass/ Mark Millar & John Romita Jr. 144 pg.

Who hasn't thought about being a superhero? Dave Lizewski decides to go for it. One lengthy hospitalization later, he is getting better at it and encouraging others to make a go of it. Hit-girl and Big Daddy are the serious ones who take on the mob and do quite a bit of killing. Big Daddy has trained his 10 year old daughter to be a tough killing machine. Oh the blood and violence is off-putting and I'll be interested to see if the movie follows this story closely. Maybe I'm just looking for my Lisbeth Salander replacement. Hit-girl is pretty good but she needs to develop some computer skills. - Christa

I'm staying with my boys

I'm staying with my boys: the heroic life of Sgt. John Basilone, UUMC 332 pg.

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

Digital Fortress

Digital Fortress/Dan Brown 429 pg.

I chose this because I like Dan Brown novels and the movies based on his books. - Susie

Shakespeare Undead/Lori Handeland

Shakespeare Undead by Lori Handeland; 304 pages

I should have liked this book a whole lot more than I did. After all, anything bold enough to combine vampires and zombies with Shakespeare (my own personal hero) should be a win in my book. Unfortunately, the quality of the writing was only so-so, and the supernatural elements, which I thought were the most original part of the book, take a backseat to the romance, which is a pale reworking of the movie Shakespeare in Love. That's not surprising, given Handeland's experience as a romance author. What really got to me, though, were the blatant errors regarding Shakespeare, his works, and the Elizabethan lifestyle. It made me frustrated enough that I probably wouldn't have finished the book had I not been trapped at the car repair place for the better part of a day. It's a light, fast read, and it did have its funny parts, but not something I would read again.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Last Gig

The Last Gig/Norman Green 339 pg

Alessandra Martillo is a wonder woman type. Very confident, strong, and capable. Somehow her problems with authority have her working a crappy job as a private investigator for Marty. This book is about one of their cases. I enjoyed the story and there are 2 minor characters who are/were librarians which never hurts. This was a fun book to read and I'll certainly read the next in the series. - Christa

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

This Book is Overdue

This Book is Overdue: How librarians & cybrarians can save us all by Marilyn Johnson  272 pp.

The news media is incessantly predicting the end of libraries and the written word. This book tackles that assertion by looking at the myriad ways libraries and librarians are shifting, changing, automating, and digitizing, while keeping tabs on the old ways, and old materials. There is even a length section on cyber-librarians who only exist online in places like Second Life. Some of the changes are exciting and some are disheartening but all of it makes me think I should have gone after that MLS when I thought about it the first time back in the '90s.

Library wars, vol 1

Library wars, vol 1 Love and War/Kiiro Yumi 200 pg.

The library task force is a super elite squad of librarians who are protecting books from government censorship. Our heroine has just been picked for the squad and is in training. This is in part a love story but I prefer to focus on the demanding physical training and the idea behind the protection of the books. The back story about having a book saved as it was to be taken from our heroine as a child puts her on the path to librarianship. Ah, I guess everyone has their calling. - Christa

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Silent Scream / Karen Rose

Silent Scream by Karen Rose. 573 p.

I enjoy Rose's thrillers. She gives enough details about her bad guys to be interesting but not enough that I feel trapped inside a psychopath's head wallowing around in icky stuff. In this book her female lead is a homicide cop and her male lead is a firefighter; some of the murders involve arson. There's a lot of police procedural here, spiced with a romance, as opposed to Roberts' The Search, which is primarily a romance spiced with a serial killer. I thought the motivations that keep Olivia & David apart to start with were kind of lame, but not so much that I didn't enjoy the book. The murders get quite complicated, and there's a big list of characters, but (of course) things mostly work out in the end. Although it did bug me that there was one loose end the investigators keep mentioning--"oh hey, we need to follow up on that"--and they never do, until the explanation just falls in their laps.

The Search / Nora Roberts

The Search by Nora Roberts. 488 p.

When Fiona Bristow was 20, a serial killer abducted her. She escaped, and her testimony helped catch the man, but not before he killed Fiona's cop fiance and his K-9 partner. Now she lives a quiet life on an island near Seattle and trains dogs for a living. She meets an artisan named Simon Doyle; he's newly arrived on the island and has a puppy that will eat anything. As these two people get acquainted and consider becoming involved, a series of copycat killings starts, and the police are sure that this new killer will be coming for Fiona.

As is common in a Roberts novel, we see a lot of scenes of Fiona doing her job. (My theory is that Roberts does a lot of research on various professions and likes to make sure the readers see it.) In this case it means we see a lot of dog training, and a lot of scenes of Fiona interacting with her own dogs. They also do Search & Rescue, so we see a few scenes of that. I enjoyed all of it; the dogs are pretty cute, and the S&R stuff is interesting. Towards the end of the book the serial killer stuff becomes the focus, rather than the characters, so that's not quite as much fun. But overall I enjoyed reading this.

Blood Bound / Patricia Briggs

Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs (a Mercy Thompson novel: 2). 292 p.

This is the requisite vampire-heavy novel in the Mercy Thompson series. In this setting, the vampires run a protection ring in Mercy's town; if you don't pay the vampires, something bad will happen to your business. Since Mercy can't afford to pay, she fixes the vehicles for the vampire group (called a "seethe"). Which is how she knows Stephen, who's friendlier than your normal vampire (and has painted his van to look like The Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo). He asks for her help to stop a sorcerer who is killing people, because the vampires don't care enough to stop the killer. I like this author's take on vampires; they're amoral at best and evil at worst, not sexy bad boys/girls that would be fun to date (as other urban fantasy series tend to portray them).

The Unwritten, vol 1, by Mike Carey

The Unwritten, vol 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity by Mike Carey (writer) and Peter Gross (art); graphic novel; 144 pages

I kept seeing adds for this in Library Journal, so I finally broke down and read it. I really like the concept: Tommy Taylor is the equivalent of Harry Potter: a successful fictional character who's spawned a whole empire. Tom Taylor, the author's son, is the real-life inspiration for the series, and a celebrity in his own right. But is he really who he thinks he is? As the story goes on, fictional characters start popping up, and the lines between fiction and reality start to blur. There's some pretty graphic horror in the last chapter, and a killer twist that's really going to leave me wanting more. This collection also included a one-shot about Rudyard Kipling and the price of his stories that reminded me strongly of one of the subplots in Gaiman's Sandman (only more sinister). Overall, I loved the idea behind this, and the importance on stories throughout. It took me about a chapter for the writers to hit their stride, but once they do, it turns into a good series.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Speech*less: Tales of a White House Survivor

Speech*less: Tales of a White House Survivor/Matt Latimer

Matt is a life long conservative that tells us about his career in government as a speech writer for various elected officials plus Don Rumsfeld. He made his way up the ladder ultimately writing for President Bush. As someone who isn't a big Bush fan, I wondered how I would reconcile my beliefs with what Matt would undoubtedly say in his book. I should not have worried. Turns out Matt has ideals that he has actually THOUGHT about and reasons for his beliefs. Also, he is a great writer who really dishes on everyone he names...and he names a LOT. Loved the book Matt but I'm sure you realize you won't be working in government again anytime soon. Or really, I guess that is probably small minded of me. Most people there probably don't read books anyway. - Christa

White Cat, by Holly Black

White Cat (Curse Workers, book 1), by Holly Black; young adult; 310 pages

I loved Black's Tithe series, and I think I picked this up expecting more of the same. While I would have been happy with that, I'm sooo glad she went in a different direction, because this book blew Tithe right out of the water. It's set in an alternate world where some people ("curse workers," or just "workers") have the ability to change your luck, your memory, your emotions, etc. Of course it's illegal, so most families with that skill are also crime families. Our hero is the only non-worker in an old worker family, but he's also an expert con artist. And now someone's trying to con him. This was a fast read, and very engrossing. Part noir-ish mafia thriller, part urban fantasy, and part con story, this was fantastic! I especially loved seeing the characters set up these elaborate schemes--and to have things seem so innocent from the mark's point of view. Loved this right up to its twist ending, and can't wait for the next in the series.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

I Kill Giants!

I Kill Giants - Joe Kelly 184 pages

I’m not too familiar with Joe Kelly’s work but this book has made me into a fan. Barbara Thorson is a giant slayer and not just any giants; she eliminates the most deadliest and meanest of them all. Within this life of killing monsters, Barbara must make colossal sacrifices. These sacrifices are translated into her social life. She’s not the most popular in school; she always seems to be targeted by bullies, life is relentless with her. Somehow she still finds the will to keep going, solely because she believes she is the only one who can save the world from the giants… both inward and out.

"Scott Pilgrim" series (vols. 1- 6) - Bryan Lee O'Malley

"Scott Pilgrim" series *Graphic Novel* (vols. 1 - 6) - by Bryan Lee O'Malley 900 pages.

In anticipation for the continuation/ finale of the series I re-read Scott Pilgrim. If you love retro gaming references, bad relationships and super hero powers from loving someone too much then you might like this set of books. I must warn you, the main character is pretty pathetic. He mooches off of everyone, may it be his overly homosexual roommate or his very underage girlfriend (who happens to be named after cutlery). Even though he is a complete mooch, he turns out pretty awesome later on in the series.

A bad day for sorry

A bad day for sorry/Sophie Littlefield 280 pg.

This book is set in rural Missouri where our heroine Stella Hardesty runs a sewing shop along with her side business where she corrects badly behaving husbands/boyfriends. The side business is, of course, where all the good action is unless you count the "situation" with some customers of the sewing shop who try to capitalize on a mistake and clean her out packages of 2 and a half inch binding. Back to the main event: Stella is trying to help Chrissy with the disapperance of her 18 month old son. Chrissy had recently used Stella's services to help correct the behavior of her husband so he becomes an early suspect. Of course it could have been the ex-husband too. Neither of these men are the father of the baby. Stella puts her various skills to work...skills she has acquired since she began her side business a few years ago after she dispatch her own abusive husband. This is no romance but I found myself loving with Stella. She is a wonderful character and I look forward to reading her latest adventures and seeing this made into a movie. - Christa

Croquis Pop Series (vol. 1-6) - JinHo Ko / Kwang-Hyðn Sð 1096 pages

Croquis Pop Series (vol. 1-6) *Graphic Novel* - JinHo Ko / Kwang-Hyðn Sð

This was an odd series to read. It has been translated from Korean (poorly) but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it is a good read. Without giving too much of the story away, a kid decides he wants to draw for a living as a comic artist. He realizes he sucks massively and joins Ho Go’s (a well credited comic artist) studio. From there the story gets crazy. Somehow famous artist start popping up and try to kill the kid; Van Gogh has ace bandages all over himself, Babe Ruth and Sir Isaac Newton are in a death math for Excalibur and Snow White. I’d suggest reading the series because my explanation doesn’t do it much justice.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson 480 pages

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson; 480 pages

This book was very long winded. I can’t really find anything to praise about it. The characters seemed bland, the plot seemed too obvious. I would compare it to Law and Order with a dash of MacGyver, but I actually like Law and Order. I couldn’t bring myself to finish the rest of the book. I got to page 156 and closed the book.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Ink Exchange/Melissa Marr

Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr; young adult; 325 pages (about 9 hours, listening)

One of the reasons I love Marr's books is that they never turn out how you expect. Here, it would have been really easy for the plot to turn into another dime-a-dozen romance with supernatural elements, but it never does. The characters are realistic, and dealing with much darker, heavier issues than I usually see in YA books with faeries in them (the exception is, of course, Holly Black). There are some romantic elements, but no happily ever afters. Th ending feels real, which was a refreshing change. I loved this story, and am planning to pick up the next in this series. My one complaint wasn't the book, but the reader on the audio book. The producers chose a guy as the reader, which I thought was an odd choice for a book about a teenage girl. He did a good job, but it took me a few discs to get used to it.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

American Pastoral

American Pastoral/Philip Roth 423 pg.

This book tells of the undoing of Seymour "Swede" Levov. The Swede lives a wonderful life in which he is a star athlete, great looking and destined to take over the successful family business. He marries his dream girl (Miss New Jersey no less) and is not too surprised that life is wonderful because that is the way it has always been. He and his wife have a daughter who is also perfect in his eyes until she starts becoming politically active in a radical way and breaking with her family. The daughter ends up bombing the general store in her hometown killing an innocent bystander. At this point the Swede's life starts a downward spiral that he cannot comprehend, cannot break out of and cannot see an end to.

This book won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize and I'm sure the deeper meaning and representation of America in crisis during the Vietnam War years, Watergate, etc. are why this book is an award winner. However, I really enjoyed the more straight forward aspect of the family relationships. The Swede does a lot of reminiscing about happy little events from his earlier life. In these memories his daughter seems happy and devoted to her parents. As you read them, you wonder if he is remembering things as they really were or as he convinced himself they were. Fairly late in the book he has a conversation with his quite outspoken and caustic younger brother who pretty much says the daughter was always odd and he isn't surprised how things turned out for her. Does a parent's love blind them to the real problems? Of course it is a possibility. When your precious child ends up going bad, how do you salvage the rest of your life? - Christa

Top Nazi: SS General Karl Wolff

Top Nazi: SS General Karl Wolff/Jochen von Lang 371 pg.

I chose this because I'd never heard of Wolff before and wanted to read about him. - Susie

Death Note / Elizabeth Lowell

Death Note by Elizabeth Lowell. 392 p.

So this was...dull. Not bad, just dull. It involves a yacht, which may or may not be stolen, and a lot of talking. Lots and lots and lots of talking. Most of the "action" involves...boating, with a large side of male-protagonist-teaches-female-protagonist-to-drive-the-boat. (I thought you "piloted" a boat, but they "drive" this one.) Since I am not interested in details of boating, I found most of that pretty dull too. There's one fight scene near the end, but that's it. Otherwise it's various factions lying to each other about what's going on, and Our Heroes trying to figure out who's lying the most. Also, all of the characters have the same speech patterns. Not to mention the choppiness of the main narrative. Even the UST (unresolved sexual tension) gets resolved off screen, which is kind of weird since Elizabeth Lowell made her name originally as a romance writer. Oh well, let's just say this one was not for me.