Scott Pilgrim Gets it Together by Bryan Lee O'Malley 216 pp.
The fourth installment. Scott Pilgrim is still a 24 year old wastrel but he actually finds a job--as a dishwasher--in this book. He is still being stalked by his girlfriend, Ramona's, exes (not ex-boyfriends) as she keeps correcting him. In fact, one of her exes is a female half-Ninja. Interspersed in the story are Scott's dream sequences in which he is a Link-like character (i.e. Legend of Zelda). Also included is the appearance of Lisa, an old high school friend. Book four is an improvement over the previous ones.
The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg-393 pages, Mystery A biographer finds the body of a childhood friend, in this highly touted Swedish mystery. As she tries to solve the mystery, she deals with other issues in the small town she has recently returned to. Most of the time the story is adequately suspensful and engaging, but its characters veers too frequently toward the clumsy and wooden, and the surprises seem either unsurprising or a bit forced and not necessarily a true part of the story.-Patrick
Packing for Mars by Mary Roach- 334 pages, nonfiction. Roach brings her irreverent style and hilariously inappropriate questions to the space program, and its technical problems with transporting humans at high speeds, for long periods of time, across vast distances. She's snarky and funny and informative, whether she's talking about about pooping in space, drinking urine or how in the wrong sort of crashes the heart can be ripped from the aorta. At times the footnotes slow the pace, but it's a fun read that answers questions I never would have thought to ask. -Patrick
Rex Libris. (Vol. 2,) Book of Monsters by James Turner. 240 p.
The return of the world's favorite butt-kicking, sesquipedalian librarian,yay! (Although, according to the website, there will be no more issues produced, boo.) Still, we have lots and lots and lots of monsters for Rex to defeat, and the final story arc involves the rising of R'lyeh and possible awakening of Cthulhu. Only librarians can save us now! I had particular fun playing "spot the reference," in addition to enjoying the stylized art, which I really like. And there were giant squid--seems to be a theme for my summer reading....
Batman: Under the Hood vol. 2, by Judd Winick; graphic novel; 192 pages
There's no way I can discuss this book without giving away the surprise ending of the first volume, so if you want to read that and still be surprised, skip this review.
I read this in a single sitting, and found myself wishing it was longer. Batman continues to fight the Red Hood, who has now been revealed to be Jason Todd, the second Robin, and the boy Batman thought the Joker had killed years ago. The story doesn't focus on how or why Todd is back, just on his current mission of vengeance against both Batman and Gotham. Watching Batman have to fight his former student (and deal with the emotional baggage associated with it) is like watching a really engrossing soap opera--I couldn't look away. The final chapter is a flashback that explains how Todd came back, and while it's a good stand-alone story, the explanation is pretty thin. Still, I'm happy to stick with the plot for what it is. And now I'm ready to watch the new Batman film, Under the Red Hood!
Readings from the Portable Dorothy Parker/Dorothy Parker 425 pg.
One of our adult story times featured Dorothy Parker's work. It has been a long time since I read much DP and certainly I had never read enough. This was an audio version which made it even better as the reader had wonderful inflection and pacing. All Hail Dorothy Parker! - Christa
834 Kitchen Quick Tips: techniques and shortcuts for the curious cook by the editors of Cook's Illustrated. 557 p.
Even though I'm not much of a cook, I'm fascinated by discussion of kitchen gadgets, and to a lesser extent of technique. So this book was pretty irresistable. The tips seem very useful--for instance, when cutting individual cinnamon rolls from the long rolled-up dough, using a knife squooshes the dough, so use (unflavored) dental floss to cut the dough cleanly. Each tip is illustrated.
Packing for Mars: the curious science of life in the void by Mary Roach. 334 p. Mary Roach has the ability to explain scientific stuff clearly to the general public. Plus, of course, she's blessed with the ability to make almost anything fall-down-laughing funny. Both talents are in full display in this book, which is primarily about America's space program, past and present. She does, however, spend some time observing Japanese astronaut candidate testing, and also manages to interview some retired Russian cosmonauts. I was particularly interested by how top astronauts have evolved from macho guys with the "right stuff" to people with good interpersonal skills, and why. And, of course, she explains how space toilets work in great detail.
The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano 271 pp.
I'm still not sure what I think about this book. It's the story of two people, both damaged physically and emotionally. Mattia is responsible for his mentally disabled twin sister's disappearance. He begins cutting himself as a way of coping with stressful emotions. Alice was forced to ski by her father when she was young. A skiing accident left her physically disabled. She becomes an anorexic. Each of them are compared to a prime number, divisible by itself and one. Mattia and Alice eventually develop an odd relationship and love for each other while enduring years of separation and Alice's marriage to another. It's not a happy story.
The Thief (Queen Thief, book 1), by Megan Whalen Turner; young adult, fantasy; 304 pages (about 7 hours on audio)
I've had about six people recommend this series to me, but I hadn't read it. But with the unexpected outcome of the YA Fantasy Showdown a few weeks ago, I finally decided to see what all the fuss was about. Now I understand! This is the story of Gen, who claims to be the world's greatest thief: he does successfully steal the king's own seal ring, but then brags to the wrong person and winds up in the king's prison. A royal adviser offers him freedom if he joins them on a treasure hunt in enemy territory--because of course they'll need a skilled thief. Gen's the ultimate in unreliable narrators, so the whole book is filled with moments of Gen pulling one over on the reader (right up to the end!). The audiobook was addicting, and I finished it in record time.
Batman: Under the Hood, volume 1, by Judd Winick; graphic novel; 176 pages
This comic follows the appearance of a new player in Gotham's crime scene: a mysterious figure known as the Red Hood. The Red Hood faces off with Black Mask, Gotham's current crime boss, as well as Batman, Nightwing, and several other heroes, but the big shocker is the revelation of the Red Hood's identity--which I won't spoil until the next volume. After reading Final Crisis, this book felt too short, but fortunately I have the second half to read next. I loved the art here, and the story had just enough character development to keep me interested between action sequences.
Stella Hardesty is back! Six months after the end of the last book, Stella is recovering just fine from her last big adventure. Some good doctors and physical therapists put her back on track and she is ready to get back to business. Instead of her usual "jobs" she is out this time trying to prove a friend innocent. When a tornado pulls up a shack at the fairground and you find a body beneath, it is hard to be the guy who poured the foundation and act like you don't know anything about it. Stella is, as usual, creative in her "detecting" and solving of these mysteries. Also, her relationship with Goat looks like it is going somewhere...right before his ex-wife shows up and seems to make a play for his attention. Still love this character and the Missouri setting is fun to read too. - Christa
Kaboom: Embracing the suck in a savage little war/Matt Gallagher 310 pg.
This book is about the counter insurgency stage of the recent Iraq war. Wow, so many wars, when I picked up the book I was not sure which it would be about. Matt Gallagher is the author of a popular blog that was shut down by the military when he wrote something less than complimentary about his superiors. This turned into a congressional investigation but ended up pretty well as this book is based on the blog and the writing he did following the end of the blog.
This little sliver of what it is like during a deployment in Iraq was interesting and informative and brings you right back to wondering what is it good for? -Christa
Final Crisis by Grant Morrison; graphic novel; 352 pages
I knew reading this would be a challenge, but I thought I could do it. I was wrong. I know enough about the DC universe to be impressed with Morrison's breadth of storytelling, but not enough to get even a fraction of all the references and story arcs he throws into this mix. The story is very Superman-centric, which didn't help my understanding. I think if you're a fan of Green Lantern and Superman, you'll get more out of this story than a Batman fan like myself (for all that this book sets up the major plot point of the current Batman arcs--Bruce Wayne's death--the Dark Knight gets surprisingly little screen time in this volume). Still, I can now say I've read one of the crisis stories, even if I didn't comprehend it all.
Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey, 379 pages. Apparently Peter Carey can write, and write well, about anything and everything. I first read his "The True History of the Kelly Gang" about the infamous Australian outlaw Ned Kelly, several years ago and have since enjoyed pretty much everything he has written. His last book before this one, "His Illegal Self" was a wonderfully disjointed tale about a woman and the child of two 1960's radicals on the run together, with part of the story told from the lost, bewildered child's point of view. This tale, Parrot and Olivier, set largely in 1830's New York, felt like that to me (disjointed and bewildering, that is)for a long time, until I realized that the downloadable audio book I was listening to had the book out of order and it had started in the middle of the story. Even jumbled, though, it was a tale worth reading and listening to. With the fictional character Olivier de Garmont standing in for the real Alexis de Tocqueville, and John Larrit, aka Parrot, aka Perroquet, his sometime servant, traveling, each for his own reasons, from Paris to New York, we get to see the worlds that both men have lost and watch as they try to reclaim their pasts and their struggles to construct some kind of future. Both are extraordinary characters, misreading situations and each other as they make their way in the New World. One of my favorites of 2010.
Revolver by Matt Kindt and Steve Wands-Graphic Novel, 164 pages Matt, a young man with a job he hates at the Chicago Post Dispatch, wakes up one morning and the world has gone to hell, with terrorist bombings, avian flu, looting, murder, and mayhem. A day later, he wakes and everything is back to normal. His days then alternate between the dystopian and the banal in this somewhat engaging, somewhat self-indulgent graphic novel.
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks-372 pages, Fiction The story of an illustrated Haggadah, or passover prayer book, from the 15th century and the people who created, preserved and attempted to destroy it. The book journeys from the expulsion of the Jews from Spain to Venice to Yugoslavia among other places. Hanna Heath, book conservator, evaluates the book after it is borught out of hiding after the Bosnian-Serbian conflict of the nineties. She discovers hints and clues about its past while the reader is allowed to see the true events behind the clues.
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins-392 pages, YA Fantasy The conclusion to the Hunger Games trilogy is ultimately satisfying. Collins writes an exciting and fast-paced conclusion that wraps up the story of Kantiss, Gale, Peeta and the rest, nicely, if a little too quickly with some surprises, but also some loose ends. I would have liked a little more about the trial mentioned at the end, and a little more of Katniss making some choices regarding her relationships with some of the characters, but . . . A decent ending to a very good series. Christa and Annie both beat me to this. Dang. I read this as an e-book.
Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, book 3), by Suzanne Collins; young adult, science fiction; 392 pages
Christa's already beat me to posting about this, but I need to get my two cents in. There's nothing quite so satisfying for me as getting the last book in a series I love. So I really enjoyed this book. It's less of a science fiction vibe and more of a war story, as the battle between the rebels and the Capitol heats up. The Peeta vs. Gale situation I've been following since book one is resolved (I won't say how), but it doesn't get as much time in the story as I would have liked. I was a little disappointed with the ending, but I can't say why without spoiling it, so I'll leave it at that. Overall, I was really pleased with this, and feel at loose ends now that the series is over.
The final installment of the Hunger Games trilogy does not disappoint. Lots of action, lots of thinking. Our heroine Katniss is back doing what she does best...doubting herself and working to resolve issues in her own mind. As much as the physical action is riveting, it is her working things through in her head that makes the books interesting. Many of the favorite characters are back, many of them don't make it til the end of the book. At least I know what happens now. -Christa
The newest book by one of my favorite authors. This novel is the story of Zarite, known as Tete, a mixed race slave growing up in Haiti--then the French Colony of San Domingue--in the 1770s. She becomes the property of a French sugar plantation owner named Valmorain and their lives end up entertwined in many different ways. After the slave rebellion began in 1791, Valmorain escapes to Cuba with his son, Maurice, and Tete and to eventually settle in New Orleans. Throughout the story, which spans several decades, Tete struggles against the cruel system of slavery to gain freedom for herself and her daughter and her subsequent children.Well written, as I've come to expect from this author.
Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix 153 pp.
This is one of the books I'm doing with the Treehouse Book Club. It's the first book in the "Shadow Children" series. After widespread famine and the advent of a totalitarian government, it became illegal to have more than two children per family. Luke is an illegal third child who must remain hidden from sight or the Population Police will punish his parents. From his attic hideout he watches the new home behind his family's and determines that there is another third child living there. While both families are away, he sneaks to the other house and meets Jen, the other "shadow child". From her he learns that there is a network of third and even fourth children and she is determined to band them together to fight against the government.
The author, former editor of House and Garden, finds herself unexpectedly in the ranks of the unemployed when publisher Conde Nast pulls the plug on the magazine with no notice. World-wide financial collapse follows closely behind, leaving the author reeling with insecurities of all kinds. She has just ended a seven year relationship with "Stroller," as she names him, a not-quite-divorced, not-quite-married man whose ambivalence towards commitment of any kind is a central leitmotif of the book. After a spell of sleeping almost non-stop is followed by its opposite, total insomnia, she finally begins to pick up the pieces of her life, sells her "forever house" and moves to a former summer cottage in Rhode Island; learns to live alone; begins to write again; and finds peace in gardening. This memoir/how-to book is well-written but overly self-involved. I couldn't imagine why anyone would stay seven months, let alone years, with "Stroller," so named because he intermittently strolls in and out of her life, whose main attractions seem to be "endearing striped socks," and that he likes ironing. 271 pp.
Helluva town: the story of New York City during World War I by Richard Goldstein. 321 p.
The structure of the book itself is somewhat lacking; I'm not sure how it would have been better organized, but as it is, it feels like a bunch of anecdotes just strung together. The anecdotes are really great, though. I enjoyed them immensely while reading.
Bullet (Anita Blake series, book 19) by Laurell K. Hamilton; paranormal romance; 368 pages
If you asked me to tell you what this book is about, I don't think I could. It's not that I don't know what was going on, but more that there wasn't any kind of plot or central goal here. In fact, any scene in this book could have been clipped and inserted in or from any other recent volume in this series. The characters have grown stagnant, the supporting cast has grown to huge to keep straight, and I've mostly stopped reading these books and just started skimming for plot advancement. I guess I keep coming back to this series, hoping that it will return to the good old days of books 1-9. It hasn't, and I think it's time for me to give up.
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, vol. 2: The Kingdom on the Waves, by M. T. Anderson; young adult, historical fiction; 592 pages (about 12 hours, listening)
The second half of this series was very different from the first. While this entry continues Octavian's story as a slave (now escaped) during the American Revolution, it had more light moments than the somewhat oppressive first volume. In fact, there were several points in the audio book that had me laughing out loud, which must have looked very strange to the other drivers on the road. That said, the book overall is still a very serious story, and an examination of what "liberty" really means. After the book ended I just had to sit in silence for a few moments, to let everything sink in--it's that kind of story. It's a wonderful story, about a slice of history that often gets glossed over, and I have to recommend it to anyone who might be interested. Just be prepared for a lot of ups and downs.
A fun, frothy, but slightly-more-grounded-than-most-regency-romances story. It's not by any means a *serious* look at a lord's responsibility to his people, or a woman's sublimation of herself to her husband and children once she marries, but the concepts are at least there. Most, though, this is just well-done fun for those who like a nice romance with a happy ending. Which I do, sometimes.
Wilson is not your usual over achiever and isn't really an under achiever either. Really the word "achiever" has no place in the description of Wilson whose biggest accomplishment is owning a cute dog. To say Wilson has "issues" doesn't quite cut it. Yea, yea, I know it is a book but I'm sure there are many "Wilson's" out there. - Christa
Do androids dream of electric sheep? [vol2]/Philip K. Dick et. al 112 pg.
Part 2 of the graphic novel treatment and I'm certainly looking forward to the 3rd installment. The fight inside the vehicle between Deckard and Kadalyi was particularly awesome. If you like this Dick, this graphic treatment is excellent. - Christa
Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System from Crisis—and Lost/Andrew Sorkin 600 pg.
From what I hear, and I've heard a lot about things like this, lately, because Christa has been on a real nonfiction-about-world-class-financial-incompetence binge, it seems this book is a little on the tedious side, but in general has some points to make about the whole mess ("The Financial Meltdown") that aren't necessarily brought out in the other books. It concentrates on the inability of certain individuals to see an incipient trainwreck whose jobs, you would have thought, would be to see such things. For instance, Dick Fuld, the CEO of Lehman Bros, seemed to feel that three clicks of his ruby slippers would ward off the inevitable, even after the inevitable had become actual fact. In the longer view, however, the widely-held belief on the part of the captains of the global financial industry that things must not be as bad as they would appear echo, to one degree or another, myriad points in the the history of civilization in which those in power could not envision events that would fundamentally change their landscape. It would be interesting to know whether, at places like Goldman Sachs who emerged empowered by the debacle, this myopia was overcome or was merely rendered less pivotal by other factors. - Dave
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World by Bryan Lee O'Malley 200 pp.
This is the second installment about Scott Pilgrim. This one begins with a flashback to his high school days when he gets in a fight on his very first day at a new school. Then the story resumes as 23-year-old Scott deals with 17-year-old Knives who is obsessed with him, his new girlfriend Ramona, and ex-girfriend Envy. So far I'm not that impressed with this series but I'm going on to the next volume.
Mockingbird (mok'ing-burd) by Kathryn Erskine 235 pp.
I read this in one sitting last night after seeing it laying on the desk in Children's. This story is told from the point of view of Caitlin, a ten-year-old with Asperger's Syndrome. She and her father are struggling with "The Day Our Life Fell Apart" when her older brother was tragically killed. In addition, Caitlin struggles daily with her Aspeger's which leaves her unable to read any social cues from the people around her. With the help of an understanding school counselor, Caitlin learns the meaning of 'closure' and begins the arduous job of finding it for herself, her father, and a first grader named Michael, whose mother also died. It's a fascinating look at the thought processes of someone with Asperger's.
Mr. Pip, by Lloyd Jones And yet more war, this one totally unknown to most of the world, which is a central tragedy of the book. On a remote island, the inhabitants are caught between the “redskins,” soldiers from the mainland determined to control the island, and rebels known as “rambos,” young men from the village who have gone off into the jungle to fight. Cut off and blockaded, the remaining villagers ultimately lose everything, but can still physically sustain themselves with fish from the sea and fruit on what would otherwise be a tropical paradise. Emotionally, they are less resilient. However, the last white man, Mr. Watts, who has stayed behind with his mentally and physically damaged native wife, takes on a self-appointed role as schoolteacher to the remaining children. Reading to them from his favorite novel, “Great Expectations,” he is able to transport them to a different place and time and thus provide a refuge from the increasingly horrific events in their young lives. Particularly affected is thirteen year old Matilda, whose father has gone off to Australia and who lives with her very religious mother. This is largely her coming of age story, and a meditation on the power and limitations of art to save us. 272 pp.
More war, this time World War II, and the race to win the war against the infections which took far more lives than battle. Revolving around the development of penicillin, fact and fiction are well woven. Although at first it seemed like it would degenerate into a rather stock love story featuring a plucky divorced young mother making her way, successfully, as a photojournalist and the gallant doctor researching antibiotics that may turn the tide of war in favor of the allies, in the end it was more thoughtful and less predictable. Enjoyable and informative, but not great. 532 pp.
More amusing and affecting essays by the well known author and commentator. None of them had me falling off the couch laughing like the title story of “Me talk pretty one day,” but all were enjoyable. A welcome break from all the war stories I seem to have hauled up to the lake to read on vacation. 257 pp.
I was haunted by the conviction that I had already read this book when the Dickensian character of the private investigator, Parkis, and “his boy,” who he is bringing up in the business, made their first appearance. But later, reading David Sedaris’s collection of essays, one of which relates his and his partner Hugh’s very different reactions to the recent movie adaptation of the novel (Hugh sobs uncontrollably throughout it, David wishes the heroine would hurry up and die), I realized that it must be the movie I was remembering. This short but complex story is a study of romantic love and the love of God, and the difficulties inherent in both. Better than the movie! 192 pp.
I picked up this donated “advance reading copy” of this book because its cover stated that it was shortlisted for the 2009 Commonwealth Prize for Best Book. I can see why. Set primarily in Kashmir, the disputed mountainous border between Pakistan and India, it chronicles the story of Kirpal Singh, known as Kip, a young Sikh who is the son of an Indian major whose plane crashed and disappeared into a crevasse in the glacier at 20,000 feet. Against his mother’s wishes, he also joins the army and is posted to the Indian side, “the more beautiful side” of Kashmir, where he apprentices to the chef who serves the General recently made governor of the state. Told in flashbacks fourteen years later, as Kip returns at the governor’s request to prepare the wedding feast for his daughter, who he last knew as a child, it is a reflection on that on-going conflict and the sacrifices and moral conflicts that in engendered. 246 pp.
This regarded non-fiction work focuses on Antonina Zabinski, the wife of Jan Zabinski, keeper of the Warsaw Zoo in the years leading up to World War II. Although they were not Jewish, after the zoo was bombed and the animals dispersed to German zoos as part of Hitler’s plan to breed “Ayran” animals, they sympathized with those in the Ghetto and sheltered over 300, often in ruined zoo habitats and cages, from certain death during the years leading up to the Warsaw Uprising. In addition to the reader worrying about the fate of the people involved, it was heartrending to become attached to their zoo animals and their son Rys’s exotic pets only to have most of them meet a fate similar to humans who were persecuted under the Nazis. It is an unsentimental account of her life, and she was a remarkable person, as was her husband. However, even though I enjoy “literary” fiction, which tends towards fine writing, I thought that the poet in Ackerman occasionally got out of control and I sometimes longed for a simple prose sentence containing neither an unusual choice of words nor a poetic metaphor. 368 pp.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? [Vol. 1]/Philip K. Dick et al. 144 pg.
This is the first volume of the graphic novel version of one of my favorite books. It has been awhile since I read the original but everything comes back as you read this version. Love the drawings and fear the possibility that this could be our future. - Christa
Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook by Anthony Bourdain 281 pp.
I love Anthony Bourdain even though I hated him the first time I ever saw him on television. I later became a devoted fan of "No Reservations" and his previous books, Kitchen Confidential, The Nasty Bits, & A Cook's Tour. He's snarky, sometimes crude, occasionally profane, but doesn't hold back in his commentary about the world of chefs, restaurants, food, the James Beard Foundation, Alice Waters, and the big food industries. His scathing diatribe about the slipping quality of content on the Food Network is spot on. His "food porn" makes you drool. His rant about the ills of the commercial meat industry is honest without being inflammatory and annoying like Michael Pollan. He doesn't pull any verbal punches and I really wish his wife, Ottavia, had flattened Food Network's Sandra Lee with a few well-placed martial arts moves. And I can't help thinking his young daughter is a very lucky girl to have a father so smitten with her.
The life all around me by Ellen Foster/Kaye Gibbons 218 pg.
It has been many years ago since I read "Ellen Foster" but I still have such a strong memory of that book and character. Ellen has now settled into her new home and is having some interesting adventures. She has decided that she should go to Harvard but at 15, we aren't sure how her request will turn out. She has a run-in with her aunt and starts to repair her relationship with her cousin. Ellen is really a standout and I enjoyed getting up to date with her. I wonder if the author will revisit this character again. - Christa
Batman: R. I. P. by Grant Morrison and Tony Daniels; graphic novel; 208 pages
This was a decidedly dark take on Batman, and one I really enjoyed. The Black Glove, and international organization of criminals, has been preparing to bring Batman down for years, planting subliminal messages, slipping him damaging drugs, and even placing their agents within Bruce Wayne's own circle of friends and loved ones. This is the volume where they make their move. There's a lot going on here, so it was a little hard to keep track of it all. My favorite part was this version of the Joker, who's a horror-movie cross between Sweeney Todd and Cabaret's MC. You get a really good idea of the relationship between Batman and the Joker here, and it's very, very creepy. The whole thing reminded me strongly of Morrison's Arkham Asylum storyline. Overall, I had a great time with this, though it's definitely closer to horror than most Batman stories I've read.
Sorry for being M.I.A. This whole getting ready for college thing is time consuming.
This book really sucked me in. It's about these clones who grow up in a boarding school called Hailsham, and through the eyes of Kathy H., a clone, the novel follows them as they grow up and eventually donate their organs for the good of the rest of society. Extremely haunting, a subtle thriller. I'm definitely going to read his other book. Great for anyone who's not a huge fan of science fiction, but wouldn't mind a somewhat science fictiony read.
Can I keep posting on this blog while I'm at college? Or is this my farewell post :(
Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve; young adult, science fiction; 325 pages
I'm told that there's a lot of foreshadowing in this volume, but since I haven't read Reeve's Hungry City series, most of it was lost on me. I was too caught up in Reeves' world, which is London in the distant future. Technology has been largely lost, and people now engineer devices from what they can excavate (making "archaeologist" a lucrative profession). There's mix of tech here: some of it is very primitive, and some is far advanced, but since people have lost the understanding of how or why things work, much of it is the equivalent of magic. Fourteen-year-old Fever gets caught up in a quest for ancient relics, and meanwhile a group of nomads in great moving buildings threaten the city from the north. I LOVED everything about this book, but I think my favorite part was seeing the way slang had evolved: "blog" is now a curse word, the ruins of Heathrow are known as "Ethrow," etc. I think I'll definitely have to check out the rest of Reeves' books, and I hope this will grow into a series of its own.
The Atrocity Archives and The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross (books 1 and 2 of the Laundry Files series). 345 p. and 313 p.
Since I just read the new entry in this series, I wanted to revisit the earlier books--I couldn't remember many details about Mo, for instance. AA features a plot involving terrorists, Nazis and extradimensional horrors. JM riffs very specifically on James Bond adventures and Deep Ones. In both, our narrator Bob tries to keep his geeky self alive by using his computer expertise to hack Dho-Na summoning curves and suchlike. A fun mashup of spies, lovecraftian horror, and interoffice politics in civil service jobs.
Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl 514 pp.
I didn't know what I expected when I started reading this book but it certainly turned out different than I thought it would. This is the story of a high school senior, her eccentric professor father, a group of her spoiled, over-priveleged classmates, and a teacher who is....inexplicable. Through 80% of the book I wondered just where it was heading. And where it finally ended up was totally unexpected. But the path from here to there made the book hard to put down.
A Spider on the Stairs by Cassandra Chan. 310 p. (book 4 in an untitled series)
It's been several years since I read the previous book in this series, so I couldn't remember what I didn't like about it. A lot of it has to do with expectations of the book--the publisher makes a big deal about it being a "successor" to the Lord Peter Wimsey novels, and of course nothing's really going to live up to that billing. The main characters are a British policeman, Jack Gibbons, and his old school pal, who's a clever but unemployed (though not poor) member of the minor nobility, Phillip Bethancourt. Phillip tags along with Jack and acts as an amateur detective--I assume that's the Wimsey parallel the publisher is touting. Jack is a perfectly nice character, though not all that interesting; Phillip is okay, but can be kind of a jerk, and I find his romance with a high-strung model to be tedious in the extreme--I can't stand her, or him when he's with her. This particular book further diffuses the character focus by adding another policeman who specializes in serial killers. The serial killer story resolution was kind of neat, but overall this book leaves me with a big feeling of "meh." So in a few years I'll probably see another one in this series, and remember a general feeling of disappointment but be unable to remember what I don't like about this one, and pick up the new one, and the cycle will start again.
Much Obliged Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse-Humor, [208 pages]. Nothing is better, while doing summer chores, than plugging in the old mp3 player and listening to the tales of Jeeves and Wooster from our Overdrive Downloadable Audio collection (ask us how to access this if you don't already know). In this tale, Bertie tries to convince one and all that he is not a thief, helps a friend running for Parliament and does his best to avoid marriage, all possible only with the help of Jeeves and many cocktails. Fun and lighthearted and well read by . -- Patrick
Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpren-Humor, 158 pages. Acerbic and funny, Justin Halpern's collection of his dad's bits of wisdom, advice and observations, first came to life on his Twitter page, now it's a book and soon it will be a TV show. Go figure. It is a quick read, as his dad never pulls punches, or puts up with bs, and always has something to say. --Patrick
The Good Son by Michael Gruber-383 pages, thriller The Good Son features a Jungian analyst who is a former circus-performer, a former hero of the mujahideen who is now a special forces soldier, and an NSA linguist who may have uncovered an act of nuclear terror or a fake act of nuclear terror,or an act of nuclear terror hidden by a fake act. It is a convoluted thriller that takes its time, with all the characters given the opportunity to tell their complicated stories and explain their takes on religion and life. A good story and a wonderful thriller.--Patrick
Batman: Battle for the Cowl by Tony Daniel (story) and Fabian Nicieza (art); graphic novel; 160 pages
This is the follow-up to a long string of Batman arcs, and I've only read a few of them. As a result, I think I missed some of the subtleties of the story, and I definitely had to looks some characters up to figure out when, exactly, they had come back from the dead. I found this interesting to read, especially so close to finishing Knightfall, because the plot is very similar: Bruce Wayne is out of the picture, and a new, impostor Batman is out of control. This story goes in a totally different direction than Knightfall, but I couldn't help comparing them as I read. The art is FAR better here, by the way. I may have missed some things here, but reading this did give me some ideas for which stories to read next (as I'm now apparently reading the series in reverse order).
Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O'Malley 168 pp.
Since the movie came out and there's been a lot of talk about it among our younger staff & volunteers, I was curious. As graphic novels go this first volume was so-so. 23-year-old Scott Pilgrim plays in a band, has a teen-aged girlfriend, lives in small flat with his friend Wallace. He begins having dreams about a delivery girl who he then meets in person. Immediately after meeting her he gets an email and then letter from one of her ex-boyfriends who plans to destroy him. This is the premise for the entire series: Scott must defeat Ramona's seven ex-boyfriends. Intriguing but not outstanding.
168 Hours: You have more time than you think/Laura Vanderkam 257 pg.
I was prepared to ridicule this book but at the same time I can get angry when I hear the tired old "busy" when I ask someone how they are... Really? aren't we all busy even if we are busy doing nothing? But enough about my issues, let's get back to the book. The author has done some good research and points out that we all have the same amount of time. There are time studies and examples of people who are accomplishing much more than you and me. Best of all, there are some concrete examples of how to make more of your time and be realistic about what you are doing now. In the end, not all of these strategies will work for every situation but many of us can find something here to use. - Christa
Freud for Beginners by Richard Appignanesi 175 pp.
This is the second book I've read from the "for Beginners" graphic novel style series. This one was darker and not as entertaining as the one about Einstein, but it is about Freud's theories. However, it does give an overview of his life and work including his experimenting with cocaine, coining the term "psychoanalysis" and the development of his theories like the Oedipus complex, dream analysis, the Pleasure Principal, Ego-Id-Super-ego, and his split with Carl Jung and others in the field of psychiatry. This book includes a small glossary and references.
Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce; young adult, horror; 336 pages
I picked this one up purely based on the cover (which is awesome). When I found out it was not only a fairy tale retelling, but one with werewolves, I was even happier. This is a dark, urban take on "Little Red Riding Hood," in which the sisters' grandmother was killed by a Fenris (a werewolf) when they were growing up. The elder sister, Scarlett, killed the wolf, but not before being terribly scarred. Now the sisters hunt the wolves, killing as many as they can find, and using themselves as bait. While the twist was fairly obvious (I had it picked out about a quarter of the way into the book), it was still an enjoyable story, with the sisters and their childhood friend Silas (who may become more than a friend for one of them) tracking the wolves from their small down in rural Georgia to the back alleys of Atlanta. There's the expected love story, but also a refreshing bit of insecurity from Scarlett, a nice change from the spate of beautiful, fearless heroines that seem to be crowding urban fantasy these days. And of course, these werewolves are terrifying, and the fight scenes are very well written. Highly recommended.
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, vol 1: The Pox Party, by M. T. Anderson; young adult, historical fiction; 384 pages (about 9 hours, listening)
I loved Feed enough that I sought out some more of Anderson's work. I don't normally read a lot of historical fiction, but I find it refreshing every once in a while. This book had enough gothic horror thrown in to make it a quick, and engaging, read. It's the story of Octavian, a slave in colonial Boston, in the years leading up to the Revolutionary War. It's an interesting point of view, since I don't know much about that time period beyond my high school history classes--and those really glossed over the role of slavery in the northern colonies. Octavian lives at a "college" where he has been very well educated as part of an ongoing social experiment. This volume, the first of two, had him growing to young adulthood, realizing that he's a slave, and eventually rebelling. The language here is a good imitation of eighteenth century writing, which was a nice touch. The only part I found strange was that the last quarter of the book, which up until then had been narrated by Octavian, is told through the letters of a militiaman in the Patriot army. It still continues Octavian's story, but the change in narrator was abrupt and jarring. Really good, and I can see why this won the National Book Award. Starting volume two on the drive home.
Stuff: compulsive hoarding and the meaning of things/Randy Frost & Gail Steketee 290 pgs.
Boy does this hit close to home. I have gotten pretty good about not getting things but still have a hard time getting rid of what I have. Family on both sides are more obviously troubled and certainly a few hoarders there. Very interesting book as I recognized many of the reasons I keep things. It scared me into getting rid of some "treasures" this morning. Hopefully it will motivate me to continue. - Christa
The Fuller Memorandum by Charles Stross (a Laundry Files novel #3). 312 p.
The Laundry is a British government agency that deals with espionage and national security. What they're trying to keep Britain safe from is eldritch horrors intent on destroying the human race. It turns out that using computers to do magic can make magic more powerful and easily controllable, so computer geeks like Bob Howard end up on the front lines. The Laundry books are a mashup of spy thrillers and lovecraftian weirdness, and they're a lot of fun. This one is a bit darker than the earlier ones--Bob's not in very good shape at the end--but still a lot of fun. And quite funny.
Beautiful boy: a father's journey through his son's addiction/ David Sheff 325 pg.
This book tells of the intelligent, young kid with a great future who becomes a horrible addict who steals from his family and friends (even his little brother who had saved $8) and almost kills himself. This scenario replays itself as he goes through rehab then relapses over and over again. His dad tells the story and tells of his heartache and guilt...what did he do wrong to make his son this way? Nic (the son) has his own memoir out telling the story from his perspective. Maybe after a few lighter books I'll try that one. - Christa
Batman: Knightfall, part 3: KnightsEnd by Chuck Dixon and various artists; graphic novel; 320 pages
This is they type of thing that annoys comics fans. Apparently there was another part to this story, between this volume and the previous one, which was never collected into graphic novel form. So when this book opens, much has happened more or less off-screen: Bruce Wayne can walk again, he's rescued the doctor he's in love with and Robin's father, the Batman substitute has defeated Bane, but also killed two people (!!), and now Bruce is taking lessons from Lady Shiva, a notorious assassin, to get back in top form. Maybe DC should have just broken down and collected those other issues, because I feel like I missed a LOT. I can only imagine how much more annoying this was in 1995 without Wikipedia to fill in the gaps. The story concludes here, with Bruce Wayne/Batman victorious (of course), but there are lasting repercussions--most notably that Batman has to reestablish trust with the law enforcement of Gotham. My favorite part of the story was probably Nightwing's continued voicing of what we've all been thinking: why on earth did Bruce leave the Batman title in the hands of a psychopath, rather than asking Nightwing to fill in???? It's not like he doesn't have the training....
Batman: Knightfall, part 2: Who Rules the Night by Chuck Dixon (writer) and various artists; graphic novel; 280 pages
Continuing my reading of the Knightfall series, this second entry was, in some ways, much darker than the first. Following his crushing defeat and injury at the hands of Bane, Bruce Wayne takes a leave of absence as Batman to focus on his recovery. He leaves Gotham with a stand-in Batman, who turns out to be more than a little unstable. As the new Batman terrorizes the criminals of the city, Robin tries to keep him in check, and Bruce sets off to find the kidnapped doctor who can help heal him. The art was a little more even in this volume, but still nothing stand-out. The story, though, is very compelling, and really sets up the momentum for the final act.
The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next series, book 1), by Jasper Fforde; crime, fantasy; 384 pages (about 8 hours, listening)
I missed this book when it first came out (to be fair, I wasn't in LibraryLand yet), and I've been meaning to come back to it for some time. Of course, now that I've read it, I'm hooked. Fforde's world is unique, and I've loved Jane Eyre for years, so the combination of altered physics, time travel, literature, and a machine to let people enter books makes this a great read. There's also the subplot about the authorship of Shakespeare's works that plays out beautifully at the end. I listened to this on CD, and I thought the reader did a great job: she's British, so her accent was good match, but she also handled the other accents in the book really well. I hope she continues in the rest of the series.
The Unwritten. Vol. 1, Tommy Taylor and the bogus identity by Mike Carey and Peter Gross. 144 p.
Unlike Annie (who blogged this on 7/6), I got to the twist at the end of the volume and went, "Really? You're going *there*?" It seemed so...prosaic after the setup we've gotten so far. The fiction/reality blurring is interesting, but I think the ending plot twist would have worked better if it weren't so clear that Tom is being set up; there's not enough uncertainty about the reality of Pullman's actions to suit me. I certainly want to read the next volume, though.
Also, since the plot involves beloved children's books characters--the main character is very similar to Harry Potter, which the story itself points out--I keep wondering if the scary enforcer guy named Pullman is a reference to Philip Pullman.
Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour by Bryan Lee O'Malley (Scott Pilgrim vol. 6). 234 p.
This finally wraps up the saga of slacker extraordinaire Scott Pilgrim. Yes, he finds Ramona again. Yes, he fights her seventh evil ex-boyfriend. Yes, he dies. (Oops.) If you've been reading the series, you'll definitely want to check this out to find out how things end up. If not--they're lots of fun, pick them up! You'll need to start at the beginning, though.
The Snake Head: an epic tale of the Chinatown underworld and the American Dream / Patrick Radden Keefe
I didn't notice this book when it came in last year but it made the ALA notable books list so I thought it would be good. Boy was ALA right. We hear a lot about illegal Mexican immigrants but not so much about other illegals. Back in the 80's and 90's there were a lot of Chinese coming and the people smuggling business was huge. This book tells the story of one fateful ship that ran aground in Queens with 300 undocumented immigrants and how they ended up there. The Chinese entrepreneurs who managed the "travel" were known as Snake Heads and no one was better than Sister Ping. Some of the events in this book seem so crazy but the author does a good job of documenting the story. - Christa