Monday, January 26, 2009

The Possibilities of Sainthood by Donna Freitas

OK - full disclosure: I'm a long-time gone from worrying about my first kiss. And I am not now and never was Catholic. But usually, being a supposed "grown up" doesn't prevent my enjoyment of youth books and youthful endeavors. Except this book.

Antonia Lucia Labella is not a boring, suburban teen - rather, she's an American girl living in an old-world Italian family and neighborhood. Her family owns a grocery, and they work to make it successful nearly every minute of the day. She attends Catholic girls school. She's obsessed with saints and becoming the first living saint, but not overly engrossed in religion on the whole. Mostly, she just wants to finally find the right boy to kiss her - NOW!

I'm pretty "meh" on this one. It had moments of cute. And I did read all the way to the end. But I can't say I was fully engaged, or rooting for Antonia to figure things out. But then again, maybe I'm just old ...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Scrambled States of America Talent Show by Laurie Keller

The next in the series of Scrambled States books - and another winner!

These books actually remind me of the old Richard Scarry books I loved as a kid. There are so many little side conversations, things to look at, and things to investigate that you can spend several minutes on each page spread, even after you've read the storyline text. Plus, it's all educational! Each state character's comments and actions are reflective of the state's history and demographics. It's amazing what you can learn "by accident" just investigating the book.

I think this book's extras would be too much for really young kids, but the main story is pretty entertaining by itself. Older kids will enjoy investigating the variety on each page, either independently or to read with a grown-up's assistance.

Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill

A beautifully rendered graphic novel with equal parts horror, gore, mystery and the supernatural. It's the first book in a new series, and I'll definitely look for the next - while it's gorier than I'd usually prefer (even cartoon murder is maybe more than I need to see), the classic scary supernatural storyline hooked me, big time. I want to know what's up with the scary chick in the wellhouse, and I want to know what's behind the rest of the doors in the Locke house.

Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman

This is Klosterman's first fiction. I was curious, because his nonfiction has been a little hit-or-miss. "Fargo Rock City" is genius; "Sex, Drugs & Cocoa Puffs" - not so much.

Have you ever lived in a really small town, where everybody knows everybody, and your history is a living, breathing part of your everyday modern life? Welcome to Owl ND.

The story alternates between points of view: a high school football player, an Owl old-timer, a new teacher in town. Their stories don't really converge, but they can't really stay separate in a town this small.

I was shocked by the end. I can't say I saw it coming. Which is always a good thing - but unsettling, none the less, during this cold, blowing, snowy January in WI.

Plum Spooky by Janet Evanovich

Finally, the "between-the-numbers" series gets a real book with fully fleshed out storyline, and some truly great new characters!

I think Diesel is worth reconsidering the classic "Morelli vs. Ranger" debate, and you won't soon forget Elmer the Fire Farter: I think he & Grandma Mazar have a definite future together.

I refer to all Evanovich books as "brain candy" - sweet and light, but not real nutrition. And I don't care. You've got to have dessert once in a while too!

A Penguin Story by Anoinette Portis

This is my new favorite children's book - Portis has such a great imagination, and creates such rich, funny, interesting worlds with such simple drawings and limited colors.

When the penguin finds "something different," the expression on the expressionless explorer's face is so funny, I giggle now just thinking about it!

A true winner!

The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen

This was a great new find for story time. The oh so sad looking pout-pout fish brought on gales of giggles from children and parents alike. This book makes reading with expression very easy.

The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan

This is the book I'm pitching to the bookclub this year.

Corrigan defines the middle place as the spot where the titles "Someone's Kid" and "Someone's Parent" collide. This is her happiest place - she's still the daughter of the renown George Corrigan, but also the mom of 2 beautiful girls. Then her sense of definition is called into question as she and her dad deal with cancer simultaneously.

It's not a sad cancer book. Really, it's a great, funny book about families and the way we relate to one another.

I usually avoid cancer books like a CA-125 test, but this one hardly stung at all.

The Customer is Always Wrong

"The Customer is Always Wrong: The Retail Chronicles," edited by Jeff Martin

This collection of essays covers all elements of retail service, and was pitched by book media as tragicomic and absurd ... I found it basically interesting, but not side-splitting.

If you've ever worked a crappy job behind the cash register, you'll find some kindred spirits and even a few chuckles here. Overall it's a nice selection of essays on a theme, just not as funny as it had been pitched.

American Thighs by Jill Conner Browne

The funniest in the series since The Field Guide to Men. I was giggling by page four and laughing to much to read the words by page 20. It only got better from there.

Plum Spooky by Janet Evanovich

This is the best between the numbers book yet. The story seemed much more complete than the previous novellas.