Monday, August 31, 2009

Dress Your Best by Clinton Kelly and Stacy London

This book came highly regarded from a group of online friends during a discussion on the dearth of reasonable, attractive clothing for real women.

(Although the book does also include information for men and women.)

The book is broken down into body types: bigger on top, bigger on bottom, curvy, not curvy, etc. Once you determine your shape there are several illustrations on what works for day, night, work, etc. and general tips and guidelines.

I found the book interesting, but not necessarily earth-shattering. Maybe I knew myself better than I'd thought?

Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew B. Crawford

Written by a guy with a PhD in political philosophy who now owns a motorcycle repair shop, this book is a deep, analytical look at the value of getting your hands dirty. The author discusses the loss of blue-collar job training in our schools, and ponders the general unhappiness of much of our country's white-collar workers.

It's an interesting topic and there are a lot of chewy bits that I find myself pondering and working over. It's extremely thought-provoking, especially for those who do enjoy working with their hands and their heads.

But I found the book heavy - it is written much like a doctoral thesis and I found the point was sometimes lost and bogged down by the scholarly analysis.

How your house works

How your house works : a visual guide to understanding & maintaining your home by Charles Wing

This was interesting, but not really what I was looking for. I think I'm too much of a novice to really be able to use these in depth descriptions of plumbing, electrical and other structures within a house.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Land of a Hundred Wonders by Lesley Kagen

Twenty year old Gibby McGraw survived the car accident that killed both of her parents. The extensive head injuries she sustained have affected her memory and reasoning, but she's quite happy now living with Grandpa in small town Cray Ridge, Kentucky. Although she is NQR (their term for her condition: Not Quite Right), Gibby doesn't let the challenges stop her from publishing her own newspaper, working at Grandpa's diner, and trying to reclaim her independence.

Gibby's also determined to set her momma's heavenly soul at rest by proving she is Quite Right by writing an awfully good story. When she finds a dead body she knows that she's got the perfect awfully good story - if she can remember what it is long enough to solve the mystery.

Our bookclub read (and loved) Kagen's first book, Whistling in the Dark. This book is equally satisfying.

While Gibby's actually a young adult, her disability gives her a child-like view of the world: which creates tension, entertainment, and frustration - sometimes all at once.

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart

I was such a fan of the first book in this series, The Mysterious Benedict Society, that I squealed like a girl when I found the second and third books were to be released this year. (The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma will be released in October.)

This book opens on the 1-year anniversary of the group's first adventure. We learn the gang's all settled into their new & improved lives, but each is also excited about a reunion with their friends and mentors.

Unfortunately, before that can happen, someone kidnaps Mr. Benedict and Number 2 - so the vacation that was meant to celebrate their reunion instead becomes a "scavenger hunt" type rescue mission to follow the clues.

Again, the kids are much, much smarter than nearly everyone they meet.

Again, they set off on their own with little or no adult supervision.

And again, their outcome could affect the safety of the entire world.

Again, I loved every minute of it.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Brush mona lisa's hair

Brush Mona Lisa's Hair by Julie Appel and Amy Guglielmo

This is part of the "touch the art" series of board books from Sterling Publishing Company. I saw the series at a trade show and decided they'd be a nice addition to the library's collection. When this one arrived, I read through it, and then had a good laugh at Vermeer's "Girl with a pearl earring." I believe the earring is supposed to be a drop style, but in the book, it looks as though there's a floating plastic pearl on the girl's neck. Immediately I showed it to a co-worker and she said, "Hmm. Girl with a pearl...", at that point, I jumped in with, "goiter." Of course, I can no longer look at the painting, book or movie by that title without giggling.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ballyhoo bay

Ballyhoo bay by Judy Sierra

A fun new picture book with an ecological twist. See how children and sea animals work together to save the beach from greedy developers. An interesting introduction to the concept of town meetings. I have to say, parliamentary procedure doesn't work quite this way.

For the love of pete

For the love of Pete by Julia Harper

So you remember the character of Dante Torelli from Harper's book Hot, right?" He's back and this time, he's teamed up with a woman who seems to be his polar opposite. Dante's neat, precise, and a little obsessive. Crazy Zoey, leaps in front of his moving Beamer to stop him from taking her parking space. During a shootout, she hops in and insists on helping with his current FBI case.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

Connie Goodwin's Harvard advisor has just demanded she find some truly unique (and of course here-to-fore unseen) primary source to build her doctoral thesis around. Before she even gets to chance to consider how this impossible feat will be made possible, her mother calls and demands that Connie spend the summer repairing and cleaning her late grandmother's house so it can be sold. A historic treasure-trove of a house that Connie did not even know existed until that moment.

Barring a few too many quaint coincidences, I really enjoyed this book. It easily moves between plotlines in 1692 and 1991, and there were enough surprises and bends in the tale to keep me interested.

The novel's premise boils down to this: what if they weren't all religious zealots and wack-jobs, and witchcraft DID really exist in Salem in 1692?

Girl in a fix.

Girl in a fix. Quick beauty solutions and why they work by Somer Flaherty and Jen Kollmer

I saw it at a trade show and wondered if it would be a good addition to the library's collection. It might. It's kind of like Heloise for the teen scene.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Late, Lamented Molly Marx by Sally Koslow

I'm always fascinated with perceptions of the afterlife - I don't always like them, but I do like to see what authors think it might be like. And that's what drew me to this book.

Molly Marx died in a bicycle accident on the shores of the Hudson River. No one's quite sure what happened, but many of her nearest and dearest (and the police) are a bit suspicious. Even Molly doesn't quite remember what happened, despite the fact she's currently inhabiting "The Duration," observing her friends and family left behind, and enjoying the new special observation powers she has acquired.

Molly gains new perspective on her life by observing those she left behind. While she wasn't perfect, she had a normal up-and-down kind of life where she did the best she could with what she had at the moment.

This book is kind of hard to pigeon hole: It's got a mystery, and it's sorta chick lit, but it's not really either of those things completely. I will recommend it - I really enjoyed it, with its unique perspective and gradual story development.

You Are a Miserable Excuse for a Hero by Bob Powers

Remember those "choose-your-own-adventure" books from the early 1980's? This is an adult version, intended for thirty-somethings with a dark sense of humor and a broad swath of nostalgia.

At the story's start, you're an unsuccessful actor woken up by the telephone. A voice tells you the girl you went on a first date with last night has been kidnapped, and since you're the only person she knows in town ... it's up to you to save her.

At every turn you are given the chance to do the right thing or to be a loser. It's your choice: Do you roll over and go back to bed? Or do you get up and try to help? Do you ask your parents for money, or visit an old college friend with money? Or do you get sidetracked by your ex, and end up in bed with her?

It's a cheesy, kinda lame book. Exactly like the ones from childhood. I'd forgotten just how unsatisfying the storyline always was with these books once you'd make your choice. There's never a plan C option - damn it! I want another option!

It's a fun book, and perfect for pick-up-and-put-down reading. The storylines are dark and hilarious. Just the kind of grown-up nostalgia trip you need sometimes.

My Booky Wook by Russell Brand

I tried. Really, I did. But I couldn't do it ... I made it about 75 pages into this, and decided it just wasn't worth my time and energy.

And I even read People magazine and care about stupid star stuff. But there is nothing of value in this book that I can discern. I waded through pages and pages of his bad childhood, filled with vague British references that require at least one footnote on every page, just so you can sort of understand what Brand is saying.

Nope. Couldn't do it. And that's saying a lot.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Lunch by Denise Fleming

An all time favorite for story time. The little white mouse is very hungry; by the end of the book, he's also very messy. This is a fun picture book that shows kids many familiar foods, and introduces a turnip which in Wisconsin is a little less popular. I enjoy doing this with a mouse puppet and various fruits and vegetables cut out of felt. My puppet is just large enough for me to hide the felt pieces in its paws so that it looks as though the mouse is really eating all those things.

If you see a kitten

If you see a kitten by John Butler

This was a feature book during the "cat and mouse" theme this week in story time. The toddlers loved being able to play along and make the various sounds on each page. If you see a spider...say "eek." If you see an elephant...say "wow."

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sliding into home

Sliding into home by Joanne Rock

I read so-called "trashy romance" on a regular basis and normally have no problem admitting to that. However, this particular book has a very buff and shirtless baseball player on the cover. It happened to be in my purse during a rain delay at a baseball game when I was sitting behind the dugout. I enjoyed the four short stories very much, but felt the need to read with the cover flat against my knees for a good twenty pages.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Pact by Jodi Picoult

Recently we interviewed high school students for part-time jobs at the library, and nearly half of the applicants told us their favorite author was Jodi Picoult. This is the second book of hers I've read, and I think I'm starting to see why they're so popular with teens: she writes extremely well from a teen point of view, and her themes are always ripped immediately from today's headlines.
This book deals with teen lovers and a suicide pact: she's dead, he's not, and now he's being tried for murder.

The angle that makes this story unusual is the relationship between the two families involved. They have been neighbors and best friends for 18 years. The kids grew up together as best friends and confidants. Both sets of parents had always hoped their children would grow into a couple and marry.

Picoult enjoys allowing her story's details to bloom and unfurl slowly as the book progresses. This technique keeps you reading, and keeps you guessing. You're always waiting for the twist or the reveal. And somehow, you're never let down.

Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey

Throwing aside Oprah's whole fiasco - fiction or nonfiction, I don't care. Frey knows how to write an engrossing story. This is the story of Los Angeles - its past, it people, its flavor.

This book is supposedly fiction. But you'll recognize many of the characters as not-so-made-up. Each chapter stands alone. Some of the people we meet in the story chapters reappear in later, other characters appear once then disappear forever. Between the story chapters are "fact" chapters: some are brief factoids of just a sentence or a paragraph, others are tourism propaganda, yet others are reminiscent of John Stewart's smarmy "fake news" stories.

Frey is the prince of the king of maybe the tzar of run-on stream-of-consciousness sentences that would have made your uptight wound-too-tight tight-assed high school English teacher weep into her Strunk & White.

I really enjoyed this book and its unconventional structure. But I also really enjoyed Frey's other books. But by all means ... form your own opinion. Don't let me (or Oprah) tell you what to think.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Urchin of the Riding Stars by M.I. McAllister

I'm not sure where I found this book - I'm pretty sure it must have been a pre-release notice about the 4th book in the series, to be released in August. It must have sounded good, because I went back and placed a hold on the first in the Mistmantle Chronicles series: "Urchin of the Riding Stars."

This is a renaissance-style story, full of kings and ladies, castles and the court. The twist is that Mistmantle is an island of animals: hedgehogs, otters, moles and squirrels. Animals act and relate in a human way, with quirks and characteristics influenced by their animal species. For the most part, they interact and get along despite their differences.

I loved this book, and no small part of that should be attributed to the excellent audio reader, Andrew Sachs. From the whispered elegance of Lady Aspen to the snarls of evil Captain Husk or the desolate growls of King Brushen, Sachs' performance was flawless. Unfortunately, I've discovered this is the only book in the series currently available on audio. I will read the rest, but I would have been happier to listen.

The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney

The bookclub chose this one for July - a murder mystery set in the trapper-trader days. It was an unusually "guy" choice for our bookclub ladies, and we all really enjoyed it.

I'm not sure I'd pitch it to prospective readers as a murder story. Rather, it's a great historical fiction set in upper Minnesota right on the Canadian border. There's a conflict between the Company and the trappers, as always erupts when big corporations try to "own" independent, strong men like these solitary wilderness adventurers. Oh, and there is a murder.

Bookclub decided it was a well-written book, with lyrical descriptions of place and conditions. We all enjoyed it, and I have recommended it several times already.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

I'd been telling people I was reading a great middle-school book about a boy who's family was murdered and so he was raised by the ghosts in the graveyard. Never fails: adults give you the cynical, distrusting head-tilt and say acerbically, "For kids?"

Yes. For kids. But as is true with all great books, really ... for anyone.

I really enjoyed Bod's story. It was dark and full of suspense without being too frightening or depressing. I listened to the audiobook (read by the author!) and found myself wishing for more necessary travel.

It's really a tale of growing up and finding oneself. And even if you have the best parents in the world - or the graveyard - eventually you've got to set out on your own and find out what the real world is like.