Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sleeping Freshman Never Lie by David Lubar

I've been listening to this audiobook, and I'm giving up: It's probably a great book, but I think the full-cast audio with special effects has totally ruined it. I can't stand the reverb, hate the tinkly nursery music, and after 3 discs the jazz-lite transitions now set my teeth on edge.

The book switches between first-person narrative and lists/letters/diaries written by high school freshman Scott Hudson. There are a lot of great setups for Scott's freshman foibles - he leaps into situations for the attention of a girl, and ends up in several extra-curricular activities he had no plans on joining.

The letter/lists/etc. mostly take the form of advice for his unborn sibling. Scott is a great voice, and the book is probably great. But I'd take a wide berth around this audiobook.

The Skinny by Louis J. Aronne, MD

This book was recommended by online friends - I can't say I'll follow his diet plan, but the theory behind it is interesting. And something that you could actually put in everyday practice.

Aronne's weight loss system is all about feeling full - being satisfied, and not feeling like you're missing out. Generally, the guidelines require you to eat a quantity of the good-for-you, filling foods, then a quantity of the the better-for-you, slightly-less-filling foods, then finally you can eat the not-so-great stuff. Theory: you'll be less hungry by the time you get to the carbs and junk, so you'll eat less of them.

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

Dan Brown totally plays into my "readers OCD" - I swear he writes these books with people like me in mind. I *cannot* put a book down until I'm at a "stopping point" (ie: section break, chapter end, etc.). But Brown ends every chapter in a cliffhanger, thereby preventing me from EVER putting the book down. Until the end.

I thought this book started a little slow. I found myself thinking, "hmm. Apparently the speech he was supposed to give - he's going to stand around and give it to the police." But once they actually left the rotunda and got walking, the action picked up for me.

And again, I finished a Dan Brown book in the wee hours of the AM.

I really liked the theology of this book - the melding of the science vs. religion arguments into a habitable belief system was satisfying to me.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Between the Bridge and the River by Craig Ferguson

I'm a huge fan of the Late, Late Show (when I "forget" to go to bed), and since Ferguson's autobiography is coming out soon, I wanted to see what else he'd written. Hey! He wrote a novel!

It's funny - and pretty good. I didn't know what to expect, and it was certainly not what I might have expected. But I really enjoyed it, and I was anxious to see where it would all lead.

If you watch much of Ferguson's show, you know he's smart and quick. His writing is the same: keep up, or you'll miss something. You're rewarded for your knowledge - I love that.

I'm not sure I can sum this book up in a few sentences - there are a lot of characters and storylines, all leading to one big gathering. I read Tom Robbins' "Still Life with Woodpecker" a couple times in high school and college, and I was reminded of that book a few times while I was reading this. This book's about religion, or more correctly, it's about belief. There are a lot of believers, non-believers, and hucksters here. And it's got some strange (but great) trippy kind of supernatural sequences that may be heaven/hell, drugs, or dreams/nightmares.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Melinda is an outcast at her school. A summer party got busted (thanks to her) and now everybody hates her. But nobody has bothered to ask Melinda why she did what she did.

This book unfolds gently, and the reader gradually pieces together Melinda's situation as the book progresses. I started to think I knew what happened a long time before it was finally revealed - and I have to say that I changed my mind a couple times as the story progressed.

It's painful to see Melinda so hurt. You want to shake her, or yell, or something. SPEAK UP! SAY SOMETHING! But instead, Melinda stays silent.

Another great book, and another great book we'll be talking about in teen/parent book discussions.

The Earth, My Butt and Other Big, Round Things by Carolyn Mackler

Of all the teen books I've read lately (I have been on a kick, haven't I?) this may be my favorite.

I loved this book because it's "true" in the sense that many real kids will - and do - find themselves in these situations. While there's drama, it's not *DRAMA*! Things are uncomfortable, or confusing, or crappy - but they're just part of learning to be yourself and live life.

This is a book about a girl figuring out who she is and who she wants to be. From the title, you can figure out that Virginia's weight is an issue. But it seems to be a bigger issue for those around her - for example, her mother.

We're hosting a teen/parent book discussion on this title, and I hope we get some good participation; I can't wait to hear what others thought!

Monday, September 14, 2009

The fixer upper by Mary Kay Andrews

This is truly the last piece of brain candy for a while. Normally, I enjoy MKA's writing, but this one dragged on for me. I know that we've all been far too naive for our own good at various times but the character of Dempsey completely misses the fact that she's assisting her corrupt lobbyist of a boss in bribing a U.S. senator. She's an attorney for goodness sake! Her father's an attorney; surely she's seen someone corrupt in her 27 years on the planet. The home renovation comes across as far less complex than a real one would be.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Not Becoming My Mother by Ruth Reichl

I've read all of Ruth Reichl's books on her life as a restaurant critic and food editor. But this book is a little different: It's a tiny little tome that honors her mother.

Reichl explains that her mother Miriam gave the best examples in opposition - what NOT to do, rather than what TO do. While Reichl spent most of her life telling entertaining "Mim Tales" of her mother's outrageous behaviors, it was after her mother's death and the retrospect found in reading her mother's letters that Reichl finds the woman behind the characture.

It's a touching, sensitive book. Reichl probes and re-discovers her relationship with her mother through her writing, and it's the kind of book that will make you re-analyze some of your own relationships.

How honestly do we see the people we're closest to?

Flamingos on the Roof by Calef Brown

There's a great "mouth feel" to the rhymes here - I kept finding myself reading them out loud: first to Kristine, then to myself as I mouthed them silently.

Every one of the poems in this book will make you giggle. Or laugh out loud. And I don't even like poetry (usually).

But Calef Brown is a genius - and the goofy folk art style illustrations make the silliness even better.