Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

This month's book club choice - and a good one at that ... although I find we have less interesting conversations when we all enjoyed the book.

I actually listened to this one, and liked it so much I then went online and bought a paperback copy for my own collection. I think it'll be the kind of book to reference back to at a later date, as a refresher on the points you really wanted to implement in your own life.

I won't go into too much summary detail because everybody knows about this one: dying man gives lecture on how to live life. I'd read about it, and purposely avoided it because I was afraid it would be a piece of treacle fluff - but I was pleasantly surprised. I really enjoyed it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

American on Purpose by Craig Ferguson

I wasn't sure what to expect out of Ferguson's memoir, but I knew it would be funny. And I was right - but it's also very poignant and serious at times too.

Ferguson's life story reads more like a rock 'n' roll memoir than comedian/talk show/actor's story. He's lived a life of extreme excess and adventure, and has come out on for the better anyway. He's not self-pitying or sentimental about his life - he takes an honest, even-handed look at the good and bad. And he doesn't blame anybody else. That ownership and cynical detachment is hard to achieve when dealing with your own life - his success in that endeavor makes it a much better memoir than most (cough*clapton*cough).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Apparently, I'm a sucker for a good roadtrip story - and this one is excellent!

Basically, a teen with terminal degenerative "mad cow disease" takes off to save the world (and himself) on a road trip with the kid from the next hospital bed - a hypochondriac teen dwarf. Along the way, there's a punk angel, a cursed Norse god stuck in yard gnome form, Disneyworld, fire demons, and a not-so-dead jazz legend. Among others.

Throughout, you're never sure if the book's a fantasy, if the trip is really happening, or if the whole thing is just part of Cameron's brain deteriorating. Maybe all three.

Funny, touching, and thoroughly entertaining.

Hot House Flower and the 9 Plants of Desire by Margot Berwin

This is absolutely one of the best books I've read (listened to, actually). Jaw-dropping descriptions, strange situations, and I never knew what was going to happen next. WOW.

The book's a mix of mysticism, sensuality, and botany. It's fiction - really the story of a newly divorced woman trying to find herself - but much, much different than other books with that starting point. It's not a sex book (oh, Juan Carlo! You must take me now!) but it is truly one of the most sensual, sexual books I've read in recent history ... I never knew plants could be so sexy (especially the exquisitely sexually frustrated and tortured Sensimilla! Yikes!).

Monday, October 19, 2009

Design Explorations for the Creative Quilter

by Katie Pasquini Masopust

As a quilter, I can do the usual patterns that you see with straight lines and beautiful techniques, but sometimes I get bored. My two favorite parts of quilting are color and creativity. Ms. Masopust has a great technique when it comes to fused applique. This book showed me a new way to take my ideas and translate them into a quilt more easily and still with a lot of impact.

9 x 13 the pan that can

Yum. You know you can do a lot with your 9 x 13 baking pan. This book gives you many delicious recipes for meals at home or, my favorite, pot luck. Who wouldn't want a slice of root beer float cake p. 317?

The adventures of chatterer the red squirrel by Thornton W. Burgess

I spent many years trying to remember the name of a series of books I'd loved as a child. Thanks to the help of another librarian, I once again found Thornton Burgess' Mother West Wind books.
These are nice chapter books featuring animals as the characters. They make a great stepping stone between picture books and the Redwall series.

Friday, October 9, 2009

How the States Got Their Shapes by Mark Stein

While many grade-schoolers would argue with me, I'd venture that geography is fascinating: I mean, you've got your world politics, scientific land forms, cultural influences, petty gripes and grudges, and religion - all mixed up in one big pot!

This book is IDEAL for a trivia or history geek. We experience the geography of US states every day, yet hardly anybody thinks about it. Why doesn't Wisconsin own Michigan's Upper Peninsula? Why does Oklahoma have a panhandle? Why is Rhode Island even a state?

I thought this might be a pick-up and put-down book (and you maybe could try that) but I think it would be better if you just started at the beginning and worked straight through. So many of the stories are intertwined, and the author lets them build upon one another as you work through the book.

This book would be a great gift to give the history and culture lovers in your life. It's not a brief, quick read, but it is truly interesting (and written well). I only made it through about half before I had to give up and return it to the library, but I'll check it out again some time to finish. It's that good!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Life Sentences by Laura Lippman

Cassandra Fallows has made a career of mining her own life for nonfiction book subjects. Unfortunately, she's run out of stories - and her first attempt at fiction was a bomb. So when she discovers that a childhood acquaintance was at the center of a major crime drama in her hometown, she decides that her own tangental relationship to this woman would make a GREAT BOOK!

Calliope plead the fifth, and went to jail for it - she's never spoken a word about what happened to her baby. But Cassandra is sure that she'll be able to root out the truth for her next bestseller. But in researching, interviewing, and attempting to rekindle old relationships, Cassandra finds much more than Calliope's story; she may actually find her own.

I thought this book was interesting, but a little weak at times. Earlier this year I read another mystery about an writer (The Truth Hurts), and sometimes these books had too much in common for me. There wasn't much suspense - the revelation was a bit anticlimactic - but overall it was a decent read.

We Are All Fine Here by Mary Guterson

As if she didn't have enough to deal with, now Julia's pregnant, too.

Her son's become a teenager and doesn't want to be her best friend anymore. Her husband is boring, and well ... so is her job. Julia's idea of fun? Trying to get a response (any response) from her therapist.

She's still more-than-a-little obsessed with her college boyfriend, Ray, and the baby may be his: they had a quickie at a friend's wedding). Or it ironically may actually be her husband's baby: he dragged her to a "romantic" weekend, because he was trying to make Patricia, his workplace crush, jealous.

It's a short, quick book, but I found myself thinking about it for days afterward. Julia really grows as a person by the end, and I'm not sure I thought that would be possible. I enjoyed the twisting and unfolding of Julia's emotions as this story goes along. It's a very, very funny book, and the characters are great - I know women just like Julia, and I recognize that I could have become her, myself.