Tuesday, March 30, 2010

An Irish Country Christmas by Patrick Taylor

Third in the series, this quaint lighthearted set of books is a real winner. And if you're an audiobook listener, you'll be doubly delighted by the various brogue and accents that top-notch reader John Keating presents.

Young general practice Dr. Barry Laverty has spent 5 months now in Ballybucklebo getting to know the patients and the personalities in the small 1950s Irish town. And love is in the air this Christmas: Barry's desperate to see his Patricia on holiday, and even his mentor, the slightly crusty Dr. O'Reilly, is seeing stars now that his old college sweetheart, Kitty, is back in his life.

Add a dash of small town humor and generous portions of housekeeper Kinky's meals and wisdom - and you've got a great, heartwarming Christmas tale for all time. I cannot recommend these books highly enough. Excellent!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Swim the Fly by Don Calame

If you are a boy, have boys, know boys, or enjoy boys ... this book is for you!

While the main premise (teen boy trying to impress girl) isn't breaking any new ground, the fact that it's set around summer swim team is a little different. But the true jewel in this book is the snappy, witty dialog and well-drawn out characters.

In a lame effort to impress the new girl, perpetual fifth-place finisher Matt Gratton volunteers to swim the toughest position this summer: 100 yard butterfly. His attempts to avoid humiliation make up the rest of the book - and would probably make a popular movie, too. Let's see, you've got breaking into the country club, explosive diarrhea, bikini modeling, a nude beach, and a horny cagey grandpa ... just for starters. Sounds like blockbuster success.

And the book is truly funny too. I really enjoyed it from start to finish, and especially relished the dialog between the 3 teen boys. Plus, grandpa steals any scene he's in. :)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Meanwhile by Jason Shiga

Remember the old "choose your own adventure" books? This is a whole new spin on that idea. The book is a graphic novel, but organized with a set of tubes to lead you from one frame into the next. Pages may read right to left, bottom to top, over around and up, skip frames, and shoot off onto new pages - all depending on your choices.

You can't put this book down. I swear. It takes a minute or two to adjust to the setup, but once you've got it ... well, you'll be hooked.

I *suppose* this book is written for kids :) but I haven't shown it to a kid yet. The adult librarians in the building are totally hooked, though! I believe anyone able to read independently will enjoy this book. So, age 7 to anywhere?

The cover says 3,856 story possibilities: block out a good slice of time, and enjoy.

Miss Brooks Loves Books...and I don't

by Barbara Bottner

Teachers and librarians look at reluctant readers with all the joy golfers experience when on the links. We know that over and over again, books we find exciting will be met with utter disdain. But oh, the joy we feel when there is finally that hole in one. It makes all the failures look like stepping stones to success.

Miss Brooks dresses up as the main character from her favorite books every week. She is a librarian with flair. Most children would be absolutely captivated by her attempts to bring books to life. However, there is one bespectacled youngster who is wholly unimpressed. I have to say, even this young reader is getting something from the books, her vocabulary is superb. You'll get a chuckle out of the winning topic.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Shoot the Moon by Billie Letts

In a small town, a big scandal never really dies, and that's certainly the case with the 1972 murder of Gaylene Harjo and the disappearance of her 10-month-old baby boy. Thirty years later, it's still a point of speculation and conversation in the small town of DeClare, Oklahoma.

So when a young California man shows up in town looking for his birth mother - Gaylene - and with a birth certificate and adoption records that say he's the missing Nicky Jack ... let's just say he's not the only one curious about what really happened way-back-when.

I read this book in a sitting: I was having a bad day, it's our library's book club selection this month, and it's a pretty captivating story. But it's pretty light and fluffy: I'm not sure exactly what the book club will find to dissect and discuss ... but we'll see!

Leaving Gee's Bend by Irene Latham

After the loss of several previous pregnancies, everyone is understandably nervous when Mama starts coughing. When her terrible cough brings the baby early, 10-year-old Ludelphia must step up to help.

Ludelphia's courage and determination drive the story along - everything Lu does is driven by her desire to help. That drive gets her into (and out of) some major scrapes throughout the book.

While this book is being marketed to young readers, I would also recommend it to quilters; Gee's Bend has become legendary amongst quilters, and the quilts are a major element in this story.

Friday, March 12, 2010

We're having a Tuesday

by DK Simoneau

Many children have two homes...one with Mom and one with Dad. This nicely done picture book addresses the issues from a kid's perspective. Each home has something wonderful, but each is also missing something wonderful. This book gives parents and caregivers an opportunity to start a conversation about why it is difficult to leave one home for the other. Simoneau nicely shows how each home can be a special place filled with love. The last few pages are a small journal so that children can think of things they miss about each parent when they are not around, ways to remember them, and things each parent remembers about the child.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

It's So Amazing! by Robie H. Harris

Confused and scared about telling your kids about sex, babies, and puberty? This book may be your new best friend ... I picked up this book after reading a blog post by a mom who explained this has been a godsend for them. They've housed it in a prominent place where their kids can look it over, review, and re-evaluate as they wish. I think it would be a great book for that.

There are a lot of words, but also a lot of cute illustrations in this book: your kid will not sit down and read it all at once. But hopefully they'll pick it up to read the part they're curious about, then come back for more as they have further questions.

Way back when ... my parents used the famous Peter Mayle books "What's Happening To Me?" and "Where Did I Come From." This book is very similar in both tone and style - but also addresses modern concerns such as AIDS/HIV and all the forms a family can take (traditional, single-parent, same-sex, grandparents as primary caregivers, etc.)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A&R by Bill Flanagan

The recording industry is a world unto itself, and this novel was written by an insider. It shows - the book is funny and interesting as the main players stab everyone in the back and wheel-and-deal themselves into amazing situations.

Up-and-comer Jim Cantone is offered a new, fancy-shmancy job as the head of A&R at WorldWide Records. He's living the dream: making real money from loving rock and roll - proving everybody wrong. But is good-hearted Jim savvy enough to survive the train wreck that is music making?

I liked this book for what it wasn't: it's not a murder mystery, and isn't an allegorical tale. Many books about music tend to lean towards fantastic over-performance or apocalyptic prophecy, and this one doesn't do either. I loved that.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Will You Still Love Me If I Wet The Bed? a comic by Liz Prince

This is a cute, raunchy little book about couple-dom. It's not for those people for whom love is roses and romance - it's more about love like farting under the covers and folding laundry.

I laughed out loud at things like the cat watching during foreplay, and the dumb everyday conversations of a couple. I shared several pages with a long-married friend and she related immediately.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Pete the Cat - I love my white shoes

by Eric Litwin and James Dean

A completely fun new picture book. My first encounter with this was through YouTube. Check out two charming young ladies singing the text of this book here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpZ9mOQ6iSU

Kids will truly enjoy learning color concepts with silly Pete who just can't seem to keep his shoes clean. This is truly one cool cat. He strolls along completely cool with everything that happens to his stylin' high tops. Simple illustrations with lots of negative space.

The shortest distance between two women

by Kris Radish

The very first line of this book drew me in. To paraphrase, "Is there any way in hell you would ever speak to me again?" Who doesn't want to know more about Miss Emma Gilford now?

Emma has always been the good daughter. She takes care of her family to the point where she is now 43, single, and childless. I know this sounds like another romance novel. It's really more of a good story about family interactions. As you are drawn in, you'll come to meet the entire crazy Gilford family. I promise, at some point they will make you grateful for the family you have. At other times, you'll wish you were a Gilford, too. I'd love to tell you about the most outrageous white elephant items auctioned off at the family reunion, (especially the one that goes for top dollar year after year) but that would ruin the surprise. If you are looking for some light family humor that has a few doses of reality, this could be a good choice for you. There are sassy characters and at least one person who discovers that generations of women in her family were right all along.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


by Julia Hoban

Willow killed her parents. Everyone else says it was just a terrible accident. Now she has a new school, lives with her much older brother, his wife and their new baby, and she's found a way to deal with her grief. She is a cutter. I have to admit, I did not finish this book. As I listened to it, my interest just flat-lined on disc 4. I made it all the way to the second to last disc, but still have no desire to know how it ends. Willow is beginning to make new friends. The boy who keeps making her feel her emotions rather than hiding them is the only person who has caught on to her secret. He wants her to get help, but knowing she won't he is willing to be her support system. I understand Guy and Willow's desire to believe they can handle everything alone, but I kept waiting for just one other person to catch on. She's not exactly the best at keeping the signs hidden.

Mad, Bad and Blonde

by Cathie Linz

Being left at the altar is no one's idea of a happy day. What's funny is that librarian Faith West is more upset at being called boring. The uber-stupid ex-fiance never knew that his reject is also an award winning markswoman. Taking off on her Italian honeymoon alone, she's furious to find a PI keeping tabs on her. What's worse is that she's been falling hard for the man since the first moment. Her father owns one of the top investigative firms in Chicago; would send someone to spy on her? Back in Chicago, the two of them must uncover the truth about why Caine despises Faith's father.

Ms. Linz continues to create entertaining works. A quick, fun read filled with passion and excitement.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

I cried - I'm not ashamed to admit it. And it was worth every minute! I consumed this book in a sitting; it's just that good.

In an instant, Mia's life changes. She was napping in the car, and never saw the accident - only the aftermath. She knows her parents are dead. Where is her brother? She sees a hand - then realizes it's her own. Wait: how is that possible?

Mia's not in pain, and she's not dead. Nobody can see her, and she can move around pretty freely, but she's not a ghost. What is she? And why?

This is absolutely one of the best books I've read: funny, personal, and thought-provoking.

I don't want to give too much away ... just read it! Trust me.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Chisellers by Brendan O'Carroll

Take note, as you'd be well to remember: when you take on one member of the Brown family, you take on them all.

I just love this series about the 1960's & 1970-era struggling Irish family. The first book ("The Mammy," which I must have read just before we started this blog) started with Agnes, newly widowed. This second book in a trilogy deals with the growth of her seven children, affectionately referred to as "the chisellers."

The tales are heart breaking and heart-warming all at the same time. And you could not do better than to try the audiobook, read by Donada Peters: she's excellent, and brings additional life and dimension to these many varied characters (and characters they are!).

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I Am Ozzy by Ozzy Osbourne with Chris Ayres

This book ROCKS! And I mean that - rock 'n' roll books are either good or terrible. This one is very, very good.

Telling his story, Ozzy's honest - unflinchingly, unapologetically honest - about his exploits and career. I wondered two things: how is he still alive, and how does his family put up with him? "Amazing dumb luck" might just be the answer to both of those questions.

He talks about his regrets: occasional abuse towards women, and general neglect of his duties as a father. He talks about his heartbreaks, and he discusses his personal struggles with dyslexia, ADD, illness, and an *obviously* addictive personality.

But he also talks about the rock: the guys he's played with, the albums they made, and the tours they took. Lollapalooza told him he was too washed up to play their gig - so Sharon started Ozzfest instead, to prove them wrong.

The really sweet part of this story is how clearly Ozzy loves his family; he shows a soft spot when discussing his children and grandchildren. But his real love is Sharon - they are truly a perfect pair.

I gained a lot of insight with this book, and highly recommend it for any metal fan.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Who ran my underwear up the flagpole?

by Jerry Spinelli

Spinelli's books are perennial favorites in upper elementary classrooms. This morning I read a couple selections from this title to a group of third and fourth graders. I don't know anyone whose attention isn't grabbed the instant the word underwear is uttered. These kids were no exception. If you have a reluctant reader, find the section where the main character gets out of detention because he forgot his pants.