Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I can't believe it's not fattening

by Devin Alexander

There are a lot of cookbooks for healthy eaters available. I made it through this in a lunch hour. I do intend to try the microwaved potato chip recipe. It's so easy that I know I won't need the cookbook to remember it. The author includes many tips for making healthy foods in minimal time.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Whole Nother Story by Dr. Cuthbert Soup

Spies, a family on the run, and extreme silliness abound in this story for the chapter-book set. The whole thing's kind of a set up: the author's pen name is ridiculous, and he sticks himself into the story as an all-seeing narrator of sorts. Characters have goofy, crazy names and even the dog's got problems.

The setup sounds more serious than it is: a pair of married, brilliant scientists create a time machine. Mom gets killed by agents trying to get the technology. Dad doesn't know the computer code she used to make it work, so he and the kids are on the run while they try to sort out the solution.

But it's a mostly light-hearted story, and even the suspenseful part at the end isn't too dark or scary. One kid's got a major thing about bubble gum. There's a sassy, squeaky sock puppet. And I definitely see a series in the making ...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Blockade Billy by Stephen King

As a writer, there are really at least three distinct sides to Stephen King: abject horror, bittersweet stories, and baseball.

This one's baseball, mostly.

King does a great job from the start in building suspense with Billy - you know something bad's going to happen from the start, but what? (remember, this is Stephen King: zombies? ghosts? aliens? or just a baseball thing?)

I won't tell. One reason this book is good is because you don't know ... until you do.

Another reason it's good? Stephen King.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Undateable by Ellen Rakeiten & Anne Coyle

An illustrated guide to "311 things guys do that guarantee they won't be dating or having sex" - things like overly groomed facial hair, socks with sandals, using slang for female body parts, and whipping out the coupons while on a date.

I especially enjoyed the grading system: red flag, storm clouds on the horizon, not getting any, and the kiss of death. Some things are just a little bad - others go beyond the point of no return.

Funny, and fun to flip through - although I'm not sure I'd recommend buying this one. Check it out from the library (like I did) ... or maybe give a copy to someone clueless who needs it!

The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore

It's just your typical, heartwarming holiday tale ... as only Moore can do. Because you've got to know that his kind of Christmas story is going to be filled with scream queens, pot-smokin' lawmen, murder, zombies, fruit bats, and other unexplained phenomena.

If you've got a dark sense of humor and a love of macabre, you'll enjoy this one.

In the end, it's the classic story of crisis bringing the whole community together - and it's all the fault of an angel who's just too literal, with no sense for human emotional nuance.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Open: An Autobiography by Andre Agassi

I'm not a tennis fan - but much of my family is. And so, through osmosis, I've absorbed a bit about tennis: at least the big names and tournaments ring a bell for me. Honestly, I probably wouldn't have bothered with this book, except it made such headlines when it came out: drugs! toupees! rebellion! Brooke Shields!

I'm glad I picked it up. It's a very good story, and told honestly - that's the highest compliment I can make about an autobiography (and surprisingly, rare to find).

Actually, Agassi was so completely honest about his thoughts and internal dialog that I'm curious what his family, friends, and former competitors think now (especially Boris Becker, aka B.B. Socrates for his know-it-all manner) - it's one thing to think that a competitor doesn't like you, but it's another to know. For the record: Brooke's on record as "furious" ... and I wonder how many other people have X'ed him off their holiday card lists?

The tennis talk isn't too boring for the non-fan, but should still be satisfying for those who enjoy it. Agassi's always been a fascinating person, and that certainly helps him here. It's quickly clear that his early-career rebellion was simply a textbook example of common-place immaturity combined with the stress of an aggressive "stage-dad." Funny that we didn't recognize and view it that way, at the time.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Heist Society

by Ally Carter

I first read one of Carter's books when she wrote about teens who went to a special school to become spies. Now she has moved on to teenage art thieves. Cat is the daughter of one of the greatest thieves of our time. She is quite skilled as well. Her most recent accomplishment is conning her way into one of the most prestigious schools in the world. The plan is to leave the life she has always known behind. However, the book begins with a conduct hearing which gets her expelled for placing the headmaster's Porsche in a fountain. Soon, she and her friends are plotting to return stolen paintings to their most recent owner. Notice I did not say rightful owner. Go along for the ride as six teenagers attempt a theft in one of the most prestigious museums in the world.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Dear Enemy

by Jean Webster

Webster was Samuel Clemens' great-niece. I had not known that until I picked up this book, which is the sequel to one of my favorites from childhood: Daddy-long-legs. Believe it or not, these are as close to teen books as you will find from the era in which they were written. Both books revolve around women who spent part of their lives in the fictional John Grier Home for orphans.

Sallie McBride, a recent college graduate, finds herself the superintendent of an orphan asylum as a favor to a friend. Throughout much of this epistolary novel, she contends that her role is temporary. As the book was written in 1915, it makes sense that Sallie believes she is meant for marriage and a life that does not involve paid work outside the home. Modern girls will cheer for Sallie as she triumphs over many adverse conditions left by her predecessor. Owing to that pre-suffrage era, Sallie does manage to fall in love and plot her married life. Far too often for my modern feminist taste, she is rescued by men. I repeatedly reminded myself that men would have been the benefactors who could provide all that the orphanage needed.