Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Going Bovine

by Libba Bray

Cameron Smith is an average teen. As the narrator of this book, though, he wants the reader to believe he is below average. Cameron is willing to do whatever will get him through school, and life, with a minimum of effort. Then one day he sees fire giants while sitting in class. Soon he starts seeing other strange things and even reacting to what he sees. Parents, classmates and teachers accuse him of using drugs. Until the day someone witnesses how quickly an episode can change Cameron. It is then that he learns he is dying. Cameron has the human equivalent to mad cow disease, Crudzefelt-Jakob's disease. Join Cameron as he manages to find one last great adventure in his short life.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore

When young Tommy Flood moved to San Francisco looking for a muse and the kind of adventure that would kick-start his writing career, he wasn't expecting to meet Jody. But barely off the bus from Indiana, this gorgeous, newly-created vampire draws him in as her roommate, daytime errand-boy, and lover. Let the adventure begin!

Moore's known for quick-witted black comedy, and this one's no exception. There's a great cast of characters in this book - especially Tommy's co-workers, The Animals. I wanna hang with this gang of misfits ... or, maybe not.

And for the record, this book was vampire-cool way before Twilight: released in 1995, this is actually the first in a series (I'm just now catching up). Moore also has written a bunch of non-vampire books that are just as twisted and funny.

My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor

In December 1996, the author was a 37-year-old neuroanatomist when she suffered a major left-brain bleed. While her medical background allowed her to observe the situation with special understanding, it didn't lessen the severity of her crisis. Ultimately she says it took eight years to overcome her brain's damage, and this book is part of her campaign toward better understanding.

Our library book club chose this one, and many readers had their own stories to share of loved ones and stroke. Parts of the book are incredibly detailed (and honestly, boring), but Taylor's personal observations and recollections are very interesting.

I'm glad I read it - there are several things I especially drew from the book, and she does give a list of tips at the end - but this book could certainly be a tough slog at times. I'll recommend it, but with the advice to feel free to skim; you'll be glad you did.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich

I can't help it - they're like popcorn. You don't want it, but because it's there you indulge and then you just can't stop!

If you haven't read the other Stephanie Plum books, this isn't the place to start. If you have (... and you know you have), you're in for another sleepless night giggling along with the antics.

Vinnie's been kidnapped, and nobody wants him back - except Stephanie, Lula, and Connie, who simply can't afford to lose their jobs. The girls set off on a rescue mission like the Keystone Kops version of Charlie's Angels.

My only complaint: I want more Ranger! Man, I love me some Ranger. I don't know what Stephanie's waiting for with that one ...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

This Is Just Exactly Like You by Drew Perry

Jack Lang's a guy who reacts to life. He just puts his head down and plows through the million little things that come at him each day. He's not the kind of guy to plan ahead or even give a thought to the causes or outcome of each drama in his day.

But there's a major seismic shift going on: Jack's midlife crisis has manifest itself in impulsive and monumental behavior; his wife got fed up and has moved across town (and into his best friend's house); and their autistic six-year-old son suddenly communicates ... in Spanish.

I loved Jack, and I loved this book. Laugh-out-loud funny dialog and extremely relate-able characters made this book a quick read and very hard to put down. There's a certain innocence and purity in Jack's actions; he really, honestly thinks he's doing his best in every situation (if he's thinking about it at all), and you gotta love a guy like that.

Monday, June 21, 2010

What Would Rob Do? by Rob Sachs

Going one step further than just advice for the hapless, Rob Sachs does his homework - researching with experts that range from top scientists to pop celebrities. WWRD? is filled with answers to help avoid embarrassment in your daily life.

I've never listened to his podcasts (from which this book is drawn), but I was completely captivated and entertained by Sachs' casual, friendly manner of delivering sage advice with self-depreciating charm.

He admits to being star-struck by celebrities, so he calls up Erik Estrada to find out how he should act around famous people. He talked to cops to find out how to act when pulled over for speeding. He calls the dry cleaners association about spills on his shirt.

I'm often accused of being a know-it-all (or conversely, the person who MUST FIND OUT, once asked ... call it the librarian's curse), but Sachs puts me to shame. Except now that I've read his book, I'm that much smarter!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Miss O'Dell by Chris O'Dell with Katherine Ketcham

Subtitled: My Hard Days and Long Nights with the Beatles, the Stones, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, and the Women They Loved

While she's not famous, Chris O'Dell was always "near" fame. She hung out with famous people, became friends with famous people, was employed by famous people and sometimes slept with famous people. Essentially, she made a career out of making herself the "go-to-gal," being helpful to all the right people - first at Apple in London, next as a personal assistant to various music celebrities, and later as a tour manager for any number of 70's mega-bands.

Her story is interesting as a look at fame from the fringes. It's about how rock stars live their real lives, about their romances and friends, and about how one woman skated along the edges of so many of their lives. It's a pretty good book - and now I know why Clapton's autobiography seemed so emotionally disconnected (he really is that much of a jerk).

Funny side note: could she have made that subtitle longer? Only if she'd actually mentioned the famous people she slept with. Oh, wait, she did sleep with Dylan.

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella by Stephenie Meyer

You don't have to read the other "Twilight" series books to understand this one. That said, if you haven't read them ... you will once you finish this: It ends in a major cliff-hanger.

I really enjoyed this different look at a familiar world. Bree was a minor character in "Eclipse" and this short book gives us a different perspective on her presence: How was she created? Where did she come from? What does she know? And more importantly, what doesn't she know?

I really came to like Bree. I empathized with her situation, and wished there was a way for her to have a better life. Funny, because in the original novel I easily dismissed her as evil with no redeeming qualities.

A nice lesson suitable in many situations: the more you know of a person's story, the better you understand their actions and behavior.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry

When psychotherapist Zee Finch loses a patient, she retreats to her father's home in Salem, Massachusetts for some reflection and recuperation. But once there, Zee finds her father's Parkinson's has progressed farther than she'd known, and her short visit becomes a live-in caregiving situation.

Since I'd loved "The Lace Reader," I was excited to dive into this brand-new novel from the same author. And while they're not the same kind of book - "Map" is not a sequel or even a companion story, either - those who have read Barry's first book will find a few unexpected cameos here ... Salem's not a very big town, you know.

Several times while reading this book, I found myself gasp at some surprising element of the story. Barry's certainly a good one for giving you what you don't expect - a rare prize in a world of "saw-it-coming-a-mile-away" plot devices.

This one doesn't have the big twist at the end - rather, it's got a series of smaller events that gradually build to a new understanding. I really enjoyed it, and I think many readers will too.

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

For those who enjoy a good plot twist - DO NOT HESITATE to find this book! Our library book club enjoyed it, and everyone agreed they were surprised at the turn the action takes - and that's a jaded group of readers who were caught unaware!

After years away, Towner Whitney is drawn back to her hometown of Salem, Massachusetts when her beloved aunt goes missing. There were good reasons Towner left and good reasons she's never returned; gradually, we gain insight to the back story.

The first time I read this book, I went from the last page directly back to the first one. I re-read the entire first chapter immediately.

Its been almost 2 years since I read this book, so I chose to re-read it for book club. This time, I chose audiobook format. Since I was combing the book for clues that I may have missed the first time around, maybe audio wasn't the best choice; I would have like to read some paragraphs twice or linger a bit further on particular passages. But that's not the narrator's failing - just mine.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

This is the kind of book you don't want to end; the kind of book you hope-with-your-fingers-crossed she's writing a sequel because you want to know what happens next to these people. The kind of book you're so emotionally invested in each of the characters that you cheer, you cry, and you want to jump right into the story and strangle somebody for treating them wrong.

Let's just say I enjoyed the book, OK?

This historical novel is set in 1960's Jackson, Mississippi. The main characters are all either privileged white women or their black housekeepers. The story's a nice mix of good and bad situations (like real life) that show the multi-faceted relationships between women of all colors.

Stockett's book was 2009's sleeper hit-of-the-year, and it's been enjoying a second surge in popularity now that they're casting for the movie version. I listened to the audiobook, a multi-cast recording with four narrators, which I give a double-thumbs-up.