Monday, August 30, 2010

The Passage by Justin Cronin

Sorry I haven't posted any new books in a while ... I was reading this 800-page giant. I'd like to tell you I just sat down and read it in a sitting, but that would be a lie. :) Actually, I took it in about 100-page chunks at a time. And loved every one of them.

I've read reviews that say, essentially, if you dismiss this as a vampire book, you're missing the point. I'd agree. I actually thought the vampire element was diminished in importance by the "epic quest" element of the story (and decided that most vampire lovers would be disappointed if that's why they picked up this book). But in honesty, I also didn't realize this is the first book in a trilogy until I got to the end; maybe the other books will be all chock-full-o'-vampire-goodness.

The government is trying to build a super soldier. Sound familiar? This time, they're working with a virus that makes biological changes, including slowing the aging process (it also makes those infected kill to drink blood). Just as the military thinks they've got things perfected, the test-patients take over and the world's in trouble.

Jump ahead 100 years. Humans live a life of vigilance to stay alive. The community described could be the only humans left alive; they're so completely cut off they don't know if there's another un-infected person anywhere. Their life and armor are becoming harder to maintain as technology ages. Then one day, a "walker" appears at their gates: a mute, young human woman. And everything shifts.

The time shifts in this book were interesting. It begins just a few years ahead of today, and the action in this book happens within a hundred-year period. But the various diary entries, scholarly papers, and narratives touch the future as far as a thousand years out, giving historical perspective and some foreshadowing to the story.

I really enjoyed the book, and recommend it for sci-fi and military lovers. Although this is not my usual genre, I will look forward to the sequel to find out what's coming next. The book leaves you with more than one cliffhanger to ponder and some gut-wrenching hints.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Too pickley

by Jean Reidy

This is a pretty cute new picture book about a picky eater. As I read it, I could absolutely remember my picky sibling acting similarly toward food. This book is particularly good for a beginning reader because there are very few words on each page. It is filled with energetic art.

Friday, August 13, 2010

One Day by David Nicholls

Dex and Emma don't exactly "meet" on the first page of the book - more like "hook up" - because they'd seen one another around before, but never been friends. But college graduation day can make lots of things happen that weren't previously possible.

Fast forward ahead one year: Dex is traveling the world, and Em is doing community theatre. They're pen pals. Zip ahead another year: Em's a waitress in a bad Mexican restaurant, and Dex is missing her in India (or is he?).

Each chapter in this book takes place on June 15, and the book spans 20 years of the relationship between "Dex-and-Em, Em-and-Dex." It's a great premise - and it's amazing how much or how little can change in a single year.

This book is funny, heart-warming, heart-breaking and truly, truly excellent. Either you KNOW these characters, you WANT to know these characters, or you ARE these characters: they're the good, the bad, and the ugly all rolled into one. How will they grow up? Will they grow up? What will happen in the next year? I couldn't wait to find out.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Dismantled by Jennifer McMahon

Since their college-era foray into creative destruction, Henry and Tess have settled into a regular, quiet, normal (boring) life. Things haven't been easy - though they're both artists, neither is living up to their early promise. Henry's paranoid, and worries about their daughter Emma's safety. Tess has asked Henry to move out to the barn as a trial separation.

But suddenly the couple's dark past returns in strange and chilling ways. Why now? And who is behind the curious events? Part mystery, part ghost story, and all suspense, this book will keep you guessing right up to the end.

Troublemaker by Janet & Alex Evanovich

This is the first book in the Barnaby & Hooker graphic novel series. You'll remember those characters from Evanovich's Metro Girl or Motor Mouth novels?

The art's great, the characters are classic Evanovich. So what's wrong?

Well ... nothing really happens. And while that's not necessarily unusual for a serialized graphic novel (you've got to build the drama!), I found it unsatisfactory. I felt gypped.

Barnaby & Hooker flounce around Florida without a clue, but with a strange wooden hand. There are a couple of chase scenes. This is not a story.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The short second life of Bree Tanner

by Stephenie Meyer

I have to admit, by the time I got to Eclipse in the original saga, my interest in Meyer's vampires was lagging a bit. By the end of that book, it had come roaring back. This one was much the same way. As I started, I wondered why I should be interested in Bree's life; I couldn't even remember her character's appearance in the scope of Bella's life. However, Bree quickly became real to me. Like the Cullen's, it was obvious that she had emotions and an interest in the world around her. To tell you more might spoil her story for you. Just know this, if you are a fan of the Twilight saga, you will enjoy this book.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Trucker by Barbara Samuels

I don't often blog about picture books, but I really love this one for its unexpected viewpoint.

While it at first seems to be a typical boy-book about loving all things truck, it's actually a story about a boy and his beloved kitty. Yup: I said BOY and CAT! How rare!

Leo has loved trucks from the time he was a tiny baby, so when Mom says she's brought him home a surprise, he just KNOWS it's the fire truck he wanted. Quickly, it appears that Lola the cat loves trucks as much as Leo. Eventually, she wears down Leo's resistance and they become best trucking buddies.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Star Island by Carl Hiaasen

Celebrity's not always what it seems, but you've certainly never seen it like this: Talentless pop starlet Cherry Pye is such a wild, uncontrollable mess that her handlers have hired a body double to cover her absences. It works perfectly, mostly, until an obsessive paparazzo nabs the wrong girl in a misguided kidnapping. Throw in a matched pair of publicists without a whit of morality between them, parents only worried about their cash cow, and a bodyguard with a string-trimmer for a hand ... well, it's a classic, absurd Hiassen comedy/drama combo.

If you haven't read Hiaasen before, go ahead and start here. You won't be disappointed. It's dark comedy with a social conscience. You'll feel smarter, yet still thoroughly entertained.

For those of you who have read Hiaasen before, this one feels like coming home. Hiaasen's been writing kids books and nonfiction the last few years, and I have to say I've been missing his adult fiction something fierce.

In Star Island, I was rewarded with visits from several familiar characters: when Jim Dial first appears I thought, "Oh look! Jim retired. How nice!" ... like he's a distant uncle.

Each of Hiaasen's books take a jab at one or two (or more) of Florida's abundant evils: stupid tourists, greedy developers, addled retirees, faux environmentalists, clueless anglers or duffers, etc. The pickin's ripe in Florida. But he was overdue to give the bloated, star-studded world of South Miami it's due diligence.

To me, this book feels like a postcard from a long-lost friend.

Straight up

by Deirdre Martin

Liam O'Brien is hiding out in Ireland. Someone in New York's Irish mob wants him out of the picture. The city boy is looking for a little fun in the small town of Ballycraig when Aislinn McCafferty walks in. Her brusque manner has earned her the nickname "The McCafferty". Liam spends much of the book trying to convince her that he is not the kind of man who will treat her the way she has been treated in the past.

This is a light, fun romance novel. I have recently discovered that when I finish reading a book set in Ireland, I have a distinct urge to walk around saying "feck" all the time.

From camera to computer. How to make fine photographs through examples, tips and techniques

by George Barr

I consider myself to be an ok photographer with strong computer skills, and that's usually what makes me feel like a successful artist. One of my favorite parts of this book was the reminder that often the best images are part of daily life. Barr does a great job of showing how industrial areas can provide fantastic images with the right lighting. Even better than that, he then takes the pictures to the computer to manipulate details until a piece goes from a snapshot to a PHOTOGRAPH. There is a difference, and it often is just a matter of composition or light. Barr shows how both of those can sometimes be changed with a little editing.