Friday, May 27, 2011


by Emma Donoghue

I know. Your first thought is that you don't want to read about a woman who has been held captive in an 11 x 11 room for seven years. You especially don't want to know about her five year old son.
Jack is that five-year-old. Everything he has ever known is inside "Room". Now that he is five, he is old enough for his ma to "unlie" about everything. He realizes that, for her, he will need to be braver than ever. Through Jack's eyes you will see the life he has always lived and the world his ma hopes he can one day experience.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Can You Get Hooked on Lip Balm? by Perry Romanowski

Ultimately skim-able and sure to bust the myths you've believed for years, this book may change the way you shop the beauty counter, drug store and salon.

Yes, you can get hooked on lip balm. Not addicted, but certainly dependent. The book explains why, but it has to do with skin cell regeneration.

No, the salon brands you find at the big-box store aren't different than the ones in salons - they just lie and say they're different so they don't anger the salon owners.

Biore pore strips may be the most fun, beneficial thing you can do for your face. In moderation.

I certainly didn't read every word of this book, but I did read every question and the bottom line answer (conveniently highlighted). If you're interested in the details, every response is given several paragraphs or more of scientific explanation into the fact or fiction.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

In this series of short stories, schoolteacher Olive Kitteridge is sometimes the storyteller, sometimes a major character in someone else's story, and occasionally a mere walk-through in a story mostly unrelated to her.

It's an interesting way to present a person's life - a multi-faceted approach that defies self-definition, familial ties, and even your own best intentions to form a more rounded characterization. It's both a skewed, yet very fair way to encounter the whole person - the good, the bad and the ugly. And Olive's a character full of all those things.

Strout's storytelling is rich with visualization and description. It's an easy story to get lost in, and well-deserving of the accolades the book has won. We discussed it for book club, but I found I'd gotten something slightly different from the experience by having listened to the audiobook. Sandra Burr's vocalization was a real addition to the text - and I found several parts hilariously funny where others in the group had not seen a comic undertone.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Rip in Heaven by Jeanine Cummins

Somewhere I read about this 2004 nonfiction book and decided to give it a try. Written by a family member, the book details the 1991 brutal assault of 3 teens on the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge over the Mississippi River at St. Louis.

True-crime books always have a bit of a rubber-neck appeal - they're horrifying, yet we want to know all the sickening details. Here, the author tries to stand apart from the action and report the events as if she's not involved - showing varying points of view to give a multi-faceted look at the crime, investigation, trials, and media frenzy.

Unfortunately, that approach isn't as strong as it could be. I think it might have been a better narrative if she'd picked one angle and stayed with it; by creating that distance away from her own involvement, she loses a lot of the heart of the tale. Additionally, in trying to bring a scholarly angle to the reportage she sometimes throws in a paragraph or two about psychology or police investigative theory that just throw the brakes on the whole flow.

I stuck it out til the end, but I'm not sure I would recommend it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Big Crunch by Pete Hautman

I loved these flawed realistic characters: a high school boy, a high school girl ... but not your typical teen romance.

June's family moves a lot due to her parents' consulting jobs (6 schools in 4 years), and her dad's motto for the family is "Next!" After each move, June's cell phone is replaced or erased - no sense in maintaining friendships with kids she'll never see again. I thought, "who could live like this?"

Wes is struggling to find himself. What does he want? Who are his friends? He's got a lot of thinking to do ... and cleaning out the garage seems to help.

Wes and June aren't instantly attracted to one another. Even after they start to spend time together, things aren't always smooth sailing - then June's family moves again, and things get more complicated.

This book actually reminded me of "One Day" by David Nicholls, which I loved earlier this year. It's the kind of true, flawed romance where people misbehave, hurt one another, and still try to follow their hearts.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food by Judith Jones

If you're a food channel and cookbook addict, this book is for you!

I'd never heard of Jones, but she's a big-wig in the publishing industry, along the way working with and becoming friends with many of the biggest names to publish cookbooks: Julia, Jacques, Lidia ... She's also co-written a couple cookbooks, too.

Here, Jones talks about her own growth as a "foodie" and the things she learned from each of her famous authors: how she discovered Asian cooking as she published with notable Asian chefs, how she explored game meats as she helped with the L.L. Bean cookbook, etc. One of her favorite tricks was to bring these chefs home to cook in her kitchen - forcing them to adapt to non-commercial equipment and thereby learning how we may all reproduce their culinary magic later.

You'll be hungry almost the whole time you read this book, and thankfully Jones includes a section of recipes at the end. Although I'm not sure I'll try the calf's brains anytime soon, there are others I'm definitely interested in reproducing!