Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Just one kiss

by Susan Mallery

Fool's Gold, California is the kind of community that people either dream of living in, or dream of escaping.  Justice Garrett had the great luck to live in this small town as a teenager.  For more than a decade, he has been the kind of dreamer looking for a way back.  Wait a second, yes, I did just call a special ops sniper a dreamer?  He has found a way to open a business, and maybe find a level of security in life that has been missing for a long time.  The question has always been, can he live in Fool's Gold without hurting Patience McGraw?
Patience has endured quite a bit in life.  Both her father and husband walked out on her.  She is caretaker for both her child and ailing mother.  Through all her struggles, one of her most painful memories has always been the day Justice disappeared.  
Both believe he isn't really husband material.  The reader gets to watch as one character and then the other come to the realization that actions speak louder than words.  Grab a cup of coffee from Patience's new business and settle in for a late spring Saturday morning on the front porch.  Surely the people of Fool's Gold have a parade planned soon. Save your spot and savor this story.

Lettin It All Hang Out: An Autobiography by RuPaul

Ever wonder about the behind-the-scenes stage prep of a glamour diva cross-dresser? Love celebrity bio? This one's a keeper, despite its vintage.

I picked this up because somewhere recently I read good things about this 1995 memoir. And while many of the pop culture references RuPaul makes are now dated, this book holds up incredibly well. He talks about his childhood, his family and his career trajectory. It was a long road to celebrity, and RuPaul talks about his overall positive message of love and acceptance - he was never your traditional bitchy queen, more a sassy fun diva. How he came upon that message is really the story of his life.

It's a light read and full of the oft-heard struggling artist storyline, presented here from a slightly different angle. Not a trashy tell-all, RuPaul makes it clear he does not kiss and tell. There is one chapter about his loves and sexuality, but it's not explicit or sensational. 

Since the book's publication, RuPaul's career has continued to blossom with the hit TV show RuPaul's Drag Race. I appreciate that success all the more after having seen the back-story and the man behind the woman.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

It had to be you

by Jill Shalvis

Return to Lucky Harbor with another couple destined to settle in for the long haul.  Ali Winters is the kind of woman who often feels like she is just treading water; she just cannot catch a break.  Her boyfriend cheated on her, she's been accused of theft, and oh yeah, some guy catches her trespassing in her underwear.  
Mr. Random turns out to be her ex-landlord, Luke Hanover.  He's a bad-ass cop in San Francisco who had hoped to find some peace and quiet in the house he inherited. 
Fate, and the people of Lucky Harbor, have plans for these two.  Luke has all the skills Ali needs to clear her name.  Surprisingly, she has a few talents that help him achieve his original goal as well.  Yes, and then there is the mutual attraction.  You didn't think there would be a dead sexy, bad ass and some boring lump, did you?  Ali's got the kind of eyes that stop Luke in his tracks, and she's fun. 
It's a cute and sassy story that will warm your heart as you return to one of your favorite fictional communities.  A few favorite characters from previous novels make repeat appearances.

Friday, May 24, 2013

One sheep, blue sheep

by Thom Wiley

Imagine a farm.  OK, that one's a little boring.  You need some color.  Maybe some paint spilled onto a sheep.  If it happens again and again, you will have a very fanciful flock.  The fun loving farmer in this story doesn't seem the least perturbed.  In fact, he's very good at finding a resourceful way to use his newly dyed wool. 

While this board book may not draw enough fans to last as a classic of children's literature, it is a fun read.  I recommend tying it to a rendition of Baa, Baa, Black Sheep with a colorful flock in the song as well.

Phoebe and Digger

by Tricia Springstubb

A girl and her construction vehicle.  It's the kind of combination that makes adults sing when trying to match children with books.  A twist on the ordinary.  Kids will relate to Phoebe's exasperation at waiting for her mom, and even feeling a bit bullied in the park.  Parents will relate to, well, a lot of things. Geared toward the background knowledge of preschoolers, this story is fun.  Even toddlers will enjoy the idea of a kid and digger.  Yesterday's crowd decided digger looked a bit like a dinosaur. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

What if you discovered a bit of your long-deceased mother was still growing in a lab? What if it was really that every single scientific lab in the world has been running complex medical experiments on growing, living pieces of your long-deceased mother and you never knew or received compensation?

That's where the core of this story begins: as the Lacks family learns that the same cervical cancer cells which killed Henrietta Lacks in 1951 are still growing and multiplying, providing 60 years of scientists with an endless supply of human cells on which to run experiments.

It's a deep subject with a steep ethical slope - but it's handled deftly and warmly by the author. She personalizes the story, weaves several historical and contemporary storylines together, and explains the complex science in an easily digestible manner. She also inadvertently became part of the story as her friendship with daughter Deborah Lacks spanned a decade of research, genealogy, and oral history.

This book makes you think, and the various moral, ethical, and medical opinions are presented in a nicely balanced manner. I still don't know what I think about a lot of it, and that's okay - if it was simple, the scientific community probably would have figured it out decades ago.

No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood, edited by Henriette Mantel

A lot of ink is spilled discussing the myriad of experiences of parenthood - but what of non-parenthood? Those who remain childless? Mantel has brought together a huge number of female writers without children to discuss (and often comically riff on) their childless state. You'll recognize many famous names, but lesser-known authors also have valuable contributions.

I thought the book was a bit too long (250 pages), as I found about two-thirds of the way through that I had stopped hearing anything new - that writers were just repeating what another had said previously.

But I found a lot to relate with, also. Some are childless 100% by choice, others simply didn't have kids by chance, bad timing or lack of opportunity. A few have regrets, but there's really a commendably wide variety of experiences and emotions expressed here.

Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles

When you live above the funeral home, death is just another day. But despite the family business and the fact she's been to 247 funerals, 10-year-old Comfort Snowberger is about to discover she's not as calloused as she believes.

This is a great, quaint book with excellent life lessons; Wiles has found a way to teach gently without preachiness. The characters are interesting and quirky but still seem real, and you wish you could become part of the caring, close-knit Snowberger family. Except for Peach. You don't want to be related to Peach!

Oh yes, cousin Peach. He's guaranteed to mess everything up. His voice and even his clothes make him the most annoying person in Comfort's whole world. He'll carry on like he's got no manners, and nobody ever bothers to remind him that "We Live to Serve."

I loved, loved, loved this book, and despite 250 pages I read it in a sitting. And yes, I cried.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Perry's Killer Playlist by Joe Schreiber

Perry's got a new, sophisticated girlfriend, and the band's going on a European tour ... which will probably lead to a record deal. What could possibly go wrong?

This book picks up in the fall, about six months since Perry nearly got killed on prom night in "Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick." Europe is a big continent - there's no way the band will run into Gobi, right? And especially not when Perry goes looking for her at their pre-assigned "someday" meeting place in Venice.

With chapter headings that are song titles, I really want to create an actual playlist of this book; the music's a blend of hip alternative, classic punk and kitchy cheese.

Again, the action-adventure is big-budget movie-worthy. Guns get turned and the double-cross is stunning but not entirely unexpected. Fast action and quick chapters make this entertaining story zip right along.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV's First Wave by Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, and Martha Quinn with Gavin Edwards

This book is a fun little moonwalk down memory lane for any child of the '80s; the five original VJ's may have been making it up as they went along, but we were certainly along for the joyride, too. I was the perfect age for MTV's early years, and I know these authors as well as any of my real-life preteen friends.

The book's divided up into themed chapters, but each VJ gets their say in bits and bites (remember, they invented our short attention spans). Most of the stories are just a paragraph or two, but some tales take a little more time to tell. And tell tales they do: MTV Spring Break, house parties, and clubbing, along with celebrity crushes and strange behavior. "Diamond" David Lee Roth gets his own chapter because there are so, so many stories.

It's kind of fun to get this behind-the-scenes look at MTV back when it actually was all about the music. I thought it was funny that they setup their own note-libraries about the videos, since they weren't really watching them (how does that one end? what happens in it? silly or serious?).

It's a little choppy in places, what with 4 author voices plus excerpts from the late J.J. Jackson. But that quality also makes this book excellent for pick-it-up-and-put-it-down reading (again, short attention span!).

Friday, May 3, 2013

I'll Seize the Day Tomorrow by Jonathan Goldstein

A funny, reflective goodbye to youth, this book's a year-long countdown to Goldstein's 40th birthday. He's not where he thought he'd be by age 40 - can he make the changes before then? No. The answer is no. And I'm not spoiling the book by saying that.

I came to really love some of Goldstein's friends and family, and I recognized some of his age-related angst. Society tends to judge a person's worth based on marriage, children, home and job - what if you've developed a life outside those normal constraints?

Despite its subject, it's not a particularly weighty book. Goldstein is a radio humorist, and his year-long observations range from literary insightfulness to frat boy absurdity. And honestly, that's a combination I adore.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The sunflower sword

by Mark Sperring

Imagination is a wonderful thing.  The cover of this book shows a dragon in the background gazing upon a child who wears a colander upon his head.  The two are ensconced in a field of sunflowers. 
The child dreams of one day becoming a knight who will fend off ferocious dragons and protect the land.  His mother tells him no.  If he really needs something to "whoosh and swoosh in the air" a sunflower will do.
Of course, some imagination is required to believe in a land filled with dragons: even more to believe in the power of a friendly gesture. However, it was the imaginative way the young knight put the sunflower to work that had me retelling the story just hours after reading it.  This could be a great reader's theater story, particularly with real sunflowers used as props. 

Hip Check

by Deirdre Martin

Martin has returned to her New York Blades team and another romantic entanglement.  This time Esa Saari is the hockey star embroiled in excitement.  He has found himself suddenly the guardian for his young niece.  Both are grieving the loss of Esa's sister, but little Nell seems more capable of continuing to behave responsibly through her sadness.
Esa's solution is to hand her off to a nanny.  Any nanny will do, just so long as his bachelor behavior remains uninterrupted.  Fortunately for Nell, Michelle Beck is used to working for the rich and famous.  Her take charge attitude will assure Nell of a loving, safe home, while forcing Esa to man up. 
What starts out as a bumpy ride, predictably smooths out over the course of the hockey season.  If you have been of fan of Martin's previous books in the Blades series, this is an enjoyable continuation to the series.