Friday, April 09, 2010


As of Friday, April 8, 2010, this blog has moved. Please visit

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Keven Byrne/Jessica Balzano mystery series by Richard Montanari

My husband and I have been listening to this series by Richard Montanari. They take place in Philadelphia and Byrne and Balzano are homicide detectives. We are on the 3rd. They are The Rosary Girls, The Skin Gods and Merciless. The audiobooks are read by Scott Brick who has won awards for his narration. I like this series because there is a lot of development of the characters and you begin to care about them. The books are fast-paced with short chapters and lots of action. There are always several story lines running concurrently and the tension is taut. I recommend them but not for cozy mystery lovers.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

I saw the trailer to the upcoming movie, in theaters March 19, and knew that I wanted to read this book. Also, lots of kids in the children's department request this book. I checked it out on audiobook and it was only 2 CDs, so its a very short read.

Greg Heffley is just starting middle school and decides to write about his experiences in his journal (don't call it a diary!). His observations about middle school life are laugh-out-loud funny, like noting that you no longer have to be the fastest runner in your class to get the girls to like you, "you have to have a cute butt too or whatever".

Greg is always trying to figure out how to be popular, though it usually backfires, from writing comics for the school paper, running for class treasurer, and trying to be named Class Clown in the favorites section of the school yearbook. His antics and general middle school mentality will have even grown-ups giggling.

A fun, entertaining read.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

by E. Lockhart

Frankie Landau-Banks is a sophomore at prestigious Alabaster Preparatory School. This school, like some other famous private institutions, is rumored to be home to a secret society called The Basset Hounds, made up of male, usually rich or well-connected, members who have to be 'tapped' to be accepted.

Frankie knows that her father and his close friends were members, though they swore themselves to secrecy as to what transpired in the society. The notion of the secret society doesn't cross Frankie's mind too much until she discovers that her boyfriend, Matthew. may not only be a member but the King of the Basset's himself!

Frankie longs to be apart of this world, part of the Basset's, feeling excluded from such an important part of Matthew's life. She is not only excluded but even lied to about his whereabouts and dealings due to the society's code of secrecy.

Frankie wants to infiltrate the society, but she gets more than she bargained for!

This book was a little slow at first, but gets really good. I enjoyed the author's comments on the Panopticon and the purpose that secret societies serve.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Escaping North Korea

An insiders look at those fleeing Kim Jong Il's regime. Mike Kim is a missionary and an activist, helping people through legally murky means in their bids to escape. His viewpoint is heavily religious and highly personal. Viewed through any lens, though, the tales he recounts are vivid and harrowing.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Monster by A. Lee Martinez

A witty, fantastical book, similar to Christopher Moore's style of writing.

Monster is employed by the pest control company but his expertise lies in the more extraordinary household pests....hungry yetis, walrus dogs, pesky demon goats, and the like.

Judy is an ordinary woman, working the night shift in a local Food Mart, until one day her life is turned upside down when she finds a couple of yetis eating all the ice cream in the frozen food section. Enter Monster.

From then on, Judy and Monster keep running into each other and lots of unwanted company in the form of mystical creatures bent on destroying them. What they don't know is that they both have a greater destiny and the universe is keeping tabs. They'll need each other to get out of the biggest scrap of their lives and save the universe's hide in the process.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Before I Die by Jenny Dowham

Tessa Scott has been living with leukemia since she was a little girl. Now, she is in her teens and time is running out. There are so many things she hasn't experienced: sex, drugs, crime, falling in love.... She writes a list of everything she wants to do before she dies and plans on carrying out every single one. She struggles to feel alive though she is dieing.

A haunting story, one that kept me enrapt in Tessa's life, even though I didn't want to finish, didn't want to care for her. I knew that the end was inevitable, but I felt so much for her that I persevered, just like the family and her friends that loved her so much. 

A beautiful book. Caution: Even though this is a YA book it is somewhat graphic and has very mature content. 

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Dirty Job

by Christopher Moore

The first book I read by Christopher Moore was The Stupidest Angel, about Santa turning into a zombie and taking over an entire town during Christmas. So, I expected A Dirty Job to have the same quirky, odd ball humor and fantastical scenerios. I wasn't disappointed.

You'll meet Charlie, a self-titled "Beta Male", who undergoes a sudden change after the passing of his wife when she gives birth to their daughter, Sophie. He suddenly starts seeing a red glow in various objects and comes to learn that he has been chosen as a pawn of death, to become a death merchant, who collects these "soul vessels" and returns them to their rightful owners. It gets weirder. Some of the other characters include another death merchant named Minty Fresh, Hell Hounds, a disabled (of sorts) ex-cop with a thing for online dating, a goth chick who wants to be a chef, one Chinese and one Russian babsitter, three raven women who live in the sewers, and oh so much more. Charlie must team up with some of these characters to fulfill a prophecy before the world is destroyed.

Moore has a great sense of humor and the way he describes objects and events is spot on. A unique voice and a great read!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

True Evil

I started listening to Greg Iles on the recommendation of a librarian from Shaker Heights. I listened to Turning Angel, and I loved the way Iles told a story. Even though it was graphic and the subject matter wasn't my favorite, Iles's mastery of the language and his ability to build a compelling plot led me to pick up True Evil. I loved this audiobook; it was suspenseful, the characters were strong, and the plot had a medical element that kept me on the edge of my seat.
I find medical and legal thrillers interesting because there are so many twists and turns that are dictated by powers beyond the characters' control. Special Agent Alexandra Morse visits Dr. Chris Shepard at his office, pretending to be a patient, but she is really investigating a series of mysterious deaths. Chris is next on the list. Like all of Iles's books, the story takes place in the evocative setting of Natchez, Mississippi. I can't say much more without revealing too much, so go and enjoy True Evil!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Peter and Max, by Bill Willingham

An excellent literary tie-in with the Fables series of graphic novels. If you haven't read the graphic novels (really, you should, they're fantastic) this still stands on its own. If you are familiar with the series, this fills in some back-story and builds on the main story line.

Complete Joy of Home Brewing, by Charlie Papazian

A tremendous resource for those curious about brewing their own beer. This book covers the history of brewing and how the American commercial brewing scene evolved, the science behind brewing, and the actual art involved.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Angela's Ashes

If you haven't read this book and enjoy audiobooks, this is a fantastic one to listen to. Frank McCourt narrates this autobiography of his childhood growing up in Ireland. His thick Irish brogue is charming and his tale transports you to the dirty streets of Limerick. Living in the lane, children went without proper shoes, food, and were plagued by the guilt ingrained in them by the Catholic church. His child-like style of narration is endearing as he introduces us to the people in his life: his father, a man who spends all his wages on pints and comes home most evenings singing Rody McCalley and Kevin Barry, making the boys get out of bed and promising to die for Ireland; his mother, who tries to support her broud of boys by scrounging for coal on the roads, begging at priests' doors, and getting used items from the St. Vincent Paul Society; his strict but supportive school masters; and his rambunctious brothers. You'll fall in love with this scrappy young Irish boy who survives typhoid and eye infections, who dreams of one day coming to America.

Dirty Little Angels

by Chris Tusa

Tusa immediately draws you into the world of Hailey Trosclair, a typical teenager discovering herself, questioning the meaning of life and the existence of God in a world fraught with misery, loss, and desperation. In such a short amount of time, you become entangled in the lives of the people in Hailey's life - genuinely feel for them, sharing their trials and their triumphs. Only a master craftsman could have created such a believable and emotionally charged narrative in a mere 170 pages. A must-read!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and couldn't put it down (or close the window of my ebook). I was first intrigued by this rambunctious and endearing girl, remember what it was like to be a teenager, with the temptations of boys, drugs, parties, etc....then by utter suspense as surprising events unfolded in shocking detail. I was enrapt from beginning to end

Monday, October 19, 2009

Her Fearful Symmetry

by Audrey Niffenegger

We begin with a death. Elspeth Noble is dead and leaves her two twin nieces, Valentina and Julia, her flat in London with the stipulation that her sister and twin, Edie, and her husband are not allowed in the flat and the twins have to live there for a year before they can sell it. Other tenants of the building await the twins' arrival: Elspeth's lover, Robert, lives in the flat below hers and is anxious to meet the two girls whom he has never met. Martin, a severe OCD case, and his wife Marjke live in the flat above and were friends with Robert and Elspeth.

What seems like an ordinary story takes a turn towards the paranormal when the reader is introduced again to Elspeth, this time as a ghost living in her flat, unseen (at first) to her two inheritors. There is mystery surrounding Elspeth's and Edie's relationship - as in what caused the rift in the sisters' relationship. The answer to which is kept in a diary in Robert's flat.

The story becomes more intriguing when Elspeth is able to communicate with the twins and as the twins develop relationships with the other tenants that knew Elspeth. Though the motivation for a secret plan hatching between one twin and the ghost seems unrealistic, it makes for a good story and will hopefully have you reading till the last page.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Ten Thousand Sorrows

by Elizabeth Kim

Out of the frying pan and into the fire... that sums up life for this Korean war orphan. A product of an American soldier's conquest, this young child and her mother are shunned by their Korean families and neighbors. They form a tight union of mother and daughter, alone in a world that views them as nonpersons, not worthy of existence. One fateful night, her mother is killed in an act of "honor" by her extended family to cleanse the family blood of her shame, leaving the young girl an orphan.

She spends a brief, though terrifying, sojourn in an orphanage where the children are kept in dirty cages, dying of sickness and malnutrition. She is adopted, though her relief is short-lived, by an Fundamentalist Christian couple and brought to America. Elizabeth (as the couple names her) leaves one life of fear to another. The couple's radical Christian beliefs manifests into abusive behavior that creates an environment of shame and terror.

Only through the birth of her daughter, Lee, is Elizabeth able to confront the horrors that she experienced as a child. An autobiography of hope despite seemingly insurmountable odds and the power of mother-love.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Shortcomings, by Adrian Tomine

A serious graphic novel about relationships, and the false impressions that can destroy them.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

When You are Engulfed in Flames

by David Sedaris (audiobook)

Back again from the author of Me Talk Pretty One Day, Sedaris' book of comical and insightful essays had me in stitches. I found myself laughing out loud at his descriptions of people and events. His boyfriend Hugh's habit of losing him anytime they walk anywhere. The woman who kept a babyfood jar filled with water and old cigarette butts that she sniffed anytime she thought about taking up smoking again. His sister quizzing him on his Japanese, asking, "Do you know how to say, 'My sister and I went to see a movie with a dragon in it' " though it wasn't on the index cards. Keeping a giant spider as a pet and feeding it live flies for entertainment.

Though sometimes foul (a disclamer for sensitive types), it is utterly hilarious and laugh out loud funny.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I'd read this before and remembered it fondly. The recent movie prompted me to revisit it. This book is a classic, having single-handedly given graphic novels legitimacy. The intricacy of plot and subtlety of artwork come together in a spectacular work of art.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Bel Canto

by Ann Patchett

A suspenseful romantic story of a soiree gone wrong. A wealthy Japanese businessman, Mr. Hosokawa, is thrown a birthday party by a South American Vice President in order to gain his favor so that he might construct factories in their country. To lure Mr. Hosokawa to the affair, the Vice President hires the Japanese man's favorite opera soprano, Roxanne Coss, to entertain.

Diplomats from all over the world are invited to the event, including the President of the country, though he does not attend. What starts out as a lovely evening of music and dining eventually turns disastrous as the party is taken over by terrorists hoping to kidnap the President.

The situation starts out as terrifying and chaotic, but evolves into something quite different. The terrorists and guests create relationships that would have been unheard of if not for the unique circumstance. Friendship, kindess, compassion, and even love blossom in the most unlikely of ways.

Beautifully written and compelling.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Family First

by Dr. Phil

In this book, Dr. Phil explains the five factors for a phenomenal family (great alliteration, right?). To do this you need to create a nurturing and accepting Family system; promote rhythm in your family life; establish meaningful rituals and traditions; be active in your communication; and learn how to manage crisis. I found this book to be helpful and, at least, reassuring about my desires to do simple things like eat dinner at the dining room table instead of in front of the tv and scheduling family time, making it a priority. Simple rituals like reading a story to your child every night before bed becomes an integral part of the glue that keeps the family together and ingrains wonderful memories for years to come.

A great read!