Thursday, August 30, 2007


by Paul Reiser

I know this book is older, 1995, but it is still one of my favorites. Paul Reiser is the actor from the hit television series, "Mad About You." In his book, he relates the magical interaction between two loving people, known as couplehood. From getting ready to go out to ordering in a restaurant, Reiser shows us how funny and odd the interactions can be, making us laugh as we nod our heads in agreement, then shake them in admonition. If you haven't read this book, I highly recommend it. Its light and funny, and anyone who has ever been in a relationship can, well... relate.

Harry Potter and Philosophy: If Aristotle Ran Hogwarts

This collection, edited by David Baggett and Shawn E. Klein, is a goldmine of literary criticism and intellectual thought about the Harry Potter series. Each article in the book is written by a philosophy scholar who also has an interest in popular culture. For me, it was a throwback to college. I was an English major, and I loved reading and writing literary criticism. And since I'm a huge Harry Potter fan, I motored through the entire book. It's heavy, dense stuff, and it will get you thinking. This book was written in 2004, so it only covers the first five books in the series. Since I've now read all seven, I was able to extrapolate from a lot of the points the philosophers make throughout the book. I'm curious to see if this book will be updated.

Queen of Babble in the Big City

Meg Cabot, prolific author of young adult novels (The Princess Diaries), writes a handful of series for adults. This is the second book in the Queen of Babble series, starring Lizzie Nichols, an up-and-coming wedding gown designer with just one fault: she can't keep her mouth shut. I listened to the first book when it came out last year and enjoyed it--I was happy to see that this second installment was read by the same narrator, Justine Eyre. This book follows Lizzie as she tries to get noticed in the big city. She accomplishes her goals, but not always with the results she'd like. And there are some big surprises, which I don't want to reveal--all I can say is, I'm definitely going to be getting the next book in the series as soon as it comes out!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Visiting Life: Women Doing Time on the Outside

by Bridget Kinsella

I forget how I found this book, but it was something I stumbled on while looking for something interesting to read. Bridget Kinsella is an editor for Publisher's Weekly, and Visiting Life is a memoir about her relationship with Rory, an inmate of Pelican Bay Prison who is serving a life sentence for murder. She first meets Rory when a collegue sends his manuscript to her for publishing advice. She decides to meet him and they develop a relationship, the unique kind of relationship that can only develop on the opposite sides of prison bars. Love without sex. During her visits with Rory, Bridget meets other women who have men, husbands and sons, on the inside and write about their stories. Many of the women have been abused in their childhoods, and Bridget finds that it is easier for these women to fall in love with men who are safely behind bars, only communicating in letters and short visits. Bridget discovers healing from a painful divorce through Rory's devotion to her and is able to grow and develop because of her "angel" in an unlikely place.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

If Today Be Sweet by Thrity Umrigar

This is the latest by one of my favorite authors who also happens to live in the Cleveland area. This time she uses Cleveland as the backdrop for a story about a Parsi family. Tammy, a widow from Bombay, is staying with her son, Sorab, and his family, who live in a suburb of Cleveland. However, it's the first time she is visiting since her husband died and from the beginning we learn that her Sorab and his family would like her to leave Bombay and move permanently to the U.S. It is, of course, a major decision for Tammy with many pros and cons. As she tries to decide where she will live, she impacts family, neighbors and friends with her generous nature and concern for others. Her ultimate decision does not come easily.
My favorite of Thrity's is still Bombay Time but this one is still well written and satisfying.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Thursday Next in First Among Sequels

Jasper Fforde's return to the Thursday Next series is everything I hoped it would be. Funny, fast-paced, and most importantly, the start of a new plot line! In the first four books, starting with The Eyre Affair, Thursday was in her thirties and just beginning her adventures as a Literary Detective. Now, sixteen years later, Thursday's a fiftysomething, married with a teenaged son and two young daughters. Thankfully, she's still up to her old tricks in the BookWorld, hanging out with her friends, who just happen to be fictional characters. If you've read the first series, you'll find that this return trip is a satisfying treat which is open for yet another sequel! And if you haven't read the first series, I order you to go back and start reading it now.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

by Lisa See

The story of Lily and Snow Flower is set in 19th century China, where foot-binding was common practice among many families. Foot-binding was the tradition of breaking young girls' feet to deform them into "lily" feet, small and delicate. The smaller the feet, the more marriageable the daughter was into a wealthy family because she was seen as more desirable. When they are very young, Snow Flower and Lily are matched as lao tung or "old sames" by a matchmaker and they sign a contract to become friends, bound to each other's soul, for life. As lao tung, they are taught the ancient language of nu shu in which to communicate across villages in secret writing only known by women. They write to each other of their foot-binding, their arranged marraiges, childbirth, and life as women in a male-dominated society. The story is a close look at a completely different culture, and how women survived their oppression and deformity, forming bonds that last a lifetime.

The Eyre Affair

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

I ran across this book while looking for something new to listen to on audio CD. The title caught my eye since I am a huge fan of Charlotte Bronte's classic novel, Jane Eyre.

Thursday Next is a literatec, a spec ops agent who specializes in all things literary and is, for the most part, confined to a desk. That is, until the evil Archeron Hades discovers and steals her uncle's new literary portal that allows humans to enter the realm of fiction and alter its contents. He plots to alter Jane Eyre, unless the government meets with his demands. While her Aunt Polly is trapped in the poem "I wandered lonely as a cloud", Thursday has to travel into the Bronte novel, find Hades and stop him from doing any literary damage.

This book is a fun, fantastical read with plenty of action and adventure, set in a futuristic world of time travel and magical portals. I highly recommend this book, and look forward to reading its sequels.

War Fix

This is a graphic novel adaptation of a piece by journalist David Axe. The story itself is pretty intriguing. It chronicles the experiences of a journalist who decides to go to Iraq to cover the invasion in 2003. In the process, he discovers much more about himself than about the conflict.

The art was done by graphic artist Stephen Olexa. It’s unique and high-quality, but I was left wondering how familiar Olexa is with comics. The layouts are confusing, and tricks like border breakouts, panel combinations and varying fonts are used way too heavily. It’s great as graphic art, but muddled in terms of graphic novels. All in all, it’s an unusual and compelling read.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Look at Me by Jennifer Egan

I read this book for the second time because I read it several years ago and my book group is doing it and I needed a refresher. It is a very strange book, but I enjoyed both readings because the writer is excellent. There are several interrelated plots going on at the same time, but the main character is an aging model who gets in a very serious car accident that breaks the bones in her face. The accident doesn't cut her face but the doctors have to go in through her skull and fuse her bones together with titanium screws. This is significant because when she mends, she is not scarred as in someone who's had a terrible accident, but she is changed, altered. She is no longer a beauty. She ends up being filmed and having her story told on the internet. There is too much to go into as far as the plot goes, but the book brings up issues of beauty, privacy, reality, integrity. I liked this book but not everyone in my group did.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Almost Moon

I got an advanced copy of this title (it comes out in October). I loved The Lovely Bones, so I was really looking forward to this one. It's well-written and definitely an exciting and interesting read, exploring the dark side of the human psyche, but I must say I was disappointed. Alice Sebold is such a talented writer, and I expected more from her. I recommend it, especially if you were a fan of the Lovely Bones, but I can't guarantee you'll like it in the end... and that's all I can say without spoiling anything! I'm curious to see how well this one will sell and how popular it will be.


Of late, I have been reading the adventures of the Walsh sisters, written by Marian Keyes. The first book, Watermelon, follows the story of Claire Walsh. Claire had a happy marriage until her daughter was born and her husband left her on the same day. Distraught, she returns home to her crazy family, who nurtures her through the crisis. The plot is a little predictable (although it takes a few interesting twists) but Keyes had me laughing out loud throughout the book. I actually read the other titles out of order--the next one in the series is Rachel's Holiday (which I have not read yet), followed by Angels and Anybody Out There? (which I have read). So far, I have not been disappointed with any of Keyes's titles, so when I've finished this series, I plan to read her other stand-alone titles as well.

Interestingly, I have on my "to read" list a book with a very similar plot summary, so I'm looking forward to seeing how the two will be different.

The South Beach Diet - Good Fats, Good Carbs Guide

A supplement to the popular original diet book, this book gives a break down of the foods to eat and enjoy, and foods to avoid. The contents are divided into multiple food categories, including types and meals. For each food item the portion size, total carbs, total sugar, total fat, and recommendation is given to make it simple to make smart selections for the diet. I have found this small volume to be of tremendous help when I am grocery shopping or even eating fast food.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

World War Z

Author Max Brooks wrote this book from the perspective of someone looking back on a global war with the undead a decade after major hostilities ended. While it might sound like a goofy premise, it actually works surprisingly well. His inventions of details like how survivors cope in the long term, environmental impacts, migration patterns and more really add a unique perspective not seen in the typical zombie tale.
I listened to this one in mp3 format from our digital collection. It's extremely well performed, featuring the voices of Alan Alda, Henry Rollins, and a good collection of other famous names. If you only listen to one zombie story read by Alan Alda this year, make it this one.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Making Comics

Scott McCloud has written several books about the comics industry. This title is exceptional. McCloud is well-versed in comics history and has obviously put a great deal of thought into the format. This guide includes not only the basics of drawing, framing and so on, but also storytelling in comics form. Facets of comics like how the art style affects mood can elude those with even extensive knowledge of traditional literature. McCloud outlines the basic functions a panel can play, the six ways text and picture can interact and more. It’s a surprisingly erudite, yet accessible, read.

The Artist’s Handbook

This is a kind of encyclopedia of artistic materials and techniques, written by Ray Smith. It’s a great source of overview information for those looking to try a new technique or learn how a particular effect was achieved. The level of detail on techniques, while not exhaustive, is sufficient to get one started, and also offers interesting background information and history.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Stupid and Contagious

This first novel by Caprice Crane is the story of Heaven and Brady, two oddballs who end up living next door to each other and forming a relationship. This book was rated as the Number One Chick Lit book of 2006 by Romantic Times Book Reviews, so I had to order it for the library and read it. I was really surprised by the unconventional writing style; Crane is funny, and her characters quirky, but not in a usual way at all. If you're a regular chick lit fan, you might be thrown off by that. I did get accustomed to the style right away, though. It reminded me very much of Little Stalker by Jennifer Belle, which I read earlier this year. I was also surprised to find out that Crane is the daughter of actress Tina Louise, Ginger of Gilligan's Island. I wondered if she got any more clout in the publishing world because of that fact. Well, regardless of whether she did or not, this was an excellent book, and I'm looking forward to her next one, which is coming out this year.

Visiting Life: Women Doing Time on the Outside

This one was one of those books: you know, the ones that you read a review about in the paper, then feel like you have to check out because it might make a cultural contribution to society, and then it sits on your shelf for two weeks until you know you have to return it. Usually when I come across an item like this, I read the first few pages to make sure I don't really want to read it before I bring it back. I read those first few pages, and boy, was I hooked. This is Bridget Kinsella's memoir of her life as the girlfriend of a convicted murderer. She's a bigwig in the publishing world, and she met him while trying to help him get his work published. She swore up and down that she wouldn't get involved with a convict, but as their relationship deepened, her love for him became inevitable. I soared through the story, finishing the book in a day and bringing it back on time. Kinsella writes like a novelist, but the story is true. I got lost in the narrative and felt thoroughly moved by the time it was done. I highly recommend it, not for its contribution to society, necessarily, but for the true, if rough, beauty of Kinsella's story.