Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris 275 pages

I am not always in the right frame of mind to read David Sedaris but when I am, I always enjoy what I find. Usually there is at least one piece that has me laughing out loud.  Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls was no disappointment.  The laugh out loud came during Now Hiring Friendly People, but there were plenty of other smiles and grins throughout the book. 

#2 to Go was full of eye opening information to me.  I have never traveled to China (and hope I never have a need to do so) and some of the conditions and habits Sedaris described in that piece were pretty raw and disgusting.

Sedaris goes back again and again to his childhood, quoting his parents and describing their bizarre behavior.  Did his dad really come home from work every night and take off his pants, and sometimes his shirt, and spend the evening attired in only his underpants?

In Loggerheads, when a neighbor dies, Sedaris’ father tells the widow that her sons will need a positive male influence and he’ll be happy to provide what help he can, but his mother says, he’ll ignore them, “just like he does with his own damn kids.”

Overall, I loved this book and would highly recommend it.

Mirror Lake by Thomas Christopher Greene 212 pages

Thomas Christopher Greene tells a simple story of love, betrayal and loss in Mirror Lake.  One reviewer I read complained about his long paragraphs.  I can see that point but I really enjoy Greene’s descriptions and the rhythm of his writing, so I am not bothered by a long paragraph now and then.

The ending of this book is not really a surprise, but the intensity of the characters makes it a good read.  I would highly recommend this book.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander 207 pages

The short stories in this collection deal with Jewish religion, tradition and culture.  The Holocaust features in many of the stories as well.  In fact, in the title story a couple has invented a game in which they analyze acquaintances and friends.  The purpose of the analysis is to determine if the friend would harbor them, or hand them over to authorities, in the event of another Holocaust.

A few stories have some humor, one of my favorites was Camp Sundown.  However, even the humorous stories tend to have dark slants.  How We Avenged the Blums tells the story of a group of young Jewish boys who are determined to stop an anti-Semite bully.  The young men train under the direction of Boris, who asks “Do you know which countries have no anti-Semite?” The answer: “The country with no Jew”.

I enjoyed these stories and I would highly recommend this book.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin, 416 pages

"The Aviator's Wife" is a fictionalized account of the life of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, otherwise known as Mrs. Charles Lindbergh.

Wow.  This was a wonderful book.  The story is told from the perspective of Anne Lindbergh and goes back and forth between 1974 when Charles was on his deathbed to Anne's remembrance of their entire marriage, from the beginning.

I came away from this book believing that Charles Lindbergh was a deeply flawed and difficult man and Anne Lindbergh was an amazing woman.  As in most historical fiction based on real events that I read, I am now dying to learn more.  And to read Anne Morrow Lindbergh's book "Gift from the Sea," which we thankfully have in the library!

Shadow Spell by Nora Roberts 339 pages

"Shadow Spell" is the 2nd book in the Cousin O'Dwyer trilogy.  Following the template of all other Roberts trilogies, there are 3 cousins and this one involves Conner and his lovely long time friend Meara.  Conner, his sister, Branna, and their cousin from America, Iona, are direct descendants of the Dark Witch and they must use their powers to defeat the terrible "dark fog" that threatens their family,their friends and their way of life.   A tale of good vs evil, good witch vs dark witch, with a little love, Irish lore and romance thrown in for good measure. A quick and easy read.

The Collector by Nora Roberts 483 pages

I have to admit, I am a huge Nora Roberts fan.  I love her trilogies, mainly because I never want the story to end.  She paints her characters so vividly that they come to life, and you want to know what happens, even when the story ends.  This is a stand-alone novel and quite a page turner!  Lila Emerson is a professional house sitter and Young Adult novel writer.  She actually has no permanent address.  All her belongings fit in two suitcases, with some overflow she keeps at her best friend, Julie's apartment.  One of Lila's habits is to watch the neighbors with a pair of binoculars; she like making up stories about them from her brief glimpses into their lives.  One night, 1:40 am to be exact, after wine and cupcakes with Julie, she is watching Ms. Model and Mr. Slick (Lila's names for them), when something goes terribly wrong.  Ms. Model is shoved out the 14 story  window by an assailant unseen!  Lila just knows it is Mr. Slick, although she has never seen anything violent happen between them before.  She calls the police and they find Mr. Slick murdered also!  That is when Lila meets Mr. Slick's (real name Oliver Archer) brother, famous artist, Ash Archer.  Lila and Ash team up and begin to delve into the mystery of why anyone would want to kill his charming and seemingly harmless brother.  Nora Roberts spins you into her web of antiquities, Russian Fabrege eggs, the collector who would to anything to acquire as many as possible and the assassin who would kill, just for the pleasure of it.  Ash and Julie must use their skills, wits and all the power and influence available to them to trap the murderous assassin before she can kill them both.  This is a highly recommend!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I'll Never Be Long Gone by Thomas Christopher Greene 285 pages

When Charlie and Owen Bender’s father dies he leaves his home and beloved restaurant in Eden, Vermont, to Charlie and a sum of money to Owen.  Owen has been in love with Claire Apple through his high school years but when he leaves after the reading of the father’s will, no one knows how to contact him for years.

Claire leaves town also, attends college and eventually moves to France where she perfects her cooking skills. She moves back to Eden following a failed romance and eventually begins working for Charlie.

Claire and Charlie fall in love, marry and have a son.  Owen returns to Eden and resumes his friendship with his brother and his brother’s wife.  Sparks fly, decisions must be made by Claire and Owen.  The rest is predictable, but a well written read, nonetheless. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Seven Wonders: The Colossus Rises by Peter Lerangis 348 pgs.

I picked this audiobook up because it was coming back with good reviews from my kids here at the library.  It is a fantasy series that draws upon a new idea.  Where Rick Riordan plays on Greek and Egyptian mythology creeping into modern day life, Lerangis opted to go with Atlantian lore.  Honestly, I can't say I was really taken with this story.  I fear it might have been because of the reader, Johnathan McClain, who too often made characters' voices sound ridiculous and cartoonish.  That's great for picture books, but very distracting in a book like this one.  There was a heck of a lot of Deus ex machina and that got on my nerves.  Again, was it the reader?  It's difficult to say.  The story was not gripping, but the idea was interesting.  It ended with a distinct cliffhanger, but I don't care to continue it.  I think this is one that kids may find way more compelling than adults do, so I will still pitch it to kids who like Harry Potter and The Lightning Thief series.

The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis 303 pages

The Mighty Miss Malone is by the author of Bud, Not Buddy and The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963.  This was such a great book.  It is just a slice of life story about a family that barely gets by during a time when hardly anyone was doing much more than just getting by.  Deza Malone is the youngest member of the Malone family.  She was such a believable and lovable character.  She was sassy and funny, but such a good kid, I was pulling for her the whole book.  Even when tragedy strikes, this little family just keeps on going.  Making the best of the worst and trying to keep on track.  Deza, who is 12-years-old, discovers that while they are "a family on a a journey to a place called Wonderful", that journey may be a difficult one and Wonderful may be something she didn't expect.
I kept waiting to be driven to tears.  There was certainly plenty in this book that could have moved me there, but Curtis did such a fantastic job of making these characters resilient and charismatic, I just enjoyed the ride.  No tears, just a sense of okay, maybe this is all going to be alright now.  I loved it!
This is a nominee for the Mark Twain award this year and would be great for kids 4th grade and up.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Princesses Behaving Badly by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie, 288 pages

The full title of this book is "Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History Without the Fairy-Tale Endings."  I downloaded this audiobook from Missouri Libraries 2 Go on a whim.  It looked like a fun book and I enjoy history.   

The book provides mini-biographies on many royal women throughout modern and ancient history.  It is well-written and in an irreverent voice that I really enjoyed.  The author begins by stating she wrote this to counteract the Princess Culture that is so prevalent today thanks to all the Disney princesses.  She wanted to tell the stories of real women, who did not, for the most part, live "happily ever after."  I might have checked this out on a whim, but I'm happy I did so.