Tuesday, September 30, 2008

2008 book 154

L.M. Montgomery's The Blue Castle
This is my all-time favorite Montgomery book--the one that's moved with me from dorm room to apartment to other apartments--b/c I think I related to Valancy more than any other heroine. And I still love the end that wraps up everything in a perfect little bow!

Monday, September 29, 2008

political debates

You have to have a sense of humor in these turbulent times. Later this week, the College Democrats and College Republicans are holding a debate in the library. Luckily, our web guy has a pretty great sense of humor.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

2008 book 153

Tatiana De Rosnay's Sarah's Key
A journalist in Paris is writing a piece on the 60th anniversary of the Vel' D'Hiv roundup, when French police carted off thousands of Jews, mostly women and children. She soon discovers her husband's family has a secret that connects them to the event. Also central to the story is a little girl who hid her brother, thinking she'd be home for him soon. Some bits of this, especially the end, are a little overwrought, but it's a nice examination of the aftermath of such a tragedy, for Jews and non-Jews alike. B+.

2008 book 152

Miriam Toews' The Flying Troutmans
Toews is a reliably good author, especially with her endearing and eccentric characters, and this novel is no different. After her sister is sent to a psych ward, a young woman takes her niece and nephew on a crazy road trip to track down their father. A-.

2008 book 151

Kate Atkinson's When Will There e Good News?
I love love love Atkinson's Jackson Brodie mysteries--she writes such great characters that I always end up really caring about, and she's great at weaving all sorts of seemingly disparate narrative threads into a cohesive story. A.

Friday, September 26, 2008

2008 book 150

Philip Pullman's The Tin Princess
This is the most outlandish in the series--but actually very readable.

anne of windy poplars discussion

Discuss here!

great kids' books

This essay (via Metafilter) made me think about the books I loved growing up, and the books I'd love to pass on to hypothetical future children. What books make up the ideal bookshelf for a kid or pre-teen? There are some great ones mentioned in the essay--The Little House books, Charlotte's Web, Bridge to Terebithia, the Chronicles of Narnia, Little Prince . . . so what other books should I put on my ideal bookshelf?

Obviously the Harry Potter and Anne of Green Gables books (along with pretty much everything by Montgomery). The book about the immortal family and the little girl they befriend (I'm blanking on the title--it's a classic, and it always made me cry. Serious, you must know which book I mean--what is it called? The girl's name is Winnie, I think. Oh, never mind, I just remembered that Rory Gilmore starred in a terrible movie version and looked it up on imdb--Tuck Everlasting). More contemporary series, like Lemony Snicket and Kiki Strike. Contemporary fantasy books like Un Lun Dun, The Hunger Games, the Golden Compass and its sequels, Howl's Moving Castle, and Nation. Stargirl. Love that Dog. Guilty pleasure series like Twilight and the Traveling Pants books (maybe?). Definitely the Westing Game and other books by Ellen Raskin. I Am the Messenger and Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. Variuos Lois Lowry books (Anastasia books, The Giver, etc). Judy Blume.

So what am I missing?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

2008 book 149

Philip Pullman's The Tiger in the Well
This is my least favorite of the Sally Lockhart books--the main plot is really annoying and frustrating, as evil dudes plot to ruin Sally's live and business thanks to archaic sexist laws (yes, Pullman, we KNOW you're a feminist!). The book is slightly redeemed by the addition of a bunch of Jewish socialist characters to save the day.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

more books women should read

Jezebel has completed their list of 75 books every woman should read (the original post was linked below).

I've read only 44 of them . . . clearly I have some work to do!

2008 book 148

Philip Pullman's The Shadow in the North
Sally Lockhart is back in this sequel, as headstrong and independent as ever. Of course she and her friends get caught up in another complicated mystery involving business fraud and murder. What was interesting to me on this re-read is how prominent Pullman's--I hesitate to say agenda--politics are. This book is all about feminism and democracy, and is really down on capitalism and government. Kind of the opposite of Ayn Rand (plus his characters are a lot more likable and funny than her strident sticks-in-the-mud).

links, books, etc

OK, this is awesome--Books for Barack (via Bookslut). I don't have $250, but if you have cash to spare, this is a great way to spend it.

It looks like L.M. Montgomery committed suicide.

What books should every woman read?

Monday, September 22, 2008

2008 book 147

Philip Pullman's The Ruby in the Smoke
I was excited to see that Masterpiece would be showing versions of this and its sequel, since I remember really liking the books--but last night's episode was really disappointing! For one thing, there was a little too much plot to cram into 90 minutes, and for another, they made Sally into a total wuss. I reread the book just to verify my memories that she was basically a bad-ass, and though in this first one she's just a kid caught up in a crazy mystery, she's still smart, capable, and self-assured. The move version is totally wishy-washy, wandering around waiting to be rescued. Ugh. At least she looked slightly more bad-ass in the previews for next week. I think I'll reread the whole trilogy and its companion while I wait!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

2008 book 146

Kate Summerscale's The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher
The problem is that I just think non-fiction books are super boring!--even when they're talking about a sensational murder case and the birth of detective fiction.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

2008 book 145

Jennifer Haigh's The Condition
This excellent novel deals with a New England family and their various travails--most strikingly, the diagnosis of their daughter with Turner's Syndrome. One of the blurb-ers (Tom Perrotta, actually), notes that "the ailment at the center of this remarkable novel is the human condition itself" and I think that's pretty apt. Also, part of the story takes place in Pittsburgh and the Steelers are mentioned in passing several times, so I was even more inclined to like it. A.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

2008 book 144

Donna Milner's After River
I was eager to read this--it's the book I lost at the airport on my way home from Midwinter--and my library finally got it. Anyway, it's the story of what happens to a Canadian farm family when a Vietnam War resister comes to stay with them. There's a little too much overdramatic foreshadowing, and it's fairly predictable, but most of the characters are great and it's a perfectly serviceable story. B.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

2008 book 143

Nicole Krauss' The History of Love
I finished this in the nick of time--the library book group is discussing it tomorrow. It was really a pleasure to reread. Here's what I thought of it last time I read it. (Humorous side note on reading that old entry--I was SURE I owned a copy of this, and couldn't find it when I was looking the other day, so figured I'd given it away in the Great Book Purge of '07, but didn't know why I'd give away a book I liked so much . . . and it turns out I never owned it. Heh.)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

2008 book 142

E. Lockhart's The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
This was a pretty funny book about a teen girl at a boarding school who secretly infiltrates her boyfriend's all-male secret society in a bid to prove her greater intelligence. I loved the character and hope there will be a sequel. A/A-.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

2008 book 141

Louis Bayard's The Black Tower
In this historical mystery, a prominent Parisian detective enlists a young medical student to help solve a murder; soon, the two are embroiled in a larger mystery--what did happen to the son of Louis XI and Marie-Antoinette? Is it possible that he escaped the tower and didn't die at age ten? Definitely an entertaining read. A-/B+.

2008 book 140

Hannah Tinti's The Good Thief
Yay, my library finally got this and I read it all in one sitting. It's just as good as I hoped! It's the story of a young one-handed boy in an orphanage; soon, a man comes to take him, claiming to be his long-lost brother, but the boy soon discovers he's a thief and a con man. Comparisons to Dickens are apt, in terms of the story and the memorable and lovable scoundrels of characters. A.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

2008 book 139

Noel Streatfeild's Ballet Shoes
I was home sick today and, between naps, watched the 2007 movie of Ballet Shoes, starring Emma Watson from Harry Potter (and some other familiar faces), which is based on one of my favorite books from childhood. Unfortunately it was a really awful version, with lots of stupid subplots shoehorned in for the adults, and much elss focus on the children--and I always think the children and their relationships are the point of the book. So of course I had to reread it! I loved Streatfeild's books when I was younger (and still do) and think it's a shame so many are out of print. Luckily I still have my old copies (though this one is actually falling apart) and can keep enjoying them. For those who haven't read it, it's the story of three adopted girls in 1930s London who get involved in the theater, partially for love of it, and partially to earn money for their family, since their paleontologist breadwinner has been gone for years. Totally a classic.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

2008 book 138

Andrew Sean Greer's Story of a Marriage
As the title notes, this is the story of a marriage, particularly one in the early 1950s. There were several surprises--Greer crafted his story well--so I'm glad I didn't read the jacket or blurbs too closely. A-.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

2008 book 137

Chelsea Cain's Sweetheart
EW didn't like this much, but I thought it was a pretty good follow-up to Heartsick. Scrappy blue-haired reporter Susan Ward is back, trying to break a story about a Senator who slept with his kids' babysitter, when she gets caught up once again with detective Archie Sheridan and the serial killer he caught, who has escaped from prison. Cain fills in some of the holes from the last book, and I thought the ending was fitting. B/B+.

2008 book 136

Emily Perkins' Novel About My Wife
A man and his pregnant wife seem to have the perfect lie, except that he's struggling with job issues and she's convinced there's a man stalking her. I did like the end, but wish some questions had been answered more explicitly. B.

Friday, September 05, 2008

2008 book 135

Steve Toltz's A Fraction of the Whole
An imprisoned man narrates his family history, starting with his outlaw uncle and paranoid father. A surprisingly engrossing story. B+.

fall book preview! (aka "what books i have on hold at the library")

So fall book season is upon us once again, and I for one could not be more excited. I've already read several awesome books that are due out soon (thanks to ALA advance copies) that I can highly recommend, but there are also several coming that I'm eagerly awaiting. And for your book-list pleasure, here they are!

The five I've read that I totally loved (some may already be out, even!):

--Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games totally blew my mind. It's a future dystopian thing where teens battle to the death on must-watch reality tv. The heroine is totally compelling and there's even some unexpected friendship and romance. I'm already dying for the sequel to come out.

--On a slightly similar note is Terry Prachett's Nation, which I also enjoyed, and which involves a couple of teenagers trying to rebuild civilization on a destroyed island (not related to the Discworld series).

--Randa Jarrar's A Map of Home about a Muslim girl trying to find her place in the world was also a great read.

--Things go awry for a pair of headstrong newlyweds in 1920s North Carolina in Ron Rash's Serena, which was a pretty intense but great story.

--Goldengrove by Francine Prose is getting lots of deserved buzz.

And finally--the many books I'm psyched for! Lots of notable authors, mysteries, and other fun books are coming down the pike.

Marilynne Robinson and Toni Morrison both have new works coming out, both long-awaited. Julia Glass, author of Three Junes and the totally underrated 9/11 novel The Whole World Over also has a new one due.

Hannah Tinti's The Good Thief is getting TONS of buzz (I even considered actually buying it), as is The Book of Lies by Brad Meltzer, a novel which conflates the Cain and Abel story with Superman's creator. Novel about my Wife technically came out in August, but I haven't read it yet and it looks promising.

There's a couple of cool-looking mysteries coming out too--Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a bestseller in Europe, is coming out in translation, and Chelsea Cain has written a sequel to Heartsick (which I liked), called Sweetheart.

For more fall books (including non-fiction, which I rarely read and know little about), check out USA Today's fall books calendar. (They also have a list of ten fall books that are sure to be topics of discussion.)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

um . . .

I don't usually post about politics (despite my generally strident views), but this screen grab of the cnn.com homepage needed to go up. I mean, does that look like a freaking Nazi salute, or what? Totally disturbing.

And speaking of Palin, I shared this link via Google a few days ago, and it's been making the librarian rounds, but for non-librarians who might be interested: when she was mayor of her tiny Alaska town, Sarah Palin tried to ban books and then tried to fire the librarian who refused to allow it.