Friday, August 31, 2007

subtle knife

I eagerly listened to the Subtle Knife (the sequel to the Golden Compass) by Philip Pullman and now I am only MORE frustrated to know how the story is resolved and MORE worried about Lyra and her friends. Why do I feel this way? Why oh why? BECAUSE it is a really great story.
I love books.
I listened to this one. 9 hours.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


For a book that was a lot about dogs, this was a quick fun (sort of predictable) teen romance with a healthy dose of growing up and improving parental relations.
Stray by Stacey Goldblatt 276 pgs. i checked it out

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson

Clio’s life up to age seventeen has been anything but ordinary, but her goal this summer is to get a job in the art store she loves, working with the guy she likes, hopefully get her first kiss, and generally have a normal teenage experience in Philadephia. Just as things are falling into place, her mother announces that she is moving to Kansas for the summer with her new boyfriend to work on an art restoration project. Clio isn’t invited, which means that she’s heading to Italy to spend the summer with her father, who isn’t know for being a responsible parent. Upon arrival, Clio is whisked from the airport onto a yacht with her father, where they promptly head out to sea. On board the small boat is Julia, an archeologist and the woman he is apparently dating (although he didn’t bother to mention that earlier). Also not mentioned were her dad’s friend Martin and Julia’s daughter Elsa. And then there’s Aidan. He’s a smug college student working as a research assistant to Julia. Clio certainly didn’t plan to spend her summer trapped with five other people on a small boat on a secret exploratory mission in the Mediterranean!

As the adventure develops and Clio snoops around the boat to find out more about the secret mission, she learns more about the people onboard as well. Maureen Johnson gives us great characters, especially as they react to one another on the confined spaces of the yacht. I love the writing in this novel, from the observation of gorgeous Elsa – “this was what the person who invented cheese must have been like – a blond dairy goddess” to a comment about a run down Italian town – “Europe decayed so well.” Even on board the yacht – “The air conditioning made that gentle noise that kittens make when they sleep.”
Remember how Clio’s mom went to Kansas for the summer -- Of all of the books in the world that mention Topeka as a place that you don’t want to spend the summer, this one I can forgive because it is sweet and funny.

My one complaint – the picture on the cover of the book! Clio is described as being very artsy-punk, with long brown hair, altered thrift store t-shirts, and a brightly colored and distinctive tattoo encircling her wrist. The only thing I can figure is that they put Elsa on the cover instead of Clio to avoid scaring the readers!

I borrowed it from a friend. 323 pages

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

wee free men

I listened to The Wee Free Men, a story of Discword (although I didn't recognize any Discword characters that I knew from other books so far) by British fantasy author and all around funny guy Terry Pratchett. The story is spun with his usual witty, silly style. We are introduced to Tiffany Aching, a young witch-wannabe, who travels into fairyland to rescue her little brother, a not altogether appealing creature who is overly found of sweets. With the help of the Wee Free Men --who are very small, very fast, and have bright blue skin -- Tiffany must conquer the eerie cold dream-world of Fairyland and return home to the warmth of the Chalk country, even if it means her world will never be quite the same again.
I listened to it -- absolutely terrific accents for the Wee Free Men voices- 7.5 hours.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

graphic novel - The Plain Janes

The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci
After Jane is knocked to the ground by an explosion in Metro City, her parents drag her to the safety of the suburbs. At her new high school, Jane resists making friends. She doesn’t want to talk about what happened. The only person who can understand is another young man who was hurt in the explosion – but John Doe is lying unconscious in a Metro City Hospital. Jane mails letters to him, and reads his notebook, and feels comforted. She’s inspired by his drawings in his notebook to make art in her new town. When she sees an ugly new strip mall being built, Jane convinces three other misfit girls, all named Jane, to help her create art in public places. But will art be enough to save Jane, or will this only make everything worse?

Sometimes I’m guilty of judging a book by its cover, but I was amazed at how wrong I was in this case. I was expecting a fun flirty teen story and instead found a terrorist attack on the very first page. Don’t be fooled by the cute girl legs on the front of this graphic novel – these girls are each complicated individuals and this book is guaranteed to make you think. Although these four girls are in a secret club called P.L.A.I.N., they are anything but plain Janes!

I read the whole thing twice, but graphic novels are rarely paginated! probably about 50 pages.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Liar, Liar

Pants on Fire by Meg Cabot

Katie Ellison is about to start her senior year. She's waitressing at a popular seafood restaurant in a town that idolizes seafood. She's dating a popular football player in a town that idolizes football. And life should be great, but to be honest, for the past few years, Katie has been a big liar. She makes out with another guy behind the bike racks, doesn't even like seafood, and only keeps dating the football player because it seems like social suidice not to. And she's been keeping a huge secret for four years, ever since the night that someone spray painted in day-glo orange "Tommy Sullivan is a ...." on the wall of the brand new middle school. The words are still visible (sandblasting is expensive) but Tommy was driven out of town by the incident.

Katie's life is turned upside down when Tom Sullivan returns to town a few weeks before summer ends. She suddenly sees him everywhere and is shocked that he wants to talk to her. In fact, they used to be friends in a nerdy unpopular way -- a fact which she tried not to bring up to her current popular crowd. But what will she do with this honest, charming and breathtakingly handsome guy who has reappeared in her life? Because Tom isn't going to play Katie's games, and when he says things like "I’d hate to know I’d come between you and the guy you’re cheating on your boyfriend with” Katie realizes that she has some big decisions to make.

Pants on Fire is a fun teen read about clams, football, and friendship. The romantic part of the plot comes from Katie's many makeout sessions and the confusion that they bring to all involved. Another sure-fire success from popular author Meg Cabot will please her fans and gain her more readers from the teen romance crowd.

I listented to it 6 hours.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

thursday next: first among sequels

best sequel ever! although it is actually book 5 is the series. huh.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

the friends who know you best

I got an e-mail - subject line "Something else for your reading list..." and this picture.
Reasons I love this.
1. This is from one of my favorite people, who knows me all too well.
2. I love illicit photos taken in book stores.
3. I have gained the Austen addict reputation without even trying.
4. I had just finished the book a few days earlier (reading the advanced reader's copy)
5. Having someone be my personal librarian and suggest things is a real treat.
At home I am struggling to create a 60 second book review video for this book. So far, it involves a lot of vodka, a nice soft bed, and a stack of Austen novels. Once I set the scene, I'll see if I can make a workable video.

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

Good Earth, great book, fabulous discussion! Whatever weird misconceptions, prejudices or judgements might be preventing you from picking up this book right this moment should be pushed aside by the univeral appeal of a good story about human relationships.
357 pages.

Ralph Nader's The Seventeen Traditions

The Seventeen Traditions by Ralph Nader
Ralph Nader has written a book for the parents of young children. He has written a book for the citizens, the feminists, the activists, the immigrants, the grandparents, and the people who believe our children are the future.

Even though this book is shelved with other biographies of Ralph Nader, this meditation on the forces that shape an individual is more than simply a life story. He acknowledges that when he is asked about his influences, he replies "I had a lucky choice of parents." but for his lucky readers, he expands on that answer here.

What shapes the mind, the personality, the character of a person? The seventeen traditions that Ralph Nader identified in his own family are outlined through simple prose that is memorable and moving. As Mr. Nader recounts the wisdom of his parents, his siblings, his family, and the life lessons they imparted throughout his youth and his life, he teaches by example. While he makes some references to the endemic problems in modern society and implies his disapproval to the overabundance of flashy products marketed by the parenting industry, he leaves the application of these traditions to individual families and never stoops to direct instructions or advice on childrearing. An engaged booklover will read slowly to savor each tradition (one per brief chapter) and take away unexpected life lessons. In my case, I also came away with a huge appreciation for my own upbringing (thanks daddy, thanks mama!)

I'm not an unbiased reviewer - I choose this book because I already admired the author - but I believe that this book has appeal for a diverse readership outside of particular political parties or worldviews. If anything, this is a biography of an entire immigrant family who has succeeded in nurturing several productive and contributing members of our society. With a strong message of the strength of extended families and the importance of passing on values, ethics, wisdom and beliefs through parental example, Ralph Nader's The Seventeen Traditions will educate, enlighten and entertain.

Friday, August 10, 2007

golden compass

The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman
The first book in the His Dark Materials series was published in 1995 and a movie version will be released in theatres in early December.

Lyra Belacqua lives at Jordan College in Oxford among the learned scholars but with very few playmates of her own. Luckily she has her demon, Pantalaimon, who accompanies her everywhere, changing shapes to resemble different animal. Lyra can't remember her parents, who both died in an airship accident. Her closest human friend is Roger the kitchen boy, and they make mischief and fight with the other children in town.
Lyra's uncle Asriel visits the college, and would have been poisoned is Lyra had not been spying on the professors in their private rooms. He asks her to eavesdrop on another meeting where she learns about dust, the strange mystical particles that fall from the sky, and of her uncle's travels in the far north. Around the same time in Oxford, children are disappearing, rumored to be taken by Gobblers. Lyra is frantic when her friend Roger is missing and she determines to travel with Pan to the north to find Roger and the other children. Before she can set off, a charming woman named Mrs. Coulter arrives at the college and takes Lyra on as her assistant. On the morning Lyra leaves, the Master of the college gives her a small golden compass in secret, an Alethiometer. He tells her that the device will tell the truth, but she must learn how to read it.
Uncertain of who to trust, Lyra faces adventure and danger, but she continues to search for Roger and travel north as she discovers more truths about herself, her family and the Gobblers.

This is a wonderful novel and I am looking forward to the movie. The one thing that alwasy disappoints me in series is when the story just seems to stop at the end, when I can tell that much more is going to happen. Phillip Pullman does a great job of hooking the reader and making us care about his characters, particularly Lyra and Pan. The book has many themes -- family, coming of age, physics, philosophy, religion, friendship, adventure - and would be highly discussable. Although the series is marketed to teenagers, adults would certainly enjoy the story as well, and some parts are quite descriptive and mature for younger readers.

I listened to the excellent full cast unabridged audiobook recording from Listening Library, and I highly recommend it. Having the action and characters brought to life through voices and sound effects made the story much more dramatic and suspenseful.

Watch the movie trailer from New Line Cinema. (This is the same company who created the Lord of the Rings films.) Read all three books in the His Dark Materials series: The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass.

I checked it out and listened. 10.5 hours.


It's all the library's fault. First they put a book display of banned books at the back of the Periodicals desk all summer. Then they assigned me to work with a fun coworker who wondered why we hadn't ever taken the time to read this controversial book. So. To read "Sex" by Madonna, here is what you have to do -- call the Special Collections Department at 580-4510 and make an appointment to view the book. When you arrive, they may offer you white gloves, just in case you are worried that the metal edges of the thin steel cover will hurt you in some way while you read. Trust me, you don't need them. Even though it's spiral bound, it is not as fragile as other books in Special Collections. The book has naked people photos, and erotic text, but isn't any worse than the nudie mags I used to have to reshelve at Hastings. And Madonna's book has a huge one page send-up on the importance of condoms, which I am pretty sure that those magazines don't. So, the morality lesson is to view banned books yourself and not let me tell you all about them, because that book was WAY more interesting than my description.
Also, where else can you find some sexy snap shots of Vanilla Ice these days?
I viewed it at the library during my evening break.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

hats off to knitting

I've been knitting hats. The pattern is straightforward - cast on 64, 72, 80, 88 and then knit in the round between 5-7 inches, then decrease starting with k6, k2tog over 12 rounds until you are finished! I mixed it up with eyelets and played with different yarns and eventually made one that was baby sized, but I don't have it perfected quite yet, since the sizes are turning out in a wide range. Yarn types are in the file names.

god's gift to shoes

These are my new shoes, aren't they divine? I bought them at the Grand Avenue mall in downtown Milwaukee at a cute urban store.
They are Juliano's Slicks. Inexplicably, they are so cool that I actually cannot locate more information about them on the internet, so you will have to believe me when I tell you that they are orange and CLEAR shoes that I am wearing with hot pink socks. I'm thinking aqua socks next maybe. I love them and smuggled them home in my suitcase so that my fashionable sister wouldn't puke when she saw them....

rest of the vacay reads

I read most of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler while snuggling on the guest bed with my favorite nephew. It's totally time travel about a dumped LA gal who wakes up in Jane Austen's time period inexplicably. It was to be expected.
304 pages. I'll review it for papercuts soon.

And all of Calamity Jayne Heads West by Kathleen Bacus for, review to appear later. 336 pgs.

Friday, August 03, 2007

a to z

The End of the Alphabet by CS Richardson

Ambrose Zephyr is told at his annual physical that he has only 30 days to live. He's only around 50 years old, and his adording wife Zappora "Zipper" Ashkenazi is slightly younger. The couple both live and work in London. She writes a literary column in a fashion magazine and he's at a small advertising agency. With only a month left together, work seems pointless, and life's adventures shortened. Ambrose decides to set off on an A to Z journey to visit places around the world, in alphabetical order, and Zipper joins him as they search for meaning in their final journey. A is for Amsterdam, B is for Berlin, C is for Chartres, D is for Deauville, E may be for Elba or Eiffel Tower. As Ambrose and Zipper revisit places they have been before, their pilgrimage leads to new discoveries about each other.
Given the plot, it is suprising to discover that this is not a book about travel, but instead an intimate story about exploring a relationship and a marriage. In a little over a hundred pages, CS Richardson uses carefully chosen words to create an intense and private glimpse of the End of the Alphabet.

This beautiful short novel will delight book clubs and solitary readers alike.

119 pages.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Uncommon Reader

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
How often could it be that a book that re-imagines a current world leader is insightful, uplifting, charming and delightful?
Alan Bennett takes his character, Queen Elizabeth II, and allows her to wander out behind the palace with her corgis and discover the City of Westminster traveling library in a large parked van. She only enters the bookmobile to apologize for her dogs' barking, and she only checks out a book because it seems like the right thing to do, but as she begins to read, for pleasure, for the first time in her life, her adventure begins. Surely the Queen is quite a unique person in the modern world, and Her Majesty's worldview, experience and perspective makes her a most uncommon reader. Instead of reading, her information previously came from briefings. The staff has conscientiously filtered information so that nothing unimportant would trouble the Queen. In books, one discovers that her life has been quite sheltered, despite half a century of diplomatic travel. With the help of an intellectual kitchen boy, whom she immediately promotes to her personal page, the Queen continues to read, letting each book lead to discovery of another. She is surprised to find herself resenting the duties that she performed without hesitation for most of her life. Attending dinners and christening ships and opening museums are all now events that take her away from her reading. Both her private secretary and the prime minister are alarmed at the change in her attitude and actions since she began reading, and her staff and her family react as well. But nothing will dissuade her from her obsession with reading, and no amount of interference will restore Her Majesty to her former self. Reading will change the Queen, and it will change England as well, in this charming fable about the subversive power of reading.If you consider yourself "a reader" then treat yourself to this book. At just over 100 pages, this novella will provide a diversion from your otherwise busy schedule!
I read an ARC 118 pages.


I packed several novellas, or short novels, for my vacation reads so that I would have maximum choice with minimum weight in my luggage. The upside is that so far all of the book are wonderful. The downside is that it's the second day of vacation and I am starting my third book.
Since sometimes even I manage to lose track of time on vacation, I thought I should blog as I go...

D.A. by Connie Willis
This is the third book I have read by Connie Willis. (After To Say Nothing of the Dog and Doomsday Book). I adore her writing and rather than rush through it all and run out, I am parcelling out a new book to myself every few years so that I can continue to discover new things from her wonderful writing. I slipped this one into my plan (Passages was supposed to be next) because I saw it in the New Books Shelves and I simply couldn't resist.

In a not-too-distant future where UCLA is still a college of choice for west coast students and the competitive college application process is in full swing, Theodora Baumgarten is a typical high school student, except for one thing. While many of the other public school students around her are striving to build their academic portfolios so they can be considered as applicants to the elite space Academy at the International Space Station, Theodora has no interest in going into space. She's content to bide her time in highschool with her favorite computer hacker friend KimKim, and ridicule the obsessed students who talk about admission to the Academy as if it were their ultimate life goal. At a mandatory school assembly, Theodora is startled, confused and soon frantic when her own name is announced as the newest Cadet and she is whisked home to pack. Despite her protests, Theodora's situation becomes worse and KimKim cannot rescue her friend. Anyone else would be thrilled to be chosen for the Academy program, but Theodora didn't even fill out an application, so how has she ended up on a whirling space station? More importantly, how can she get home again without ruining her chances for UCLA?

Connie Willis writes science fiction screwball comedy. For much of the novella D.A., I had no idea to what the title could possible be referring. And by the time I figured it out (okay, I admit, the character figured it out before me...) the plot was twisting deliciously and I was completely hooked. A few pages later it was over. As in -- "the end." This is the basis of my love-hate relationship with short stories and short novels. I get caught up in a story and befriend the characters only to have way too much left to my imagination when I run out of pages to read. I could happily read about Theodora's adventures all week, but instead I have just a glance at this world, a glimpse of another life. However satisfying a story that leaves me thinking might be, I am still left wanting more...

I checked it out. 75 pages.