Sunday, September 28, 2003

Finished The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966 by Richard Brautigan just before the weekend. A pleasantly odd book ... completely dated ... I haven't read such a book that dated itself that way since I know What You Did Last Summer (by Lois Duncan - not like the movie at all as a side note). I came across the title when I was fooling around at the Invisible Library “The Invisible Library is a collection of books that only appear in other books.” I became intrigued by The Abortion because it had so many imaginary books in it and I suppose too because it was near the top f the list (alphabetical order). Anyway, I had to request it from another library and when it arrived I was even more intrigued … on the cover are two people…. so 60’s looking and beneath them a caption: “This novel is about the romantic possibilities of a public library in California.” Well, it’s more about this couple, their relationship and getting an abortion when it was still illegal. The library that the man works in is like no other library in the world, it’s where people can bring in books they have written…anytime of day of night … and they are entered into a log then the author gets to put their book anywhere in the library. It’s completely wild and for me might have been more fun if it was solely a novel about romance in a public library or more about the kookiness of the library. It’s definitely a book I will never forget though, for it’s style (very unique) and the characters (very original). The author apparently was well known for his book Trout Fishing in America and I am tempted to try it.

On Friday I had to pick up some books for work at the New England Mobile Book Fair and this place has become very dangerous for me. I had been there years ago and think that maybe this is why I have avoided it for so long. It’s an awesome place to get books…. they have everything and at a discount! And it's just so fun to browse around. Now if only there was a cute little coffee shop right next door…
No! That would be bad! Anyway, I bought a couple of gifts for my niece who is learning the alphabet and a knitting book for myself: Weekend Knitting by Melanie Falick. This book sums up for me what knitting is… she talks about the relaxing rhythm and enjoying crisp fall days. Of letting go of “instant gratification” (something I have a problem with) and knowing that your love goes into the things you knit for others. At the end of her introduction she says that weekends are a state of mind and I totally agree. So I loved the book right from the intro! But I also love the addition of cookie recipes, a knitting filmography, hand massage instructions and other little tidbits that seemed just right for a weekend knitting book. (And makes it unlike any other knitting book and believe me I have seen a lot lately!) And of course I want to try the projects like a bag that has a tie on backgammon board, fluffy mittens and adorable finger puppets. Melanie Falick is one of my favorite knitting people…I already love her Kids Knitting book which I recommend for adults too. Both books have wonderful color photographs and easy layouts.

If you have not yet read What Pete Ate from A-Z: where we explore the english alphabet (in its entirety) in which a certain dog devours a myriad of items which he should not, get off your duff and read it. Then, immediately run back to the library and check out Smartypants (Pete in School). Both books are by Maira Kalman and neither one will disappoint. The author/illustrator's sense of humor is so clever, I can't even describe it. Make sure you read all the little text, even on the title pages. She does not waste a single space on any page. Read them both, Read them soon, Laugh and Laugh and marvel at how clever and interesting and wonderful 2 picture books can be! 'Nuff said!

Saturday, September 27, 2003

For those of you with a flair for the dramatic, or fans of Gordon Korman's "No More Dead Dogs", Act I, Act II, Act Normal by Martha Weston, may be the book for you. A book about middle schoolers, the annual school play, bullies, annoying-horse-obsessed little sisters, well-loved family pets, a bit of cross-dressing, this book has a bit if everything. Perhaps not the finest piece of literature ever, it's still a good chapter book for 5th and 6th graders.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

I'm thrilled to join this site. Reviews to come: Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman and The Between Boyfriends Book. Bet you can't wait!

I haven't read a book that infiltrated my thoughts so much in a long time. Perhaps it is because this awesome memoir/journal reminded me so much of some of my overseas experiences. "Beyond the Sky and the Earth: A journey into Bhutan" by Jamie Zeppa is a wonderful glimpse into the author's decision to leave Canada to teach in Bhutan in the late 1980s. She had never been out of the country before and never spent much time away from Robert, the man she plans to marry. Something inside of her is gnawing though, she knows she needs to have this experience to learn about herself and the world. Despite protests from her grandfather and other family and friends, she heads to a remote village in Bhutan. She is honest about how awful things are at first with the rats, the homesickness, the fear of eating anything besides crackers with diseases like giarda attacking folks right and left. Not surprisingly, she learns to love the country and the people and her life there. Although she sometimes gets caught up in the beauty and simplicity of life there, she is realistic and tries not to romanticize her experiences. She knows there are problems there like everywhere else.

This book made me think about our materialistic lifestyle here in the Western World and reminded me of how I felt traveling in Vietnam. Here in the US I always feel like I need so many things. Life in Vietnam was so simple--we had so few things but managed to live full and excititng lives everyday. It's easy to romanticize that lifestyle, but one of Jamie's friend's in Bhutan reminds her that many of the people in Bhutan would jump at the chance to have the kinds of things we have in the Western world if they could.

She also acknowledges the battles between the different ethnicites in Bhutan that have emigrated from the surrounding countries. Bhutan was working hard to maintain its cultural identity and when Jamie was there the government made strict laws governing the use of national dress and imposing national dress on groups who were not native to Bhutan. It would be like our government declaring that all people in the US have to wear the traditional dress of the early Pilgrims.

This book made me think about a lot of things, and I could go on and on here, but I'd rather have a dialogue than a monologue. So if this sounds interesting to you, read the book and then we can chat! :)

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Tuck Everlasting the movie is pure evil.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Thanks to April I've finally managed to log in properly so I can post. Really, I'm not computer illiterate - just having a few stupid days I guess. I've been on a non-fiction kick of late. Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything" is amazing. He has a wonderful way of interspersing the scientific with the anecdotal. You'll be reading about the accomplishments of Newton and bust out laughing because of some bit he adds in about the man's seriously odd behavior, like the fact that he once stuck a needle in his eye to see what would happen. I listened to it on audio first but had to re-read it in print because I felt I was missing too much. The book is huge, over 500 pages, but I am a fan of a lot of Bryson's writing so I thought it was well worth the time it takes. Next up, all the new YA stuff that just came in today.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Just finished listening to Why Not Me? by Al Franken. Made my commute much more enjoyable...man, it was damn funny. But a little spooky too as this is the book about Al Franken winning the 2000 election. You know the one W stole? And in this book many future hijinks ensue like president Franken decides he's going to go assassinate Saddam Hussein himself...with a board... actually it's a plaque that reads "World's Greatest Grandad" (see, funny!). But still it's creepy. And there is mention of the "Third Persian Gulf War". I mean this guy was joking around but he's right on target...what was boiling politically under the ground and has actually surfaced...maybe he joked about it because none of us ever thought it would happen. Anyway, totally funny stuff and I am really looking forward to "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them” I hope to get that on tape too for the car because humor is the only thing that can save you when you're stuck in traffic. Well, a cigarette maybe, but I don't smoke. So much. Anymore. Not healthy.

I'm almost finished with Use What You've Got & Other Business Lessons I Learned from My Mom by Barbara Corcoran. Now we all know I am not in the business world but I read an interview with the author and excerpts from the book and it sounded really interesting and funny too. And it IS interesting and funny! And one can learn a lot from this book as a leader not just a businessperson. The first chapter, lesson #1, is "If you don't have big breasts, put ribbons on your pigtails". Well, in my case I avoid the pigtails but the point is to play up your good points and make yourself stand out from the others. And it's actually one of the few non-fiction books I have read cover-to-cover in quite a while. Well, I plan to read it cover-to-cover - I am almost finished with it!

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Refined. Glamorous. Sophisticated. ELEGANT.

Louise is none of those things as "Elegance," written by Kathleen Tessaro, opens. She is in her early 30s, married to a nice, (yet boring and a little too into house cleaning) man, and feeling a little frumpy. It doesn't help that her mother-in-law, a former model, and friends mistakenly think that Louise is pregnant because of her tent-like dress. It doesn't help that her husband has no interest in taking her to bed. It doesn't help that she is a fairly unsuccessful actress now working at a box office.

One day, while exploring a used book store, Louise discovers a book called "Elegance" by Madame Dariaux, an exquisite sounding French woman. The book is an alphabetic exploration into what it takes to be a woman of elegance. As Louise attempts to spice up her life by implementing the advice of Madame Dariaux in her own life, she experiments with new lingerie, fur, hairstyles and more. But that's only on the outside...

I have not finished this book but I really like it so far--I've been reading it every spare second I get-I even woke up early this morning to read. Even though the opening scene is a little difficult to get through, as soon as Louise starts reading her special book, the plot picks up as Louise begins her journey of self discovery. I like that it is an imperfect, experimental journey (like life, go figure) and she falls into some situations that I can really identify with.. Also, she has good friends who aren't afraid to be honest with her...even when it comes to the revealing robe that is in no way appropriate for a roommate living situation.

Let me know what you folks think!

Sunday, September 14, 2003

I just finished a wonderful book last night called "The Miracles of Santo Fico" by D.L. Smith. In the tiny Italian Village of Santo Fico, everyone knows everyone. One would think that because of this, that they would all know each other's secrets. Not so. Father Elio has his own burning secret, as does Leo Pizzola, Nonno, Topo, Marta and others. Leo and Topo's attempts to create miracles in the village tend to go wrong every time, but out of each attempt, other Real miracles occur.

With a last name like Smith, I doubt the author is Italian, but everything about his writing is Italian. In one of my favorite passages in the book we meet Guido (better known as "Topo") and we can instantly feel the passion that Italian men are known for:

"Whenever Guide saw Carmen Fortino...he always found it hard to breathe for a moment. It wasn't jusy because of her luxurious black hair and smooth olive skin or her dark eyes that seemed to bore through him or her red lips that never required paint. It wasn't just because of the way her mouth always seemed about either to smile or sneer at him--he didn't care which. It wasn't just the haughty manner with which she carried her body or the way certain of her soft curves pushed and strained against her clothing. All of these things certainly caused his mouth to go dry and his stomach to tense, but there was also something mystic to her allure." (pg.17-18)

Oh la la...pour the red wine! Thanks to my friend Judy for recommending this one!

I read Tuck Everlasting today. It's fantastic but no one needs me to tell them that. But I was shamed into reading it ... basic story, a library patron discovered I had not read it and said to me (read with nasty tone) "You should read." Well, I do read but I try to balance new with old and there is so much new ... it's hard! Anyway, I knew I should have read it a long time ago. I was ashamed. But you know I just kept putting that one off because in the town I work in all the fifth grade kids have to read it so why bother? I mean, my thought was that I would never have to booktalk it. And now that I have finished it I am kind of sad because I won't be booktalking it anytime soon. Because whenever a coworker would suggest it to a kid they or their parent would remind us that they have to read it in fifth grade anyway. So I have some funny feelings about the whole thing. I feel that because I was shamed into reading it, it's not my own. Though I enjoyed it, I feel a bit anticlimatic. I wish I had just read it of my own free will ... if I had only taken it on vacation! And I am really sad that I won't be suggesting it, at least to the kids in my town. And some would say "who cares book talk it anyway", but I know what happens because the same thing is true for Bridge to Terabithia ... though at least I read that because I wanted to, not because someone made me feel bad for not having read it ... but I loved it so much and couldn't stop talking about it and I was told to stop talking about it because "I have to read it next year." Crazy. Makes you wonder ... making kids read certain things in school....I mean, I know they have to read and we should have a common literacy ... read the important things but maybe they could be given more of a choice so the *must do* of it doesn't ruin the story.

Friday, September 12, 2003

I haven't had much reading time lately ... right before bed I am reading a book about how to have a dog without feeling guilty and stressful (by the way, I don't have a dog) and I keep falling asleep after like 3 sentences. Anyway I just read The Queen's Progress: An Elizabethan Alphabet by Celeste Davidson Mannis and Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline. First of all, the illustrations are amazing. They are richly detailed and just beautiful. An award should be awarded. They are just absolutely gorgeous. I think you will find something new to look at every time you look at the book. Everything about the book is brilliant...each letter is represented in a small rhyme and for each letter a very informational blurb is included relating to the rhyme. For example C is for "crown", there's a little rhyme, and then the blurb talking about how Queen Elizabeth had the "common touch" and it matches what's going on in the illustration perfectly. It just all blends together nicely. And you will not be disappointed by "X"! Oh and it has a great author's note. The topic is so fascinating and it will be great for anyone (young or old) interested in Queen Elizabeth. Not one of those school assignment books and isn't that a relief!

I also read The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Dave McKean. Gaiman wrote Coraline and McKean illustrated that too. I read Coraline when it first came out and the words I use most when talking about it at the lib are "creepy" and "surreal" and both those descriptions apply to Wolves as well. Man, is this book creepy...and funny! In that sarcastic, witty, grown-ups-don't-always-know-best kind of way. The images are pretty frightening. This book just stays with you like Coraline did. Neither would go on my all-time favorites list...I like them, but I don't love them...but they're intriguing and to me that makes them valuable. I would give a kid Wolves if they loved Coraline and craved more or to one of those real hard to please types ... you know the ones, they come into the library already thinking the library is lousy and old fashioned and then they are surprised that you have DVDs and computers. This book would give them a nice shock to the system.

Friday, September 05, 2003

Yes, "Hurrah!" to Marcella for telling us about Ella Minnow Pea! Finished it while camping and then gave it to my stepmom when she forgot her book when we went to the beach (criminal!) and she loved it too! Very, very much.

After Ella I read William Sleator's Interstellar Pig. As I sci-fi fan I had been told on more than one occasion to read this book and I am so glad I finally did. I seriously couldn't put it down ... well except for when toasting marshmallows by the campfire. It is such a fascinating story and the language is brilliant and the characters are fantastic. And it starts out suspenseful and intriguing right away with a tale of a sea captain, his insane brother, and a haunted room... incredible! I can't wait to recommend it to some 13 yr old boy! It really is a "must read" if you haven't already! Love, love, love that book!

Thanks for the invite to join the Blogger April! Hello Allison! Glad you both liked Ella Minnow Pea! Mark Dunn has a new one out which looks equally good, haven't read it yet but would like to. it's called Welcome to Higby. See a review of it at

http://mostlyfiction.com/humor/dunn.htm

I have just finished reading two books by Elizabeth Knox. And I am a big fan! Especially for The Vintner's Luck-pure magic! beautiful prose, tackles themes including bisexuality, love, friendship, family, war, wine making.... Beautiful! See more about her and her books at

http://www.vuw.ac.nz/vup/authorinfo/eknox.html

I hope you're all having a good first week of September and the return of kids to the books. At the bookstore where I work we've been seeing some amazing teacher's choices-such as The prime of Miss Jean Brodie-haven't seen that on a reading list for a very very long time!
Cheers
Marcella

Well, I will be the first to post my most recent read.

I am currently in the middle of
Ruby Electric by Theresa Nelson. It's about a girl whose Dad disappeared 5 years ago. Now, Ruby lives with her Mom and her little brother Pete, and his best friend, a stuffed woolly mammoth. Ruby is the best student in her class and an aspiring screenwriter. But, things really start to change when the mammoth goes missing, Ruby is assigned a group project with the two biggest troublemakers in school, Big Skinny and Mouse, AND her mom starts dating a doctor.

Also, thanks Marcella! I loved Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. I have already recommended it to two friends!

Thursday, September 04, 2003

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