Saturday, October 1, 2011
This is a sweet, touching story that is so much more than a winter holiday book. It starts with a boy thinking of all the joys of a snowy day. He makes a snowman who becomes a good friend while the weather stays cold. When the winter ends, the snowman begins to melt until one day he’s gone. The boy looks for him and discovers that the snowman is in the water and the rain and everything around him. I loved the simple, compelling illustrations and spare, thoughtful text. This book has a beautiful message for anyone who is missing a loved one – What you love will always be with you.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Also, did the bear eat that rabbit? Oh my.
Monday, August 1, 2011
I loved this book. I was completely captivated by the two main characters, the Museum, and all the strange and wonderful people involved in it. The only thing I wished for at the end was a companion book full of the real details about the Museum so that I would have known right away how well-researched the story was. Not surprisingly, the truth is even stranger than this great historical fiction.
Signed Mata Hari, so much that I picked up The Call without any idea what it was about. It’s very different, but equally wonderful. The “narrator” is a rural veterinarian going through life’s trials with his wife and three kids. He ponders life, his son is injured, his own health is questionable, his wife is a little frustrated, and there are lights in the sky above his house. But his story is not told in traditional paragraphs, rather as a sort of list of prompts and answers (alternate title could have been An Ode to the Colon). Here’s the opening as an example:
“Call: A cow with her dead calf half-born.
Action: Put on boots and pulled dead calf out while standing in a field of mud.”
Call, Action, What the Wife Made for Dinner, and What the Children Say, are repeated often, but there’s also What the Spaceman Said and What the House Says at Night, among many others. Murphy is a strange and different writer in the best possible way. It’s amazing that she manages to tell such a complete and fascinating story in this strange style. I loved this book. It will be on my top ten for the year. Take a risk – it’s in softcover!
Friday, July 1, 2011
Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha. OK, that’s me. So I started it on my lunch break and immediately couldn’t put it down. Like Paddy Clark, this is a novel told so closely from the point of view of the main character that I absolutely felt like I was seeing the world through his eyes, living inside his thoughts.
Twelve-year-old Harrison Opuku has recently moved from Ghana to a large housing estate (that’s British for the projects) in London and he’s trying to understand his new world and his place in it. His narration is a funny, endearing, wonderfully confusing mixture of British and Ghanaian slang. I’m still not 100% sure what hutious means. When a boy in Harri’s class is killed, possibly by the menacing Dell Farm Crew, Harri and a friend decide to use their detective skills to find out what happened. This isn’t really a mystery though. This is Harri’s story. He is so in love with the world and so fascinated with his surroundings that he could have become ridiculous at any moment, but Kelman manages to keep him filled with joy and real at the same time. This would make a fantastic book club selection – was Harri real for you, what do you think about the ending, what about the sections from the point of view of Harri’s pigeon? It’s on the short list for the Booker Prize and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it wins.
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Serious, strange amnesia in fiction is almost always a little too convenient. It's one of those things that happens all the time in books and almost never in real life (like the revelation that your father is not really your father). I picked up this suspense novel because of the compelling cover, but thought - boring, another amnesia story. Then I started reading and I could not put it down. It is definitely one of my recent top recommendations for beach/vacation reading.
A quick description might make it seem like a rehash of The Terminator stories, but this is a robot uprising of a different sort. Yes, artificial intelligence has taken over and is at war with human beings, but that’s where the similarities end. Wilson studied robotics, so there is a very creepy reality to the way they work and move and how people interact with them. I highly recommend this for any vacation you have coming up – even if it’s just in your backyard or on your couch.
Sunday, May 1, 2011
Miéville’s book The City and the City was my favorite book of 2010. One of the things that I loved most about it was that even when I was confused, I was still enjoying myself. The same is true for his latest book, Embassytown. This story takes place on a far outpost of the human diaspora (humans who left Earth to colonize other planets so long ago that they don’t even know where Earth is anymore). The indigenous creatures of this planet, the Ariekei, speak a unique language that does not allow them to lie, but they’re trying to learn. Through that (and so much more that I can’t give away) their language becomes something other than what they've known before, something other than what they've based their society on, and the repercussions are bigger than anyone could have guessed.
Miéville describes himself as an author of “weird fiction” and I think that’s perfect. Even though this particular books fits into a classic other-planet, alien-human-relations kind of Science Fiction category, I think it will appeal to readers who don’t usually like that sort of thing. It’s really about language and truth, maybe even love, and it’s about floaking. It’s perfect for someone in the mood for a unique, challenging, gripping story.
Friday, April 1, 2011
Stiff is about the uses for, and treatment of, the human body after death; Bonk is about the history of sex research. Packing for Mars covers the development of space suits, the first animals in space, psychological testing of astronauts, research into how humans handle confinement and isolation, long-term lack of any personal hygiene, etc... Mostly memorably, she covers the food of astronauts and the waste it creates. Poop is almost always funny and poop in space is hilarious.
It’s clear that Mary Roach is a little crazy, but lucky for readers it’s the good kind of crazy.
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Two out of three of the other Jackson Brodie books ended up on my top picks of the year. It’s too early to say if this one will make it, but it’s going to be close.
I really enjoyed this book. It would make a great book club read (I want to discuss with someone whether or not Hung is really the truest Communist of all). The food writing is also fantastic - I had to go out for Pho as soon as I finished reading.