Monday, February 23, 2009

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

This was absolutely wonderful.

Entrancing. Guernsey after WWII, with characters that lived and breathed.

Community Helpers Picture Books

To Dance, by Siena Siegel

Graphic novel (graphic memoir?) about studying to be a ballerina, and somewhat abrubtly stopping at 18.

Born Rich

Fascinating documentary about what it's like to be born really, really rich.

It was made by Jamie Johnson (Johnson and Johnson). Ivanka Trump seems surprisingly lovely and ambitious. Cody Franchetti, Juliet Hartford, Georgina Bloomberg, etc. Interesting stuff.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Books to look for, books to read next.

It's too annoying to keep having to log in and change that list on the left, so I am going to just paste them here and 'comment' myself updates as I come across things!
If by any chance, you are someone who sees this and would like to recommend a book to me, comment away!



The Lace Reader, by Brunonia Barry
American Wife, by Curtis Sittenfeld
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, by Steig Larsson
The Gone Away World, by Nick Harkaway
Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
Pillars of the Earth / Ken Follet
Death and the Lit Chick G. M. Maillet (mystery)
The Frozen Thames, by Helen Humphreys (historical fiction)
Show of Hands by Anthony McCarten (lit fic)
The Swap - Antony Moore
One Second After By Forstchen, William R. thriller
This year's model Carol Alt
Spoiled : stories / Caitlin Macy.
Heroic Measures - Ciment, Jill (Author) post-9/11 New York City on panic-alert.
prayers for the dying o'nan
Personality Plus: Some Experiences of Emma McChesney and Her Son, Jock by Edna Ferber
The Rapture / Liz Jensen (apocalyptic thriller)

Deluxe : how luxury lost its luster , by Dana Thomas
Touch Me, I'm Sick: The 52 Creepiest Love Songs, by Tom Reynolds
Buy*ology , by Martin Lindstrom
Death by Leisure: A Cautionary Tale, by Chris Ayers
Just How Stupid Are We?: Facing the Truth About the American Voter, by Rick Schenkman
Spook : science tackles the afterlife / Mary Roach
NINE LIVES :Death and Life in New Orleans By Dan Baum
Mixed Metals: Creating Contemporary Jewelry with Silver, Gold, Copper, Brass, and More by Danielle Fox
Sewing Green: 25 Projects Made with Repurposed & Organic Materials by Betz White
What We Leave Behind by Derrick Jensen and Aric McBayCatalog: The Illustrated History of Mail Order Shopping by Robin Cherry
Watching the English, by Kate Fox Non fiction
Toy monster : the big, bad world of Mattel / Jerry Oppenheimer. Nonfiction
The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating with Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details by Stan Williams
Lost in the Meritocracy: The Undereducation of an Overachiever by Walter Kirn
$20 Per Gallon: How the Rising Cost of Gasoline Will Radically Change Our Lives by Steiner, Christopher
Weddings of the Times: A Parody /by Dan Klein
The Sex Lives of Cannibals
Are You Experienced?
American Shaolin
everything by Tony Hawks
Yes Man - Danny Wallace
The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food - Jennifer 8. Lee
America Unchained - Dave Gorman
Friends Like These - Danny Wallace (The new book from the author of Yes Man - He tracks down his childhood friends all over the globe, and invites them outside to play.
Jaguars Ripped My Flesh: Adventure is a Risky Business by Tim Cahill.
Travels with My Donkey: One Man and His Ass on a Pilgrimage to Santiago by Tim Moore
'Round Ireland with a Fridge
Chuck Thompson's Smile When You're Lying: Confessions of a Rogue Travel Writer.

My Life in Pink & Green by Lisa Greenwald YA
Science Fair: A Story of Mystery, Danger, International Suspense, and a Very Nervous Frog By Barry, Dave

Envy: A Luxe Novel By Godbersen, Anna YA

Anonymous said... An poll of British customers about the funniest books they've ever read yielded this laughable list:
1. Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse (1933)
2. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)
3. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (1979)
4. Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome (1889) ,
5. Wilt by Tom Sharpe (1976),
6. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (1980) ,
7. Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis (1954),
8. The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse (1938)
9. Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding (1996) ,
10. Adolf Hitler: My Part in his Downfall by Spike Milligan (1971)


Anonymous said...
Sounds Like Teen Spirit
Summary: follows 10- to 15-year-olds competing in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest who, unlike adult Eurovision, write and compose their own entries in their mother-tongue. Blockbuster factor: the unwitting comedy provided by the children's efforts will pull at the heartstrings. Afghan StarSummary: follows two men and two women in Afghanistan as they risk all to win Tolo TV's X Factor-style series.Blockbuster feature: seeing pop culture where you'd least expect it to be is surprisingly entertaining.

Valentino: the last emperor
Summary: a look at the relationship between Valentino and his business partner, Giancarlo Giametti, during the final two years of their careers. Blockbuster factor: glitz and behind-the-scenes looks into couture's most hidden quarters will excite anybody with an interest in fashion. Release date: out now in US. Release date in the UK to be confirmed.

All Tomorrow's Parties
Summary: a jigsaw of footage taken by filmmakers, fans and musicians on mobile phones, camcorders and Super8 showing performances at the All Tomorrow's Parties music festival. Blockbuster factor: features performances from a huge list of music artists including Belle and Sebastian, Portishead, Mogwai, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Grinderman and Battles.Release date: premieres on 24 June at Edinburgh Film Festival.

The September Issue
Summary: tells the story of the renowned Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and her huge team of editors as they prepare for the September 2007 issue, the single largest issue of a magazine ever published.Blockbuster factor: a chance to see ambition in its purest form — gives an insight into one of the biggest fashion power houses in the world.Release date: September 2009.

Documentary: Malls R Us

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sheik Seduction, by Dana Marton

Well, if February is my month to read romances (and I'm slacking), I figured I HAD to read a Harlequin. I was not looking forward to it- I imagined awkwardly written sex scenes and a lot of, well, I don't know what.
This was a big surprise. First off, I lost track of the body count around page, oh, 15. Tom Clancy doesn't have this many firefights and explosions. Secondly, there was a lot of fighting off wild hyenas. (Hyenas in the middle east? must look up). Third, the heroine steals a camel to save the sheik. Fourth, only one sex scene, and not too squicky.
So, that's one thing I had dead, dead wrong. I'm serious- they shot people the whole way through the book, the sheik's remote village cousins all had cell phones etc, the heroine kicked major a**, including bashing a bad guy up the head with a tire iron and jumping from a moving truck, and... well, I don't know what else to say.
It wasn't my favorite book ever, but it wasn't the worst (See First Light) and made me realize that I've been assuming that I knew what these were like and that I was wrong, wrong, wrong.
Also, just checked- there are totally hyenas there. Go, Dana Marton!

Lady Fortescue Steps Out, by Marion Chesney

Regency romance. Well done, clever idea, and fun.

Very typical of the genre, but still light and quick.

Junk Beautiful, by Sue Whitney

Some pretty cool ideas in this. I'd like to come back to this when I have more time.

Pure Sea Glass, by Richard LaMotte

Beautiful photographs. Interesting breakdown of how often each color glass is found per 1,000 pieces of sea glass found. Made me want to go beachcombing.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

First Light, by Rebecca Stead

This might be the worst book I've read since I started this list.
I don't even know how to fully express what a disaster this was from start to finish- the concept (a secret underground civilization at least 7 generations old under the ice in Greenland founded by people fleeing genocide in England (?) that is discovered by a teen there with his parents who are studying global warming and mitochondrial DNA and the teen is psychic- or rather, is an "eye-adept" which is genetic and he can communicate with dogs who talk and and oh to hell with it.)
Stupid beyond all reason, an epic waste of time (thing was long, too), incredibly pretentious, badly written, nonsensical, silly, painful. Astoundingly, it is on the Rhode Island Children's Book Award list.

Lady Susan, by Jane Austen

Interestingly different Jane Austen epistolatory novella.

Lady Susan is not meek, demure, honest or humble- she's a bit like a widowed Becky Sharp, plotting and scheming all the time.

Fun and very different from Emma, P&P, S&S, etc.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bog Child, by Siobhan Dowd

Extraordinary book. Technically YA, but amazing.

Fergus is cutting peat in 1980's Northern Island when he and his father come across an Iron Age body preserved in the bog.

From that point, the story of Mel, a girl in 80 AD and Fergus' own story echo each other in various ways, complementing each other.

Fergus' brother Joe is in prison for his involvement with the IRA, and joins the hunger strike that killed Bobby Sands.

A young Welsh soldier named Owain and a girl from Dublin named Cora round out the main characters, and oh, this was just so well done.

It reminded me of one of the most powerful poems I know, about a bog mummy.


by Seamus Heaney

I can feel the tug
Of the halter at the nape
Of her neck, the wind
On her naked front.

It blows her nipples
To amber beads,
It shakes the frail rigging
Of her ribs.

I can see her drowned
Body in the bog,
The weighing stone,
The floating rods and boughs.

Under which at first
She was a barked sapling
That is dug up
Oak-bone, brain-firkin:

Her shaved head
Like a stubble of black corn,
Her blindfold a soiled bandage,
Her noose a ring

To store
The memories of love
Little adulteress,
Before they punished you

You were flaxen-haired,
Undernourished, and your
Tar-black face was beautiful.
My poor scapegoat,

I almost love you
But would have cast, I know,
The stones of silence.
I am the artful voyeur

Of your brain's exposed
And darkened combs,
Your muscles' webbing
And all your numbered bones:

I who have stood dumb
When your betraying sisters,
Cauled in tar,
Wept by the railings,

Who would connive
In civilized outrage
Yet understand the exact
And tribal, intimate revenge.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Gilding Lily, by Tatiana Boncompagni

A fun, frothy and well-done take on New York socialite life.

Despite owing a lot to Edith Wharton (and who doesn't, really) this book about Lily Bartholomew (sneaky, Tatiana, sneaky indeed) showcases her rise and fall from grace among the "top girls" of the NYC social scene, and does it in a way that made this over-covered territory seem fresh, which is a heck of a trick.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


This was wonderful, and terribly sad.

Mrs. 'Arris Goes To Paris, by Paul Gallico

This was such a sweet, strange, and poignant little book.

Mrs. 'Arris (Harris) is a London char, who one day sees a Dior dress in an employer's closet, and becomes filled with longing to have one of her own.

It was really lovely, this book- it made me cry.

And it made me want to go to France.

Ordeal by Innocence, by Agatha Christie

I had thought that I hadn't read this, but about 5 pages in I realized that I had. Still, it was lovely to read an Agatha Christie that was a little unfamiliar!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Diary of a Chav, by Grace Dent

This was fantastic. The voice was perfect- I could hear Essex girl Shiraz saying everything, and I could see her and I could see Collette Brown, and Carrie and Bezzer and it was funny and sad and vulgar and kind of depressing. Shiraz at her "superchav academy", waiting to get out at 16 to get a job at a sporting goods shop to earn some real money was heartbreaking, and as she began to look at her real life options the book took on a whole new level. People don't talk about social mobility much in YA.

It was so great (interesting?) to read a UK YA novel that wasn't about the middle class. Georgia Nicolson, for all her flirting and lipgloss, goes to a 'nice' school with 'nice' friends and the boys she and Jools avoid in the park are the very boys that this Shiraz and her mate Carrie eye and ignore and blow bubble gum at, and what's-her-name from the Girl, 15 books is clearly well off what with the trips to France (not package tours) and so on.

Shiraz's neighbor Uma with the ASBO and her 'work experience' at the bhaji packing plant were so well written.

One thing I am struck by, is how the heck did big hoop earrings and tracksuits and hoodies lined with fake fur become the international uniform of the... I don't know if there's a politically correct term for this and I feel like I'm on edgy ground, but what the heck? Was there a memo? UK, Rhode Island- big hoops and skinny headbands, eyeliner and gobs of lipgloss, fake tans and fake nails, rap and cars- amazing.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Three Girls and Their Brother, by Theresa Rebeck

Fast and fun read. Nice to read an adult novel, but I am surprised at what great reviews this got. It was goodish, but read like chick-lit strained through Holden Caulfield's voice. If there was one more 'old', as in "his big old stupid movie" (p. 265) or "big old macho creep (p. 149) or "good old Dad" (p. 93), Salinger could have sued. (Except, you know, for the lack of a really good plot.)

Streams of Babel, by Carol Plum-Ucci


I just finished this, am not sure why I'm as upset about it as I am. Teen trash, why should it bug me? Ok, well it's been recommended by people whose opinions I often share, so this is about something.

Ok, on the one hand, it's terror-thriller YA, so that... what, diminishes expectations of a solid plot? I guess it does- YA fiction kind of has to 'star' teenagers, and so that makes for instant plot holes.

I just didn't like it. I didn't like the hidden rah-rah American thing, so carefully concealed behind a veneer of showing 'the other side'- all that talk about Mogadishu and the Kurdish asylum issue just clouded everything and anyway, the terrorists who took down the World Trade Center were from freaking Saudi Arabia, which is never mentioned once in the book. If the terrorists had been Kurds, maybe I could see bringing all that into the book, but they weren't.

Pakistan-raised Shahzad's character seemed strained, as if Plum-Ucci had really had to work to get a guy with his motivations, and the ending really bothered me.


Ok, I really have to work out what felt so wrong here. Tyler Ping's mother was a spy. Tyler Ping was some kind of uber-hacker who helped Shahzad track down the terror cell meeting place and time- interestingly, a college "Panel to Discuss The True Nature of American Foreign Policy". Yup- that's suspicious, ain't it. People questioning what was going on in 2002? Wicked suspicious.

Anyway, after much Clancy-type absurdity, we reach a point where we are treated to the following lecture:
"A terrorist is a person who holds principles above people...They have replaced people with principles. Principles become their best friends. It sounds very high and mighty. However, we live in a world still too influenced by intelligence over instinct. Thank you, the Enlightenment. But terroristic behavior is not high and mighty. It's sad, and and sad is simple."

Ok, that makes no sense at all, even if one is inclined to diss the Enlightenment (which for the record, I am decidedly a fan of). But there's a contradiction even in this daft little speech- He's saying that instinct is better than intelligence, but then saying that emotion is simple, and bad. And all of this from an intelligence agent!

Anyway, the next awful thing is that (of course) Tyler Ping promptly betrays his mother- if that's not a clear example of 'principle over people', I don't know what is.

Aye yah.

And then of course the end was sickening, when Shahzad visits the World Trade Center site and realizes that to honor his father's life, he'd better get shopping.

"Where is the nearest Kentucky Fry?" I ask in English..."And I want a Yankees baseball cap"..."And then we should make to the Gap. I need the blue jeans."

Yeah. Welcome to America, kid.

To Be Mona, by Kelly Easton

Well, I read this because it's Rhody YA, and it was ok. I read it fast, and quite liked Sage's voice, but the whole Roger thing felt kind of forced.

Leon's Story, by Leon Walter Tillage

This was extraordinary. An autobiography, apparently read by children in school often, but one I had never heard of before.

Leon Tillage tells his story of growing up during segregation in North Carolina. The most sickening things happen, and his retrospection is filled with such forgiveness and understanding of how hard it was for his parents' generation to believe that equality would ever happen. One part in particular really struck me- he was talking about the Klu Klux Klan at this point, and how he and his parents would hide when the Klu Klux Klan went riding.

"They weren't interested in participating in marches and stuff like that; they felt like Moses was going to lead the blacks out of bondage like he did the Jewish people. They were thinking... the only thing they could belive in was God, they prayed about every little thing that went on. The figured He was going to send somebody from Heaven. Thank God they had that to hold on to."

This book was devastating, and as Leon grew to participate in the equal rights movement, inspiring.

Fuck the South.

A Man Named Thoreau, by Robert Burleigh

Mmmm. Guess what, it's a picture book biography. (See below.)
But you know, this one was better for me. Was it better because there were more words and less pictures? Am I that verbal? Is it too hard for me to go back to children's books because I need the words to mean so much? I don't know.
This book was aimed at slightly older children, and was much more complex- it wasn't just a 'here's a hero/athlete/warrior' story, it was a story about someone who had something to say about America and what life means, which made it much more tolerable to read.

Surfer of the Century, by Ellie Crowe

Another picture book biography. Not as good as Wilma Unlimited, not as bad as A Boy Called Slow.

Dreadful pictures, I thought. Didn't capture the magic of water at all and make Duke look like Frankenstein.

Wilma Unlimited, by Kathleen Krull

A better picture book biography of Wilma Rudolph. Much better than A Boy Called Slow.

A Boy Called Slow, by Joseph Bruchac

Children's picture book biography of Sitting Bull.

NOT my favorite, but the illustrations were lovely.