Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Rules of Deception

RULES OF DECEPTION; Christopher Reich; New York: Doubleday, 2008; 388p. Fiction.

When Dr. Jonathan Ransom's wife is killed in a climbing accident in the Swiss Alps, he scarcely has a moment to grieve before he is caught between terrorists and counter-terrorists both of whom want something his wife had stashed in baggage claim at a small Swiss train depot.
Ransom soon finds himself running from the police, from agents who may be CIA gone bad, or
Pentagon gone bad, or Iranians smuggling centrifuge parts. Rules of Deception is a plot-driven rip-snorter of a read, relentless action from start to finish, with a few stale bits among the stock characters. Still, it could take your mind off things for a couple of hours, which couldn't hurt.


Code Name Cassandra

CODE NAME CASSANDRA: Jenny Carroll: Pocket Pulse: Young Adult: 264 pages

Although she denies it, Jess Mastriani still has the psychic powers she developed after being hit by lightning. The Feds are trailing her, hoping she will help them find missing criminals, though, and when one of the boys at the camp where she works as a counselor goes missing, Jess has to use her abilities to find him.

In this title from the 1-800-WHERE-R-U? series, Meg Cabot (writing as Jenny Carroll) does what she does best, creating a fun, fast story with the right amounts of action and attempted romance, narrated by a strong, likeable, teen character.


In Arabian Nights: a Caravan of Moroccan Dreams

IN ARABIAN NIGHTS: A CARAVAN OF MOROCCON DREAMS: Tahir Shah: Bantam Dell: 2008: 388 pages.

In Morocco there are many old palaces and villas for sale. Tahir Shah bought one – the former residence of the caliph of Casablanca. In this book Shah introduces neighbors, friends, houseboys, gardeners, maids, exorcists (to rid the house of jinn’s) and other colorful characters. He also shares his search for “the story in his heart.” These two story lines carry the reader from Casablanca to Fez to Tangiers and beyond.

Shah is a storyteller descended from storytellers. As he searches for the story in his heart he hears and shares tales found all over the Middle East including some unexpurgated renditions from the Arabian Nights. His book is much like exploring the bazaar in a very old city. Each page reveals something new - a story, a dusty niche with treasures for sale, a scene in the square, a cobbler’s shop, a smoky cafĂ© and Shah is a witty and insightful guide.


Monday, July 21, 2008

No-Man's Lands

NO-MAN’S LANDS: ONE MAN’S ODYSSEY THROUGH THE ODYSSEY: Scott Huler: Crown: Nonfiction: 286 pages

While reading Ulysses, Scott Huler becomes fascinated with the story on which it’s based, The Odyssey, and sets out to retrace the famous journey through the Mediterranean. Without arranging lodging or transportation beforehand, Huler travels to Troy, visits the Cyclops’ cave, paddles out toward Scylla and Charybdis, and wends his way through the famous epic. As he travels, Huler reflects on the parallels between the journey Odysseus takes and the universal journey to and through adulthood. Entirely entertaining and informative, Huler will leave readers reaching for their own copies of The Odyssey, which any school teacher can attest is no small feat.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE; David Wroblewski; New York: HarperCollins, 2008;
562p. Fiction.

Edgar Sawtelle's story is "Hamlet" on the farm with dogs. It is too sad to read, but too beautiful not to read. Edgar's family breeds, raises, and trains dogs, not by bloodline as much as by character, following the lead of the grandfather, who traded his pups for pups of dogs he admired.
The family of people and dogs live in Elsinore-like isolation, a seemingly impenetrable fortress of love and light and happiness, until Edgar's Uncle Claude shows up, and everything is poisoned in more ways than one. "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" is one of the best novels I have ever read, particularly for a first novel. Simply stunning.


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Great Divorce

THE GREAT DIVORCE: C.S. Lewis: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001(orig. 1946): Non-Fiction: 146 p.

Reading for a vacation? All aboard! Join the deceased on a bus ride through heaven and hell. Not everyone’s first pick of destination hot spots, but still a book guaranteed to provide introspection and provoke some decidedly interesting conversations.

C.S. Lewis, one of modern Christianity’s foremost scholars, shares his intriguing view of the two most famous afterlife residences. Starting in hell, the bus ride takes the protagonist and his fellow deceased on and upwards to heaven, where they encounter numerous individuals they’d known from their earth life. The plot centers on conversations between bus riders and their heavenly hosts. As to whether the newly dead are actually suited to this celestial sphere and willing to stay becomes reason for contemplation. Highly symbolic, most interesting is Lewis' interpretation of good and evil. Recommended.

* Book Club sets available.


Porn Nation

PORN NATION: CONQUERING AMERICA'S #1 ADDICTION: Michael Leahy: Northfield Publishing (c2008): Non-fiction: 210 p.

Michael Leahy takes you down the road of his slow, but steady decline though his own personal nightmare of addiction. It began with a small, nude shot a classmate showed him on a playground when he was 11-yrs-old. And it continued…until his entire family was ravaged by what he had thought was a harmless pastime. It cost him his family, his career and most of his friends. And it turned into an addiction that nearly led to the suicides of every single member of his family, including himself. Harmless? Hardly.

Not always a pleasant read. Yet, ironically inspirational. He eventually found help through a religious 12-step program akin to the familiar AA programs. What impressed me most was his willingness to use his experience to help others in his same plight. He had the courage to acknowledge his own choices and mistakes, to ask forgiveness of those he’d hurt, and now spends his time speaking out on the subject. After all, someone to respect. A good read for anyone interested in knowing more about what Oprah Winfrey and others have denounced as “America’s #1 Addiction”.


Practically Perfect

PRACTICALLY PERFECT: Katie Fforde: St. Martin’s Press: Fiction: 373 pages

When Anna purchases and begins to renovate a tiny cottage in the Cotswolds, she becomes friends with her neighbor Chloe and agrees to adopt a greyhound that Chloe cannot keep herself. In her work with her new home and new pet, Anna soon finds herself at odds with Rob Hunter, the local greyhound rehoming agent and (to make matters worse) the historic homes inspector charged with ensuring that Anna’s property is restored correctly. Slower than some of Fforde’s better works, this is an easy and mostly clean summer read.


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Someday this pain will be useful to you

SOMEDAY THIS PAIN WILL BE USEFUL TO YOU: Peter Cameron: Farrar, Straus and Giroux: Young Adult: Fiction: 240 pgs.

This is a great young adult novel about an 18 year old Manhattanite who struggles with depression. He has been accepted to Brown, but is sure he doesn't want to go to college. He is fairly anti-social and recounts many of the painful and often funny interactions he has with those around him, including his family, work associates, and his therapist. Both teens and adults will enjoy this book and relate to the frustrations of an adolescent stumbling into adulthood.