Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Finer Points of Sausage Dogs by Alexander McCall Smith (2003)

I wanted a change of pace in my reading and knew McCall Smith could provide one. I really liked the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series better, but Dr. von Igelfeld was entertaining as a pompous academic (know a few of those) of the Portugese language, who ends up addressing veterinarians in Arkansas, hobnobbing with high clerics in Rome, and being mobbed on a cruise ship. I like it anytime someone uses a library in a book, and he did spend time in the Vatican library. The book was funny, so I don't know why it felt so disconcerting at times, why I was uncomfortable with von Igelfeld's awkward situations. The words "sausage dog" were funny in and of themselves and McCall Smith plays with them quite a bit. I had to look the term up and find they are a humorous British term for dachshunds.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Library Card by Jerry Spinelli (1997)

Someone asked me go get a Spinelli book from our shelves and I just saw this and had to read it. I read a couple of Spinelli books before I started this blog, the one I remember is Maniac Magee, that got a Newberry medal. He definitely looks at the world from the not so rosy side of the tracks. The Library Card is actually four different stories, on how this magical library card made a difference in each of the kids lives. Mongoose was ready to get into a life of crime and dropping out of school, Brenda was addicted to TV, Sonseray lives in a car with his uncle, April works on a mushroom farm. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Foundation by Mercedes Lackey (2008)

I was wanting to read something different, and decided to go back to fantasy, but thought I like Lackey, this was not quite as satisfying as I hoped. This is book 1 of the Collegium Chronicles - set in a school for new heralds, healers and bards. The main character Mags gets rescued from a miserable life in a gem mine and slowly discovers his talents and makes friends. My favorite part was the description of mid-winter celebration.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sum of Our Days by Isabel Allende (2008)

I was surprised to find Allende in the non-fiction section, so I thought it would be interesting to read her own story, as I wanted to understand having one foot in Chile and one in the U.S. It was amazing to read how open she was about her life, her family's joys and difficulties. The book is written as if to her daughter Paula, who died in the early 1990's. Allende has already published a book about Paula, but this is about the life of the family after Paula's death and her own struggles to keep going after the enormous grief. She lives in the San Francisco area with her husband, who seems to be a saint. I loved the way she kept pulling her family around her - even no longer family, like the widow of her daughter and his new wife, or her son's ex-wife and her new female partner, or her husband's granddaughter's adoptive parents - another lesbian couple. Allende realizes that at times she meddles too much in people's lives. I didn't believe she went looking for a wife for her son, and found one! She talks of writing, of family, friends, political situations, all with humor and insight.

I have enjoyed Allende's books, her novels Daughter of Fortune, Portrait in Sepia, Inés of My Soul, Zorro, and novels for children, which I learned she had written for her grandchildren City of the Beasts and Kingdom of the Golden Dragon. (The first two I read before I started this blog.) So now I still have to read Aphrodite : A Memoir of the Senses, The House of the Spirits, Paula, My Invented Country : A Nostalgic Journey through Chile, The Infinite Plan, The Stories of Eva Luna, Of Love and Shadows , and the last of the children's books - Forest of the Pygmies. All in good time, and I believe I will start with the first two.

Pagan Stone by Nora Roberts (2008)

I had to finish the Sign of Seven Trilogy, and this one focused on Gage, the boy who lost his mother early and was raised by an alcoholic father who beat him, but who was good friends with Cal and Fox - all born on the same day. Gage is a professional gambler, who loves to travel around the world and can read people well, but doesn't like to get too close to anyone (except Cal and Fox.) Of course the third remaining woman in the series, Cybil, is also an independent person who likes to travel and whose father committed suicide, thus deserting her family. Besides their evolving romance, most of the book centers around preparing for the showdown with the Big Evil One. Gage and Cybil are the ones who can see into the future, and their skills are used to outguess what will happen and to find the weaknesses in the Evil One. Though I am a great supporter of research, I wasn't convinced that so much of it could be done online (though they do mention a professor who actually read books and gave them information from those), and I wasn't sure how useful it would be in this case. I have to admit, that some of it did come in handy, like determining safe zones from mapping out where all the evil incidents had occurred before. Again, I don't really enjoy reading about this type of magic and evil, but Roberts continues to spin a decent tale, though very predicatable, and I did like this unusual last couple.

Rough Weather by Robert B. Parker (2008)

Sometimes the random books you pick up are duds, and this was one. At least it makes me appreciate well written books more. Maybe it was worse in the audio version, but I thought I was going to lose it if I heard one more "I said, she said, then he said" conversation. It was only 5 CD's long, so I just finished it. Private investigator Spenser is hired by Heidi Bradshaw to support her at her daughter's wedding, but he is allowed to take his girlfriend. (huh?) A major storm overtakes the island off the coast of MA during the wedding, impeding but not stopping the kidnapping of the bride. The kidnapper is the Grey Man, an old nemesis of Spenser's. As Spenser tries to find the kidnapped bride, he uncovers all sorts of family secrets...

Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron (2008)

Wonderful real life story about a cat in a library and how he made a difference in the lives of the staff, patrons, and even the whole town. The main author is the librarian who for many years headed the library in Spencer, Iowa, but she had help from a professional writer, Bret Witter, who I am sure helped her craft this into a charming, not too sentimental tale. We get the story of the kitten found in the library drop box and cared for by the staff, and all the people the cat affected, but we also get an insight into life of a small town in Iowa, the hardships they suffered through the various farm crises, the decisions they made as a town to support each other and not take on industries that would be unhealthy for the community. We also get the story of Myron's life, which has not been an easy one, but quite fulfilled with working in the library and raising her daughter. I bought this for a friend in Latvia, but read it myself first and passed it on to a vet friend, as I think this book epitomized the best in both of our careers. (Read in 2008)