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“Do you have any books you listened to on the Odyssey Award committee that you think I would like?” I asked our teen librarian. She gave me this one. Had I read the back cover first, two years after the unexpected death of a male family member would have sounded really uncomfortably close, given that I started the book exactly two years after my own brother’s unexpected death. I’m glad I went ahead anyway.

The Piper's SonThe Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta. Read by Michael Finney.
Tom Mackee wakes up in a hospital bed with a huge headache and no memory of getting there. Sitting next to him is his old friend Francesca Spinelli, whom he hasn’t seen in two years and isn’t happy to be seeing now. His Uncle Joe was blown up in the London train bombings of 2005, joining Tom’s grandfather Tom Finch, who died in Vietnam, in the “bodies never returned” club. In the two years since Joe’s death, his family has fallen apart, Tom’s mother leaving Sydney for Brisbane with his little sister Annabelle. Tom stayed to help his father, who was struggling with deep alcohol problems, until his father disappeared, too. Now it’s been a year since anyone in the family has seen the man who was so charismatic in leading local unions that he was called the Piper. Meanwhile, Tom has dropped out of university, stopped seeing his friends, quit their band, and left the girl he loved. He’s been living on the dole with a couple of potheads, using drugs, alcohol and casual sex to numb the pain. But now those roommates have been kicked out of their apartment and thrown his things on the street. Tom has no one to turn to except his Aunt Georgie, his father’s sister. At close to 40, she’s pregnant for the first time by her ex-husband. Though her own life is a bit messy, she agrees to take Tom in only on the condition that he finds a job, so he finds mindless part-time data entry work to appease her. Then, wandering into the Union Bar, where his family has hung out for years, he learns that his former roommates, previous employees there, stole a large amount of money. Something finally snaps, and Tom insists on starting work at the Union to pay back what his former friends stole. But this means working with Francesca and Justine, two of the Five Horsewomen of the Apocalypse who were part of his gang before. Tara Finke, his lost love, is overseas, but even the cook at the Union knows how he broke her heart. Meanwhile, Georgie can neither talk nor speak to her ex, and won’t admit the obvious fact of her pregnancy even to her best friends.

This is marketed as a teen book, though Georgie’s point of view gets nearly equal time with Tom’s, and even Tom is no longer a teenager. The only reason that I can see for this is that Tom’s gang of friends featured in Marchetta’s earlier book, Saving Francesca, which was definitely a teen book. Here, Marchetta does an amazing job looking at the way grief can muck up lives. Both in Tom’s family and his circle of friends, everyone loves one another fiercely, and yet no one has been able to keep things together enough to stay together. It takes a whole bunch of broken people working in their limping way towards healing to start putting things right. Even though Tom is not someone I’d normally identify with beyond this shared grief, Marchetta keeps him a sympathetic character even when he’s acting like a jerk for large portions of the book. I’m very glad to have listened to this, because while I know what Australians sound like in general, it’s difficult for me to keep the voices sounding right in my head when I’m reading silently to myself. Michael Finney does a fine job, reading with just the right tones and managing that difficult task for a male narrator of convincing and distinct female voices as well as male. I’m not usually one for depressing realistic fiction, but I really enjoyed this one, so much that I checked out Saving Francesca right away. The Piper’s Son is sad, funny, beautiful and ultimately heartwarming. You should read it.

Cross-posted to http://library-mama.dreamwidth.org and http://sapphireone.livejournal.com .
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Two books came in on the same day… part two.

book coverCleaning Nabokov’s House by Leslie Daniels Barb has left her controlling husband. Now she’s stranded in upstate New York in a town where everyone knows and loves her experson and could care less about her. She’s lost custody of her children. She’s jobless and homeless and holding on to sanity with a very tenuous grip. This could be the beginning of a serious work of Women’s Fiction, the kind that Oprah would want to talk about and which would require boxes of tissues. Instead, Barb’s journey to pulling her life together and getting her children back is hilarious. It’s still women’s fiction, just not the depressing kind. Barb’s first step towards getting her footing back is selling her reliable car (keeping the unreliable one) to make a down payment on a small house which turns out to have belonged to Nabokov. In this house, wedged behind a drawer, she finds a manuscript which might or might not have been written by Nabokov. Her efforts to get this published start pushing her back towards sanity, making her friends in the process. She also comes up with a scheme to make enough money to win her children back, a scheme that I totally did not see coming and which gives the book both its silliest and most serious moments, a scheme to make more of the women of the small town where she now lives happy. It’s sexy without being explicit, and Barb’s feelings run true even as the plot runs towards the unbelievable comedic. It made for excellent hospital reading for me, as we were once again stuck there, but I’m hoping that you, dear reader, can enjoy it under more pleasant circumstances.
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book coverThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Ann Barrows. Read by Various (cast) Another book that deserves to be a bestseller. Writer Juliet Ashton made a living writing humor about World War II, but now that the war is over she’s tired of humor and needs a new book topic. Then she receives a letter from a man on the island of Guernsey, who’s somehow come into possession of one of her old books and wants more of the same. As Juliet learns more about the occupation of Guernsey and the Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society that began first as a front for curfew-breakers, she corresponds with more and more of its members on Guernsey. The story is told entirely in letters and telegrams, to and from Juliet and her publisher, her best friend and the publisher’s sister, and the American publisher who’s smitten with her, as well as the various members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Though the war and its aftereffects are necessarily present and dark, the overall effect of the books is hopeful and extremely charming. The audio version is read by a nearly full cast, giving extra depth to the story. I listened with delight and wished the book went on longer than it did.
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Not dead. Just now getting over early pregnancy narcolepsy. I've been reading lots of books while doing lots of eating, but having difficulty finding the energy to write reviews on top of everything else that needs to get done. I'm not going to write up reviews of the romance novels, but I will note as an aside that I read one where the protagonists were virgins. They finally got into bed together, and afterwards asked each other how it was. Not so good, they decided. They'd work on their technique some. I was astounded at the honesty.

This book has been really popular, but I think deservedly so.

book coverThe Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany BakerThe hook of the plot is the narrator, Truly, a girl who is born large, grows quickly, and never stops. Her sister, Serena Jane, is the prettiest girl in town. When they are orphaned, Serena Jane gets her own room with a nice family in town, while Truly is packed off to live on a poor farm on the outskirts of town. She befriends other outcasts – Amelia Dyerson, the daughter of the family where she lives, and Marcus, too small and too smart to fit in at school. Truly’s memories of growing up are mixed in with her odd adult life, caring for the town doctor, Robert Morgan, her sister’s ex-husband. Truly also shares the town stories of the first Robert Morgan, who came from the South after the civil war, and seemingly out of frustration married the local herb-witch, Tabitha Dyerson. Out of this plot-line comes Truly’s on-going search for Tabitha’s legendary Book of Shadows. Truly’s story of being too large to belong anywhere had a strong potential for freakishness but turned out a beautiful story of the search for humanity and blessing.
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book coverThe Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen 28-year-old Josey Cirrini will never be the southern belle her mother was, or the beloved civic figure her father was before his death. She’s resigned herself to a life dedicated to caring for her domineering mother, comforting herself with a secret closet full of candy and snack cakes. (Every chapter is also named for a thematically appropriate sweet.) And then one day a trashy, outspoken woman turns up in the closet and refuses to leave. Josey recognizes Della Lee, who is clearly on the run from someone. At Della Lee’s prompting, Josey leaves the house without her mother to get a sandwich from a small sandwich shop. Chloe, the owner, is only a couple of years older than Josey. She’s just kicked out her boyfriend, Jake, who revealed that he cheated on her. Here is where we start noticing that the book isn’t your average chick lit. Chloe and Josey become friends, of course, but eggs cook hard and coffee boils in the pot when Jake and Chloe are in the room together. And Chloe has a book problem. They just show up when they think she needs them, and follow her around until she reads them. Usually she likes them, but not when the books seem to be telling her something she doesn’t want to hear. The only magic around Josey seems to be the unpleasant kind that pulls in her stomach and lets her know whenever the mail man, Adam, is getting close. Josey finds that there’s more to herself and her family than she knew in this bewitching story. As with Addison’s Garden Spells, this was one I found myself sneaking away to read.
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book coverEverything Nice by Ellen Shanman Prickly Mike loses her job, too, when her lecherous boss Brian is fired from a prestigious ad agency. Suddenly she discovers that everyone wants team players with people skills and already knows she has neither. Soon she’s in a downward spiral, drinking too much, sneaking in to her ex’s comedy club performances to hear him rail against her, and pushing away Gunther, her only friend. Just when she’s being evicted, her father, widowed when Mike was four, announces that he’s engaged and his fiancée is moving in. The fiancée suggests that Mike ask about a job at her former place of employment, an all-girls charter school. Now she’s stuck teaching Life Skills to a terrifying group of giggling and whispering thirteen-year-olds. Mike as a character was hard to like at first, but things turned around so nicely that I couldn’t be offended at the unsurprising redemptive ending. Because sometimes a little redemption is a beautiful thing.

The Flirt

Jul. 26th, 2008 02:38 pm
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Here's some sweet summer fun:

book coverThe Flirt by Kathleen Tessaro Imagine yourself finding that the spark has gone out of your marriage. You’d like to get things going again, but since part of the problem is that you’re not feeling amorous, either, you’re not sure where to start. If you are a man in London, enter the hired flirt, a “professional massager of the female ego”, who will conduct a chaste yet thrilling flirtation with your wife. She’ll start being excited about herself, and you’ll start being excited about her. On the other hand, if you are a woman in a similar position, you could visit Bordello, and have the proprietress make seductive yet subtle custom lingerie, such that you won’t look like you’re trying at all, but your husband will nevertheless find you irresistible.

These are the two businesses that we are introduced to at the beginning of this book, along with a mélange of characters. There’s Hughie, an out-of-work actor, applying for the job of professional flirt, and his love of the moment, Leticia Vane, proprietress of Bordello. Hughie’s running up a tab at the local café, where Rose, a young single mother, is the waitress. Sam, a regular there and a plumber is called to fix a problem at Bordello. Rose interviews for a household job at the home of Olivia, a rich and sad American, but Olivia takes her for an up-and-coming artist instead. Jonathan works for Olivia’s wife Arnaud, a tennis ball billionaire. Not only is Arnaud an impossible boss, but Jonathan’s wife Amy is pregnant for the fourth time and both of them are wondering what happened to their dream of domestic bliss. The interlocking characters and plot lines rise like beaten egg whites to make a delightful meringue of a book, filled with comic situations and bittersweet chocolate reflections on the messiness of love and the fleeting nature of romance.
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This one has been on the bestseller list for a while. I resisted reading it. Probably because the ladies were going to be dealing with depressing stuff and because it was a bestseller? So much for knowing my own tastes. Once again, my colleague S. put it on hold for me. And once I opened it, I had a really hard time putting it down.

book coverThe Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs Georgia Walker was young, single and pregnant when an older lady suggested that she use her knitting to make a living for herself. Now, her daughter Dakota is 12 and Georgia is the proprietress of a thriving New York City knitting store, Walker and Daughter, which is also staffed by the elderly and widowed Anita. As our story opens, a group of women wanting companionship and help with their knitting coalesces into the Friday Night Knitting Club. Our cast includes Georgia’s old friend from publishing, K.C., who is always starting but never finishing big projects; Lucie, a single and out of work television producer; Georgia’s daughter Dakota, who provides baked goodies; and Darwin, a women’s studies grad student bent on proving that knitters are submitting themselves to the patriarchy. The plot thickens further for Georgia as Dakota’s father James, missing since the pregnancy was discovered, turns up. Her old best friend from high school, now a rich society lady, also comes in to commission a hand-knit ball gown. The story switches between all of the major characters, as they all work through their own struggles and learn to rely on each other. It’s classic strong female friendship stuff, with some Wisdom from the Grandmothers (and a random priest) thrown in. It’s all about the characters and the relationships, and is already being promoted for book clubs. Did I mention that I read during rare knitting opportunities?
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Could I resist a book about the travels of a beautiful illuminated book? No, I couldn’t.

book cover People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks It’s 1996. Hanna Heath is a young Australian book conservator, asked to work on the famous Sarajevo Haggadah. This book, which really exists, tells the story of Passover, and is a very rare example of a Jewish illuminated book. As Hannah takes apart the book to remove its horrid nineteenth century binding and examines all its pages, she finds various artifacts in it – a white hair, a butterfly wing, a red stain, and salt. Hanna’s journey around the world to find out what these things are is interspersed with the stories of how the artifacts came to be there and the people of all three monotheistic religions who cared for the book over the centuries. There’s a reason this book has been a bestseller – it’s got good characters, fascinating settings around the world and through history, and a compelling plot.
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book coverGentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon
Michael Chabon is best known for The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, and last year’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union was a bestseller. This story was first published serially, as a deliberately old-fashioned adventure tale, extra verbose with illustrations. Long ago, three people meet at an inn in the Jewish kingdom of Khazaria. Zelikman, a too-thin, blond Frank, and the immense African Amran, who are partnered in crime, find themselves caught up in the struggles of a deposed princeling by the name of Filaq. The tale gallops through exotic lands and a world where large Jewish kingdoms separated the Christian and Islamic realms.
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book coverNice to Come Home To by Rebecca Flowers Prudence Whistler has always been just that – prudent. She’s always had a written plan for her life, and followed it to the letter. At 36, though, her plan is crashing down around her. She’s fired from her job at a non-profit and her boyfriend dumps her just as she had decided that he’d be an OK husband. Her younger sister, Patsy, is a single mother who believes in following her heart, and who’s still holding out for true love. Pru has always been sure that she’s better at life than Patsy – but a weekend trying to parent two-year-old Annali by herself as well as suddenly finding Patsy and herself in the same boat has her reconsidering. A crazy cat, a couple of gay best friends, a few NPR inside jokes, and some inappropriate romantic choices round out at lighten the story. Her search for a vocation, love and family is authentic and tender without losing the sense of fun.
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book coverThere's No Place Like Here by Cecilia Ahern New popular Irish author Cecilia Ahern wins with another lightly thoughtful book. Tall and dark-haired Sandy Shortt has been obsessed with missing people ever since snotty Jenny-May from across the street went missing when they were 10. She’s spent her life helping people look for missing loved ones, but never felt particularly connected herself. Then, shortly before a meeting with a man whose brother has been missing for a year, she disappears herself. She finds herself in Here, the place where missing people and things go. For the first time in her life, there are plenty of people to whom Sandy feels connected, from hearing their family members talk about them, all of them eager to hear her news. But nothing ever goes missing in Here, and Sandy wants more than anything to go home again. The plot cuts back and forth between this story; Sandy’s growing up and subsequent relationship with the young school psychologist; and the efforts of her latest client to locate her, the one person he believes might help him reach closure over his brother. The message is obvious from the title of the book, but the characters are sweet and likeable, and the book makes for a fun read.
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The Masque of the Black Tulip by Lauren Willig Eloise is a Harvard graduate student, writing her dissertation on English spies in France after the Revolution. She's in England, worming her way into old family archives to find the truth behind spies who, unlike the Scarlet Pimpernel, were never unmasked during their lifetime. Her modern-day dilemmas are the frame for the story of the spies she's researching. In this second book of the series, our spies are Lady Henrietta Selwick and Lord Miles Dorrington. They are under great suspicion from France, as they are the little sister and best friend of Lord Richard Selwick, formerly the Purple Gentian. Either one of them could be or could lead the French to the Pink Carnation, the subject of the first book. In fact, the Pink Carnation is trying to get word to them that France has unleashed its deadliest assassin, the Black Tulip, on England. Both Hen and Miles are eager to help the Pink Carnation discover the identity of the Black Tulip. Miles is struggling with the realization that Henrietta is prettier than ever – and strictly off limits. It is equal parts intrigue and romance, with each cropping up at inconvenient moments for the other. The author, herself a Harvard graduate student, pays attention to historical accuracy, with a note at the back to explain where and why she changed things. This is delicious fun.
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The Heroines by Eileen Favorite It’s the early 1970s. Thirteen-year-old Penny Entwhistle lives with her mother in a little B&B on the Illinois prairie. Along with some regular customers, this B&B is visited by the heroines of literature, who come at the most stressful points of their stories. Penny has clear memories of Blanche DuBois and Scarlett O’Hara (who tried to steal their silver). Now, though, Penny is really sick of all the attention her mother gives them – particularly the weepy Deirdre, who’s currently taken over Penny’s own room. Penny snaps. She meets the mysterious Conor in the woods, a Celtic king who claims that Deirdre is his runaway wife and wants her back. When the police get involved, Penny tells them the truth, with predictable results. She meant to hurt her mother – but suddenly, Penny is the heroine in her own story, and things are not going well. This is light and amusing fiction for fans of the classic heroines.

Austenland

Oct. 6th, 2007 04:48 pm
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Here’s the dedication of the book:
For Colin Firth
You're a really great guy, but I'm married,
so I think we should just be friends.


Austenland by Shannon Hale If you are an Austen fan, get this book and read it right now. I mean it. I have yet to read a Shannon Hale book that I didn’t like, but this is her first for adults, as well as her first (at least that I’ve read) realistic fiction. It falls squarely into the chick lit genre, as it features a single woman in search of contentment, with or without men. Jane, our heroine, is a graphic designer and very closeted Austen fan – so bad that she hides her BBC “Pride and Prejudice” dvds behind a plant pot. A great-aunt who found the buried dvds leaves Jane with an all-expenses-paid vacation to Austenland, where female guests live in manor houses in a life straight out of an Austen novel, complete with male actors playing eligible bachelors. It seems like the vacation of her dreams, something sure to cure her of her unhealthy Mr. Darcy obsession once and for all. But when Jane arrives, she’s not so sure. The clothes feel strange and she misses her forbidden cell phone, but most of all, what can she believe in a place where everyone is pretending to be something they’re not? And even if she’s just flirting, should she concentrate on the off-limits but very friendly gardener, or brooding and Darcy-like Mr. Nobley? It’s not clear, right up to the very end. Hale is Mormon, and I was very impressed at just how sexy a book with no sex in it could be. This is real treat.

Books!

Jun. 3rd, 2006 04:33 pm
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I realized with less than a week to go that I had not even picked out the adult nonfiction book I’d said I’d review for the June Librarian’s Choice page. Oops. The adult summer reading theme (which we’re not really doing) is animals, so I thought I’d look for one of the nice narrative animal books which seem only to circulate as long as they’re on the new book shelf. I started with a book on the platypus, a favorite of mine, but soon put it down because I just couldn’t get into it – no good with a tight deadline. But on take two, we had a winner.

The Astonishing Elephant by Shana Alexander Who hasn’t been fascinated by the elephant, the largest of land mammals? Journalist Shana Alexander shares with us her life-long quest to understand the elephant, beginning with her attendance at the rare birth of a zoo elephant in the 1960s. She takes us on a journey through the history of elephants, their importance in Hindu and Buddhist religion, their often sad involvement in circuses in the United States and the excitement of recent breakthroughs in elephant communication. Elephants naturally live in a society which on some days seems ideal - matriarchal family groups, with visiting males. OK, maybe I wouldn't like the without males part. But the close communication, the affection - they seem to have figured out how to live together peacefully better than we have. They are difficult in captivity because they resent their lost freedom, and will only breed with a mate they like. Today, though zoo conditions have improved, the elephant is still in grave danger from loss of habitat in Asia and from poaching in Africa. The news may not be completely cheerful, but the wise and social elephant has never been so compelling as Alexander shows it to be.

Which Brings Me to You by Steve Almond and Julianna Baggott Two single thirty-somethings meet at a wedding. They are on the verge of an illicit coupling in the coat closet, when John pulls back. What if they let things develop at a slower pace rather than the certain death of a one-night stand? He talks the reluctant Jane into beginning a correspondence in which they will confess their failings, mostly in love. Though the set-up is a wee bit on the improbable side, the resulting letters beautifully chronicle the characters’ development from first high school relationship to the present, as well as their growing relationship. John and Jane are smart and sarcastic characters, no longer trusting that first flush of romance but not willing to settle for anything less than a life fully lived.

And here is the book which took me the better part of a couple of months to read, owing to my rather rusty German.
Tintenherz von Cornelia Funke Ich hatte dieses Buch auf dem Amerikanischen so gern, dass ich es auf dem originallen Deutschen lesen musste. Ja. Die Geschichte ist immer noch sehr schoen und spannend, aber es ist sehr gut das ich es schon gelesen hatte. Es war wirklich gut es auf Deutsch zu lesen, aber gluecklicherweise fuer meine Freunde, die kein Deutsch lesen, ist die Uebersetzung auch gut. Und wenn irgendjemand hier es auf Deutsch lesen moechte, kann ich meine Kopie ausleihen.
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Now I’ve just wasted at least 15 minutes trying to find the cartoon book review of this book for you, I’ll actually write my own.

Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen As Joey Perron hits the ocean, she is annoyed. Did her husband really dislike her soap so much that he would throw her overboard on their anniversary cruise? What she thinks is a shark trying to eat her turns out to be a bale of marijuana, and she manages to hold on until she is rescued by former cop Mick Stranahan. Against his better judgment, she decides that revenge and figuring out his motive are more to her taste than reporting the incident to the police. As Joey haunts him both literally and mentally, Chaz Perron’s life starts to unravel. There’s some romance, of course, and a Genuine Personal Transformation on the part of a hairy, pain reliever addicted bodyguard whose major hobby is collecting roadside fatality crosses.
The characters are colorful and the plot is fast, funny and over the top, with most of the action set in the Everglades and the new developments that are crowding it out. Enjoy the story, and learn a little about the plight of the Everglades at the same time. I listened to this book, ably read by Stephen Hoye. OK, so maybe a few too many characters had inexplicable Jersey accents, but he did a great job of creating different voices and bringing the story to life.

The Unshelved review is pretty funny, too.

Spin Doctor

Apr. 5th, 2006 05:38 pm
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Spin Doctor by Leslie Carroll Susan is a New York City psychologist who spends her early mornings in the laundry room doing pro bono sessions for the women of her apartment building. There's the ballerina who can't talk unless she's dancing, the lesbian couple trying to adopt a baby, the actor trying to recover from her grandmother's death, the housekeeper whose boss is driving her crazy, and the boss, who isn't transitioning to motherhood smoothly at all, and the elderly lady whose husband died five years ago, but who still can't bring herself to sleep on his side of the bed. And there's Susan's own family – her husband, the graphic novel author, her rebellious teenage daughter and her twelve-year-old son, already with a promising Broadway career. The characters and their problems are all delightfully different, with all but the new mother feeling believably real to me. As the washing machines break down one by one, Susan's personal life does, too. It's chick lit, so expect the girlfriends to pull through. I did find it a little less frothy than I was expecting from the cover copy, but it's an enjoyable story all the same.
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My Lucky Star by Joe Keenan In Keenan’s third offering featuring former lover Phillip and Gilbert and their best pal Claire, the action is fast, furious, and hilarious. (No, I haven’t read the first two, either, but I might look them up.) Phillip is crushed over the failure of his and Claire’s latest play in New York. Gilbert is in L.A. visiting his mother and her new husband, a famous movie producer. Faster that you can say “transcontinental flight”, Gilbert is pulling strings to get Phillip, Claire and himself a job screenwriting a schmaltzy World War II flick for a renowned action producer. Now, as long as no one with any background in film history finds the sample script Gilbert turned in, they’ll be off to a promising new career. When closeted male action star Stephen Donato turns out to be involved, Phillip offers to spy on Stephen’s aunt Lilly and help with her memoir-writing, in a desperate bid both to keep the script-writing job and gain Stephen’s favor. Keeping Gilbert from getting them into any more trouble gets even harder when Gilbert’s blackmailing ex-wife, Moira, turns up. Phillip’s narrative is full of snappy cultural references and self-deprecating humor, and the action doesn’t let up in this hilarious comic caper.

Buddha Boy by Kathe Koja Justin is an ordinary boy in an ordinary high school, a high school with a strict social hierarchy violently enforced by those on the top. Justin keeps his place in the middle mostly by staying under the radar with his friends Jakob and Megan. Then a new boy comes – Michael, who calls himself Jinsen. With his shaved head, hand-me-downs, and begging bowl, he immediately draws attention to himself. At first, Justin avoids the freak along with everyone else. Then he finds himself drawn towards Jinsen by a shared interest in art. This unfortunately only serves to make Jinsen a bigger target for the bullies of the school – but what does a bully do when a victim refuses to play along? The characters and the cruelty are familiar, but Koja does a spectacular job of telling a story that is realistic without being preachy, saccharine, or devoid of hope. Jinsen’s character manages never to cross the fine line over which sanctimoniousness and unbelievability lie. Justin, too, grows a healthy amount of spine over the course of the book. The story is especially well suited to the audio production, where it is read by a full cast, bringing the teen voices even more fully to life.

Rococo

Nov. 14th, 2005 03:55 pm
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Rococo by Adriana Trigiani B – short for Bartolomeo di Crespi – is a decorator who puts his heart into his work. Although he could have stayed in New York after design school, he chose to return to his small Jersey hometown in an effort to make it beautiful. Life is full of its ordinary concerns – the big fortieth birthday bash that his sister refuses to cancel, the engagement his mother and her best friend made when he and Capri were babies that they've never gotten around to breaking off. Then he hears that his church is due a renovation. It's been his lifelong dream to decorate Our Lady of Fatima, but will he get the job? And is he really up to the challenge of a design to suit a whole parish, meant to last 100 years? As always, Trigiani's work is chock full of colorful characters (mostly Italian), a feel-good plot that still manages to avoid too much sugar, and a trip to Italy. In this particular book, there's also a fair amount of gold bullion fringe and Italian-American recipes. Stephen Hoye narrates in the perfect Jersey tones to bring out both the humor and the genuine emotion of the whole book.

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