Saturday, January 14, 2012

"Call of the Wild" by Jack London

218 pages

Buck, part St. Bernard, part Scotch shepherd, has a pretty fantastic life as the alpha dog on the farm of a wealthy judge. He's got all the food he wants, plenty of space to roam, and people who love him. All of that changes, however, when he is stolen and sold by one of the judge's employees, who needs the money to pay off gambling debts. The Klondike Gold Rush was in motion, and sled dogs were in high demand. This causes Buck to be taken to Alaska, where he joins a crew and begins leading long, strenuous journeys across the frozen landscape.

I wish I'd read this book as a kid. As much as I enjoyed it this time, as an adult, I know I would have really been crazy about it when I was younger. It's got everything I liked back then: animals, nature, adventure, fighting. However, as I said, this is one that adults can enjoy as well. It seems like one that is great for all ages.

Locke & Key: Volume 4: Keys to the Kingdom

by Joe Hill (story) and Gabriel Rodriguez (art), 152 pages

More keys get unearthed by both sides as offense and defense ratchet up--but who's coming out ahead?

Dang it! The Locke kids finally start to notice a pattern and connect the dots, but their antagonist is frustratingly quick on the draw and every step forward seems to be countered by their too-clever enemy. So close! Now what?! He's even scarier than he was before! How many exclamation points can I put in one paragraph?! When's the next book coming out?! :P So good, so good.

Kimi ni Todoke: Volume 11

by Karuho Shiina, 176 pages

Everybody's dealing with the new understanding between Sawako and Kazehaya. Friends and rivals contemplate their own positions and love lives (or lack thereof) while the main couple nervously, but happily, tiptoe down their new path.

"Ulterior motives!" Hee hee heeeee. So cute. Now the lucky reader gets to watch these kiddos adjust. And it's also nice to see their friends have not been forgotten amidst all the starry-eyed romance, as the writer reminds us they all have their own interior existences to explore and share.

Kimi ni Todoke: Volume 10

by Karuho Shiina, 176 pages

Sawako spills the beans! At least, the ones she can manage to put into words. Now it's up to Kazehaya to make sure they're finally on the same page.

Hee! Public confessions are a hoot! Especially when your friends and classmates keep reenacting them in order to better appreciate and understand it all. The warm-fuzzies and laughter make this series one of my favorite escapist reads. It's so embarrassingly silly, but that's what makes it so sweet. :)

Chew: Volume 1: Taster's Choice

by John Layman (story) and Rob Guillory (art), 121 pages

Tony Chu is a cibopath. That means he gets psychic glimpses into the life of whatever he puts into his mouth, be it broccoli, chicken soup, or...a murder victim.

Ew! Also, kewl!

After a devastating outbreak of bird flu, world governments strictly regulate chicken and make it illegal to buy or sell the real deal. This leads to the rise of black market poultry and a good many conspiracy theories about whether or not there was ever any bird flu in the first place. When cop Tony draws attention after a chicken speakeasy stakeout goes belly-up (and he coincidentally identifies a previously-unknown serial killer working in the kitchen), he gets drafted by the FDA's Special Crimes Division. But his new job draws him into a messier, wider, deadlier web than he's expecting.

And the reader happily follows him in. This is hilarious and gross and smart with perfectly matched, quirky art. And I want more!

Day for Night

by Frederick Reiken, 323 pages

A manatee-watching detour starts off this novel of connections and takes the reader from one voice to the next, from Florida to Utah, California to New York, Poland to Israel, World War II to the 1990s, laying out linked personal narratives one by one to little-by-little reveal a larger shared story.

A patron recommended this engaging, by-snippets tale of slowly-unraveling family history, memory, and coincidence. It does require some suspension of disbelief, as the coincidences are (intentionally) many. I think the cult element and Goldman's character feel a little too convenient and insufficiently explored, and there's not enough differentiation between the diverse voices (with the possible exception of addled but endearing Timmy). But fans of Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything Is Illuminated will nevertheless find much here to ponder and appreciate.

Hide & Seek

Hide & Seek
by Katy Grant
Hide and Seek230 pp                                                                             

This is on the new list of Mark Twain nominees.  I can see why it made the list.  I think boys might enjoy the adventure part, the main character is a boy and in the end, he's sort of a hero.

Plot summary:  Chase lives at an Arizona resort with his mom, stepdad and two sisters.  The whole family has to help run the resort.  Chase is really into using his GPS that his dad gave him.  One day, while searching for a geocache, he finds a disturbing note, seemingly written in a child's hand, that seems to indicate someone is in trouble and needs help.  Eventually Chase meets the two young boys who wrote the note and he has to figure out if the boys are really just camping with their dad or is their something more going on.  Then the suspense and adventure begin.

For an adult reader, it's a pretty thin story but I think kids will like it and they'll learn a lot about geocaching, which is a feature in at least two of our library branches..could spark a kid's program, maybe.

Kim F

Save Karyn: One Shopaholic's Journey to Debt and Back by Karyn Bosnak

Save Karyn: One Shopaholic's Journey to Debt and Back
Karyn Bosnak
441 pages

Karyn is 27 when she decides to move from Chicago to New York City to "find herself".  Instead she "finds herself" in $20,000 credit card debt.  In order to keep up with New Yorkers, this Midwestern girl is charging everything from hair cuts and clothes to moving expenses and groceries.

A TV producer, Karyn is let go from her job when she decides not to extend her contract.  It takes her awhile to find a new job, and in the meantime she is still drowning in debt.  So she decides to do something.

First: Karyn moves from her luxe studio apartment with a chandelier (that she charged) to a 2 bedroom in Brooklyn.
Second: After her roommate makes a joke about asking people to help her pay her debt, Karyn decides that maybe her roommate is on to something.  So she decides to make a website.
Third: is formed.  On the website, Karyn asks random strangers to donate $1 to help her get out of debt. She figures if 20,000 people donate $1,  she will then be debt free.  Karyn also has on her website tips on how to save money & she sells some of her stuff on Ebay (this includes lots of shoes & purses that she charged).

In the end, people from around the world donate about $15,000 via donations & purchasing Karyn's Ebay items.  Karyn is able to pay the rest off herself. Happy ending, yay!

Karyn is now a successful writer, having written "Save Karyn" & "20 Times A Lady", with the latter having been turned into the movie "What's Your Number" starring Anna Farris & Chris Evans.

I really liked this book because, being a 20-something, I can relate to the urge (and occasional habit) of wanting to spend, spend, spend! But, having watched how my parents handle money, I am trying *really* hard to be debt free by the time I'm 30.  So reading about Karyn charge everything made me want to cringe. Like, why? Why are you doing that??!! Stop it! You don't need that Gucci bag!

Anyway, this book (and Karyn) is very easy to relate to, and that's why I liked it. Reading it will make you rethink that last purchase you charged that *maybe* you didn't need.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

420 Characters by Lou Beach

420 Characters
Lou Beach
169 pp

Here's one of the entries in the book:  "I lay the book on the floor, open to the middle.  It's a lovely volume, green leather covers, engraved endpapers.  I remove my shoes and step into it up to my ankles, knees, hips, chest, until only my head is showing and the pages spread around me and the words bob up and down and bump into my neck, and the punctuation sticks to my chin and cheeks so I look like I need a shave."

Each of the 169 pages of this book has a mini-story like the one above.  Each of the stories is a perfect moment of prose.  Some are disturbing, some amusing and some are just downright strange but they are all beautifully crafted and incredibly appealing.  Each calls to mind a distinct image and emotion.  The author, Lou Beach, is an artist who's done album covers and illustrated for magazines such as The New Yorker and Harper's. Paintings are interspersed throughout the book.  In fact, each of the stories is sort of like a painting.  The effect is like walking through an art gallery, contemplating each work in the artist's exhibition.  Some you stare at for quite awhile, others receive barely a glance but all move you to marvel at the creativity and to wish you could paint that way.

 I'll be thinking about this book long after I've turned it in.  In fact, I might need to own a copy.  For a librarian who knows the joy of reading for free, that's saying something.
Kim F

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"Cool, Calm, and Contentious" by Merrill Markoe

288 pages

In this collection of personal essays, comedian and author Merrill Markoe discusses, among other things: her difficult mother, who takes pleasure in being unpleasant to everyone from her daughter to the waiter; her classic teenage insecurities, which drive her parents even more crazy than they already are; relationships with narcissistic men; and her pack of unruly dogs that have taken over her home. In addition to these personal reflections, Markoe shares some general wisdom and observations that she's picked up over the years, including "How to Spot an Asshole" and "Celebrity 2.0."

I really enjoyed Markoe's witty, sarcastic essays. I found myself laughing out loud several times, but there's a lot of heart to her collection as well. I like the way she uses humorous, bizarre situations from her life to make a point or connect with the readers. I feel like there's something in here for almost everyone to relate to: frustrating family members teen angst; the struggle to find our places in the world and figure out who we are; the appeal of pets; and more. Reading Cool, Calm, and Contentious reminded me how funny the messy, imperfect parts of life can be.

"Crossed" by Ally Condie (Matched #2)

367 pages

The end of "Matched" found Cassia on her way to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky, who had been taken by the Society to almost certain death. In doing so, she was rebelling against the Society for the first time in her life. Ky had introduced her to the idea of choosing her own mate, her own job, her own lifestyle--her freedom--instead of trusting her happiness to the Society. However, as "Crossed" begins, we discover that Ky has escaped into the desert, leaving clues that Cassia hopes will help her find him. The thing is, if and when they do find each other, they'll have to come to an agreement on their next step. Ky has already lost family and friends in acts of rebellion, and he'd rather stay under the radar. Cassia, meanwhile, believes in the Resistance and wants to find it to help lead a revolution against the Society.

I was not super-impressed with "Matched," but I was interested enough in the characters and the story to see what happened next. I just wasn't exactly dying for the sequel to arrive. It basically met my expectations. I thought it was a fun, entertaining read, but nothing earth-shattering. I enjoy reading about the crazy dystopian thing the Society has going on, but it's a pretty classic setup without much to keep it fresh. Ky and Cassia weren't as interesting to me this time around, for some reason, but I like a few of the new characters who come on the scene. The ending feels a little rushed, but I overall I liked what happened and where the series is going.

Monday, January 9, 2012

December/2011 stats

For December:

Most books read
Heather: 22
Jenny: 13
Sarah: 8

Most pages read
Heather: 6065
Jenny: 2976
Sarah: 2156

Books: 46
Pages: 11,917
Participants: 5

We lost momentum at the end, but we still had a great year:

Total books: 1,423
Total pages: 392,967
Total contributors: 37

The Friends of the Library Gift Shop has generously donated a NOOK for the main prize. I'm thinking we could do it like this: use a random generator picky-thing, and everyone will get one chance for every blog post (I'm still working on this, but I think it can be done). I'll have at least one other Missouri Book Challenge committee person with me when I do the winner selection to make sure that I do it correctly. Thank you all for a great year, and keep posting! The 2012 Missouri Book Challenge has begun!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

"Growing Up Amish" by Ira Wagner

272 pages

Ira Wagler was the ninth child of a Canadian Amish couple's eleven children. As a restless, independent spirit, he always felt out of place in the strict society he grew up in. At seventeen, in the middle of the night, he left home for the first time. This kicked off nearly a decade of going back and forth between the Amish world and the secular as he struggled to figure out where he belonged. In this memoir, he describes what it was like growing up Old World Amish and what it felt like to leave it for a strange new world.

I grew up in a small town with a considerable Amish population, so this book grabbed my eye when I saw it on the shelf. The Amish I knew were friendly but kept many things to themselves, so I was curious about what it was like to be part of that community. Wagler is open and honest about his experience, sharing both the good (tight sense of community and a strong support system) with the bad (black-and-white thinking, discouragement of independent thinking). Some parts seemed a bit repetitive to me, and I think he could have summarized some of the experiences and left out redundant details. Nevertheless, this is a really interesting story gives readers an inside look at Amish culture. It's also a story about one man growing up and finding his place in the world, which almost everyone can relate to.