Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Romulan Stratagem

THE ROMULAN STRATAGEM: Robert Greenberger: Pocket Books: Sci-Fi: 273 pgs.

This book is part of the Star Trek: The Next Generation novel series. No need to have read any of the other novels. The Enterprise's current mission is to make first contact with a new planet and make preparations to have them join the Federation. Unfortunately, the planet has also invited the Romulans to make first contact, and the two civilizations now must vie for the strategically located planet's alliance.

Despite my misgivings at first, I enjoyed this. I felt that the characters were dead-on, and the book genuinely felt like the television series, complete with side-story, humorous quips, and awkward moments. If you ever grow nostalgic for the show, or if you've considered giving this series a try, this book is a good sample.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Juliet Club

THE JULIET CLUB: Suzanne Harper: Greenwillow: Young Adult: 402 pages

High school student Kate wins a writing contest that sends her to Verona, Italy for a summer Shakespeare seminar. Kate’s sworn off love after breaking up with her boyfriend Jerome and plans to focus solely on her studies in Italy, but when she and handsome Giacomo pretend to fall in love as a prank, Kate’s resolve to avoid romance wavers.

This is a sweet romance structurally reminiscent of a Shakespearean play with its love tangles, scheming protagonists, and romantic hijinks. Shakespeare fans will appreciate the nod to several of the Bard’s plays, but the story’s enjoyable on its own as a modern teen tale.


Sundays at Tiffany's

SUNDAYS AT TIFFANY'S: James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet: Little, Brown and Company: Fiction: 309 pgs.

Jane was supposed to forget her imaginary friend when he left the day following her 9th birthday. However, she never did. Twenty years into the future, she once again needs someone to believe in her and hold her hand through the trials of life. For his part, Michael (professional imaginary friend) has never loved a child like he loved Jane and when he sees her again years after his departure he is unable to avoid entangling himself in her life.

I became a fan of James Patterson’s more sentimental books when I read Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas, which remains one of my favorite books. Sundays at Tiffany’s was a little cheesier than I had expected and the fanciful “imaginary friend” aspect caught me by surprise. But this is still a fun, light, romantic comedy…just be prepared to suspend belief a little.


Fearless Fourteen

FEARLESS FOURTEEN: Janet Evanovich: St. Martin's Press: Mystery: 310 pgs.

Stephanie Plum’s fourteenth adventure involves a monkey, reality TV, a potato launcher, and a huge flying pizza. If you are not aware of this mystery series, you should be. Janet Evanovich has created a lovable and endearing cast of characters who continually surprise and entertain. While Fearless Fourteen was probably not my favorite on the series, it is still perfect summer reading.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Almost French

ALMOST FRENCH: LOVE AND A NEW LIFE IN PARIS: Sarah Turnbull: Gotham Books: Nonfiction: 304 pages

At the age of 27 Sarah Turnbull took a year-long leave of absence from her job in Australia to travel abroad. Her plans changed, though, when she met a Frenchman in Bucharest and accepted his offer to stay with him in Paris. The two fell in love and Turnbull moved permanently to France. Turnbull’s struggles to understand codified Parisian society, find a job, and feel at home as an expatriate are presented in funny vignettes of culture clash that will tempt readers to set out on their own adventures.


Monday, June 16, 2008

13 Little Blue Envelopes

13 LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPES: Maureen Johnson: HarperTempest: Young Adult: 333 pages

Seventeen-year-old Ginny had always admired her aunt Peg, a free-spirited artist who often disappeared for months, most recently to Europe. Now Aunt Peg has died of brain cancer, and in a characteristically cryptic gesture made before her death, she arranged for her niece to receive a plane ticket to London, where Ginny will begin a series of adventures.

This was a fun book that made me long to go on a European vacation. Ginny learns about life, love and adventure in this book. I enjoyed reading about her travels although I don’t know if I would have been brave enough to do that at 17!


First Kiss (Then Tell)

FIRST KISS (THEN TELL): edited by Cylin Busby: Bloomsbury: Young Adult: 213 pages

Author Cylin Busby has brought together some of young adult's funniest and most talented authors to reminisce about their real-life first kisses (or the second, or the third, or the twenty-fifth). In a collection that ranges from funny to bittersweet, from cringe-worthy to downright disgusting, this is one anthology that is guaranteed to have you laughing out loud.

I enjoyed this collection of short stories on kissing. This anthology included some of my favorite young adult authors. There are a variety of formats and lengths to the individual stories.


Odd Hours

ODD HOURS: Dean Koontz: Bantam Books: Fiction: 352 pgs.

Odd Thomas is one of the most endearing characters I have encountered. He is humbly heroic, ironically funny, surprisingly kind, and ever hopeful despite the evil and darkness he regularly encounters. This is the fourth installment in the Odd Thomas series which follows the adventures of its hero who sees the dead along with other supernatural beings.

We last left Odd on the side of the highway with his ghost dog Boo and Frank Sinatra's ghost. Odd Hours picks up a month later in California. On an innocent walk along the pier, Odd meets up with a mysterious girl and several men who are up to no good...the kind of no good that may end civilization as we know it. Without a plan, as usual, Odd jumps headlong into a terrorist plot. I highly recommend this entire series with its fast pace and surprising depth.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I Was Told There'd Be Cake

I WAS TOLD THERE'D BE CAKE: Sloane Crosley: Riverhead Trade: 2008: Biography: 240 pages

Sloane Crosley has written a humorous collection of essays about her childhood growing up Jewish in Connecticut, and her adult life as a struggling writer in Manhattan. Reminiscent of David Sedaris and Sarah Vowell, it's a very enjoyable romp through her personal foibles with many laugh out loud moments as she lays bare her life for the entertainment of the world. Like Jerry Seinfeld, she brings humor to the mundane aspects of everyday life. If you enjoy this book make sure to pick up David Sedaris' latest - When You Are Engulfed in Flames.


Dear Exile: The Story of a Friendship Separated (for a Year) by an Ocean

DEAR EXILE: Hilary Liftin and Kate Montgomery: Vintage: Nonfiction: 203 pages

Close friends Kate and Hilary set out on very different paths after graduating from college. Kate and her husband joined the Peace Corps and traveled to Kenya as teachers. Hilary began her (never specified) career in Manhattan. While Hilary struggled with housing, dating, and work in a big city, Kate encountered malaria, school violence, and corrupt government policies in tiny villages. Living on different continents, Kate and Hilary remained in touch and this collection of their letters to one another provides an intimate look at their friendship and unique experiences. The women are bright and entertaining and their letters make for a quick and interesting read.


Monday, June 9, 2008

The Last Summer (of You & Me)

THE LAST SUMMER (OF YOU & ME): Ann Brashares: Riverhead Books: Fiction: 306 pgs.

The author of "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" has written this adult novel which tells the story of two sisters and the neighbor boy they grow up with. Riley and Paul were the same age and best friends practically since birth. Alice was the tag-a-long little sister, part of the group, yet still an outsider and always unsure of her status. Now in their early twenties Paul re-enters the sisters' lives and after this summer, each of their relationships will be altered and tested.

I enjoyed this book. The story is a little predictable, but entertaining and insightful enough to compensate. What Brashares does really well is evoke a sense of place. Much of the story takes place in a beach community and not a chapter went by that I didn't long for the sand between my toes and the sun on my face. A perfect, light read for summertime.


Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food

By Jennifer 8. Lee
Twelve, 2008. 307 pgs. Nonfiction

Many people already know that fortune cookies and chop suey are not authentic Chinese food. This fabulous book explains where these foods really originate. Also General Tso’s chicken, the rise of Chinese food in America, the Jews’ fondness for Chinese food, and the search for the greatest Chinese restaurant in the world (a search through fifteen countries on six continents).

This thoroughly-researched book packed with stories and anecdotes not only discusses Chinese food, but the restaurants, menus, and the instantly-recognizable take-out boxes. A quick, fun, and educational read.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Reasonable Doubts

By Gianrico Carofiglio
Bitter Lemon Press, 2007. 249 pgs. Mystery

Reasonable Doubts is an Italian legal novel that’s been translated into English. Guido Guerrieri is an attorney asked to defend a man accused of smuggling drugs. He shouldn’t take the case. The defendant, Fabio Paolicelli, is a known neo-Fascist thug who initially confessed to the smuggling. And Guido has a score to settle with him dating from an altercation when he was 14—he should recuse himself. However, Fabio’s beautiful Japanese wife persuades Guido to accept the case.

This English translation is British English and makes for a few interesting idioms, such as this one for when things go bad: “…everything would go pear-shaped”. A fun, quick read.

The Black Echo

By Michael Connelly
Warner Books, 1992. 482 pgs. Mystery

First-rate detective story. A body turns up that was intended to look like a heroin OD, but it doesn’t look that way to Harry Bosch, LAPD homicide detective. He pursues small clues which connect the murder with an unsolved bank heist as well as a related heist still in the offing. Bosch is a maverick who must deal with bureaucratic administrators, goons from internal affairs, lazy or incompetent fellow officers, and vengeful FBI agents. The Black Echo is a good, melancholy mystery/suspense novel.


An Alphabetical Life: Living it up in the World of Books

By Wendy Werris
Carroll & Graf, 2006. 281 pgs. Biography
Wendy Werris’ memoir begins with her landing a job at the Pickwick Bookshop in Hollywood, and her subsequent successful career as an independent sales rep for several dozen publishers from 1976 to 2006. Anecdotes on publishers and numerous authors (Richard Brautigan, Jonathan Franzen, etc.) are supplemented with bits about her parents, her close friendship with Miriam “Micky” Bass, and a traumatizing rape. When Micky is struck with kidney failure Wendy immediately undergoes the tests and preparations to donate one of her own kidneys to her friend. This is for those interested in the world of bookselling or reading about a successful businesswoman’s career.

Midwife's Apprentice

MIDWIFE’S APPRENTICE: Karen Cushman: Clarion Books: Young Adult: 122 pages

This slim novel begins with a scrawny young girl sleeping in a dung heap. The heroine, who is nameless as well as homeless, uses the dung for heat, a decision that Jane Sharp, the town's midwife, recognizes as a clever one. Jane hires the girl and names her Beetle, for dung beetle. Beetle is a smart, compassionate girl, but a timid one, too. She allows Jane Sharp to boss her around and the local boys to tease her mercilessly. Karen Cushman chose the England of the Middle Ages as a setting for the book, and has researched the subject exhaustively. We learn about village life, medicine, and the place of women in that society. Follow Beetle's progress from a scared, meek little girl to a self-assured young woman who has chosen her own name: Alyce.

I enjoyed this short novel and learned much about midwifery in the Middle Ages. I loved this coming of age tale as Beetle turned into Alyce and learned what she truly wanted in her life.


Lincoln: a Photobiography

LINCOLN: A PHOTOBIOGRAPHY: Russell Freedman: Clarion Books: Biography: 150 pgs

Though this biography is short, it covers his childhood, early political career, family life, difficulties while being the President of the United States including dealing with the Civil War, and his assassination with enough detail to get a picture of who the man really was.

What I enjoyed most about the book is learning the humorous side of Lincoln as shown in this example from the book: “When a rival called him ‘two faced’ during a political debate, Lincoln replied: ‘I leave it to my audience. If I had another face, do you think I’d wear this one?’”

A Newberry Award winner, this book is filled with photographs and illustrations on almost every page making it enjoyable for teens and adults alike.