Friday, August 29, 2008

Certain Girls

CERTAIN GIRLS: Jennifer Weiner: Atria: 2008: Fiction: 400pgs

Certain Girls is the sequel to Jennifer Weiner's hit novel, Good In Bed. The story continues with a middle-aged Cannie still struggling with her weight and self esteem. Now she is in her 40's and has an angst ridden 12 year old, as well as a husband who wants a baby. Chapters alternate point of view between the mother and daughter which is fun, because of course, the daughter never tells her mother anything. Anyone with a teenager can appreciate this story and sympathize with Cannie as she deals with the ups and downs of life.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

These Is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901

THESE IS MY WORDS: Nancy Turner: Regan Books/ HarperCollins: Fiction: 384 p.

This is the fictionalized diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 17, who goes from New Mexico to Texas and back, protecting her family with her rifle and her common sense. She recounts the trials and heartaches of settling the Arizona Territory but also the joys of life that helped her to keep going.

I just recently finished this book for the second time and I liked it just as much, if not more than the first time I read it. The spelling and grammer at the beginning of the book were very remedial but as the book progessed it became more refined. This book was a very quick read that would appeal to readers who enjoy stories full of historical fiction, romance, and adventure.


The Dangerous Days of Daniel X

THE DANGEROUS DAYS OF DANIEL X: James Patterson: Little, Brown and Co.: Young Adult: 238 pgs.

Daniel was born with the power to create. His abilities include being able to manipulate objects and animals with his mind and to re-create himself in any shape he chooses. His mission: he is an Alien Hunter. From the day that his parents were murdered before him, he has used his unique gifts to hunt down villainous aliens on earth until he can close in on their killer.

This book combines the humorous quips of Spiderman with the repellant bad-guy aliens of Men In Black. It will probably appeal most to young adult guys, and the short chapters (each one was 2-3 pages) make it a quick read.


Friday, August 22, 2008


UGLIES: Scott Westerfeld: Scholastic: Young Adult: 425 pgs.

In Tally Youngblood's world, every sixteen-year-old has an operation to make them pretty. Tally is one of the youngest kids in her age group and she is anxious to have the operation. A few weeks before the operation, Tally meets Shay and her world changes forever. Some of Shay’s friends have decided to not get the operation and have run away to the Smoke. After Shay disappears, it is up to Tally to find the Smoke or remain ugly forever.

Teens will enjoy this dystopian novel about teens that aren't afraid to rebel. Uglies gives teens the opportunity to think deeply about the role of beauty in our society and if conforming to the norm is necessarily a good thing.



TWILIGHT: Stephenie Meyer: Little, Brown & Co.: Young Adult: 498 pgs.

Bella Swan just wants to fit into her new high school, without drawing any attention to herself. That isn’t possible however, once Edward Cullen notices her. Edward is gorgeous and seems to hate Bella from the moment he lays eyes on her. What Bella soon finds out is that Edward is a vampire and he thirsts for her blood. Bella isn’t scared of Edward though, she is infatuated with him. Not even an attack from another vampire can sway Bella’s decision to be with Edward.

Teens and adults alike are frantic to read this vampire love story. Twilight became an instant favorite for readers around the world. A movie adaptation will be released in the United States on November 21, 2008.


Things Not Seen

THINGS NOT SEEN: Andrew Clements: Philomel Books: Young Adult: 251 pgs.

One February morning Bobby Phillips, a Chicago resident became invisible. The only people he can tell are his parents. His parents decide that they will call his school to tell them he is sick, but then they have to go into work. Bobby doesn’t like the idea of being stuck at home all day, so he bundles up in his coat, hat, gloves, scarf, and sunglasses in order to disguise himself as he goes to the library. While at the library he meets Alicia, a blind girl. He figures that she can’t see him, so it’s safe to let her in on the secret. Alicia and Bobby’s friendship grow as they both share what it’s like to look “invisible” to those around them. Bobby begins to adjust to his new life, but constantly wonders if there are others like him and if he will ever turn visible again.

Teens will identify with Bobby’s feelings of both frustration and elation at finding out he is invisible. This book addresses the steps taken by the government when a child is deemed in danger by the Child Protective Services department; as well as what parents will do to protect their children from harm.

The Secret Hour

THE SECRET HOUR: Scott Westerfeld: Eos: Young Adult: 297 pgs.

Fifteen-year-old Jessica Day has just moved from Chicago to Bixby, Oklahoma. After just a few weeks in Bixby she learns that she is one several people who have special abilities. These teenagers fight ancient creatures living in an hour hidden at midnight; creatures that seem determined to destroy Jess.

The Secret Hour as well as the other books in the Midnighters trilogy are popular with teens. These books are full of adventure, suspense, and a little romance thrown in for good measure. Scott Westerfeld's books are extremely well liked.

The Outsiders

THE OUTSIDERS: S.E. Hinton: Viking: Young Adult: 188 pgs.

There are only two kinds of people in Ponyboys’ world. Greasers, are poor and have to fight for everything they are given. Socs (short for socials) on the other hand are rich and are given everything they want without question. The greasers and socs are often rumbling, attempting to determine who is better. Ponyboy has always been proud to be a greaser, until the night that his friend Johnny kills a soc. The murder causes Ponyboy to consider for the first time that the greasers are not the only ones feeling pain.

The Outsiders is a young adult literature classic. S.E. Hinton wrote this novel when she was in high school. She saw many of the things Ponyboy experiences and had hopes for a better world. Although the novel was published in 1967, teens of 2008 can still identify with the characters in this book.

The Juniper Game

THE JUNIPER GAME: Sherryl Jordan: Scholastic, Inc.: Young Adult: 228 pgs.

Juniper has always been interested in Medieval England, she has gone so far as to put straw on her bedroom floor and constantly read about the time period. Dylan is also interested in all things medieval and after being paired up as science partners, they discover how much they have in common. Juniper also believes that she has telepathic powers. She convinces Dylan to let her send him a message and then have Dylan draw what she sends. Much to both of their surprise it works! Dylan and Juniper start down a path that has many twists and turns, a path that links the past and the present. After a while it seems like things have gone too far, but is there a way to end what they have begun?

The Juniper Game combines historical fiction with telepathy. There’s even a bit of a reincarnation-like feel to the book. Readers interested in history, suspense and art will enjoy this novel.

The Giver

THE GIVER: Lois Lowry: Houghton Mifflin Company: Young Adult: 180 pgs.

Jonas is anxious to find out what assignment he will be given at the Ceremony of Twelve. He hadn’t volunteered at any one place, but rather chose to do his volunteer hours at various places in the community. So Jonas didn’t have any idea what the Elders had decided upon. He is surprised when he is named the new Receiver of Memory, an honored, but difficult assignment. Now he has daily training sessions with the Giver. Jonas is told that the community needs him to hold the memories of all the people that came before him. What does that mean? What kind of memories will he be given?

I enjoyed reading this Newbery Medal award winning book. It definitely made me think.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN: Sherman Alexie: Little, Brown & Co.: Young Adult: 230 pgs.

Arnold Spirit, Jr., born with water on the brain, has lived his entire life on the Spokane Indian Reservation. He loves drawing cartoons and imagining what life would be like if he and the ones he loves would get a break in this world. After he is encouraged by his teacher to leave the reservation, he begins going to school in Reardan. He is then seen as a traitor to those still on the rez. Junior comes of age as he perseveres in his new school and deals with the deaths of three people close to him.

This novel is a story about race and determination to make your life better. Junior, persists in doing what he thinks is best as he leaves the rez and tries to make a place for himself in the world.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hooligan: A Mormon Boyhood: A Memoir

Hooligan: A Mormon Boyhood: A Memoir
By Douglas Thayer
Zarahemla Books, 2007. 186 pgs. Biography

Douglas Thayer remembers the wonder of boyhood and has captured it in this brief memoir of growing up in Provo's 6th ward back during the 30s and 40s. The simple pleasures of past decades depicted here are a sharp contrast to the sports regimen and/or videogaming activities of boys today.

This charming and nostalgic story features a bit of everything: Franklin Elementary school, Dixon Jr. High, and B.Y. High, the Provo 6th ward of the LDS Church, family life, holidays, summer activities, and myriad Provo businesses most of which have long since left the scene.

Each chapter is preceded by a short list of words suggesting the content of that chapter. Chapter 1 has "square blocks, pie lady, Babylon, sin, Heber Creeper" and chapter 2 has "Zion, WPA, harlot, police station, Sears, BB guns". This is great stuff. Read it on a porch swing in the cool of the evening, the sound of a train whistle off in the distance.


Teen, Inc.

TEEN, INC.: Stefan Petrucha: Walker Book: Young Adult: 244 pgs.

Jaiden Beale is the first child to be raised by a corporation. NECorp, the corporation responsible for the faulty valve that killed his parents, adopted Jaiden and have “managed” him rather than parented for the past fourteen years. When Jaiden discovers some company secrets, he is more than willing to do what it takes to make sure the right thing is done.

This novel gives teens an awareness of environmental protection, and standing up for what is right. Jaiden just wants to live a normal life, but that's not possible for him. He must do the best he can with what he has, and develop trust in those around him that are worthy of his trust.


TATTOO: Jennifer Lynn Barnes: Delacorte Press: Young Adult: 260 pgs.

It started out like a typical Saturday. Delia dragged Bailey, Annabelle, and Zo to the mall. Zo is barely hanging on in their shopping adventures, however with the promise of a triple chili-cheese dog at the food court she agrees to stop at one last kiosk. The woman in charge of the kiosk is rather mysterious, but helps the girls select some great accessories. She doesn’t give Bailey anything specific, but rather lets her choose for herself. Bailey through an act of klutzily knocking out a drawer finds some temporary tattoos. After they put on the tattoos, Bailey begins to hear voices and later discovers she can start fires with her mind. Delia receives the power of transmortification, the ability to change an object into something else just by thinking about it. Annabelle can read minds and Zo has premonitions. All of these powers, they discover, become necessary to protect the girls and their classmates at the high school dance when an ancient mythical goddess comes to town.

Tattoo combines Greek mythology with superpowers. Bailey and her friends are strong female characters that learn how to use their unique gifts for good. Delia is often the comic relief character as she turns locks to butterscotch pudding and shoes into roller blades during a chase scene. Boys may not be as interested since the protagonists are girls and there is quite a bit of dialogue concerning shopping and accessorizing.


RUMORS: Anna Godbersen: HarperCollins: Young Adult: 423 pgs.

In the sequel to Luxe, Rumors begins approximately two months after Elizabeth Holland’s untimely death. Henry Schoonmaker is mourning Elizabeth’s death and at the same time wondering what the consequences would be if he brought his relationship with Diana to light. Diana is Elizabeth’s younger sister who is as in love with Henry as he is with her. Henry, however has other admirers including Penelope Hayes, Elizabeth’s best friend who has had her eye on Henry for years. Unfortunately for all involved, Penelope carries secrets that will ensure heartbreak and triumph for everyone.

Teens who liked Luxe will enjoy this sequel. This novel like the previous title has so many unexpected twists and turns. Fans can look forward to another book in the series Envy which has not yet had a release date announced.

Life As We Knew It

LIFE AS WE KNEW IT: Susan Beth Pfeffer: Harcourt: Young Adult: 337 pgs.

Sixteen-year-old Miranda begins her diary with accounts related to boys and prom. Her writing shifts dramatically after a meteor hits the moon altering the moon’s gravitational pull. This collision changes life forever on earth. Tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes and the loss of electricity abound. Through the ten-month ordeal, Miranda records how her family fares better than a lot of her neighbors. However everyday death is a constant threat. Will they have enough food and fuel to make it through the long, cold winter? Will life ever return to normal? Is there even such a thing as “normal” anymore?

This is a heavy novel. I could not stop reading it, but just felt so depressed reading about the struggle for survival. This book really made me think about how I would fare in the face of a disaster. I think readers will enjoy the diary format and how thought provoking this novel is.

Legacy of Lies

LEGACY OF LIES: Elizabeth Chandler: Pocket Books: Young Adult: 182 pgs.

Megan’s grandmother hasn’t wanted anything to do with her or her two brothers in years past, so why is she now insisting that Megan come visit? As soon as Megan arrives at Scarborough House she recognizes it as the house from her dreams. A few days later items begin being moved from their usual resting places. Weird things are happening and Megan is curious to find out why.

This novel is an excellent choice for readers that enjoy mystery, suspense, romance and the supernatural.


JUMPER: Steven Gould: TOR: Sci-Fi: 344 pgs.

Davy can “jump” anywhere he wants. He is able to teleport around the world as long as he has a clear picture of where he wants to go first. However, with this ability also comes loneliness.

Jumper is a coming of age story, we see Davy mature throughout the book and face demons from his past. Jumper was recently released as a major motion picture. The movie is actually a combination of Jumper and Reflex both by Steven Gould.

Hidden Talents

HIDDEN TALENTS: David Lubar: Starscape: Young Adult: 213 pgs.

Thirteen year-old Martin has been sent to Edgeview Alternative School, the last stop for problem students. His smart mouth seems to get him in trouble every time and attending Edgeview is no different.

Hidden Talents will appeal especially to teen boys ages 12 and older, although I think girls will enjoy this book as well. It is filled with humor and fun content such as notes from the teachers and memos from the principal.


HAUNTED: Melinda Metz: Avon Books: Young Adult: 214 pgs.

Rae can hear people’s thoughts. Anything touched by human hands leaves fingerprints, and when Rae touches those fingerprints, she hears what the person was thinking at the moment of contact. This power comes in handy as Anthony, Yana and Rae search for Jesse who is missing. The downside of her power is that someone sinister knows about it and wants her dead.

Haunted is the second book in the Fingerprints series. Even though I did not read the first book, I was able to catch on very quickly to how Rae’s special power works. Readers will enjoy the unique way Rae reads minds and will like that this book has suspense, action, and a mystery to figure out.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Final Theory

FINAL THEORY; Mark Alpert; New York: Simon and Schuster, 2008; Fiction; 356pp.

No less a luminary than Douglas Preston describes this book as having "a deliciously explosive premise and a breakneck plot." He is right--in this story Einstein is discovered to have actually solved for the Grand Unifying Theory, but suppressed it because it could have led to the
creation of a Weapon of Truly Massive Destruction. Various good and bad types are racing against each other to find the theory first, and the action never lets up. Unfortunately, neither
do the cliches and the condescension. Our hero, David Swift (probably a great grandson of Tom), goes on the lam with a physicist, a convenient plot device for conveying needed scientific information. Merely a coincidence that she is a drop-dead gorgeous. All the FBI agents in this story are incompetent, insensitive meatheads. West Virginians become "Appalachians," not discernibly different from Neanderthals except they wear flannel shirts. Alpert, a writer for Scientific American, certainly has talent, but he needed more of an editorial hand than
just the spell-checker, and he might want to get out of New York every once in awhile and meet some of the natives.


Saturday, August 16, 2008

Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs


This is a timely memoir that gives an in-depth look into the secretive lives of the FLDS community. Elissa was married off at the age of 14 to her first cousin. Her family experienced their share of tragedy at the hands of Warren Jeffs, including having him remove the entire family from their father and not being allowed to say goodbye. She begged Warren and his father not to force her to marry, but to no avail.

Anyone reading this will be happy for Elissa that she and most of her siblings were all brave enough to leave the FLDS church and create a new life for themselves.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Gilda Joyce, Psychic Investigator

GILDA JOYCE, PSYCHIC INVESTIGATOR: Jennifer Allison: Sleuth/Dutton: Young Adult: 321 pgs

Thirteen year old Gilda Joyce lives in Michigan with her mother and older brother. Her father passed away two years earlier from cancer and Gilda misses him a lot. At the end of the school year, all of her classmates are discussing their exciting summer plans. All Gilda has planned is to spy on “plaid pants,” the man that works at Gas Mart. However, when questioned by her teacher, Gilda feels pressured to invent an elaborate summer vacation. She says that she is going to write a novel in San Francisco. Now that she’s made up this story, she is determined to go through with it. So she writes a letter inviting herself to her distant relatives’ home. Lester and Juliet Splinter live in an old mansion that Juliet believes that it is haunted by her late aunt Melanie. Gilda jumps at the chance for adventure and the opportunity to use her psychic skills. She has been learning how to be a psychic from reading a garage sale copy of, The Master Psychic’s Handbook: A Guide to Psychic Principles and Methods by Balthazar Frobenius. As the girls unravel the mystery of what happened to Melanie, they become friends and have a delightful summer together.

I think younger teens will enjoy Gilda’s eccentric personality and the mystery contained in this novel. Gilda does use what she thinks are psychic impressions to help determine how and why Melanie died. Gilda is able to cheer Juliet up as she feels lonely living in the big mansion with only her father and Melanie’s ghost for companions. This book is suspenseful and hilarious.


GIFTS: Ursula Le Guin: Harcourt: Young Adult: 274 pgs

This fantasy novel explores the culture of the Uplands and the people that dwell therein. Many of the inhabitants have strange and potentially dangerous abilities that include the killing or maiming of others, or calling wild animals to gather. Orrec and Gry both have gifts, but each refuse to use them, despite their parents’ wishes. Ogge Drum, a haughty landowner in an adjoining area of the Uplands, causes heartache for Orrec and his family when he steals their cattle and pretentiously tries to betroth Orrec to his mentally ill granddaughter.

This book showcases the unique talents of the Uplanders as well as giving Orrec a voice when he cannot see the world around him. Both Orrec and Gry mature throughout the novel to discover what they believe are the right paths for each of them to take. The book is a little hard to read because the names are unfamiliar and many sound similar.

Enna Burning

ENNA BURNING: Shannon Hale: Bloomsbury: Young Adult: 317 pgs

Enna’s brother Leif has a secret and Enna wants to know what it is. She is shocked when she discovers that Leif has the ability to start fires with just a look. When the Bayern kingdom comes under attack Leif swears to use his ability for good, to protect the other residents of Bayern. However, he has not yet learned how to control the fire and burns himself to a crisp, as well as the enemy soldiers. It is now up to Enna to decide if she wants to learn the language of fire and help protect the borders of Bayern or not.

Enna Burning is the second Bayern book by Shannon Hale. Many of the characters from The Goose Girl are present in Enna Burning but readers could read this title as a stand-alone. Enna learns throughout this book who her true friends are, what loyalty means, and how to endure in the face of great challenges.

24 Girls in 7 Days

24 GIRLS IN 7 DAYS: Alex Bradley: Dutton Books: Young Adult: 265 pages

Ever since Jack Grammar’s sisters used to dress him up and pretend he was their prom date, he has believed that prom is a magical night. Now Jack’s senior prom is two weeks away and he is dateless. Jack’s best friends Natalie and Percy have the seemingly perfect solution. They post an ad in the school’s online newspaper (without Jack’s knowledge) inviting potential dates to contact Jack. It is then up to Jack to go out with the girls in order to pick the perfect prom date.

This book is hilarious. Teens looking for a "boy romance" will enjoy this title. Alex Bradley is the pseudonym for Jeremy Jackson.

Audrey, Wait!

AUDREY, WAIT!: Robin Benway: Razorbill: Young Adult: 313 pages

Audrey’s ex-boyfriend writes a song about their break up, and when the song becomes a runaway hit, Audrey is suddenly a celebrity. The unwanted attention keeps Audrey holed up in the school administrative office for classes, unable to go on a date with her new boyfriend and mortified that her school yearbook picture is on the Internet.

Audrey, Wait! has been getting rave reviews in young adult lit circles, but I found it to be a pretty average teen read. The story moves fairly quickly, Audrey has good relationships with her best friend and parents, there’s the requisite romance, and the premise is fun, but it was still only okay for me, with characters I never liked very well. Readers who do enjoy Audrey, Wait! might also enjoy (or prefer) Sarah Dessen’s This Lullaby, another title involving a teen who has a song written about her. Be prepared for pervasive language and some drug references in Audrey, Wait!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Unaccustomed Earth

UNACCUSTOMED EARTH: Jhumpa Lahiri: Knopf: Fiction: 333 pages

Jhumpa Lahiri, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Interpreter of Maladies, returns to issues of family, identity, and culture in this beautiful collection of stories. In the title story, a daughter worries over the decision to invite her elderly father to join her young family in Seattle. In another story, a sister watches as her brother deals with alcoholism, a vice she may have helped him cultivate. And three of the final stories follow Hema and Kaushik as their lives intersect and separate over and over again through three decades. Lahiri is one of the most accomplished authors currently writing. Her prose is perfect and her characters are full and complicated and somehow terribly familiar in their struggles.


Newes from the Dead

NEWES FROM THE DEAD: Mary Hooper: Roaring Book Press: Young Adult: 263 pages

Anne Greene, a servant in 1650, awakes in total darkness unable to move. As Anne lies paralyzed, she recollects her seduction by a young nobleman, the birth and death of her premature child, and the trial that sent her to the gallows as a murderess. Meanwhile, in alternating chapters, doctors preparing to perform an autopsy on Anne’s corpse notice her eyelids flickering and halt the procedure in order to resurrect Anne. This is a fascinating story based on the true story of Anne Greene, who did survive her hanging and was revived on the dissection table, an event that was written up in a pamphlet titled “Newes from the Dead” in 1651.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Stir of Echoes

A STIR OF ECHOES: Richard Matheson: Tom Doherty Associates: Fiction: 211 pgs.

Tom Wallace lived an ordinary life, until a chance event awakened psychic abilities he never knew he possessed. Now he's hearing the private thoughts of the people around him - and learning secrets he never wanted to know. But as Tom's existence becomes a waking nightmare, even greater jolts are in store as he becomes the unwilling recipient of midnight visitations...

I was hoping for a good scare with this book, but I don't think I was ever really afraid at any point, which you may or may not take as a good sign. Still, it was interesting and quick. This is a spooky story that would especially appeal to those piqued by the paranormal.


Captain Wentworth's Diary

CAPTAIN WENTWORTH’S DIARY: Amanda Grange: Berkley Books: 2008: Fiction: 293 pages

A retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion told from the perspective of Captain Frederick Wentworth. During a shore leave from the British Royal Navy, Frederick Wentworth, then just a commander meets Anne Elliott while staying in the country with his brother. Anne’s father and older sister are snobs and look down on Frederick Wentworth, but it is Anne’s godmother who ruins the match. The story then jumps ahead several years. Wentworth, now a captain who has made his fortune meets Anne again and finds himself slowly being drawn to her tenderness and wisdom all over again.

This novel spends more time on parts of the story that are glossed over in Persuasion. If you enjoyed reading Persuasion, then you will want to read this book. There is nothing better than re-experiencing a loved book.


Sweet Love

SWEET LOVE: Sarah Strohmeyer: Dutton: 2008: Fiction: 302 pages

Julie Mueller, a 40-something news reporter meets the man she thought she loved at age eighteen in a cooking class that her mother, Betty, sends her to. Little does she know that her mother arranged for Michael Slayton to take the class as well in hopes that her daughter and Michael might fall in love again. When Julie was just eighteen, her mother didn’t approve of the match and had convinced Michael to leave her alone, but now that Betty is dying she wants to make amends.

This book was not as interesting to me as some of Strohmeyer’s other Chick-lit books. There didn’t seem to really be a lot going on. However, it is a quick, light read with lots of great descriptions of dessert.


Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Corpse Walker: Real-Life Stories, China from the Bottom Up

Liao Yiwu; New York: Pantheon, 2008; Nonfiction; 318p. Translated from the Chinese by Wen Huang.

Among the many sights, sounds, and people we expect to see in next week’s Beijing Olympics, we may also anticipate not seeing in any official version, the lives of China’s underclass. That omission can be addressed, however, by reading Liao Yiwu’s “The Corpse Walker: Real-Life Stories, China from the Bottom Up.” Brief oral histories from citizens who have somehow missed out on China’s current economic boom describe, among others, the lives of a public restroom manager, a leper who may not really be a leper (and who attributes his misfortune to his killing of a Ma snake), a Buddhist abbot, a grave robber, a professional mourner, and a feng shui master who chooses propitious tomb sites. Many of these accounts are not for the tenderhearted, as in tales of the “Great Leap Forward” when starving peasants ate their own children in order to survive. Mindless and endless denunciations demanded by the Red Guard set a gifted composer of symphonies to menial tasks in assorted labor camps. The abbot’s stories of the Red Guard destroying the monastery, and of government officials extorting money from the monks to upgrade their luxury vehicles are heartbreaking, but his explanation of how the monks saved a Buddhist encyclopedia printed in 1372, by airing it out, a page at a time, and then inserting thousands of tobacco leaves between the pages to absorb the moisture is fascinating. Liao Yiwu, himself a great dissident writer on the government’s bad list, is a unique interviewer, who doesn’t mind calling a jerk a jerk, and who asks the most penetrating questions. “The Corpse Walker” is a particular treasure of a culture foreign in almost unimaginable ways.


Friday, August 1, 2008

The Falconer's Knot

THE FALCONER'S KNOT: Mary Hoffman: Bloomsbury: Young Adult: 297 pages

In Renaissance Italy, a young nobleman, Silvano, admires Angelica, a married woman, and when Angelica’s husband is stabbed to death with Silvano’s stolen knife, Silvano seeks refuge in a Franciscan monastery, where he meets Chiara, a reluctant novice who has entered the adjoining abbey under pressure from her brother. When a visitor to the monastery is found murdered, Silvano is suspected of the crime and he and one of the friars attempt to solve the mystery. There are several plotlines twisting through this story—multiple love stories and mysteries—that eventually come together in a happy ending.