Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Princess Ben
by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Subtitled Being a Wholly Truthful Account of Her Various Discoveries and Misadventures, Recounted to the Best of her Recollection, in Four Parts.

Published in 2008.
Audio book read by Catherine Gilbert Murdock.

I loved Catherine Gilbert Murdock's Dairy Queen and The Off Season, so I was curious about this young adult fairy tale. I was pleased to discover that Princess Benevolence - who is not-your-typical princess - is just as likable and "real" as D.J. Schwenk. I also loved the subtle tie-ins to some traditional fairy tales in this not-your-typical fairy tale.


Good As Lily
by Derek Kirk Kim & Jesse Hamm

Published in 2007.
176 pages (according to amazon.com, as the pages are not numbered).

I picked up this book because I enjoyed Derek Kirk Kim's work in The Eternal Smile. I think it's a bit ambitious thematically for a 176-page graphic novel, but overall I enjoyed it a lot.

From the back cover:

Following a strange mishap on her 18th birthday, Grace Kwon is confronted with herself at three different periods in her life. The timing couldn't be worse as Grace and her friends desperately try to save a crumbling school play. Will her other selves wreak havoc on her present life or illuminate her uncertain future?


True Detectives by Jonathan Kellerman

Published in 2009. 368 pages.

This recent Kellerman novel focuses on two characters introduced in Bones - half-brothers Moses Reed and Aaron Fox. The mystery was good, and I found the ending very satisfying.


Saturday, August 08, 2009

The Boy Book by E. Lockhart

Subtitled A Study of Habits and Behaviors, Plus Techniques for Taming Them.
Published in 2006. 193 pages.

I read this sequel to The Boyfriend List on my flight home from Fort Lauderdale at the end of June. I continue to love Ruby Oliver, who reminds me of my 13yo daughter, and I was pleased that Ruby seems to be growing up and discovering some important things about life:

If this were a movie of my life, I would go on for a couple of weeks in a state of dejection, after which Noel would appear on my doorstep one day begging forgiveness for being so cranky and hopefully bringing some quality gift. We would kiss somewhere cinematic, like outside in a snowstorm (Bridget Jones) or on an ice rink (Serendipity) or on a fire escape (Pretty Woman). And that would be the end.

But as I have learned, to my disappointment, life is never like the movies. And as I have also learned, thanks to what is now nine months of therapy (with one month-long hiatus): if you don't want to be in an argument with someone, it is probably best to try to solve the problem, rather than lying around hoping the other person will do it for you. Like Doctor Z says, "We can't know or say what other people will do. You have to think what you want to do to get the situation where you want it to be." [page 177]

I also loved this passage in which Ruby tries to identify a school activity that would appeal to her (and reveals her great sense of humor) - and then her commentary on the activity she finds:
"I like to swim," I said. "And read. And watch movies. But can you imagine a catalog description for that? 'Exploring the Shallow Life: Students will enjoy a double feature of Love Actually and Bridget Jones's Diary, wallowing in the hotness of Hugh Grant and Colin Firth, followed by thrift-store shopping, intensive reading of mystery novels, and a dip in the pool. Evenings will be spent consuming Popsicles and experimenting with cosmetics.'" [page 72]

Mr. Wallace went on to explain that the project involved going to a retreat on a tiny island in the San Juans, off the Seattle coast, where we'd read and discuss meaningful philosophical stuff in the morning; then, in the afternoon, we'd swim in the pool, hike around the island and take turns making dinner. Evenings, we'd watch important movies from the history of cinema that would continue to spur our thought processes about the philosphical issues in the readings.

Movies. And swimming.

It was Exploring the Shallow Life, only deep. [page 73]

Note: The book does include some fairly explicit references to sexual experimentation.


Thursday, August 06, 2009

NPR's 100 Best Beach Books Ever

I saw NPR's list of the 100 Best Beach Books Ever (compiled from a survey of nearly 16,000 "book-loving NPR-types") at The 3 R's. Florinda, in turn, saw it at Musings of a Bookish Kitten. Since it's hard for me to pass up a good book list, here it is again - with the ones I've read in bold:

    1. The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling
    2. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
    3. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
    (A few of my thoughts.)
    4. Bridget Jones's Diary, by Helen Fielding
    5. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
    6. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, by Rebecca Wells
    7. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    8. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
    9. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, by Fannie Flagg
    10. The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver

    11. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger (My brief review.)
    12. Life of Pi, by Yann Martel
    13. The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan
    14. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
    15. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
    16. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
    17. Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett
    18. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
    19. Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides
    20. Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen (My review.)

    21. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
    22. The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver
    23. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith
    24. The World According to Garp, by John Irving
    25. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
    26. The Prince of Tides, by Pat Conroy
    27. Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel
    28. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
    29. The Accidental Tourist, by Anne Tyler
    30. Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer (My review.)

    31. A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole
    32. East of Eden, by John Steinbeck
    33. The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant
    34. Beach Music, by Pat Conroy
    35. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
    36. Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier
    37. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
    38. Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry
    39. The Thorn Birds, by Colleen McCullough
    40. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon

    41. Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett
    42. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
    43. Interview with the Vampire, by Anne Rice
    44. Cold Mountain, by Charles Frazier
    45. Empire Falls, by Richard Russo
    46. Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes
    47. The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas
    48. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, by Tom Robbins
    49. I Know This Much Is True, by Wally Lamb
    50. Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie

    51. Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
    52. The Stand, by Stephen King
    53. She's Come Undone, by Wally Lamb
    54. Dune, by Frank Herbert
    55. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (My brief review.)
    56. Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
    57. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
    58. Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
    59. The Godfather, by Mario Puzo
    60. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith (My review.)

    61. Animal Dreams, by Barbara Kingsolver
    62. Jaws, by Peter Benchley
    63. Good in Bed, by Jennifer Weiner
    64. Angle of Repose, by Wallace Stegner
    65. Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson
    66. The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway
    67. The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand
    68. Breakfast of Champions, by Kurt Vonnegut
    69. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
    70. The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler

    71. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
    72. The Hunt for Red October, by Tom Clancy
    73. Cold Sassy Tree, by Olive Ann Burns
    74. The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
    74. Bonfire of the Vanities, by Tom Wolfe [tie]
    76. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte
    77. Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon
    78. The Shell Seekers, by Rosamunde Pilcher
    79. Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver
    80. Eye of the Needle, by Ken Follett

    81. Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck
    81. The Pilot's Wife, by Anita Shreve [tie]
    83. All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy
    84. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson
    85. The Little Prince, by Antoine De Saint-Exupery
    86. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
    87. One for the Money, by Janet Evanovich
    88. Shogun, by James Clavell
    89. Dracula, by Bram Stoker
    90. The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera

    91. Presumed Innocent, by Scott Turow
    92. Franny and Zooey, by J.D. Salinger
    93. The Secret History, by Donna Tartt
    94. Dead Until Dark, by Charlaine Harris
    95. Summer Sisters, by Judy Blume
    96. The Shining, by Stephen King
    97. How Stella Got Her Groove Back, by Terry McMillan
    98. Lamb, by Christopher Moore
    99. Sick Puppy, by Carl Hiaasen
    100. Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson

That's 31 for me! (A lot of the others are on my to-read list.) Which of them have you read? What is your favorite "beach book"?

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Age Is Just a Number by Dara Torres
with Elizabeth Weil

Published in 2009. 226 pages.

I enjoyed hearing Dara Torres speak at the recent National PTA Convention, so I decided to read her book. I can't relate to all the details about being an elite swimmer - not even to the concept of being an elite athlete. But I came away from this book with a sense of enthusiasm for pursuing whatever it is that I want to do!

One of the ideas Torres talks about is the "details-matter mind-set." I like this description:

I know it's a weird thing to say, but swimming is sort of like one of those Impressionist paintings made with millions of dots. Sure, a dot is a dot. What's the big deal? But if you care enough to make each dot the exact right size and the exact right color in the exact right place, something amazing occurs. [page 132]