Friday, September 21, 2007

The Devil's Teeth by Susan Casey

The Devil's Teeth by Susan Casey

It started with watching a documentary during a bout with mononucleosis, and turned into a drive to learn and experience great white sharks. Just off the coast of California, near San Francisco, some of the largest white sharks in the world congregate, migrating there year after year. Susan Casey managed to get a day pass to visit the biologists living on the Farallone Islands, a remote research occupied by a few scientists each year. With the sighting of her first great white, she was hooked to the point of obsession, and had to return. She examines the history of the sharks and the island, learning as much as she could while there.

While reading this book, you get a sense of the obsession that Casey felt while studying the sharks. The power, intelligence, and character of the sharks inspired her, and in turn Casey inspires you. Although the general feeling I got from the book was of the necessity to study and protect our oceans, the book was not written as a guilt trip. The emotion is genuine, coming from Casey's absolute love for the animal.

Metapost: BookQuiz

You're Siddhartha!

by Hermann Hesse

You simply don't know what to believe, but you're willing to try
anything once. Western values, Eastern values, hedonism and minimalism, you've spent
some time in every camp. But you still don't have any idea what camp you belong in.
This makes you an individualist of the highest order, but also really lonely. It's
time to chill out under a tree. And realize that at least you believe in

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Rats by Robert Sullivan

Rats by Robert Sullivan

"As the lost sibling of the least obscure patch of land in America, the rat alley sometimes seems to me the most forgotten place in the city - a lost tide pool on the shore of a great ocean. On the other hand, sometimes I just think of it as an alley, filled with a lot of rats."

Robert Sullivan set out to spend a year in an alley, observing rats in their natural habitat. Sullivan does a magnificent job of blending history and natural science, speculation with fact. His learning process takes him from the Black Plague in the Middle Ages to the creation of sanitation workers rights, to WWII, back to Prohibition mob bosses to bioterrorism, and everything else in between. He treats rats with dignity and respect, but resists the urge to romanticize them, as you can see by the above quote.

The book itself reads well, as if you are reading a blog of his life. It is chatty and smooth and although it bounces back and forth between subjects and time periods, it is not at all difficult to follow. Read the book and flabbergast your friends with your knowledge!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Thirteen Detectives by G. K. Chesterton

Thirteen Detectives is a collection of 12 short stories featuring (what originally confused me but I think I understand it now) 14 detectives. It begins with The White Pillars Murder, travels through Mr. Pond's paradoxes (The two men agreed on everything, naturally, one killed the other) and ends with a never-before published Father Brown mystery, The Donnington Affair. This is the pinnacle of Chesterton intrigue.

If you liked this book, make sure you check out the rest of the Father Brown stories.

Aunt Dimity: Snowbound

Christmas is over, and Lori Shepherd is tempted to throttle anyone who so much as mentions tinsel. Her friend suggests she take a hike to relax, and mistakenly curses her. "There's only one can't miss it."

What was originally an afternoon stroll turns into a camp out in a blizzard. Lori fortunately stumbles upon Ladythorn Abbey, and a chance to right an age-old wrong.

Atherton misses nothing, again, in this excellent book of mystery. Aunt Dimity is sweet, Reginald is cute, and Lori is weak-kneed at the sight of her current crush. The more you read this series, the more you fall in love.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Little by Little, a Writer's Education by Jean Little

Jean Little struggled with feeling different her entire life. She was a Canadian girl growing up in Taiwan. She was born legally blind. She loved to read and write stories, but she could barely see the letters even with her face pressed against the page.

She learned to write, and began to write stories whenever she could. She began to draw from her own experiences with disabilities, and wrote stories and poetry to give others with similar difficulties hope and encouragement.

Her writings are quite different from what I usually post, but I was so taken by her writing style and her liveliness that I just had to share.

Little by Little is more a collection of memories than a traditional autobiography. It's an inviting, heartfelt story of rising above difficulty.

Metapost: Madeleine L'Engle

I don't usually post about sci-fi or fantasy, but Madeleine L'Engle died September 6th at age 88. I loved her books (she wrote the Wrinkle in Time series) and will definitely be missed.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Catch as Cat Can by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown

Everyone loves a good feline mystery, and Catch as Cat Can, by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown, is perfect. It's tenth in the Mrs. Murphy series (whoops), but jumping in works perfectly.

Roger O'Bannon collapses at a party after drinking a cup of coffee. His brother Sean refuses an autopsy, causing many people to whisper. The whispers get louder when a man is found murdered, and Mary Minor Haristeen ("Harry") can't help but ask questions and look around. But even before she has an inkling of what happened, her cat, Mrs. Murphy, has figured out what happened, as well as who is next in line to be killed.

This book was a very fun read. Though it is easier to understand if you start from the beginning, the characters were as well developed in this book as in her others. Brown successfully navigates the small town dynamics, as well as exploring the psyche of Harry and her life.

Want to start from the beginning of the series? Read Wish You Were Here.

Evil Star by Anthony Horowitz

The first gate was closed, but there is danger of a second gate being opened. Matt and Richard must travel to Peru, where they will face ambushes, traitors, and many more dangers. The second of the five is found.

This is the second book in the Gatekeepers, and just as excellent as the first. The story progresses quickly and suspensefully. If you haven't read the first one, read it first; however, don't forget to read the entire series. You won't regret it!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Double Identity by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Bethany's perfect life has crashed. Her parents, always loving on her to the point of completely spoiling her, have abandoned her with her Aunt. They disappear without an explanation, without even telling her when they will see her again. Everyone Bethany knows is suddenly holding secrets from her, and all she can discover is through what she hears when she eavesdrops.

Haddix is an extremely imaginative author. Her books are well-written, but even more than that, she never writes a boring novel. Her endings surprise! Double Identity in particular twists at the end. Great summertime (or, end of summertime, now) read.

Raven's Gate by Anthony Horowitz

Matt has gotten himself into serious trouble this time, and is given the choice of being sent to jail or to get one last chance at a fresh start. He chooses to stay with Mrs. Deverill in a town called Lesser Malling in an attempt to get back on his feet.

Once he arrives there, Matt realizes something sinister is starting. A man who attempts to mug Mrs. Deverill is found dead, and several other people die suddenly. Matt's only clue is the phrase Raven's Gate - and the knowledge that, somehow, he is in the center of something big.

Raven's Gate is the first in the Gatekeeper series, and I am excited to read the rest. This first book keeps a unique storyline - part fantasy, part science fiction, part real-life drama, part mystery. It keeps you on your toes until the very end!

The Ghost Squad Breaks Through by E. W. Hildick

Yay! Love the series. Danny, Karen, Carlos and Joe are four ghost who have finally managed to communicate with their still-breathing friends. Danny has just overheard a plot to break into a jewelery store - can he and his ghost friends figure out a way to stop the break-in?

E. W. Hildick created the McGurk mystery series, which I adored when I found them. Hildick loses none of his humor, and storytelling flair in this new series, the Ghost Squad. Whether you're 9 1/2 or 99 years old, you will love it. Happy reading!

Body in the Brillstone Garage

Body in the Brillstone Garage, by F. P. Heide and Roxanne Heide.

Loved the Boxcar Children series? Try this fun, fast-paced book by the Heides. A body is found in the garage at the Brillstone apartments - then disappears. Who took it? Who killed him? And why?

This book is perfect for younger readers who are outgrowing Jigsaw Jones and the Boxcar Children. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Aunt Dimity's Death

Aunt Dimity's Death, by Nancy Atherton, is the first in the remarkable Aunt Dimity series. The book is quite different from the other, suspense-filled books in her series, but never fear, it is still as engaging as ever.

Lori Shepherd is down on her luck. Newly divorced and trying to survive on a minimum wage job, she is devastated when her mother unexpectedly passes away. Following the death, she discovers that Aunt Dimity, a woman she only knew as a fictional character from the stories her mother told her as a child, was an actual person who, sadly, had recently died. To Lori's surprise, Aunt Dimity has left a sizable inheritance - and her ghost - behind.

A few portions of the book seem strained in my opinion. For example, the idea of Aunt Dimity being a ghost is accepted extraordinarily easily by Lori's friends. That aside, I loved the book and would recommend it to anyone. The mix of romance, mystery, and suspense blend perfectly together to create a terrific read.