Friday, July 30, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Which fictional character (or group of characters) would you like to spend a day at the beach with? Why would he/she/they make good beach buddies?
And here's my answer, in two parts.
First, the rejection of the premise: I don't go to the beach!
I really don't like the beach. I sunburn even while wearing SPF 50 and sitting under a huge umbrella. And sunscreen and sand are a truly vile mixture to have affixed to one's person. There it is.
Second, the sudden emergence of an answer anyway: Nancy Drew!
And Bess and George. Those girls know how to solve crimes. Who could be better company if you're stuck on a beach? Most certainly they'd discover a jewel thief or some such, and then there'd be a ripping good tale that would make the beach visit worthwhile. Almost certainly the lifeguard would be a secret villain.
And now I'm really, really regretting that I was too cheap to buy that Nancy Drew purse I saw at ALA once upon a time. (But apparently I'm still too cheap, because such purses are buyable online, and I still ain't budging.)
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Friday, July 23, 2010
Isabel Wolff’s written several books by now, but this one—because it has vintage clothes in it—grabbed me when I read a review.
(I have a weird weakness for vintage clothes books, even though I own not a single article of vintage clothing and generally have the style sense of a crow.)
I’m thinking it was probably a ravingly positive review, because that’s what this book deserves. It’s everything a chick lit/women’s fiction book ought to be.
Here’s what I mean--
This book is witty. The writing is lovely—nice and easy, but not simplistic. Just a pleasure to read.
It’s light enough to enjoy during the summertime, yet also deals with some substantial stuff (yes, peeps, there’s death in this book).
It’s got a great cast of characters, and it shows them as they experience some key changes in their lives. So yes, there’s a plot.
Speaking of which…
Here comes the plot summary:
Phoebe, a thirtysomething Londoner, has just opened a vintage clothing shop. She’s also mourning her best friend’s death and feeling enormous amounts of guilt about how she believes she could have prevented it. Add to the mix the breaking-off of her engagement, dealing with the aftermath of her parent’s divorce, some good-looking men vying for her attention, and her new friendship with an elderly lady who has kept a heartbreaking secret all her life—and you’ve got yourself a fine set-up for a novel.
Plus there are gowns!
…including “cupcake dresses”—ballerina-length prom dresses from the ’50s that hold seemingly magical powers to transform their new owners’ lives for the good.
It kind of makes me want to flounce around in taffeta and tulle.
If you’re in the mood for this sort of thing, here are some others to try:
- Cupid and Diana by Christina Bartolomeo (romantic comedy; vintage clothing shop)
- The early novels of Elinor Lipman (I’m thinking especially of The Way Men Act, which is a romantic comedy set in a flower shop)
- Shattered Silk by Barbara Michaels (romantic suspense; vintage clothing)
Warning: may be flounce-inducing
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Suggested by Clare:
Do you ever listen to book-related podcasts?
If so, which ones and why? (Include the URLs for people who aren’t familiar with them.)
Or, of course, there’s the flip side … did you even know that such a thing existed? (I ask because I know a lot of people who have no idea what a podcast is.)
Here I am, booking through Thursday, even as my blog template tells me it shall implode within 24 hours. Now that’s dedication. : )
I love podcasts.
As I trot around town doing my many minutes of exercise, I need a distraction, and usually podcasts are it.
While personal finance podcasts are my top podcast choice, followed by The Dinner Party Download, reading podcasts are right up there on my list.
My favorite book-related podcasts both come to us from the incomparable Nancy Pearl (she of the librarian action figure). They are:
Book Lust with Nancy Pearl (in which she interviews authors)
Nancy Pearl Book Reviews (in which she talks about books in a particular genre or books that relate to one another somehow, or another reading-related topic)
The thing about Nancy Pearl is that she know books inside and out, plus she’s as pleasant as the day is long.
Friday, July 16, 2010
The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar
First—and importantly—for a book about psychology, this is gorgeously written. And by gorgeous, I don’t mean lush and over the top; I mean, wonderfully, effortlessly readable—with a conversational tone, but a darn smart conversational tone.
When I reached the end of the book and read the Acknowledgments, I discovered what may be the secret of Iyengar’s wonderful style: she says that her son would ask her what story she had written each day, and she would tell him about the writing she had done that day. She says that this process helped her make the stories more engaging.
(I’m compelled to suggest that all writers of nonfiction convey their narratives to children. The result here is remarkable.)
To describe this book’s contents is to make it sound like a dull reporting of research results. It is so much more. While Iyengar indeed relates the results of various studies that investigated people’s responses to situations in which they were offered some type of choice (or denied choices), she also weaves a narrative around those studies.
Unlike some popular nonfiction books that meander all over the place, The Art of Choosing actually has a narrative thread that holds it together in a cogent way. This is hugely satisfying.
I’m all about having options available, but Iyengar writes that sometimes having a lot of options actually has been shown to result in our making poorer choices. Interesting! Iyengar describes what’s behind that whole phenomenon, and it’s pretty fascinating.
Also: the fact that having lots of options can cause us to feel less happy than if our options were fewer, because we know that we must discard some desirable options because we cannot have it all.
There are some other guidelines here, such as: “We should, therefore, focus first on the dimensions that are easiest to choose from, whether because they offer fewer options or because we already know what we want, and let these choices guide us through the more difficult dimensions.” (p. 213) It’s refreshing to hear that it’s OK to start with the easy stuff and work our way up to the tougher parts.
For anyone who enjoys reading Malcolm Gladwell or the Freakonomics guys, reading this book will be sheer delight. She’s taken it up a notch.
Friday, July 9, 2010
In this book’s favor:
1. Written by Noah Adams (of NPR), who has a pleasant speaking voice (not that that has anything to do with one’s writing ability, but I get a calming feeling when I see the name Noah Adams)
2. It is about the fathers of powered flight!!
On the other end of the stick: This book sure sounds like it’s one of them travelogues.
And, as stated before, I’m not keen on the travelogues, particularly when they are predicated on a gimmick (a la, I’ve always wanted to do this thing, and so now I’ll do this thing and write about it!!)
So this book was a mixed bag for me.
I’ll admit it was Noah Adams’ name that made me pick it up; when I saw the Adams and Wright names together, I thought, “Here’s my book.”
And I liked that he started the book with a visit to the Wrights’ graves. I think a cemetery visit is always good.
In spite of plenty of aviation reading over the years (from the 1980s on), I confess I’ve neglected the Wright brothers Until Now. Poor fellas. Not only ignored by the likes of me, but then Wilbur went and died all young, and Orville was a spinster his whole life and was meaner than mean to his sister when she deserted him to get married at age 50-something. It was a bit troubled, all that business.
But really, for me, it’s all about the humans and their aeroplanes.
Check out this picture, peoples:
How can you not get all verklempt?
That’s Orville flying the machine and Wilbur standing to the right.
Can anyone name the date and place? Aviation geeks, step forward!*
So here’s the best part of this book: It provides good details about the Wrights’ lives and their flights—to such an extent that I am feeling all sentimental about the wonders of flight.
The part I didn’t love was the travelogue part—the interviewing people who work at, or live near, the various Wright sites. I like the biographer to step out of the picture and just give us the guys. But that’s just me. I imagine there are people who would be liking the I-went-here-and-talked-with-this-local-expert approach. Not so much my style, but still this book worked for me overall.
*December 17, 1903, in
Friday, July 2, 2010
Drink the Tea: A Mystery by Thomas Kaufman
An award-winning debut mystery, set in
And, happily, I liked, liked, liked it.
First, I was reminded a bit of Dennis Lehane, which is always a good thing.
Drink the Tea is a first-person private eye novel, with a conflicted and quick-witted main character—Willis Gidney—whose dreadful childhood scarred and haunts him. His younger years provide a compelling back story, which is nicely woven into the main story line. (Well done, Mr. Kaufman—managing to keep the pace moving briskly along, while also giving us the main character’s background.)
So... the main story line: A jazz musician friend of Willis’s asks him to track down the daughter he never really knew. And very soon, all you-know-what breaks loose, because the daughter—whoever she is—turns out to be wrapped up in some shady business.
The only thing that struck me as weird is that I didn’t have a sense of the age of the narrator until partway through the book, when a year from his childhood was mentioned. I’d’ve thought the narrator was older than he turned out to be. Not sure what that was about. Maybe his old-fashioned first name threw me. (And there’s a whole story behind his name…)
Anyway, by midway through this book, a person really cannot help but adore Willis Gidney. He’s a good one. And I’ll be watching for his next appearance.
(Crap. That photo up there, intended to invoke noir, has a doggone Christmas tree stuck right in front of the Capitol dome. Kind of ruins the menace, don't it?)
Thursday, July 1, 2010