Sunday, May 25, 2008

Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk

Ah, good ole Chuck. You can always rely on him for a zany, "out there" kind of read. This one is no exception. Porn star Cassie Wright is seeking to set the world record for the most men to sleep with on camera - a whopping 600. The novel centers on three particular individuals who are waiting turn with Cassie. There are twists and turns and lots of...weird...stuff happens. I don't want to ruin anything - lets just say that if you consider yourself to be prudish, you might want to avoid this one.

The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar

If there's one thing I love, it's Indian authors - Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, Rohinton Mistry, and now, Thrity Umrigar. Indian authors, as a rule, tend to write really depressing literature with such a light and humorous tone that it makes reading about poverty and slums much more palatable (and I don't feel like slitting my wrists afterwards).

The Space between us is a tale of 2 women of opposing social classes. Bhima (an uneducated grandmother who lives in the slums) works endless hours as a servant to Sera (a upper-middle class housewife), though the two have more of a friend-friend relationship than boss-underling one. Over the course of the novel, Umrigar details the personal histories of both women (who have helped each other equally over the years) and ultimately, the two share more than one would think. The climax of the novel is shocking, but ends on an unexpectedly cheerful note.

Scream For Me By Karen Rose

I love all of Karen Rose's books, I think she's a wonderful writer. I liked this book very much. Who doesn't like a book that has murder, love and family secrets. The main characters Alex Fallon and Special Agent Daniel Vartanian come from backgrounds that would make ours look like tiptoeing through the tulips.
When killings of women start in their old hometown and a connection is found to both, they are drawn back to there.
Alex's step sister, Bailey, goes missing and Alex thinks she might be a victim also. With all the secrets and killings going on in Dutton, Georgia, I'd stay away from that town if I were you.
Now I have to admit there alot of names and sub plots to keep track of , but hang in there it's still a good read.
And I'd recommend you read all her books.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Flushed: How the Plumber Saved Civilization by W. Hodding Carter

Yup, I voluntarily chose to read a book about toilets and plumbing. This microhistory details the history behind sewage systems, aqueducts and the public's access to water, along with the discussing the growing problem with the world's overpopulation and pollution of our oceans, rivers, and lakes. Overall, the book takes an informative, yet humorous tone, though all the engineering lingo definitely went over my head. However, this book made me take the time to consider what we all take for granted - free access to running, clean water.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Daughters of the North by Sarah Hall

As a rule, I have a tendency to love dystopian novels - 1984, Brave New World, Children of Men, and so on. Daughters of the North is another work that slides quite nicely into that genre, albeit with a considerably feminist agenda. Cumbria (read: England) has deteriorated into a colony filled with disease and anarchy. Women are fitted with metal coils to keep from reproducing and there is no sense of personal freedom. The protagonist, Sister, escapes from her home and sets out to join Carhullan, an all female commune located far outside city limits. Once there, she becomes indoctrinated into the organization, only to find that its agenda has changed to more terrorist matters.

Overall, a good read, though the ending occurs rather abruptly. As a heroine, Sister is kind of annoying, simply because she rambles on a lot over things that probably could be stated in a few words. Oh well.

In the Clear by Steve Lopez.

I had the good fortune to see Steve Lopez speaking at the Philadelphia Free Public Library a couple of weeks ago. He is promoting his book "The Soloist", written awhile ago but about to be released at the end of the year as a movie starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jaime Fox. Anyway, I was so taken with Lopez I decided to read anything I could find in the library written by him. "In the Clear" was my first choice and I wasn't disappointed. A great mystery with engaging characters, the added attraction being, it's set locally with many mentions of Wildwood, Atlantic City, Somers Point and Ocean City. Steve Lopez was a columnist at the Philadelphia Inquirer
for many years so he is familiar with the South Jersey resorts. The time frame of the story is when Atlantic City was expanding the casino business, and it deals with the ensuing changes that surrounding communities experienced. Add to that some citizen activists with their own personal axes to grind and you have a page turner. Give it a try, you'll like it.

--Reviewed by Pauline Brady

The English American by Alison Larkin.

The title caught my eye and the book jacket helped. This book is somewhat autobiographical as the author is, in fact an English American. She was born in America and adopted by an English couple who brought her up in England and Africa. She comes to America in search of her biological parents which turns out to be a mixed blessing, once she connects with them. Pippa(can't get much more English than that!) discovers some hidden talents, learns to be more American than her English upbringing had allowed and learns about true love along the way. Well worth reading if you're looking for something light, the ending was a bit trite, but hey, what's wrong with a happy ending now and then?

--Reviewed by Pauline Brady

Monday, May 5, 2008

Compulsion by Jonathan Kellerman

Another good book by Kellerman with Alex Delaware and Milo Sturgis in good form. Murder mysteries are my favorite genre and Kellerman doesn't usually disappoint, particularly when it involves the aforementioned Delaware and Sturgis.

This book begins with what is seemingly a couple of unrelated murders, but Kellerman connects the dots nicely at the end. A bit hard to keep straight in places but well worth the time.

Get on the reserve list, people!

--Reviewed by Pauline Brady

Bound by Sally Gunning

This was an interesting book and a quick read. The main character, Alice Cole arrives in Boston in 1756 having survived a harrowing journey from London, during which most of her family became ill and died. Her father, incurring debts on board ship that he could not repay was forced to indenture Alice to a merchant in Boston at the tender age of seven.

The book records Alice's travails as she grows up, some not so bad and some terrifying. How she deals with all the bumps in the road is pretty much the whole of the book but what I found of particular interest was the recording of daily life in Pre Revolutionary times in America. Even people who were not on the bottom rung of the economic ladder had a very hard life, filled with back breaking work. And they still had time to follow current events and stir up a Revolution.

The book peters out towards the end, almost as if the author didn't know how to bring things to a conclusion, but it's worth your while.

--Reviewed by Pauline Brady

Bonk : the curious coupling of science and sex by Mary Roach.

As the author of Stiff: the curious lives of human cadavers and Spook : science tackles the afterlife, Roach is really good at delving into the details behind interesting (if not weird) subjects. Despite the racy subject, this book was no different - it was no more erotic than reading a biology textbook. Roach spends a lot of time discussing the physiological aspects of human sexuality, desire and anatomy, as well as the history behind leading sex researchers Masters & Johnson and Kinsey.

What makes the book quite humorous is when she frequently volunteers herself (and her poor husband) for sex studies, all in the name of investigative journalism. Indeed, though the book is mostly focused on scientific minutiae (which I'll admit gets a little tedious after awhile - who knew reading about erections could get a tad boring), Roach manages to keep the tone light and funny.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Hold Tight by Harlan Coben

I'm a Coben fan so I'll read anything he puts out. This one was rather more complicated than his past efforts but still a page turner. It was very confusing at the outset, and I think I helped myself by reading it almost at one sitting....that way I didn't have time to forget the characters and plot twists.

Dysfunctional families all around, a murder or two (naturally, we're talking about Coben here!) seemingly unrelated story lines that eventually(trust me on this!) come together. Coben ties it up neatly, so keep reading, it makes sense in the end.

--Reviewed by Pauline Brady