Monthly Archives: July 2008

TBR Challenge: To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis


Not exactly a sequel to “Doomsday Book” but a novel set in the same universe with the appearance of several minor characters from the original.Ned is suffering from time lag, a condition brought about by making too many jumps to the past to try and find the bishop’s bird stump. In the future, a rich benefactor is restoring the Covington Cathedral at great expense and wants every detail perfect. She has promised the University funding if she can utilize their time travel technology to make sure everything is exact, something which seemed like a good idea at the time but comes with unintended consequences.To escape the nagging of Lady Shrapnel, Ned is sent back in time to a different era to restore history. Seems a fellow historian brought back an artifact, something that should never happen. Ned’s goal is to return the artifact before history is set completely off course.




Willis’ book is a fun, entertaining read that has a tendency to wander down the primrose path at times. For the middle third, Ned is trying to figure out what his assignment is and not having a good go of it. The book also starts at a deliberate pace, setting up the universe and the characters. However, the final third that examines the nature of time and the implications of time travel is fascinating and will please most sci-fi fans.




Leave a comment

Filed under review, science fiction, TBR challenge

The Book of Joe by Jonathan Tropper

When his father suffers a stroke, Joe Guffman returns to the hometown he left behind 17 years before to confront his past and ponder his future. The biggest compliation–Joe wrote a fictional book based on his life growing up in the town that didn’t exactly sit well with some of those who depicted in his novel.

Upon his return, Joe is involved in a bar fight, has a drink thrown in his face and finds copies of his book thrown onto the front lawn. But Joe is having other issues–his second book isn’t working, he’s estrange from his brother and his father is dying. In the midst of all this, Joe seeks to reconnect and make peace with his past, get back with his high school girlfriend who he never really got over and figure out what the future holds for him.

Jonathan Tropper writers about fundamentally flawed males in each of his books and you’ll find no more flawed character than Joe. Told from the first-person persepctive, we see and hear things from Joe’s eyes, as well as getting bits and pieces of the book thrown in. Both work together to create a portrait of Joe who is seeking approval and acceptance by his family and friends all while trying to be his own man and stand on his own two feet, not defined by what others say or the expectations they have of him. With The Book of Joe, Tropper makes some interesting comments on the nature of relationships guys have not only with other guys but with the women around them.

Along the way, you’ll get to know Joe and while you may not always agree with what he’s doing, you’ll still come to like the guy. It’d be easy to say that Tropper is the next Nick Hornby. While Tropper does have some influences from Hornby, it’s clear that he’s an emerging writing just waiting to burst on the scene to a wider audience. Maybe, like Joe, he needs to have one of his books made into a wildly successful film

1 Comment

Filed under review

When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

While I was aware of the titles of David Sedaris’ books before (they just kind of jump out at you when you’re browsing in the bookstore), I have to admit I’d never really jumped on the bandwagon before now.   For some reason, it seemed that everyone was buzzing about this book when it came out and that generated some curiosity.  Then, one day while browsing the free audio book downloads at my local libary, I saw the book had just been returned and decided to give it a chance.

Listening to this series of essays, I have to wonder if the experience might not be different from reading them in printed form.  The collection is a mixture of Sedaris reading them in a “studio” as it were and to an audience.  I have to admit the ones that Sedaris reads or performs to an audience worked a lot better and were a lot more memorable.  One story in particular about Sedaris’ encounter with a couple who was dressed nicely but had potty mouths was particularily intriguing.

Sedaris writes with a sarcastic wit, which I think comes across better when you hear the stories read aloud.  There are some writers who just work better when you can hear them tell their stories as opposed to reading them.  (Garrison Keillor is an example for me).  The stories all range from short, quick essays to a longer two-disc length story on Sedaris’ attempts to quit smoking. 

With this being my first exposure to Sedaris, I will admit I enjoyed what I read/heard enough to want to seek out his previous works and see what I’ve been missing.

Leave a comment

Filed under review

Tuesday Thingers (A Day Late)

Today’s question: Cataloging sources. What cataloging sources do you use most? Any particular reason? Any idiosyncratic choices, or foreign sources, or sources you like better than others? Are you able to find most things through LT’s almost 700 sources?

It only occurred to me last night as I was heading to bed that it was, in fact, Tuesday and I’d (once again) neglected to participate in the Tuesday Thingers.   I thought of backdating, but then figured I’d let me slacker nature be out there for all the world to see instead…

As for this week’s question, I have to admit when it comes to cataloguing, more often than not I’m using Amazon.  Maybe I’m not reading obscure enough books or maybe it’s just that I someday feel as though Amazon is going to partner with Google and assimilate us all, but it usually meets my needs.

Leave a comment

Filed under Tuesday Thingers

The Classics

Kegsoccer challenged me to take part in this survey about the “classics” of literature. Below are the questions…

  1. What is the best classic you were “forced” to read in school (and why)?
  2. What was the worst classic you were forced to endure (and why)?
  3. Which classic should every student be required to read (and why)?
  4. Which classic should be put to rest immediately (and why)?
  5. **Bonus** Why do you think certain books become classics?

1.  I grew up in a military family and we moved around a lot.  One thing that fascinated me was which books were used at which grade level the various places we lived.  There are some that are univeral like Romeo and Juliet in the ninth grade and Lord of the Flies in the ninth grade, but there were some I missed such as not reading To Kill A Mockingbird or Catcher in the Rye as part of my formal education.  I was thinking back on all the books I’ve read as part of my formal education and I’d have to say the best ones were A Tale of Two Cities and My Antonia.  I really liked both of them. 

2. Lord of the Flies.  Ugh, I just despise every last second of that book.  Honestly, I think it’s just an OK novel that a lot of English teachers with waaaaaaaaaaaay too much free time on their hands have sat around and read a lot of crap into so they can inflict it on unsuspecting freshman and totally destroy their love of reading.  I think it’s a pact–the book is so bad, they want everyone to suffer and so they come up with all this garbage that ‘s “in” there if you sit around, contemplating the book.   This book alone makes me want to write a great book, have it taught in literature classes and after I perish, come out with an edition that says, “I wrote this because I felt like it and I never put it any symbolism or other stuff….so all you freshman English students are right and can now laugh at your English teacher.”

3.  To Kill A Mockingbird.  It’s a novel that just works on so many levels.  I loved reading it and it’s one I pick up to re-read every couple of years.  It’s just fantastic.  Timeless, well-written….a great book. 

4.  Lord of the Flies. 

5.  Books become classics for a variety of reasons.  A lot of them for what the writer does in the story or how the story is told.  Shakespeare is classic for his incredible use of the English language in a way that hasn’t been equalled since.  Dickens is a classic because of the way he tells stories.  There are others that are classics for their commentary and how they changed the world (The Jungle, Uncle Tom’s Cabin).  And there are some that are classics just because they’re such a great book to read.  I find myself wondering which Stephen King books will stand the test of time and be read by future generations.  I think The Stand has a great chance.   I think to be a classic, the book has to have something that transcends just being “good.”

Leave a comment

Filed under meme

Series Challenge: Dead Beat by Jim Butcher

Harry Dresden’s universe keeps expanding with the seventh installment of The Dresden Files, “Dead Beat.”  I read somewhere that Jim Butcher takes a lot of joy in putting his hero through the wringer and no where is that more true than in this book.  Harry is beaten up physically and emotionally over the course of a novel that expands the on-going conflict between the Red and White councils, puts Harry at the center of a conflict to bring forth a god-like being and pushes some of the on-going plotlines of the series forward in an interesting fashion.

Harry’s hired to find a lost book.  Well, maybe hired is the wrong word.  More like blackmailed in order to keep his friend, Karin Murphy out of trouble.  Harry agrees, not realizing what he’s getting himself into.  Things quickly go from bad to worse for Dresden as the story unfolds. 

“Dead Beat” finds Dresden become more world-weary from his battles with various demons, mosnters and villians, but he’s still the same guy we met back in “Storm Front.”  He’s a good man, trying to make the right choices, no matter how tempting the lure of the dark path might be.  The story is an epic, sweeping one that will draw you in from the first page and keep the pages turning until the last one is done.  Then, you’ll be eager and anxious for the next installment, especially give some of the series-changing events that happen here.

And while it’s good, I didn’t find “Dead Beat” as great as the last several installments of the series. Part of that may be that missing elements of Murphy, who is off in Hawaii during these events. 

That said, this is still the best fantasy series in print today and well worth the time.


Filed under dresden files, fantasy, science fiction, Series Challenge

Tigerheart by Peter David


Not exactly a sequel and not exactly a retelling of the Peter Pan story, Peter David’s “Tigerheart” is more of a reimagined modernization of the classic story along the lines of his King Arthur trilogy and “Howling Mad.”

David succeeds beautifully at weaving the story of Peter Pan for a modern audience.  But instead of focusing on Peter as the central character, David creates his own, Paul Dear.  Early in the story, Paul’s baby sister dies, causing a rift between his parents and their separation.  Determined to make his mother happy again, Paul sets out to Anywhere to find a new sister and bring her home to his mother.  Along the way, he meet the Boy, who is the kind of Anywhere, refusing to grow up, self-centered and having fantastic adventures. 

David tells the story in a omniscient narrator voice with brilliant asides to the audience.  The story is modern but also timeless with references to modern day drugs to stop little boys from having fantastic adventures in their imagination.  But while it does have those hints of the modern world, the storytelling and the universe are timeless.

If you’re familiar with Peter Pan either from the popular Disney movie or from the J.M. Barie original story, you’re in for a treat with David’s unique take on the story.  Reading “Tigerheart,” I found myself wishing David had written this years ago so that it would have been adapted for the big-screen as “Hook” instead of the movie we got.  Seeing Steven Spielberg create this world would have been wonderful.

While it’s marketed for young adults, I have to say that “Tigerheart” is a joy and delight for anyone who hasn’t or doesn’t want to lose touch with their inner child.  One of the best books I’ve read this year and one that I heartily recommend.


Filed under fantasy, review

Tuesday Thingers

Today’s topic: Book-swapping. Do you do it? What site(s) do you use? How did you find out about them? What do you think of them? Do you use LT’s book-swapping column feature for information on what to swap? Do you participate in any of the LT communities that discuss bookswapping, like the Bookmooch group for example?

Does trading in books via the used book store count?  Or passing them along to family and friends?  I’ll admit I’ve not tried the on-line swapping of books, though I’m tempted.  My big thing is I get set in my mind of wanting a certain book and that could be limiting me.  I should probably look into this since I buy more books than any one person reasonably should…and yet, I show no signs of stopping.


Filed under Tuesday Thingers

Book Briefs

How to Talk to a Widower by Jonathan Tropper

Doug Parker is a 29-year old widower. He lost his wife Hayley (who was older) in a plane crash and has spent the last year avoiding life in Jonathan Tropper’s “How to Talk to a Widower.”

And while much of Doug’s world is defined by his depression and anger over losing Hayley, it’s not the only thing going on his life. His twin sister Clair is pregnant and leaving her husband, his father suffered a stroke and has good and bad days and his younger sister met her fiancee at the shiva for Hayley. And that’s before you get to a rebelling step-son and Doug’s decision to try living life again–if by living you mean, sleeping with the wife of a good friend, dating again and falling for the guidance counsellor at his step-son’s school.

Tropper channels a Nick-Hornby-like vibe with first-person narrator Doug. Doug makes choices he admittedly knows are wrong, but continues the path due to his perceived pain and anguish over losing Hayley. Doug is, at times, selfish and the story is about his growing up. It’s about coming to grips with the pain and realizing that Hayley would want him to continue living his life.

Now, it all sounds a bit dark and it is. But Tropper has filled this book with so many memorable characters that there are light moments sprinkled in the story to keep the reader from getting totally depressed. The circus of women around the newly-dating Doug is worth the price of admission alone.

Funny, sarcastic and sardonic all at the same time, “How To Talk to a Widower” is an ideal book for guys and the women who want to understand them. And don’t let the new cover fool you. It looks like a light romance novel, but underneath is a story of a guy dealing with his demons. And while there is some romance, I wouldn’t say it’s a romance in the strictest sense of the word. 

The Devil’s Bones by Jefferson Bass

The writing duo of the University of Tennessee’s Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson is back with a third suspense novel featuring Dr. Bill Brockton.”The Devil’s Bones” follows the events of the previous novel as Brockton continues to come to terms with the murder of his lover by his nemesis, Garland Hamilton. Brockton is asked to look into the cremains of a friend’s loved one and soon uncovers a scam being perpetrated by owners of a cremation company. Add to this that Hamilton escapes custody and is on the run and you’ve got a myriad of threads all running parallel over the course of this suspense/thriller
The story follows three separate threads that, for the most part, only cross paths with Brockton having to deal with them. The authors avoid the tempation to bring everything neatly together in the end and instead concentrate on the specifics of being a foresnic anthropologist. The moments in the novel when Brockton and his team investigate and solve various crimes based on the physical evidence left behind are some of the book’s most compelling.

But without a good story, this would all be meaningless. And there is a good story here that will keep you guessing and keep the pages turning.

Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella

Imagine waking up one day to find you have the “perfect” life–great job, ideal spouse, the right look and money to satisfy your every need and whim.In “Remember Me?” Lexi Smart does just that–wakes up to the perfect life. Lexi wakes up in a hospital following a blow to the head and having amnesia. The last three years of her life are missing and she’s gone from a frumpy girl with the nickname “Snaggletooth” to a high-powered corporate career woman with a complete make-over and a wealthy husband. It sounds a bit too good to be true.
And it turns out to be. In our climb to the top, Lexi alienated her closest friends and has become obsessed. She’s become the corporate bitch in many ways and her perfect looking husband isn’t quite the perfect guy he appears to be.

The story follows Lexi trying to put her life back together and figure out how she got there. The revelation of what drove her to become so ruthless is set up well in the early running and makes perfect sense within the context of the novel. Also, the story doesn’t necessarily have Lexi find a perfect life for her beyond the perfect life she has on paper.

 Told from the first-person perspective, “Remember Me?” is an intriguing commentary disguised as chick-lit fluff


 Atonement by Ian McEwan

 What can I say about this novel that probably already hasn’t been said elsewhere and far more eloquently than I could ever hope to.  




Filed under mystery, review

Book Briefs

Doctor Who: Pest Control (Audio) by Peter Angheldies

Created specifically for audio book, “Pest Control” is an entertaining little story that encapsulates everything that’s right and wrong about the modern Doctor Who.Read by David Tennant, the story finds the Doctor and Donna arriving on a planet torn apart by war. Each side has secrets and there’s another evil lurking out there.

Not exactly ground-breaking Who, but it’s still enjoyable enough for a quick listen.


Identity Crisis by Brad Metlzer

Endorsed by Joss Whedon, this is graphic novel collects the seven issues of the Identity Crisis mini-series.I read all seven episodes in one sitting.

Somoene is targetting the loved ones of superheroes in the DC Universe. But what’s the agenda and why? The answers are truly universe changing and shocking, including not just the identity of the serial killer but also revelations of events that happened in the early days of the Justice League.

Identity Crisis examines what it means to be a hero and just why someone would choose this life. It also looks at the impact on the families of those who choose that way of life.

Definitely worth reading.


Cheer! Three Teams on a Quest for College Cheerleading Ultimate Championship by Kate Torgovnick

A fascinating looking inside the world of competitive college cheerleading. If you think that cheerleaders are just cute blondes who wave pom-poms on the sidelines of games, your assumptions will be both challenged and shattered by this book.Cheer follows three teams in their pursuit of a national championship in college cheerleading. Along the way, we’ll meet the coaches behind the teams and the members who make up each team. You’ll see their triumphs and failures as they work toward their ultimate goal.

If you don’t think cheerleaders are athletes, read this book. You’ll come away with a new respect for what they do and the hard work it takes. 


Friday Night Light for the cheerleading world. 

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

Tim O’Brien’s fictional memoir of his time in Vietnam is a fascinating and heart-breaking look inside the lives and personalities of those he served with–both during and after the war.

Up Till Now by William Shatner

Best known for his work as Captain James T. Kirk in the original (and best) Star Trek, William Shatner has had a healthy career beyond the confines of the starship Enterprise. That career is detailed here in Shatner’s latest autobiography that takes a look at his entire career, unlike his last two memoirs that focused on his time as Captain Kirk.Some of the stories about his time of Kirk repeat and overlap, but the rest of the book is a fascinating portrait of a man who is driven by an insatiable fear of failure, not only in his professional but also his personal life. Not just a “look at how great I am” piece, Shatner details his successes and failures for readers with his own brand of self-deprecating wit.

If you’re a fan of Shatner, this is a fun read that will provide some insight into the man behind the Starfleet uniform

Leave a comment

Filed under review