Saturday, October 23, 2010

It's A Book by Lane Smith

If you believe that picture books only exist to educate or delight the very young -It's A Book by author/illustrator Lane Smith will definitely prove otherwise. It can be read by an adult in approximately 5 minutes but its serious/comic effect will linger throughout the day. Jackass and Monkey enter into a very curious book discussion. Young, hip and digitally savvy Jackass expects a book to scroll down, blog, require a mouse, text and tweet. He is mystified when Monkey explains that books don't possess those features or capabilities and becomes fascinated when Monkey demonstrates the simple joy of reading full text and turning pages. Jackass wants to try reading Monkey's book for himself so Monkey must now go off to the library to find a new book to read. Ever observant Mouse delivers the clever punch line.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Time Traveling Incident

The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum

Abby's life is going according to plan, she's dating the boy next door, she plans to be college roommates with her best friend, and her parents are throwing the same bowling birthday party for her that they always do. If life lacks a little adventure or spontaneity, well at least she knows what to expect from life. Then Dante joins their school. He's a foreign exchange student from Italy. Abby finds herself fighting a growing attraction to him. The more she gets to know him, the more mysteries she discovers. For one, time literally stops when she is around him. Then he disappears for days at a time. Who is Dante and what is he hiding?

This story is a little slow to get started, but it's worth it. It has a little bit of everything mystery, romance, time travel, and lots of surprises. There are lots of Italian phrases sprinkled through the story to give it an unique feel.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Homer and Langley

My teenage daughter keeps me up to date on the weirdness of cable TV's offerings, and one of the weirdest offerings has to be Hoarders, based on the bizarre lives of compulsive pack rats. But before reality TV took hoarding mainstream, America had the Collyers, reclusive brothers who filled their Fifth Avenue brownstone with newspapers, books, old machines, musical instruments, umbrellas, boxes, bales, baby buggies, a Model T Ford--you name it, they likely had it. When they died, rescuers trying to get to them ultimately removed 130 tons of, well, stuff from their building.

E. L. Doctorow takes the unknowable life of the Collyers and goes to town. He tells their imagined story from the viewpoint of Homer, who is musical, intuitive and blind, and therefore subject to the random madness of his brother, Langley. Doctorow takes plenty of liberties to make his story work. In actuality, the brothers died in 1947, but Doctorow realigns their timeline by several decades, allowing the progress of time, in the form of a constant stream of visitors, to intrude on the lives of the brothers. For recluses they have a pretty full dance card, and each era--from the jazz age through the Woodstock Generation, impacts on them despite their barricades of junk. Read this book for its setting, in Manhattan’s poshest landfill--it's mesmerizing.


Find it at the library!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Skeleton Creek

I am celebrating the month of October (and all things that go bump in the night), by reading mysteries. Mysteries break down into quite a few sub-genre's, and I've read silly, funny, puzzling, police procedural and spooky. But I'm highlighting this one because of the way it employs mixed media.

Skeleton Creek is Ryan's journal. Ryan was in a mysterious accident at the dredge (a mysterious place), and shattered his leg, rendering him housebound. His best friend, Sarah, is still out and about, and while Ryan loves to write, Sarah loves to film. As you hit markers in the text, Ryan will send you to a website:, where Sarah posts the videos she makes around town. Don't worry, you can't do much with this website unless you also have the passwords, which are sprinkled through the text.

While Ryan does write like a high school boy, the videos are deliciously creepy and the pacing is just right. Don't read (or watch) this at night!

Find it at your library

Please tell us what your favorite mystery is!

~ That One Girl

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Hunted Past Reason by Richard Matheson

When outdoors-challenged Bob asks his wilderness survivalist friend Doug to take him on a backpacking expedition for some first-hand experience for his upcoming novel, Doug reluctantly agrees, and the two head deep into remote terrain in the California woodlands.

Unbeknownst to Bob however, are Doug's concealed resentments against him waiting to be unleashed by the fresh outdoor air, in frightening, uneasy increments. Tensions erupt after Doug criticizes Bob's lack of physical conditioning and stamina. Initially, and unbelievingly, Bob attempts to placate Doug, well aware of his dependence upon his increasingly unpredictable friend's orienteering and outdoor skills in getting him out alive. As Bob's good-natured attitude reaches its limit, and the situation between the two deteriorates. Things get creepy and darken when an "agreement" is struck, and Bob realizes (perhaps too slowly?) the threat that Doug poses is even greater than he might have imagined.

The rapid pacing and tense, edgy dialog and Matheson's vivid descriptions had me in the forest alongside these two men, smelling the woods and dampness, blood pressure rising as the diminishing daylight fades through the forest canopy.

Find it at your library!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Kings of the Earth

What drew me to Kings of the Earth by Jon Clinch were not the uniformly great reviews for this, or Clinch's debut novel Finn, but rather the documentary I viewed almost 20 years ago from which the novel was based. My Brother's Keeper featured four illiterate brothers living in rural upstate New York, the death of one brother and subsequent murder charge against another. My recollection is of a black and white film, but this memory may be more my sense of atmosphere than reality. The men lived in abject poverty and much of the footage is shot in the dark, dreary months of winter. What I remember most is a school bus filled roof high with Holstein yearlings and manure, and a dog chained to his house running half circles in his well-worn rut.

Clinch softens these scenes, but he hammers home the brothers' bleak, interdependent existence with unrelenting and descriptive narrative; a satisfying study of the complexities of simple men.

Find it at your Library!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Idiot Girl and the Flaming Tantrum of Death

If I could spend an hour inside Laurie Notaro's brain I would turn into a puddle from laughing so much. Her views on the world are so incredibly hilarious it's hard to imagine her capable of holding a serious conversation. From stairmaster repairs to a family of spies hanging out at the lodge in the White Mountains to getting carded at the grocery store on her birthday, Ms. Notaro takes her hilarious mean streak right to the edge, and keeps you laughing there the whole time.

Please note that if this book were a movie, some scenes and language would give it an R rating. Find it at a library!