Thursday, November 29, 2012


Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion presents a fascinating look at the long-ranging effects of cheap clothing and explores the average shopper's shift in expectations. Many of us, for example, don't expect our clothing to last for decades. Instead, we expect a t-shirt to fade and stretch, a pair of jeans to go out of style. And when the trend passes or the seam rips, we get rid of the garment. After all, if you can buy a new t-shirt for $5, why repair the old one?

Elizabeth Cline's Overdressed examines the long-term effects of our throwaway culture. She visits factories where clothing is made, malls where clothing is purchased, and thrift shops where clothing is dumped. I found this book to be insightful and provocative, and I highly recommend it.

~Queen of Books

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Pity the books in the 641.8654 Dewey Decimal classification system - the books on baking. They languish through the sweltering Tucson summer without as much as a passing glance but the cooler temperatures and upcoming holiday season will soon propel them off the shelves and into Pima County kitchens. Here are four titles to entice you, your family, and holiday guests.

Crazy About Cookies: 300 Scrumptious Recipes For Every Occasion & Craving is excellent for the novice as well as the experienced baker. Beginning with Cookies in the Know, a chapter on equipment, ingredients, types and techniques, author Krystina Castella divides her recipes into Everyday Cookies, Party Cookies, Occasions Cookies and Christmas Cookies. Holiday Cookies include Chinese Sesame and Almond Cookies, Day of the Dead Cookies and Jewish Holiday Cookies. In addition to a section on Cookie Exchange Cookies, Castella, an industrial designer and professor, provides templates for constructing gingerbread houses and dollhouses. Toast the New Year with black and white bow-tie cookies and champagne.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

While You Wait for Cloud Atlas

I fell in love with Cloud Atlas when I saw the new movie adaptation. So of course, being a Ravenous Reader, I greedily devoured the book it was based on, by David Mitchell. I'll admit, I had some trouble getting into it on my first try, but this time around, it had the best of both worlds, with all the cleverness of literary fiction, and all the fun of genre fiction. While you're waiting for your hold to come in, you might want to check out some similar books and movies, or peruse the list of recommended background reading to catch its literary allusions.

When I walked out of the theater, I thought: "This is the movie of A Swiftly Tilting Planet I've always wanted!" That classic by Madeleine L'Engle, part of the series that begins with A Wrinkle in Time, also spans millennia, showing through telepathy and, yeah, okay, a magic unicorn, that people's actions and obsessions have repercussions that echo across centuries in surprising ways. Although it's written for a younger audience, many adults (including myself!) still count this series among their favorites. Like Cloud Atlas, it has a lot of layers that rereading can reveal.

Read on for more:

Monday, November 12, 2012

Psychological Suspense

Family secrets make for some chilling psychological suspense. So if you enjoyed Kate Morton’s novel The Secret Keeper we recommend these similar titles.

Think Twice by Lisa Scottoline. When your twin sister buries you alive, you know you have some serious family problems. In this case Bernie is determined to stay alive until she can exact revenge.

The Water’s Lovely by Ruth Rendell. Ismay's little sister, Heather, drowned their stepfather, but they never speak of it. When Heather starts to date, Ismay begins to wonder if she is capable of killing again.

Dear Husband: Stories by Joyce Carol Oates. These fourteen short stories look at the tangled bonds, and sometimes desperation and violence between family members.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Take an Epic Journey with The Passage

Meet Zero, whose previous name, Patient Zero, has long been forgotten. Before he had that name, he was a scientist called Tim Fanning who went on an expedition to Bolivia and came home with a virus that changed everything. When you pick up this huge book that spans places all over the world, and enough time to follow generations of characters, you get to find out what happens after a top-secret military project tried to use Zero's illness as a weapon, and also what happens to the people he meets and infects along the way  -- their everyday, horrifying, and heroic stories will surprise you.

Now that the second volume of Justin Cronin's trilogy is out, this is the perfect time to pick up The Passage and catch up. (The new one's called The Twelve.) If you're a fan of epic-length genre fiction that straddles horror and sci-fi, like Stephen King's The Stand, or Robert McCammon's Swan Song, you'll love Cronin's blend of action, world-building, and his carefully-thought-out take on vampires (don't worry, it's nothing like Twilight).

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Classic or Crusie?

We love ghost stories. Oh, the spine-chilling thrill of it all! You know the elements of a great ghost story: spooky mansion, lonely governess, strange children, and things that go bump in the night. Henry James wrote The Turn of the Screw in 1898. I love this tale, but of course I am one of those librarian types who love the classics. I would highly recommend this story. OK, so if you do not want to read it -- at least watch the movie.

Jennifer Crusie's humorous take on this classic ghost tale is Maybe This Time. This book contains all the same elements of the Henry James story: a spooky isolated mansion, a conflicted nanny, orphaned brother and sister with issues, detached yet charming guardian, a maniacal housekeeper, and an evil ghost named Peter.  Crusie's version of this tale also includes a large cast of quirky characters and some spicy romance.