Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

I had this book at home, looked at it and decided to send it back to the library without reading it. Too much stuff on my plate. Then I read in a blog somewhere that the reader considered this to be one of the best books she read in 2006, so I decided to give it another try.

Is it one of the best books that I have read in the last year? Not even close. Is it an amusing romp with a gothic feel filled with sex, drugs, and dysfunctional families? You better believe it.

The lead character is Camille, a reporter from Chicago, who is sent to her tiny Missouri hometown to cover the strange murders of two preteen girls. Camille is a cutter who is recovering from her compulsion to carve words into her flesh with sharp objects. Put her back into the family manse with her hypochondriac mother and her teenage half sister who plays with dolls at home and drugs and sex about town and things are sure to boil.

I knew what was going to happen before I got to the end and many of the characters are stock, but I still liked the way Flynn built atmosphere in this novel. And it reads really fast, so you won’t feel as if you have wasted too much of your life if you hate it.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Hannibal Rising

I do like my serial killer novels. Thomas Harris' newest, Hannibal Rising is a winner. I like a novel that gives the bad guy a sympathetic twist and this novel of the origins of Hannibal Lecter of The Silence of the Lambs fame does just that.

After I finished this book I heard that it is already a movie, or soon to be a movie, and that makes sense considering the popularity of Harris' other books that were made into movies. Unlike some of, say, Michael Crichton's more recent books though, Hannibal Rising doesn't feel like a script in book form.

One thing that kind of bothered me as I read this was the time line of the life of Lecter. This book is set during WWII and I aways think of TSOTL as being contemporary. That would have made Lecter a man in his sixties in the 1990's. I always think of him as being younger than that. But that is probably just a little personal glitch--math and age things in novels always must be worked out right in my brain or I get off on a tangent.

Finale word on this book, if you liked the other Harris books you will like this one. I did.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


I am a huge Jeopardy! fan. I don't watch TV during the day until 4:30 when Jeopardy! comes on in our area. It kind of punctuates my day. I was glued to the TV when Ken Jennings had his run on the show: 2 years, 75 games, 2,642 correct answers, over $2.5 million dollars. YeeHa!

I am a trivia geek of sorts myself and I have always fantasized of a little run on Jeopardy! but, I can face facts--I am out of my league when it comes to the likes of Jennings and probably most of the contestants on the show. Dining room Trivial Pursuit is more my speed. As a retired librarian who used to like to sit reference, there is a lot of junk just sitting in my brain waiting to be called out for a piece of the pie.

Anyway, when I stumbled across a reference to Ken Jennings book, Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs, I had to get a copy, if for no other reason than to see if he was the world's biggest geek, as I suspected.

Well, surprise. This is a charming book by a guy who has a sense of humor and isn't afraid to look a little silly at times. It has enough trivia throughout each chapter with answers at the end to make the reader feel smart even if they only get a few and the inside info on the game show is very cool if you are a fan.

Very worth a trip to the library to pick up a copy.

Monday, January 22, 2007

A boy and his truck

I have a crush on author Michael Perry. He writes like a dream and if he always tells the truth in his essays, he is a real woman's man. Got to love that. And most important of all, Perry makes me laugh.

His first book, Population: 485, was a wonderful, if incredibly sad, read about working as a volunteer EMT in New Auburn, Wisconsin. I think I knew something bad was going to happen right from the get go, but Perry's humor and story telling acumen just pulled me along to the inevitable.

Truck: A Love Story is all about celebration. With the help of his brother-in-law, he decides to fix up his old International Harvester truck and he falls in love with a woman he meets at a library book signing event. He alternates between essays on the truck and the company that built the truck and on his new love and her little daughter and on his garden and his squirrel problem. If it sounds like he is all over the place, he is, but don't be fooled, it all comes back to living a life that makes you happy with as few hiccups as possible.

I was just a little jealous of the woman Perry fell in love with. How stupid is tha,t since I am happily married to a wonderful man, but somehow I wanted him to be out there alone, just in case. But really, I can only wish a man who makes me laugh like Perry does, loads of love and happiness and a garden free of squirrels.

Wrestling with Gravy by Jonathan Reynolds

I like essays. I picked up this book because I like to cook and I thought it was going to be more of a foodie book than it turned out to be. There were recipes in the book, but none that I felt compelled to copy to make myself. The thing is, even though Reynolds and I have very different political views, and if we were in the same room, I might have to scream at him, he is still very charming and likeable. His views on Hollywood and the New York theater scene are a little catty and quite amusing. Since I feel no compunction in my reading life to ever finish a book that I don't want to finish, and I finished this one, I at least have to give it a lukewarm thumbs up for holding my interest all the way through.

Reading goal for 2007 and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

I read 59 books in 2005 and 72 books in 2006. I decided I need a goal for 2007 that doesn't involve numbers. Hence the 2007 READ WHAT'S ON YOUR SHELF CHALLENGE. I am a huge library user (having been a librarian in the past ) and when I get a book from the library it always moves to the front of the to-be-read pile, ahead of books that I own that are right here in the house and have been for a long time. It all has to do with those pesky due dates. So the idea for 2007 is that every third book I read this year must be one off my own shelves.

I finished my first Read what's on your shelf book today and I am so glad I did. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See is a lovely book about friendship and love and betrayal and the lives of women in the footbinding times in China. I was fascinated by the secret writen langauge of women, that is today, all but dead, except there is a group of women in modern China trying to save it.

The entire footbinding chapter made my stomach clench in pain and sympathy. I had to keep reminding myself: different time, different culture. My mind kept coming back to the practice of clitorectomy, still practiced in some places today, and even some less violent, but no less confining things that are expected/forced on women today. The burqa is just one example.

But, I digress. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan was an engaging and fullfilling read. Thanks to my Aunt Becki for the recommendation and then for passing on her copy of the book.