Friday 28 September 2007

Two books completed

Finished September 28
The Practical Library Manager by Bruce Massis
I've been slowly reading this one for a while and I did find the information on core competencies useful, but a lot of the rest of it wasn't very helpful to me, at least not where I am working presently. The idea of a technology needs survey was interesting, but the one they had as a sample in the appendix was not anywhere like what we would be looking at in terms of needs. We are all technologically literate here, it would be learning more about 2.0 technologies that would be something that we would want to do. Borrow it and get what information is useful to you from it, but I would say that it isn't really worth buying.

Finished September 27
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
This is a very different book, and I found it a bit slow going, mostly due to its format. It is written as that which is spoken by one character, mostly reviewing to someone he has just met his experiences at school in the United States, in his first job there, and how he came to be back in Pakistan. The speaker is a male Pakistani native from a upper-class family fallen on hard times and the person he is talking to is an American who is visiting Pakistan, but not as a tourist. The second person does occasionally make conversation back to the speaker, although we don't hear exactly what is said. We get the gist of it from the context of the speaker's word and know it is fairly limited. It is unclear why the speaker feels the need to give this information, and also why the listener feels compelled to stay for the several hours necessary to hear him out. The story is one of a man trying to fit into a world that he eventually realizes he doesn't fit into. The listener is wary and nervous, yet listens. I find myself asking questions about the book afterwards, revisiting it in my head. This is definitely one that makes you think.

Wednesday 26 September 2007

Two NonFiction

Finished September 26
Flushed: How the Plumber Saved Civilization by W. Hodding Carter
This very engaging book intersperses the author's experiences with plumbing with historical information on the development of plumbing worldwide. He also talks about the future with examples of new technologies, some already in place in certain areas of the world. I found the history very interesting and the most interesting new technology to me was that of biogas systems in India. The systems are used in commercial applications with the organically cleaned wastewater used for gardens and the biogas used to run stoves, waterheaters and other such equipment. Biogas can be used to make electricity as well. Carter's personal experiences are amusing and educating. I have long been a fan of the microhistory and this is a winner.

Finished September 25
Things I Overheard While Talking To Myself by Alan Alda, read by Alan Alda
This book is a collection of sorts. Alda has brought together some of the public addresses that he has given over his life (commencement addresses, memorial talks, etc.) and looked at what drew him to say the things he did, how successful he felt he was at conveying the meaning he wanted to convey, and what he thinks of them in hindsight. He also talks about the philosophical questions he has asked himself over his life, and how many of these talks relate in some way to those questions. Throughout the book he keeps coming back to the question of what makes a life meaningful and comes to answer that works for him. Perhaps it came across more because he is reading this audiobook himself, but I felt the sincerity of what he was saying and his struggle with the questions strongly, and I will definitely be recommending this book. I will also be buying some people I know copies for Christmas!

Sunday 23 September 2007

Four books read recently

Finished September 22
Reading Life: Books for the Ages by Sven Birkerts
This book by professor, critic and essayist Birkerts is a collection of musings about the books that have been significant in his life, often reappearing at different points in this life and how revisiting them reveals information about age, growth, memory and other changes over time. He talks about how and when he read these books and what he took away from them each time. It was interesting to see how not only one sees different aspects of the book when viewing it from different times in ones life, but also how one may not be ready for a book at one time, but find it moving at another. It made me think about some of the books that have had a significance in my own life and also made me think about how I read the books I do.

Rattling the Bones by Ann Granger
This latest in the series featuring Francesca Varady reflects back on her previous homeless existence as she meets up with an older lady that had also been homeless then. Edna has been taking into a charity home, but still spends most of her time roaming the streets and interacting with the cats she meets. When Edna shows fear when noticing a young man watching her, Fran is determined to find out why Edna is scared and what someone would want from her. The search for this information leads Fran to a detective agency, to the current caregivers of Edna, and to Edna's past. She realizes that there is a need to protect Edna from someone who doesn't seem to want her found and brings her police friend Janice Morgan into the loop. Fran's friend Ganesh is still trying to keep her out of trouble, while her detective friend Susie helps with advice. Enjoyable as usual.

Finished September 20
Stardust by Neil Gaiman, read by Neil Gaiman
This book was one I listened to, and I think having the author reading added something to the experience. This is a fantasy novel, that has recently been made into a movie (which I would like to see). I've liked everything I've read to date by Gaiman, and enjoyed the interview tacked onto the end of this recording. The book is very much a fairy tale, taking place either in the world of Fairy or just outside its boundary in the village of Wall. The main character is an earnest young man, son of a farmer and ignorant of his real mother's identity as a being from the world of fairy. He sets out to prove his love for the village beauty by bringing her back a star that they see fall. But the star turns out to be a something other than what he expects, and others seek her for reasons of their own. I very much enjoyed this book.

Black Seconds by Karin Fossum
This novel of psychological suspense is centered around the disappearance of an extremely cute seven-year-old girl. She has set off on her bicycle to go to the nearby shop but never arrives. The police are called in and organize searches, but Ida seems to have vanished without a trace. Many characters have their own secrets and stories, and this adds to the suspense. In Ida's own family her two cousin's react very differently, one not wanting to speak of her at all. A friend of the cousin is involved in the local drug trade and is trying to avoid police suspicion, an elderly woman tries to protect her son, who appears to be autistic. Inspector Sejer is a thoughtful, caring police officer who takes his job seriously and tries to consider all options. I have found this series very enjoyable and this latest book is no exception.

Tuesday 18 September 2007

2 Science Fiction books

Finished September 16
Spin by Robert Charles Wilson
This very engaging book gives an alternate future for a present day Earth. In this alternate future, the earth is "protected" by a membrane or blanket around it. The first the earth's inhabitants are aware of it is when the stars and the moon disappear one night, and the nights are left in the dark. The three characters at the centre of the book are Jason and his twin sister Diana and their friend Tyler. Jason is a boy genius, who makes this membrane his life's work. Diana reacts initially with dismay and then with rebellion, joining a radical religious movement and estranging herself from her family. Tyler is her touchstone when she needs to talk. Tyler finds himself still drawn to Jason and Diana and their family as he becomes an adult and is their confidant and friend. The characters felt very real and not forced in any way. I liked the premise of the book and found it original and yet not unbelievable. A great read and great plot.

Finished September 14
Mindscan by Robert J. Sawyer
This science fiction plot was interesting, the idea of replicating a human mind and putting it into a fabricated body to allow people to live "forever". In this case the service of this replicating has been marketed to those with physical ailments or the genetics that determine that they will eventually have certain ailments. The main character Jake Sullivan is afraid of succumbing to the illness that made his father a vegetable and has lived his life afraid to make commitments and enter relationships. Another character, Karen is a science fiction writer who has arthritis and other age-related physical ailments. After going through the process, they both encounter new issues both from within themselves and from others in their lives. As they deal with these, the ethics of biotech becomes a topic as does the issue of what makes a person human. I found the plot engaging, but the characters themselves seemed a bit less than human. They seemed a level removed and I didn't identify with them on an emotional level.

Thursday 13 September 2007

Chick lit and a thriller

Finished September 13
Lying with Strangers by James Grippando, performed by Alyssa Breshnahan
This thriller is set in and around Boston. Peyton Shields is a new doctor who has always wanted to be a pediatrician, and now works at the Children's Hospital. Her husband Kevin Stokes is a lawyer who doesn't like living in Boston that much. Their relationship has grown strained due to her long hours and dedication to her job. When she is forced off the road by a driver on a snowy night and ends up in a pond, neither the police nor Kevin believe her story. When more unexplained things start to happen to Peyton and the people around her, and she finds herself accused of having an affair with a former boyfriend, the marriage becomes more strained. When finally Peyton ends up accused of murder, she starts to wonder who is setting her up and why and how well she really knows those close to her. There are lots of thriller moments and realistic descriptions of feelings by the characters, even some narrations by the real killer to get the reader drawn into the plot.

Finished September 12
The Sleeping Beauty Proposal by Sarah Strohmeyer
This light novel has college admissions officer Genie Michaels feeling in a rut. Her boyfriend of four years, English professor Hugh Spencer shows no signs of commitment and the rest of her life feels stale. When Hugh appears on national television being interviewed about his new romance novel and is urged to propose to his own love, he does, except it isn't Genie. In fact, when Genie gets hold of him, he claims not to be sexually attracted to her. Genie's best friend Patty urges her to pretend that it was her and go with the flow. This is where the fun starts.
Genie lets her mother take on the wedding planning, gets herself a ring, and looks at buying a house. Her new interest in her life has her making personal changes as well and realizing that she doesn't need a man to make her life interesting, but if a good one shows up that is even better. Great fun, and great characters. A good read.

Tuesday 11 September 2007

Another Novel Read

Finished September 11
Mad Dash by Patricia Gaffney
This tale of a woman's midlife crisis is told both from her and her husband's points of view. There is also a short section from their college-aged daughter's viewpoint. Dash is in her mid-forties, a commercial photographer specializing in portraits of children. Her husband Andrew is a university history professor with a special interest in Thomas Jefferson. Throughout their relationship, they've both been aware of their differences, and mostly appreciated them, but suddenly Dash needs to get away. She runs to their cabin in Virginia and becomes involved in the community there, making friends and working on the cabin. She commutes to her studio a few days a week, and hires an assistant to be there, both when she's on a job and to cover the office when she's not there. Andrew doesn't understand what is going on and Dash can't articulate it. They both look at their relationship more closely, through others eyes including that of a therapist. There is a good deal of humour here, and the supporting characters are given true personalities rather than just outlines. I liked how the plot developed and felt the characters reacted to the situations in honest ways.

Monday 10 September 2007

Sci-Fi with a twist

Finished September 8
The Android's Dream by John Scalzi
This is an entertaining science fiction story. The earth is part of a collective of planets and is in a sticky situation after a trade negotiator kills his counterpart from earth's biggest trading partner. To get back in the Nidu's good books they agree to help find a sheep with a particular DNA. This sheep is needed in the upcoming coronation ceremony for the Nidu and they can't find one anywhere. When Harry Creek from the State Department locates the DNA, he finds himself fighting off another group, so it is a good thing his past training and skills give him an edge. There is lots of good stuff here: several different alien types, lava-strewn battlefields, a new religion, and some innovative artificial intelligence. I found it very entertaining.

Saturday 8 September 2007

A Thriller

Finished September 7
Beyond Reach by Karin Slaughter
This is the latest in the series featuring police chief Jeffrey Tolliver and his wife, doctor Sara Linton. Sara is being charged in a malpractice suit and is feeling very alone, relying on Jeffrey more than usual. One of Jeffrey's detectives, Lena Adams, is apparently in trouble. She appears to be good at getting herself into difficult situations.
Jeffrey receives a call that she has been found at the scene of a suspicious vehicle fire, and is not talking to anyone. Jeffrey and Sara go to the hospital she is being held at, in Lena's hometown three hours away, and Lena is frantic that they not be there. She escapes, and Jeffrey and Sara find themselves trying to put the pieces together to find out what is going on. The new young sheriff in the area, Jake Valentine, doesn't appear friendly or very competent. As the story switches back and forth between what Lena has experienced and what Jeffrey and Sara are learning, the action and suspense intensifies. A good action-packed thriller, with lots going on, and quite a few tight situations.

Thursday 6 September 2007


Finished September 5
Terence Conran Storage: Get Organized by Terence Conran and Elizabeth Wilhide
I'm a storage junkie, so of course I loved this book. I'm also very visual and the pictures here are great, but it isn't all about the pictures. The text is also very informative and gives a lot of tips for getting organized, culling your belongings, and ways to think about why you do what you do now in terms of organizing and using items. There are lots of interesting ideas and a range of resources listed at the back of the book.

Monday 3 September 2007

Four Mysteries

Finished September 3
Shake Hands Forever by Ruth Rendell
This is one of Rendell's that I missed and finally got around to reading. Inspector Wexford and his sidekick Burden, get a case of a murdered wife. The woman is discovered by her mother-in-law upon arrival for a weekend visit. The husband was at work when the murder occured, but Wexford is sure of his involvement. Wexford is however forbidden from more contact with the man after a complaint of harrassment and is forced to take his actions on the case onto his own time. He gets his nephew, in the London police, interested and along with him finds out more about the man's actions. When another investigator does Wexford a favour, things really start to come together, but it is a close thing. Good plot with interesting characters.

Finished September 2
The Seventh Sacrament by David Hewson
This novel takes us back to Rome and the team of Nic Costa, Leo Falcone, Gianni Peroni, and pathologist Teresa Lupo. Leo is targetted by a man he put in jail fourteen years ago for beating a suspect to death, after being left alone with the suspect by Leo's boss Arturo Messina. The man, Giorgio Bramante, is trying to find out what happened to his 7-year-old son Alessio. The victim, Ludo Torchia, and five other students were in the same underground archeological site as Giorgio and Alessio and are suspected of knowing what happened to him. Because of Giorgio's attack on Ludo, none of the other students are questioned, and Arturo Messina loses his job. Now, Arturo's son Bruno is Leo's boss. Will he make mistakes as well, or trust Leo's guidance to find the real story at last. The action is good. The characters good and the plot, told from various points of view, developed nicely. I enjoyed this one while lying in my hammock in the shade, great activity for the long weekend!

Last Breath by George Shuman
This is the second Sherry Moore book. After the last book, when her friend and the man she loved, John Payne, died she is struggling to deal with her grief and the stress she endures when she uses her gift. She is brought in by the Pennsylvania attorney general to try to find out who killed the three kidnapped women, recently found in cold storage in a warehouse. They disappeared two years ago, and police attributed the kidnappings to three young men killed in a police chase with another kidnapping victim. As the state police and the FBI both get involved, Sherry is taken to her lowest and finds the strength to take on this new serial murder case with newfound dedication. Very enjoyable with good suspense and a good plot, moving point of view between the perpetrator, enforcement personnel, and Sherry herself.

Finished August 31
Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child
This is the latest in the series featuring Jack Reacher, an interesting character who travels only with his passport and a folding toothbrush. When he buys a new shirt, he throws away the previous one. In this novel, he is contacted by a member of his old team from the services. Another member of the team has been murdered and they are out to discover why. As they try to contact the remaining members of the team, they find that the murdered man is not the only one involved, and more may be dead as a result of whatever killed their buddy. As the remaining members hunt down clues to the case that was being investigated, they are given false trails and remain unsure who to trust. Reacher is elected leader and is sometimes forced the overrule others, but he comes through as usual. An exciting, action-packed plot with lots of tight situations. Fun to read.