Book of the Month - October, 2006

September 20th, 2006

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

Fight Club by Chuck PalahniukAn underground classic since its first publication in 1996, Fight Club is now recognized as one of the most original and provocative novels published in [that] decade. Chuck Palahniuk's darkly funny first novel tells the story of a god-forsaken young man who discovers that his rage at living in a world filled with failure and lies cannot be pacified by an empty consumer culture. Relief for him and his disenfranchised peers comes in the form of secret after-hours boxing matches held in the basements of bars. Fight Club is the brainchild of Tyler Durden, who thinks he has found a way for himself and his friends to live beyond their confining and stultifying lives. But in Tyler's world there are no rules, no limits, no brakes.

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The 2006 Man Booker Prize (Shortlist)

September 15th, 2006

The Man Booker Prize for Fiction represents the very best in contemporary fiction (from the UK, Ireland, and the Commonwealth). One of the world’s most prestigious awards, and one of incomparable influence, it continues to be the pinnacle of ambition for every fiction writer. It has the power to transform the fortunes of authors, and even publishers. In 2004, not only did Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty reach the bestseller lists, but previous winners The Life of Pi (2002) and Vernon God Little (2003) were also amongst the bestselling books of the year. Congratulations to last year's winner John Banville for his novel The Sea.

The winner receives £50,000 with a guaranteed increase in sales and recognition worldwide. Each of the six shortlisted authors, including the winner, receives £2,500 and a designer bound edition of their own book.

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
The Secret River by Kate Grenville The Secret River by Kate Grenville
Carry Me Down by M.J. Hyland Carry Me Down by M.J. Hyland
In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar
Mother's Milk by Edward St Aubyn Mother's Milk by Edward St Aubyn
The Night Watch by Sarah Waters The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
The Complete 2006 Nominee List

The Twelfth Card - Jeffery Deaver

September 8th, 2006

The Twelfth Card by Jeffery DeaverUnlocking a cold case with explosive implications for the future of civil rights, forensics expert Lincoln Rhyme and his protegee, Amelia Sachs, must outguess a killer who has targeted a high school girl from Harlem who is digging into the past of one of her ancestors, a former slave. What buried secrets from 140 years ago could have an assassin out for innocent blood? And what chilling message is hidden in his calling card, the hanged man of the tarot deck? Rhyme must anticipate the next strike or become history -- in the bestseller that proves "there is no thriller writer today like Jeffery Deaver" (San Jose Mercury News).

It seems like every Mystery/Suspense author has a serial character, one who appears in nearly all of their books. James Patterson has Alex Cross, Janet Evanovich has Stephanie Plum, Michael Connelly has Harry Bosch...and Jeffery Deaver has Lincoln Rhyme. I dabble in the works of some other Mystery/Suspense writers, but my favorites are the Lincoln Rhyme books. Most Mystery/Suspense novels follow essentially the same outline and only differ in the people and the places. Deaver breaks the mold when writing Lincoln Rhyme, and for that I am grateful.

It had been a long time since I read a book in this series, so it was refreshing to get back to it. It was almost like coming home after a long trip. It's just nice to be back.

The detail into which Deaver goes is noteworthy. The level of his research is evident in his books and he just seems to spend more time learning about the subject matter than another author would. (Sidenote: The one exception to that rule came out in The Twelfth Card where his plot dealt with some young men and women from Harlem. He did not have the best handle on his Ebonics, but I'm sure many of his readers would never know the difference.)

I like the creativity in which Deaver wraps his stories. Instead of starting a new book and just having a different killer, he focuses on a bigger picture and devises elaborate plot lines and intricate motives for his killers. I am sure it is at least somewhat self-serving because without that, he would have no reason to do all of the research for which he is respected.

The Twelfth Card featured a plot that was very involved, including the attempt to get to the bottom of a crime that was 140 years old. For his creative plots, this one was a little far-fetched. I thought he had to scramble a little to make things tie out in the end, but after taking a step back, I did not mind. (Those of you with a mind to pshchoanalyze me will get a kick out of this.) The heart of these books is in the chase. That is what is so great about them. The ending did not take too long, so it was relatively unobtrusive to my overall enjoyment of the book.

If I were asked to recommend to you a Jeffery Deaver, even specifically a Lincoln Rhyme book, I would not pick The Twelfth Card. Of the now 7 Lincoln Rhyme books, this may actually be the worst of the series, but the other books are just that good. I liked it a lot and am glad I read it. My suggestion is to read the entire series; start anywhere you like. You do not need to read them in any order, though I recommend you do.

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Mitch Albom

September 6th, 2006

Mitch Albom has captivated readers with his earlier novels Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven. At the end of September, 2006 he will begin his book tour for his latest novel, For One More Day. The book is on sale now and will be released on September 26, 2006. For more information about the book, visit ForOneMoreDay.com. There is also a complete list of tour dates available here.

For One More Day by Mitch AlbomAppearances of note:
Friday, October 6
Noon – 1:00 PM
Starbucks
Maple & Lahser
3584 West Maple
Bloomfield Hills, MI 48301
Q&A & signing
248-642-6904

Saturday, October 7
Noon
Borders
612 E. Liberty
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
signing
734-668-8124

September 1st, 2006
Richard Russo - Empire Falls - 212Why ... were adults so insistent that kids be polite? The ones who were most polite always seemed fundamentally untrustworthy.

The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

August 28th, 2006

The Book Thief by Markus ZusakNarrated by Death, Markus Zusak's groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young foster girl living outside of Munich in Nazi Germany. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she discovers something she can't resist -- books. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever they are to be found.

With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, Liesel learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids, as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

Markus Zusak, award-winning author of I Am the Messenger, has crafted an unforgettable novel about the ability of books to feed the soul.

I picked this one right up off the shelf at the bookstore. I cannot say exactly what it was that drew me to the book, maybe it was the cover art. I had not heard anything about it so all I had to go on was the synopsis provided on the inside flap(s) of the book.

I have a strange relationship with books that is shared by many readers. There is comfort, nay, magic in not just the words on the pages, but also the smell of the ink and feel of the binding. I wanted to read a story about a young girl who had this same relationship, but in a different time and place. Her circumstances were obviously much more extreme than my mundane life in Suburbia, but I think you will realize that I was not trying to make an apples to apples comparison.

A book written about a young girl will probably have the feel of a book intended for a young-adult audience most of the time. The Book Thief was so centered around the intimate details of the young girl's life that I was not at all surprised that the writing often took form of fiction intended for young adults. I was not surprised, but I was disappointed. A story set in and written about Nazi Germany with as much detail as The Book Thief provided, I would figure to be over the heads of a young-adult audience. There were so many times that the reading would lapse into the young-adult and it would be harsh language or a particularly grown-up, profound concept that would convince me the book is actually adult fiction.

The book is, in fact, listed for young adults. As described above, this comes as no surprise from the writing, but does from the subject matter. I think a young adult could enjoy the book, but he/she would simply not realize there is much more depth contained within the pages. I know I am generalizing, but I don't think the majority of younger readers would fully appreciate the book.

If a few harsh words mean you won't let your kid read it, so be it. If a few sections geared a little too heavily towards a younger audience will prevent you from reading it, so be it as well. If you can get over those hurdles, I do recommend this book to everyone. The book was beautifully compassionate. It dealt with interpersonal relationships under such incredible circumstances and shapes the story through a completely fascinating set of eyes.

I have no idea how the author came up with the idea to write a story with Death as the narrator, but my hat is off to him for what I consider a 100% success in doing so.

The book really ended up being all I could hope for. It was the young-adult crutch that keeps The Book Thief from being a great book, but it was certainly worth the read.

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Book of the Month - September, 2006

August 20th, 2006

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark HaddonChristopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, Christopher is autistic. Everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning to him. Routine, order, and predictability shelter him from the messy wider world. Then, at fifteen, Christopher's carefully constructed world falls apart when he finds his neighbor's dog, Wellington, impaled on a garden fork, and he is initially blamed for the killing.

Christopher decides that he will track down the real killer and turns to his favorite fictional character, the impeccably logical Sherlock Holmes, for inspiration. But the investigation leads him down some unexpected paths and ultimately brings him face to face with the dissolution of his parents' marriage. As he tries to deal with the crisis within his own family, we are drawn into the workings of Christopher's mind.

And herein lies the key to the brilliance of Mark Haddon's choice of narrator: The most wrenching of emotional moments are chronicled by a boy who cannot fathom emotion. The effect is dazzling, making for a novel that is deeply funny, poignant, and fascinating in its portrayal of a person whose curse and blessing are a mind that perceives the world literally.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is one of the freshest debuts in years: a comedy, a heartbreaker, a mystery story, a novel of exceptional literary merit that is fun to read.

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LibraryThing

August 17th, 2006

As Kristen was so kind to point out, there is a "cool service" available for readers (and non-readers I guess) who have too much free time. I figure that such a description fits me like a glove, and thus I signed up at LibraryThing.com. A free account gives you limited ability to add books to your virtual library, but the limit is not a constricting one.

I have created my profile and currently maintain my library for the purposes of books I have read from which to gain recommendations and suggestions. As I know a few of you have profiles and libraries of your own, I took the liberty of creating a LibraryThing group for us to fit into together. This can be used simply as a way to see the libraries of a small peer group.

I have created a second profile that consists of the books in my "collection." The catalog is located here.

The 2006 Man Booker Prize (Nominees)

August 15th, 2006

The Man Booker Prize for Fiction represents the very best in contemporary fiction (from the UK, Ireland, and the Commonwealth). One of the world’s most prestigious awards, and one of incomparable influence, it continues to be the pinnacle of ambition for every fiction writer. It has the power to transform the fortunes of authors, and even publishers. In 2004, not only did Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty reach the bestseller lists, but previous winners The Life of Pi (2002) and Vernon God Little (2003) were also amongst the bestselling books of the year. Congratulations to last year's winner John Banville for his novel The Sea.

Theft: A Love Story by Peter Carey Theft: A Love Story by Peter Carey
The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
Gathering the Water by Robert Edric Gathering the Water by Robert Edric
Get a Life by Nadine Gordimer Get a Life by Nadine Gordimer
The Secret River by Kate Grenville The Secret River by Kate Grenville
Carry Me Down by M.J. Hyland Carry Me Down by M.J. Hyland
Kalooki Nights by Howard Jacobson Kalooki Nights by Howard Jacobson
Seven Lies by James Lasdun Seven Lies by James Lasdun
The Other Side of the Bridge Mary Lawson The Other Side of the Bridge Mary Lawson
So Many Ways to Begin by Jon McGregor
In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar
The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud
Black Swan Green by David Mitchell Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
The Perfect Man by Naeem Murr The Perfect Man by Naeem Murr
Be Near Me by Andrew O'Hagan
The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson
Mother's Milk by Edward St Aubyn Mother's Milk by Edward St Aubyn
The Ruby in her Navel by Barry Unsworth The Ruby in her Navel by Barry Unsworth
The Night Watch by Sarah Waters The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
The 2005 Nominee List

Still Life With Woodpecker - Tom Robbins

August 2nd, 2006

Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom RobbinsStill Life With Woodpecker is sort of a love story that takes place inside a pack of Camel cigarettes. It reveals the purpose of the moon, explains the difference between criminals and outlaws, examines the conflict between social activism and romantic individualism, and paints a portrait of contemporary society that includes powerful Arabs, exiled royalty, and pregnant cheerleaders. It also deals with the problem of redheads.

I somehow managed to be both hesitant and curious to read more Tom Robbins after my first experience. It wasn't encouragement, necessarily, that motivated me to read another of his books, but rather a recommendation. Unbeknownst to me at the time, a good friend of mine is a pretty big Tom Robbins fan. She suggested Still Life With Woodpecker. She said reading it would allow me to give Robbins's writing a fair shake. So apparently my opinions now are based around at least one book that is representative of his writing style.

A lot of writers have mastered the art of telling a story about something, anything at all. Tom Robbins seems to have mastered the art of telling a story about nothing at all. The wording there, though odd, is absolutely intended as a compliment. There is a certain flow to this writing that makes it appear to be a full-length novel of poetic verse. His ideas are certainly unique and beautifully abstract.

I love how he writes and I am completely fascinated by the ideas he develops, though somehow at the end of Still Life With Woodpecker I am not in a rush to read the remaining work in his name.

The only reason I would probably find myself reading more of his stuff is to see if the parallel themes and images are used throughout his writing. Many times during "Still Life" I noted commonality to Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates. The most significant was the use of pyramids. I would be curious to see into how many books he can keep pyramids involved, but at the same time I know I would grow more and more disappointed in Robbins for not being able to throw different symbols into the ring.

After "Fierce Invalids" I said I might be interested in reading more stories involving the main character, Switters, but never expected to find another. Switters would have some very engaging conversations with The Woodpecker. The two men seemed to share many ideas and perspectives. It was nice because it was familiar, but again, I was a little disappointed in Robbins for not writing a new character with silly quirks and outlandish interpretations of societal restrictions for me to enjoy. I guess the moral of the story is to be careful of what you wish for.

I seem to have gotten away from my suggestion that you read Still Life With Switters...err Woodpecker should you find yourself curious for a book that will certainly take you on a journey through unfamiliar eyes looking at familiar subjects. I will not try to speculate as to just how many drugs Mr. Robbins has experimented with, but say simply that he seems to have some very bizarre influences in his writing. I am sure there are other authors like Tom Robbins out there somewhere, but I don't know of any.

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