Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Freakonomics / by Steven Leavitt and Stephen J. Dubner

If the drug trade is so lucrative, why do dealers still live with their moms? What makes certain people watch certain TV shows? How have some companies with smaller budgets and less pedigree been able to top the competition? What accounts for the decrease in the crime rate during the early 1990’s? This book details all this truly relevant information in what’s not-your-everyday economics textbook. ‘Rogue’ economist Steven Leavitt and associate Dubner detail certain societal trends and pop culture phenomenon in things like education, relationships, and elections (the richest candidate doesn't always win).

Freakonomics remained on the bestseller lists for several months and has sold over 3 million copies. This book is an informative leisure read as well as serious book for educational purposes and contains some interesting factoids on life in general. Both authors write for The Economist magazine and have made appearances on several TV talk shows.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Dead Father's Club / by Matt Haig

11-year-old Philip Noble has many, many horrible problems. Though for once, at least, being bullied at school is at the bottom of the list. His father’s death in a fatal car "accident” was only three months ago and his Uncle Allen is already making a play for his widowed mother. Angry and helpless, Philip suddenly encounters his father’s apparition who explains his death was no accident and only part of Uncle Allen’s plot to wed Philip’s mom, take over the family business and generally make everything worse. Now Philip must avenge his father's death (by murdering his uncle, duh) in order to free him from a limbo-like existence amidst other murdered fathers in “The Dead Fathers Club”.

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime meets Hamlet in this dark comedy/parody full of funny (sort-of) characters and believable circumstances surrounding supernatural events. Serious things like murder, robberies, and death only seem to enhance the humor as Philip applies himself to the task of murdering his uncle while sorting out his own life's details. Like in ‘Nighttime’ (or South Park), childlike innocence reflects badly on adults whose buffoonish behavior allows them little dignity. Yet child protagonist Philip is human too with his own foibles and a conscience that tends not to portray him as an outright hero evidenced when the plot eventually balances the scales without making anyone a victim.

Needful Things / by Stephen King

All is well in the town of Castle Rock until a storm comes bringing with it a strange individual and his curious boutique shop--"Needful Things". The store has something for everyone; in fact, it has just the right thing for anyone. No one entering the shop leaves empty-handed as Leland Gaunt's assortment of items satisfy even the deepest desires; a cherished baseball card, sunglasses worn by Elvis, even beauty tablets all purchased for a convenient price. But sinister motives conceal the shop’s true enterprise as Leland Gaunt is more than he seems and he trades in more than earthly wares. What makes you pick up a book (even really thick ones), read the first page and keep going? Try to pin it down. So, to say King is a master of macabre is almost to neglect his real strength at storytelling; a literary magnetism worthy of Harry Potter. The intangible quality of his characters, emotional intrigue and plot structure seem to make his stories almost addictive. Needful Things is one of those books; one in which it doesn’t matter what genre you like, you just enjoy it. (FIC KING)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Riding in Cars with Boys / by Beverly Donofrio

Adversity is the trial of principle. - Henry Fielding

So it goes with Beverly Donofrio, a bad girl who makes good in this memoir of an early-life crisis. Pregnant at 16, she rode the downward spiral for some time before things finally improved. Here she shamelessly chronicles her life as a high school dropout, parental reject, early bride, wife of a junkie, divorced teenage mom, hippie chick, liberated woman, drug user/dealer, and welfare recipient. Only after a nervous breakdown (of sorts) does she acclimate herself to a better life; growing and learning life's lessons even as her son, Jason, matures with her.

You can't spell memoir without "me" (or moi), an all-too-ironic nuance of this book which practically begins each sentence with "I" or "My" and ends in an angry expletive. With no shortage of attitude Donofrio entertains as she self-evaluates going so far as to infuriate her own (real life) parents at the time of publication. Drew Barrymore stars in the 2001 film adaptation that won several independent film awards.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Vision Quest / by Terry Davis

Louden Swain lives ‘over-the-edge’ caring little for rationale or sensibility. A high school wrestler anticipating his career-defining match, he perpetually denies himself, eating just enough to sustain his body while pushing it to (and beyond) its natural limits. Mentally his concentration never wanes from the impending match and opponent Gary Shute. It’s his own battle but he’s never alone with a supportive father and live-in girlfriend not to mention his coach and dedicated teammates.

Before Cris Crutcher made it cool to be a triathlete, Terry Davis wrote Vision Quest. Published in 1979, this was a new kind of YA novel. This is not a sports book as there are no archetypal action sequences or inevitable 'championship' climaxes. Rather it's an intrapersonal soul journey, a story of being not doing. Louden’s focus is the pain, the emotional reflection as he trains the theme rather than the culminating event itself. Like any 'YA' book, it's concentrated on adolescence but doesn't exclude other audiences and would be a great read for anyone.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Rule Number Two by Heidi Squier Kraft

Heidi is a clinical psychologist and writes about her seven month deployment in Iraq in 2007, in Al-Anbar province with the Marines, as part of logistic support services. She had to leave her twin boy and girl at age fifteen months, and describes putting this issue “away”, essentially ignoring it, until the end of her stay. She can’t put away the basic issue and challenge in her work while there, which is to help the soldiers deal with death. Heidi does not discuss the politics of the war, and her attitude in writing and while ministering to the soldiers is simply made up of her empathy and depth of feeling for what they are going through. She tells of one soldier’s trauma of withholding fire on a child throwing what appeared to be an incendiary device, without commenting on whether this situation is typical of one a soldier might face. Ms Kraft does say, however, that An-bar Marines “did not have the same opportunities” to see cheering and waving Iraqis “found in other regions of the country”. When you read the book, her straightforward narrative speaks to you regardless of your politics, and is a testimony to a job well done.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

ALLDATA Online Database

If you want something done right, don't pay someone else. So for all your car maintenance needs (except the spending part) use ALLDATA, the online car repair manual cataloging every automobile, its parts, peripherals, diagrams and diagnostics. If you're not sure what the problem is, don't worry; this internet database offers troubleshooting solutions and performance rating tips for all vehicles foreign and domestic built since the year 1982.

ALLDATA can be accessed through Moore Library's computer terminals and assistance from the library reference staff is available. This database allows options for printing diagrams and other essential information at $0.10/page.

Less Than Zero / by Brett Easton Ellis

Winter break brings 19-year-old Clay home from his first semester back east. The son of wealthy LA ‘people’, his life and that of his equally over-privileged friends seamlessly yields itself back to the partying, out-on-the-edge days before college. But any joy is lost on a dissolute Clay. Drowning in his own solitary void, a numbness to the high-times is only compounded by the ugly depravity of his once-closest friends.

American Psycho (both book and movie) made Ellis a cult icon but Less Than Zero first acknowledged him as a voice for Generation X. Published in 1985, the novel stirred controversy with its revelation of California’s drug culture and some its most loyal patrons--children of LA’s wealthy upper-crust. Perpetually aware but never surprised, Ellis’ style remains devoid of emotion. Clay’s world is one without hope, without feeling where characters exist below the surface. No action is interpreted and reactions are never personalized as Clay's own reflections remain far from the plot's content focusing instead on distant memories from the past. Despite this, or perhaps even because of it, Clay’s character is still felt by the book’s end.

Ironic Footnote: This book was made into a 1987 movie starring Robert Downey Jr.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Gaudy Night / by Dorothy Sayers

Female sleuth Harriet Vane stalks a phantom in another Dorothy Sayers mystery showcasing the one and only Lord Peter Wimsey. When an invitation to Oxford's 'gaudy' reunion beckons, a bored and idle Harriet accepts and (with some cajoling) stays on to investigate a series of threatening letters aimed at faculty members. Posing as a research assistant, Harriet retreads her old haunts seeking a culprate capable of such malice. An opportune coincidance soon lands Lord Peter at her side as together they follow the perpetrator's clues ultimately unearthing a dreadful secret lying below the surface all the while.

Lord Peter Wimsey is (in today-speak) an uber-hustler. Never ruffled, he is the definition of composure eliciting a sort of classy elitism all over the place. His only weakness is, of course, Harriet for whom he remains the devoted fool. The book is as much a social novel as it is mystery dissecting personalities while simultaneously perusing crime scenes. Somehow Sayers was a master at this, meshing relational intrigue with CSI-type drama to form an addictive type of character series. This book could be enjoyed by fans of the "cozy" mystery as much as domestic fiction.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Confetti (R) w/ Martin Freeman, et. al.

To boost the sales of their routinely dismal February issue, Confetti magazine will hold a contest to determine the most 'original' wedding. The nationally televised event will award a one-half million dollar house to the winning couple and picture them on February's cover. Of the three competing pairs, one plans a tennis-themed ceremony while another will exchange vows performing a 1940's-style musical number. The third represent a naturist commune and (allowing some legal loopholes) will wed as a fully disrobed man and wife. Tune in to see the constestants scramble to plan their own uniquely original wedding with only three months to prepare.

Mockumentaries have an uncanny knack for revealing the true-to-life quirks of 'normal' situations. This movie with its ribald band of British comedians pokes serious fun at the institution of marriage and its hangers-on. Showing the lengths people go to for a real "wedding experience" (and to win a free house), the largely improv'd footage characterizes the outrageousness of oft to-be-wed couples and other players involved with wedding planning. The satire is dead-on; especially as family feuds erupt amid preparations and wannabe limelight stealers threaten to sabotage the ceremony. Alison Lohman (A&E's Pride and Prejudice) is perfect as another eccentric mother-in-law.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Tenderness / by Robert Cormier

Every soul needs tenderness. Something still haunting Lori Cranston as she flees yet another of her mom's abusive boyfriends. Her desire for emotional intimacy now targets Eric Poole, with whom she shares a strange history. Eric needs tenderness also; even with no capacity for feeling. Incarcerated five years for slaying his parents, he's free to pursue the 'tenderness' he's been deprived of so long. But Detective Proctor knows (even if no one else does) that Eric is a monster, that his parents weren't his only victims, and it's only a matter of time before the next.

Chocolate War author Cormier sticks to his New England roots in this psychological thriller about two people linked by a twisted consciousness and a third monitoring their every move. The real clutch of this book is intuition, an awareness of each character's contribution to the story and the motives which propel their actions. Nowhere is this better seen than the author's despiction of Eric, a most unlikely teenage sociopath. (YP FIC CORMIER)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Cry of the Dove, by Fadia Faqir

The book is about Salma, a Bedouin Arab woman who is now called Sally and lives in Exeter, England. She was forced to emigrate after bringing dishonor to her family by having a child out of wedlock. She turned to her teacher for help, who saved her life only by turning her over to the police. In prison for her safety, she gave birth to a girl who was immediately taken away from her. She learned to sew and stayed in the prison for six years. An English nun who rescues girls like her offered to take her to a convent in Lebanon, to live and be safe from her brother who intends to kill her to absolve the stain on their family’s name. She is happy in Lebanon, but word comes that her family has traced her there, and she is persuaded to flee to England under a new name, Sally Asher. There she works as a seamstress and lives struggling for existence, for a way out of poverty and ignorance and fear.
The author, Fadia Faqir, tells the story as a mosaic, showing us small parts of Salma’s life in seemingly disjointed order. Some of the parts are pages long, others just a brief paragraph, a glimpse of a scene We see her in the hills herding goats, as a love-struck teenager, and then are abruptly brought back into the bleakness of her present circumstance. In Exeter, with her pidgin English and work as a seamstress for low wages, Salma is driven by loneliness to venture into pubs, looking for companionship. The juxtaposition of the different times of her life works by capturing our engagement in our present while being carried by currents of the past.
Salma’s particular tragedy and its pain speak to us, as we in the West seek to discover how these new neighbors of ours are like us and not alike. Faqir shows us the suspicion and misguided ideas that confront Salma regarding her identity, as an Arab and a Muslim, and in tandem with these we see our Western culture with her eyes, helping us to see what is strange to her and to other foreigners.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Something Wicked This Way Comes / by Ray Bradbury

Mr. Dark and his Pandemonium Show are a carnival like no other. Rolling into town one full-moon October night, their eerie attractions soon entrance even the cynical and possess a power beyond conception. But a strange fate awaits fairgoers as fulfilled dreams can become nightmares when beauty is fleeting and charm is deceptive. With their town succumbing to Mr. Dark's malevolence, 12-year-old Jim Nightshade and best friend Will are the only ones to foresee a dreadful end for their town and those they love.

Ray Bradbury's imagination knows no bounds. A figurehead of the Science Fiction/Fantasy genre for decades, his works include Farenheit 451, Dandelion Wine, and The Martian Chronicles. This book marks the debut of 'The Illustrated Man', a character whose unusual tattoos come alive. First published in 1962, Something Wicked... was made into a Disney movie starring Jason Robards.