Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Thursday Thirteen #104 -- The Shelfari Edition



Complete reviews and purchase information for each of these books are available at Shelfari --, just click on the book on my little bookshelf at right.

1. Oxygen by Carol Cassella. The best new novel I've read in quite some time. With the compassion of Jodi Picoult and the medical realism of Atul Gawande, Oxygen is a riveting new novel by a real-life anesthesiologist, an intimate story of relationships and family that collides with a high-stakes medical drama.

2. The Kennedy Legacy by Vincent Bzdek. John, Robert, and Ted Kennedy's individual stories can be seen as essentially one, each successive brother striving to fulfill the interrupted promise of the brother before. The closing of Ted Kennedy's chapter in America’s political and cultural life means that, for the first time perhaps, the real measure of the Kennedy legacy can finally be taken.

3. Crimson Joy by Robert B. Parker. An older Spencer I somehow missed, and really enjoyed. They call him the "Red Rose Killer" because he leaves one on the body of each woman he kills. But then the madman's eyes turn to Susan Silverman, and Spenser is on the case. For when Susan's life is in danger, Spenser becomes a hard-fisted, unstoppable locomotive--determined to bring the criminal to justice no matter what the odds!

4. Die, My Love by Kathryn Casey. True crime. The day before Halloween 2004 was the last day on Earth for respected, well-liked college professor Fred Jablin. That morning, a neighbor discovered his body lying in a pool of blood in the driveway of Jablin's Virginia home. Police immediately turned their attentions to the victim's ex-wife, Piper, a petite, pretty Texas lawyer who had lost a bitter custody battle and would do anything to get her kids back. But Piper was in Houston, one thousand miles away, at the time of the slaying and couldn't possibly have been the killer . . . could she?

5. Boy Meets Girl by Meg Cabot. Interesting approach -- a story told entirely through emails and voicemails. Meet Kate Mackenzie. She works for the T.O.D. (short for Tyrannical Office Despot, also known as Amy Jenkins,Director of the Human Resources Divisionat the New York Journal), is sleeping on the couch because herboyfriend of ten years refuses to commit, can't find an affordable studio apartment, anywhere in New York City and thinks things can't get any worse. They can.

6. Stranger in Paradise by Robert B. Parker. As bad as Crimson Joy is good, and a good example of why Parker has to be the most frustating author EVER! An Apache hit man arrives in Paradise to find a missing girl and snuff out her mother. But his conscience is getting the best of him. If he doesn’t make the hit, he’ll pay for it. So might Jesse Stone, who’s been enlisted to protect them all.

7. Dewey by Vicky Myron.
Recommended for all cat lovers. How much of an impact can an animal have? How many lives can one cat touch? How is it possible for an abandoned kitten to transform a small library, save a classic American town, and eventually become famous around the world? You can't even begin to answer those questions until you hear the charming story of Dewey Readmore Books, the beloved library cat of Spencer, Iowa.

8. Rough Weather by Robert B. Parker. A Spencer mystery that I enjoyed. (Maybe I should just stick with Spenser and forget Stone.) A hurricane hinders a kidnapping and Spenser goes on a search for the man responsible— the infamous Gray Man, who has both helped and hunted Spenser in the past.

9. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld. Much better than I expected. On what might become one of the most significant days in her husband’s presidency, Alice Blackwell considers the strange and unlikely path that has led her to the White House–and the repercussions of a life lived, as she puts it, “almost in opposition to itself.” A kind, bookish only child born in the 1940s, Alice learned the virtues of politeness early on from her stolid parents and small Wisconsin hometown. But a tragic accident when she was seventeen shattered her identity and made her understand the fragility of life and the tenuousness of luck. So more than a decade later, when she met boisterous, charismatic Charlie Blackwell, she hardly gave him a second look: She was serious and thoughtful, and he would rather crack a joke than offer a real insight; he was the wealthy son of a bastion family of the Republican party, and she was a school librarian and registered Democrat. Comfortable in her quiet and unassuming life, she felt inured to his charms. And then, much to her surprise, Alice fell for Charlie.

10. Lord of the Flies by William Golding. I got more out of this as adult than I did as an adolescent. A classic tale about a group of English schoolboys who are plane-wrecked on a deserted island is just as chilling and relevant today as when it was first published in 1954. At first, the stranded boys cooperate, attempting to gather food, make shelters, and maintain signal fires. Overseeing their efforts are Ralph, "the boy with fair hair," and Piggy, Ralph's chubby, wisdom-dispensing sidekick whose thick spectacles come in handy for lighting fires. Although Ralph tries to impose order and delegate responsibility, there are many in their number who would rather swim, play, or hunt the island's wild pig population. Soon Ralph's rules are being ignored or challenged outright. His fiercest antagonist is Jack, the redheaded leader of the pig hunters, who manages to lure away many of the boys to join his band of painted savages. The situation deteriorates as the trappings of civilization continue to fall away, until Ralph discovers that instead of being hunters, he and Piggy have become the hunted: "He forgot his words, his hunger and thirst, and became fear; hopeless fear on flying feet." Golding's gripping novel explores the boundary between human reason and animal instinct, all on the brutal playing field of adolescent competition.

11. Jemimia J: A Novel about Ugly Ducklings & Swans by Jane Green. The best Jane Green book I've read. Jemima Jones is overweight. About one hundred pounds overweight. Treated like a maid by her thin and social-climbing roommates, and lorded over by the beautiful Geraldine (less talented but better paid) at the Kilburn Herald, Jemima finds that her only consolation is food. Add to this her passion for her charming, sexy, and unobtainable colleague Ben, and Jemima knows her life is in need of a serious change. When she meets Brad, an eligible California hunk, over the Internet, she has the perfect opportunity to reinvent herself–as JJ, the slim, beautiful, gym-obsessed glamour girl. But when her long-distance Romeo demands that they meet, she must conquer her food addiction to become the bone-thin model of her e-mails–no small feat.

12. Up for Renewal by Cathy Alter. Very cool premise. By age thirty-seven, Cathy Alter had made a mess of her life. With a failed marriage already under her belt, she was continuing down the path of poor decisions, one paved with a steady stream of junk food, unpaid bills, questionable friends, and highly inappropriate men. So she sat down and asked herself what she truly wanted. A decent guy. A nicer home. More protein. When she took a closer look at her wants, she noticed something that seemed very familiar -- with the addition of exclamation points, her list could easily be transformed into the cover lines on every women's magazine: Find the love you deserve! Paint to the rescue! Eggs-actly perfect meals! So Cathy gave over her life to the glossies for the next twelve months, resolving to follow their advice without question. By the end of her subscriptions, she would get rid of upper-arm jiggle, crawl out of debt, host the perfect dinner party, run a mile without puking, engage in better bathtub booty, ask for a raise, and rehaul her apartment.

13, The Cat Who Moved a Mountain by Lillian Jackson Braun. I enjoy this series, and this is one of the better installments. On vacation in the Big Potato Mountains, Qwilleran stumbles into a mystery involving the murder of J. J. Hawkinfield, the developer who was pushed off a mountain years before after announcing his plans to develop the region.

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How can this be?

I've been eating healthier. (A serious reduction in sweets and increase in fruits.) I've been working out more. (Refer to the ticker on the right.) So how can I have a fever this morning? IT'S NOT FAIR!

I have theater tickets for tonight. A Chorus Line. I'm going anyway. Comfort food at South Water Kitchen and one of my favorite musicals can only be good for what ails me. (At least that's the plan now ...)

I did stay home from work today, though. I'm missing the How to Rectify the Gal's Fuck Up meeting. It's been scheduled and rescheduled so that we can have a full house and my humiliation is complete. I've had this damn meeting hanging over my head since last week. Scheduled for Friday but the office closed early. Then for Monday, but one of the art directors took a long weekend. Then yesterday, but one of the account execs was out. Now today. and I have a fever. If it was a migraine instead of a fever, I'd accuse myself of falling victim to a psychosomatic malady.

Atta Girl!

My mother went to see her doctor on Tuesday! I'm so happy. Since leaving the hospital, she has not been bouncing back as well as anyone had hoped. She's weak, she's breathless, she has trouble walking ...

Up until Easter. she was refusing to call the doctor and update him. It didn't matter what I said, or my sisters said. Every day she said she wanted to give it "one more day" before she spoke to her physician.

On Easter Sunday I had a private conversation with her. I told her that if I sounded as though I was angry with her, it's because I was. I felt as though she was choosing to leave me. Choosing to die rather than get well. I told her that she's still my mommy and I still need her. She promised me that day that she would phone her doctor on Monday.

I didn't expect she'd really do it, but she did!

She called on Monday, went in for tests and a consultation today, and should return later in the week after the results are in. The doctor is unhappy with her recovery, but doesn't feel she needs to go back into the hospital. We're all grateful for that!