the devil's teeth
susan casey
Unfortunately, I read this book while in Cape Cod and every time I stuck my toe in the ocean, I pictured one of the behemoths in this book taking off my foot (and more). After seeing a documentary about great white sharks around The Farallon Islands, Casey heads out just off the coast of San Fran to visit the biologists studying these monsters of the deep. What follows is a gripping account of great white shark habitats as well as conservation efforts on The Farallons. The book ends on a bit of a bummer – a storm causes the sailboat Casey was staying on to unmoor and head off to sea never to be seen again which in turn causes some turmoil for the biologists on the island (one biologist ends up losing his job). A great adventurous read!
reviewed by: lisa may |  August 2011 [link] |  recommend

crooked letter, crooked letter
tom franklin
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is Southern fiction at its finest, portraying a Mississippi town steeped in mystery with drunk fathers, racial tension and chickens thrown in for good measure. Larry Ott leads a solitary life ever since high school when a girl he took out on a date disappeared soon after he met up with her. Another girl has gone missing and suspicions alight on Larry. When Larry is found shot one night, his former friend and town constable Silas works to solve the mystery of the current missing girl as well as shed some light of his own about the girl who went missing all those years ago. Despite some tedious sections, this thriller was hard to put down.
reviewed by: lisa may |  August 2011 [link] |  recommend

the wave
susan casey
The Wave can be filed under "Books That Don'tSeem Interesting But Turn Out To Be Riveting", especially as Casey takes us out into the ocean with her terrifying descriptions of rogue 350 foot waves blotting out the sky as well as the recounting of the biggest wave ever recorded, a 1,740 foot-high wall of water that mowed into the Alaska coastline in the 50s. The book is also a bit of a surfing biography, mainly of Laird Hamilton, surfer extraordinaire. Casey tags along as he and his crew go where the wind and surf blows them in an effort to ride the biggest waves in the world. The book also explores the science of waves and the effects of global warming as the culprit of all these "rogue" waves and the storms that are creating them.
reviewed by: lisa may |  August 2011 [link] |  recommend

the weird sisters
eleanor brown
The three Andreas sisters are each named for a Shakespeare character – Rosalind (As You Like It), Bianca (The Taming of the Shrew), and Cordelia (King Lear)–and they have a predilection for communicating through the lines of Shakespeare they learned from their professor father. They reunite at their childhood home to help take care of their mother recently diagnosed with breast cancer, but ultimately, they are home with their own baggage – Rose is afraid to leave home to live with her fiancée in England; Bianca has fled multiple indiscretions in NYC and Cordy has spent her life traveling where the wind blows her and now needs to lay down some roots. Told from the perspective of all three sisters, this is a funny and warm look at how individuals make up a family and how that defines who they are.
reviewed by: lisa may |  April 2011 [link] |  recommend

the radleys
matt haig
"The Radleys" join the seemingly never-ending parade of vampire novels yet this one is set in the English ‘burbs and features Peter, Helen, Clara and Rowan Radley, a run-of-the-mill family leading a normal life. Except for one thing: they're vampires. At the start of the book, the kids don't even know the family secret – they just think they have to wear A LOT of sunblock during the day. One night, Clara is attacked by a classmate and winds up doing what vampires naturally do and all hell breaks loose in town. Peter's brother shows up to "help out", but since he isn't an "abstainer" and doesn't keep quite as low a profile as the rest of the family, their secret eventually gets out with disastrous – and surprising – consequences. Excerpts from "The Abstainer's Handbook" are sprinkled throughout the darkly humorous book. Are these Radleys related to Boo Radley in "To Kill a Mockingbird"? Hmmmm. Interesting fact: I read this on my Nook and there was a typo in the title at the top of every page: it read "The Redleys" which was funny since they're vampires - get it?
reviewed by: lisa may |  March 2011 [link] |  recommend

packing for mars: the curious science of life in the void
mary roach
Is there nothing Mary Roach isn't interested in? She's written about the life of cadavers (Stiff), the afterlife (Spook) and the science of sex (Bonk). In "Packing for Mars" she heads to infinity and beyond to explore the research, preparations, limitations, and everything in between, of space travel. She takes a look at space food development, zero-gravity research and the process of using the bathroom in space – all in her usual entertaining and funny style. What topic will she tackle next?
reviewed by: lisa may |  March 2011 [link] |  recommend

as always, julia: the letters of julia child and avis devoto
joan reardon
When Julia Child wrote a "fan" letter to the author Bernard DeVoto she couldn't have known that it would lead to not only a life-long friendship with his wife, Avis, but more or less would pave the way for "Mastering the Art of Cooking" through Avis' publishing experience and contacts. Julia and Avis began writing in 1952 while Julia was in France and Avis was living in Cambridge. The 200 letters are not only a thrilling look at two amazing woman but also a great peek into life in France and the US in the 50s and 60s where canned food was the latest rage and dinner parties were held every weekend after the children were in bed. This book made me nostalgic for good old-fashioned letter writing!
reviewed by: lisa may |  March 2011 [link] |  recommend

driving over lemons
chris stewart
Charged with scouting out a possible property onto which an englishman and his wife might engage in the life-changing activity of stepping off the grid, Chris Stewart buys a dilapidated mountain farm on impulse and changes the course of his and his wife's life forever.

The trials of relocation, renovation, and assimilation in a foreign land devoid of modern conveniences are told with a wry, self-deprecating sense of humor made the nuts and bolts of his experience resonate with the romantic ideas the terrain and some of his neighbors tried to quash. The subtitle, An Optimist in Spain, is such an apt addition to the book I found myself flipping back to the cover on many instances where Stewart's optimism astounded me.

Also a deft writer of travel journals and accomplished shearer of sheep, Stewart's chronicle of his family's adventure is a must read for the do-it-yourselfer who romanticizes the idea of unplugging and taking on the challenge of self-sufficiency in a foreign land.
reviewed by: nate |  January 2011 [link] |  recommend

the passage
justin cronin
I started The Passage having no idea what I was getting into – at 600 plus pages, it's no short story and just after I finished it, I found out it's the first of a trilogy, which is good and bad. Good because the ending left me puzzled but bad because if it's as long as the first, I'll need to quit my day job to finish the series.

This is a vampire book, people. But these aren't vampires you'll fall in love with a la the Twilight series. These are monsters. A freak government experiment to prolong life goes wrong and turns the science experiments into freaks that spread a deadly virus and hunt for victims at night. The virus spreads across the country launching an apocalypse where very few survive. After the initial infection, the story picks back up about 80 years after the virus where communities are few and far between and they survive by having stadium lights on over their communes all night long. Except they're losing power more and more frequently and are in dire need of finding somewhere else to live.

There's very much an end-of-the-world, coming-of-Christ storyline to this book. A young girl that was part of the experiments is the only one that didn't turn into a vampire – in fact she's not aging and is immune to the vampires (although she can hear their thoughts). She is meant to save the world except how exactly that will happen is a mystery to be told in the follow-up books. Pretty sure this is being made into a movie right this second!
reviewed by: lisa may |  October 2010 [link] |  recommend

stranger things happen
kelly link
Love love love Kelly Link! Kelly Link's stories are like sweet campfire tales that always take a creepy turn. In this collection of tales (classified as "young adult" like her most recent collection "Pretty Monsters"), prepared to be dazzled and confused but absorbed into stories like "The Specialist's Hat" about two lonely twins dealing with their mother's death and their babysitter who is most likely a ghost. "Travels with the Snow Queen" minces fairy tales with the modern as a princess searches for her philandering beloved while pointing out that a fairy tale life isn't all it's cracked up to be. "The Girl Detective" is a throw back to Nancy Drew (kudos to the Nancy Drew-ish cover art!) but as every bit as deliciously freaky as the rest of the book.
reviewed by: lisa may |  October 2010 [link] |  recommend

provenance: how a con man and a forger rewrote the history of modern art
laney salisbury
Having read a book on fake bottle of wines from Thomas Jefferson I wasn't sure I was ready for another book on fakes, yet I found this to be riveting. Not only was John Drewe having an artist paint masterpieces and fobbing them off as priceless originals, he was doctoring paper trails a million miles long to artificially authenticate the fakes. This involved him gaining access to art museum archives and planting fake documents that fooled even the most prestigious galleries and art experts. As a result, he pitted people against one another in terms of those who thought the fakes were real and those who knew they were forgeries. A great documentary to pair with this book that deals with provenance is the excellent "Who the #$%&%! is Jackson Pollack?" which follows a woman's saga to authenticate a supposed Jackson Pollack she found at a Goodwill Store.
reviewed by: lisa may |  August 2010 [link] |  recommend

orange is the new black
piper kerman
Remember all the crazy stuff you did in your 20s? Piper Kerman remembers all too well as some of it caught up with her when an old drug-dealing flame rats her out for carrying drug money out of the U.S. Kerman is indicted on money laundering and drug trafficking, pleads guilty and is sentenced to 15 months at Danbury's minimum security women's prison where every vestige of personal space and privacy is stripped away and the Smith graduate finds herself to be a minority as an incarcerated white woman. In her fascinating look at prison life, she is taken in and cared for (as most of the woman are) by prisoners with much longer sentences than her (a 70-year old grandmother has a sentence of four years for taking phone calls for her drug dealing grandson which is part of the many injustices of the U.S. "justice" system). Kerman learns the ropes of the prison system, builds incredible friendships and learns electrician skills at her job in the prison workshop all while trying to just get through each day (she ends up serving 13 months of the 15 month sentence). I found myself unable to put this book down and the second I finished, my husband picked it up too because, as Kerman herself points out, there's just not a lot of prison books out there written from a woman's point of view! In the end, Kerman's patience, humility and strength drive an already interesting story and elevate it into a crafty piece of non-fiction.
reviewed by: lisa may |  August 2010 [link] |  recommend 1 thumbs up

the immortal life of henrietta lacks
rebecca skloot
Rebecca Skloot spent close to ten years researching and writing this book about the infamous HeLa cells that scientists use in research. These cells have also allowed scientists to make strides in a multitude of areas and have cured diseases far and wise. The problem? When these cells were harvested from Henrietta Lacks in the 50s, she was a black woman dying of cervical cancer and was never asked consent. Subsequently, all these years, labs have been paying for the cells and her family has lived in poverty with no health insurance almost their whole lives. The successes in health that her cells have afforded the medical industry have been incredible, yet the story of her family is very sad: she and her husband were first cousins, one of their children was institutionalized and the family never made contact with her again, abuse and crime ran rampant in her family yet her life was the single most important cog in medical advancement. It would've been nice to read that her family at least was given free health insurance or to have read that they were compensated after the book was published but that has yet to happen. Money was donated for a proper headstone for Henrietta Lacks, which means she can finally rest in peace.
reviewed by: lisa may |  June 2010 [link] |  recommend

lunch in paris: a love story, with recipes
elizabeth bard
Much like Cooking for Mr. Latte, Amanda Hesser's memoir of love and food, Lunch In Paris begins with a first date and first dinner and moves to more dates and more dinners and meeting family and getting engaged and then married, all the while living in Paris, she as an American, he as a native Frenchman. She writes about how maddening yet seductive France and the French can be – for example, how you're almost not a person in France unless you have a gas bill in you name (her then boyfriend thoughtfully added her to their apartment gas bill when they moved in together which helped later on when they wanted to buy an apartment). She also writes about the incredible food in France, yet the amazing slimness of French woman (always fascinating to read about). Included in each chapter are intoxicating recipes like molten chocolate cakes and summer ratatouille. Delicious!

reviewed by: lisa may |  June 2010 [link] |  recommend 1 thumbs up

open: an autobiography
andre agassi
After reading and hearing good things about this sports autobiography, I cracked it open with much enthusiasm even though the cover photo looked like a headshot from a character in A Chorus Line. I soon learned in this fast read that image is not everything as Agassi presented himself, his receeding hairline, and his hatred of tennis with humor and grace. What do you do when the thing that you are the most talented at is also the thing you hate the most? Can you really hate it or can you just learn to live with yourself and it? Andre Agassi has written a book with a lot of balls and a lot of love.
reviewed by: jen |  June 2010 [link] |  recommend

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