Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I like "women's fiction"

Popular "women's" fiction is some of my favorite reading.  Kristin Hannah has become one of  my must-read authors because she writes about the depth of realtionships between women and their families and friends.  And, the endings aren't always happy, but they fit the characters as they evolve and change.  Her latest book, Firefly Lane, is about a friendship between two women over the course of 30 years.  Kate and Tully meet as teenagers, and though their lives take radically different paths, the friendship endures through strains and distance.  What kept me turning the pages of this book, though, was how the women negotiated through all the upheavals that happen over a lifetime.  I felt connected to Kate and Tully and I was interested in the internal struggles that the women went through as the years passed.  Ms. Hannah is one of the authors I always recommend if someone asks for a book by an author like Nora Roberts, Luanne Rice, Barbara Delinsky, Barbara Bretton or Debbie Macomber.

Posted by Karen H

Thursday, March 13, 2008

First Time Blogger

I have been a Librarian for over 20 years. They say it’s never too late to try something new, so here I am blogging for the first time. On more than one occasion I have been asked what I did for a living, and when I told them, they would respond with a variation on the theme of “I bet you read a lot.” They are implying that I just sit around and read books all day. I do read but in my own unique way.

The truth is I usually don’t read a book all the way through from start to finish. Most of the time I peruse to see if it looks interesting and then only read the parts that appeal to me. I don’t know why I do it this way but I do. There are exceptions, one being the selected book for the Southeast Book Discussion Group I lead at the branch I work at. This is because it’s required that I read it, so I can discuss it with the group. Secondly, I usually don’t read fiction but for the above mentioned reason. Thus I get a balanced reading diet due to the book club. It’s nice change of pace from the nonfiction.

A great benefit of being the leader of the book discussion group has been that I have actually read books, the whole book through, and enjoyed them. I have read books I would not normally have read but for the book club. I have been surprised to learn I liked books I didn’t think I would like. And I have expanded my reading interests due to the suggestions others at the group have contributed. It’s been a positive experience.

If you are looking for a reason to read, I would like to recommend to reluctant readers to join a book discussion group at your library of choice. The Southeast, Woodland West, Northeast and Southwest all have groups. You will get motivated to read because you are required to read. Join me in doing a new thing of reading books you may normally not read. Try reading something new, all the way through, from what you usually read.

One recent book I read for the Discussion Group come to mind as being especially enjoyable to read. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks is a romantic story of how love never ends. It is both tragic and uplifting as characters deal with the long goodbye of Alzheimer’s. It tells the story of the couple Noah and Ellie. They fall in love in the 1940’s and then fall in love again in the 1990’s when Allie is suffering from Alzheimer’s and can’t remember him. It shows that some people take their vows seriously when they say for better or worse when they get married. As a married man I could identify with the husband as he made the choice to love his wife in a difficult situation. It’s a great book, and I enjoyed reading it all the way through, and you will too.

Posted by David J

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Interconnected World of Christopher Moore

I don't buy nearly as many books for myself as I used to. Working in a library, there just doesn't usually seem to be much point in actually purchasing them. If I come across a something that looks interesting, I check it out. If I ever need to refer back to it for some reason, I always know exactly where to find the library's copy. If I'm looking for a book in my home, its location is usually much more indeterminate. There have, of course, been exceptions to this trend over the years, and Christopher Moore's A Dirty Job is one. I feel compelled to disclose, however, that this particular book has already been blogged about here. Twice, in fact. At any rate, this post isn't about the plot of the book itself as much as it is about some of its characters and where else they've been. Suffice it to say, however, that Charlie Asher awoke one morning to find himself transformed into a Death. And he's also a single parent who owns a second-hand shop. It's a funny book about death that also manages to fit in a little wisdom. But mostly it's very funny.

So when I first finished this book a couple of years ago, I told some of my friends about it, and one of them went on to read several of Moore's other books. When she reported back to me that an earlier incarnation of one of my favorite Dirty Job characters, the Death Merchant named Minty Fresh, shows up in Coyote Blue, I knew I'd have to read that next. Coyote Blue is about an insurance salesman who gets tangled up with an ancient trickster god and comes to terms with his own past. When they pass through Las Vegas they encounter a casino bouncer who is only known by his initials, MF. The important part is that even though this character's story is contained in two separate books published over ten years apart, each book reads as complete in and of itself. If you only read one, you'd have no idea that you were missing anything. Reading them both, however, gives the character added depth.

As I read more Moore, I quickly found that these connections between books run throughout his work, and A Dirty Job seems to be a particularly rich nexus of characters. Inspector Alphonse Rivera, a San Francisco police detective investigating some of the deaths that seem to take place all around Charlie, first appeared in Moore's first novel, Practical Demonkeeping. Rivera also plays a major role in Bloodsucking Fiends and You Suck: a Love Story, a pair of novels following the lives of the Vampire Jody and her assistant Flood. You Suck even seems to take place at roughly the same time as Dirty Job, with Jody wandering into Charlie's store, and the friendship between Charlie's assistant Lily and Jody's assistant's assistant Abby Normal. The Emperor of San Francisco and his troops also feature in all three books. Even though You Suck is a direct sequel to Bloodsucking Fiends, it can also stand completely on its own. The person who reccomended Coyote Blue read and enjoyed You Suck without ever suspecting that there was anything that came before it.

Other connections in Moore's universe: The village of Pine Cove is the setting for Practical Demonkeeping, The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, and The Stupidest Angel: a Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror. Stupidest Angel also features characters (including Roberto the talking fruit bat) from Island of the Sequined Love Nun, and the titular angel was first seen in Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal.

So, whenever I read one of these other books and encountered a familiar character, I'd always want to go back to A Dirty Job and reread the sections with that character just to appreciate the interconnectedness of it all. It eventually got to the point that I wound up buying a copy for myself. It probably won't be too long before I wind up buying all the others, as well, but for now I'll just rely on the library's copies.