No Great Mischief

by Alistair MacLeod

{ 2000 | W.W. Norton & Company | 288 pgs }

I must have read this late at night, because my memory of it seems very surreal and dreamlike. MacLeod’s novel is about a the generations of a Scottish clan living in Canada, though it centers on the family of its narrator, Alexander MacDonald. The writing is well-done, seamlessly combining references to the clan’s past in Scotland and Canada with the narrator’s own memories and experiences. However, the book was a little bit hard for me to get into, and in parts it seemed like I had missed some important element of the plot from earlier. When I finished reading, I felt detached, both from the story and from my own life.

I’d be interested to hear what you thought – so if you haven’t read it yet, get to it!


Torts Stories

Yes, I read one of the Romgi’s law school texts. Before he did. Because I wanted to.

Am I really that weird?

Wow…

But it was an interesting book!

Ok, I am pretty weird.

Torts Stories discusses 10 different landmark torts cases, as well as why they’re considered landmark. (If you’re wondering, torts are cases where [this is me paraphrasing the Romgi] “one person is to blame for what happened to another person” – although the people can be companies. Torts are always civil cases. Everything on Judge Judy is a tort.)


How to be a Hepburn in a Hilton World

by Jordan Christy

{ 2009 | Center Street | 208 pgs }

I won a copy of this book from a giveaway on someone’s blog. It sounded interesting: being classy instead of trashy, and examining why people like Paris Hilton capture the media’s attention.

Christy definitely makes some valid points. Better to be somewhat in the background as a well-dressed woman than splashed on the front page for not wearing underwear. Being poised and articulate will help you appear classy. Don’t let your guard down on social networking sites; potential employers won’t be impressed by your spring break pictures. Modesty = great.

Aside from the fact that, at least for me, these are no-brainers, Christy spends an inordinate amount of time giving fashion tips. She offers several quizzes to help you determine your fashion style, then fills pages with suggestions on what stores to shop at depending on your style. Ditto for makeup. Frankly, even though I got the book for free, I didn’t spend time reading it just to hear that Nordstrom’s has good clothes. The idea of emulating Audrey Hepburn for her grace quickly devolved into an issue of Elle or Vogue.

Pass on this one.


Audrey, Wait!

by Robin Benway

{ 2008 | Razorbill | 320 pgs }

So you remember Taylor Swift’s song “Teardrops on my Guitar”? And how it really is about her friend from school, Drew? And how he didn’t know then that she liked him, but he sure does now? Ok, now imagine that you’re a writer and this all sounds like a good idea for a book.

Benway reverses the roles (the boy writes a song about the girl) and adds a lot of drama, sex, and swearing. I’ve decided to never have teenage daughters. Audrey is the narrator; she breaks up with her boyfriend Evan at the beginning of the book, and as she’s walking away she hears him say, “Audrey, wait!” Later that night his band plays a song with that title, and before long it’s become a hit, propelling the band – and Audrey – into the national spotlight.

I don’t know much about Taylor Swift’s subject, but in the book, Audrey is hated by the thousands of girls who love Evan’s band and the song. She suffers endless torment, etc., etc. You can probably guess a lot of what happens just based on the fact that it’s a book about a teenage girl. It was a kind of fun story, but there was way too much swearing – and too many “Things I Hope My Daughter Never Does.” You’ll be ok skipping this one.


The Last Lecture

by Randy Pausch

{ 2008 | Hyperion | 224 pgs }

I hate to say this, but I wasn’t wowed by Pausch’s famous lecture and the book based on it. Call me hard-hearted, but it just didn’t feel nearly as moving as I expected.

(Seriously, this is coming from me; don’t you wonder if there’s something wrong with me now?)

In the tradition of professors giving their final classroom lectures before retiring, Pausch contemplates the most important things in his life as he faces fatal pancreatic cancer. Of course, all the basics were there – family, following your dreams, being true to yourself – but it wasn’t profound.

Yes, you may call me a horrible person.

(If you want a moving book, try Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Album instead.)


The Little Giant of Aberdeen County

by Tiffany Baker

{ 2009 | Grand Central Publishing | 341 pgs }

To start off, isn’t that a great cover? I had this book on my list before I saw the cover, but surely I was just the tiniest bit influenced by the art.

Truly has a pituitary gland problem that makes her grow at an alarming rate, to alarming sizes – from her birth as a 12+ pound baby to a gargantuan woman. She narrates the story (from a semi-omniscient point-of-view [is semi-omniscient a real term?]), spending the first half describing her relationship with her dainty, delicate sister Serena Jane, and later describing her life once Serena Jane marries the town doctor. There are a number of themes in the plot, and I confess not all were to my liking, but the book as a whole was extremely captivating. For a story with little action, it was definitely a page-turner.


The Princess and the Hound

by Mette Ivie Harrison

{ 2007 | HarperTeen | 416 pgs }

I apologize for not writing reviews until now – a downside, for me, is that I don’t have as good a memory of the books as I would have earlier…

Harrison’s book The Princess and the Hound was not at all what I expected. It isn’t told by the princess: she isn’t introduced until a fair bit into the book. Instead, the narrator is the prince who is betrothed to the princess. Yes, surprisingly, the storyteller in a vaguely romantic medieval fantasy novel is male, written by a female author. And it was good storytelling! I suppose the most basic premise of the book is that this kingdom has forbidden communication between humans and animals – in the past, there were some who practiced “animal magic,” but those days are gone (in part because of a wicked king who…well, I won’t give it away). And not only are they gone, they’re lost in legend. So you can imagine the trouble it would bring if the current king married a woman who could – and did – speak to animals.

And then we add in the storyline of the princess, Beatrice, and her hound. Beatrice is notoriously cold, her only relationship being a deep friendship with her hound. I’ll just say that I was rather thrown off by Harrison’s plot; she set everything up so that I could easily predict what was coming next – and then I turned out to be wrong. It was brilliant. Harrison included extremely subtle hints and foreshadowing for both the obvious and the surprise plots, which meant things still made sense even after I was caught off guard.

I might say that the book had too many loose ends tied up too neatly, but here my memory fails me. It could have been the opposite, that I had lingering questions left unanswered. If it is the latter, Harrison has followed this book with The Princess and the Bear (2009). I plan to read it.