Wednesday, September 22, 2010

It's a Book! It's a Classic!

Every book lover needs a copy of this hilarious picture book, which perfectly captures why the old-fashioned "book" is still a necessity in today's technology-enamored world.  It's all done with large doses of humor  and simple appealing illustrations featuring a mouse, monkey and jackass. (Just the fact that author/illustrator Lane Smith can get away with calling the donkey a "jack-ass" in a children' book and it's still a hit with teachers and librarians is proof enough that this book is a classic).
Open to the book to the first page, where you'll find Monkey quietly reading a book, and his friend, the jackass, who asks:  "What do you have there?"  Monkey replies, "It's a book," to which the befuddled jackass asks, "How do you scroll down?"  And the story is off and running, with he jackass peppering the monkey with questions like "Do you blog with it?" and "Can it text? Tweet?" and "Do you need a password?"  Finally, the monkey just hands the book to the jackass, who settles down to read. The hours go by, the jackass is hooked and he's soon headed off to the library to get a book of his own, but not without a final parting comment from the clever little mouse hiding under the monkey's hat.  I read this book to my 11-year-old son, who laughed out loud and even put down his I-pod and logged off the computer for a few moments.  Great fun!  -- Erin  

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Spire

The Spire, by Richard North Patterson, was a surprisingly interesting read for me.  A mystery set in a fictional Ohio town with a small liberal arts college, the setting in the book is based on Delaware and Ohio Wesleyan University, where Patterson attended college.  My primary reason for reading the book was the setting.  As I read, I was drawn farther and farther into the story. People familiar with the area and OWU will be able to catch the references to specific places like University Hall, The now closed Brown Jug restaurant, and many other Delaware landmarks. The story takes on a new vibrancy when the reader is able to actually picture what the places look like and the people might act like.
    Outside of the setting, Patterson knows how to keep a reader reading.  I typically have low expectations for the quality of writing in thrillers, but this book did a good job delving into the psychological side of the antagonist. The book has very little action in it as it follows a new college president trying to solve an embezzlement crisis and a twenty year old murder from his days as a student at the same college (not exactly gunfights and explosions, though I think financial crimes would be much more exciting with some explosions.  Think of the current financial meltdown with real melting! Riveting stuff.). Anyway,  while very little happens, Patterson manages to keep the reader guessing and for the most part throws enough twists and turns into the story to keep you reading.

My one criticism is that I found the ending slightly predictable and was not surprised by the character that turns out to be the villain.  Connections between plot points were also overly constructed in certain areas so they would fit together.  It is never explained why the main character suddenly is so interested in solving a twenty year old murder after leaving it behind for so long.  After reconciling these minor problems, it was still a relatively engaging read. I would reccomend the book as an interesting diversion, especially for someone who typically read non fiction like myself, but nothing ground breaking. People familiar with Delaware and OWU will find it entertaining to see the dramatization of the town and the school.