Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Matt recommends "The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century"

The task of writing a history of the twentieth century's classical music that can be read and enjoyed by a popular audience is an ambitious one. Lucky for classical music fans that Alex Ross, The New Yorker's music critic, took it upon himself to try. The result is a rewarding and absorbing look back on a century that produced, variously, some of the most complex, baffling, exciting, avant garde, disturbing, beautiful, maddening, and sublime music the world ever heard. It's not just the story of the music, though -- it's the story of the fascinating lives and personalities of the people who created it, of world events that worked to re-shape artistic thought, of legendary performances that resulted in near-riots, and of artistic disagreements that took on (what now seem like) absurdly epic proportions. It's the story, too, of a century ravaged by war on a previously unimaginable scale, and of how composers, caught in the thick of it, responded with new musical vocabularies to articulate the horrors they (and the rest of the world) experienced. For the relatively limited subject it addresses, the book goes in as many different and surprising directions as the twentieth century itself. If I have one complaint, it's that, ideally, The Rest is Noise should have been released with a companion set of CDs, because on almost every page, there's mention of a composition that is begging to be heard. What we get instead, though, is Ross's superb writing; he has the rare gift of writing well about music, so that you can --almost-- hear each work he describes. For adult readers, and available in print and audiobook formats.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Lisa recommends "The Talented Clementine"

Move over Junie B., here's Clementine! Clementine's third grade class is putting on a talent show, but she doesn't have a talent that can be performed on stage. Follow her as she tries to find one, from gluing bottle caps on the bottom of her shoes to tap dance to doing an Elvis comedy routine for her little brother. This is a great beginning chapter book for new readers.

Recommended for grades 2-4, plus family reading times.

Lisa recommends "The True Meaning of Smekday"

When Tip Tucci is assigned a five page essay on The True Meaning of Smekday, where should she start? Should she begin with when the Boov kidnapped her mom on Christmas Eve, which is now Smekday? How about when the Boov declared Earth a colony and relocated all Americans to Arizona. Or maybe when she meets a renegade Boov mechanic named J. Lo who changes her normal car into a floating hovercar named Slucious? Tip and J. Lo travel cross-country in Slucious to reunite Tip with her mom in time to save the planet from yet another alien invasion. Coming from a non-science fiction fan, this is a great read that readers will not want to put down.

Recommended for grades 5+

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Kara recommends "The One Where the Kid Nearly Jumps to His Death and Lands in California"

I really enjoyed the sarcastic attitude of the main character in this coming-of-age book. Fifteen year-old Alastair, who is also known as Stump, is sent to California to spend the summer with his estranged father and step-mother. He has an adventurous summer and I found myself laughing at many of his antics. This was a great read.

Kara recommends "General Winston's Daughter"

I really liked that this young adult book. It has many facets to it, such as adventure, suspense, romance, science fiction/fantasy.

Kara recommends "The Secret History of the Pink Carnation"

This adult book details the lives and adventures of English spies during the reign of Napoleon in France. The book also dabbles in the lives of present day relatives of the spies and a woman who is conducting research on the Pink Carnation. This book has an abundance of romance and adventure, which is continued in 3 sequels.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Erica recommends "The Blade Itself"

Marcus Sakey has written a street-smart, striking debut novel. Danny Carter is a former criminal, who fled a crime scene when a robbery went horribly awry. His partner, Evan, took the fall and never squealed on Danny. Seven years have passed since then - Danny has a legitimate job, a serious girlfriend, and a squeaky-clean life. Evan has just been released from prison, and is convinced Danny owes him. He wants Danny in on one last job - a complicated kidnapping of Danny's boss's son, and he won't take no for an answer. As Evan becomes more violent, Danny becomes desperate for a way out. The struggles in this book of life, friendship, and forgiveness play out in a fast-paced plot on the streets of Chicago. Recommended for adults.