BookClique

Here we will post our musings on a wide variety of titles. You can comment on our posts and find the titles in our catalog.

The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances by Matthew “The Oatmeal” Inman

oatmealIf you want to read a laugh-out-loud book about running, read The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances by Matthew “The Oatmeal” Inman. It was a happy break for me to read this collection of comics that describe the Oatmeal’s running experiences and make fun of a lot of stuff associated with running or keeping fit. The Oatmeal didn’t start running to lose weight, although he did need to lose weight, and he did lose it. He started because he was working 70 hours a week in front of a computer screen and needed to “get that screen out of my face”. He describes his body at the time as having the look of an overweight Tyrannosaurus Rex. Of course at the beginning, it was hard to go very far but he kept plugging away. He says to never listen to yourself because you can come up with thousands of excuses not to be physically active. One of the most common is “I don’t have time,” but as he points out, there are 1,440 minutes in one day and if you work out for 20 minutes, it’s only 1.3% of those minutes! What I love about the Oatmeal is that he’s not what I call a health nut; he even has a tongue-in-cheek cartoon of two characters high fiving each other for having portion control, and that is certainly not the way he is. He describes the way he treats his body and eats as like a “fast moving dumpster.” He says running through forests and cities makes him feel alive, whereas eating salad-type food makes him feel “tired and robotic” — me too! I hate vegetables! He also hates treadmills as do I, although they are handy in bad weather. He thinks the display screen taunts you and makes you constantly check your numbers instead of enjoying your run. I agree and cover mine up with a piece of paper. I think this book is great for even non-runners as he does a wonderful job describing his inner demons and ways to get rid of them. Great short read!

Stacy W.


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A Killing at Cotton Hill by Terry Shames

shamesSamuel Craddock, retired police chief in the town of Jarrett Creek, Texas, gets a late night call from his elderly neighbor, Dora Lee Parjeter. Dora Lee is worried that someone is spying on her, but Dora Lee has a long history of calling Samuel with groundless fears. Yet, the next morning, Dora Lee is found dead, stabbed to death in her own kitchen, and Samuel Craddock is left with a terrible case of guilt. Since the town’s current chief of police is known to be an incompetent drunk, Samuel takes responsibility for investigating Dora Lee’s death. The prime suspect is Dora Lee’s grandson, Greg, and Samuel is pretty sure the kid isn’t guilty. Samuel starts digging into Dora Lee’s affairs and soon finds that she is deep in debt and has a parcel of discontented family members. Soon, Samuel has his hands full with trying to keep Greg out of jail, getting Dora Lee properly buried, and keeping her family matters in some sort of order while trying to find her killer.

A Killing at Cotton Hill is a terrific debut novel for fans of Agatha Christie. It is a gentle mystery, that is, one without graphic violence or situations. Yet, this is not a group of knitting circle ladies solving a mystery. This is a good, solid mystery with a serious, intelligent investigator. Samuel may live in a small town, but he’s capable of solving big crimes. The other people in the town are well-developed, interesting characters. And there are cows! I love cows. I look forward to more Samuel Craddock mysteries. This is book one of what is already a four-book series.

Annette G.


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Apples of Uncommon Character by Rowan Jacobsen

jacobsenYou might think that books about trees and bushes are probably dry and boring. For the most part, that’s true, although they are also very useful when planning what specimens to buy. Every once in a while though, a gem comes along, and Apples of Uncommon Character by Rowan Jacobsen is one of them. Jacobsen has the same writing skills as the masterful horticulturist Michael Dirr  (Dirr’s Manual of Woody Landscape Plants is one of the best books I’ve ever read). Jacobsen gives you all relevant information on the item he is discussing while also using humor and regular language to make it easy for the layperson to read. I have read so many sources on apples and did a lot of research before ordering my apple trees, but this book still told me new things.  Reading about my Fuji tree, I learned that 70% of apples grown in China are Fuji apples, and China grows half of the world’s apples — eight times more than the United States! A neat anecdote regarding my Summer Rambo tree: When David Morrell was writing First Blood (the first book in the Rambo series), his wife came home with some apples from the farmer’s market, and when he tasted one, he thought it was so delicious he asked her what kind it was. She told him Summer Rambo, and he decided to name the main character in his book after it! Beautiful pictures and descriptions abound in Jacobsen’s book!

Stacy W.


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Hansel & Gretel by Neil Gaiman

gaimanI was in TCPL’s youth room searching for a missing Hansel and Gretel book when I came across a newer version: Hansel & Gretel by Neil Gaiman. It looked much darker and scarier than the versions I am used to so I took it home to read. I wish this book had been around back in the days when I served as a children’s librarian at an elementary school. I would have scared the socks off of the older kids with this one, though I would not have read it to the younger ones. Gaiman adapts the Grimm Brothers tale so that it reads easily and does not seem outdated while still keeping true to the original. And the pictures! Gaiman was inspired to write the story when he saw Lorenzo Mattotti’s drawings and collaborated with him to create this dark, haunting book.  Probably not anything you’d want to read to your 4-year-old child, but older kids would enjoy it and maybe even reluctant middle school readers. I am an adult, and I loved it!

Stacy W.


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I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

nelsonJude and Noah are thirteen-year-old twins, and while they have different personalities, they are incredibly close. Jude is feisty and wears too much red lipstick. She is the daredevil of the family and the apple of her daddy’s eye. Noah is artistic, insightful, and his mother’s favorite. Noah sees the truth in everyone’s hearts and puts what he sees into his art. Jude, the talker for both of them, puts Noah’s insights into words and helps the rest of the world understand her complicated brother. Yet, three years later, the twins are barely speaking, and it is Jude who is in art school, not Noah. Jude sees the ghost of her dead grandmother, and Noah has sworn off art all together. What has happened to so radically change their lives and drive the twins apart?

Told in alternating points of view, you get to see the twins at ages thirteen and sixteen, and as the story unfolds, you slowly piece together what has happened. Jandy Nelson gives us two amazing characters in Noah and Jude, and she writes in such a compelling style. I’ll Give You the Sun was a little slow to start, and I felt that perhaps the last half of the book tried to take on the emotional issues of too many characters to be completely satisfying at the end. However, Nelson’s exuberant writing style makes up for those minor faults. She has a unique way of showing us a character’s view of the world. This title is the winner of the 2015 Printz Award.

Annette G.


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Garden & Gun Magazine

gardenandgunOne of my favorite magazines is Garden & Gun, and I am so happy that I can check out copies of it from our magazine area in TCPL! This southern culture magazine is great for those who hunt with bird dogs or like to fly fish, but as neither of these activities are hobbies of mine why would I like it? Well, first there are articles and ads featuring beautiful hunting dogs. For example, the Dec 2014/Jan 2015 issue’s cover is a picture of “Bo,” the winner of the 2014 and 2013 Bird Dog National Championships. He is a very handsome English setter, and what’s unique about him is that pointers are usually the top bird dogs at these contests, not setters. The same article showcases the top field guides in the country (one of the top fly fishing guides is female-yay!). There is also an article in this issue about a back country ranger who has just retired. His ranger duties covered 521,000 acres with more than 800 miles of trails in the Smoky Mountains, and his area of expertise was finding people who were lost. The last person he found before he retired was a little boy who had been lost for three days. Garden & Gun issues are chock full of articles about restaurants, travel, music, art, new products and book reviews. In addition, I really enjoy the regular short pieces written by contributor Roy Blount, Jr. And for some reason, I have always been a sucker for gorgeous ads for expensive products that I would never indulge in, and this magazine definitely has them. Almost makes me want to make a trip to the South!

Stacy W.


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El Deafo by Cece Bell

deafoWhen Cece was four, she became very sick. She had meningitis, which meant her brain was sick, too. Cece got better and was able to go home, but her hearing was affected; Cece had to wear hearing aids in order to hear, and even those did not work well all the time. She really didn’t mind all that much until she went to school. There, the fact that she wore hearing aids made her feel different and alone. Until one day, Cece realizes that her Phonic Ear hearing aid, a large device she wears strapped to her chest while the teacher wears a microphone, allows her to hear conversations and events all around the school. Cece, with her super-hearing, seems to have a superpower, and El Deafo is born.

El Deafo is told in a graphic novel format, and it is based on the life of the author/illustrator, Cece Bell. Ms. Bell illustrates some of the difficulties involved for a hearing-impaired person living in a hearing world, such as Cece can’t lip read her friends at sleepovers with the lights out, she can’t lip read cartoons, and many people, knowing she is hearing impaired, talk to her in over-exaggerated ways, which makes it harder for her to lip read them or hear them at all. However, Cece’s difficulties and her feelings of being different and alone are feelings that every child feels at one time or another. What Cece wants more than anything is to feel that she fits in and to have at least one true friend. By the end of the book, she gains an understanding of her own self-worth, as well as an understanding that others are struggling, too. She even finds her one true friend in Martha, but really, it is clear to the reader that Cece had many friends all along.

This is an excellent book for younger readers. It is a book that not only removes some of the mystery surrounding children with special needs, but also shows how we’re all the same, in spite of our many differences. This is a Newbery Honor book.

Annette G.


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Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher

schumacherI randomly came across Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher while browsing, and it was hilarious! Give it ten pages, and you will be hooked. The entire novel is basically letters of recommendation (LORs) that English Professor Jason Fitger has been asked to write. I never realized how much of a hassle this was for professors because I never really thought of the volume. Between current and former students trying to get awards, grants, jobs, or into grad school and colleagues wanting recommendations for awards or promotions, it seems like a ridiculous portion of the professor’s life is spent writing these LORs. I laughed out loud constantly with this book! I can imagine being in student services and the professor recommending a student for one of my available work study jobs by writing “the student has bona fide thoughts and knows how to apportion them into relatively grammatical sentences.” There is also a lot of “the office from hell” humor here: copy machines that never work right, constant construction on the floor above the English department, Professor Fitger’s office situated right next to the bathrooms with constantly flushing toilets when no one is in there, etc. Personally, one of my favorite letters was to the new head for the English Department advising against revising the department’s constitution. He recalls that the last time the department  worked on it, they argued for weeks about the location of a semicolon, and a couple of faculty members ended up crying. Fast and funny read.

Stacy W.


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Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

fountainI read the perfect novel at the perfect time. After listening to a news segment about the film The Interview and Americans’ feelings about war and terrorism,  I picked up my next book to read: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain. Billy Lynn and his fellow soldiers in the Bravo squad are caught up in a fierce firefight that is caught on film by a news crew. The men fight heroically and without a thought to their own safety. Of course both the U.S. and Army administrations see this as a good public relations situation so they bring the boys home to tour the country and they exploit them mercilessly. These are very young (Billy Lynn is only 19) guys who have been living in hot, filthy conditions, and now that they have some down time, they just want to have fun. Instead they are paraded from function to function, rolled out to meet various important locals and constantly touched, quizzed, asked for autographs, and asked for pictures with the members of the public. They hear certain words so much they just run together: “terroRist”, “nina leven”, “dih-mock-cruh-see”, etc. Everyone has to tell them how proud they are of them; no one can just leave them be. Most of the novel takes place at a Dallas Cowboys football game. Instead of having a good time, they are constantly accosted by fans walking by wanting to meet them and put in their two cents about the war. Then, they are expected to do a military drill on the field during half time while fireworks are going off (how thoughtless!) which totally freaks them out. After the game they are supposed to redeploy to Iraq, which the Army is trying to keep quiet. Billy Lynn dislikes the Army but thinks he would otherwise be stuck in a minimum wage job so he figures he might as well take his chances. Outstanding book, very powerful, and I am going to buy it to add to my collection of books on war.

Stacy W.


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Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

martinRose Howard loves two things: homonyms and her dog, Rain. Homonyms are words that sound alike but are spelled differently. /Rose/ and /rows/ are homonyms, and Rain has two homonyms, /reign/ and /rein/. Rain, a yellow dog with seven white toes, is a gift from Rose’s father, Wesley Howard, who found the dog wandering lost in the rain. Rose and Rain become inseparable, as Rose’s dad is often away at work or down the street at the local bar, and Rose is lonely. Life is good for Rose; she has her homonyms, she has Rain, and she has visits from her favorite uncle, Weldon. Until one day, Hurricane Susan, the storm of the century, arrives, and Rose’s dad let’s Rain outside in the storm without her collar or tags. Rain is lost in the hurricane, and Rose is devastated. Rose devises a plan to find Rain, and when her plan goes into action, she finds that Rain may still belong to someone else who loves her. Rose will have to be especially brave to deal with the situation, and her life may never be the same.

Rain Reign is a story about a girl and a dog. While there are many stories out there about girls and dogs, this one is special because Rose is special. Rose is a high functioning autistic, and she has special challenges in her life. In addition to her unique way of experiencing the world, she also has a difficult home situation with a father who struggles to manage his own life, with little patience left over for Rose. The story, told from Rose’s perspective, shows you her challenges in dealing with life and let’s you see her wonderful, loving complexity. All I can say, without spoiling the story, is that Rose is possibly the bravest, most caring person I know (real or imagined). I can’t recommend this book highly enough. If you’re looking for a similar books aimed at adults, try The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. This one also features an autistic protagonist. In this case, he solves a troubling mystery and at the same time, he learns more about his connection to his family and to the rest of the world.

Annette G.


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