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Community of Readers Reviews: Summer 2007

June 2007 Reviews

1. Book: Death Comes As the End by Agatha Christie
Call Number: PR6005.H66 D45 1984 – 2nd Floor Humanities Library

An informative look into Ancient Egyptian culture and customs. This story illustrates how the characteristics of people in ancient cultures are similar to ours. It provides an insight into the motivation of someone who represses anger until it festers into an urge to kill.

Rating: Highly Recommended
Review submitted by: Isa Lang, Head of Information Services, Law Library

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2. Book: The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
Call Number: PR6063.C326 N6 2002 – 2nd Floor Humanities Library

This book is the first in a series of lovely stories about Botswana and the life of Precious Ramotswe interacting with her family and friends. Today, with so much written of terror, disease and global warming it is refreshing to read a clever book about gentle people. There are several books in the series, and I recommend them all.

Rating: Highly Recommended
Review submitted by: Charlene Baldwin, Dean, Leatherby Libraries

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3. Book: The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico
Call Number: PS3513.A413 S6 1941 – 2nd Floor Humanities Library

It has all the elements of unbearable melodrama: A hunchbacked, claw-handed painter, an awkward young girl, a lost goose, and a war. Fortunately for us, Paul Gallico has combined these elements into a sad and glorious story of love and loss and acceptance.

Rating: Highly Recommended
Review submitted by: Nancy Stenerson Gonzales, Cataloger, Leatherby Libraries

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4. Book: Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer
Call Number: PS3616.A335 D75 2004 – 2nd Floor Humanities Library

This collection of stories is at times gritty, satirical, painful, entertaining, hopeful, and humorous. One memorable and unsettling story in this collection follows a troubled African American female student at Yale. In another story, a teenage girl runs away to track down her mother in the big city, but finds herself amongst prostitutes and a shady character named Dezi. This book is for readers who are not looking for light-hearted fiction.

Rating: Recommended
Review submitted by: Stacy Russo, Instruction Librarian, Leatherby Libraries

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5. Book: Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie
Call Number: PR6005.H66 S48 1986 - 2nd Floor Humanities Library

A charming, old-fashioned country house mystery with a surprisingly modern slant. In this very early story, Agatha Christie explores the world of undercover agents. She portrays them as patriotic people who undertake grave risks (and sometimes lose the gamble) in their careers. You are taken in by their humor and charm; their real pursuits are not exposed until the end.

Rating: Recommended
Review submitted by: Isa Lang, Head of Information Services, Law Library

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6. Book: Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris
Call Number: PS3569.E314 R47 2004 – 2nd Floor Humanities Library

Reading this book will guarantee sudden bursts of laughter! Sedaris, who is a regular contributor to NPR’s This American Life, recalls his childhood, family, relationships, and embarrassing moments in this hilarious yet introspective collection of essays.

Rating: Highly Recommended
Review submitted by: Maria Yanez, Interlibrary Loan Assistant, Leatherby Libraries

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7. Book: Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
Call Number: PS3572.O5 B7 1999 – 2nd Floor Humanities Library

I CANNOT believe this book was written in 1973. Vonnegut's critique on the materialistic, grasping nature of American society and bitterness at a war that could not be won is even more pertinent in 2007. In addition, he is able to drive his point across in an easy-to-read and very funny novel. Read it NOW!

Rating: Highly Recommended
Review submitted by: Heather Stoltzfus, Secretary, Department of Dance

 

8. Book: Ask a Mexican by Gustavo Arellano
Call Number: F1210 .A84 2007 – Alumni Alcove (2nd Floor) and McNaughton Collection (1st Floor)

Arellano's book isn't nearly as funny as I had expected it to be, and wasn't as informative as it could have been. However, there are some flashes of humor and an occasionally interesting observation on the clash of cultures around us. The chapter on music is good.

Rating: Somewhat Recommended
Review submitted by: Nancy Stenerson Gonzales, Cataloger, Leatherby Libraries

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9. Book: To a God Unknown by John Steinbeck
Call Number: PS3537.T3234 T6 1986 - 2nd Floor Humanities Library

One of Steinbeck's early works, this is the powerful and complex story of Joseph Wayne, who homesteaded a farm and ranch in California with his brothers. There, Joseph saw the embodiment of his dead father's spirit in a huge oak tree, performed modest rituals to the tree as the farms thrived, and saw the land suffering from famine and drought after one of his brothers cut down the tree. Looking at pagan and Christian traditions at the same time, this story explores humans' interrelationship with their immediate natural environments, especially as it pertains to the western American experience, and considers a pertinent lesson -- take care of the land and the land will take care of you.

Rating: Recommended
Review submitted by: Andrew Tessandori, Cataloging Assistant, Leatherby Libraries

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10. Book: The Monk Upstairs by Tim Garrington
Call Number: McNaughton Collection (1st Floor)

Rebecca finds out that when you marry an ex-monk, your life will never be quite the same. Tim Farrington spins a delightful tale that reminds us all to stop and smell the roses and not take life, or ourselves, too seriously.

Rating: Recommended
Review submitted by: Cathy Elliott, Law Library

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11. Book: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream by Hunter S. Thompson
Call Number: CT275.T57337 A3 1982 – 2nd Floor Humanities Library

This semi-biographical account of Dr. Thompson and his lawyer in Las Vegas in 1971 focuses on their search for the American Dream during a highly charged time in American history. Each time I read this book I have a better understanding of the message that the Good Doctor was trying to convey to his readers. Keep in mind that the drug use in the story is only secondary to the "mission" being carried out, all in the name of journalism.

Rating: Recommended
Review submitted by: Zach Vickery, Circulation Assistant, Leatherby Libraries

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12. Book: The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie
Call Number: PR6005.H66 P29 1986 – 2nd Floor Humanities Library

Agatha Christie combines her intellectual acrobatics with the spice of the supernatural and a charming romance. In this story she examines the concept of the "death wish": whether a person can die of natural causes merely by a death mindset. However, the "Pale Horse" does not gallop to the tunes of death wishes; stronger spurs are needed.

Rating: Highly Recommended
Review submitted by: Isa Lang, Head of Information Services, Law Library

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13. Book: Coroner by Thomas T. Noguchi
Call Number: RA1025.N63 A33 1983 – 3rd Floor Science & Technology Library

Dr. Noguchi was the Chief Medical Examiner for the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office. He was first employed by the office in 1960 and left in a storm of controversy in the early 1980s. During his tenure he worked on some of the most interesting and mysterious cases, including the deaths of Marilyn Monroe, Robert Kennedy, Natalie Wood, Sharon Tate, Janis Joplin, William Holden, and John Belushi, as well as the fiery demise of several members of the radical SLA group that kidnapped Patty Hearst. This book introduces readers to an extraordinary individual.

Rating: Recommended
Review submitted by: Stacy Russo, Instruction Librarian, Leatherby Libraries

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14. Book: Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith
Call Number: PR6063.C326 M67 2002 – 2nd Floor Humanities Library

This is the third in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series (earlier recommended by Charlene Baldwin). For me, the charm of the series, and of this book specifically, lies not so much in the writing (though it is wonderfully evocative), nor in the characters (though the redoubtable Precious Ramotswe, and the deadpan Mma Makutsi are a dandy detective duo), but in the gentle reminders that respect, responsibility, and kindness are universal virtues.

Rating: Highly Recommended
Review submitted by: Nancy Stenerson Gonzales, Cataloger, Leatherby Libraries

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15. Book: Love @ First Site by Jane Moore
Call Number: McNaughton Collection (1st Floor)

Love @ First Site proved to be quite a surprising read. The book traces Jess Monroe's trials and tribulations of online dating, friendship, and family life. Even though the book is a VERY light read and far from being a "classic," I found myself enjoying every bit of it.

Rating: Somewhat Recommended
Review submitted by: Wendy Yoshioka, Circulation Assistant, Leatherby Libraries

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16. Book: The Mistress’s Daughter: A Memoir by A. M. Homes
Call Number: McNaughton Collection (1st Floor)

I found this book mesmerizing and expertly executed. Author Homes was adopted shortly after her birth. At the age of thirty-one, her biological mother contacted her, causing an avalanche of emotions and psychological turmoil. Homes explains, with brutal honesty, the impact of encounters with her birth mother and father, as well as what becomes her obsession to search for her true identity.

Rating: Highly Recommended
Review submitted by: Stacy Russo, Instruction Librarian, Leatherby Libraries

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17. Book: A Fool and His Money: Life in a Partitioned Town in Fourteenth-Century France by Ann Wroe
Call Number: DC801.R68 W76 1995 – 2nd Floor Humanities Library

Welcome to Rodez, the Minneapolis/St. Paul of medieval Europe. Here you’ll meet people from The City and from The Bourg: people owing allegiance to different masters, being taxed (and taxed again) for different things and at different rates, maintaining a wall between the two parts of the town, but also working on both sides of that wall, marrying each other, conducting business with each other, and just trying to be part of a community. Wroe’s well-researched and entertainingly written book affords a peek into an interesting slice of the 14th century.

Rating: Highly Recommended
Review submitted by: Nancy Stenerson Gonzales, Cataloger, Leatherby Libraries

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18. Book: The Overlook by Michael Connelly
Call Number: McNaughton Collection (1st Floor)

L.A. crime beat journalist turned novelist Michael Connelly returns with another Harry Bosch novel to add to the mix. L.A. homicide detective Bosch is more renegade than by-the-numbers cop when you throw in murder, terrorism, missing nuclear “stuff,” and his ex-lover and FBI agent on the case. Although, you may figure out some of the plot before Harry does, there’s always an entertaining twist or two. L.A. insiders will enjoy the detailed ambiance. This high velocity and fast-moving thriller will take you over the edge…beyond the Overlook!

Rating: Recommended
Review submitted by: Julie Artman, Public Services Librarian, Leatherby Libraries

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19. Book: The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie
Call Number: PR6005.H66 M828 1983 – 2nd Floor Humanities Library

The earlier Agatha Christie books experiment with different detectives. This may be the first one with Miss Jane Marple, the gossipy, sharply observant, but ditsy-appearing country lady as the puzzle-solver. Another memorable character is the vicar, who is a tolerant confidant with very human emotions.

Rating: Highly Recommended
Review submitted by: Isa Lang, Head of Information Services, Law Library

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20. Book: The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie
Call Number: PS3551.L35774 L66 1994 – 2nd Floor Humanities Library

This is a creative, honest, direct, and sometimes ironic collection of short stories that depict contemporary life on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Alexie does a good job of interconnecting the themes and characters throughout the book. The stories are very humorous, dealing with such folks as modern day storytellers and fry bread makers, and also very sad and tragic, often dealing with the alcoholism and poverty that plague life on the rez. They are about relationships, societal distances, and above all hope.

Rating: Recommended
Review submitted by: Andrew Tessandori, Cataloging Assistant, Leatherby Libraries

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21. Book: Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich
Call Number: HD4918 .E375 2002

Journalist Ehrenreich spent several months in 1998-2000 under cover as a member of the working poor, trying to find out if someone fully employed at minimum wage or a little more could meet expenses in the Florida Keys, in Portland, Maine, and in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her research told her that keeping body and soul together on low-wage jobs is nigh on impossible for those workers who do not have more than one job or spouses, parents, or roommates who are reliably employed (and better-paid). Her experiment was perhaps skewed -- she knew she didn't have to stay in any place permanently, and so might not have been as committed as she could have been -- but she gained interesting insights into the world of the truly underpaid.

Rating: Somewhat Recommended
Review submitted by: Nancy Stenerson Gonzales, Cataloger, Leatherby Libraries

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22. Book: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Call Number: PQ8180.17.A73 C513 1970

One Hundred Years of Solitude explores the chronology of the Buendia family and how their lives are interwoven with events that take place in the town they founded, Macondo. Gabriel Garcia Marquez treats magic as commonplace and sometimes the ordinary becomes mystical. I don't recommend this book to someone who wants a passive reading experience. With one hundred years worth of characters, many with the same name, I guarantee you'll make use of the family tree on the inside cover.

Rating: Somewhat Recommended
Reviewer: Jessica Cioffi, Holocaust Education Coordinator

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23. Book: Back on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber
Call Number: McNaughton Collection (1st Floor)

I did not read the book THE SHOP ON BLOSSOM STREET written before this one and this may be the reason that I found this book to be a slow read. The story, which is centered around two shops, the flower shop and the knitting shop on Blossom Street, was a somewhat interesting story of the people (their lives and their challenges) who frequented these shops. There were a few unexpected twists along the story's path which helped to make the story interesting.

Rating: Somewhat Recommended
Reviewer: Marilyn Potts, CUC Administrative Assistant

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24. Book: One Day at Teton Marsh by Sally Carrighar
Call Number: QL215 .C3 1955 - 3rd Floor Science & Technology Library

Originally written in the mid-1940s in narrative form, this book is the story of the animal life that thrives in a beaver pond in Grand Teton National Park. Each chapter describes the ways in which a different animal experiences a single day, the autumnal equinox. The level of detail is impressive, describing the interactions of many different creatures, from the menacing mosquito to the majestic moose. While there is a very small amount of anthropomorphism, Carrighar explains the instincts of the animals, leading the reader to appreciate a sense of place and the intrinsic value of wilderness.

Rating: Somewhat Recommended
Review submitted by: Andrew Tessandori, Cataloging Assistant, Leatherby Libraries

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25. Book: Paula by Isabel Allende
Call Number: PQ8098.1.L54 Z4713 1996 – 2nd Floor Humanities Library

In December 1991, novelist Isabel Allende’s daughter Paula became gravely ill and fell into a coma. While caring for her ill daughter for an extended time, Allende began writing her family’s history. The final product is the memoir Paula, which is a fascinating read against the backdrop of Chile, Venezuela, and California. Although it is a non-fiction work, it reads much like an elaborate novel with political intrigue, romance, despair, tragedy, and personal transformation.

Rating: Recommended
Review submitted by: Stacy Russo, Instruction Librarian, Leatherby Libraries

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26. Book: Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones
Call Number: McNaughton Collection (1st Floor)

Absolutely delightful! A paternity claim involving her recently deceased husband leads Maggie McElroy to China where she discovers her husband's dark past and the lush history of Chinese cuisine.

Rating: Highly Recommended
Review submitted by: Wendy Yoshioka, Circulation Assistant, Leatherby Libraries

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27. Book: Wild Steps of Heaven by Victor Villasenor
Call Number: PS3572.I384 W54 1996 - 2nd Floor Humanities Library

If you are a fan of Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Isabel Allende, you've got to start reading Villasenor. This volume is a magical retelling of his grandfather's life in revolutionary Mexico. The tale contains elements of both action and romance, and gives the reader a colorful glimpse into the history of our continent.

Rating: Highly Recommended
Review submitted by: Heather Stoltzfus, Secretary, Department of Dance

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28. Book: Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant by Daniel Tammet
Call Number: McNaughton Collection (1st Floor)

This is an extraordinary heartfelt journey into the world of Daniel Tammet. Born on a blue day allows you to discover how a boy diagnosed with Asperger syndrome perceives the world around him. Daniel experiences sequences of numbers as beautiful, colorful and calming shapes, which he often uses to help him feel and understand other peoples emotions. Among other aspects covered of people diagnosed with Autism, this book also reminds you that we should embrace and respect their differences.

Rating: Highly Recommended
Reviewer: Claudia Alfaro, UC Quality Control Coordinator

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29. Book: Elephants Can Remember by Agatha Christie
Call Number: PR6005.H66 E29 1984 – 2nd Floor Humanities Library

One of the best--a study in reconstructing a crime from memories (she wrote several of these). What interested me was her examination of the question whether someone with a chronic serious mental illness, with possibly dangerous aspects, can live in a normal setting. I have thought about this question often, since my daughter has paranoid schizophrenia, so it was fascinating for me to see how a sensitive writer like Agatha Christie deals with the issue in this story.

Rating: Highly Recommended
Reviewer: Isa Lang, Head of Information Services, Law Library

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30. Book: Fancies and Goodnights by John Collier
Call Number: PN6014.C59 1951 – 2nd Floor Humanities Library

A collection of short stories; macabre, eerie, and yet humorous, poetical and wistful, all at the same time. "Evening Primrose" and "Thus I Refute Beezley" are probably the two most famous stories. For Collier, the mundane world has, just under its surface, more than most people are ever aware of, or appreciate. His stories deal with the consequences when someone from the ordinary world finds themselves within that numinous realm.

Rating: Recommended
Reviewer: Lorin Geitner, Lawyer/Librarian, Law Library


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