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Straight Man

If you're looking for an intelligent yet funny book, this is it!  Russo who also wrote Nobody's Fool (which was made into a movie starring Paul Newman, Bruce Willis, and Melanie Griffith), has outdone himself in terms of comedy.  After I read this story, I kept looking for something as funny and entertaining as it was, and thus far, I have not found it.  Our protagonist, a professor in a small Pennsylvania town, grapples with all kinds of problems, ranging from the bureaucratic to a midlife crisis.  How he deals with his friends, his wife, his colleagues

The Accidental Tourist

Anne Tyler has been one of my favorite writers for a long time.  After reading one of her early novels, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, I became a true fan!  This story is by far one of her best.  You may even have seen the movie by the same name in which William Hurt and Geena Davis starred.  Though the movie was excellent and captured the essence of the story, there are still gems to discover by reading the novel.  A couple have lost their young son because of a random shooting.  Neither of them are coping with their grief very well, and communica

Holes

This is a great story!  Actually it's two stories--these wonderful tales run parallel, and the author does a fantastic job of interweaving them so that you want to keep reading to find out just how they both turn out.  By the time you've reached the end of them, you'll be amazed at the author's ability to bring them to such an exciting conclusion.  As unusual a tale as you will ever read, Holes is about a young boy whose luck seems to be always bad.  First he's framed for a misdemeanor that he isn't guilty of, and second, he believes his

Animal Dreams

Most people know about Barbara Kingsolver's The Bean Trees and its sequel Pigs in Heaven.  However, in this novel her style is more complex and the emotions more intense.  Although some comic incidents occur, not nearly as many appear in this novel as in those two.  Despite the fact that the story of a young woman trying to find herself by going back to her roots is familiar, how she finally reconciles herself to her past is not.  Despite her ambivalence, she journeys home and forces herself to find answers to the questions that seem to be controlli

Wild Magic

If you like animals, fantasy and nature, you'll love this series.  Wild Magic is the first book of four in a series called The Immortals (#2 is Wolf Speaker, #3 is Emperor Mage, and #4 is The Realms of the Gods).  Daine, a young girl who has recently lost her family must learn to survive on her own.  Because of her special affinity with horses (she can calm the wildest of them), she is chosen by the Queen's master of horses, Onua, to travel through dangerous lands bringing a herd of horses with them.  Hazards and troub

Olive's Ocean

Although this story is about a young girl whose life is cut short by a bicycle accident, her spirit lives on through another girl, a classmate of hers, who might have been her friend, but was not.  Despite their having been in the same class at school, they never became more than acquaintances, but they shared the same secret.  What this secret is and why it haunts Martha is part of the mystery of the story.  This mystery will keep you wondering about the shortness of life and how much can change in just minutes.  Henkes writes with rare insight and thoughtfulness. 

Prodigal Summer

I have always loved Barbara Kingsolver's books, but this title is my all time favorite!  Some will say this is a woman's book, but I disagree.  In this winsome, beautifully rendered story, Kingsolver tells us about three strong, sensitive and caring women who believe that they can help improve our environment and counteract some of the damage that human beings have perpetrated on this earth in the name of progress and greed.  Uniquely, the author introduces each chapter with the words that echo that particular woman's focus.  She evokes their yearnings and sh

The Ear, the Eye and the Arm

Here is a story about Africa where the author highlights much of African mythology and at the same time tells a great story.  It takes place in the future, and the author introduces three young men who have special gifts.  Exposed to nuclear waste at a very early age, the Ear, the Eye and the Arm seek to help a powerful army general find his three kidnapped children.  The story is fast paced, funny and full of exciting happenings.  You'll enjoy reading a novel about Africa, a country of mystery and intrigue.  Go ahead!  Read it!  You'll be glad you

The Road

Although this book is a bleak depiction of what might happen in the future if the people of our world continue to behave so irresponsibly, it is also a story about a father and a son who travel the devasting terrain of a world gone mad.  Together the two of them try to find shelter and food, traveling great distances while avoiding the marauding groups of scavengers who might do them harm.  A departure for McCarthy who usually writes about the mythic West, The Road tells about the bleakness and despair resulting from environmental degradation and the spiritual wasteland t

The Hours

Michael Cunnigham took an incredible risk when he wrote this book.  As a variation on the themes of Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, this story will intrigue you while providing enormous satisfaction.  You will find that this story will also make you want to read Woolf's Mrs.

The god of small things

How can one describe the pain of being born to a class that is reviled by everyone?  Paravans or untouchables as they are known in the west were expected to crawl backwards with a broom, sweeping away their footprints so that Brahmins and Syrian Christians would not defile themselves by accidently stepping into a Paravan's footprint.  However, because of his innate skill, Velutha is allowed to train to be a carpenter.  But his father (who obeys all the racist laws made to keep Paravans forever at the bottom of the social scale in India) worries about his

The Anansi Boys

Neil Gaiman writes a range of fiction, mostly fantasy, but always appealing.  He recently won the Newbery Medal for his amazing children's title, The Graveyard Book.  If you've seen the movie Stardust, based on the novel of the same name, then you already know that his books are full of quirky characters that will make you laugh or stun you into silence, depending on your state of mind.  What better way to enjoy a Neil Gaiman book than by listening to it told to you by a narrator who understands Gaiman's unique talent.  Two brothers appear i

The annotated Phantom Tollbooth

What a classic this has been!  Now not only can you read the story, but you can find out just how this classic came into being.  It's a very interesting tale; one you'll be glad you learned about.  I first read it when I was in my twenties, and I immediately fell in love.  This story will tickle and delight you.  You'll meet Milo, our hero, who one day discovers a mysterious tollbooth and magic car in the middle of his living room just after he has complained about being bored.  Jumping in and taking off, Milo is about to have the adventure

Small Wonder

Barbara Kingsolver is an author I love.  After reading all of her fictional works, I began to read her nonfiction.  These essays are wonderfully entertaining.  Although she always has much to say in her novels, hearing her clear, direct voice in these short essays about anything from a lost child in Iran to nature's cycles and human kind's hubris, I fell in love with her writing all over again.  Some people don't want to hear about ways to change the world--others like me, look for directions that will lead us away from the wrongs we are doing to the earth.&n

Woman: an Intimate Geography

I really loved this book.  It was funny, witty and informative.  This writer brought up ideas I had never thought of before concerning my body (or any woman's body for that matter).  You will laugh at her metaphors and informal discourses and smile at how true her perceptions are.  Occasionally I love reading nonfiction instead of fiction; this book is as fast-paced as any novel I've encountered.  It's not like any other book I've read on the subject, but being a woman isn't like being anything else, especially in this culture.  Amaze yourse