Teresa Budasi: October 2007 Archives

Happy Halloween

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What better subject to tackle on Halloween than ghosts? And who better to tell us about them than the real life Ghost Whisperer. No, I'm not talking about Jennifer Love Hewitt, who plays a version of her on TV; I'm talking about Mary Ann Winkowski, whose new book, When Ghosts Speak: Understanding the World of Earthbound Spirits (Grand Central Publishing, 238 pages, $24.99), gives us her version of her "gift," in three parts.

When Ghosts Speak

In Part I: Listening to Spirits, Winkowski tells the story of how her maternal grandmother discovered that her young granddaughter shared her gift of communicating with spirits. Apparently it's passed down through generations but somehow skipped Winkowski's mother...

The Devil made him do it

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Clive Barker returns to adult fiction for the first time in years with Mister B. Gone (HarperCollins, 248 pages, $24.95), a devil of a tale that throws out a warning to the reader right at the start...

Mr. B. Gone


The dead and the restless

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The cover of The Restless Dead: Ten Original Stories of the Supernatural (Candlewick, 253 pages, $16.99) features two hands clawing through dirt, as if trying to get away from something or get out of something... a grave, perhaps?

The Restless Dead

The image lets us know what we're in for if we open the pages of this little horror anthology, edited by Deborah Noyes. Noyes also edited the award-winning young adult anthology, Gothic! Ten Original Dark Tales...

A dark and stormy night...

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It's Halloween week here in The Book Room, and first up we have What the Dickens: The Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy (Candlewick, 295 pages, $15.99) by Gregory Maguire — the man who brought Wicked into the world.

What the Dickens

This story within a story begins as a storm is brewing around the canyon where the Ormsby family lives. Siblings Zeke, Dinah and Rebecca Ruth are left in the care of a cousin, Gage, when their parents take off to get some needed supplies...

The nose knows

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Right from the get-go, author Rachel Herz takes a pop culture approach to her subject: the sense of smell.

In The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell (William Morrow, 241, $24.95), Herz tells the story of how musician Michael Hutchence, lead singer of the Australian rock band INXS, likely would not have committed suicide in 1997 if he hadn't suffered a fractured skull in a freak cycling accident five years earlier...

The Scent of Desire

The art of doughnut bouncing

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How to describe The Encyclopedia of Immaturity (Klutz Press, 410 pages, $19.95). First of all, the title, the heft and the cover photo of the "Mona Lisa" with a Sharpie-drawn mustache and glasses, and an arrow through her head, drew me to it...

Encyclopedia of Immaturity

'Fair is foul, and foul is fair'

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Anyone who's ever dreamed of growing up in a castle will be happy to learn that it's all it's cracked up to be, and more. (The "more" would be the not-so-pleasant parts.)

Author Liza Campbell grew up in Scotland, more specifically, in Cawdor Castle. She is the second of five children born to the 25th Thane of Cawdor and the last child to actually be born in the famed castle.

Campbell's beautifully written memoir, A Charmed Life: Growing Up in Macbeth's Castle (St. Martin's, 323 pages, $24.95), details the ups and downs of such a legacy...

A Charmed Life

On becoming crafty

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If I were inclined to make a pie, it would probably not be a rhubarb pie. And if I were inclined to sew a quilt ... actually I pretty much know that I shall never be inclined to sew a quilt. This doesn't mean, however, that I am ill-equipped to become a Prairie Girl.

In the introduction to The Prairie Girl's Guide to Life: How To Sew a Sampler Quilt & 49 Other Pioneer Projects For the Modern Girl (Taunton, 196 pages, $14.95), author Jennifer Worick makes mention of making a rhubarb pie about three times. And she reassures us by addressing the reader (you, me): "You are a prairie gal."

Prairie Girl's Guide to Life

Senior moments

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Jim Lehrer of PBS's "The News Hour With Jim Lehrer" has written his 17th novel, none of which have been read by me. The latest, Eureka (Random House, 240 pages, $24.95), has been sitting on my desk for a couple months — a couple of months where I've looked at it every other day, thought about reading it and put it off.

I'm two and a half chapters in and — what do you know — I like it...


Grisham's latest

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We finally get to a best-seller on the blog. John Grisham, known the world over for his courtroom thrillers, takes a U-turn of sorts this time around and writes about football and Italy. I have not read the book but I recently gave a copy — a birthday gift — to my father, a longtime Grisham fan and even longer football fan and, of course, he's been Italian all his life. Here's a review from the Associated Press:


John Grisham’s newest novel, Playing for Pizza, (Doubleday, 258 pages, $21.95) is definitely not what you would expect from the master of courtroom suspense. Grisham leaves the lawyers and intrigue behind and instead focuses on football. American football. In Italy...

Playing for Pizza

To be or not to be vulgar

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I had a Shakespeare professor in college who loved to point out what he referred to as the bawdy parts of whatever play we were studying at the time. Entire class periods were sometimes devoted to these discussions, as you can imagine young English majors whose high-school exposure to the Bard hardly, if ever, "went there," as it were.

Dr. Ferguson would have loved — and probably could have co-written — Filthy Shakespeare: Shakespeare's Most Outrageous Sexual Puns (Penguin, 304 pages, $19.99) by Shakespeare scholar Pauline Kiernan...

Filthy Shakespeare

2007 Man Booker Prize Awarded

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Despite British bookmakers making the race between Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach and Lloyd Jones' Miister Pip, Anne Enright has emerged victorious — unanimously — to win the 2007 Man Booker Prize for her fourth novel, The Gathering (272 pages, $14), published in the United States in September by Black Cat, a paperback original imprint of Grove Press...

The Gathering

What's in a name?

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Many a colorful character passed through the motel my grandparents ran when I was a kid, but none more colorful than Terry Twaddle and Cotton Beanfang. I never met these gentleman but I knew their names. I remember the adults in my family being quite amused by the unusual monikers, even going so far as to make up a song about the two "lonely rovers."

Retired editor Larry Ashmead, who spent his career in book publishing, loves funny names, too, and he's been "collecting" them for most of his life. So, you could say his life's work now lies between the pages of Bertha Venation: And Hundreds of Other Funny Names of Real People (Harper, 152 pages, $14.95)...

Bertha Venation

Spaced Out

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No less than three books have come out within the last month or so about the "space race" between the United States and the Soviet Union — a race that began 50 years ago. Unless you're a reader who's a space nut or who has a lot of time on your hands, I'm thinking you won't want to read all three, so here's a little synopsis of each to help you choose.

A Ball, A Dog, And a Monkey

In A Ball, A Dog, and a Monkey: 1957 — The Space Race Begins (Simon & Schuster, 260 pages, $26)...

Cheering up

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In today's paper I review Rosie O'Donnell's new book, Celebrity Detox, in which she details the pitfalls of fame, among other things. Perhaps Rosie could benefit from reading her former colleague Joy Behar's new book, When You Need a Lift: But Don't Want to Eat Chocolate, Pay a Shrink, or Drink a Bottle of Gin (Crown, 232 pages, $19.95).

When You Need A Lift

Behar really hasn't written a book at all. She writes a two-page introduction and a half-page of acknowledgments at the end. In between are testimonies written by various celebrities and other folks of note, letting us in on what they do when they're down in the dumps...

Check, please!

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Anyone who's ever waited tables will love Phoebe Damrosch's memoir, Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Watier (William Morrow, 228 pages, $22.95). Anyone who dines out a lot will love it, too.

Service Included

Damrosch set out to be a writer, but like a lot of struggling artists found herself working at a restaurant to pay the bills. Having never done any restaurant work before, she started as a busboy in a little place in Brooklyn that ran on a shoestring.

"I was the only busboy not named Mohammed," she writes. "Here, as in many restaurants around the city, any deviation from the distinct class/race hierarchy makes everyone uneasy. In most New York restaurants, the chef is Caucasian, the waiters are starving artists, the busboys are from Bangladesh, and the kitchen workers and dishwashers are from Latin America...

What's a Jimplecute?

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Seeing as I work at a newspaper, Porcupine, Picayune & Post: How Newspapers Get Their Names (University of Missouri Press, 181 pages, $34.95) seemed like a no-brainer when I pulled it off the shelf. I thought it would be filled with interesting, fun, entertaining stories ...

Porcupine, Picayune & Post

Sibling revelry

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Dysfunctional families always make for a good story. In Eliot Schrefer's follow-up to his 2006 debut, Glamorous Disasters, the author mines similar themes having to do with the upper and lower classes.

In The New Kid (Simon & Schuster, 288 pages, $25), Humphrey and Gretchen are half-siblings who share the same mother...

The New Kid

Scary schmary

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It's October and Halloween candy has been in the stores for several weeks now, so I suppose it's not too early to start talking about scary stories.

Author David Lubar offers up a third volume in his "Warped and Creepy Tales" series. Amazon.com lists The Curse of the Campfire Weenies: And Other Warped and Creepy Tales as appropriate for children age 9-12, but I'd go a little younger than that, especially if you have a first- or second-grader at an advanced reading level...

The Curse of the Campfire Weenies

Grandma goes to war

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Just as the news of U.S. military personnel mistreating Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib filtered into the United States, Lt. Col. Deanna Germain, a 53-year-old grandmother and Army reservist from Minnesota, was sent to the prison when her yearlong tour of duty was extended.

Germain details her experience at Abu Ghraib, as well as her tour in Kuwait just prior, in Reaching Past the Wire: A Nurse at Abu Ghraib (Borealis Books, 211 pages, $24.95), written with Connie Lounsbury. It was the idea of a grandmother going to war that drew me to the book...

Reaching Past the Wire


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I like to think of myself as someone with a good degree of common sense, which is why I took today's book off the shelf: The 10 Commandments of Common Sense: Wisdom From the Scriptures For People of All Beliefs by Hal Urban (Fireside, 259 pages, $22)...

The 10 Commandments of Common Sense

Paging though history

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Years ago, when my somewhat newlywed sister and brother-in-law were looking to buy their first house, they agreed to purchase a house with all of its contents. Turns out, the elderly woman who had lived there recently died and her son decided to unload everything in one fell-swoop. It was a treasure trove of furniture, kitchenware, jewelry and all manner of odds & ends.

While helping my sister clean out and sort through what we came to affectionately refer to as Dead Woman's House, we came upon a manuscript, way up in a closet. Both of us felt like we'd hit the jackpot. Was it a novel? A diary? What secrets could we find out about Dead Woman? Our minds wandered, and we both came to our senses and decided the right thing to do would be to return the manuscript to the son.

I was reminded of Dead Woman's Manuscript while reading through Regina's Closet: Finding My Grandmother's Secret Journal by Diana M. Raab (Beaufort Books, 166 pages, $23)...

Regina's Closet

School Daze

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Ever wonder what a teacher does during summer break? I once saw a teacher from my high school delivering mail and wondered if he'd been fired. It didn't occur to me that because perhaps teachers were underpaid, they had to supplement their income during the summer instead of hanging out at the beach like we did.

The "crazy summer jobs" bullet point on the press release that came with Tales From the Teachers' Lounge (Delacorte, 307 pages, $25) by Robert Wilder is what made me pick up this book, which, frankly, I'm not sure what to make of...

Tales From the Teachers' Lounge

Sedaris 101

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You gotta love a book that includes a blurb by Paul Reubens (that's Pee Wee Herman to all you "Playhouse" fans): "If I were to read a book on David Sedaris it might be this one."

I couldn't have said it better myself. Sedaris (University of Minnesota Press, 249 pages, $17.95) by Kevin Kopelson is a curious little reader. Kopelson, a professor of English at the University of Iowa, turns his subject — David Sedaris, essayist, satirist, NPR contributor, best-selling author — inside out...


Life after death

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A businessman, a personal shopper, a grandmother, a gay interior designer and a widowed candy store owner meet in purgatory ...

Sounds like the start of a joke, doesn't it?

It's actually the start of an intriguing little novel, I Never Saw Paris (Carroll & Graf, 196 pages, $23) by Harry I. Freund...

I Never Saw Paris: A Novel of the Afterlife

The doctor is in

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Do you love medical shows? Personally I've been hooked on "CSI" reruns for a couple of months. The procedurals can get a little boring, however, without the mix of human interaction and emotional attachments to keep us coming back. Thankfully, shows like "Grey's Anatomy" and "ER" fill that bill and more, as the human element is always front and center.

Much the same could be said for Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures (Weinstein Books, 352 pages, $23.95) by first-time author Vincent Lam, who mined his own experiences as a doctor to write these heartfelt, interweaving stories...

Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures