February 20th, 2011


Puzzle books and (non-puzzle) Library Thing Early Reviewers

While I'm mostly preoccupied with other things, I managed to whip through 2 more Simon & Schuster crossword collections - #253 and #254. I have another S&S going, but it's larger and will take more time. These are recent (2006 and 2007) and fine, with an occasional glitch - but generally satisfying.

I have 2 copies of Patrick Berry's "Puzzle Masterpieces: Elegant Challenges for Crossword Lovers" - one to write in and one to admire. Now that Patrick's newest book "Adventures in Puzzling" is out (haven't ordered yet), I figured I could break open the masterpieces. These are not crosswords but ingenious word interlockings in various shapes. I was solving in pen, so occasionally had to peek at the answers to, uh, make sure I was on the right track. I don't know how Patrick does it. Masterpieces is the correct word.

I have a lot of book reviews to get out of the way. Since I'm obligated (or at least strongly urged) to review books received through Library Thing's Early Reviewers program, I'll do those:

"Helen of Pasadena" by Lian Dolan - I'm unfamiliar with the Satellite Sisters (Dolan's talk show, blog and web site with her real sisters), and with Pasadena's social gentry, but that did not stop me from loving this book. After Helen's philandering husband Merritt is killed in a freak Rose Parade float accident (not a spoiler - it happens on the first page), she must cope with stuffy in-laws, snooty schools, snobby neighbors, and a sudden drop in income. Dusting off her classics degree to work at the Huntington Library, she delves into ancient mysteries of Troy while working for an attractive visiting scholar who wears nubby sweaters. I'm not sure what nubby sweaters are, but this fictional guy swept ME off my feet.

"The Three Kings: A Christmas Dating Story" by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez - I wasn't crazy about the author's "Dirty Girls on Top" so probably should not have requested this. Interior designer Christy de la Cruz seemed to have it all, until her husband left her for another man. Her feisty cousin Maggie introduced her to handsome cousins Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar. There may have been more parallels with the Christmas tale that went by me. These characters weren't particularly likable, and I never felt at home in the Santa Fe setting.

"Play Their Hearts Out: A Coach, His Star Recruit, and the Youth Basketball Machine" by George Dohrmann - I'm not a basketball fan but loved the documentary "Hoop Dreams" and the nonfiction book "The Last Shot" about inner city kids hoping to escape their circumstances through basketball. This book mostly covers younger boys at the grass-roots level in Southern California, but the 424 pages were a slog for me. Maybe a bigger fan will better appreciate the 8 years of reporting that went into this book.

"It's Not Him, It's You!: How to Take Charge of Your Life and Create the Love and Intimacy You Deserve" by Laura Berman - The title of this book sounds like Deb Amlen's "It's Not PMS, It's You!" (which I own but have not yet read), but Berman's book is straightforward self-help, not humor. The book is beautifully illustrated and formatted with easy-to-read bullet points. I realized right away, though, that I'm not interested in the subject matter (relationships? Eh) so it's another book I shouldn't have requested.