Heavenly Houdini

Houdini fans will delight in the rush of biographies about the fascinating daredevil/ghost chaser/magician. My personal favorite is Escape!: the story of the Great Houdini by Fleischman,Sid, award winning author, who was enchanted with magic as a child and became a friend of Houdini’s widow. She gave him the never before seen photos for this book. Other new biographies of the infamous magician are Houdini: world's greatest mystery man and escape king by Kathleen Krull and Harry Houdini: a magical life by Elizabeth MacLeod

“I am not so bad a person once you get to know me . . .”

Iggy gets kicked out of high school and there’s no one at home for him to tell. His mother has been gone for days, his father is stoned on the couch and the phone’s been disconnected, so even his social worker can’t get through.

Walking away from his public housing, Iggy sets out to make something of his life. Not an easy task when he has no skills and his only friend is mixed up with the dealer who got his mom hooked.

Iggy’s got problems galore, but Iggy also has the kind of wisdom that lets him see what no one else can. Try Saint Iggy.

Great stuff I have been reading...

I read a lot of great graphic novels and manga this past year and some of the titles that really left lasting impressions on me include: Abandon the Old in Tokyo by Yoshihrio Tatsumi, the seminal gekiga style mangaka. The manga series One Piece by Eiichiro Oda - wacked out and super fun pirate tales jammed with memorable characters, places and stories. Another is Ellen Forney's I Love Led Zeppelin - yet another wild ride celebrating alternative lifestyles and musings on memories. Rounding out the list are Alison Bechdel's Fun Home: a family Tragicomic - yes, it's as good as they say it is! Be sure to check out her Dykes to Watch Out For collections too...

”It’s easy to become anything you wish…”

“…so long as you’re willing to forfeit your soul.”

Gene Luen Yang’s graphic novel, American Born Chinese, follows three separate stories: the Monkey King who wants to be seen as a god; Jin Yang, the only Chinese-American attending a predominantly white suburban school; and Danny, a white adolescent trying to maintain a social standing while being visited yearly by his boorish Chinese cousin, Chin-Kee. Yang skillfully weaves the three stories into one (with the help of an Herbalist’s wife and Transformers) while exploring self-image, acceptance, and pride.
Yang’s humor and simplified drawing style highlight his talent for storytelling. It’s no wonder this book was a 2006 finalist for the National Book Award in the category of Young People’s Literature—a first for a graphic novel.

Time's 2006 Book of the Year

This year, a comic book holds the number one place on Time Magazine’s 10 Best Books of the year—Alison Bechdel’s memoir in comics form, Fun Home.
Bechdel beautifully tells the story of her life, and her father’s life. After her father’s death (believed to be suicide), Bechdel retraces her formative years by contemplating the similarities and distance between two people living in the same house.

A memoir on the love of art

Patricia Hampl, author of A Romantic Education has written a new memoir, Blue Arabesque: A Search for the Sublime. The book starts with a trip to the Art Institute of Chicago where she encounters a painting by Matisse titled "Woman Before an Aquarium." The painting sets off a series of meditations on the act of introspection and its effect on art. In the process, Hampl discusses the artists Delacroix and Ingres and the journals of Katherine Mansfield. She also describes the career of Jerome Hill, a documentary filmaker from her hometown of St. Paul. A starred review in Booklist states, "Hampl does with words what Matisse does with line and color, that is, reaches to the essence of perception, 'not simply what was seen, but how seeing was experienced.'"

Jumping the Scratch

Jamie’s always heard that bad things come in threes. So after his cat, Mister, dies, his father leaves, and his aunt Sapphy has an accident that causes her memory to develop a skip, Jamie hopes his life will go back to being as normal. But unfortunately there’s one more bad thing in store for Jamie-something he’d give anything to forget.

Jamie tries to find the trigger that will help Sapphy’s memory jump the scratch, like the needle on her favorite Sinatra record, but it’s Aunt Sapphy who, along with a curious girl named Audrey, helps Jamie unravel the mysteries of memory and jump the scratch in his own life. [from the bookjacket]

Read Jumping the Scratch or listen to it on CD

He Was 'A Ford, Not a Lincoln'

"I told you I was a Ford, not a Lincoln. Tonight I say I am still a Ford, but I am not a Model T." Pres. Gerald Ford, August 12, 1974

Those humble words were spoken by President Gerald Ford days after President Nixon resigned and Ford assumed the presidency. President Ford passed away this week, but his important role in history will be long remembered.

If you'd like to read more about Jerry Ford (who was also a Wolverine football player), you might consider these books:

The Presidency of Gerald R. Ford by John Robert Greene;

A Ford, Not a Lincoln by Richard Reeves;

Time and Chance: Gerald Ford's Appointment with History by James Cannon.

And, if you're interested in Betty Ford- including her courageous struggle with drug addiction- take a look at Betty: A Glad Awakening by Betty Ford with Chris Chase, or First Lady's Lady by Sheila Rabb Weidenfeld.

Also, check out First Mothers: The Women Who Shaped the Presidents by Bonnie Angelo, for a really fascinating account of Ford's mother and childhood.

Starting a home-based business?

If you're thinking about starting a home-based business, you might wish to sign up for the 'Starting Your Home-Based Business: What You Need to Know' workshop being offered by the Washtenaw County office of the Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center. The workshop will provide a step-by-step approach to planning, opening and growing a new home-based business. Call the MI-SBTDC office at (734)547-9170 to preregister [there is a small registration fee]. The program will be held at the MI-SBTDC office at 301 W. Michigan Avenue, Suite 101, Ypsilanti, on January 31, 2007 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. In the meantime you can also prepare using some of the library's home-based business books.

How are you celebrating?

Whether in Times Square watching the ball drop, or at Sydney's famouus harbor where over 80,000 fireworks will be set off, New Year's Eve is a time to look back and forward.

If you're throwing a party, check out some great hors d'oevres cookbooks: Mastering Hors d'Oeuvres by Jan Weimer or Martha Stewart's Hors d'Oeuvres Handbook by guess who?

If you're a nostalgia buff, you can watch the Jack Benny Holiday Hour, especially the episode where he turns down a party invitation for a date that never happens. Or for "Friends" aficianados, check out the episode in Season I, disc 2, in which Ross arrives at a new Years Eve party with a monkey.

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