guest post by Sarah

Re-released books can be tricky – it’s easy to mistake them for new novels from your favorite author. But when that author’s earliest books were published in another country, re-releases are a great way to catch the origins for your favorite characters.

One such author is Zoe Sharp, whose first three titles in her popular series about Charolotte “Charlie” Fox – no-nonsense, motorcycle-riding, close-protection specialist – were only released in the UK. One could enjoy Charlie’s missions and personal trials without reading the books before First Drop – which is actually the fourth book in the series – hit the United States in 2004, but fans wanted more.

Killer Instinct introduces Charlie shortly after the British army threw her out for reasons that have estranged her from her family. She’s making something of a living teaching self-defense to women, but one of her classes has to move out of its meeting space when the new owner of the building refurbishes it as a nightclub. Charlie reluctantly agrees to visit the club for a karaoke contest and is forced to use her skills to defend her friend against the jealous reigning champion.

This nets her a new job with the nightclub’s testosterone-heavy, borderline hostile security team – and a bigger problem when the woman she fought is murdered. Charlie figures she’ll be the number one suspect, until it becomes clear that a homicidal serial rapist is stalking are women. And that the killer is somehow connected to the strange goings-on at the club…

Charlie is a terrific protagonist and Ms Sharp is a talented author. Between the two of them they make Killer Instinct a must-read – or even a re-read – for those who enjoy mysteries with strong women, elusive bad guys and just a touch of emotional angst.

Being a pretty big fan of anything sci-fi or fantasy, I can’t believe it has taken me this long to watch the long-running BBC series Doctor Who.  Now that I have, I can’t stop watching!  The main character of the show is simply called The Doctor.  He’s an alien (though he looks human), and he is the last of the species called the Time Lords.  Along with various companions, The Doctor travels through time and space in a contraption called the TARDIS (which is disguised as an old-fashioned blue Police Call Box) looking for trouble and solving a myriad of intergalactical crises.  The show has been on since the 1960s and to date there have been 11 different actors who have portrayed The Doctor, whose new look is explained by The Doctor’s ability regenerate if he is near death.

One of my favorite things about this series is the humor.  I especially enjoy the fact that The Doctor is always so chipper when presented with a new challenge or catastrophe.  He and his companions are constantly encountering crazy-looking aliens and monsters and fighting them off using wisdom and wit.  One of my favorite episodes so far had The Doctor and his companion Rose traveling back to 1879 and encountering Queen Victoria, who was being hunted by a werewolf.  It’s honestly just a really fun series to watch.

I know what you’re thinking.  “But hey, this show has been on since the 1960s!  Where am I supposed to start?!”  That’s the beauty of Doctor Who, you can really pick it up anywhere and still enjoy it.  I chose to start with the 2005 relaunch of the series, The Complete First Series, starring Christopher Eccleston as The 9th Doctor.  But one could also argue that the best place to start is The Complete Second Series, which stars David Tennant as the 10th Doctor, because Tennant completely encompasses the fun spirit of the series.  He is so fun to watch thanks to his acting talent and his always expressive face, and I’d say he is easily my favorite Doctor (so far, that is, since I’m still on the second series).  If you’re a fan of humor, sci-fi, or British TV, I’d strongly recommend checking out this series!

Shades of Grey by Jasper FfordeIf you could only see one color, which one would you choose? Blue, so you could see the sky? Green, so you could see the fields? Purple, so you could see the bloom of a delicate orchid? Red, so you could see a person blush at the sound of your voice? Well, that is the world you would be born into if you lived in Jasper Fforde’s latest novel, Shades of Grey, only with one big difference: you wouldn’t get to choose what color you can see. Nope, that would all depend on your parents.

In Shades of Grey, Fforde creates a rather bright & colorful dystopian society where spoons are sold on a black market, doctors use color swatches for healing, and genetics determine one’s color vision which in turn determines a citizen’s place in society. Citizens are expected to marry within their colors, be obedient to the colors higher in the Spectrum and never ever go out after dark. Eddie Russett can see, and thus is, Red, and has always been satisfied with his lower place in the Spectrum. However, soon he finds himself in love with Jane Grey, a rebellious Grey at the lowest point in the Spectrum, who causes him to question everything he sees and doesn’t see. This novel is completely different from Fforde’s quirky meta-literary universes in his Thursday Next and Nursery Crime series, but it still contains his same nonsensical and snarky humor while addressing bigger issues of individualism, government/corporate power, and spoon shortages.

On a tangent: I experienced Shades of Grey in the audiobook format (although I may reread it in the text format–I wonder if there was any visual wordplay that I missed) and I tend to listen to listen to audiobooks while I wash the dishes, so I created a very, very complex formula to determine how much I enjoy listening to a particular book:

[(# of times I wash dishes) + 2(# of times I wash dishes despite it being my husband’s turn) – (# of times I listen to a Shakira playlist instead of audiobook)] / (# of weeks I listen to an audiobook) = x

if x < 1 then I probably never finished the book.

if x = 1 then the book was solidly good.

if x >1 then I enjoyed the book so much that I changed my dish-washing habits just to listen to it more often.

The audiobook for Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde was about a 2.25, thus I REALLY ENJOYED this book!

It’s Clean and Tidy Week at the Davenport Library Info Cafe blog! Over the next five days Lynn will tell us about some great books that will inspire you to organize, straighten and scrub and otherwise make you into a finer human being. She starts us off with a bang with a book that not only is useful, it’s funny!

How to Get Things Really Flat

Andrew Martin’s eccentricity, English wit and  male point-of- view and his eye for the odd historical detail make laundry, ironing and “washing up” funny and (somewhat) inspiring in How to Get Things Really Flat. Martin casts himself as the bumbling amateur when he interviews experts on topics such as vacuuming and dishwashers.

The targeted audience are English “blokes” who should be doing housework, but women will find it informative and funny. His footnotes are tongue-in-cheek factoids that are  useful for American readers. For example, he lets us know that a pram is “short for peramulator, bigger and generally more heavy-duty than a stroller, since the baby lies flat. Any man pushing one is halfway to wearing a dress, or so he thinks.”

He is interested in the sociological aspect of housekeeping , with sections on “How Much Do Women Know About Housework?” (the primary subject being his long-suffering wife).

If you’ve overdosed on straight-forward, “how-to” books, try this unique addition to the  homemaking ouevre. In this work, previously unanalysed tasks are viewed through a slightly sqewed anthropolical lens combined with a Bill Bryson sensibility.