Sunday, April 29, 2007

Adventures of Barry Ween: Boy Genius 2.0 by Judd Winnick (graphic novel)

Another scatological and politically-incorrect guffaw-fest! I had this book on order from Amazon but it was taking too long, so I bought it from someone on e-Bay. In this installment, Barry takes down some government agents who kidnap his friend Jeremy; he and Jeremy get accidentally transported back to the Wild West; and Jeremy tries to adopt a foul-mouthed alien who's on the lam because he's been skimming money from his alien "mob bosses." Warning: this book is not for kids or for the faint-of-heart. But I do love it.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Absolutely, Positively Not by David LaRochelle (teen book)

Thanks to my librarian pal Beth L. for recommending this funny, charming book to me! Sixteen-year-old Steven is worried that he might be gay, so he does all sorts of things to prove to himself that he's not (learning how to belch, trying to buy a Playboy, etc). Still, he finally ends up at the conclusion that yep, he's gay. This is one of those refreshing teen books that isn't filled with black depression and angst. Yes, there's angst, but the author (writing in Steven's first-person voice) does a great job of infusing Steven's situation and outlook with humor and wit. What a great read! I stayed up too late reading it, always a good sign.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

I love crossword puzzles

I think I neglected to mention here that I recently subscribed to the New York Times crossword puzzle online. Most mornings I print out the crossword and try to get through it. I can usually get through Monday - Tuesday okay, and sometimes even Wednesday-Thursday. (Did you know the Times crosswords get progressively harder as the week goes on, with Saturday being the hardest?)  Sundays are usually do-able, but it takes me a couple of [extremely enjoyable] hours.
Sometimes, when I don't know an answer, I will Google it or use as a solving aide. I also own 2 or 3 crossword dictionaries and I'm not afraid to use them\. Some people consider this cheating, I know, but I just consider it as brushing up my librarian skills.
My neighbor Melissa is also into crosswords. She does them in pen, which I find amazing, and I am in awe of her. She and I know a lot of the same things but we also have different spheres of knowledge. So we've been taking the Sunday Times crossword down to the donut shop the last few weeks, and working on it together. Last week she told me the answer to a clue that I didn't know (it was a French word), and I told her who the lead singer of Nine Inch Nails was.  (And then she laughed at me when I sang her the first stanza of Head Like A Hole.) That's a pop culture answer that my grandfather, for instance, would never get. He doesn't think the puzzles are as much fun now that that whippersnapper Will Shortz is editing them, because Will allows a lot of pop culture and current events into the clues. But that's what I like about them.
Many people feel very strongly about their crossword puzzles. There's a guy who blogs about solving the daily Times puzzle at Cruciverbalism, by Stanley Newman, is also really interesting. And of course, I highly recommend the documentary Wordplay , which is a terrific look at the seamy underbelly of crossword puzzling. (Not really. They all seem like very nice people.)
Anyway, sometimes I am more in a crossword mood than I am in a reading mood, so when I'm not posting much, it's probably because I'm off in a corner trying to figure out a crossword (or a puzzle of a different variety, when I'm feeling like I want to "mix it up.")

Birding is fun!

I was sitting outside reading "The No A**hole Rule" and enjoying the wonderful weather. Eventually I became aware of some birds calling back and forth to each other. I thought I recognized the call but wanted to confirm it by sight, so I got my binoculars and walked down the road a bit to try and spot them. A little girl came riding by on her bicycle and I smiled at her. She asked me, "Is that a tufted titmouse?"  Wow! It blew me away! "Yes, it is," I answered. "You have good ears."
I can't even imagine knowing the call of a tufted titmouse at her age. I was so impressed! Wow.

The No A**hole Rule: Building a civilized workplace and surviving one that isn't, by Robert Sutton

Great book. It has some useful things to say about what it's like to work (or live) in a culture where being a jerk is either rewarded, or just tolerated. Sutton gives an example of a salesman who was a high producer but who was making the people around him miserable. His company totaled up the amount of lost productivity and docked this guy's bonus that amount at the end of the year -- the TCA (total cost of a**hole).
Sutton is not saying that your workplace should be all nice, all time time. He quotes Karl Weick's approach to confrontation in the workplace: "Fight as if you are right; listen as though you are wrong."
The other thing I found interesting is that jerkdom is contagious. If you work with jerks, you are more likely to exhibit jerk behavior. And it can happen to *anyone* -- no one is immune from occasionally being a jerk. Just make sure you are not chronically being a jerk. 

The Collected Alison Dare, Vol. 1 -- by J. Torres and J. Bone (graphic novel)

Not bad -- kinda cute. I bet teens would find it more amusing than I did. I don't think I'd pick up the next volume of this, nor is it something I'd really go out of my way to recommend. I think part of the problem is that I just didn't get much of a sense of character development, and that's a really important thing to me. Take, for example, the graphic novel Grease Monkey by Tim Eldred. Plenty of character development there! And I love it.

The Good Shepherd (movie)

Saw this movie with my parents last night. Matt Damon plays a CIA spy who is slowly sucked down a slippery slope into soullessness and despair... all without moving a facial muscle. It was definitely a good movie, but the ending was depressing and confusing, and I must confess that I enjoy Matt Damon more when he's being more active (like in the Bourne movies). This movie actually reminded me a bit of The Quiet American, with Brendan Fraser and Michael Caine -- also a good movie about the underworld of spies and what happens to people when they get sucked down into it.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Adventures of Barry Ween: Boy Genius by Judd Winick (graphic novel)

I laughed harder than I have in weeks when I read this graphic novel! How can I describe it? Well, Barry Ween is a ten-year-old boy genius (I know, I know... you can get that much from the title) with an extremely foul mouth and a firm desire to take over the world. When his evil science experiments cause rifts in the space-time continuum, he calls on his best friend Jeremy for help. When Jeremy accidentally drinks one of Barry's potions and turns into a giant dinosaur, Barry clones him and transfers his brain into the new body. I can't even describe the amount of pleasure I got from reading this fun book -- but I'm warning you, some of the language is not suitable for young folks.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

I really did enjoy this book for the most part. I think Picoult did a great job switching between the viewpoints of the different characters and bringing out what each person was worried about -- which made it interesting when she switched to another person's viewpoint, because I had more knowledge of what was going on behind the decisions that other people made that affected each person. (Does that even make sense?) Anyway, it was quite an interesting and sad book. I really liked it up until the end and then, I'm afraid I have to agree with my friend Heather, the ending did not fit the rest of the story. So it disappointed me at the end. But I think I'd still recommend it.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Girl from the South, by Joanna Trollope

An enjoyable train-read. Not my favorite Trollope, but quite serviceable!