Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Someday this pain will be useful to you, by Peter Cameron

Eighteen-year-old James Sveck lives a privileged life in New York City but is still unhappy and filled with existential anxiety. He can't relate to people very well, especially people his own age, and he is not sure what he wants to do with his life. His closest friend is probably his grandmother. During the course of the book we watch James try to come to grips with his life, and realize that he must make certain compromises if he wants to cultivate relationships with other people.
This is a well-written book, but I found the protagonist to be a bit too precious and precocious. For me, there wasn't enough humor in the book to balance out the extreme levels of teen angst.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Fire Within by Chris D'Lacey

This is the first in a trilogy. I liked the writing, but I just couldn't get into the book, and for a really stupid reason. I didn't like one of the names of the characters! So every time I started really getting into the book, this character's name would pop up and it would drag me out of the reality of the book as I thought to myself "Dang, I hate that name."   So, I had to give up. Oh well.

Surf's Up (movie)

I loved Surf's Up! It is a clever cartoon -- the kind that kids will enjoy, but adults might enjoy even more. It's a "mockumentary" about a penguin named Cody who wants to be a surfer. If you enjoyed Best in Show you will definitely like this as well. Give it a try.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Scratch (documentary film)

What an interesting documentary. It traces the history of "turntablism" -- the art of making beats by "scratching" a record back and forth under a turntable's needle -- from its beginnings to the present. A surprising number of the people interviewed in this film got their first exposure to "scratching" when they saw it being done at Herbie Hancock's "Rockit" performance at the 1984 Grammys. I myself remember how awesome that was. If only I had channeled my admiration for scratching into something positive... then I could have been the "Scratchin' Librarian." That would be cool. (Or maybe just uncomfortable.) Anyhoo... this is a very fun documentary. I love Netflix -- imagine trying to find this at your neighborhood Blockbuster? Forget about it.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Look me in the Eye by John Elder Robison

This wonderfully-written memoir is fantastic - by turns hilarious and sad. Robison, an "Aspergian" (as he calls himself), grew up at a time when Asperger's Syndrome was not known or diagnosed. For most of his life he wondered what was wrong with him, that he could not connect with or make friends with people. During his twenties, he worked as a sound engineer for bands such as KISS, and his account of that time is quite interesting. Finally, in his 40s, someone suggested that he might have Asperger's. Learning that his quirks and idiosyncracies had an actual diagnosis helped Robison realize that he was not alone. He has also developed a lot of good coping strategies and has painstakingly taught himself to interact more successfully with people. Interestingly, he theorizes that as he learned how to interact better with people, he lost some of his savant-like abilities to look at machinery and circuits and understand how they worked. (If Robison's story sounds a bit familiar, that's because he is the older brother of Augusten Burroughs, author of Running with Scissors.)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Babymouse: Skater Girl by Jennifer and Matthew Holm

As usual, Babymouse rocks my world. This time she wants to become an Olympic-class ice skater. But is she up to the challenge? It means no more cupcakes(!), and no more after-school fun skating on the pond with best friend Wilson and the gang, because she'll be too busy practicing.
You'll have to read the book to find out the rest of the story, 'cause I ain't telling. Babymouse: Skater Girl is available now, in a library near you (in the kid's section).

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Grail Bird by Tim Gallagher

What a fantastic book! This is an entertaining, well-written non-fiction account of the author's search for ivory-billed woodpeckers in the swampy bayous of Arkansas. Ivory-bills have long been considered an extinct species by ornithologists. Gallagher and some colleagues are convinced they've seen ivory-bills. But have they? The story of their current-day search for ivory-bills is interspersed with snippets of history about the ivory-bills descent into extinction (and boy, was it helped into extinction by mankind; we seem to have a strange need to shoot everything we see, *especially* if it's almost extinct).
Highly readable, interesting and enjoyable! Thanks to Bob N for recommending this to me, after I made him check out Kingbird Highway by Kenn Kaufmann.

The Spellkey by Ann Downer

Thanks to Jessica B for recommending this young adult fantasy book to me. I enjoyed it. It is not a new book -- it was published in 1987 -- but I had never heard about it till Jessica told me about it.

Hero by Perry Moore

This young adult novel is entertaining and interesting. It definitely kept my attention!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Houston, we have a problem

Hi, my name is Mary and I just discovered that I may have a problem. I now have so many piles and shelves of unread books scattered through my house that it just took me 10 minutes to locate a book I knew I had bought -- not only because I had to go into every room in the house, but also because I kept getting distracted by all the OTHER great books I came across during my search. Sigh. If only I could get the cat to go out and earn a living wage so that I could stay home and catch up on my reading...