Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Book reviews

Back in September, I sort of entered a contest wherein we were to list the books we wanted to read this fall. I've read almost half of them and here is the book review of them. If you want to find out about the contest, go here.

First, I will totally cop to the fact that I've only read about 1/3 of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. It needs to go back to the library since it's overdue and other people have it on hold. Maybe I'll get it on hold again too, to see if the latter 2/3 are as grueling as the first 1/3. Perhaps it was a problem with expectations. I expected to see a book that would be inspiring to me to seek out food that is locally grown, perhaps even by my ownself. The only thing this book inspired in me is reactance, due to its preachiness and slight holier-than-thou attitude toward those of us who do not own land enough to sustain our own families on our gardens. Like I said, perhaps it gets better, but so far I'd give it a C- and it only gets that because I haven't finished it.

At last, a new Faye Kellerman book! Hooray! As I have said, I'm a big fan anyway. I love her Decker-Lazarus series and I have even enjoyed her forays out of that series, with the exception of The Quality of Mercy. Her new book, The Burnt House, was much more Decker than Lazarus (in other words, more about the police work and less about the family life that I so like to read about) but I was fascinated by the techniques described in the book to attempt to reconstruct a victim's identity when the bones that are available are too fragile to use themselves. Very interesting. The mystery was also more labyrinthine than her usual mysteries and that kept me on the edge of my seat. Definitely recommend. 5/5

Right after I finished A Thousand Splendid Suns, I wanted to log on and describe how wonderful I thought it was. Don't get me wrong, it was extremely difficult to read in certain parts, just from what was described (can you imagine living as a woman in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan?) but it was well worth the effort, if you want a glimpse into living a different life in a different culture. (For more of that, in a juvenile book, try The Breadwinner, by Deborah Ellis.) My thought on finishing it and closing the covers was, "Wow." 4.5/5 (Cautions: violence, graphic war imagery, some sexual situations, including marital relations)

And finally, the book I finished this morning, just in time for this review, Look Me In The Eye: My Life With Asperger's by John Elder Robison. Yow. This book did not disappoint, although it was somewhat different than I thought it would be. I thought I'd be reading something more along the lines of Finding Ben. Instead, I read the very real memoirs of a man who struggled with Asperger's until his mid 30's, when he was finally diagnosed. By that time, he had managed to find a way to use his Aspergian skills to his benefit but it was a long, difficult road to get there. Definite language cautions here. It was sometimes hard to get through the cursing to the primary message of the book. Still, an interesting read, although as a parent of children with Asperger's, I wouldn't say it was exactly comforting. I sure wouldn't want any of my children to live the life that John Robison did. I did convulse with laughter about the names that he gave the people in his life. For example, his wife, who is the second daughter in a family of three daughters, is named Unit Two. Her sisters are Units One and Three and the sister's husband is known as Three-B. Sorry, just had to throw that in because it was so funny. 4/5, both for the Asperger's information and the "inside view" of what it is to be Aspergian.


TobyBo said...

thanks for the book reviews!! I like the names. :)

Julie@Shanan Trail said...

he had managed to find a way to use his Aspergian skills to his benefit but it was a long, difficult road to get there.


I haven't been able to put my thoughts completely around this, but I have thought a lot about what it means to have atypical brain development and to embrace those differences rather than "treat" them (in fact I went off on a tangent about this issue on my blog just today). Many people, including Marissa, have tremendous skills. I guess I am having trouble seeing my daughter as having a diseased brain that needs to be cured. Oh, I know that she has had some real struggles, but truly her struggles are almost entirely due to a lack of understanding from the people around her.

I was intrigued by the title of the book too, Look Me In The Eye. Marissa does not always look people in the eye. In our culture it is interpreted as disrepectful. Yet, Marissa doesn't mean to disrespect... she just doesn't get nonverbal communication and she doesn't process information that comes at her in a purely visual way. She is much better with the written word. In fact, she won't watch a movie without the subtitles on.