Monday, March 30, 2009

Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's

I've had this one on my radar since it was first released at the end of 2007. Mainly because the memoir is by the brother of Augusten Burroughs, an author who I truly admire. Augusten's memoir, Running With Scissors, is one of those books that I think about often and still marvel at the fact that it's a true story. These poor kids had such a screwed up childhood it's unbelievable that they even survived.

John Elder Robison has Asperger's syndrome, and was born in a time before this autistic syndrome was even recognized. His family just thought he was odd and ill-behaved. He had very few friends because his social skills were pitiful. He was very lonely. But John's brain was so high-functioning that he was a genius with mechanics and electronics. So much so that when he dropped out of high school (even with a huge IQ) he toured with KISS, creating special effects and guitars for the band. In his early 20s John realized he needed to get a "real" job and got pretty lucky considering he had no degree. Once the corporate world got the best of him, he began his own exotic automobile repair business, in which he is still highly successful. It wasn't until John was 40 that he was diagnosed with Asperger's.

I read this book in two days. Granted, I was in the desert basking in the sunshine, but nevertheless it was a quick read. I have a whole new understanding for people who may seem "weird" on the surface, but who are really struggling socially and physically.

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The Friday Night Knitting Club

I honestly had no intentions of reading this book. I really had no interest at all, even though I like to knit. Something about it screamed "chick lit" to me, and I've said before that I'm pretty much over that genre.

But my mom got The Friday Night Knitting Club for Christmas and I needed an easy beach read for Girls Lunch in Fort Lauderdale last month (oops, I'm behind on my posting!).

Well it was certainly easy to read. As I started out, I found that the book was "cute." Nothing too deep, nice characters, and the knitting portion woven in in just the right amount. Georgia Walker is the owner of Walker & Daughter, a yarn/knitting shop in New York City. Her Daughter, Dakota is twelve and a wonderful baker. Georgia is a single mom; James is her ex-love with whom she had Dakota. Georgia is successful with her business, but she is quite bitter and honestly pretty unlikable for a little more than half the book. The Knitting Club is an eclectic group of women who meet at the shop every Friday night to knit and mostly gossip. Kate Jacobs does a good job of introducing each of the characters with enough detail to keep it interesting.

And so I'm going along quickly and still thinking that this is a "cute" book. Georgia's friends are all great people in their own ways, James and she get back together, the company is successful, and then WHAM. Not such a "cute" book anymore. No longer a nice, surface read.

The ending was really quite poignant. I was actually sobbing and had to keep putting the book down to wipe my face. Damn this "cute" story! I have said before that I like when books don't have a tidy ending, but this one was completely unexpected. For this reason, I'm not sure I can recommend this one to just anybody. It was quite a shocker. Be warned.

And now there's a ton of talk about the second book in the series, Knit Two. I honestly can't say that I am in a hurry to pick it up. Maybe I won't ever end up reading it. Unless my mom gets it for Christmas.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Love the One You're With

Another audiobook. Took me forever to listen to it, and I think I owe the library a pretty penny in late fees.

Love the One You're With started out well. The reader's voice was very easy to listen to, and the subject matter was somewhat intriguing. Ellen is a photographer and is very happily married to Andy, a lawyer, who is also her college roommate's brother. She happens to run into an old college flame and begins to wonder what could have been. For me, both men were worth a chance. Ellen resists Leo (the flame) initially, and rightly so, but then begins to have her doubts about her marriage.

And then the book gets totally wishy-washy. Truly, I began to find Ellen completely spineless and weak. Nearing the end of the book, I realized that I didn't even care how it turned out. But since I got the abridged version and it was only four CDs, I pushed through. When Ellen finally makes her decision I literally said out loud while driving, "Oh, gimme a break."

I don't understand why authors always feel the need to tie up the ending in a neat little bow. For me, Emily Giffin landed right into that trap. This one really had the potential to take a cool twist and instead it landed flat.

...or maybe I'm just OVER chick lit...

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Monday, March 2, 2009

The Reader

So, am I the only one who had no idea what this book/movie was about? I was only tempted to read it because I never go to the movies, but I really love Kate Winslet. And when I picked up the book from our little borrowing library at work, it was only 218 pages. Even though short, I read The Reader in a record (for me at least) three day's time.

The beginning of the book was a little slow, but I told myself it was short and to push through. Then it got good. The Reader is about a 15-year old boy in Germany (where the book originated and is translated from) who happens to meet a much older woman and begins an affair. Theirs is a sensual, ritualistic relationship. And I thought I was smart to figure out that she was illiterate before the boy did! So I'm enjoying the plot as is, then BOOM. They break up and many years later he runs into her in a courtroom where she is under trial for being a concentration camp guard. I don't want to give away any more than that just in case there are a few other people out there that are unfamiliar with the plot written by Bernhard Schlink.

I actually liked the shortness of this book because there wasn't a whole lot of extra descriptions and it was very to-the-point. I think this was an intentional style to keep the reader uneasy throughout. And now I think I want to see the movie to learn how Kate earned the best actress Oscar.

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