Thursday, August 23, 2012

Staff Pick: My Life in France

Title:  My Life in France
Author:  Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme

This book was my favorite choice from "Blind Date with a Book" which was part of the CPPL Adult Summer Reading Program.  Child's autobiography with the help of her husband's grandnephew is a delightful account of her life with her beloved husband, Paul.  He worked for the United States Information Service which landed them in France in the beginning of their marriage.  Julia's descriptions of acquiring her culinary skills which began in Paris and of living in different countries are filled with humor.  She doesn't hold back in her descriptions of people in her life, of the tasks of writing cookbooks and of demonstrating her cooking skills on television, or of her husband's trials in working for the government.  Paul's interrogation by Senator Joseph McCarthy's investigators is addressed.  Julia's love of life is evident.  This is not a cookbook, but it does give one the background to the writing of the best French cookbooks for Americans.  If you didn't get a chance to choose a book during this summer's "Blind Date with a Book" program, make a choice the next time the program is available because you will probably enjoy all your choices as I did.  Bonne lecture!

Reviewed by Mary

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Central Book Club: Look Me in the Eye

Look Me in the Eye: My life with Asperger's
by John Elder Robison

Look Me in the Eye chronicles John Elder Robison's experience growing up with Asperger's Syndrome in a time before anyone knew there was such a condition. As anyone who's read Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs could tell you, John Elder's home life could only exacerbate his status as misfit even more. His father was frequently abusive and his not-all-there mother was increasingly slipping into the control of the dubious psychiatrist Dr. Finch.  Despite being labeled as a misfit and future criminal in his youth, John Elder learns to design and construct sound equipment which eventually leads him to building special effects guitars for KISS. Later on he helps design early electronic games for Milton Bradley. Then, realizing he works better on his own, starts a business repairing expensive cars.

Though the events of the book are not told in strict chronological order, John Elder's highly logical way of thinking is evident throughout the retelling. Look Me in the Eye is a great book for anyone curious about what Asperger's Syndrome is and how a person with Asperger's learns to adapt to society.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Staff Pick: A Once Crowded Sky

A Once Crowded Sky
By Tom King

Once the sky was bursting with superheroes and villains. Each day some plot to destroy the earth was foiled by one of the good guys. Sometimes a villain or a hero dies, but they always come back and the game continues. One day Penultimate, sidekick of Ultimate, decides to leave the game. There are enough superheroes around to keep on saving people. One person gone won't make that much of a difference. Then The Blue, a dangerous force of energy, threatens the planet. There is a way to stop The Blue, but it requires all the superheroes to give up their power and give it to one man, for it will take all their power to close the portal to The Blue. But when the world almost ends every other day, how are you to know that this time is for real?

Now all the villains are dead and the superheroes are powerless. Their power sacrificed, along with Ultimate, to close The Blue. All except Penultimate, Pen. Now each hero must wrestle with their place in the world and their reason for being. And Pen must live with the guilt of not showing up, even though there are always whispers saying "we always come back."

I wouldn't necessarily recommend this book to every comic book fan, as the narration can sometimes be hard to follow and the action isn't as straightforward as a typical comic book story. However King does bring up some interesting points in his story that I think any comic book scholar will have a good time debating. Recommended to those who are interested in seeing what happens to superheroes when their reason for being is taken from them.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Staff Pick:I Suck At Girls

I Suck At Girls
by Justin Halpern

From the author that wrote the side-splittingly hilarious memoir, Sh*t My Dad Says, comes a new, equally hilarious book, I Suck At Girls. This time the book focuses on the author’s awkward, endlessly amusing interludes with the opposite sex, rather than his frank, rather profane father. However, if you enjoyed his father’s straight-shooting, entertaining interjections and advice from the first book, never fear—he’s featured prominently in this memoir as well.

Through a humorous lens, you’ll follow Justin as he draws a terrible, inappropriate portrait of his first crush and makes her cry, steals a hobo’s most precious collection, and stumbles into adult relationships as a dishwasher at Hooters. Though the book’s purpose is primarily to make the reader laugh, there’s a certain amount of honest sweetness in these pages. Besides savoring his embarrassments, we also get to see him grow as a person and fall in love for the first time.

A doctor tells him, "You are good at sitting," in one chapter and the good news is that he's also good at storytelling. If you're looking for a laugh-out-loud, feel-good book, this is perfect! It's a quick read and will leave you looking forward to his next installment.

Reviewed by Jayme.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Staff Pick: Tell the Wolves I'm Home

Tell the Wolves I’m Home
by Carol Rifka Brunt

This incredibly moving debut novel is set in the 1980s and centers on fourteen-year-old June Elbus, who has just lost her favorite person in the world, her uncle Finn. Finn was a celebrated painter and died of a shameful illness that can only be talked about in hushed whispers; to June he was the person who understood her best. 

After he dies, June finds out more and more about her uncle’s private life, including a life partner she knew nothing about. An unlikely friendship develops between June and this mysterious man, each finding in the other pieces of the man they both loved deeply.

The novel touches on themes of coming-of-age, love, loss, shame, and healing. Though events are taking place in the 1980s, the book feels topical with the current political climate focused on gay marriage and civil rights. This book was sweet and heartbreaking at the same time, and I cried more times than I can remember. Pick this up for an unforgettable read!

Reviewed by Jayme.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Staff Pick: Ava's Man

Ava's Man
by Rick Bragg
(Pulitzer Prize-winning author of All Over but the Shoutin')

The author's mother's father, Charlie Bundrum, was the husband of Ava, Bragg's grandmother.  The unfolding of Charlie's life with Ava and their children gives an informative view of life in Georgia/Alabama during the Great Depression.  Though he could not read, Charlie had many skills and a work ethic which provided for his family; but his talent of making moonshine and his tendency to drink in excess did cause hardships for all.  Those hardships did not lessen the love and admiration of him by his family and others.  When anyone had a problem, Charlie could "stop the storm" and ease the pain.  His care of his fellow-man is evident by his "shadow".  The author's family is fortunate to have such a thorough family history which includes this man of great character from the Appalachian foothills.

Reviewed by Mary.