New Year; New Challenges – Part Deux

January 1, 2012 = Official start of my next 100 book challenge!  After completing my 100 books for 2011 I’ve decided to up my personal goal to 110 books for 2012.  (What’s the fun in doing the same thing every year, right?)  You can check out my challenge page to see what specific challenges I’ve signed up for.  I’ve kept it small this year so that I can continue to be eclectic in my reading choices.

Top books I’m hoping to read this year are:

  1. Inkheart Trilogy by Cornelia Funke
  2. The Magicians by Lev Grossman
  3. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
  4. Be Different by John Elder Robison
  5. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  6. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
  7. The Apothecary’s Daughter by Julie Klassen
  8. Deadlocked (Sookie Stackhouse #12) by Charlaine Harris

Kinda small list, I know, but if I were to list all of the books I’m excited to read this year we’d be here for a while!  If you want to recommend stuff for me to read check out my lists from 2010 and 2011 and let me know what you think I’ll like.

As always, I encourage you to try your own reading challenges! My biggest piece of advice is start small! There is nothing wrong with saying you want to read 10 books in a year!  Make a small goal, meet that goal, then up it!  Tell me about your own goals, and the books you’re excited about reading below.

Good luck, and happy reading!!

#82 A Review of Look Me In the Eye by John Elder Robison

Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger'sAs a fan of author Augusten Burroughs’ memoir Running with Scissors, I’ve always had a fascination with learning more about him and his odd upbringing.  In Running with Scissors he discusses his older brother who was a bit of an oddity as a child.  Later in life it’s discovered that his brother, John Elder, has a form of autism better known as Asperger’s.  Look Me In the Eye is John Elder’s memoir about his life with this disease and how he overcame its limitations to find success in life.

Growing up in a childhood that would barely be considered habitable by most standards, John Elder Robinson traveled through childhood with a feeling of detachment and awkwardness.  For all he knew, he just wanted to make the other kids like him.  Unfortunately for him, however, the things that thought were completely acceptable happened to make the other kids view him as strange and awkward.  Not letting this deter him, Robinson attempted to learn to change his behavior to suit his environment and view his social experiences objectively.  These same analytical skills served him well later on in his life, as Robinson developed an aptitude for all things mechanical and eventually went on to design famous flaming guitars for KISS.  After being diagnosed with Asperger’s at 40, Robinson looks back at his life with a new perspective and new insight into his life.

As someone who has grown up with a learning disability, I can relate to Robison’s depiction of society and their views on individuals that are different from the “mainstream”.  When I was a child, I found that at times I felt like I needed to respond to the social clues around me instead of instinctively being able to mesh with my peers.  Additionally, I was amazed by the fantastic amount of emotion that Robison was able to convey in his writing, all with a diagnosis that apparently prevents him from being able to do just that.  His descriptions of his despair, anger, and longing as a child, his pride and joy in succeeding in his professional life, and especially his amazement at finding love and beginning a family were all fantastic to read.  It’s not that people with Asperger’s are incapable of feeling; the lack of the ability to express these emotions doesn’t mean that they don’t feel each and every one of them.  Robison’s ability to tell us what he felt in all of these particular situations in amazing detail is testament to his awesome talents as a writer and the wonderful life he has lived thus far.

The book is fabulously written, giving readers an insight into what it’s like for someone with Asperger’s.  If you know someone who suffers from a form of autism I highly suggest giving this book a read; it might help you to understand what it’s like inside their mind, offering up a stronger relationship between you.

(Blogger Note: If Robison is ever doing a book signing or speaking engagement near you I HIGHLY recommend you go see him.  I had the opportunity of seeing him speak and meeting him afterward at R.J. Julia in Madison, CT.  He is one of the most interesting people I’ve ever heard speak before.  Not only is he fascinating to listen to, but he is so kind and genuine.)

5 out of 5 Stars

Look Me In The Eye by John Elder Robison
Crown Publishing Group (2008)
Paperback 320 pages
ISBN: 9780307396181

March/April Wrap-Up!

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a wrap-up (terribly sorry) but life has gotten very hectic the past two months! 

Todd and I had a pretty good March.  The Relay for Life fundraising season officially kicked off on the 2nd!  For those new to the blog I co-chair a 24 hour cancer event called Relay for Life for my town and the next town over from me.  The past two months have been busy with planning details and booking locations and entertainment for the event.  Our event last year raised over $118,000, so we’re striving for a high bar again this year.  If anyone is interested in learning more about the event, you can check out our website here.  Anyway – meetings, answering emails, and committee get-togethers have been happily eating up a bunch of my time.

Lots of birthday celebrations happened in March.  Todd and I had my entire family up to our apartment for a party for my parents birthdays.  It was fantastic.  I tried out a new recipe for a coconut cake (my mom’s favorite) and god it was so good but holy crap, making it was insane.  The cake and icing took 5 sticks of butter, a pound of cream cheese, pound of confectionary sugar, 6 eggs, etc.  It was nuts, but actually didn’t taste super sweet at all.

St. Patrick's Day Crowds

March was also a time for firsts for us.  We hit up the New Haven St. Patrick’s Day Parade which is supposedly one of the top 5 biggest in the US.  Who knew!! The police shut down whole streets and you just bar hop from place to place while a parade of every fire truck in the state goes down the street.  Fab times were had by all.

Some of Hooker Brewery's Awards!

Our friends Greg and Ashley took us up to Bloomfield Massachusetts to go to a free beer tasting at the Hooker Brewery.  For $10 you get a small glass and can sample all of the beers they currently brew as much as you want.  At the end of the tasting, you turn in your glass and get a pint glass to take home.  Needless to say Todd was all smiles while we were there.  He loved checking out all their equipment and getting to talk to some of the brewmasters.  (I think Todd is seriously considering a career change, but that’s just between you and me)

Bonfires at friends houses, a trip to New Jersey for a funeral, and countless happy hours brought us to the end of March.  I completed 11 books in March, which got me back on track from the books I didn’t finish in January and February.  That was the huge highlight of March for me.  I still have no idea where I found the time to read 11 books, but I can tell you that I slept less in March than I did in January or February.

April slowed down slightly, but not enough to really make a difference.  Our cat Belle turned 4 so of course a celebration of wet food was in order for her.  (It was thoroughly enjoyed in case you were wondering)

Belle

Another trip to New Jersey followed at the beginning of the month, one to my cousin’s new house which was FAB.  My cousin runs his own catering business and so he loves food/cooking.  His kitchen was redone to include a brick pizza oven.  It was fantastic.  The pizzas he made as appetizers were to die for.  (My favorite was the mushroom and truffle oil combo – delicious!)

 
We also took a trip to this awesome art house theater near us to see the new Jane Eyre film.  Shortly after I finished the book I made Todd promise he would take me as soon as it got released near us.  It was AMAZING.  Loved loved loved the adaptation of it.  My only complaint was  wishing the end could have been a bit longer and more drawn out.  The sudden cut to black left me wanting. Le sigh…
 
Highlight of April for me was probably my weekend trip to Cape Cod with my friends Jen and Kate.  Kate is headed off to Vietnam next month to teach English, so we wanted to make sure the three of us could get together and chill before she left.  We stayed at the BEAUTIFUL Chatham Bars Inn and had an amazing view of the ocean.  The weekend, minus a bit of bad news I received, was awesome and so enjoyable.  Good friends, good food, and good wine were all I needed for a stellar weekend.

Our Hotel Room View

Me, Kate, and Jen

 Closing up the month was yet one more visit to New Jersey, this time for Easter at Todd’s parents house.  We got to see our adorable little flower girl, Sarah, and spend time with Todd’s family.  I absolutely love when we go visit Todd’s parents, because his mom Karen and I always have awesome discussions about books.  She takes part in a book club offered by their church and always clues me in to awesome books that her club is reading.  I always find myself signing on to Goodreads just to make sure I mark all the books we discuss as “to-read’s”.   

I almost forgot about one of my favorite things that we did this month!  On Tuesday, April 26th, Todd, Adam, and I went to my new favorite bookstore, R.J. Julia, and got to see John Elder Robison speak about his newest book Be Different.  For those unfamiliar with Robison and his work, he is the older brother of Augusten Burroughs and writes about his battle with Asperger’s syndrome.  I was able to buy a copy of Be Different which he signed for me as well.  It was an awesome event, and I’m eagerly looking forward to my next event there.

I promise I’m almost done with my post.  My last piece of info is that I bought a car yesterday!! YAY!  My car was seriously costing Todd and I SO much money in repairs that I finally said that’s it, I’m done!  We purchased a 2009 Volkswagen Tiguan with about 18,000 miles on it.  I took it for a test drive and damn it was such a smooth ride.  I pick it up tomorrow after work and I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am about the whole thing! (Todd was impressed with my haggling skills.  I knew my job would come in handy someday!)

Anyway – now that I’ve bored you all to tears with the crazy thing that is my life I will sign off.  I’m off to hopefully finish one of the three books I’m currently reading.  Make sure you check the blog tomorrow as I’ll be posting the link for a podcast I’m going to be a guest speaker on at 10pm eastern time tomorrow night! 

Until next time, happy reading!