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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime (Rating: 9)

I just finished reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, by Mark Haddon.

It is a remarkable story—a phrase which here means "definitely worth reading for the times in the future when you will look back fondly upon the time spent with this book".

It is the story of a fifteen year old autistic boy in England, named Christopher Boone, who finds the dead body of Wellington (his neighbor's dog) in his neighbor's yard.

After initially being questioned for the dog's murder, Christopher decides that he will, like his hero Sherlock Holmes, investigate the crime and identify the murderer.

Along the way to solving the mystery, Christopher stumbles upon other mysteries, significantly more personal and closer to home, and finds himself making his way, alone, on a journey to London.

I don't know what I thought I knew about autism before reading this book (and, honestly, I probably tried not to think about it at all). I really did not know too much about it though (and unless you need to know about it I'd guess most people choose not to).

But I will say that I really was surprised by how smart Christopher is. And brave—and by saying this I'm talking specifically about Christopher's character, Christopher's fears, and how he takes this journey to London in spite of these fears.

(It is possible, I suppose, that Christopher's fears are typical for an autistic, but I am, as I said, quite ignorant about it.)

And, I will be doing some research, purely for self-edification, into this condition.

Oh yes, and if you like remarkable stories (as I define the phrase above) then I would be remiss—a word which here means "falling down on the job of recommending the best reading material that the whole-wide-world of books has to offer"—in failing to suggest that you read Audrey Niffenegger's remarkable novel, The Time Traveler's Wife.

This is another of those books that I often look back on reading with great fondness in the year and a half since I read it.

It makes me very glad that I occasionally read books chosen for my wife's book club—as both of these were!

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Janet Evanovich: Four To Score (Rating: 8)

I just finished Four To Score by Janet Evanovich, a Stephanie Plum novel.

I must admit to being a bit unenthusiastic for most of this book, but by the end I was glad I stuck with it. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Evanovich knows how to get a laugh.

I'm a bit bummed though—I had a really funny quote involving Stephanie's loss of two things of value to her (the result of two different acts of arson) in one day (and yes, of course one of them was a car), but I can't find it at all now.

And she—finally—did the dirty deed! Good for her!

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

E. B. White: Charlotte's Web (Rating: 9)

I finished reading Charlotte's Webto my son Riley last night. It is no wonder that this book is a classic!

This is the first time I've read him a book of this length; we read a chapter, more or less, at bedtime each night for the last several weeks.

Not that I haven't wanted to read a book this long to him, but he just turned six in January and is only now showing an interest in an ongoing story.

(This is a huge step up from the days when he wanted the same book read every night for a week or two on end!)

It also reminds me of my favorite story about my mother:

This will shock anyone who knows me, but I must not have always been a fan of books. In fact, I really wasn't at all interested in school around the time I was in second or third grade. I was doing so badly that year that I was going to be held back if I didn't go to summer school.
My mother decided, and off to summer school I went.
After lunch each day, the teacher would read a chapter from one of Jerry West's Happy Hollisters book (a series of mystery books for kids). I loved the stories, and was always very impatient to know what would happen next.

I must have said something to my mother about this because—even though we had very little money when I was growing up—she somehow managed to find enough to start buying me a Happy Hollisters book every month so I could read them for myself (and not have to wait to find out how it was going to turn out).
Because she did this, I really developed a love for reading and, for the rest of my young life—and often as an adult—I could usually be found with my nose in a book . . .
(The preceding is adapted from a memorial tribute I wrote about my mother for Julie (my wife), so she could put it into the first volume of the scrapbooks that she's doing for Riley.)

So? The point?

Well, first off, I'd have to say that I sincerely hope that Riley also acquires the reading bug the way Julie and I have (and thanks to the wonderful teacher he has at kindergarten—and without overly belittling the impact Julie and I are having on him as well—I think he's well on the way).

Secondly, I guess we have my mother to thank for this blog's raison d'être.

Thanks, Mom!

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Monday, February 5, 2007

Lemony Snicket: The Slippery Slope (Rating: 7)

I just finished reading The Slippery Slope, Book 10 of Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events".

True to the series to this point, the book was quite entertaining in its amusing & quirky way. It is nice to see the characters in these books developing.

I must say I am now eagerly looking forward to finishing the series and seeing how the Baudelaire orphan's triumph over Count Olaf in the end.

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