Monday, June 29, 2009

The Side-Yard Superhero by Rick D. Niece

Title: The Side-Yard Superhero
Author: Rick D. Niece
Publisher: Synergy Books
Publication Date: March 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover, 192 pages
Age Group: Adult, non-fiction
Series: Life in DeGraff: An Automythography (book 1)

Rick D. Niece recounts his time growing up in DeGraff, Ohio in The Side-Yard Superhero. In this first book of a trilogy, readers are introduced to some of the colorful characters of Niece's childhood, including a young man named Bernie Jones who is wheelchair bound due to cerebral palsy. Rick and Bernie become friends when Rick takes time on his paper route to really get to know Bernie.

I very much enjoyed getting to know the people of DeGraff through Rick Niece's memories. Each of the people that the reader meets along the way had some sort of impact on Niece's life and helped shape him into the man he is today. The stories flow easily, as if the reader is actually listening to Niece remember. He easily conveys the warm feelings that he continues to carry for these people and this town.

Interspersed with the stories are poems. These poems demonstrate strongly how large of an impact these people had on Niece's life as he searches for some universal truths or meanings in the experiences they shared.

The Side-Yard Superhero is a wonderfully written memoir and a fantastic beginning to a trilogy. I am looking forward to the next two installments and learning more about the folks in DeGraff.

Thank you to Elizabeth at Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists for sending me The Side-Yard Superhero.

2009 Reading Challenges

1st in a Series Challenge

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Real Food for Mother and Baby by Nina Planck

Title: Real Food for Mother and Baby
Author: Nina Planck
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: March 31, 2009
Format: Paperback, 288 pages
Age Group: Adult, non-fiction

Nina Planck is an advocate for what she calls 'real food.' These are the staples of our ancestors, prepared in traditional ways. Fruits, vegetables, eggs, meats, cheese, and milk minimally processed if processed at all. Planck provides compelling arguments for eating this way based on nutritional comparisons.

While some of the ideas she presents for general eating and eating during pregnancy fall quite far from mainstream thinking, she does provide science to back up her claims. The stories she shares of her own pregnancy and how it shaped her diet are interesting. Although there were some aspects of her experiences that I would not have shared during my own pregnancy (such as having glasses of wine), I was able to take away some good information from this section of the book.

Planck lost me, however, when it came to the section on baby's first foods. Essentially she fed her son chunks of various table foods almost from the beginning of his solid food experience. While I do not doubt the nutritional value of the foods she was feeding him, my concern is that some of the foods she mentioned would present a potential choking hazard. I simply cannot imagine letting my eight month old daughter chew on a pork chop! Planck also threw out all conventional wisdom regarding babies and allergies, giving her son many foods before his first birthday that most doctors do not recommend.

I enjoyed reading this book and I do feel that I learned something from it. I think each person reading this book will have to find their own comfort level with the information presented and take what they can use while leaving the rest behind.

Thank you to Bloomsbury for sending me an Advance Reading Copy of Real Food for Mother and Baby.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Jesus Swept by James Alexander Protzman

Title: Jesus Swept
Author: James Alexander Protzman
Publisher: Kitsune Books
Publication Date: December 1, 2008
Format: Paperback, 276
Age Group: Adult

Description (from Following in the tradition of John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces and William Kotzwinkle's The Fan Man, James Protzman's Jesus Swept plays fast and loose with every known Southern archetype and stands magical realism on its head without missing a beat. Joining classic hippie-jester-heroes Ignatius C. Reilly and Horse Badorties is Gary Gray, part-time sidewalk sweeper and full-time savior. The unlikely story of hope lost, found, and lost again on the North Carolina coast, Jesus Swept celebrates a philosophy of life you can put on a bumper sticker: Do Good, Be Nice, Have Fun. Meet Hook, Sinker, Liz, Frank, Dog and Jesus himself, six souls twisted in a tangle of threads that will make you cry until you laugh - or until you try dying.

My Thoughts: I'm not sure what I was expecting when I received Jesus Swept but it certainly wasn't what I got. Perhaps I'm simply not meant to read literary fiction because I did not understand this book at all. I found it very difficult to follow, with incredibly short chapters and fast changes of scene and characters. The whole book felt disjointed to me. Because I was never able to spend a substantial amount of time in the story with any one of the characters, I never felt connected to any of them.

The description also fails to mention the heavy use of foul language and sexual references which really turned me off from the book as well.

With the hope that the characters' stories would eventually connect and begin to make sense to me and in the interest of writing a fair review, I did read the entire book. Unfortunately it never did get better for me and I was as confused when I finished reading as I was after the first few chapters.

Thank you to Amy at Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists for sending me a copy of Jesus Swept.