Archive for the ‘Conceptual: for grown ups’ Category

Humor Abuse

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

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Lorenzo Pisoni was just two years old when he created and presented his first act during into intermission in his family’s Pickle Circus. His performance was so compelling it cut significantly into concession sales. Lorenzo Pisoni was drafted into the performance itself.

Humor Abuse, Pisoni’s one-man show about his life in the circus and out, is a brilliant meditation on how a severely gifted person can be accidentally abused by his parents as they nurture a child’s gifts. The problem a gifted child with gifted parents faces is that when he gets into the family business, he sometimes finds himself also taking on his parents’ burdens.

Humor Abuse is a hilarious and sad and impressive tribute to hard work, circus, clowning, and family. The pratfalls scripted into the show echo the slips and trips that occur in life as parents and child learn to nurture their talents.

Today is the closing day of this run. Go!

Book review: The Monkey Bible

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

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Author:Mark Laxer
Reading Level (Conceptual):For grown-ups
Reading Level (Vocabulary):For grown-ups
Genre:science fiction
Year of publication:2010

I am frankly very disappointed in this book. It had so much potential, and I really enjoyed the first maybe two-thirds of it. Up to that point, Laxer posed questions that I personally thought were fascinating: What is the relationship between humans and the "non-human" world? Do we have any right to separate them at all [I don't think we do]? What does religion mean? How does the mental process of religion relate to the physical world? I was also impressed that there were no direct answers to these questions, because the answers are different for any individual... And Laxer effectively communicated that flexibility with a mix of narrators who all found different answers for themselves.

BUT. After a couple of hundred pages, the answers started being drilled into me, which I didn't appreciate, because all of a sudden the open-ness I had felt disappeared. I was also unhappy that the story took a lot of turns towards the impractical, so that by the end I didn't believe in the world presented to me anymore. All in all, The Monkey Bible represents a great idea, started off very well, but ended all-too-mush-ily for me.


I forgot to mention the "Companion Music CD" included with the book. I haven't been able to force myself to actually listen to it, because the lyrics are written out of the back of the book, and my reaction to them perfectly matches my feeling that they tried too hard: to "get a message across," to be super new-agey, to "enlighten" the audience in a way I didn't want to be enlightened. I think the book would have been able to speak for itself.

-- Fizzy

If you found this review helpful and/or interesting, consider supporting our book habit: Buy this book!: Monkey Bible, The

Book review: Marsbound

Monday, June 14th, 2010

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Author:Joe Haldeman
Reading Level (Conceptual):For grown-ups
Reading Level (Vocabulary):For grown-ups
Genre:fiction
Year of publication:2009

Very sci-fi. Interesting take on the future.

In this setting the future seems just like now, except for updated space travel and things like that. It doesn't get toooo into details on the world, because almost all of it takes place in space. Anyways. The story follows Carmen, who is the first to discover inhabitants on mars. I like her as a character because she is very questioning of the rules and is just an interesting perspective to view the book through. Within the book there is also a romantic strand, so I'd more recommend this for women then men.

This definitely contains adult content.

-- Fizzy


If you found this review helpful and/or interesting, consider supporting our book habit: Buy this book!: Marsbound

Book review: Water for Elephants

Monday, May 10th, 2010

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Author:Sara Gruen
Reading Level (Conceptual):For grown-ups
Reading Level (Vocabulary):For grown-ups
Genre:fiction
Year of publication:2007

Fizzy says:

Great book. REALLY cool. It follows the story of one man for one summer, as he runs away to the circus. Accidentally.

Gruen definitely did her research, and gets deep into the gritty life of traveling circuses around the 1930's. The hierarchy that separated bosses, performers, and workers is very clear, and Jacob, the narrator, doesn't fit into any of those categories, which leads to an interesting and fast paced novel.

I read it in about a day and a half. SUPER good. Recommend it to anyone.

Emily says:

Beautiful and deep, but interspersed with the fascinating circus lore is unspeakable cruelty, human to human, and especially, human to animal. Balanced, sometimes, by unbelievable grace.

If you found this review helpful and/or interesting, consider supporting our book habit: Buy this book!: Water for Elephants

Book review: The Children’s Book

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

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Author:A.S. Byatt
Reading Level (Conceptual):For grown-ups
Reading Level (Vocabulary):For grown-ups
Genre:fiction
Year of publication:2009

There are so many intertwining, involving stories in The Children's Book that it was sometimes hard to slow down and remember that great novels are not entirely about what they are about.

Set in the time leading up to World War I and before women's sufferage, the plot tells of a group of families and their associates and friends. There is a destitute young boy who is nurtured to become the artist he deserves to be. There are the young women who, lacking the vote and receiving conflicting messages about how to behave socially and politically, pay terrible prices. The subplots about how various characters resolve their needs to express themselves politically, even when expressing their opinions may adversely affect those they love should be required reading for anyone thinking of a career in politics.


This is not an easy book to read, but it is also not an easy book to put down.

It's as if Byatt is leading us through a magical party. She continually blows up the most beautiful balloons and then, once you've become entranced by one, she wanders back to burst it.

-- Emily

If you found this review helpful and/or interesting, consider supporting our book habit: Buy this book!: Children's Book, The

Book review: Graceling

Friday, January 1st, 2010

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Author:Kristin Cashore
Reading Level (Conceptual):Sophisticated readers
Reading Level (Vocabulary):Children 12 and up
Genre:fiction
Year of publication:2009

This is a super fast-paced, easy read, which was great since that was what I had expected. The book is about a girl, Katsa, who is "graced", gifted with a special talent that no-one else has... She basically has to save the world, and on the way lots of other exciting things happen too.

I was very satisfied by this book, it was a fun read, and best of all, it's a stand-alone book, so I don't HAVE to go finish the series.

Note: There are some very explicit sex scenes in this book, even though the book is labeled "young readers".

-- Fizzy


If you found this review helpful and/or interesting, consider supporting our book habit: Buy this book!: Graceling

Book review: The Mystery of Breathing

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

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Author:Perri Klass
Reading Level (Conceptual):For grown-ups
Reading Level (Vocabulary):For grown-ups
Genre:Fiction
Year of publication:2004

Repulsive. Read The Mercy Rule instead.

-- Emily

If you found this review helpful and/or interesting, consider supporting our book habit: Buy this book!: Mystery of Breathing, The

Book review: The Jewel Box

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

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Author:Anna Davis
Reading Level (Conceptual):For grown-ups
Reading Level (Vocabulary):For grown-ups
Genre:fiction
Year of publication:2009

Wars have consequences, even when they don't impact those at home directly.

Not that horrors bear comparison, but the shock to the folks at home when, eventually they heard of the carnage of World War I seems to me as if it should have been mind-altering. Hard to believe they went right back to killing each other even more horribly in World War II.

The Jewel Box
describes one woman's response to the events that affected her personally during the Great War -- she adopts the persona of a flapper.

I admire Anna Davis' ability to show that the faces women show to the world, and also the faces of men, often do not actually reflect their true experience, their sufferings. Maybe if they did, there would be much less slaughter.

Chic lit alert!

Every time my 14 yr. old saw this book lying around, she took the opportunity to make fun of me about it again. Yes, well, maybe it IS chic lit, and the cover is -- garish is probably not too strong a word -- but I found it much deeper than most. This is a story that gives rise to much thought, if not much hope, although it is not in and of itself unremittingly depressing.

-- Emily Berk

If you found this review helpful and/or interesting, consider supporting our book habit: Buy this book!: Jewel Box, The

Book review: Hello Goodbye

Friday, October 9th, 2009

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Author:Emily Chenoweth
Reading Level (Conceptual):For grown-ups
Reading Level (Vocabulary):For grown-ups
Genre:fiction
Year of publication:2009

Not that confronting human mortality can ever be easy. But coming to realize that your mother is mortally ill must be particularly difficult for a young person old enough to understand what death is, but not yet independent.

Chenoweth's heroine, still a college student, has known but refused to know consciously that her mother's brain cancer is terminal. In a story that could have been maudlin, Chenoweth lays out a "good" way for this young person to surface the bad news: in the company of her parents' good friends, with some younger people to interact with.


This is not a cheerful book, but it is lovely and gentle. The dying woman is not presented as a saint, but as someone who has earned her (up until now) comfortable life, and is striving to ensure that those who survive her flourish while she enjoys as much of them time she has left as she can.

In fact, nearly all the characters reveal themselves as flawed but mostly well-intentioned. I am glad I got to know them.


If you found this review helpful and/or interesting, consider supporting our book habit: Buy this book!: Hello Goodbye

Book review: The Mercy Rule

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

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Author:Perri Klass
Reading Level (Conceptual):For grown-ups
Reading Level (Vocabulary):For grown-ups
Genre:Fiction, parenting
Year of publication:2009

The Mercy Rule is a rule instituted in some amateur sports leagues that requires that if one team is so far ahead in points as to be uncatchable by the opposing team, the game is ended earlier than it otherwise might.

In this extremely gentle, wise, moving story, Lucy, a physician who is also a mother and a graduate of the foster care system, unconsciously applies this rule to her family and work life.


Just about every character in the story, no matter how poorly they behave, has a sweetness and realness. For example, Lucy's pre-teenage daughter is mostly embarrassed by her mother and especially by her probably autistic-spectrum brother. And yet, she Does the Right Thing by them when crunches come. It's also the Right Thing in that it's probably not the thing that the mom would think of having Isabel do.

Anyway, if you are having one of those existential weeks, one of those where you know that you are actually a very lucky person, but you are feeling ungrateful and unhappy nevertheless, reading this book might cheer you up a bit. It did that for me.

-- Emily

If you found this review helpful and/or interesting, consider supporting our book habit: Buy this book!: Mercy Rule, The