Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Gym Candy is Pretty Sweet

Finally! A book for people who like sports and enjoy reading descriptions of games and football plays, like you would read in the sports pages or in Sports Illustrated magazine. So many "sports books" are really about other issues altogether, but with Gym Candy I feel that I can unreservedly recommend this to people who just want "a book about sports."
Mick Johnson is a good football player, maybe even a great one. His father was also a great player, but blew his chances in the NFL due to some poor choices he had made. Mick feels pressure from his dad to achieve greatness, but he also personally wants the glory of being the strongest and fastest player on the field. When his dad buys him a membership to a local gym, Mick meets Peter, his new trainer. Peter casually mentions to him that, if he were interested, Peter could give him a trial dose of some popular steroids that would help Mick quickly achieve his goal of becoming a bigger and stronger player. Mick resists at first, but is eventually lured into the world of performance enhancing drugs, including the more powerful injectible drugs popular with other buff guys at his gym. Although the drugs do give Mick the edge he's been looking for, he experiences many of steroids' negative side effects, including depression, rage, swollen breasts and acne.
I liked Gym Candy because it deals with the issue of performance enhancing drugs in an honest and realistic fashion, and because it really and truly a book about SPORTS for people who like to read about sports. Don't be scared away if you're not really a sports fan (like myself), because it's a GREAT book about a fascinating and timely issue! 4 out of 4 Bananas!

Abraham Lincoln Illinois High School Book Award 2010 Nominee

Friday, September 18, 2009

Could You Cut Off Your Own Arm?

Aron Ralston is an avid rock climber, canyoneer and extreme adventure junkie. He climbs the highest peaks in North America in the dead of winter, bike rides solo through deep and desolate canyons, and skiis the avalanche-ridden Colorado backcountry without batting an eye. And, in the spring of 2003, he cut off his own arm when it became trapped between a boulder and a rock wall while hiking in a Utah canyon.

Now, I personally am not much of a hiker, and I have no desire to climb an actual mountain, particularly in the dead of winter, but I am fascinated by stories about people who are and who do test the limits of human survival in such outrageous ways. I've read a lot in this genre, including Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer (Mt. Everest), The Climb (Mt. Everest), Touching the Void (Peruvian Andes), and now Between a Rock and a Hard Place (Utah canyons), and I'm always amazed by the drive, courage, and good luck these explorers experience during their ordeals. In Between a Rock and a Hard Place, Ralston describes many of his wintertime mountaineering adventures, some close calls he's had, and also how he is usually very diligent about leaving detailed explanations of his hiking and biking plans with friends or family. In the spring of 2003, however, Ralston decided at the last minute to take a quick trip into the canyons of Utah, leaving no information about his itinerary behind for roommates or friends at his home in Colorado. He parked his car in a remote lot at the trailhead for a little-used path and set off for a day's hike into the canyons. After a few hours of enjoyable canyoneering, a boulder dislodged above Ralston, crushing his forearm and pinning him against the wall of the canyon for five agonizing days before he finally took the last deperate measure available to him and cut off his arm with the dull blade he'd brought along on his hike. Believe me, this makes for a fast-paced and UNBELIEVABLE read! If like extreme adventure or even if you're an armchair adventurer like me, you will love Between a Rock and Hard Place by Aron Ralston. 4 out of 4 Bananas!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Leo DiCaprio stars in this soon-to-be-released psychological thriller!

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane is one of the best, most gripping thrillers I've read in a long while. My typical evening routine includes reading until about 11pm or so, then shutting off my nightlight and going to sleep. I started reading Shutter Island around 9pm, read for a while, then turned off my light around 11pm. I COULDN'T STOP THINKING ABOUT IT, however, so I turned my light on again and read until 1:30am! I finished it the next day. This is very atypical behavior for me, and I've spent the last three months trying to convince everyone I know to read it. And now it's your turn to be convinced. It's awesome, awesome, awesome.
The novel begins with U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels and his new partner arriving at a small island off the coast of Boston, which is home to a federal institution for the criminally insane (and really, who doesn't love a federal institution for the criminally insane?). One of the inmates turned up missing, so the marshals have been brought out to help with the search. Nothing is as it seems, however, and the reader is twisted and turned one chapter after another until, finally, the last chapter is over and you are left in wonderment at the brilliant and bizarre mind of our Mr. Lehane. The mark of a true genius is when, after the final chapter is read, two readers can discuss and DISAGREE about what even happened. This happened to me and my husband; he thought one thing, and I another. As indicated in the title of this post, Leonardo DiCaprio is starring in the film version of Shutter Island, directed by Martin Scorcese. Oh yes, you know it's gonna be good.
One of the best books I've read this year, I'm giving Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane 4 out of 4 Bananas!