Month: September 2010

Brain Candy by Garth Sundem

Date of Publication: 2010, Three Rivers Press

Number of Pages: 266

Synopsis (from back cover): Tastier than a Twizzler yet more protein-packed than a spinach smoothie, Brain Candy is guaranteed to entertain your brain – even as it reveals hundreds of secrets behind what’s driving that electric noodle inside your skull.

These delicious and nutritious pages are packed with bits of bite-sized goodness swiped from the bleeding edge of brain science (including the reason why reading these words is changing your hippocampus at this very moment!). Shelved alongside these succulent neurological nuggets are challenging puzzles and paradoxes, fiendish personality quizzes and genius testers, and a grab bag of recurring treats including Eye Hacks, Algebraic Eight-Ball, iDread, Wild Kingdom, and Logic of Illogic.

Review: This is one of those books that never gets old, no matter how many times you read it. It also has an almost magical ability to make you feel either really dumb or really smart. I found out things that made my various and very weird idiosyncracies seem justified. Did you know that my fear of teenagers actually has a name? It’s called ephebiphobia. And I’m right in thinking that my boyfriend has the handwriting of a serial killer…he matches up well with the Zodiac Killer. And it seems my hours spent daydreaming are actually making me smarter! There are personality tests (I found out that I’m an intelligent, incredibly introverted, absurdly liberal neurotic), intelligence tests (despite the aforementioned personality test that proved my intelligence, I also seem to have a slight case of dementia), puzzles, eye teasers, incredible brain facts, and hundreds of other tidbits that altogether make for hours of kind of depression, often hilarious, and always enlightening fun.

Rating: 10/10

Solanin by Inio Asano

Date of Publication: 2006, Viz Media

Number of Pages: 224

Synopsis (from back cover): Meiko Inoue is a recent college grad working as an office lady in a job she hates. Her boyfriend Naruo is permanently crashing at her apartment because his job as a freelance illustrator doesn’t pay enough for rent. And her parents in the country keep sending her boxes of veggies that just rot in her fridge. Straddling the line between her years as a student and the rest of her life, Meiko struggles with the feeling that she’s just not cut out to be a part of the real world.

Review: In a way, this is the manga version of Reality Bites. A group of misfit college graduates are struggling to find their place in the world of adults. They wish for independence and success, while at the same time wishing for the familiar security of childhood. This is a story that transcends culture and geography. One could find the same group of kids in any city, town, or hamlet in any part of the world. I definitely found myself identifying with each of the characters, as they found themselves questioning their direction in life. I, too, have felt that same detachment from the “real world”, as if I just don’t belong with the rest of society. But I’m convinced that even a reader who doesn’t feel that kind of societal alienation will enjoy this story.

Inio Asano does a beautiful job of developing her characters, combining her graceful artwork with her soulful words. Besides Meiko, the disillusioned office worker longing for something she can’t yet define, we have her boyfriend, an underemployed freelance artist/wannabe rock star, and his band mates: the drummer who obediently works in his family’s store, and the bassist is lingering on in his seventh year of college, refusing to grow up. They are all searching for happiness in a world that doesn’t seem made for them. And when life becomes tragically real for them, they realize that it is their friendships that make their lives meaningful.

Rating: 10/10