Saturday, November 26, 2005
But I didn't like this book at all. Not one bit. I felt angry reading it. It was a short book, but took me forever to read and I found myself bitching about it to anyone who made the mistake of asking what I was reading. Several people were like, "just stop reading it if you hate it so much."
It was this long, rambling whine about how difficult it was to be a white boy attending private school in a city where whites were the minority. It felt like he just wrote and wrote trying to justify his racist views. He said his girlfriend was raped by a "black" man and therefore he felt justified in being angry that his sister was dating a "black" man. It made no sense to me. Maybe that's because I'm not "white" or a member or any one race, and therefore have never understood how people can justify their racist ideas.
All this time I believed that racism was a southern thing and that people "up north" were more intelligent with regard to race relations. This book proved me wrong. If anything, I learned that from this book.
Some reviews have described the work as "stream of consciousness." But it just seemed like a lack of editing and no real focus to me. I guess what angered me most was the idea that this kind of writing is being published. I didn't find it at all interesting. Nothing especially exciting happened in this person's life. I didn't understand what the actual story was. The author seems to have some real issues he needs to deal with.
Mostly though, I didn't feel like I learned anything about the city of Detroit or the people of Detroit. I don't feel like the author, someone who attended a private school and moved away for college, served as a true representation of a citizen of Detroit. Again, this is just my limited opinion. I really wish I'd not read this book. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.
Sunday, October 30, 2005
Back to the book...
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I liked the way in which it was written. This is written by a former journalist who is basically reporting what she sees, without bias. She points out the discrepancies, the possible hoaxes. But she also points out the unexplainable events, the things that might be a result of a spiritual presences, messages from the dead. During the summer, Lily Dale is the home to registered mediums and people travel there to communicate with the dead with the assistance of these mediums.
The tone of the writing was consistent with my own beliefs regarding spirituality. I often have a difficult time trying to reconcile my uncomfortably, sometimes painfully, rational, practical tendencies with my desire to believe in a realm of this world we can=t understand. I need to believe that there is more than this. I need to believe that we have some control over our destiny, that we can generate good will and fend off negativity. I need to believe that there are forces in this world that can assist in such actions. But I can't accept what is presented to me in the traditional books, the stories of the Bible seem as valid to me as Greek mythology. Stories created to scare people into good behavior and obedience, stories created to explain things that people didn't understand. So I seek out less traditional ideas, more basic, older ideas that can provide results and work with nature and the here and now, ideas that can produce results that I can see or feel, not ideas accepted on blind faith.
I would readily recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the spiritual world and the work of mediums. And now that I've read it, I want very much to visit Lily Dale.
Read: Oct. 30, 2005
Sunday, October 02, 2005
Anyway, point being I like 50 Cent’s music quite a bit. Don’t know much else about him, so I was eager to read this autobiography. For the most part, this is an interesting book.
I realize that he probably had someone else write it, he tells his story, someone else crafts it into readable form maybe. I also know that famous people don’t always tell the truth. (Big secret here – non-famous people also tell lies.)
Basically this book is about 50’s drug dealing. He’s pretty detailed about the dealing. Preparing the product, marketing the product, the various means of working a corner. At first it was intriguing, after a while it became a bit repetitive. Not being all that versed in the drug world, some of it was a bit over my head. Also, being that some of the information is so detailed and delivered in such a matter of fact, non apologetic way, I began to feel a little dirty reading this – and not the good kind of dirty, it was as if by reading about this I was somehow agreeing that it was okay that he was selling drugs. It’s not, 50, drug dealing is bad.
50 seems like a smart, clever guy. Like I said, I don’t know if some of those statements are from him or he had a good writer, who is credited (I believe his name is Kris Ex, or Kris X). But, just so you know, it isn’t like 50 is claiming he wrote this all by himself.
A few things bothered me though, such as the suggestion that he had no option other than to deal drugs because he couldn’t ask his grandmother for money. It isn’t like he needed this money to survive. I got the impression that his grandparents provided him with a decent home and put food on the table. He wasn’t lacking in essentials. He dealt drugs so that he could own 9 pairs of $100 sneakers and wear super expensive clothes and jewelry and have a dirt bike and some kind of fancy motorcycle. As a teenager he was driving SUVs that he paid for in cash, but had to park around the corner so his grandmother wouldn’t find out. I guess dealing is the easy way to get this stuff, but it isn’t necessary stuff, it is, in fact, quite excessive stuff. Stuff that a lot of us are never going to own, at least not through legal means, unless we want to drown in debt, and there are plenty of people okay with doing that. Seems to be a values issue more than a poverty issue.
Also, he refers to a girlfriend of his as a ho because she sleeps with someone else. But a paragraph before that, he admits that he was seeing other people on the side. So technically, wouldn’t that make him a ho also? Okay for him to mess around, but not his girl? Then there is the bit where he’s so annoyed about being sent to a drug rehab facility and keeps saying, “I don’t use drugs, I sell them.” Um, dude, maybe you should keep that info to yourself because wouldn’t the punishment for dealing be worse than using? Should be, if it isn’t. And while he’s ticked off about getting caught, he does seem to acknowledge that what goes around comes around. He knows he broke the law and I think he knows that he got away with quite a bit and got off fairly easy.
And the other thing that upset me -- again, this would have to do with his relationships with women. He’s always buying his girlfriends stuff – expensive stuff and letting them drive his expensive cars. As a woman, I’m going to say right now, if you have to buy a woman something to keep her happy, then she’s really no better than a prostitute. Women like that give the rest of us a bad name. He mentions one woman who he seems to have some respect for, probably because she eventually becomes the mother of his first son. When he meets her she’s working, going to school, acting like she intends to support herself and you get the impression that he’s attracted to her independence. But then he mentions that things are good between them when he’s got money and not so much when the money is running low. He seems to accept this and feels like things would have worked out if only he’d had the money to keep things going. I am no expert on relationships, but if she lost interest because the money was running out, then you’re better off without her. You shouldn’t have to pay to keep a relationship healthy – that’s not healthy. But what do I know about this stuff? I don’t let people buy me stuff, and I’m also what you might call chronically single. Maybe guys like paying for women… maybe this is why I don't like guys.
Overall, it was interesting read.
Maybe it was partially my fault. I started reading the book the same week school started back up and haven't been able to devote any long periods of time to reading. But usually, if a book is interesting enough, I figure out a way to fit it in to my schedule, regardless of how busy I might be. This book though, I never reached a point where I just couldn't put it down. I kept waiting for action, and it never happened. So maybe I'm just too accustomed to flying through books. But these days I just feel like there are so many books I want to read, I don't want to waste too much time on one. I need to dive into my books to escape my reality, and believe me, I've been in dire need of an escape lately, and I was never able to immerse myself in this book. If a book is interesting enough, it doesn't take that long to read, irrelevant of the number of pages it contains. However, I will say that if I'd picked this up in the middle of summer and had long Saturdays to do nothing other than lay out in the sun and read, maybe I'd feel differently about it. Maybe, on the other hand, vampires in 100 degree heat, I don't know about that…
Basically, I just didn't find the story very interesting. I was worried that maybe there was something wrong with me. Maybe I'm not the intellectual I think I am. But after finally finishing this, I read through some reviews on amazon, and am glad to see I'm not the only one who had difficulty with this book. I did finish it, granted, I skimmed through the last two hundred pages and I don't feel like I missed all that much. There are so many documents and so much research and I'm not sure that it was all necessary.
There are two separate storylines going on, the narrator is performing her own quest and while doing so, she's reading about what her father did many years before. But I was bothered by all the coincidences, which I assumed were supposed to reflect Dracula's omnipotent power, but it was never fully explained, or maybe I skimmed over that part.
At one point I walked into my office and someone asked how the book was going and I said "I think I've figured out the big twist, and it isn't that big of a twist. Sure enough, a hundred or so pages later, the revelation was made and I didn't find it all that shocking. I'm not giving it away in case you're planning to read it.
I wanted something more exciting, I wanted something a bit more intense and sexy, I guess. I wanted more Dracula. I wanted more danger. Oh there was plenty of danger I suppose, but it was so bogged down by the words, I never felt the chill or the suspense. Also, I suspect the form in which it was written sort of eliminated any suspense from the get go. She's reading old documents written by her father, so you know he's going to live through the danger he's describing. You know her mother is going to stick around for a while, because well, she's her mother so she's not dying immediately.
I think the book had potential. I think maybe it needed a better editor. Maybe some of those long rambling documents and letters could have been summarized in more of a conversational mode.
Overall, I was quite disappointed. I wanted more out of this book. It didn't deliver on all the hype it received. I feel like I got scammed. At some point I'm going to learn that I never like the books that the entire world claims are wonderful.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
This is a wonderful book. This is the first Nick Hornby book that I’ve read and I really enjoyed it.
I think everyone knows the premise: four people planning to kill themselves on New Year’s Eve run into each other on the same rooftop, talk each other into living for another six weeks and form a bond. The story is thus about this group and how they decide to continue living. It’s four people who would otherwise have absolutely nothing in common and together they provide some very entertaining experiences.
I liked the way Hornby addressed the issues of depression and despair and reaching the point where a person just doesn’t want to continue living. Hornby respects his characters and he doesn’t treat them as crazy or selfish. I felt like he really showed them as people who have simply reached a point where going forward is very, nearly unbearable.
I’m told that there are people in the world who have never contemplated suicide. How nice it must be to be one of those people. That is something I can’t even imagine, much as those people probably can’t imagine what it feels like to want to stop living.
Reading this book provided a sense of validation, an acknowledgment that these feelings are real and other people have them. I know it’s a work of fiction, but the fact that someone was able to write about these things means that probably somewhere, someone has also felt these things. The kind of pain described on these pages, when it’s happening, you’re certain that no one else in the world has ever felt this bad. But reading this, there are so many moments when I was like, “yes, that’s exactly how it feels”.
One thing this book showed is that sometimes all you need is for someone to acknowledge you. You need to know that other people are expecting you. That’s what saves these people, the fact that they have to meet for coffee in a week, or at the pub in another week, another meeting at the end of the three months. When a person reaches the point where no one knows he exists that’s when he realizes it is okay to stop existing. When you realize that nothing in the world will change if you live or die, no one will even notice you're gone, that’s when you know you don’t need to live anymore. I believe the accepted theory is that suicide happens when your pain outweighs your coping resources -- and everyone has different coping resources, which is why it is so difficult for some to understand the act. That night on the rooftop, these four people gained a stronger set of coping resources. Because they ran into each other, suddenly they have a support system that they had not had before.
I also appreciated that there wasn’t a tidy, happy ending. That would have greatly detracted from the story if everyone had lived happily ever after. They aren’t suddenly repaired and well again because of what happened. They are simply living, for now. For another six months at least because that’s when they plan to meet again.
I highly recommend this book. Though, I’m curious as to other’s opinions. How do I put it nicely? I’m curious as how the mentally sane and stable will regard this book. I wonder, if you’ve never been in that position if you can understand what the characters are going through or if you will even find their experiences all that interesting, or will they simply seem absurd and overdramatic?
Read Aug. 22, 2005
Over the past few years I’ve tried to read all I can about stories of the Middle East. I’m a news junkie and the tidbits they feed us on the news makes me crave more. I want to know as much as possible about this part of the world, this section of the world so mired in turmoil, that has such a strong effect on our country. That being said, I really enjoyed the element of the book that described Afghanistan. You learn about the country through the eyes of the people who live there. The book provides a much more personal understanding than can be provided on CNN. What I always appreciate most when reading stories about other countries is the knowledge that ultimately we all want the same things. As different as we may seem, we are very similar. We still take care of our families, we play games, and we have big parties. Another lesson to be learned from the stories of Afghanistan are the dangers that can happen when you allow a country to be ruled by religion. Religion should be a personal and private thing, not something dictated by government.
The storyline involving Amir and Hassan and their fathers, Baba and Ali is also very interesting. This is a well-written book, very much a page-turner. There are scenes in this book that could be very horrible and gruesome, but I felt the author handled them in a way that maintained the necessary horror without making the reading unbearable.
I very strongly disliked the character of Amir, who is the narrator of the story. He’s so weak and selfish and jealous. He does some terrible things, allows terrible things to happen as a result of his inaction. I found myself becoming so angered by him because he has so many chances to correct the things he’s done wrong, before they get worse. Instead he makes things worse and he stands by like a coward. He claims he knows what he did wrong, but still he’s claiming he did it for his father’s love. When in fact, he never seems to grasp how deeply his actions hurt his father – his father, who gave up so much for him. Even in the end when his actions should seem obvious, he’s hesitant and cowardly. “But I have a wife and career in America” – he’s whining in the end, and you just want someone to say to him, “But you ruined so many other lives.”
Near the end of the book though, when Amir returns to Afghanistan and confronts the Taliban, some of the coincidences began to get a little absurd. This I found somewhat bothersome. I thought the story felt very real up to that point. Then I just sort of though, “yeah, right that would happen…”
This is a very, very sad story. Unlike other sad stories that I’ve complained about though, I do think there is much to be gained from reading this.
Finished reading Aug. 22, 2005
I love Bill Maher*. I mean, I really, really love him. I have no problem at all spending my Friday nights at home watching Real Time instead of out partying or whatever people do on Friday nights. I think he’s so smart, and he’s funny and he says things that people need to hear. He seems to be the kind of guy that girls like me wish we could read the paper with over coffee in the morning and watch the evening news with at night. Being that smart makes a man very, very sexy. And he’s the kind of guy that I have absolutely no hopes of ever meeting in Texas. Honestly, if there were more guys like him in the world, I might actually considering dating. But anyway…. Back to the book…
This book is collection of Maher’s New Rules, which he presents at the end of his show on HBO, Real Time with Bill Maher. If you watch the show on a regular basis, you’ve probably heard most of them, maybe all of them. But they’re still really funny to read. In fact, I spent this past Saturday night reading through the book. (Did I mention that I don’t date?) There are worse ways to spend a Saturday.
I like the idea of having this book because I do always think the things Maher says on the show are so funny and I want to tell my friends about it later. With the book, you can turn to the page and say, “you have to read this.” The thing that worries me though, with this book and any sort of news or story that I think people should be reading or watching – the people that need it will avoid it. Those of us that already agree are the ones paying attention. Very much a case of preaching to the choir.
*I know that he has writers who help him come up with some of the New Rules and all that, I know he's not saying all this on his own, but still... I love him... don't spoil my fantasies...
Read Aug. 20, 2005
When I was a teenager, I read a book by Isabel Allende called The House of the Spirits, and I remember liking the book quite a bit. I don’t remember the details, only that it captivated me, moved me, I remember feeling overwhelmed by the novel.
So keeping those two things in mind, I was really looking forward to reading Zorro. I thought it would be a fun read. Something adventurous and exciting. A perfect summer read. Or so I thought…
During the summer I generally read at least two books a week. Usually it’s one on Saturday, and another during the week.
Two weeks after starting Zorro, I wasn’t a third of the way through the book. I just didn’t care about the characters. Something about the writing made it feel so disconnected. Like someone was telling me a story, but they focused too much on unimportant details and used too many names and kept repeating themselves. It felt a bit like reading a history book, a very badly written history book. I was just dragging myself through it. I started skimming through sections, hoping to get to a more interesting part and it never happened.
As three weeks approached, and I started to feel sick thinking of all the other books I could have been reading during that time, I made one last attempt to get something out of this book and decided to just read the final section. After two days of that, and not reading more than ten or so pages, I gave up. I set the book aside and moved on to something else. I hate quitting on books, especially ones that I’ve spend this much time on, but it was a case of cutting my losses.
This was a big disappointment. I found it to be very, very boring, and it just didn’t read well at all. Snoozer, stay away from it. You want some Zorro, rent a movie. You want Allende, read House of the Spirits. But stay away from this.
Gave up – Aug. 17, 2005
Thursday, August 11, 2005
Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman - I just loved this book, can't even explain how much I loved it, I loved it that much.
We Thought You Would be Prettier - This book is so funny. I bought a copy at the bookstore today just so that I can pass it around and make everyone I know read it, it's that great.
Wonder Spot and Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing - These books by Melissa Bank were wonderful. I liked them very, very much. (I haven't posted reviews for these yet, will get around to that soon. )
Getting Over Jack Wagner - I wanted to just stop reading this book, but instead rapidly skimmed through it, because I feel an obligation to read finish books I start. Not a good book.
Time Traveler's Wife - I shouldn't have read this. I knew that from the beginning, but I thought I would be brave. You know me, so very adventurous (that's a joke). Didn't enjoy this much at all.
Here’s the thing. I’m one of those people who needs to be doing a few things at once. I have to be busy at all times. I can’t just sit in down in front of the TV and watch. If I’m in front of the TV, I’m also writing, or drawing or reading a magazine. It’s annoying, but hey, that’s me. I’m actually making a purposeful effort these days to sit down in front of the TV for a few minutes each night and do nothing other than eat my dinner. That’s my “slow down” time. During much of the year, I’m busy with schoolwork and attending basketball games and concerts and such, so trying to figure out how to spend time at home is not really an issue. The summer months though, they’re slow. Dirk isn’t even in the country right now and I miss him so much!!
Here’s the thing though… the only thing that really settles me is reading. (Painting also, but that involves the committment of cleanup and setup and such, but you can't take your paints to bed with you at night, or at least you shouldn't. Some people might, but hey, I'm the first to admit I'm kind of boring.) My love of reading goes back to when I was a kid needing so desperately to escape, finding my only solace in Nancy Drew books and later Christopher Pike books. It’s my way of dealing or maybe not dealing. I slip into another world where I can forget the real world for a bit. And summer is the best time for reading. I spend a huge chunk of my weekend doing nothing other than lounging in the backyard with a book. (Yes, I know the sun is bad for you, and guess what, I don’t really care.) I will remain out there for hours in the sweltering heat, tanning and reading. My idea of heaven.
In the past, I’ve not been very adventurous in my reading choices. I tend to read nothing other than crime novels written by British women – three women in particular – P.D. James, Ruth Rendell (who also writes as Barbara Vine), and Minette Walters. Toss in the occasion Harry Potter, Margaret Atwood and Anne Tyler, a few of the classics, some non-fiction/current event type stuff, and that’s about it. I decided years ago that I didn’t have enough time to read books I wasn’t certain I would love.
But I would read reviews of other books and make lists and search the bargain tables at the used bookstores hoping to find something new. I mean, at this point, I’ve read everything by P.D. James and haven’t liked the last two books by Minette Walters, so I was running out of stuff. And there was this new book coming out about Dracula and there’s nothing I love more than a good vampire novel. But I’m trying to conserve money and one of my rules is “never pay full price for books.”
So I went to the library -- located an entire three blocks from my house – yeah, I’m feeling kind of stupid for not having thought of this sooner. And now I have reading adventures a plenty! But serious, since the books are free and I don’t have to find a home for them after reading them, I’m trying out some books I would have never touched otherwise. (And hope to eventually read the rest of the Ruth Rendell books that I’ve not yet read -- there are quite a few at the library that I do not own yet!)
Now you know about my reading habits, but why the book reviews? Because in a past life, one that ended years ago, I had dreams of being a writer. Well, I’ve come to accept that I don’t really have the ability to write much of anything that anyone else will ever want to read. These book reviews are no exception really, but I thought it was a way to combine my newly strengthened love of reading with my desire to write. It is a start of some sort. I’d read these books and want to talk to someone about them, but, well, you finish a book at 3am on Thursday night morning there’s not anyone around to talk to at the moment, so I’d write about them instead. And what I’ve tried to do is edit up those notes a bit and post them here in this blog. (Besides that, I was beginning to think that I was the only person left in the world without a blog. What else can I blog about? The fungus on the rose bushes, the scratch on my car, very exciting, but I’m saving that for the novel … )
I read a book last summer called Reading Lolita in Tehran. It’s an amazing book. I recommend it to everyone. It’s about a woman who educates women in Tehran using the classic literature. The critique of the literature the professor uses sort of wraps around the stories of these women. By talking about the books and way the women view these books, you gain a unique understanding about the lives of these women living is a world so different from ours. The books create a common ground and a new perspective at the same time. Anyway, I mention that book because I loved the way the author was able to write about these lives while at the same time writing about books.
I guess I sort of hope that at some point, my writing of book reviews will evolve into something more significant and profound than “I liked this” and “didn’t like that.” It’s not there yet, not by any means. Right now, it is very much "this is what I liked and this is what I didn’t like." But I’m just getting started.
Well, that’s all for now… I’m going to get back to reading Zorro…
Saturday, August 06, 2005
Many years ago, as a teenager in a dusty West Texas town, I picked up a book at the library called All the Pretty Horses. It wasn’t the kind of book I would usually read. Being that I wanted nothing more in the world than to escape where I lived, I generally chose to read books about places far, far away. I preferred the rainy London streets to take me away from the Texas heat. I’m not even sure why I decided to check out the book, I didn’t have a clue as to what it was about. But it looked interesting and I was curious as to what someone had to write about the area that I reluctantly called home.
Immediately I was sucked into the story and swept away by the main character's adventures. I couldn’t put the book down. It wasn’t just the descriptions of the people and the land that captivated me, but rather the tale of an escape, abandoning everything to find yourself. I think of it as the West Texas version of Catcher in the Rye. I’m sure my love of the book also had a lot to do with the fact that I was in such dire need of an escape as well. I was so ready to leave everything simply to find something.
The thing is, living out in West Texas, you feel very isolated. You can’t understand that feeling if you’ve never lived like that. But you can stay there for your entire life and never have a clue as to what is happening anywhere else in the world. A lot of people are just fine living that way. They believe the world ceases to exist outside of their city limits. But sometimes, living out there feels as if you are hidden, lost, disconnected and abandoned. So the fact that someone had written a book, a beautiful book that spoke so eloquently about an area I assumed no one knew existed gave me a sense of connection. Because of this book, people all over the world were reading about this place. Somewhere in a big city that I could only dream of visiting, a person was reading about San Angelo and Eldorado and Iraan. This land was not completely forgotten, in our pathetic, desperate existence, breathing in the oil and the fumes and burning under the dry sun. For a few pages, we were known to the rest of the world. People everywhere were reading the name of the town, Iraan. I despise Iraan, having spent entirely too many years of my life in that town, but I really do love that book.
So I was looking forward to McCarthy’s latest, No Country for Old Men. The book takes place near the border, revisiting the area covered in All the Pretty Horses. A drug deal goes bad, someone finds some money and runs, the book is about his running and those chasing him. There’s an inexplicably evil killer who wants the money and kills for pleasure and there’s a sheriff from Sanderson who wants to protect the people of his county. The sheriff would be the old man, saddened and fearful of the deterioration of the world around him, the new breed of evil that he sees.
I enjoyed the book. I started reading this book when I got home from work around eight one evening and didn’t go to bed until I finished it. I never found a comfortable stopping point. Also, I feel like a person doesn’t get the full benefit of McCarthy’s writing if they do a lot of stop and start reading. You have to be ready to dive in and let the words carry you along.
This story does just that. It’s a rush from city to city, gunfight to the next gunfight. Brisk. Run, run, run. Don’t stop to look behind you or you’re dead. You never get bogged down in the details.
My only issue with the book was the a few seemingly preachy references to Jesus -- as in the world has gone to hell because of the lack of Jesus. However, it is appropriate for the setting, and I wonder if maybe it stands as symbolic of how out of touch that desolate area of Texas is from the rest of the world. They seem to want to blame everything on a lack of Jesus and not their own ignorance. Too often these people who love their Jesus so much show complete disregard for their fellow humans. This is a place plagued by racism and greed. Also, I was a bit offended by the idea that kids with green hair were to blame for evil in the world.
I thought the setting felt real. Again, I felt the twinge of recognition as the characters traveled to and from towns I knew in my childhood. The characters sounded real. However, the sheriff, I questioned. He seemed quite noble and determined to protect the citizens of his county. My own experiences with West Texas law officers, and the abuses I witnessed around me when I was a resident of that area, leads me to regard the sheriff as very much a work of fiction. Noble and protective are not words I would use to describe a small town Texas law officer.
Most accurately I felt the novel showed the evil that can result from greed. From the beginning, the person who tried to run off with money that didn’t belong to him should have known he would end badly. You don’t walk off with 2.4 million for free. That’s my preachy bit -- don’t take things that don’t belong to you, it will make your life much easier.
My recommendation: If you like fast paced action stories, you’ll probably like this. It’s not going to change your world or break your heart or anything that dramatic. But it will provide a few decent hours of entertainment.
Finished reading the book on August 4, 2005
Friday, August 05, 2005
This book is so funny. Laugh out loud funny. I would read this during my lunch break and just sit there in the break room cracking up – giving my co-workers yet another reason to question my sanity.
From ebay to spam to owning too many books to getting locked in your own backyard– she hits the nail on the head. Finally a book written for girls like me. Laurie refers to girls like this as “The Idiot Girl Club.” I am so proud to know there is a club for girls like me.
I like to say that all I ever wanted was to be “Put together.” You know the type, Dallas is full of put-together girls. Makeup always in place, their hair is perfect, their clothing looks like it was tailored specifically for their bodies because they all have perfect thin, model-like bodies. They never have their lunch proudly displayed on the front of their blouses or lipstick on their teeth or a glob of mascara on the side of their nose. Oh, to be one of those girls.
But this is me: I’m the girl with a salsa stain on her brand new tan skirt. I own one good pair of jeans, every other pair being too tight in the ass and too loose in the waist, making me look either fat or saggy or both. However, there is a white spot on the knee of my only good pair of jeans, there as a result of a drop of my acne cream falling onto it one rushed morning. Yeah, acne cream. I’ve reached a point in my life where I’m applying acne cream and wrinkle prevention serum on my face every morning and night. That’s fair, right?
I’ll never understand the whole “fashion” thing. I can’t get it together looks wise. The more I try the more I fail. Any attempt at following a trend or simply looking nice is thwarted by a bra strap showing, the waistband of my panties on display above my jeans.
I’ve never learned to apply makeup properly. By the time I get done trying to cover up the acne and the wrinkles, I’m exhausted.
No matter how much I spend on a piece of clothing, it’s still too tight in spots and too big in others – same piece of clothing mind you. If I dare to fix my hair, a freakish windstorm will kick up and last only from the time it takes to get from the door of my house to my car.
That’s just appearance wise, I won’t even go into the non-appearance issues an idiot girl such as I deals with on a daily basis.
I am very much what Notaro describes as an Idiot Girl. And I love Laurie Notaro’s writing because she embraces our quirky traits and makes it seem so much less awful and in fact, very, very funny to be an idiot girl.
This is the kind of book you want to hand out to all of your friends just so you can all sit around and laugh together.
For some of Notaro’s writing, you should check out http://www.idiotgirls.com/ .
My recommendation: Read this. It’s wonderful and laughing this much makes anyone feel good. Hands down, the funniest book I’ve ever read.
Finished reading during my lunch break on August 4, 2005..
Sunday, July 31, 2005
So first I’ll explain my dislike of time travel, which may have severely tempered my opinion of this book. In general, I’m okay with science fiction and fantasy, in small doses. But the concept of time travel is absurd to me. Absolutely and completely impossible. So why bother writing about it or thinking about it? I spend at least 50% of my life thinking about what I would do differently if could do it over. Time travel. That’s the ultimate dream for me. To be eighteen again, so many different choices I would have made, all the times I would have yes instead of no or maybe later. All the chances I would have taken, the things I would do differently. So to read or think about time travel is simply torture for me. A big tease, something so impossible that it can never happen, so why think of it?
This book presents time travel as a type of medical condition. Chronological displacement. A genetic defect that Henry is trying to cure.
The story is quite strange, though the writer begins each section with a date and the ages of the characters, so there isn’t much risk of confusion. But if you stop to think about the story, it sounds a little too bizarre and a bit lacking on the love element. An adult, married Henry travels back in time, meets his wife, Clare, as a six year old. He visits her on several occasions during her childhood, informing her that someday they’ll meet and be married. So as a college student, Clare runs into him, tells him they’re going to be married and they end up together. Call, me silly but I assume a love story should involve a little more choice.
I never felt that any great love existed between the two. I didn’t like the main characters very much at all. They both seemed so completely absorbed with their own small little world. I don’t like people like that and I don’t like reading about people like that. Maybe that’s why I prefer crime stories that involve people trying to make the world a better place. Clare was selfish and immature, her only goal in life was to get pregnant. Henry just wanted to get laid as much as possible.
I think that might have been the biggest turn-off with regard to this book. The sex is blatant, crude and a bit too much. This might be something that other readers enjoy or equate with romantic. To me, it just sounded gross. If a book must include sex, I prefer it be a bit more subtle and leave more to the imagination.
I didn’t like this book. I didn’t find it to be especially intriguing or romantic or enjoyable. The ending was more interesting than the beginning but mired in sadness. I’m beginning to think that branching out with regard to books may not have been one of my better ideas. The next time I consider reading a book because it has so many glowing reviews and so many people seem to love it, I need to remind myself that a large number of people also think George W. is a fine president. The majority doesn’t always know what is best.
My recommendation: A lot of people like this book, so I feel wrong in steering anyone away from it. I didn’t like it and I wish I hadn’t wasted time reading it. But then again, I don’t like romances or time travel.
Thursday, July 28, 2005
I like the way this book is written, unencumbered by excess punctuation. English majors are gasping in horror at the thought, but it makes the story flow exceptionally well. I couldn’t stop reading. The style of writing seems to place you directly in the story. You aren’t so much observing from the outside as you are living out the events. Problem is, these aren’t events you want to live through.
This book is unbelievably sad. I don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying that it is about a woman who’s best friend is murdered. Everyone makes an attempt to move forward with their lives, but something this awful results in the complete upheaval of their world.
I felt the ending was disappointing. I felt like I spent all this time, went through all this tragedy and didn’t have a satisfying resolution. The events in this book sort of went from very bad and horrible to even worse. Because this was so well-written, I ached reading this. But in the end, I didn’t feel like I was given anything in return for my pain. I spent several hours baking in the sun, unable to stop reading. I lost track of time and nearly experienced a heat stroke when I finally got up and went inside. Not a pleasant experience. When I finished the book I was angry. I didn’t feel like I gained anything from reading this book. I’m certainly not opposed to a sad story, but there needs to a point to it. I never saw the point in this story. It just happened and as a reader, you went along for the ride and ended up furious with the driver.
My recommendation: Too sad, without any sort of redeeming value. There are enough sad real events in the world without burdening yourself with some fictional ones.
Sunday, July 24, 2005
I enjoyed this book, despite the fact that I don’t like food very much. Not much at all actually. I don’t like to prepare food and I don’t especially like to eat food. I would be perfectly content to just take a little pill each day to fulfill all my food needs. Don’t think I haven’t tried that. I was the queen of the diet pills during my younger days. But eventually, you have to eat food.
I don’t know much of anything about high quality food. I eat Lean Cuisine, and it tastes just fine, but the high sodium intake is affecting my blood pressure. Not to mention that after two or so weeks of nothing but Lean Cuisine I develop heartburn just thinking of the little frozen pizza waiting for me in the freezer. The only fast food establishments I’ll visit are Taco Bell and Whataburger. Scoff if you will, but if your life is as dull as mine, you take a certain pleasure in the different taste sensations that accompany the fire sauce and sour cream and cheese-like stuff offered by Taco Bell -- and I only go maybe once every two weeks, when I’m having an especially bad day and don’t care about my calorie intake.
I hate grocery stores and I don’t cook, not at all. Never.
I point all this out to prove what a great book Ellerbee has written. Taking into account that someone like me, who abhors food so much, actually enjoyed reading about food. In fact, reading sections of this book made me crave the food she was describing. Not that I’ll ever try any of it. Despite the fact that Dallas claims to have more restaurants than New York City, I will probably never set foot in most of them because visiting restaurants tends to involve having other people with you willing to go to restaurants. And I don’t have those other people required. Oh sure, I could go alone, and feel like a bigger loser than I am, sitting there by myself surrounded by lovely, happy people with their friends and family, being glared at by the staff because I’m taking up a table that could be used for two or more people who would leave a bigger tip. Visiting restaurants alone is really not even open for discussion for me. To others willing to do that, more power to you, but I’m not that brave. Yeah, I know, I can get on a plane to London all by myself, and stay there all by my lonesome for a week or so, but I can’t walk into Ciudad or Café Madrid alone. Go figure, I’m a dork. I’ve never in my life claimed to make sense.
So there, I like the idea of food. I just don’t like the actual product that is food. Like most things in life, food seems to promise so much, and deliver so little, except for more inches around my thighs. Food for me, again, like most things in life, works better in pictures and print, not reality.
Besides food though, this book is very much about traveling. Ellerbee writes about many different types of travel. Traveling alone, traveling with family, traveling for work. Traveling, I enjoy immensely. I like talking to strangers and I like seeing new places. I like seeing places that I’ve read about, seeing locations where history was created. I like checking into hotel rooms and being far away from home. I like being in a place where no one knows me or anything about me. I like not having a history. It never matters how long I’m away from home, I tend to never want to come back. This probably runs much deeper than a love of travel.
Ellerbee’s enthusiasm for travel made me admire her all the more.
Once the advisor at the my college newspaper walked into the newsroom and found me typing up an email to my boyfriend. She said, "You know Linda Ellerbee got fired for accidentally sending a letter to her boyfriend over the AP wire." I responded with, "Yeah, and look how that ruined her career."
When I was an aspiring young journalism major, I wanted to be Linda Ellerbee. She always seemed so smart and direct and put together. Put together, that’s all I ever wanted to be. From reading her stories, you are even more convinced of her put-togetherness. She’s really an impressive woman. She’s got friends, close family, and a career. I did well in wanting to be her. Unfortunately, I’ve failed somewhat miserably in my aspirations. But at least I can follow along in her book.
As a plus for people who do actually know something about preparing food – a recipe is included at the end of almost every chapter. For a brief moment I considered making the Pho that was described so well reading about it made my mouth water, but then I realized purchasing the ingredients would involve a trip to a grocery store and a visit down aisles other than the frozen food department, so the moment passed quickly.
My recommendation: Read this if you like food or travel and especially if you like both. Very well written, interesting stories.
Friday, July 15, 2005
In the simplest of descriptions, this is the story of a woman made of ice who falls desperately in love with a man made of fire. And the result of that love or more accurately, that obsession is steam, lots and lots of steam.
But this story is about so much more than the melting of the Ice Queen. It’s about family and it’s about memories. This book is about the way we shape the world around us, the world that doesn’t necessarily exist, but rather the world that we perceive, and the way that perception becomes our reality. The events of the story unfold so gradually and so startlingly. You realize, as does the main character how different the world is from what you once thought it was. On the surface, this is about a woman who survives the real world by turning it into a fairy tale, because the woman in the background, the woman who accidentally created this story, couldn’t go on anymore. I found the passage about the ice on the road and being lucky for the first time to be especially moving. I'm purposely being vague because I don't want to give too much away.
If I wrote novels, I would want to write like Hoffman writes. She has the ability to string together words that make me feel things that I didn’t think I was capable of feeling.
Perhaps the effect this book had on me had more to do with the place in which I happen to be at this point in my life – that point being confused and broken-hearted, disappointed, old and scared and tired, very, very tired, in a way that sleep can never cure – but whatever it was, reading this felt like opening up my soul. It felt like my chest was suddenly cracked open and the pain that had been building up for so long just drifted away. Then I knew that I would be okay, if only for a moment, it was a moment more than I’d had before. That sounds hokey and absurd, but I can’t think of a better way to describe the way this book made me feel.
There is one line in the book especially that made me stop reading, just so I could absorb the words, capture the moment and hold it. “Happily ever after doesn’t mean forever.” So simple and yet, reading it like that made everything better. It made me realize that just because something ended doesn’t mean that it never happened. Nothing takes away your memories, your moments. Just because you lose someone doesn’t mean that you’ve lost what you once had with that someone.
So my recommendation: Read this. I can’t imagine anyone not liking it.
Finished reading this on July 15, 2005
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
I had thought this would be a book about people like those I know who fall for boys in bands. But the difference is, the girls I know fall for those guys in bands because they know that they aren’t at all what they appear to be on stage. They love the way they turn into hot sexy rockers on stage and then step off the stage and become the nice, sweet guys they’ve always known them to be. I think of my friends who spend their days working in offices and then head out to Deep Ellum later to watch their boyfriend – who also probably spends his days working in an office -- play guitar. That’s the what differentiates girls who actually dates rock stars from the groupies.
But once I started reading this book I realized that Eliza wasn’t so much in love with rock stars as she was in love with herself and some absurd image that she had of what a rock star was supposed to be like. Eliza, though she tried to deny it, was nothing more than a groupie.
Turns out this book isn’t really about a girl loving rock stars. Rather, it is a book about a child trapped in her past, longing for her father. The book implies that the only thing she remembered about the father that walked out on her was that he liked jazz music and I guess she made the connection that he was some sort of rock star. I say “implies’ because, well, it pretty much spells it out that she was wanting the rock star to be her father. The direct explanation was necessary because the connection never made much sense.
This book dwells on Eliza’s past, music boy after boy after boy. I found myself just skimming through theses sections because they were boring and tedious. It was the same story over and over again. She meets a talented guy, thinks he’s great, hooks up, changes her life for him, and then once she realizes he’s normal – stupid things like, he has a caring mother, he has a neat apartment, etc. – she runs and then acts like he’s committed some sort of atrocious crime by being normal.
The main character seemed so childish and silly. Which was maybe the point, mentally she never moved past being a ten-year-old who’s father walked out on her. She was in her late twenties and still trying to dress like a “rock chic.”
If this character really wanted to overcome her problems, maybe, rather than wasting all her energy pursuing and fucking musicians, she should have started searching for the man who abandoned her as a child. It may not have been an overall great experience, but maybe she would have at least arrived at some sort of closure in her life.
I didn’t find this book to be especially funny or clever. I really wasn’t even amused by all the 80s references. Rather than seem humorous, it just seemed very sad and pathetic. It was just another example of being unable to move forward in life.
My recommendation: Stay away from this book. It’s a waste of time. It’s boring and only barely makes sense.
Read: July 3, 2005
Saturday, July 02, 2005
More accurately though, I found this to a study in the effects of loneliness. True, horrible, deep loneliness and the effect it can have on a person. Loneliness is worse than depression. Depression, they can give you a drug to make you think things are better for a little while. But I’ve yet to hear of the doctor that can prescribe you with friends who you can trust and won’t abandon you as soon as the something better comes along.
The story is told through the eyes of another teacher who observes with careful detail the bizarreness taking place around her. The narrator is the one alone. Sheba, the art teacher who commits the crime, has a loving husband and two children and a beautiful home.
But the narrator of the story has only a cat to keep her company and on the holidays she visits her sister and her sister’s family. Her fascination with the details of the story seems unhealthy. I’ve read reviews of the book that regard her harshly. But as someone who can relate all too well to the state of complete and total loneliness, I viewed her fascination not so much as a sign of a mental illness, but rather a lack of anything better to focus on. Most “normal” people live their lives wrapped up in their own private universe, their family and their children and maybe a friend or two and not much else matters unless it directly affects that world. But for those of us without family or close friends, you have to focus on something. Our library books and TV and pets can only occupy so much of our minds. (Though I know people who do spend an unhealthy amount of their energy focusing on their pets, but this only proves my point.) When you don’t have anything else, you dwell on meaningless things. Your heart breaks more than it should when your friends don’t call and you try like hell to convince yourself that you’ll be fine when all along you know that you won’t be.
No one understands lonely unless they’ve felt it. There aren’t words to explain it. You either know it or you don’t. This book really reached out to me, because the writer seems to understand the state of lonely so clearly. I’ve never read a better or more accurate description of being alone than the following two paragraphs that I copied from pages 197-198 of the book.
Being alone is not the most awful thing in the world. You visit your museums and cultivate your interests and remind yourself how lucky you are not to be one of those spindly Sudanese children with flies beading their mouths. You make out to-do lists -- reorganize linen cupboard, learn two sonnets. You dole out little treats to yourself -- slices of ice cream cake, concerts at Wigmore Hall. And then, every once in a while , you wake up and gaze out of the window at another bloody daybreak, and think, I cannot do this anymore. I cannot pull myself together again and spend the next fifteen hours of wakefulness fending off the fact of my own misery.
People like Sheba think that they know what it’s like to be lonely. They cast their minds back to the time they broke up with a boyfriend in 1975 and endured a whole month before meeting someone new. Of the week they spent in a Bavarian steel town when they were fifteen years old, visiting their greasy-haired German pen pal and discovering that her handwriting was the best thing about her. But about the drip, drip of long-haul, no-end-in-sight solitude, they know nothing. They don’t know what it is to construct an entire weekend around a visit to the launderette. Or to sit in the darkened flat on Halloween night, because you can’t bear to expose your bleak evening to a crowd of jeering trick-or-treaters. Or to have the librarian smile pityingly and say, “Goodness, you’re a quick reader!” When you bring back seven books, read from cover to cover, a week after taking them out. They don’t know what it is to be chronically untouched that the accidental brush of a bus conductor’s hand on your shoulder sends a jolt of longing straight to your groin. I have sat on park benches and trains and school room chairs, feeling the great store of unused, objectless love sitting in my belly like a stone until I was sure I would cry out and fall flailing to the ground. About all this, Sheba and her like have no clue.
I enjoyed this book. I thought the story was interesting. While the subject matter seems salacious, the details of the affair are not graphic. There is nothing in it too offensive or gross.
My recommendation: I'm not even sure what category this books fits into. Not a romance, not a mystery. Just sort of a slice of life story about how someone’s irresponsible actions can turn his or her world upside down. It's quite interesting and well-written, so I'd recommend it.
Saturday, June 25, 2005
The book was okay. It was a quick read. While it was plenty dark, containing an adequate amount of prostitution and drugs and blackmail, I felt like it only skimmed the surface. It gave you a peek at all the dark nastiness that was old L.A., but it didn't take you that close. The danger was very much there, but in the writing, it was quick, not quite scary enough. I thought this had a lot of potential. I wanted to know more. I wanted to gain a better understanding as to why the things that were happening were happening.
But before you think me too harsh with regard to this book, I should point out that I'm very particular about my crime novels. At this point in my life I only really like mysteries written by three different women (for the record, that would be P.D. James, Ruth Rendell - who also writes as Barbara Vine, and Minette Walters). I'm trying to branch out and the fact that I read this should serve as evidence of my attempts. But this book just made me long for my usual British settings.
I didn't hate the book. I believe it was the author's first novel, so there may be excellent stories in her future. This is a very good start for a debut novel.
I spent a rainy Friday night reading this by the lamplight. (Yeah, I go all out on my weekends...) It served its purpose. The ending was something of a disappointment. I just wanted more intensity, more grime. When I finished the book I was wishing for a more gruesome, violent resolution. As far as I was concerned the villain deserved much worse.
My recommendation: If you like fast-paced mysteries, give it a try. Makes for a very decent rainy night read. The 50's L.A. setting is quite enjoyable.
Monday, June 20, 2005
This is the usual murder mystery, set in London. I recently spent time in London and thoroughly enjoyed reading and recognizing the names of the streets. It made the story more vivid. Almost makes me want to go back and re-read other books that I've read that happen to be set in London.
There are several characters involved in this story. Maybe too many. I was a little disappointed with how some of the characters ended up. But it was fitting for the story, I guess.
I read this while working on my tan. If I'm going to be stuck in the Texas heat, I can't think of a better way to pass the day than out in my back yard with a book like this.
My recomendation: If you're a fan of murder mysteries, particularly those set in London, you'll probably like this.
Saturday, May 28, 2005
But overall, this book was boring. So very, very boring. I didn't like it much at all.
It's about a family and a small town in Newfoundland. Their lives are very isolated from the rest of the world. Not a lot happens, just everyday family stuff. I kept waiting for the big incident or something like that. As I said, a lot of people really like this book. I just need a little more action. This is probably the result of some form of ADD from which I most likely suffer.
My recommendation: Not really my kind of book. A village, a family and general tedium. I can think of better ways to spend my reading time, but another person, with different tastes, might like it quite a bit.
Saturday, February 05, 2005
Since then, she's been one of my favorite writers.
With Oryx and Crake she returns to her prolific, Handmaid's Tale form. This book is a tale of science gone mad - completely out of control. The ideas are extreme. This book is brutual in its starkness.
I read most of this book sitting directly in front of my fireplace during the coldest days of winter. It is not exactly a cozy, snuggly kind of book, but then again, I'm not really a cozy, snuggly kind of person. It leaves you with a lot to think about while sitting alone in a cold house on an empty February night. I've lost count of the nightmares I've had that have stemmed from this book.
My only problem was the ending. If you've read Handmaid's Tale, then you are familiar with this sort of ending. She leaves you hanging, guessing. After all that reading, I get to the final page and feel like, "that's it?"
My recommendation: Excellent book. But harsh, paints the picture of a very frightening future. Certainly not for everyone.