This is an incredibly deep dive into an under-reported part of American society. I found the chapter about the women's writers group, and what women gThis is an incredibly deep dive into an under-reported part of American society. I found the chapter about the women's writers group, and what women go through in this world, to be some of the darkest, saddest and rawest I have ever read in non-fiction. It has changed how I look at the projects that I travel past everyday. ...more
I read this. Finished it. Felt sated by my sci-fi yearning and had little desire to read the follow up books, especially when I learned that they wereI read this. Finished it. Felt sated by my sci-fi yearning and had little desire to read the follow up books, especially when I learned that they were written as an after thought by the author. If this concept interests you (a gigantic, mysterious alien spaceship), don't hesitate that it might suck you into a series. If you love it, then there are many more books that follow....more
I was pulled into this book by a very successful shadow campaign. The cover showed up on enough Amazon and iPad ads in 2012, that I began to recognizeI was pulled into this book by a very successful shadow campaign. The cover showed up on enough Amazon and iPad ads in 2012, that I began to recognize the black background with red scratchy lines before I had even heard the title. When it showed up on my mother-in-laws kindle account, I knew I had to read it.
Sometimes the best seller lists and marketers are right - this was a good read.
I particularly enjoyed the narrative structure, this is a chapter-by-chapter "he said, she said" that affords 2 unreliable narrators (though only one is psychopathic ally so). As a man, I was always on Team Nick. That was sealed when Amy described him buying expensive shirts and never taking them out of the box, as he was in the throes of a post-layoff depression. That's not my Nick, he's hardworking, from the Midwest, always had a job since he was 15. No way would he become a wastrel. Sure, I could see him cheating on his wife, ignoring her, putting his dreams and desires ahead of her, but he would never get crumbs on a $400 dress shirt.
Any best seller will get some attention from Hollywood. When the lead characters are sooo good looking (and they almost always are in pop fiction) it is easy to begin casting the book while you are reading it. Gwyneth as Amy perhaps? Melissa McCarthy as the neighbor, for sure. Normally I find unnecessarily attractive main characters to be a distraction, but for these two it was fun to have a whispy, waspy effortlessly attractive pair. I like reading about pretty people with psychological failings, it makes me feel better about me.
This book is rooted in the now (of 2012). It was set in the same year that it appeared on so many readers' lists, making it easy to embody. The middle-class trauma of the Great Recession is still apparent, when the two leads lose their writing jobs (how quaint), they seem familiar and relatable. So many people had their careers up-rooted in 2008 and are still putting it back together 5-years-later. The media climate, with the Nancy Grace character sinking her teeth into their story, is spot on, as well as the hollowing out of the real estate market nationwide. I'm not sure how well this will hold up, but I don't think it needs to.
For me the end is an off-note. I rooted for Nick most of the way, and wanted him to end it when he had things in his hands, his wife breath rattling about in her throat with all of her cleverness and conniving, she should have met her end with a clever. These two are married, but they had lost their passion. The marriage should have come to a violent end, isn't that what Amy wanted in the relationship, a little heat and unpredictability? ...more
The main character in Perks has problems. He is pretty open about his issues to the reader in the book's Are You There God... format. This letter/diarThe main character in Perks has problems. He is pretty open about his issues to the reader in the book's Are You There God... format. This letter/diary structure means you must rely on to the reactions of other characters in his memories, to see what he has yet to acknowledge to himself. Thankfully (non-spoiler alert) there don’t appear to be any imagined characters or false events to muddy up the narrative and fool the reader.
Charlie is a nice kid, flawed and sympathetic. He went to high school in the 90s, before Facebook and cheap cell phones which would have dominated this story if it were set in 2012. His emotional frailty is the storyline of the book. If you care about him enough to want to figure out what happened to him, then payoff feels deserved. I never figured out who he was writing to, and stopped caring about 50 pages in. That is something you can theorize about, but if the author doesn’t want to tell you I figure it is not worth worrying about.
Charlie friends are advanced, self-confident, independent, more so than most people 10-years their senior. From the perspective of an emotional 15-year-old, this seems possible, but having been through those ages I know that 99% of people aren’t as mature as these characters are. To me that is what makes this a young adult book, with all of the sex and drugs, it certainly isn’t PG-13, but the perspective that once you get thru high school, you will be a fully formed adult only works on readers who are still kids. "Adults" know it takes a lot longer and not everyone gets there....more
This is the 3rd or 4th cooking / chefing book that I've read. They all cover similar topics (dicing carrots, slicing your finger, abusive practices anThis is the 3rd or 4th cooking / chefing book that I've read. They all cover similar topics (dicing carrots, slicing your finger, abusive practices and drugs). I've been to 3 of Battali's restaurants and it is nice to know what is really going on in there.
It is a great book for anyone that has dined out in a big city and wondered what is going on behind those swinging doors....more
This is a farce of a spy novel. It is set during that one glorious decade where America’s power was unmatched and its military prowess was unencumbereThis is a farce of a spy novel. It is set during that one glorious decade where America’s power was unmatched and its military prowess was unencumbered by Middle Eastern wars. At the time it only seemed right that the great foreign policy events would be based around mistakes rather than true motivated villainy.
With their own empire and intelligence bureau’s in its dotage, the British find themselves something to worry about. They go out and seek the next big issue and create a concern where there is nothing, nothing except a desperate tailor who is more than willing to tell them everything they hope to hear. They find him in a tiny country that is at the fulcrum of some very big issues.
I enjoyed this novel, though it lacks the tension of Le Carre’s other darker works. There is very little actually going on, and so there is very little at stake. Because of this, I felt the ending was tacked on and incongruous. Maybe, if we had felt that Pendel’s words could be taken seriously, then there would have been more tension and a bigger payoff. Instead I felt the last ten pages were just a bad dream and not something that happened in this fictional world. ...more
**spoiler alert** Michael Crichton was my first favorite writer. I loved the mixture of action and near-possible science fiction. Since Jurassic Park,**spoiler alert** Michael Crichton was my first favorite writer. I loved the mixture of action and near-possible science fiction. Since Jurassic Park, I have read four or five other Crichton books and have enjoyed most of his work. Some were uneven but they all had a solid foundation of science and action. Micro is not far from this legacy, though it does get a little ragged, predictable and disappointing at parts. There are certain scenes you knew were going to happen (such as a character being taken inside the nest of an insect, a la Aliens) and twists that you could see from a mile away (Peter’s brother faked his death, no way) but there were also novel shrunken fights with caterpillars and one solid twist (Peter dying halfway through the book, no way!).
One character that you are made to not like is the sniveling Danny Minot. He is a chubby hanger-on that survives too long and makes some terrible choices in the end to the book. Why would you not want to amputate your arm if there was a colony of larvae living in it, about to kill you? At the time there was enough driving the characters towards a confrontation with Drake that his illogical and cowardly act wasn’t necessary.
I do not agree with Crichton’s stance on climate change. There is certainly enough evidence and agreement in the scientific community to get me on board that our atmosphere has been effected by the work of man. But I appreciate that Crichton was explicit in his stance with a letter about it in the beginning of the book. His attacks on scientists that keep themselves separated from the field are overt, and easy to connect to his feelings on climate change. I was annoyed by his dig on ethanol (blaming it for clogged fuel lines) but at least my antenna was up from the beginning and I was able to make evaluations for our self. I will miss his writing and the way he opened up fields of scientific study to the masses. ...more
This is the book that I wanted Catching Fire to be. I was annoyed that Collins chose to go back into the arena for the second installment. The seriesThis is the book that I wanted Catching Fire to be. I was annoyed that Collins chose to go back into the arena for the second installment. The series would have been stronger as a whole, if she had been brave enough to ditch the format that was successful in book one and gone into the prelude to a civil war in book two.
Free of the games construct, Mockinjay dives head first into an expansive world of insurrection and violence. Katniss does not have an easy time in this novel; she goes to the infirmary three or four times. It gets so bad that she starts to feel like a videogame character that dies and gets re-spawned in district 13. The rebels do not hide that fact that Katniss is being used as a symbol. She has become the Mockingjay, a glamorous, defiant, cartoonish Miley Cyrus in a warzone - not an enviable role. Rightfully, she struggles with this status. This is a good direction for the books to go. To have her become some sort of super soldier, leading insurgent forces to victory would be hard to swallow. Instead the adults with dubious motivations, who have been playing and plotting this game for a long time, move her around the battlefield for maximum impact on the TV screen.
It is only at the end of the book that we get back to the hand-to-hand fighting and trip-wire traps that the first two books focus on so much. It would have been hollow (and much less exciting) if Katniss had been held back from the battlefield the entire time. It also would have been a little more appropriate for a civil war to be won be troops of soldiers, and not a small team of teenagers.
Collins has an interesting take on the role of media and messaging in war. Both sides use scripting and editing to convince viewers of their perspective. Every modern war has had embedded reporters telling one side’s stories. We know this is done, but rarely do you get the perspective of the person who is being used as a symbol. ...more
How to be Good is a novel that stays inside of the head of the lead character quite a bit. Katie is racked with concerns and doubts about a dimming maHow to be Good is a novel that stays inside of the head of the lead character quite a bit. Katie is racked with concerns and doubts about a dimming marriage. Nick Hornby does a great job of inhabiting his female lead’s mindset, something that I was surprised by considering he is known for novels that are focused on immature men or soccer fandom.
The key, I guess, is that when you are writing about “People Like Us” (liberal, comfortable, suburban, middle class, dual income) there really isn’t much of a divide between the genders anymore. Katie is the breadwinner and is out of the house more. David does the cooking and works from home. There is even a scene where Katie asks her child whom they think is the mom. Maybe it would have been difficult for Hornby to write from the perspective of a wealthy dowager of the 19th century, but now in the 21th century, it is less divided.
As I read this book I felt sympathetic pangs for Katie and her marriage. I am still new to the marriage game, and my child is quite young, but I could see how things can change over a decade. Any relationship could turn from something that was previously so special and into a dried husk of itself. Hornby captures this turning point of a marriage that, after so many years, has become much less than it used to be.
As for the titular theme, I guess it would be good to be “good.” Katie is living a perfectly acceptable life, and while a more radical person (like DJ GoodNews) would demand more action, it is hard to believe that such radical endeavors, like taking in a homeless person, would have lasting positive effects for society. Is it enough to be a law-abiding, tax-paying, work-a-day citizen? Are we called on for more? If so, by whom, and how do we know they are right. When Katie and David are confronted with an honest-to-goodness healer, even then they are not sure if they can live up to the standards of charitable goodness, given that they are already living up to what is expected of them by society. ...more
This book could have been written in a few different ways. It could have been a pedantic, 800-page autobiography. It could have been a 400-page novelThis book could have been written in a few different ways. It could have been a pedantic, 800-page autobiography. It could have been a 400-page novel about the mighty travels of survivalist Alex Supertamp, but instead, it is a 200-page investigation of the end of Chris McCandless’s life (Supertramp’s given name).
Krakauer never met McCandless, but he was able to piece him together through his journals, photos, and an extensive list of interviews with his family and the people he came in touch with during the last years of his life.
I don’t think I would have enjoyed this book if McCandless had a direct hand in it. As a character, he is very intriguing and admirable, but his firsthand writing, and the retelling of some of his conversations, makes him sound insufferable. If he had stayed on his path, and gotten out of Alaska, he might have lost some of his bombast, but in his early twenties he was a single-minded purist. He eschewed practicality for ideals, which is often only a young man’s game.
That unbending clarity is what makes McCandless such a great subject. He does seemingly foolish things on principle, to prove something to himself. I must say that I am jealous of his zeal, and wish I had the drive to live my life to a code greater than just the search for comfort, ease, and enjoyment. It is a wonderful and terrible thing to be driven. For some it takes them to great heights. For others, it can take them to an abandoned bus in the Alaskan wilderness. ...more
I saw the movie first and I remember feeling a hollowness from not understanding who the characters were or what was going on. I felt that the movie hI saw the movie first and I remember feeling a hollowness from not understanding who the characters were or what was going on. I felt that the movie had been made for those that had read the graphic novel. The novel is written the same way.
You are thrown into the middle of a story, and gradually the past is explained. The novel completes this task better than the movie. It is allowed to go deeper into the details of the past, to flesh out the present. At the end of each chapter, the novel presents thick primary sources to catch the reader up on who the characters and what is going on. I don’t think these documents make the novel “un-filmable” but it does mean there are more details in the story than can't make it to the screen easily.
For me, the most important primary source was a discussion of the ramifications of Dr. Manhattan on geopolitics. In this chapter ending, you begin to understand that having god live on Earth (and be an American), has greatly altered, and even worsened life on the planet. Countries don’t negotiate with each other, and everyone lives in fear. This rather crucial point was lost on me in the movie, but hit home in the book.
The signature style of this story is the non-linear narration of events. Things in the past overlap and seem to happen at the same time in the present - a pirate comic books story echoes a street-side dialogue and foreshadows the plot of the book. These simultaneous layers are expertly navigated in each cell of this graphic novel. This unique perspective on time and space is embodied by Dr. Manhattan who seems to live at all times at once. The character and the story he is in live in a non-linear temporality that is incredibly clear.
My one criticism of the novel, or at least nod to the movie, is the rather outlandish climax. Although the movie followed the story faithfully, it seemed that even the most diligent screen writers could not make the leap to follow the grand plan as originally intended. To movie ending proved to be clearer and cleaner.
When I finished reading Watchmen, I started to poke around the history of the novel. I was very surprised to learn that it was written in its time. I assumed that the convoluted narrative came from a post-modern, 21st century writing. I assumed the 1985 time frame was a historical affectation but I was wrong. Even after 25-years, this novel still holds up as modern and current....more
The Hunger Games has a great foundation for a successful bit of young adult fiction: 1. It is about young adults. 2. It is a quick read. 3. The main charThe Hunger Games has a great foundation for a successful bit of young adult fiction: 1. It is about young adults. 2. It is a quick read. 3. The main character is an outsider with a special talent. (I’ve always felt that comic books appeal to teens because they want special powers that make them different and better than everyone else.) 4. There are strong feelings of love (heavy liking, actually), with a little kissing, but no sex. 5. While there are teenage bullies, the real villains are the adults. 6. Addicted? Love it? Want more? It’s a trilogy!
The unique twist to this story is that it is set in a post-U. S. North America with the appropriate advances in technology, but still reflecting our love of reality TV. This book is similar in premise to Steven King’s The Running Man, but has the flavor of a modern reality show, with interviews, trumped up storylines, and Survivor-style prizes of food. Collins has created a well-rendered world of haves and have-nots, although I find it hard to believe a whole city of people, like the Capitol, could be such cruel, unrelenting pricks.
I have picked around the summaries for the next two books, so I know a little of what happens next, but my hope is that the story gets bigger, much bigger. The Capitol needs to go down. Districts should be set aflame. Where is the rest of the world in this mess? I don’t know if Collins wants to go past the intimate, one-on-one battle of the first book, but she has created a world so rife with inequality that I’d love to see her let it burn.
A Hunger Games movie is being made, and I plan to see it. This book will translate well to the screen, without losing much. It even fits neatly into the MPAA’s guidelines of embracing gory violence for a teenage audience, but no nudity or sex. It’s weird, for a time and a place so far off and different from ours, we still seem to have the same standards and expectations for our entertainment. ...more