Smoke Gets In Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematory is like a sociological Mary Roach. Caitlin Doughty became a medieval history major becausSmoke Gets In Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematory is like a sociological Mary Roach. Caitlin Doughty became a medieval history major because of her fascination with death. She came to work at Westwind Cremation and Burial for the same reason -- all culminating in her desire to make death less of a mystery and more a part of our lives. And thus this book was born: to present her argument as to how death is hidden in current American culture and how that's not good for us.
Her stories about life in the day-to-day of the crematory are genuine and moving. The gallows humor is helpful when dealing with such a touch subject and I, for one, really appreciated it. Otherwise I might've cried and put the book down and said "Keep that Death stuff away from me." Which would've defeated her whole point. Doughty is candid and that's refreshing, even if I don't necessarily agree that we should move back to washing our own dead in our living rooms.
I think the only part I really took issue with was brought into stark relief because of the recent Ebola outbreak. While I am not in any way sucked into the hysteria and realize that Ebola itself is rather difficult to catch...part of the reason it has spread is due to traditional practices of families washing their dead. Doughty does address the issue of disease spreading (there is virtually no way to catch a disease from a corpse) but it's not enough to make me comfortable with handling it myself.
Other than that, I appreciated Doughty's openess and generally agreed with a lot of her arguments. ...more
Gah! This one is tough -- just reading it, you really wanna slap Shakespeare across the face and scream, "Tame this, beyotch!"
However, there's a lotGah! This one is tough -- just reading it, you really wanna slap Shakespeare across the face and scream, "Tame this, beyotch!"
However, there's a lot of room for actors to interpret things throughout, which possibly makes it less about 'taming' and more about creating a crazed team of madness between Petruccio and Katherine -- together they inflict more damage on the world than either of them singly. But it's all in how the performers choose to play it. The text is less forgiving if you take it at face value.
I mean, the title gives it all away. It's not "Learning to Get Along as Equals with the Shrew."
It's tough for me, because both of the main characters in the central plot are abusive punks (Kate, for example, ties her sister up and slaps her around)...but Petruccio, as the man of the times, has all of the cards. There's nothing for Katherine to defend herself with -- he's in charge of all the servants, the money, the food, everything. You know how they say the strongest tool of a abuser is isolation? Well, this is the perfect example of that. At the first opportunity, Petruccio pulls Katherine away from her family (first opportunity = right before the wedding feast). He even takes away her name:
Petruccio: Good morrow, Kate, for that's your name I hear.
Katherine: Well have you heard, but something hard of hearing. They call me Katherine that do speak of me.
Petruccio: You lie, in faith, for you are called plain Kate, And bonny Kate, and sometimes Kate the curst, But Kate, the prettiest Kate in Christendom...
Ain't no one else calls her "Kate."
But it's still hilarious.
And her sister, Bianca, never gives up her autonomy. So the 'shrew' isn't the stand-up woman, it's her sister, who does it quietly but with just as much fervor. Soooo...does that mean there is a balance?!
I'm probably forgiving of this novel because I've loved everything I've read of Sophie Kinsella. In general, I've found her heroines spunky, somewhatI'm probably forgiving of this novel because I've loved everything I've read of Sophie Kinsella. In general, I've found her heroines spunky, somewhat flighty, but really lovable.
And Rebecca Bloomwood, the heroine of the Shopaholic series, reads like the prototype of Kinsella's later characters. She's spunky but that comes out a little late in the story. She's flighty - waaaay more flighty than what I'm used to with Kinsella's gals. And she's lovable, but only because she's kind of pitiable as well. So, in this book, it seems like the balance of spunky/flighty/lovable hasn't quite been developed.
While I found the amount of shopping exhausting (really, I was sympathetically physically tired), I appreciated the energy that Rebecca had. I also liked that she had friends who were tolerant - and shared - her love of things...it actually made her less superficial (to me) that she had loving friends who were also a little crazed about labels.
Probably what saved this book for me was the fact that it's the beginning of a series and I've read Kinsella's other work. This is a great start-of-series because the character has so much room to grow. She started a *tiny* bit in this story and you can just bet that her charm will grow throughout the series. Rather than putting the book down and being satisfied with the ending presented, I was hopeful and wanted to read the rest of the series just to see what happened to Rebecca.
"If there's a better book than this, I haven't written it." ~Stephen Colbert, quoted on the back of American Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never"If there's a better book than this, I haven't written it." ~Stephen Colbert, quoted on the back of American Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren't
I think the first book review of the year should set the tone for the rest of the year. And what better way to start the year 2013 than reading and reviewing the book that has everything? In fact, it has so much of everything that I used every single one of my shelves to label it. I'm pretty sure that I'm still short a couple subjects.
Sure, I could've been reading Anna Karenina and learning about Imperial Russia with the rest of my book group instead of learning about the present American stuff I already know. But since my reading goal this year is 100 books - which is like reading everything - I should start my odyssey with the book that has everything. Everything American, that is. Anna Karenina just has affairs and trains and Keira Knightly and other stuff.
Tolstoy's book doesn't have anything that Colbert's book doesn't have.
Anna Karenina has extramarital affairs: America Again has illicit relations between politicians and food.
Anna Karenina has people who hate their jobs: America Again has resume how-tos.
Anna Karenina has 2-D: America Again has 3-D.
Anna Karenina has Siberia: America Again has North Dakota.
Anna Karenina was translated into English: America Again was written in American.
It's probably this last one where Tolstoy has managed to one-up Colbert. America Again has no, count them: none, award winning translators. We're just expected to understand paragraphs like: "But the Real Question is: are America's best days behind us? Of course they are, and always have been. We have the greatest history in the history of History. But never forget, our best days are also ahead of us, and always will be. Because America also has the Greatest Future in the history of the Future. It's our Present that's the problem...and always is be."
I mean, Colbert began two sentences in that paragraph with But. And fragments. You just don't do that. A good translator would've saved him some face-saving. ...more
What fun this was! I was really pleasantly surprised - I was looking for a 'quickie' read (which generally means a book to pass the time until I findWhat fun this was! I was really pleasantly surprised - I was looking for a 'quickie' read (which generally means a book to pass the time until I find a 'real' book I wanna read) and I couldn't put it down. Finished it super-fast. This book magically has everything: a funny, intelligent heroine; a scruffy hero; intrigue with weird contraptions and political conniving; and some sex and violence. What more could a reader possibly want?!
Miss Tarabotti is a charmingly Italian heroine. Her sense of propriety in the midst of werewolves eating the faces off of people (okay, it never gets quite that bad) is worth a smile or two from the most stalwart of readers. That same sense of propriety also allows the sexier scenes to not take themselves too seriously, so you're not bogged down by rigid/tumescent/turgid members...which I'm kinda grateful for.
I enjoyed the steampunk elements - 'glassicals' and weird blood-sucking machines that make vampires look like a dustbuster compared to a Hoover.
The side characters are also charming. Loved Lord Akeldama, the 'rove' vampire, Miss Hisselpenny (what a FANTASTIC name), and Professor Lyall - the Beta of the werewolf pack. And those three characters are also used to great effect in establishing the hierarchies of Carriger's supernatural London. Probably the make-it-or-break-it moment in fantasies is the world establishment. In this book, the rules are very nicely defined, easy to grasp quickly, and - perhaps most important - are interesting.
And let's not forget that the cover is kickass.
My only beef with this novel: The POV jumps from head to head really quickly. Luckily, Carriger does it so gracefully that it's almost seamless. But just fair warning that sometimes you've gotta read a sentence or so over in order to understand whose thoughts you're hearing. ...more
If you just accept the premise and roll with the initial idea that grabbing a corporate telephone out of a trash bin is the best way for people to conIf you just accept the premise and roll with the initial idea that grabbing a corporate telephone out of a trash bin is the best way for people to contact you about a lost engagement ring, the rest of the story flows pretty well.
That was really my only issue with this book. It was funny and charming and I really, really, really like Sam - the ultimate love interest. (I seem to fall in love with all of Kinsella's heroes. And that makes her books that much more enjoyable.) Poppy was great. She was easy to get behind as a main character.
If you're not into the possible charms of today's technological advances, you may not like this one as much as Kinsella's other works. There's a lot of 'text speak.' I know that some readers might be put off by that...but I wasn't one of 'em. In fact, there's a whole Scrabble scene from which I plan to steal some cheating ideas.
But, to really enjoy this story, just nod, accept it - and you'll be rewarded. ...more
3.75 stars...I know that I'm ranking it lower than just about everyone on earth but I'm not *quite* there for a four star ranking.
Like everyone else3.75 stars...I know that I'm ranking it lower than just about everyone on earth but I'm not *quite* there for a four star ranking.
Like everyone else on earth: 1. I found it funny. LOL kinda funny. Sometimes ROFLMAO funny. Since the stated goal of both Pratchett and Gaiman was to make his co-writer laugh, I think they did their job with bells on. Because if the reader laughing is any indication of how they made each other laugh, I am certainly living proof that they accomplished what they set out to do.
2. I agree that epic battles between good and evil make for damn good plots. There's plenty of action here to keep you turning pages.
And where I'm running into a .25 star-short-of-a-full-4 star mark... 1. The characters. (I know! What?) They're well drawn, they're fun. First off, there are a ton of them. (It's always a risky sign when you have to put your Dramatis Personae before the book opens.)
And second, for me, they didn't go anywhere. The angel, Aziraphale, and the demon, Crowley, were by far the best drawn of the cast. But others, who felt as if they would play central and driving parts - particularly Newt and Anathema - fell waaaay short. Not to spoil anything *SPOILER ALERT* but they don't do anything.*END SPOILER ALERT*
2. This is related to the characters, but is not direct. I was slightly irritated by the device of switching the POV to a side character who observes (often wittily, often humorously) the main characters doing something the reader knows is important to the plot. Yes, it's funny. But after a while - especially during climatic scenes - I just thought "Get to it, already."
3. Finally, and again this is about a humorous device, there were footnotes.*
I'd like to reiterate that I enjoyed the story, and that I did certainly laugh. More than once I was reminded of P.G. Wodehouse (if that gentleman ever wrote fantasy, I'm pretty sure he would have written something very similar to this). If you have a chance, you should definitely read this book. As the writers emphasize in their intro: "Believe us: We have signed a delightfully large number of paperbacks that have been dropped in the bath, gone a worrying brown color, got repaired with sticky tape and string, and, in one case, consisted entirely of loose pages in a plastic bag." It is a well-loved story, and I can totally see why.
If McDonalds ruled the world: it would look like this book.
Or, rather, if Nike owned the world.
The Low-Down Dirty: Welcome to the not-so-far-away futuIf McDonalds ruled the world: it would look like this book.
Or, rather, if Nike owned the world.
The Low-Down Dirty: Welcome to the not-so-far-away future, where everyone is identified by the company they work for. Hence, our trigger-man (in every sense of the word, sort of) is Hack Nike. Hack Nike works for John Nike and John Nike. **No, that wasn't a typo. There are two John Nikes in this book. One is prettier than the other.** John Nike has decided that the greatest marketing scheme of all time includes shooting ten teenagers to make the new shoe, the Nike Mercury, that much cooler and desireable. The Johns ask Hack to handle it.
But Hack's not very good at this and outsources to the Police, who in turn outsource to the NRA -- who kill fourteen teenagers instead.
Now Hack is being hunted by the Government: Jennifer Government.
How it Works: Barry has pulled off a fast-moving, sometimes confusing feat of how-not-to-run-the-world. Considering the world-wide scope of this story, it's amazing the characters come together as well as they do.
You've got unemployed people (a.k.a. 'entrepeneurs') working on computer viruses to sell to the highest bidder. You've got a government that can't prosecute criminals unless the victims agree to pay for said prosecution. You've got ambitious corporate-ladder climbers that make the Enron assholes look like pansies. It's an exciting set-up for things to go wrong.
The most interesting parts are the people who somehow grow a conscience out of this whole debacle, and there are a surprising amount of them, which bodes well for humanity. Just be prepared, as a reader to keep a mental list of the cast of characters because Barry doesn't slow down to let you catch up. If you lose a person, you're outta luck for a little while until you can get your bearings.
A creative idea that is surprisingly well-executed. Halpern's Twitter feed, Sh*t My Dad Says, is a great idea for a twOn Writing a Memoir Via Twitter:
A creative idea that is surprisingly well-executed. Halpern's Twitter feed, Sh*t My Dad Says, is a great idea for a twitter feed in general, and translated well into this short memoir in particular. I was concerned upon picking this up that it would be just a listing of super-self-referrential quotes, but Halpern manages to dodge that by putting plenty of his own life-experience in. He gives context, and that is an added bonus.
On Reading This Book During a Little League Game
It was very meta.
This was my favorite part, not only because I was on the stands at my son's baseball game at the time, but because it showed Justin Halpern (the author) understanding, as an adult, what he did not as a child. Young Halpern doesn't understand why he's forced to practice with the smelly kid. His dad shows him, via a confrontation with another parent...which is still not uncommon in the world of youth sports...that the kid is a talented player with a rough life, and that you should look past appearances to find out the truth.
I also think that this is the whole point of this book.
On the Point of This Book
There's a lot of cursing--but if you pick up a book titled Sh*t My Dad Says and you're not expecting that...well, I can't help you.
However, the cursing is just the outward appearance.
The stories and quotes are about being yourself, learning from your mistakes, living an honest, straightforward life, and shooting for your dreams. Halpern's dad, throughout all the cursing, all the lessons, obviously loves his kids. Justin Halpern is somewhat self-deprecating, which makes him come across a little slow, but it has to be that way, right? Otherwise his dad's Words Of Wisdom wouldn't ring like they should.
(And we inherently understand that Halpern's lessons got through, right? If not, there wouldn't be this book, the sitcom, etc. Gotta read between the lines, see past the appearances, and all....)
There's a little post-it on the cover that reads: "Relationship Enders, Career Killers, and 150 Other Letters You'll Be Glad You Didn't Receive." SoooThere's a little post-it on the cover that reads: "Relationship Enders, Career Killers, and 150 Other Letters You'll Be Glad You Didn't Receive." Sooooo true.
Listed in this book are foreclosure notices, job rejections, etc., which you would expect to find, but aren't very personal except to the person who, of course, received them. Those touches add a universality to the book -- we may have not gotten this specific rejection, but we've all got one somewhere with our name on it.
The "Relationship Enders" are probably the most annoying portion of this book. Change the names, and they could all have been written to the same person. I found myself skimming these letters, and not feeling a whole bunch of sympathy for either the writers or the recipients...mostly because the letters read like the stuff I hear on morning radio, or Dr. Phil. Mostly I wanted to yell GROW UP! to both parties.
That aside, there are some real doozies in here: F. Scott Fitzgerald blasting his daughter (it was downright hateful--glad he wasn't my pops), Jimi Hendrix and the military (he had the audacity to play guitar!), Eleanor Roosevelt telling the Daughters of the American Revolution to shove off, and Arthur Gonzalez's artwork over his art rejections.
You will laugh reading this book, and while I didn't cry at anything--there were a couple that took my breath away. Shapiro juxtaposed the letters well, so you're not bombarded with too many Relationship Enders all at once. My only issue with the structure of the book is that the explanations for the letters are at the end and not within immediate 'reading distance' of the letter itself. I don't think that the book would've lost anything with the brief explanations placed with the letters.
If you're a fan of early cinema this book--originally published in 1935--is for you. There's plenty of in-jokes geared towards producers, nepotism, anIf you're a fan of early cinema this book--originally published in 1935--is for you. There's plenty of in-jokes geared towards producers, nepotism, and actors. At one moment in the book I had to pause because Monty Bodkin (the Lucky Bodkin of the title) was compared to Leslie Howard and Clark Gable, both of whom were to star in Gone With the Wind four years after Wodehouse mentions them. Shall we give P.G. a pat on the back for smushing such stellar talent together before Selznick?
I know what you're thinking and, no, you don't have to be a fan of movie history to enjoy this story. It just helps.
There's plenty of rip-roaring trouble. Monty Bodkin wants to marry Gertrude Butterwick, who misunderstands a tattoo of his and breaks their engagement. As he tries to win her back over the course of a six day crossing-of-the-Atlantic he has to thwart movie starlets (and boy, does Wodehouse nail the speaking patterns of the early mega-watt actresses like Katherine Hepburn/Bette Davis in Miss Lotus Blossom) novelists, movie producers, and the good intentions of his best friend Reggie. Mickey Mouse plays a part, as does Wilfred the Alligator.
The most enjoyable part of this book is spending time with the characters. Each one is so well-drawn that you don't lose your place, which is tricky with a "cast" of this size. Gertrude is a hockey-playing sportswoman who can handle herself. Lotus "Lottie" Blossom is star of stage and state-rooms. Ambrose Tennyson is "not the right Tennyson". Ivor Llewllyn is a three-chinned, Customs-fearing movie producer. Peasemarch is the feudal serf who can't keep his nose out of anyone's business. And Reggie is the intelligent blighter who somehow manages to pull everyone together.
If you're looking for something to make you smile, this one'll do it. Part of it is inexplicable.
No, literally. Part of it is the word "inexplicable."