Saturday, June 30, 2007

On Chesil Beach

This is my third Ian McEwan novel, after Atonement and Saturday. I know it's hardly an original observation, but he can sure put a sentence together. The amount of detail he crams into each scene is remarkable in that it never, or rarely anyway, seems tedious or extraneous but adds to the atmosphere and characterization. Like Saturday, which takes place in one 24 hour span, On Chesil Beach unfolds mostly over one fateful evening, the wedding night of Florence and Edward. It is 1963, and both partners come to the marriage inexperienced and somewhat naive. Edward looks forward to the consummation of their marriage with desire and nervousness; Florence, on the other hand, is filled with complete dread. When events take a disastrous turn, they both lack the confidence, vocabulary, and self-awareness to handle the aftermath. While sex and the cultural and gender attitudes about it at the time are the central theme of the novel, I was also drawn to its portrayal of communication. More awkward than Edward and Florence's attempt at sex is their attempt to talk about it and the same patterns are mirrored in their conversation. McEwan perfectly describes how saying nothing, or the wrong thing, or the right thing imperfectly can turn things on a course that was never intended. While not quite up to par for me as his previous novels, at 200 pages reading On Chesil Beach is a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Television Without Pity

I love TV. It's kind of embarrassing for an adult to get as excited about a new episode of Lost or How I Met Your Mother as I do. But the good people at the Television Without Pity understand where I am coming from. The website which features entertaining show recaps and forums where people like can obsess about how much they hated Dawson in each individual episode now has its own book. Much like the Roger Ebert Movie Glossary this book features funny entries on various characters (Dawson- for example) shows such as 90210 and various TV phenomenon such as "News, Crappy Local" all the while living up to their motto of "Spare the Snark, Spoil the Network"

The Blind Side

I tried to post this last night but my internet connection kept timing out. So this is a Thursday post. I just finished this book and probably should wait to post until I've had some more time to process it. The Blind Side is really two different books--one concerns the evolution of the position of left tackle in football to one of the most valuable and highly paid positions on the field. The majority of the book is devoted to the story of Michael Oher, a black football player blessed with the physical size and gifts to become the next great left tackle. What makes Oher's story more compelling and complicated is that Oher lived basically a nomadic existence in Memphis until he is adopted by rich white couple Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy. If you plan on reading the book, there are some spoilers ahead but I can't really adequately address what I thought about the book without them, so read on at your own risk. While I recognize the impact the Tuohys had on Michael's life, I found many aspects of their relationship troubling. To their credit, their interest in him began when Michael only showed promise due to his size and agility but long before he was anointed as a sure-thing NFL prospect and I don't question his acceptance as a full-fledged and loved member of their family. Michael is recruited by virtually every college football program in the country, yet chooses Ole Miss where Sean was the star point guard and Leigh Anne a cheerleader, which drew enough suspicion to send NCAA officials to investigate. Michael's academic record was woeful, not surprising due to his sporadic attendance which included an eighteen month absence. The Tuohy's interest in his academic abilities seem only targeted toward academic eligibility. They hire a tutor to work with him full-time, who is herself an Ole Miss partisan. They only have him tested for learning disabilities when they perceive it as a loophole that will allow him to take the ACT an unlimited number of times--despite the fact that his previous high score of 12 might indicate the presence of one in and of itself. Despite all the best efforts of rich white society, Michael is still in danger of not qualifying until Sean finds that he can take 10 day courses from Brigham Young to replace some of the F's on his transcript, which leads to Sean's charming line, "The Mormons may be going to hell but they really are nice people." My uneasiness with their relationship is furthered because we mostly get the story from the Tuohys (Sean is a former classmate of the author) because Micheal is very shy and reluctant to talk about himself. We never really hear from him why he chose Ole Miss (who won one game his freshman year) or how he really feels about the Tuohys. If you've read this, please chime in with your thoughts on the Michael-Tuohy relationship. I found the book to be compelling and well-written, but, since so little is actually told from Michael's perspective, it only adds to the whiff of exploitation that already exists.

Book Inscriptions

As a used book lover, I'm always interested in what I will find in a book, whether it's a grocery receipt from the 1980's or a postcard to someone from the their grandma. Lots of used books have inscriptions in them --some that make you wonder about the circumstances behind giving the book away ("to a wonderful Daughter-In-Law, Christmas 1997"). This Page collects the most interesting inscriptions and posts them for your reading enjoyment. (Thanks to the cool Pop Candy blog for the heads up)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Cosmo Girl's Guide to the New Etiquette

Time travel with me back in time to 1971, when this sadly out of print book was published. It's a time when women needed advice on matters like how to keep your wig on when you go water skiing or what countries will allow an unmarried couple to rent a room (USA is a no). Some of the advice is still quite useful, like pronunciations and explanations of various foreign food, and of course you can never go wrong with a warning against rhinestones and satin pumps in the office (whoops!) An entertaining book full of vintage advice. PS Unlit candles at a party? Tacky.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Later at the Bar

Rebecca Barry's collection of linked short stories all revolve around Lucy's Tavern, a bar in a small town in upstate New York. Different regulars take turns taking center stage--twin brothers Harlin and Cyrus, their ex-wives, advice columnist Linda, and many others. Everyone has connections to everyone else, in that particular small town way, and those ties run so deep that divorce and jail and changes of scenery do not seem to break them. Barry's characters may drink too much, but their greatest sin is also their greatest strength--they also love too much. They go on failing and forgiving each other, for, as one character says to her husband, "It's not the disappointment that gets me with's the hope."

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Bookseller of Kabul

This book, written by a western journalist (a woman), gives the reader a look inside life in Afghanistan shortly after the fall of the Taliban. By living with Kabul bookseller Sultan Kahn for approximately three months, she gets the family to let down their guard and show their true selves. Kahn, the bookseller, fancies himself an open minded intellectual, but forces his sons to work in the family business rather than pursue an education and treats his daughters and wives as servants. Because he is well read and western in some respects I found myself wondering if other families were even worse. The book is fascinating, recounting everything from the physical condition of the homes, (usually without furniture, the result of bombings from Afghanistan's many wars, to the treatment of women, (much as you'd expect with many personal stories of their loss of freedom and low status) to Afghani rituals such as weddings and pilgrimage. The book pulls no punches, and led to a lawsuit. Clearly, the author brings her own set of biases to the table but the book is a quick read and far more engrossing than Reading Lolita in Tehran.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Forgive Me

I received a free copy of this book as part of Random House's partnership with LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program. According to some complicated algorithm, my library was determined to be ranked #2 in LibraryThing in terms of compatibility with their review program. I'm not sure whether to be scared or flattered by that fact (and I really want to check out the top-ranked library). I do own the author's previous two books, though I have not read them yet. In this book, Nadine Morgan becomes a journalist in part to escape her stifling Cape Cod childhood. After becoming badly injured in Mexico, Nadine returns to Cape Cod to recover. She begins a romance with Dr. Duarte and for the first time contemplates a more sedentary existence. After reading an article about Jason Irving, an American teacher who was killed in South Africa during her stint there as a journalist, Nadine seizes the opportunity to confront her past. Irving's parents are traveling to South Africa to appear before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to confront their son's killer and Nadine is determined to cover it. I really wanted to like this book and did like many parts of it. The demons the book foreshadows that Nadine must confront in South Africa, including a supposed betrayal, were not worthy of the build-up, and I found a subplot at the end confusing and unnecessary. I did really enjoy Ward's writing style and her characterization of Nadine and overall, the book was a fast, suspenseful read.

Saturday, June 23, 2007


Bad book week has passed and not a moment too soon. Back to recommendations with this book that breaks down the Beatles' albums song by song listing which Beatle wrote what song (Song Title-- Lennon 50%, McCartney 45%, Harrison 5%)(I would give a real example, but I've already packed the book). There are also notes about the circumstances that each song was written under. The author used tons of interviews as his sources and even though there are several books like this for the Beatles, to me this one seems to be the most informative. And does anyone else think it's just a tiny bit creepy that that on the song "Piggies" (on the White Album) George Harrison's mother wrote the line "What they need is a damn good whacking"?

Bad Book Covers

I've picked up many books I may not otherwise have read because of a good cover or title. A bad one can have the same effect. I swear half my aversion to romance, science fiction, and fantasy are some of the horrid covers involved. I make no judgment on the content of The Price of Temptation (in fact I am now completely fascinated and want to read it, but my library doesn't own it and I know the people in ILL) But really, is that a watermelon in there? The title link goes to a site that is devoted to bad covers including a weekly special Phallic Phridays.

The Pearl

First off, sorry for the lateness of the post. I've had a hard time with not recommended week. I know I've read many stinkers over the years, but I must have blocked them from my mind because I can't remember many of the titles. I usually end up abandoning most books I hate long before the end. My other problem this week is that my opinion of some books often changes over time. For example, my opinion of the snooker book has improved since I read it because at least it is a book that has stayed with me and left me with things to think about. The Pearl is a book I had to read for sophomore English class and is the book I have always carried around as the example of a book I hated. I wanted to reread it before posting to see if my opinion has changed but didn't get around to it. I remember hating The Pearl because it was boring and bleak. Kino is a poor fisherman and pearl diver who finds The Pearl of the World. He hopes to use it to improve his family's lot, but it leads to disaster for his family instead. The book could be called a parable and I tend to hate the lack of subtlety that suggests. I also remember being confused by the message it was trying to convey. It could have been a story about greed, but the things Kino wanted were so modest and universal, such as the dream of educating his son. I would definitely hesitate to take advice from my sixteen year old self but if you want to read Steinbeck, stick with The Grapes of Wrath or East of Eden.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Bridges of Madison County

A letter to the heroine of The Bridges of Madison County by her daughter.

Dear Mom:
Wow! Little brother and I were very surprised to find those letters and diaries after your death. Who would have guessed you were having a hot affair with a Client Eastwood lookalike while we were at the Iowa State Fair? And let me tell you how special it was to find out your marriage to Daddy was a sham, and Mr. 4 days in a lifetime was your soulmate. And rather than be happy, you sacrificed everything to live a lie -for our sakes of course-even after we were grown and out of the house. Heavy. Mom, I can't tell you how happy it made us to find out we ruined your life like that. And of course, I'm so glad you let us know- I mean, what if you had burned those papers? Then we'd have never known! Thanks Mom.

Your Daughter, who in the book basically found the whole affair "so beautiful" (sniff)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Post-Birthday World

Not recommending this book is probably harsher than it deserves, but since I spent a month and a half complaining to anyone and everyone about the damn snooker book, I might as well complain here too. Lionel Shriver’s last book, We Need to Talk About Kevin, was a previous recommendation of mine. I was ecstatic to find a half-price review copy of her new book at the Strand on my trip to New York. The book had just came out and I was intrigued by the premise—alternating chapters describe the course of events in Irina’s life depending on whether she decides to kiss Ramsey, an acquaintance, or whether she resists temptation and stays with her long time boyfriend, Lawrence. One version seems to lead to an impulsive, tempestuous roller coaster of a life with Ramsey; the other path seems to promise a quiet, steadfast contentment with Lawrence. It was hard for me to buy in because I did not get the appeal of Ramsey at all, and Lawrence was not much better. Frankly, I was hoping for a third option where she dumps both. Irina is a children’s book editor and Lawrence works for a foreign policy think tank, both professions that I would be interested to hear more about. Ramsey, however, is a professional snooker player (the closest American approximation is pool). In the book, we hear very little about Irina or Lawrence’s careers, but we get lots of detailed snooker tournaments. And biographies of snooker players. And even snooker songs. I feel like I read an entire book on the history of snooker and I still don’t know exactly what it is, and I DON'T CARE. On the positive side, I think we all have moments that we look back on and think our life may be drastically different or happier if we had only said or did something different in that one moment. I really like Shriver’s approach to that moment and her answer to that fantasy. There was also a lot of beautiful writing and I read the last 100 pages or so glued to my chair with the suspense of Irina’s decision. Too bad I had to sit through 5000 snooker matches to get there.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Da Vinci Code

If you hate reading, you'll love the Da Vinci Code!! Spoiler Alert for the rest of this review. Seriously, this has got to be the most overrated book in the world. Every religious group that wants to ban really is trying to make the world a better place, even if it's for the wrong reasons (It says Jesus was married?, ewww girl germs!!) The book is about a cryptographer, Sophie Neveu, and a Symbologist, Robert Langdon, who run around Europe solving puzzles to get to the bottom of a murder and uncovering a secret society that hides a big secret of the Catholic Church. (Is there even such a thing as a symbologist, anyway?) Here are my gripes with the book- yes the plot moves fast, but it's too fast, more like warp speed, there is no character development and the settings-- some of the most beautiful places in the world fly past like so many Taco Bells. Maybe this would be ok if the plotting wasn't so ham handed. Every chapter ends in a cliff-hanger ("they gasped as they stared at their certain doom") and tons of the "shocking" stuff is isn't very shocking. Isn't Jesus having a girlfriend why people got so hot under the collar with Jesus Christ, Superstar? The secret with the grandfather, that is alluded too as being Extra-Shocking, can been seen coming a mile away and just is not shocking especially if you've seen Eyes Wide Shut. Frankly, this book is like a Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys for adults, which really isn't sooo bad. This book is just way overrated. If you haven't read it yet, you don't need to.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Not recommended book week continues with Winkie, the story of a teddy bear who is accused and tried for terrorism. Yes, I said a teddy bear. At this point half of you are probably thinking, "That should have been your first clue" and the other half are probably thinking "Brilliant!". As a reader who tends to fall on the more literal side and an avoider of all things anthropomorphic, I was fascinatingly repelled, but was won over by good reviews. Apparently I didn't read the reviews too carefully, because one of the lines in the starred Publishers Weekly review describes Winkie's awakening "marked by a bowel movement so lovingly described that it recalls Bloom's in Ulysses". Nuts and berries are involved, people. And now I will never read Ulysses. There is also a weird birth of a baby teddy bear by the supposedly male Winkie. I did find some parts of the trial to be funny and the objects of the author's satire--domestic spying, fear mongering, etc.--worthy targets. The teddy bear narrator was beyond creepy and the writing, apart from some parts of the trial, was not very good either. Someday, someone will write the definitive book on stuffed animal terrorism, but this is not it.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


DBB readers, it is time for the truth: The real reason I hate this book is my own literary snobism. It's the story of two modern literary scholars, Maud Bailey and Roland Mitchell, who are researching fictional Victorian poets Christabel La Motte and Randolph Ash. Through their study of letters, diaries and so on, they discover their Victorian subjects were having an affair that was unknown until their discovery. Predictably the two modern characters are drawn into a relationship as well. Here's my problem-- the poetry. All poetry is the product of its times and to write a poem imitating other poems is to merely put words on a page not produce true art. For Byatt to write page after page of imitation Victorian poetry and then subject the reader to it as if it were canon is just wrong. Perhaps one or two poems for each of the Victorian characters might have been ok, but Byatt forces the reader to virtually take a survey class of two phony poets. This is in addition to page after page of journals, letters and other ephemera. Who has time? My advice, skip this book, and especially the poems, skip the movie, staring Gwyneth Paltrow (most people did!) and go read some Yeats.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Money: A Memoir

I read a really good review of this when it came out, but I think the reviewer must have either read a different book or lived a different life than I do. It is a memoir that deals somewhat with the author's personal experiences with money, including a divorce that leads to a drastic change in her financial situation. It also has some financial advice for women and explores some of the complexities of women's relationships with money. The problem is it tries to be three different books and ends up doing none of them very well at all. The advice part was pretty basic and the memoir and anecdotal sections I could not relate to at all. The other women she talks to all seem to be a random polling of her friends who grew up with mostly the same backgrounds and all with the attitude that a man would take care of them, an attitude that is pretty alien to me and the women I know. And the women "struggling" financially all seemed to be making $200,000 a year and living in million dollar homes. Sorry if it didn't really resonate when I read it on my secondhand couch in my rented apartment in between my two jobs. But maybe it's just me.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Shop On Blossom Street

I read this book for my book club at the public library and while I wasn't expecting it to be a deep, introspective piece of fiction, I was still disappointed. I had read a romance or two by this author and they were fine, nothing special --but they were ok. This book? Bad. It's one of those "women's" novels, where an unlikely group of women (each with a specific problem, such as infertility, a rough childhood, or being incredibly snotty) bonds in a unique setting (such as a book club or this case, a knitting class) and they grow to like and respect each other and ultimately help each other solve their problem (and much faster than usual, to quote Homer Simpson). Bleah. One of the ladies in my book club commented that if the book were music, it would be Lawrence Welk and she's quite right. The book is bland (her troubled childhood character was arrested for marijuana possession but the author makes it abundantly clear IT WAS HER ROOMMATE'S because otherwise she'd just be too horrible for readers to care about) unrealistic, (incredibly snotty is mean to her daughter-in-law for most of the book, but the daughter-in-law just keeps acting like Mrs. Snotty is her best friend) and totally simplistic (all problems solved by the end of the book (ooh spoiler alert) Yes!). And great news, there is a sequel!! yay!.

Worst. Book. Ever.

Welcome to Bad Books Week! This bonus post is a link to another blogger's worst books of 2006 and our picks for the next week will be books that we didn't like, didn't get, or thought were way over-hyped. Feel free, dear readers, to chime in with your votes for the hall of shame!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

I Love You, Beth Cooper

Like the teen comedies it sends up, I Love You, Beth Cooper is fun and frothy with a few instances of almost painful truth for those of us in high school not named Beth Cooper or our own high school equivalents. Beth Cooper is the perfect head cheerleader type and the object of valedictorian and debate champion Denis Cooverman's affections. When he includes the title line in his valedictorian speech, it leads to an unforgettable night filled with the usual teen movie graduation night cliches. Beth and her two friends show up at Denis's house for a graduation party attended only by Denis and his best friend Rich, who quotes movie lines and is in denial about his sexual orientation. Soon the party is crashed by Beth's maybe ex-boyfriend, Kevin, the first of many encounters he and Denis will have. This leads to an escape to another graduation party, some high school vandalism, and a moment of wish fulfillment for Denis in a remote cabin. Along the way, Denis realizes Beth isn't quite the perfect girl she seems, which makes him like her both more and less. The book really reads like a script for a teen movie, and classic quotes from teen movies of the past begin each chapter. Some scenes end up a bit cartoonish, especially the many fights between Denis and Kevin. On the whole, though, the book was a lot of fun.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Rapture of Caanan

What can I say? Oprah got here first, but I think this book was better than many of her picks have been. Ninah, the 15 year old heroine of this book is growing up in a born again Christian community led by her grandfather. Almost like a cult, the Church of Fire and Brimstone has tons of rules and discourages contact with outsiders. Ninah attends a secular school, but its her prayer partnership with James, a boy within the church that causes her to question the rules, and ultimately break the group wide open when she becomes pregnant (it's on the back of the book, it's not a spoiler!!!) Interesting, and a fast read.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Breakfast of Champions

Kurt Vonnegut's recent death has inspired lots of people to pick up his books, including my book club. Supposedly this was a book written by Vonnegut on his fiftieth birthday as a means of clearing away some of the stuff and characters in his head and books and it certainly reads that way in part. The two primary characters are Kilgore Trout, an obscure science fiction writer, and Dwayne Hoover, a car salesman. What plot there is follows the parallel lives of these two men as Trout descends upon the town of Midland City, where Dwayne is losing his grip on sanity. The book sets itself up for the moment when Dwayne reads one of Trout's novels and is convinced that he is the only person with free will and everyone else around him are machines. This leads to a moment of violence that is mostly anticlimactic. Mostly the book's purpose is to give Vonnegut a place to explore his ideas about humanity, free will, the environment, violence, and more. The book does feel a little "overstuffed" with all these random elements thrown in, sometimes with little or no context. I enjoyed the end where Vonnegut himself becomes a character as the novelist and the resulting points his presence makes as a commentary on the nature of the relationship between novelist and the reader (also through his drawings included in the text) and with his characters.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Bachelor Brother's Bed and Breakfast

This book is very grandma friendly. The reviews on Amazon and the blurbs on the backs of the books use the words "cozy" and "gentle" over and over. While it's true that this book is squeaky clean fare, it's a lot of fun for the bookish sort. Homer and Virgil are fraternal twin brothers in their 40's who own a bed and breakfast on a Canadian Island that is basically a reader's getaway. People show up for their vacation with their to be read pile and dig in. The book loosely ties together the stories of the two brothers and several of their guests along with book lists and lots of reader humor. A fun quick read for those in the "reader's club."

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Into Thin Air

I didn't really think this book was going to be for me but a friend of mine really loved it so I ended up giving it a chance. I started it just before a long drive cross-state with my family and never has a car ride gone by so fast. Instead of refrains of "Are we there yet?" I would glance up and think the miles were going by too quickly--I wanted to have more time to finish the book. Krakauer's book is the story of his climb of Mount Everest in 1996 with a group of climbers led by Rob Hall. Tragically, eight climbers from two expeditions would not make it back. Krakauer's account is filled with examples of both heroism and bad judgment. His story is laced with his guilt as a survivor and questioning of motives and actions that contributed to the fateful trip. I found this book to be completely gripping and suspenseful.

Saturday, June 9, 2007


If you haven't read Emma yet, I'm jealous, because the first time I read this book was such a treat for me. Unlike Jane Austen's best known book, Pride and Prejudice, the heroine of Emma is not entirely sympathetic. She's bit of a snob, she's a terrible meddler, she can't accurately "read" the people around her. But despite all of this, Emma is quite impressed with herself. Kind of like a real person. Kind of like me in fact (cough). And even though she's far from perfect, Emma triumphs in the end. Despite all of this, or maybe because of it, I loved this book more than P&P upon first reading. And I am sure everyone knows, this book was the inspiration for the movie Clueless. (PS just ignore my husband if he tries to tell you this book is boring- He's wrong!)

Friday, June 8, 2007

Reading in Bed

Except for maybe over meals, I do most of my reading under the covers before bed, like seemingly most readers. This art project takes reading in bed to a whole new level. I love how turning the pages adds layers if you are either too hot or too cold. This bedtime story is sure to bring pleasant dreams to every book lover.

Degree of Guilt

I don't read a whole lot of the legal thriller genre, but I have read several books by Richard North Patterson. His last few books have become more overtly political, tackling such issues as abortion, the death penalty, and Israel. While I appreciate the complexity of how these issues are presented in those books, they can come across as an ethics course with some plot hanging on to it. I prefer his earlier novels like this one. Mary Carelli is a journalist who is lured into the hotel room of famed writer Mark Ransom by the promise of tapes of a famous politician and starlet. When she shows up on the doorstep of ex-lover Christopher Paget, who is raising their son, she has been accused of murdering Ransom in what she claims was self-defense after he raped her. The mystery of what happened in that hotel room and the ghosts from Mary and Chris's past are all revealed with a great deal of suspense, plot twists, and character study.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Seven Years of Highly Defective People

This is more than just a collection of Dilbert comic strips. Instead the book chronicles the development of the strip over its fist seven years, showing how the various characters were introduced and developed over time. Each character or storyline featured has a section of strips that Scott Adams has annotated with comments about where various ideas came from and what reader reaction was. This is much more fun than just reading the comic and features tons of strips from when Dilbert was freshest.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

It's A Wonderful Lie: 26 Truths about Life in Your Twenties

I've been dipping in and out of this collection for awhile. I picked it up because I have read and enjoyed some of the authors in it (Hollis Gillespie, Megan McAfferty, Beth Lisick). I haven't finished it yet but one of the pieces I read last night was from a woman who, in her twenties, worked in residence life. A lot of the situations brought back painful memories of roommate conflicts, people knocking on your door at any and all times of the day, plumbing emergencies, and most of all, the feeling of being trapped that comes from living and working in the same space, where your time is never, ever your own. It was hard but I did get a lot out of it. Unfortunately, my experience differed from the author's in one important way--she did it for the very cool apartments she got to live in for free. We're talking penthouse Manhattan apartments with breathtaking views. My residence life apartment had a great view, too--that of the storage room complete with arts and crafts supplies and a RA's life-size sculpture of a cow peeking at me into my bedroom window. Despite this discrepancy, I have enjoyed and could mostly relate to many of the pieces in here about the particular angst that comes from the situations that arise in your twenties--making new friends and relationships and career doubts and money woes. I just wish mine had come with a much cooler apartment.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Ebert's Bigger Little Movie Glossary

This book is a dictionary of film cliches. The entries are written by Roger Ebert and people who have written to his column. Usually the best ones, such as The Far-Off Rattle Movies "Movies in which the climatic scene is shot in a deserted warehouse, where far-off rattles punctuate the silence". This is a fun book to pick up when you have a few minutes to kill (I was reading it while drying my hair the other day), because it's so easily picked up and put down.

Monday, June 4, 2007

In Spite of the Gods

I have read a few books in the past couple of years that are either set in India or tell the story of Indian immigrants to the United States. I wish I had read this book before then, because it filled in a lot of gaps I had in beginning to understand the history and current situation in India. Luce is obviously an admirer of Indian culture and sees its potential as a major player on the international stage, but he also illuminates many of the obstacles standing in the way of progress, most notably corruption and intense poverty. It is a story of contradiction--where secularism is ensconced but religious strife and caste still persists, where in some parts of India only 80 girls are born for every 100 boys due to selective abortion but a country which has elected several female leaders, including one of the former untouchable class. I was especially interested in the complex relationships India has with both China and the United States. This is really intended to be a sort of introductory primer on the current role of India, and I gained a lot of information to put any further readings on India in a much better context.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

An Assembly Such as This

This is the first in a series of three books that retell the story of Pride and Prejudice from the perspective of Mr. Darcy. I had just about sworn-off Jane Austen sequels and spin-offs, having read some terrible ones, but I decided to give this a try based on the positive reviews on Amazon. It's actually kind of entertaining, although I've always had my own interpretation of Mr. Darcy that differs from this author, namely that shyness causes some of Mr. Darcy's seeming rudeness early in the book. The A&E/BBC mini-series (the Colin Firth version) seems to have a heavy influence here too, though I am going to have to re-read P&P to double check some lines. Interestingly, when read from Elizabeth Bennett's perspective in the original, you put yourself entirely in her shoes, so when reading this version, I found myself getting a little jealous of Darcy's high opinion of her- he is supposed to be mine!! There are some subplots that are added which aren't really working for me, but I enjoyed the book as a whole and plan to read the next two books.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Little Children

I just saw this movie, which I felt was a pretty faithful adaptation of the book by Tom Perotta, which I read when it first came out. Sarah is a little bored as a stay-at-home mom and a little appalled at the other playground mothers and their air of perfection. When Todd, who the other mothers dub "The Prom King" shows up at the playground, Sarah boldly goes up to him and shocks even herself as she kisses him. Todd is the primary caregiver for his son. His wife thinks he is spending his evenings at the library studying for the bar exam, but he spends all his time watching teenage skateboarders, joining a touch football league, or passing out fliers about the child molester who has moved in to the neighborhood with an acquaintance who has become obsessed with the molester. Sarah and Todd start spending their afternoons at the pool with their children and begin an affair. Meanwhile, the child molester and his mother try to adjust to the turmoil. Like Election, also by Tom Perotta and turned into a great movie, there is a dark humor to this book as well as some great insights into the nature of suburbia and marriage.

Friday, June 1, 2007

A Girl Named Zippy

This memoir of growing up poor in small town Indiana in the 60's and 70's is by turns hilarous and heartbreaking. Zippy has terrible health problems and doesn't speak until she is three, and so is a bit of a miracle child. Her parents and older brother and sister love her dearly, but her world is also filled with mean teachers, dangerous situations and a crazy lady across the street. It's told with a child's perspective and is a very quick read. Zippy's story continues in She Got Up Off the Couch.

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