Saturday, February 11, 2012

Seriously Literate-Winter '12

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), Mindy Kaling
Oh, Mindy. I would love for you to hang out with me. A goofy, funny light read by one of my fave funny girls. Similar to the Tiny Fey memoir, but more relatable, seeing that Mindy and I are the same age. Girl cracks me up. Which was necessary, seeing of the the darker stuff I've been reading lately.

Haunted, Chuck Palahniuk
I'm not going to mince words here. This book is majorly fucked up. Though if you've read Chuck before (Fight Club, Choke), you could have probably already guessed that. It's about a group of people who answer an ad to figuratively vanish, leaving their lives behind to take part in a 90 day writer's retreat. While telling the story of the retreat itself, every other chapter is an "autobiography" from one of the participants, explaining what was so messed up about their life that they wanted to just disappear like that.

Doesn't sound so bad, does it? Well, eventually they start dying. Still not convinced? Well, *spoiler alert* then they start eating each other. So, you know. It was a delightful read. Evening reads plus a hormonal preggo brain made for some awesome dreams that week. Homeboy can write. Just know you're in for quite a gory ride.

The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien
I'm totally an anti-war person. I hate the idea of it, I hate the blood and the violence and the death and the destruction. I don't do movies or documentaries about it, I don't do books about it, and I don't debate about it. (Am I making my point? I hate war.)

So of course, this book was about war. I put off reading it, even though it was highly recommended, but then after renewing it three times, I figured I needed to either read it or send it I read it. And it pleasantly surprised me. It's about a group of young men during Vietnam...their friendships, their returns, and the murders they witnessed or took part in. The author describes himself as a bleeding-heart, so in all honesty, I'm sure that slant may have made a difference in the way it was written and in my ability to enjoy it. It wasn't uplifting, but it wasn't ugly, either. It was "honest," (It's fiction, but based on real events in part) and it was, really, quite engrossing. Sad and even sweet at times.

Damned, Chuck Palahniuk
Well, this one wasn't the ball of disgust that Haunted was, but it was of course no ray of sunshine, either. I kinda dug it, though. It was about the 13 year neglectedold daughter of massively famous parents (think Brangelina) who had died and is in hell, which is where the entire story takes place. Since there's no time in hell, I can imagine that the story takes place over years and years, but he zips through what can only be incredibly long situations (such as when she forges an army and gains power by taking down demons and true monsters like Hitler left and right-in stilettos, natch) within a short chapter at a time. It can be pretty funny, really. Disturbing, but funny if you're into the dark side of things.

The Particular Sadness of Lemoncake, Aimee Bender
Annnnd another one I read twice without remembering. Seriously, my brain. I don't know if I was attempting to read it drunk the first time, but I only remembered like, every other chapter. Very confusing.

The main character is a young girl who discovers she can taste the emotions, feelings, and situations of the person who made the food she eats, to the point where eating becomes nearly unbearable. (Her mother's well hidden misery gives way to the book's title, for example.) It's quite an interesting concept. I liked it. And reminds me to try and be in a good mood when I cook.

American Wife, Curtis Sittenfeld
I really liked this one. It's very long, but I never felt like it dragged. The story focuses on a young woman who finds herself in love with a man she never expected. She's a thoughtful, educated librarian, and he's the crass, rough and tumble heir to a conservative legacy who is pushed into politics. Eventually, he becomes president, and she's forced to juggle her more liberal leanings with her need to stay silent in public for the sake of her husband.

Sound familiar? It should. The book makes no attempt to disguise that it's loosely based on Laura Bush. I don't know much about the real Mrs. Bush, and have never really cared to, seeing how much I dislike her husband, but this makes me think that maybe she's worth learning more about. The character was fascinating and complex and sympathetic. Really liked the novel a lot.

Peach Keeper, Sarah Addison Allen
A typical Allen story. Sweet, charming and light. People fight falling in love, there's "magic" and mystery in the air, etc. etc. Nothing groundbreaking here, but I don't expect there to be with her. I just like the easy, sweet reads.

The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern
So here's the deal. Hubs bought me a Kindle for Christmas, and I'm...struggling with it. When I was dependent on the library, I had a fire under my ass to get books read. Now that I'm back to my own devices (no pun intended), I'm not reading nearly as much or as often. Which is a little bothersome. No wonder I work in an industry with deadlines. I'd never get anything done otherwise. (BTW, thanks Mom. I know this is your genetic half.)

So. That said. I think I would have liked this book more had I read it more quickly. My brain is distracted enough these days, and dragging it out over a month or so meant I kept forgetting what was happening, who the characters were, all of that. But it really was a cool story-two illusionists/magicians/whatever you want to call them are chosen (by their twisted parents/adoptive 'masters') at a young age to compete against each other-problem is, they don't know it. Even bigger problem, they eventually fall in love. And all of this takes place within the tents of an incredible circus that almost mystically travels the globe, appearing only at night.

And this circus sounds amazing. And I really dislike the circus. But that's a whole other PETA-related thing we won't get into. There's already talk about making this one into a movie, but it would take a badass director with some insane vision to pull it off. I vote Baz Luhrman. (But I always vote for Baz.)

And now the eternal question...

I've got a couple on my Kindle ready to go right now-The Wedding Gift and Black Ice...does anyone have any short stories or easy reads they could recommend? I think my reading time is about to become even more rare very quickly and I need something light I can jump in and out of.


  1. For short stories, check out Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies if you already haven't read it. One of my all time favorite books. And if you're willing to give O'Brien another go, I'd say In the Lake of the Woods for a psychological thriller/exploration.

  2. I often wonder how you get through so many books, and then I remember how much more time to read before I had kids. Your last paragraph is totally me... I need light reads that are easy to jump in and out of. PLUS I can't read anything exciting before bed or I can't fall asleep. Which means I have hardly any time to read. That said, I do enjoy your reviews :-)