Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Devil Comes to Orekhovo

When the Nines Roll Over & Other Stories by David Benioff

For those of you who have waning attention spans and have trouble finishing an entire book before you start the next one, this collection of short stories might be perfect for you. David Benioff wrote The City of Thieves, which was incredible, and he didn’t fail to impress me with these short stories.

It is a collection of eight people and snippets of their transformations and some of the character-changing events in their lives. Not only do you get to know each character better than you might like, you almost feel every stage of agony, every humiliation, rebellion, and desire that each experiences. A single moment of clarity or sadness is illuminated by humorous flip sides with political undertones. And every story has a twist that you don’t quite see coming. Benioff is honestly a storytelling force. I breezed through this 223-page book in 2 days, unable to put it down or even take it out of my bag.

Just to give you a sneak peak, I’m including a snippet of one story so you can get a taste of his writing and what you might expect if you run across it in the near future.

“Every time I look out my window I see the city where you live, and I wonder where you are, and what you’re doing, hidden behind the stacks of tall buildings. Nothing so mundane as laundry or grocery s hopping – no, the laws of bad reality don’t apply to you, you give birth to dead fathers.

Somewhere in the city Leonard exists, haunting the mind of another blessed suitor. I’m in mourning for a man who never was, that’s true, but I still expect to meet Leonard one day, playing dice in the back room of a sawdust bar, a crude mermaid tattooed on his forearm, a battered copy of Moby Dick in the pocket of his leather jacket. I’ll buy him a glass of whiskey and listen to his stories.”

Grade: A

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pedophilia, Classics, Murderers..All In A Day's Read

I've just finished a whole slew of books which is typical for me. I don't savor and pour over books. I read them like my dog drinks water after lying in the sun for hours. If this isn't a clear enough metaphor, let's just say I devour them.

The first I will mention here is Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates by Tom Robbins. After sending out a little facebook query, three people from totally separate segments of my life recommended Tom Robbins. That's a sign if I ever saw one. This book has some parts that made me queasy due to the main character's lust for his teenage stepsister (it's not cute like stepsibling love in Clueless), still I haven't read something this funny in a while. Also it took me a few weeks to get through (read: a looong time for me) because there was lots of extremely garrulous repartee. That's right, kids, words I didn't know! It excited me to no end. Robbins doesn't hide his love for words or his thoughts on the silly American way of life. He has a way of making bizarre Amazon tribes look more put together than CIA officials and I wondered the whole time...isn't that the truth? Robbins' social commentary is funny enough that you don't have to be a flaming liberal (though you will enjoy it more) to appreciate the plot and subtle jokes. Also even though it takes place in modern day the reality isn't too real. So just relax and get in the mind of a far out hippie dude for a bit.

I tend to be stuck on classics, because I feel Classic Guilt - or the pressing need to read every book listed on those Top 100 Books of All Time lists. This summer I made a conscious effort to meander off classics for a while.

I read the following mediocre books and saved you time by listing the quality book you should read instead:
1. You Shall Know Our Velocity! by Dave Eggers (Swap for: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius)
2. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig (Swap for: Siddhartha by Herman Hesse)
3. Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman. (Swap for: Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs)

Just because I preach these to whomever is listening.... As a hardcore Illinoisan I would recommend Manhunt: The 12-day Chase for Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson. I would not lead you astray to some boring presidential retelling. This book is chock full of details but still reads like a solid murder mystery. Also I walk by the Ford's Theatre where Lincoln was killed every day on my way to work. I hope to see his ghost soon and give him a hug.

Secondly, check out The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. This is great if you like Chicago, World's Fair history, architecture, and/or gory mass-murderers. Yes, you can have it all! Plus it's nice to read some nonfiction that is palatable. It also helps develop great trivia for happy hour.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

It's the climb.

Typical, Julia. Typical. I kind of love this blog, though. Also, put the Holocaust book down.

I adored Eat, Pray, Love as well. It makes me think that even if we fuck up our decisions right now about where to go in life, stay in a relationship too long or never realize what we want... we'll figure it all out some day.

I thought My Sister's Keeper had an original story idea, was well written and had interesting characters, but it was SO hyped up before I read it; I don't know if it had a fair shot to make it into my favorite-books-of-all-time list. Cat- thanks for the shout out recommendation for Plain Truth. Although I'm not in crim. law this semester, it sounds interesting. Chels- I only got mid-way through Water for Elephants, too. Not to mention 10 other books (Julia you know I've been working on White Teeth for 4 years now).

Now that I've spent all this time responding and commenting to other bloggers... let me tell you how absolutely devoted I am to Jon Krakauer (Author of Into The Wild). While that book is one of my favorites, I recently read his book Into Thin Air and recommend it whole-heartedly.

Krakauer is a journalist (!) at Outside Magazine, and writes non-fiction, outdoorsy, extreme circumstances types of books. He is everything I'd want to be as a journalist and writer. Many of us spent years in the j-school learning how to one day maybe write and research this well. (ps. another survivor of the expedition wrote a book refuting some of Krakauer's assertions, mostly because he didn't like the observations Krakauer printed about him. However, Krakauer and his editors have explained their research and comments- we all know that journalists can get slack for telling truths that some people don't want to hear).

Anyway, Into Thin Air, is an intensely honest account of an expedition to the top of Mt. Everest that went horribly wrong. As a storm rolled in, mistakes were made, oxygen-depletion clouded the climbers' physical and mental capabilities, and many people died as a result- several of whom were famous mountaineers. Their back stories are all included and pretty compelling, too. The author attempts to recount each detail that contributed to the incident, and even accounts for his own mistakes. Although you pretty much know right off bat who lives and dies, it still pained me to read about their deaths, because Krakauer gets you so invested in their lives. I had to fight back tears during some chapters. (And nausea during others... oxygen depletion does not do good things to the body). He drags on a bit when it comes to historical aspects of the mountain and its climbers, but it all comes together.

Grade: A

Must get back to my other books now- contracts and civil procedure! WOO.

loves, Jess

(Also, I know it's not a book, but you guys should seriously see District 9. I loved it. But not Julia, because it's sci-fi).

Satan sells Hamburgers?

Just in case you run across this book whilst scanning the shelves at Borders, I am sending out this warning.

* Satan Burger by Carlton Mellick III.

This is one of the few books I have ever read that I would never recommend to anyone. (This and the biography of Abigail Adams that I read in 7th grade – it made me want to stab my eyes out; so I decided to cut out her picture from the cover of the book with an exacto knife. Lol Yeah, it was that bad.)

Anyway, Satan Burger is about a burger shop called Satan Burger that is run by the actual Satan in what is supposed to be the future Earth before the death of humanity. The protagonist, Leaf, and his strange friends all work at Satan Burger in exchange for souls because God has given up on the human race. Heaven is closed in this book, so there’s this vagina, called the Walm (also the cover of the book – a lady’s vagina), that serves as a gateway between dimensions, constantly spewing out demon-possessed creatures and blue women. Leaf, who happens to have God’s eyes and can leave his own body to observe the world around him, gets impregnated by a blue woman and then meets Jesus. It’s a twisted story about the end of the world that is disjointed, apocalyptic, and bizarre. As much as I love South Park and twisted stories and characters, this was just too much. You have been warned.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


I'm going to go ahead and assume the "vegan cookbook" reader is me...and how creepily right you are. I'm actually in the middle of reading Skinny Bitch, review soon to come; I know all you meaties cannot wait.

Anyways, as much as I love reading, for some reason lately I haven't been able to get through ANY books. I'm just going to go ahead and blame the J-school; I already blame it for all bad things in life anyways. :)

Some of my most recent half-reads are Franny and Zooey, The Time Traveler's Wife (I plan on finishing this soon so I can see the movie...mmm Eric Bana), Three Cups of Tea, Water for Elephants and Love in the Time of Cholera. If you've read any of these books and LOVE them, let me know so I can give them another try. In an attempt to get back to my former bookworm self, I decided to re-read one my favorite quick (but not light) reads — Smashed: The Story of a Drunken Childhood by Koren Zailckas.

Smashed chronicles Koren's drinking career, a frighteningly accurate representation of my (and most girls, I'm sure) high school and college experience, from her first taboo sip at 15 to the still comedic bleary-eyed hangover at 16 to the terrifying near hospital visit at 17 to her social dependency on alcohol at 22. As a recent college grad, I find this subject both engaging as well as eerily relatable. While there is plenty mention of blackouts, frat parties, jell-o shots, party foul push ups, seas of red cups overflowing with natty, unidentifiable morning-after bruises and the insatiable want, no wait THE NEED, for 2 eggs over easy with wheat toast at 3am (okay, maybe not that last one), Smashed is an important look at the root of these kinds of risky actions and the curious culture of alcohol, college and, most importantly, alcohol + college.

An easy read on a not-so-easy subject. (A)

Books Galore

So, even though I have yet to read a Jodi Picoult book, I can honestly say that I have a reading obsession and that she is on my list.

I am currently in the middle of three books:

1. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson, which is LOVELY Julia. Yes, it is hard to get in to, but it was recommended by my Law and Ethics professor who is from South Africa. It's a little difficult to get through because it's not the interesting court cases and flowery writing and action after romance after action type of novel, but it does paint the beautiful picture of a man dedicated to education and to helping other people...a feel good. I have about six chapters left.

2. Possible Side Effects by Augusten Burroughs (the author of Running with Scissors). The majority of Burroughs's books are semi-autobiographical and have many stories of his life as a gay man with a drinking problem. He blends dry humor with provocative stories that literally have left me laughing out loud in public places. It's sexual, disturbing, hilarious, and comical at times because it is essentially him delving into his most personal problems and making fun of it all the while. It makes for a super interesting read. Worth it.

3. The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau. Ok, so everyone knows that I am an elementary education major, so I am required to read popular young adult novels for the majority of my classes. This book is science fiction, I know, you're thinking, "Gross, why would I ever want to read science fiction?" But, this is such a great book. Great enough in fact that I am on book number three of the four part series. It is essentially about two children who are assigned jobs to work in their city (sort of like The Giver by Lois Lowry), and they try to solve the problems of their city and escape before they run out of supplies or the lights go out. If you like mysteries, reading at a middle school level, and want a fun, quick read, I would totally recommend the first two books of Ember.

That is all for now. There are many, many other books that I've read this summer that I have adored and would be happy to recommend, but I am in the process of moving all of my belongings from my house in Texas to my new house in Orlando. Very sad and exciting moving on with life. I hope all of you are well and that you look into some of these books. I'm definitely going to check out Picoult next time I'm in Borders (which is much better than Barnes and Noble, no offense Jess, because they have crazy good coupons, great kids books, and dollar bins with great books). Ok, enough from me. =)


Plain Truth- Jodi Picoult

I know, I know. ANOTHER Jodi Picoult novel. What can I say? It was Buy 2, Get one free at Barnes and Noble the other day, and not only did I practically push others out of the way so I could see what Picoult books were on the selection table, I'm already half way through the Plain Truth.

Plain Truth follows the story of a teenage Amish girl who is charged with first degree murder of her newborn son. I was first drawn to the title because I've always had an unhealthy obsession with learning about the Amish, and while this book gives you an introductory course to Amish culture, it lacks an exciting twist that usually is guaranteed with other Picoult novels (In her defense, I still have 200 pages left, but I was too excited/bored not to write a blog entry sooner...hah!) I also feel that most of the story is predictable as well as repetitive and does not leave the reader guessing as to what could happen. While it is an interesting topic, I am going to have to say I am still looking for a Jodi Picoult novel that competes with that of The Pact (about teenage double suicide pact) and My Sister's Keeper (which we all know and already love).

Book Grade: B

Do I recommend this book? Yes, but only for those of you (Ms. Grunberg) in law school and appreciate a good court case.

Ok, I'll go first :)

This little bookworm is going to share her thoughts on books whether you like it or not.  So my favorite book still remains Eat, Pray, Love.  I'm not sure how everyone feels about the book but it inspired me to never marry and just travel the world.  I'm also fairly certain it became my favorite book because I read it while I hated my life and would have hurt a small child in order to leave the country and travel to Italy, Indonesia, and India.  Wouldn't it be nice if we could all have a monk help us find ourselves again.  Not to mention fall in lust with an Italian stud and drink wine like it's going out of style.

A more recent favorite has been Jodster's latest novel, Handle With Care.  I thought it was JUST AS GOOD as My Sister's Keeper.  Picoult loves to tackle moral issues and get you thinking about what you would do if you were in these characters situations.  What would you do if the man you desperately wanted to love you again ended up raping you? Press charges? Stay quiet? Or what if saving your daughter meant taking a heart donation from a killer?  What if you knew you were going to have a child with physical handicaps... would you still have it?  Jodi tends to be depressing and that's why I love her.  Besides these are issues I think about all the time :)

Next on my book list is Three Cups of Tea. Cat was definitely right, it's very hard to get into.  It's about a humanitarian doing good in third world countries, but if it doesn't pick up soon I'm switching to Gods in Alabama.  It's a book about southernors and racism.  Naturally a white girl falls in love with a black guy, what will happen!!!???!!!!

So what is your favorite book? Best summer read? Most overrated book? I'm DYING to know :) Love you guys!

Let's have some fun, these books are sick

I know most of you hate me for starting a book blog, but I don't care.  I go back and forth at bookstores, do I buy another Jodi Picoult book? how much will Jess judge me if I get another book on the Holocaust?  When you shop for shoes you know whether or not it fits.  Well, you can't exactly try on books.  So this is my sad attempt to have anyone and everyone share what they are reading, what they've read, and what they think.