Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What I've been reading

So I blew through a few books over several weeks, after spending some time slogging through 202 pages of Shantaram ... Sweet Jesus. Will someone please just tell me what happens in this book? I can't handle the intense level of detail and going-nowhere-ness of this 933-page novel.

That's really the only one I can't recommend that you read, unless you have an intense interest in India.

So I moved on to Bringing up Bebe, by Pamela Druckerson.

This has gotten a lot of play in the media, I think for a couple reasons. For starters, I think there's a hyper-focus on parenting in America. It's of course with the best of intentions, but a bit controversial. Let's just say the French are not into attachment parenting. Mommy and Daddy need time to themselves in the evenings to enjoy some silence and wine, after all. Actually -- I agree with that wholeheartedly.

The other reason this has gotten so much attention -- America's fascination with the French and why the French are skinny and they hate us so much.

There are some very good tips relating to kids sleeping through the night, kids eating the food that is cooked for the family (not some special kid's meal), and kids generally not behaving like little asshole dictators all the time.

Now, sometimes kids are just gonna behave like assholes, regardless, but the objective is to keep that to a minimum and have the kids truly understand who is in charge (it's you. not them).

Of course, the French aren't right about everything -- they have a cultural stigma against breastfeeding, when that's obviously been scientifically proven to be beneficial to children. And there are some other philosophical French-isms I'm not sure I agree with, but overall I'd say this book is chock full of common sense that's unfortunately not all that common in these parts.

The next thing I read was The Last Werewolf, by Glen Duncan.

I almost didn't read it, because the prose in the beginning was a little off-putting. But then it lightens up a bit and becomes acceptable, even humorous. And another reason I almost didn't read it: It's called The Last Werewolf, for godssakes. How many fricking werewolf books and movies does this world need, I ask you?

Well, it needed just this one more. It's good, I tell ya. Highly engrossing, a bit sexy, a bit gross ... If Hollywood doesn't turn it into a movie, they're a bunch of idiots.

Next up was After You'd Gone, by Maggie O'Farrell.

I really enjoyed the good storytelling, even though this isn't what you'd call an uplifting novel. There are a couple of mysteries that keep you turning the pages. The main character is despondent -- why? The main character saw something horrible in the beginning and tried to kill herself -- what was it?

I felt that the story ended abruptly, but it wrapped up fairly nicely, with all questions answered.

Now I'm on Swamplandia! by Karen Russell (still reading it) and really loving it. 

Any time an author can not only avoid cliche, but create new, wonderful descriptions of things -- not to mention create compelling characters and tell a damn nice story -- I am extremely impressed.

I'm a sucker for stories that take place in Florida, so I was a shoo-in reader for this one in the first place. But even if I didn't have a sick fascination with our country's worst state, this book would have roped me in. It's about a family that runs an amusement park of sorts called Swamplandia! that showcases alligator wrestling. They run into some trouble when they're suddenly down a wrestler and a competing amusement park, about death of all things, opens nearby and takes all of their business (I suspect there are some not-so-subtle digs about Disneyworld lying beneath the surface in this book). I can't adequately explain how amusing it is to read about how the family copes with this. You should just read it.

Now, can we talk about the elephant in the room that everyone is calling ...

Fifty Shades of Grey?

So, look.

In case you've been in a cave somewhere without cable TV or the internet, you are probably aware of this trilogy, that is basically the Twilight series re-written about a dude with an S&M fetish who gets with some girl named Anastasia of all things.

I give props to EL James -- she simply wrote the books for fun, posted them for free, and when they got popular realized she could make some cashola. And she has, my friends. And good for her.

But the thing is, these books are fucking terrible.

In fairness, I only read 23% of the first one -- just enough to complete the first sex scene -- but if the rest follows suit, this is some brainrot. For reals.

If you want to read something that's super easy to read but pretty dumb and kind of sexy, try the Sookie Stackhouse series. If you're just wanting the sexy stuff, please, for the love of god -- there are many, many better written sexy novels out there. Jackie Collins, VC Andrews, Danielle Steel. And their stuff might be available for cheaper. Believe me -- your time and money are better spent elsewhere.

Happy reading! Let me know what you've been reading and if you have any suggestions!


  1. Oh my god....I freakin' LOVED Shantaram. One of my favorite books ever!!!!!! Sorry you didn't like it.

    1. I think it was critically acclaimed and I was supposed to love it ... I just felt like there was no plot. I couldn't figure out why I should care about the dude ... Anyway what the hell happens in that book?

    2. So much happens....from becoming a doctor in the slums with no medical training, getting involved with the "Indian Mafia", prison time.....I couldn't put it down. I can't remember if it was hard to get into or not?? But not every book is for every person. It might not be your writing/reading style? Did you read World Without End? Pillars of the Earth? Ken Follett's books. So good!

    3. I'm not sure if I ever did read Follett's books ... I'll add Pillars to my to-read list!

  2. A while ago I finished, Dancing on Broken Glass by Ka Hancock. It is a great book, but be prepared to cry. A lot.

    1. I looked up the description and ... I'm not sure if I can handle that right now.:)

  3. Your review of Bringing Up BeBe made me laugh! I recently read an article that describes the same sort of thing about the difference between parenting in France and in the U.S. with more of an emphasis on how we put our kids in a million different sports and activities so much so that we have no life.

    1. She mentions this as well. The French obviously have a much more relaxed approach to child-rearing!

  4. I tell you this not to be a know-it-all-asshole, but because I think you care: It's shoo-in, not shoe-in. Something about shooing a horse over the finish line? (Maybe you knew that and it was just a typo ... in which case, carry on!)

    Anyway, love the reviews. Swamplandia is on my list (AKA One of the Books that Wasn't Good Enough to Warrant a Pulitzer), but After You'd Gone sounds right up my alley, too. Thanks dear!

    1. I am hugely ashamed to admit I did not know that! This reminds me of the time I got schooled about nauseous vs nauseated. That was a dark day.

      I'm still reading Swamplandia! and it is just lovely. I wish I could write like that, or dream up characters like that.

    2. hahah...I had to look up the nauseous/nauseated things because I didn't know either. But this is what I found:


      The Question:

      Is it correct to say "the chicken salad made me nauseous," meaning that it made me feel sick to my stomach? My friend says that this would mean that it made me disgusting.
      The Answer:

      Your friend is not alone. A number of usage guides insist that "nauseous" can only mean "causing nausea." Week-old chicken salad would be nauseous, they say, and it makes you nauseated.

      These usage guides are outdated.

      The use of "nauseous" to mean "feeling sick" appears to have originated in New York City shortly after World War II. Despite the best efforts of teachers and other prescriptivists, it is now a completely standard meaning. To quote Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage, "Any handbook that tells you that nauseous cannot mean 'nauseated' is out of touch with the contemporary language. In current use it seldom means anything else."

      With that said, if you wish to play it safe, there is a simple set of alternatives. Use "nauseating" for things that make you sick and "nauseated" for feeling sick.

      Read more: Nauseous vs. Nauseating vs. Nauseated —

  5. I have had The Last Werewolf on my shelf for months. Thank you for motivating me to pick it up. I'm on a reading tear, so I'll pay homage to your oversharing theme:
    _Fire_ by Kristin Cashore. Part of my recent YA streak (which I resisted at first out of ridiculous snobbery). Beautifully written, well-plotted, lovely protagonist. Also _Graceling_ (less so _Bitterblue_) by that same author. If you love language, read Haven Kimmell, especially _The Solace of Leaving Early_.
    City of Bones series has a protagonist so awesome that I wish I had a teenage daughter to buy it for. (awkward sentence, sorry).

    1. Thanks for the recommendations! I'll look them up. :)

  6. thanks, i always jot down your suggestions. i bought bringing up bebe, havent started yet. on one of those amazon book frenzies. have you heard of Origins? you might like it.

    ok, so 50 shades of gray! i just found out about this like 3 days ago. i dont know how so late. but i want the sex scenes condensed without the corny diaglogue. or i could re-read those danielle steele books i read in high school ;)

    1. I read Origins last year -- pretty interesting stuff, particularly for someone who's pregnant!