Shakespeare, Tweeted

April 26, 2009

As of May 1, I will be done with school.  The baby will likely be here at the end of May.  I should have a few weeks in between to return to blogging about books!

In the meantime, I leave you with all of Shakespeare’s works in 140 characters or less:

http://opoyul.blogspot.com/2009/01/all-twittered-shakespeare-synopses.html

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Outliers: What does it take to be an expert?

March 13, 2009

10,000 hours.  According to Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers:  The Story of Success, that’s how many hours of practice it takes to become an expert.  Sigh.  As I started this book I wondered if I would feel deficient.  I don’t think I’ve put 10,000 hours into anything except maybe reading, and I’m far from an expert reader.  Gladwell’s thesis for the book is exploring why some people succeed and some never live up to their potential.  While the 10,000 hour bit is an interesting piece of trivia, it is not the entire point of Gladwell’s book.  What Gladwell does is destroy the idea that anyone is a self-made anything, arguing that geography, culture, economics and plain luck in some cases influence success.  However, underlying most stories of success is hard work.  Very few successes happen overnight, something that should be reassuring to those of us toiling away in the trenches. 

Most of this fairly slim book is intriguing and provocative, but I felt Gladwell’s last chapter or two were weak.  However, Outliers is an interesting read and will challenge your ideas of how a successful person is made.


The Likeness: Haunting

March 13, 2009

I believe that Tana French’s The Likeness is one of the best books I have read so far in 2009.  Granted, I haven’t read all that many books so far and the ones I have read wouldn’t exactly be candidates for any “best book” list, but The Likeness has stayed with me weeks after I finished it.  It was similar to American Wife in that it was the second book I had ready by an author but happily, while both first books were disappointments to me, I really enjoyed The Likeness.

We met Detective Cassie Maddox in In the Woods.  This novel picks up six months after the events in that novel.  Detective Maddox has transferred out of murder to domestic and while she is in a relationship with another detective, she remains too shaken to commit to him.  Then one day, Cassie’s boyfriend discovers a body of a young woman who eerily resembles Cassie.  She not only resembles Cassie but also carries identification giving her the name of an identity Cassie used when she was undercover at the beginning of her career.  Cassie, however, has never met her.  Cassie feels compelled to help solve the mystery of what happened to the young woman and agrees to go undercover and assume the dead girl’s life as a graduate student living in a house of extremely close  misfits.

There is so much going on in this novel.  Set in Ireland, it’s moody and eerie.  French’s gift as a writer is getting into her characters’ heads.  They are all fully fleshed out.  There are layers of secrets to be revealed, and French handles them compellingly.  Interestingly, how the dead woman came to have Maddox’s undercover identity is never revealed, but really, it doesn’t matter.  French has deeper mysteries to solve.

I really can’t stop thinking about this novel.  It’s not exactly action-packed, but I couldn’t wait to see what would happen. I thought the first quarter moved a little slowly as Cassie decided whether she would go undercover, but once she does, the book gets very interesting.


American Wife: Still Inscrutable to Me

March 13, 2009

After reading review after review of Sittenfeld’s novel as well as seeing show up on many “best of 2008” lists, I decided to give American Wife a try.  American Wife is about librarin Alice Lindgren, her life growing up in Riley, Wisconsin and how she ends up in the White House as the First Lady and the wife of a charming, immature, aimless yet ambitious son of a politically-prominent Midwestern family. If you think the story sounds a tad familiar, it is.

American Wife is Sittenfeld’s fictitious attempt to try to solve the mystery that is Laura Bush.  I think many of us have wondered about how this literate, book-loving former librarian ended up with George W.  They are two seemingly very different people. We’ve wondered how she could sit back while her husband presumably tried to attack and dismantle programs and laws she held dear.  By not saying anything, by not publicly disagreeing or possibly privately disagreeing, was she as culpable as he for the state of the nation during and after his 8 years as president?

After reading Sittenfeld’s novel, I’m not sure if I feel any closer to understanding Laura Bush or Alice Lindgren.  Ultimately, I found the book and its attempted explanations unsatisfying.  Honestly, why does Alice love Charlie?  You could argue that opposites attract and that sort of thing, but I didn’t believe their love.  Sittenfeld’s Alice is rather cold.  Sittenfeld uses an adolescent tragedy to attempt to explain why Alice feels unworthy and undeserving of anything good in her life, but it rings hollow.  With as much guilt and blame that Alice carries with her, I almost expected her to wear a hair shirt and flagellate herself.  She seems to float through her life.  It doesn’t help that Sittenfeld’s Alice ends up telling you a lot of the exposition as the book jumps forward in time.  That only adds to the cold, detached feeling one gets from Alice/Laura.

It was an interesting experiment for Sittenfeld:  take an intriguing first lady to whom everyone attributes intelligence, reason, calmness and try to figure out who she is and how she could do…nothing.  Maybe that’s why the novel feels so cold.   One has the visual of Sittenfeld nailing Alice to a piece of felt like some sort of insect and studying her, testing her, trying to explain her actions.  Truthfully, the parts of the book before Alice’s husband becomes president are the best parts.  Once Alice becomes First Lady, the story seems too contrived, too political.  Sittenfeld is trying too hard.

I wasn’t a big fan of Sittenfeld’s previous heralded novel Prep, so I shouldn’t have been surprised at my tepid reaction to this novel.  Perhaps Laura/Alice has the last laugh in remaining an enigma.


Undead and UnWhatever…My latest vampire series

March 13, 2009

Why do I enjoy vampire novels so much?  I don’t particularly like blood.  I don’t want to be “undead.”  I have enough teeth issues as it is (I was born with a tooth and have no enamel on my back molars.  My first dentist decided it was because of the “stress of childbirth.”  Ok, whatever).  For whatever reason, I really enjoy fiction featuring vampires (Laurell K. Hamilton, Kim Harrison, and the early Anne Rice). 

Anyway,  I recently discovered MaryJanice Davidson’s Undead Series (7 books so far).  As of this week, I have read them all.  The Undead series stars Betsy Taylor whose 30th birthday is memorable for being fired, being killed by a Pontiac Aztec and then not being able to stay dead.  Not only that, but the tall, gorgeous  yet somewhat dim Betsy is apparently the long-prophesied Queen of the Vampires.   Helping her find her way is the brooding, gorgeous vampire Eric Sinclair and his helper Tina, Betsy’s human friends Jessica and Marc, and various other colorful characters include a police detective, her mother, her father and stepmother, werewolves, fiends, and fellow vampires who hate her.  Bless Betsy’s heart, but she never has a dull day.  Oh, and let’s not forget her obsession with high-end shoes. 

The Undead series is light-hearted fun.  Betsy is irreverant, and Davidson’s dialogue crackles.  I laughed out loud at a couple of parts.  In my library, the books are considered romance (notice the large heart on the spine).  There is some good sex, but never fear, there is much less sex than in your average Laurell K. Hamilton novel (it would be hard to match the amount of sex in those, but that’s beside the point).  I enjoyed the first four books much more than the last three.  The last three (Undead and Unpopular, Undead and Uneasy and Undead and Unworthy) didn’t seem to have the spark that the first four did.  With the 8th book in the series due in June, I’m hoping that Davidson is back to form.

Curiously, the series is set in Minnesota, meaning yet another vampire series is set in the Midwest (along with Harrison’s and Hamilton’s).  Apparently Davidson is part of Hamilton’s group or an admirer or something, but I’m just befuddled at so much supernatural fiction being set in the Midwest.  Again, is there some reference guide all supernatural fiction writers use?

Cute series and an easy read.  I read two or three easily in a weekend.


Coworker Novels

February 4, 2009

I have a coworker who is writing a science fiction novel, and he has finished his first or second round of edits and passed along his novel to readers.  I volunteered to be one of his readers, and I am ridiculously honored to be one.  I’ve never known anyone who wrote an actual novel before, so I look upon the draft sitting in my house with a great deal of awe.  I know he’s a tad concerned because I’m not a huge science fiction reader, but as I told him, I’ll read anything, so hopefully my input will help him. I truly a honored.


Jane Austen and Zombies

February 4, 2009

I am so far behind on everything that I wonder if I will ever catch up. Part of the problem, dear reader, is that I am expecting a baby in June 2009.  The baby is not the problem.  Far from it!  The problem is the preparation.  My husband has decided to replace the carpet in our bedrooms with hardwoods, and it’s gone a bit slower than we expected.  At the same time, work has become interesting due to a promotion to management for me!!!  Yay!   I’ve been reading, but I’m just so far behind in posting.

Anyhooo…I must post about Pride, Prejudice and Zombies.  What a hysterical concept!  Oh, this is the original zombie link.  It amuses me because I still have World War Z in mind, and combine that (zombies) with Pride & Prejudice just tickles my funny bone.  Enjoy!