Archive for May, 2012

Book finished: Late February

In the Garden of Beasts via wikipedia.org

In the Garden of Beasts via wikipedia.org

Excuse the amazon.com image, this is yet another eBook. How did I end up in the strange land? Where did all the paper go? What do you mean I don’t need my book light to read in the dark?! Honestly, this book was purchased to read on a bus ride from Massachusetts to NYC and again, I just wasn’t into the bookworm look on this trip.

I love Erik Larson and I really wanted to love In the Garden of Beasts. His amazing Devil in the White City is one of my all-time-top-favorite-will-never-pack-away-because-what-if-I-want-to-read-it-again-dammit? books. Devil simultaneously chronicles the effort of everyone involved in planning the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair…and the serial killer (H.H. Holmes) who used the fair as a cover-up for his homicidal tendencies. Random tidbits of what my family would call “useless” information + a serial killer? Could that book get any better? (Leonardo Dicaprio).

Even Thunderstruck, the duel tails of Marconi’s development of radio communication and how radio technology helped catch an on-the-run killer, while very technical was really good. That is Larson’s strong point: taking a true-crime angle and painting the portrait of a killer against something else, like a radio or architecture.

In the Garden of Beasts details the disturbing and deranged atmosphere that was Hitler’s pre-World War II Germany. The human aspect/dramatization of the story comes from the Ambassador to Germany (William Dodd) and his family’s stay in the hear of Berlin. While there is no specific “killer” aspect of the story, you could argue that since Hitler and various members of the Nazi party play pretty big roles, it follows one of the most notorious killers of all time.

While my history education was never quite complete (we always reached WWII in May and then rushed to get through it), I knew that the US was reluctant to enter the war…but was the government seriously as blind at this text makes them appear? Basically, something really awful would happen to a US citizen abroad in Germany. The US with get all mad, and then Germany would say “Oops! Sorry, we won’t do it again!”

Larson is really good at weaving together multiple stories, including that of Dodd, his detractors, various Nazi party members, US citizens in Germany, Martha (Dodd’s daughter), and her lover, Boris. And yes, Boris was a Communist from the USSR. I am not making that up. 

Beasts is incredibly detailed (at times almost too detailed….during some of the more politically charged areas I dozed off) and he really brought the actual people to life through vividly-drawn details, like that one crazy Nazi (his name escapes me) that had a insanely pimped out wilderness retreat. Or the meal eaten by Martha and Boris on their romantic weekend getaway (how he knew some of these details is beyond me, but either way Larson makes it believable).

Most WWII related books only touch on the atrocities of Nazi Germany; Larson manages to paint this portrait against the reality that the Nazi’s were people (even if they were awful people) and that some had second thoughts about the actions of their party. Several of the Nazi party members in the book fell out of favor with Hitler and and fled Germany.

I give Larson an immense amount of credit for taking on the task of recreating Hitler’s Germany so intensely on so few pages, with so few pictures. Beasts is as thrilling as Devil, but it’s still a pretty decent read.


Read Full Post »

Book finfished: early February

Ahem. So remember my weird rule about paperback vs. hardcover? Well, I have a lot of those when it comes to books, including: “Always read the actual book before you see a movie or tv show based off of it.” This rule is no joke….in fact, I used to take this rule so seriously, I actually got in a screaming match with a college roommate over it. (She wanted to watch the film adaptation of The Five People You Meet in Heaven, I wanted to read the book first. One TV, small brick room with bunked beds. It was a fun night in Mary Lyon.) Experience has taught me that when you see the movie first, the book never measures up.

I broke that rule with the Dexter series. Why? Because honestly, I didn’t even know about the books until Michael C. Hall (from my beloved Six Feet Under) was cast as the dark and twisted serial killer. Acerbic wit, dry humor, and a hiding ark Passenger that prompts him to kill murderers that escape (accidentally or by Dexter’s design) law enforcement are what drives Hall’s portrayal.

All I could think about as I read Dexter by Design was “thank god the TV series didn’t follow the books after the first book!” (and double thank god on that one, because season 4 of Dexter was the epic Trinity Killer season).

The Dexter books are campy; the story lines get marginally improbable (a cop who loses his limbs and tongue and yet is still on active duty?) And the title character? Book Dexter spits out lines with less sarcasm and more of an over the top theatrical performance. The Hawaiian shirt clad person in the books seems less adept at hiding his true, blood thirsty self (if only because his coverup personality is so implausible) that it makes the books hard to swallow, especially when held up against the artistic beauty that is the TV series.

The series includes two more books (Dexter is Delicious Double Dexter) and I’m torn on if I should bother reading them. On one hand, it really was a struggle to plod through certain portions of Dexter by Design; on the other, my weakness for wanting to know how the character’s story concludes (read: why I read the last book of the Twilight series) means I probably will stick around to the find out what happens to Dexter….eventually.

Oh, and if  you’re in a Dexter Shotime series drought, check out this awesome alternative opening sequence.

Read Full Post »

Book finished: Late January

via amazon.comSigh. Another eBook. Look, it’s not my fault. I spent a lot of time traveling from my home in western Massachusetts to and from Boston and New York. And honestly, an iPad is much more efficient on a bus then having a clunky book and an iPad. Considering when I read this book it was only available in hardcover (ugh!), it would have been a pain in the ass to lug around.

Usually, I’m not big on comedic memoirs as reading material. When I do buy them, it’s because I really love the comedian who produced the book. Not just like but love. Excluding George Carlin’s When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? (which I got on sale at Barnes & Noble for $5), the only other comedian books I’ve ever purchased are those written by Lewis Black and Jon Stewart. Because I absolutely love them.

30 Rock is one of my absolute favorite sitcoms currently on air. And I always loved Tina Fey on SNL (bitch is the new black, anyone?). After seeing Bossypants on the Barnes & Noble top sellers rack for what seemed like months, I figured the book might be a good read. And I purchased an eBook, since it was cheaper and not in hardcover form (that way, if the book ended up being a HUGE disappointment, I wouldn’t have to see it mocking me from my bookshelf later on).

Ms. Fey didn’t disappoint; Tina was her usual candid self, and it gave some pretty great insight into her Liz Lemon character on 30 Rock. I loved how open and honest she was about basically everything in her life: her first interactions with LGBT friends while participating in community theater, the crappy jobs she worked while struggling for a break in Chicago, how she was a virgin until she met her husband at 24 (not something most actresses go around broadcasting), and the complete disaster that was her honeymoon cruise. Tina struck a really good balance of treating her life with humor while showing how difficult it is to be taken seriously in a job/industry dominated by men (without whiny ‘poor me, poor me’ the entire time).

A few reviews that I’ve stumbled across make it pretty clear that the key to this book is being familiar with Tina Fey, and especially her comedic timing and delivery. In a few parts of the book, you could hear the Liz Lemon voice basically echoing in your head as you read. So caution: if you’re not a fan of 30 Rock, this book may not be the best choice for you.

Read Full Post »

Book Finished: sometime in January

This book seemed to take forever to be released in paperback form.

“Why do you have to wait for the paperback version?” Good question.

See, I am weird. If I own one book in a series in paperback, I have to own all  of that series in paperback. And since I generally buy paperback books over hardcover (unless it’s my holy grail Harry Potter), I end up waiting f-o-r-e-v-e-r for the paperback version release.

Did I mention I am impatient?

Moving on. I swear Hornet’s Nest took a year to come out in paperback form. Does the hardcover to paperback transformation always take this long? Or is it some sort of reverse eBook effect?  The whole point of this tangent is that I really, really wanted to read this book.  So I did what I previously thought was unthinkable.

I  broke down and bought my first ever eBook. I’ll save my past disdain for eBooks for another time, in another post. We’ve gotten far enough off track in this post, don’t you think?

If you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is the third & final book in Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy, following the adventures of disgraced journalist Mikael Blumkvist & outcast Lisbeth Salander. The trilogy was supposed to be a series consisting of 12 books, but Larsson unexpectedly died before he could complete books 4-12. The books that made it to publication were adapted into successful movies in Sweden, and the first book was remade and released in US theaters last year.

My personal biggest problem with Hornet’s Nest was not having re-read the first two books before starting book 3. I kept having to refer to wikipedia or other internet sources to remember some of the plotlines and keep some of the more obscure characters straight.

Speaking of characters, there are a lot in this book. Some are new, some are recurring, and then you have the people who appeared in the last two books and then pop up as a reference in Hornet’s. On top of that, the names are (obviously) very Swedish and harder to remember and recall than names I’d hear in everyday conversation. I think at one point I got so fed up I started keeping a list of characters with one or two attributes to remind me of why they were important.

If it sounds like I didn’t like this book, well that’s not the truth. It was a good book…maybe not “great” like the first one was, but it was still a good read. The biggest problem I had with this book was not really even the book’s fault; I hadn’t read the first two books in two years and kept getting lost.

I will probably end up purchasing The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest in paperback sometime in the next year. If I don’t the first two novels will look pretty lonely on my bookshelf.  Maybe if I reach my goal of 26 books in 12 months early, I will revisit the Millenium Trilogy and read all 3 books in order. Maybe then the story will make just a little more sense.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: