Archive for December, 2013

I Wear the Black Hat by Chuck Klosterman (image via amazon.com)

By Chuck Klosterman
July 22
Finished: November 22

Huzzah! I finished all twenty-seven books in less than year! They now set upon a window shelf in my room, stacked about halfway to the ceiling because I literally have nowhere to put them. I took a month off to write all these recaps and re-energize for next year’s challenge.

My last book, I Wear the Black Hat, took a little while to read: it’s another collection of cultural critique essays that sometimes can be overwhelming to read straight through. I actually found out this brand new Chuck Klosterman offering because it was included as a preview in The Visible Man. The preview chapter focused on Batman and a real life NYC vigilante and how society viewed the two similar narratives through completely different lenses: the fictional Batman defeats foes who threaten the fictional Gotham and is a (complicated) hero; 80s subway shooter Bernhard Goetz, originally viewed as a hero that fought back against crime, quickly became a villain in the public perception. Disclosure: Klosterman almost lost me when he said something to the extent of “Pretend Batman is real…and he goes around New York City shooting people. C’mon, did you not see The Dark Knight Rises?).  

Each essay examines and different aspect of pop culture, ranging from sports teams and figures to musicians, actors, and politicians, and posing the question can anyone ever be truly good or truly bad?  Overall, this was not as engaging as other Klosterman works (like my favorite,  Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs) and, due to my age (hello, babies of the 80s!) some of the references were hard to follow or just not interesting, but as a Klosterman fan, I’m pretty sure I would have been disappointed in myself if I gave up on Black Hat–it’s a book that got me thinking, not only about myself and my perceived face but of how I perceived other as well. Do I see them as a villain because they are actually evil? Or do I see them as such because society tells me they are evil?



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Book #26: Sweet Tooth

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan (image via amazon.com)

You can’t judge a book by it’s cover…or it’s synopsis. I am going to keep this short, because the thought of this book leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Goodreads, you failed me on this one. If you are a feminist, you will probably not like this book. McEwan seems to paint women as meaningless, worthless, simple cogs in the greater overall scheming of men. Another friend also communicated her surprise that I would read this drivel for that very reason. What makes this more insulting is the fact that McEwan chose to make portray his main character as a smart and well-educated woman. I really struggled with this book and almost gave up on it but I was too close to completing my goal, so I persevered. It was a really rough five days, guys.

Honestly, all I can say about this book is no….just…no.

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Broken Harbor by Tana French

By Tana French
September 30
Finished: October 13

On a trusted fellow bookworm friend’s advice, I skilled over a few of the books in the Dublin Murder Squad series by Tana French and jumped straight to Broken Harbor. French is a really great writer; she had a knack for painting complete portraits of her characters in order to more fully illustrate their present and want drives as Murder Squad detectives.

Mike “Scorcher” Kennedy is a seasoned Murder Sqaud detective who is summoned back to the seaside town where his mother committed suicide several decades prior to investigate a murder that devastated a whole family: a father brutally murder, two young children killed while they slept in their bed, and a mother hanging on for dear life. Though the sleepy, seaside town of his youth is now a half-empty development of large, fancy houses (thanks economy!), Scorcher is still haunted by his past as he investigates the murder. Complicating matters is his crazy younger sister, and a new partner on his first murder case. For me, this book drew really strong parallels to the BBC series Broadchurch, which aired on BBC over the summer (I consulted Dr. Google who informed me there was no official link between the two works).

The basic storyline of Broken Harbor was exceptionally engaging, and unlike In the Woods, the ending was satisfactory but book was bogged down by too much narration. In order to paint a picture of a family man coming unglued, the reader is forced to suffer through pages and pages of email and online message board exchanges; suspect interrogations are lengthy and uninformative, and Scorcher is so far into his own head, his internal dialogue often takes center stage. I would not recommend this as a book to read before bed (or on a train, bus, plane) as I did have trouble following along during these lengthy narrative chapters and dozed off once or twice (or fifteen times) mid-page.


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Mapping the World of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice: An Unauthorized Exploration of the Harry Potter Series (image via amazon.com)

Edited by Mercedes Lackey
Started: January 13
Finished: September 11

Mapping the World of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice made me feel like I was back in college, reading academic papers for my Communications classes. And you know what? That’s completely OK because that’s what this book is supposed to be: a bunch of academics and science fiction & fantasy writers  waxing intellectual  and critiquing the biggest literary and movie phenomenon during my lifetime.

It’s a hodge-podge of essays, covering everything from J.K. Rowling‘s purposeful painting of wizard society as completely secular and without any notion of religion, to a very specific fan fiction fandom focuses on Severus Snape erotica (yeah, that one was pretty weird). Those two essays stuck out the most, and keep in mind I did read this over the course of about eight months. I won’t lie and say every single piece in this anthology is thought-provoking and worthwhile–I did have to really trudge through a couple of essays, taking a break of a few days or even a few months–but if you’re yearning for some more about the boy wizard, Mapping is worth a read.



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Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman (image via amzon.com)

By Piper Kerman
Started: August 31
Finished: September 3

Guys, I broke my #1 rule: I watched all of the Netflix exclusive Orange is the New Black before reading the memoir on which the series is based. My friend Heather pretty much bullied me into watching the series, and I was immediately hooked. It was great. Fantastic. Amazing. Jenji Kohan‘s brilliance strikes again. I loved it so much, I made my boyfriend watch the entire series over Memorial Day weekend. And yet, I still wanted more, so  when I stumbled across this book in The Strand I couldn’t resist.

So where to start? Listen, if you thought Piper Chapman was annoying, self-absorbed, and entitled in the series….wait until you read the thoughts of Piper Kerman. She’s worse than her TV alter ego by a landslide. And the book is so, so different. Pennsyatucky is not crazy, she’s nice! Awesome characters like Tastyee, Poussay, Nicki, and Sophia don’t really exist. Even the person Sophia is based upon is just not as awesome and confident as TV Sophia. The book is really a completely different experience that gives an honest look at life inside a women’s prison and the penal system in general. The biggest problem I had was Kerman’s narrative voice: it just made me want to stick a shiv in her to get her to shut up (not really but, kinda)!

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The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye (image via amazon.com)

By Lyndsay Faye
August 21
Finished: August 29

The Gods of Gotham is a book that while reading, I couldn’t make up my mind if I actually liked it or not. Turns out I did, because when I found out this was the first in a new book series (The Timothy Wilde series) I was pretty bummed that I had to wait for the new book, Seven for a Secret, to be released in softcover (another weird practice of mine).

Gods combines so many of my favorite things in one neat little novel, it’s almost like the book was written for me specifically. Murder, Victorian-era NYC, a history of the NYC police force, NYC politics, and immigration issues just to name a few. Oh, and there’s also a few characters that, judging by Lyndsay Faye’s age, she had to have based off the amazing Disney musical, Newsies (maybe she didn’t but seriously, the similarities are so extreme that it would be a really strange coincidence if she had never seen the movie).

Gods focuses on Timothy Wilde, a young bartender with a tragic past who hopes to earn enough money to convince the woman of his dreams to run off with him. Those fantasies come to an abrupt end when a huge explosion rocks Manhattan, devouring Tim’s stash of money and permanently disfiguring his face. His older brother, Valentine, lands Tim a job on the newly-formed NYC Police Force, where his beat is on the edge of one of the worst areas of Manhattan. One night, while on patrol, Tim runs across a young girl name Bird….clad only in a thin nightgown, which is completely drenched in blood. Helping Bird leads Tim to a cache of bodies buried just outside the city, and he unwittingly becomes the lead detective in the police force’s first serial murder case.

Honestly, I really love Faye’s writing, it’s engaging and fully captures not only the narrative but the history of New York City and the turbulent political climate at the time. My only compliant is that i completely called the “twists” in the story.

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Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple (image via amazon.com)

By Maria Semple
August 8
Finished: August 21

Ahem, so I love Arrested Development and was wicked excited for the Netflix’s exclusive season 4 of the series. I’ve seen every episode at least 100 times and have been known to drop AD references in everyday conversation (case in point, a friend recently told me his ex-girlfriend cheated on him with a BlueMan…and my immediate reaction was “When did your life become an episode of Arrested Development?). So when I found out author Maria Semple used to write for ADWhere’d You Go, Bernadette was a no-branier for a an easy beach read over my vacation in Maine.

I loved this book because it was smart, funny, and I could totally see myself being Bernadette if I ever have kids. Bernadette is a once famous architect now completely devoted to her family, especially her teenage daughter, Bee.  Bee attends a prestigious school in Seattle, where Bernadette and her style of parenting often cause arguments with school officials and other mothers.

After one such run in, Bernadette takes off and vanishes without a trace. Bee, determined that her mother would never really leave her, uses emails, letters, and other bits of information her mother left behind to weave together the cause of her disappearance and (hopefully) her current location. Bee gives small pieces of information to the reader, who must fit them together like a puzzle to solve the mystery of Bernadette’s disappearance. It’s a great commentary on the pressures of modern society, of fitting in as a “soccer mom,” and doing what’s expected of you (for example, the neighbors all seems to despise Bernadette because  despite her husband’s well-paying job at Microsoft, she chooses to live in a rundown former girls’ school instead of a nice, respectable house). Where’d You Go, Bernadette is a filled with hilarious rants, a mother’s love, a daughter’s determination, and an assortment of not-so-outrageous characters that you can picture living on your block.


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