Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Weekly Read: 36

This week was another good one for reading, despite the fact that I happened to finish all three of these books on Saturday. :)

READ: Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself | Alan Alda
Another truly enjoyable book by Alan Alda, and the audio book of this one has the benefit of being read by the man himself. While Alda's first book definitely falls into the genre of memoir, this one can more accurately be described as inspiration and advice. Every chapter is based around a speech Alda has given, whether it be a public commencement speech or a private conversation with family. This isn't just a transcript of those speeches, though. Alda takes the time to set up the circumstances leading up to each talk, describing his thought-process and reasoning for saying the things he did. And through it all, not only are you indeed inspired to live your life better, you really come to understand his life philosophy as one to be admired and followed. Alda sums up this book best in the last few pages, and I can do no better than to quote him here: "So that's it. I've told you everything I know. Think clearly and think for yourself. Learn to use language to express those thoughts. Love somebody with all your heart. And with everyone, whether you love them or not, find out if you can be helpful. But really, it's even simpler than that... The meaning of life... is life. Not noticing life is what's meaningless, even down to the last second."

READ: Deadly D├ęcisions | Kathy Reichs
This third book in the Bones series is another engaging Temperance Brennan story. The action is quick-paced and the plot is interesting and well-woven together. I have to admit, though, that biker gangs cannot be considered one of my favorite subjects. It's hard to find closure with a closed case when you know it's not really over. Gang killings beget more gang killings, and innocent people get caught up and hurt. I'm as dishearten and disgusted as Brennan at it all. Kit's rebellion was frustrating, and I had to keep reminding myself, "He's just 19. He doesn't realize. He doesn't mean any harm." I was most disappointed by Ryan's journey in the story. Not only was he barely in it, but when he saw, it was in such a sad, anger-inducing way. I never believed he could do anything so bad, and though things are certainly not resolved yet, I have faith they will be. It better had not take long! I am also encouraged by Claudel's slightly improved regard for Brennan. Like her, I can't help but want his approval, and any little nod of respect is received as a great victory. That probably isn't rational, but that's just how it is. :) I look forward to reading the next in the series, which will hopefully feature more Ryan (in a good way) and less bikers.

READ: The Solitude of Prime Numbers | Paolo Giordano
I can't remember the last time that I've thoroughly enjoyed the reading of a book but been so disappointed in the way it ended. While beautiful written and engaging, with specific and special characters, I felt ultimately disappointed in the conclusion of this slim novel. As two "prime numbers", people that don't necessarily fit with anyone else, Alice and Mattia seems meant for one another. Their characters are built so that though they fumble around in life, and mix up their communications so much that they don't realize how much the other one cares, one still believes that eventually, they have to be together. It's inevitable, like two interlocking puzzle pieces, that they will sit beside each other for life, belonging together like no others could. Despite the brevity of the story, seeing only small snippets of their lives throughout the years, I became quickly invested in their lives and relationship. And perhaps that why, when it didn't end up as I expect, I felt deeply disappointed. All those things I felt building, I was wrong about. I felt fooled and foolish, for hoping for things out of reach. I lay in bed last night after finishing this, trying to figure out what happened, how it could possibly have ended so impossibly wrong. Despite my disappointment, I can't regret reading this book, because it truly is effortlessly and beautifully written. It's simple and concise, and every word seems perfectly chosen. So yes, you should read it, too. And maybe, because you are a little forewarned, you won't have your heart broken as mine was.

Up next week: Starting the audio version of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which I am reading in preparation for the Part 1 of the last movie which is coming out in November. Other than that, I am not sure. :) Happy reading!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Weekly Read: 35

READ: The Color Purple | Alice Walker
This book was my friend Heather's pick for our book club, and I have to admit, it surprised  me. Though I haven't seen the movie based on this novel, I had heard a little about the plot, and so I was expecting a depressing read full of sorrow and pain. I would say that the first third of the book matches that description pretty well: Celie is raped and abused by the men in her life, married off to a man she doesn't love and who doesn't love her, and is separated from her beloved sister, Nettie, the only person she really does care for. But then, people start to change, through experience or time or God or something else, and their relationships morph into something different. In the end, this book is about family: not the one you are born with necessarily, where you have to follow some predetermined set of rules, but one where people come together because they genuinely love and care for each other. The relationship that touched me the most was that between Celie and her husband Alfred. Much of the tension in their early relationship was because of who Celie wasn't: she wasn't her sister Nettie, the "pretty sister"; she wasn't Shug, Alfred's beautiful first love. Alfred's disappointment with who Celie wasn't, combined with Celie's hatred of men (thanks in large part to her "father") and inability to stand up for herself meant that their relationship lacked any communication and Celie because a punching bag for Alfred to set loose his disappointment and rage upon. With that as a starting point, it didn't seem possible for them to actually get along at any point, ever. But as they both grew and changed, Celie finding love and happiness with Shug and finally standing up for herself, and Alfred finding God and realizing who Celie really was, they found common ground together. Nettie's story is quite different from Celie's, but it too involves finding a family to belong with, and eventually making her way back to Celie. Overall, I'd recommend this book to everyone to read.

READ: Never Have Your Dog Stuffed and Other Things I've Learned | Alan Alda
Like I mentioned in last week's Weekly Read, M*A*S*H is one of my most treasured TV shows from when I was a kid. To this day, I can turn on an episode and be endlessly entertained by the engaging stories of hilarity and hijinks, sadness and loss. I have great respect for Alan Alda as an actor, and when I heard that he had written a few memoirs, I knew I wanted to read them. What a fascinating life Alan Alda has read. I am intensely jealous of his ability to recall memories from his childhood in such detail, and what interesting detail it is! From his childhood traveling with his father's burlesque show all the way to his life-saving surgery in Chile at the age of 67, Alda chronicles the ups and downs of his life as he tried to figure out what it is to be an actor and a person. Every part of this book is engaging and enjoyable, but I must admit that my favorite part was the behind-the-scenes memories from the set of M*A*S*H, the stories of his relationships with the other actors and how on that set he really became a writer and director. I can't wait to read his second book. :)

READ: Death du Jour | Kathy Reichs
Let me start out by saying I love the TV show Bones. It's one of my favorite shows, one that  I can re-watch multiple times and still enjoy. When I heard that this show was based off a series of books by Kathy Reichs, a real forensic anthropologist, I was instantly intrigued. Then I read the first one in the series last year, and was rather disappointed. The book itself wasn't bad, I was just expecting something different. Dr. Temperance Brennan of the books wasn't entirely different from Dr. Brennan of the TV show - she has a different life story, different location, different friends, different temperament. Pretty much the only thing that remained the same was the job and the name. Add to that list of complains the fact that Agent Seeley Booth doesn't exist in the books, and you have a recipe for disappointment. So I waited a while before picking up the second book in the Temperance Brennan series, and my reading experience for this second book was much more positive than the one I had reading the first. I'm fairly certain that this is because my expectations were altered: I didn't expect Brennan in the book to be just like Brennan from the tv show anymore. In my head now, book-Brennan is entirely distinct from tv-Brennan, and knowing this ahead of time made this book so much more enjoyable to read. And I did enjoy reading it, quite a bit! There were nights when I fell asleep reading because I didn't want to put it down. The stories of Brennan's cases are woven together intricately and interestingly, and the writing was active and engaging. The fact that I never guessed who the big bad was might mean I'm a bad detective, but I choose to think it means I was so engrossed in the story, I couldn't figure out anything before Brennan did. I would be remiss if I didn't mention Detective Ryan here, as well. First of all: HOT! In MY head, at least. ;) Second of all, he is a great balance to Brennan, and seems like a caring, generous guy. I hope we get to see more of him throughout the series, and really get to know him. I'm still in the mood for Brennan, so on to the third book, and much quicker than I got to the second. :)

STARTED: Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself | Alan Alda
I wasn't kidding when I said I couldn't wait to read Alda's second book - as soon as I finished listening to the first, this one was in the CD player. I can already tell that the format of this one is slightly different from Never Have Your Dog Stuffed - whereas the first one had more of a linear, memoir feel, this second book features specific segments from Alda's life, revolving around speeches he's given and conversations he's had. So far, it's definitely interesting. And I am loving this audio recording because the narrator this time is Alan Alda himself! It's just like having Hawkeye sitting in the car with me, reading to me. :)

Up next week: more Dr. Brennan, more Dr. Pierce, and who knows what else! :)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Weekly Read: 34

After last week's reading feast, I took this week a bit slower for a change.

READ: Sunshine | Robin McKinley
This is one of my all-time favorite books, so I decided to treat myself to a re-read. Way before the whole Twilight phenomena hit, Robin McKinley wrote this quiet tale of a seemingly ordinary girl who gets caught up in a world of vampires. Sunshine isn't ordinary, though. She is, in fact, extraordinarily special. She fights to be normal in an abnormal world, and can't seem to make herself ordinary. Her relationship with the vampire Constantine is unique in her world and ours. She isn't instantly in love with him, isn't obsessed with him. They don't try to stay apart because it's "wrong". Their relationship just is. It exists because it has to. They are drawn together and can't really help it - they need each other to survive. Sunshine is one of my favorite characters because she is blunt, to-the-point, and unromantic in a way that is intriguing and appealing. She is strong and powerful without realizing it, and loves her family and friends deeply without being sappy. Constantine is solid and honest and upright, despite the fact that he is a blood-sucking vampire. You can't help but admire his stoicism, and the way that he has lived his life (unlife? death?) is a testament to how different he is from other vampires. My only wish is for Robin McKinley to eventually write a sequel. She hasn't entirely ruled it out, so I'll just keep my fingers crossed. There seems like there is definitely more to Sunshine and Con's stories waiting to be told, and I would love to hear it.

STARTED: Never Have Your Dog Stuffed and Other Things I've Learned | Alan Alda
M*A*S*H is a TV show that I treasure from my childhood because it is something I watched regularly with my parents. The characters and storylines were blunt and realistic, and no one was more real and appealing than my favorite doctor, Hawkeye Pierce, played on the show by Alan Alda. When I heard he'd written a book, I immediately added it to my reading list, with the assumption that the actor who played so magnificently such a fantastic character would have to be interesting himself. So far, I am right! I've been listening to this one of my way to and from work, and it has been a job. This is another one that I feel like just sitting in my car and listening to because I want to know what happens next. I am looking forward to finishing!

That's it for this week! First up for next week is reading The Color Purple for my book club, and then who knows!