Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn

Rating: 5 stars

Listen. I'm aware of the fact that my reviews are somewhat lacking because I never took journalism classes because I never had the interest - even though when people hear reader and writer they immediately think you must have been on the school newspaper. There's a difference. A major difference in all the genres, all the nuances of reading and writing. Journalism is not my shtick. My reviews vary from those I'm super proud of, to those that kind of suck. My main goal, in all of my reviews, is to get to the heart of Did I like it? and Will you like? quickly - for those of us that maybe don't want to spend an hour reading a blog post just for the answer to those two questions.

That being said - I'm not entirely sure where to start with Gone Girl. Yes, I liked it. Loved it, in fact. Gillian Flynn can write. And yes, I think you'll like it, too. Just be prepared for a mind-f*ck beyond any you've ever had before.

Meet Nick and Amy, the unreliable main characters of Gone Girl, who we learn - via Nick's opening narrative - are celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary on the ominously titled "Day of." Day of... what, you ask? The day that Amy disappears, leaving behind a curiously staged crime scene and a diary that, interspersed with Nick's chapters, gives an eerie description of their marriage, oftentimes contradicting what Nick has only just disclosed the previous chapter. And just when you think the book is a classic whodunit, it morphs into a study of character, so intricately woven and perfectly written, you really aren't sure what the hell just happened to you, but you're kind of glad it did.

Review with Spoilers via FullStop (has all the words I don't).
Via The Millions - a discussion on Gillian Flynn and the distinctions of sex, class and identity in her novels. 
Book Magnet's Spoiler Free Review

Purchase Now from Amazon 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


The IMAX team, led by David Breashears and Ed Viesturs, is mentioned several times in both Krakauer's Into Thin Air and Boukreev's The Climb. They had many goals - make Araceli Segarra the first Spanish woman to summit Everest, bring GPS gear up the mountain for geologist Roger Bilham to get information on the formation and movement of the mountains, and film the ascent to give the world the first 360° view from the summit.

I know the team hadn't set out expecting the worst tragedy in Everest history to occur, so I wondered how they'd handle it in this documentary. Would the film be a product of their original intent? Or would they edit it somehow to involve the events on the mountain?

Everest was a pleasing and emotional combination of both. The film starts just as it intended - with introductions to the climbers who were part of the IMAX expedition, a trip to Kathmandu and coverage of the Sherpa's spiritual attention to the mountain,  and familiarizing the audience with the different aspects of the climb, from Base Camp to the treacherous Icefall. For someone who has only read about these things, they were amazing to see - even if just via film.

Araceli Segarra crossing a crevasse in the Icefall

Because the intent was to cover their own team's ascent up the mountain, not much is mentioned of the other teams on the climb in the beginning. The exception is a picture that is shown of Rob Hall and Ed Viesturs, old friends. Later, though, when the unfortunate events begin to unfold, the documentary changes directions. Though unnamed, you see several climbers making their way back slowly, stiffly, through the raging storm. You see Beck Weathers' - a climber in Rob Hall's expedition who was assumed dead - miraculous return to Camp, skin blackened with frostbite. The IMAX team had decided not to summit on the same day as the other teams and spent the night at a lower camp to await their bid. When they heard that Beck Weathers was in serious need of medical attention, the team climbed up to bring him down, saving his life. 

And you hear Rob Hall. Rob, who somehow survived the night of the storm on the Hilary Step had managed to radio down to the IMAX camp. There is a scene in the documentary where Viesturs pleads with Rob Hall to just keep moving. In the background you can hear Hall's croaking, frozen responses. Later, though it isn't shown, Viesturs finds Hall's body on his own summit bid and stops to pay tribute to his fallen friend. 

In the end, the IMAX team makes it. Araceli Segarra becomes the first Spanish woman to summit. Jamling Tenzing Norgay, son of the one of the first two men to climb Everest, summits with her and leaves behind a tribute to his father. The first 360° view of the mountain is captured. 

Is it silly to feel this emotionally attached to a mountain I'll never visit and people I don't know, nor will ever meet? I can't help it.

Purchase Now from Amazon

Monday, September 24, 2012

Book Sleuth - High Exposure

Oh no. Here we go again. Into Thin Air led me to The Climb which has led me to this book, written by David Breashears, the leader of the IMAX Expedition that was on Everest in '96 during that fateful storm. I've got his movie queued up on my Netflix as well. If I thought The Climb was the end for me - I was wrong. Something about this story has a fierce grip on my heart - as all of the authors probably intended. 

From Amazon: 
Breashears has no lack of good material. We follow him through the stunning backdrops of Yosemite, Europe, Nepal, and Tibet, brushing up against triumphs and tragedies along the way. And while the nuts and bolts of his adventures are entertainment enough, his knack for building suspense and employing understated drama makes his autobiography read like a novel: "The morning was sunny and calm, and Rob looked as though he'd lain down on his side and fallen asleep. Around him the undisturbed snow sparkled in the sun. I stared at his bare left hand ... I wondered what a mountaineer with Rob's experience was doing without a glove."

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Friday, September 21, 2012

The Climb - Anatoli Boukreev

Rating: 5 stars

Despite the contrary opinions of most other reviewers, I exited Krakauer's Into Thin Air with a brave and stoic impression of Anatoli Boukreev. And it is true - the Anatoli Boukreev represented in Jon's novel is a less villian-y rendition of the Boukreev first represented in Krakauer's article for Outside, published shortly after the '96 Everest excursion. Still, the fear remained for Boukreev and many who knew him that Krakauer's telling of events ruined forever the reputation of an expert climber and hero.

The Climb is Anatoli Boukreev's - with the help of G. Weston DeWalt - version of the events surrounding the Everest tragedy. My first impression of the differences between both accounts was this: Krakauer is a hobby climber who writes extremely well; Boukreev is a professional, well established mountaineer. If Krakauer manages to give readers the emotional aspect of the mountain in '96, Boukreev gives the factual, the carefully considered, the professional view of everything that went wrong that summit day. And Krakauer kind of comes off like a petulant jerk.

Still - there's a pleading note to Boukreev's book that checks my desire to whole-heartedly believe one account over the other. It's as if Boukreev is begging us to see that he made no mistakes at all - that he alone may have had all the answers in avoiding what happened to the people on that mountain. Both books do seem to acknowledge, however, that a series of small mistakes and/or misunderstandings led to the loss of lives. Despite this, the fact remains that because Boukreev descended before the other climbers (as he is criticized for doing in Into Thin Air), he was definitely in a position to go later out into that storm and rescue three people, by himself.

It was very difficult for me to start this book just five months after completing Into Thin Air. Reading again the climbers hopes and expectations prior to reaching Everest, yet already fully knowing the outcome, knowing I was subjecting myself to those emotions again was hard. But I'm really glad I did. I'll never climb Everest but I can keep these people alive in my memory because of men like Krakauer and Boukreev who took the time to make this story known.

Further Reading: Letters from Krakauer, Boukreev & Lopsang

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Book Sleuth - The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving

From Amazon: 
Benjamin Benjamin has lost virtually everything—his wife, his family, his home, his livelihood. With few options, Ben enrolls in a night class called The Fundamentals of Caregiving, where he is instructed in the art of inserting catheters and avoiding liability, about professionalism, and on how to keep physical and emotional distance between client and provider.
But when Ben is assigned to tyrannical nineteen-year-old Trevor, who is in the advanced stages of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, he soon discovers that the endless mnemonics and service plan checklists have done little to prepare him for the reality of caring for a fiercely stubborn, sexually frustrated adolescent with an ax to grind with the world at large.
Purchase Now. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Moll Flanders - Daniel DeFoe

Rating: 3 stars

I struggle between not liking this book at all, and liking it a lot. There's much to say about DeFoe's structure, theme and characterization. And what it's lacking (any consequence whatsoever for Moll's many marriages, children and life of crime) helps to bring about DeFoe's main theme - the juxtaposition of Christian morality with ethics and the struggle to survive - which seems pretty heavy and scandalous for the time period.

I loved Robinson Crusoe and so had pretty high hopes for Moll Flanders. What Crusoe and Flanders have in common is their resourcefulness - their ability to make the best of the worst situations and come out not only alive, but better off than before. And even though Moll does this by manipulating many, many people and leaving scores of children behind - you can't help but pity her for the terrible situations that come of her many attempts of "meaning well," and kind of respect her for trying and succeeding in the end.

Purchase Now from Amazon


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Book Sleuth - Straight: A Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality

It's been an incredibly long time since I've done a Book Sleuth. But I found this one via Reading Rambo (a great blog, bt-dubs) and it sounds so amazing, I had to let you all know about it.

Says RR:

So. You might think from the title that this is one of those liberal books by one of those liberal people trying out some new liberal concept of 'Oh, people were TOTES GAY for most of history. This thing we have now with gentlemen and ladies? Way new. I mean, does it even make SENSE? Have you seen men's bathroom habits? Nast." BUT NO. It is in fact exactly what it says: it's a history of the concept of heterosexuality.
Because who had to name it? It was normal. Everyone did it (*cough*orsotheythought*cough*). We don't need names for those things. She makes the excellent point that we have names like 'prude' and 'slut' but there isn't a name for someone who's into sex "a normal amount." And it's not like we have a scale, so those are arbitrary titles society can cast onto people. Someone's a slut because they're called a slut.

But you should really visit her blog to read the rest of the review. Because it's really thoughtful and thought provoking.

Purchase Now from Amazon.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien

Rating: 4 stars

I started reading this slowly, at the beginning of the year, in the hopes of savoring it until the movie arrived. I have to tell you, it started out all rainbows and nostalgia until someone told me that the movie was going to be split into three parts. I spent the remainder of the book angrily wondering how Peter Jackson planned to successfully pull that off without pissing off fans. It's a small book! Written as a young adult novel! Yes, there are many adventures along the road to the Lonely Mountain, but nothing that packs as much punch as the actual ending of the novel. There aren't any real clear starts and stops that - to my mind - make three separate, yet cohesive movies.

Anyway - film making aside - I first read this book when I was in middle school, so it's been a long, long time. Fifteen years, maybe? Perhaps a bit more. I was surprised by how many details have stuck with me over such a wide span of years. This time - knowing and loving Bilbo well, rather than having just been introduced to him - I was able to imagine that it was Bilbo himself writing the tale. The writing style is so vastly different from the Lord of the Rings trilogy that it isn't difficult at all to replace Tolkien's voice with Bilbo's. It's much more humorous and has the tone of a folk-tale - you can almost imagine Bilbo around a campfire, enacting his tale to a captive audience. Also - there's a lot less walking.

I'd say the 4-star rating of my memory holds up with my current reading of the novel. Middle-earth is a place I wouldn't mind continuing to visit time and time again.

Purchase Now from Amazon. 


Monday, September 10, 2012

Babbitt - Sinclair Lewis

Rating: 4 stars

While not always the most riveting of reads, Babbitt - a satire on the conformity and hypocrisy of the middle class - is incredibly well written and insightful.

George F. Babbitt is a middle class business man from Zenith, a fictional city located somewhere in middle America. He lives with his wife and three children in the suburbs of Zenith, in a house that looks much like the houses of his neighbors and that is furnished with all of the modern conveniences. He carries on his real-estate business like he is supposed to, attends all the right clubs (Booster, Athletic, Elk), attends church and throws dinner parties for his neighbors - all of whom, like Babbitt, spend their days attempting to climb the social ladder.

But when Babbitt's best and oldest friend gets arrested for eschewing these values, George begins to see his life in a new light. It all seems a fraud to him and so he tries his hardest to really live his life, with his own opinions and thoughts. In response, the good citizens of Zenith begin to shun him.

It isn't until Myra, Babbitt's wife, falls ill that he begins to realize the middle class world he's a part of is one that he helped create. And so, he falls somewhat comfortably back into it - yet, in the end, he tells his son Ted, "I've never done a single thing I've wanted to in my whole life! I don't know's I've accomplished anything anything except just get along." He encourages Ted to make his own way through life, following his dreams and damning those who would try and stop him, thus ending the book with a glimmer of hope for the next generation.

The book was surprisingly resonant, for having been published in 1922. Sure many things have changed, but the core of the novel focuses on a man just gliding through his life, doing everything he thinks he's supposed to do and nothing for himself. By the time he tries to regain that freedom, it's too late. I was fortunate that I knew what I wanted, worked hard to get there, and was supported by incredible parents who, I think, understand how unfulfilling a path you didn't necessarily want to take can be. But, moving through the corporate world, even if it's the precise world that I've chosen, does include its measure of conformity. We just call it "playing the game" now.

Purchase Now from Amazon. 


Thursday, September 6, 2012

We Need To Talk About The Movie Based On The Book

A majority of the time, I feel like these projects end up with the label - "Good, not Great." No difference for We Need To Talk About Kevin, the movie starring Tilda Swinton based off of the book by the same name by Lionel Shriver. Cut to credits and all I could say was, "Meh."

The most striking issue with this movie has not much to do with the content of the film at all. Which, actually, is part of the problem. There were whole scenes, running 60 seconds or more (an issue, when in film, every second should count) that seemed to be there purely for the sake of style rather than anything which might advance the story or our understanding of the characters. "Look at me and the pretty things I can do with a camera!" doesn't really cut it when the beautiful things that Shriver can do with the written word waste not a moment in her dark and genius novel.

Tilda Swinton does a pretty incredible job with Eva, or takes it as far as the film allows. Without the letters to Franklin which drive the narrative in the book, the viewer doesn't get to know Eva like we know her in the book. While you get a sense that she does try very hard to be the kind of mother she thinks she should be, the viewer misses out on the incredibly selfish side of Eva. It's an important side. John C. Reilly, for his minimal screen time, does a good job of portraying the happy -go-lucky dad. Missing, however, is the spirit and youth of the couples' love before children, which Eva draws on time and time again in the novel. Without ever having a true sense of what they had the viewers aren't as stricken by what the two end up losing.

Kevin is played by several young actors. The oldest and most nihilistic was portrayed by Ezra Miller, whose cold, dark eyes were a dead ringer for the Kevin I imagined in my head. The movie falls short again, in only depicting Kevin and his relationship to Eva, Franklin and his younger sister, Celia. Cut from the movie were the troubles that Kevin got himself into outside of the house, the parents that complained about Kevin, and the resolute way that Franklin insisted Kevin was just being a boy. All of these things together make Kevin's final deed horrific in the novel. In the film he seems... less. Less evil, perhaps. Just a kid who fakes around his dad, is a pain in the ass to his mother, and is mean to his younger sister.

Book beats movie. Hands down.

Purchase Now: Movie, Book

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Classics Club September Meme

I didn't participate in last month's meme because I'd already answered the question as part of my 30-Day Book Challenge (favorite classic) in July. But I'm all ready to participate in this month's topic - highlight another clubber's review on a classic from my own list that has me particularly excited to move it up the TBR.

I finally read my second Hardy novel, Far from the Madding Crowd. I looooooove that title. I've never exactly been a people person and as an introvert, I desperately need quiet alone time. The idea of being "far from the madding crowd" sounds quite pleasant to me. I'm pretty sure Hardy was an introvert and not overly fond of people either as he always makes horrible things happen to his characters. 
The most interesting thing about Hardy to me though is that he creates such vivid female characters who aren't villains. They don't always do the right thing, they get in trouble, and they seem real.

Via Sparks' Notes.

A good portion of her post was spoiler-induced, but it was carefully marked. I was able to read the beginning and the end of the review without spoiling anything for myself, and still managed to get ridiculously excited for this one. I've already read and loved Jude and Tess, so this should be a sure bet.

Monday, September 3, 2012

For the Pin Obessed Book Nerds

I don't know about you guys, but I'm obsessed with Pinterest. I'd been keeping a board I'd first called, Books and Reading and Books. Then I changed the name to Read Me Like a Book. Then I realized, I was starting to pin anything and everything book related to the boards and well - they were getting sloppy. I don't like sloppy. I like organization and... well, control. Yes - I'm controlling. So now, I've set up the Book Nerd Series. Feel free to follow and pin!

Read Me
That Was Good

Libraries and Ladders

Mementos of a Book Nerd

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