Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Nerd Do Well by Simon Pegg

Simon entertains me through movies and tv. I wasn't as entertained by the book but I really didn't expect to be. Sometimes I think it's difficult for really funny people to be really funny in writing.

This is a memoir for Pegg (they keep getting younger - writing their memoirs) but he interspersed a pretty great piece of fiction with himself as the suave, handsome hero. The fiction story was more entertaining than the non-fiction.

Pegg is a nerd. Was a nerd. Probably will always be a nerd. He had a good concept of presenting how the nerdliness from his younger years morphed into work as an actor.

If you like Pegg, you will probably enjoy the book. I recommend the audio book though because his storytelling (of the fiction story) is quite .... enthusiastic.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

Thank goodness for the Daily Show introducing me to all these new books. I don't watch The Office but Mindy was a good interview on TDS that I ended up borrowing her book from the library. Kaling is a writer for the Office and appears on it sometimes as Kelly.

This isn't a memoir or anything. It's basically just some funny essays about growing up and getting into show business. The beginning of the book is pretty funny but I'm not sure what happened towards the end. Although I do firmly agree with Kaling on the need to date MEN vs dating BOYS. Her list of differences between the two? Yep, agreed fully with.

Fun, light read. Laugh out loud moments (not as much towards the end. Boo)

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht

This novel was more beautiful than I thought it would be. I heard about it through the New York Times Book Review and Oprah's magazine and was impressed that a first time novelist, at age 26, made such an impact. A well deserved impact.

I think what I liked best was the style she wrote in, how she left so many things unwritten and really did leave us without a lot of "facts". Everything feels like it's general except for the stories. I'm not sure that made sense....

Somewhere in the Balkans, we have no idea where, a doctor and her grandfather are introduced to us. From there, we follow both their paths via stories told to us from the past. The doctor, Natalia, explains to us how her grandfather always took her to the zoo to see the tigers. We end up back in her grandfather's village as he's growing up and learn about the Tiger's wife, a deaf-mute who has a special bond with a tiger that escaped from the zoo during the war. From there we travel with Natalia to another place where she is providing vaccinations to orphans and trying to find the place her grandfather died to get his belongings. The back to stories of her grandfather's encounter with the "deathless man" who Natalia is sure she is going to meet as well.

As jumbled as my telling of this is, trust me that the book weaves everything together in to one seamless, beautiful story of doctors, death and tigers.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta

The plot of this book intrigued me. What if something, Rapture-like, has taken millions of people one day? What happens to those who are left to deal with the chaos and bewilderment? This book isn't Left Behind. It's not religious and it doesn't even say it was the Rapture, just a day where millions of people vanished, all religious types, all beliefs, nothing to join anyone together.

First, what you get is very angry Christians who believe they should have been taken as well, and since they weren't, they make it their mission to unearth every deep nasty secret about those who were taken to prove that the phenomenon wasn't the Rapture. You get people who try to ignore the whole thing happened. You get people who lose their entire families in a split second and have to figure out how to survive. You get people who join cults to try and make sense of what happened.

This book is a story, of ordinary people living through something extraordinary, and not doing such a great job at it. We follow the Garvey family: Kevin, Laurie, Tom and Jill, who survived the event intact but end up broken apart. We also meet Nora, who lost her husband and 2 small kids and realizes that she is broken beyond help, no matter how hard she fakes it.

The ending gives some hope but the entire book is a sad read of people just struggling to live their ordinary lives that somehow fell off the tracks.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

In The Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

I've rediscovered the library, if only because they now offer ebooks and audiobooks. This is my first ebook loan and I devoured it. I heard about this book on the NY Times book review podcast and it piqued my interest.

The subtitle of this book is Love, Terror and An American Family in Hitler's Berlin. This book doesn't focus so much on Hitler as it does the Dodd family who ends up in Berlin as a result of the father's ambassadorship from President Roosevelt. It's amazing to think now, but thank goodness back then people kept diaries and wrote actual letters that could be saved. We just don't do that now. I mean, besides everyone and their brother posting stuff on the internet.

Dodd was an academic, his daughter Martha was apparently a bit of a slut for the times (we know this by her diary and letters). Dodd tried to be a good ambassador for the US, but once he and his family arrived in Berlin it became clear how bad things were, even if it took Martha a little longer to not celebrate with the Nazis. The US seemed to only be focused on Germany's repayment of debt and not caring about how Hitler was running things.

Most people, hopefully, know from history class about Germany and the start of WWII. You don't get a huge history lesson with this book even though it describes quite a bit of the disturbing events leading up to WWII and Germany's invasion of Poland. What you get is a regular person's account of living in this horrible place under the rule of Hitler. You get Dodd's depression at what he sees as his failure to be a good ambassador, even though he really did do what he could. You also see everyone else's complete lack of regard to the situation. It appalls me how many people in the US government turned their head to what Dodd reported, instead merely asking about the money.

It appalls me how easily Hitler gained power, how after his first "purge" of undesirable people (using the excuse of treason), Americans in Berlin commented in letters how "exciting" it was. Hundreds, if not more, people were pulled from their homes and shot in the back and it's "exciting"?? This is how evil triumphs. When good people fail to do anything. When good people turn their head and believe that since it's not THEM who is persecuted, it's ok. At some point, Dodd even notes that Jewish people are happy with Hitler, when he executed General Rohm.

It's easy to look back on what is done and wonder why things went the way they did. In a way, not a lot has changed with humans. We still have a tendency to look the other way when it's not us being harmed. We have a tendency to gang up on a particular group of people just because everyone else is (illegal immigrants is our new phase). And we still have a tendency to let evil triumph, all because we were just standing still.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Outlaw Demon Wails by Kim Harrison

Another Rachel Morgan/Hollows book, 6th in the series.

Rachel is a witch, who lives in a sanctified church with Ivy, a vampire and Jenks, a pixy. The formed the business Vampiric Charms to help capture demons and to deal with magical problems. But they have more than their share of problems of their own.

In the last book, Rachel lost her vampire boyfriend, Kisten, to a murderer and we still don't know who. She's still dealing with it when Marshall appears. He's a witch who helped Rachel out before and is looking for a job in Cincy. Possible romance? Maybe.

In this book, Al, the demon, is being summoned by someone to kill Rachel. She's determined to find out who it is and to stop Al from coming after her and her family. We get to meet Rachel's mom in this book and I hope she shows up in the other books too.

Fast paced and still entertaining. I really think this series gets better with each book.