Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

I grew impatient with waiting for the 130 people in front of me on the library request list to get through Mockingjay, so I purchased it to read over the holiday. I am one of those people who rarely reads a complete series. I'm usually over it by the end of book two and wander off to read something else. But, Ms. Collins did such an incredible job with The Hunger Games, that I had to pursue Catching Fire. Then that book ended with such a cliff-hanger that I felt compelled to pursue Mockingjay. Now, I know ending book two with a cliff-hanger caused quite a frenzy for the final book, but I also felt it was a cheap trick and I was disappointed and frustrated. Still, it worked, I went for book three.

Mockingjay is broken down into three parts. I found the first part flat and boring. I know it's difficult to jump right back into the story while also getting the readers up to speed, but I was used to Ms. Collins' high suspense style so that made the slow beginning a little harder to take. Part two gets a little better. Part three feels like it actually connects to the first two books. (part I and II do not.) I could see the mechanics of this book as the author tried to turn the plot. That wasn't apparent in the first two stories. Plus, I felt she wasn't being true to some of the characters as they were set up in the first two stories (specifically Katniss - in terms of appearance and Gale - in terms of everything.) I understood the Gale part to drive the story to its conclusion, but the Katniss part seemed random revisionist history and I didn't understand why it was done. (Okay, that won't make sense unless you've read the book and I'm trying hard not to spoil things for anyone.) Yes, characters in stories should be allowed to change / grow, but it was all referenced as having always been this way rather than having been a gradual coming about.

So, my conclusion is that I enjoyed the last third of Mockingjay. That part felt satisfying. The first two parts are a little clunky. But, if you are a fan of the series, then you'll definitely want to see the end.

If someone as talented as Ms. Collins has difficulty writing the third book of a trilogy, I wonder what success I'll have? (vague reference to activities percolating in my career as a writer) A difficult thing to pull off.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Schwa Was Here by Neal Shusterman

Neal Shusterman continues to augment my literary crush with The Schwa Was Here. The man has quite the range. Unwind was so intense and disturbing that it came as a complete surprise that the same author could turn around and write something so funny (yet still thought provoking) as Schwa. A bit of Googling on my part revealed that Mr. Shusterman has written dozens of books. This pleases me because I hate to flounder around searching for enjoyable reading.

The Schwa was Here

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Theory of the Leisure Class

Do you crave a designer bag? If so, why? Is it because the bag is well made, or excessively attractive or incredibly functional in some way? More than likely, it's none of these things. People crave designer goods to be the envy of / or compete with other people.

Thorstein Veblen coined the phrase "conspicuous consumption" in his economic study, The Theory of the Leisure Class. Even though it was first published back in 1899, the book has held true, especially in today's consumer driven world. (Okay, I confess, it's a challenging read, but really makes you think about what drives human nature) I already wanted to club people over the head who think their pooh doesn't stink because they're buying a blouse at Banana Republic, now my disgust is three-fold.

Veblen traces consumerism back to (as he refers to it) barbarian times and then brings the reader up to present day. (as it would have been in 1899, but it's chilling how true his findings still are. Even more so, in my opinion, with moronic shows like Sex in the City encouraging women to buy $1,000 shoes when they can't afford to pay their mortgage.)

Anyway, an interesting read, to say the least.

The interior of the AMC Hornet Sportabout with the Gucci package

Monday, December 13, 2010


Girlpower: a Laugh-Packed Guide to the Guys and Gals Who Make Modern business What it is

This book was allegedly written by Kathy Cole and Donna Bain back in 1971. It even carries an endorsement on the cover by the girls who wrote Coffee, Tea, or Me. But, while reading the book, it occured to me that whoever was writing it was a) writing it for men and b) more than likely not a woman. A little research proved that Donald Bain was the author of both books and about three dozen others, many purported to have been written by female duos.
This book is a great flashback to a time period that I can't really remember, but my question for Donald Bain is, did these women really exist? I mean, did he interview stewardesses or temp workers and then weave a tale out of their memories or did he make it all up? Coffee, Tea, or Me was very popular in its day, so it seems likely people wanted to interview the author, etc... How was that handled?

Turns out Mr. Bain is still alive and kicking. He writes the long running Murder She Wrote series under his own name, but also with the fictionalized author Jessica Fletcher.

Mr. Bain, if you're out there, I'd love to interview you.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Shades of Milk and Honey

I have mixed feelings about Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal. First of all, Ms. Kowal did an excellent job of imagining the Jane Austen era, but with a specific kind of magic added to the world. Most writers who try to recreate this time period beat you over the head with Regency trivia to prove they've done their homework. Kowal does not suffer from this. She writes very smoothly and it feels era appropriate. Details are given, but they're not clunkily trying to put you in the setting, they are part of the setting.

So everything was going along well and I was enjoying myself until about 3/4 of the way through. Then things went slightly pear shaped. Shades of Milk and Honey is definitely not a bodice ripper, but somehow the ending takes on a bit of a bodice ripper plot. I think this must be a challenge to the writer, for while she has steeped herself in the time period, it's also a time period of women being passive and that's hard to accept as a modern woman. We want to be part of the action. Or at least believe we would be part of the action. Gone are the days of stories where the princess has a little snooze in the tower while she waits for the prince to show up and make everything right. Unfortunately, this does conflict with the nature of a true Austen type book. Sooo... the ending feels a little awkward, but in general I enjoyed the book. I would recommend it to any Austen or historical fiction fan. And if you happen to also like a bit of magic in your narrative, even better.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

I have never read anything by Cormac McCarthy previous to this and I have to say, the guy can write. Very intense action, descriptive imagery, but imagery that doesn't dwell. He keeps everything going at a fast, well thought out pace. I only wish I had not watched the movie before getting to the book because it spoiled some of the suspense for me. Still, good stuff. I can see why the Cohen brothers decided to make it into a film. And, to their credit, stayed true to the characters and story, unlike so many books that Hollywood decides to make into blockbusters.

And, what's the deal with that anyway? Here's a successful book. Let's take it, get rid of everything that made it good, Hollywoodize it up and film it. Then, act surprised when the movie doesn't do well. (I'm looking at you makers of Whiteout. What were you thinking?)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Wild Nights Are Calling

Growing up, I always scoffed at the Van Morrison song lyrics:

All the girls walk by dressed up for each other

To me, that sounded stupid. Why would girls dress up for each other? I either dressed:

A) for guys
B) for comfort / myself

It never occurred to me to dress for other women and I just assumed it was one of those misunderstandings between the sexes that caused Van Morrison to write those lyrics.

Now, as an adult, I realize, yes, women really do dress up for each other. I'm not sure why, but it's the only explanation I can figure out for why women want designer handbags. It's not like men notice these things or that the bags are particularly functional. Plus, women dress to the nines to attend baby and bridal showers. Why? I think it must have something to do with herd mentality, but I'm not sure.

I am a woman, but the ways of many women still continue to be a mystery to me.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Unwind by Neal Shusterman is amazing! I am literarily in love with
Mr. Shusterman and I've only read this one book.

Unwind is set in the not too distant future after the second American Civil War aka The Heartland War, which was a fight over reproductive rights. The outcome of the war is that life is inviolable from conception until thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, parents can have their children "unwound", whereby all of the child's organs are transplanted into different donor recipients so life doesn't technically end. Although told in the third person, the book follows different unwounds and sometimes different recipients, but it all comes together in one big, suspenseful, thought provoking story.

This book is amazingly well written and well thought out. You get to see the controversial decision of legalizing unwinding from many different sides. But, as a warning, Shusterman does not pull his punches. There are some gut wrenching chapters, but you desperately want to keep reading.

Good job Mr. Neal Shusterman. Really good stuff!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Scapegoat or Aspiration Pony

I was talking to a guy, "Ken", who was reminiscing about how much fun he and his friends had in college. I asked what they were doing now and Ken said they'd all settled down and gotten married except for one guy. Then, he went on to say, "Hopefully, he'll never get married." I asked him why and he replied, "So he can keep living the dream for the rest of us." I found it weird that Ken would want his friend to be frozen in time, not aging gracefully or experiencing any other aspects of life besides getting hammered in a bar. I mean, does anyone think the guy in his mid-fifties in the club hitting on girls half his age is cool? I felt bad for the friend because it was obvious that Ken, even though he was happily married with a cool wife, was projecting his aspirations of staying forever young and partying like a twenty year old onto the guy.

I've seen this behavior many time before. For example: When Metallica first changed their sound, my friend "Rob" was very upset. He kept saying, "They sold out, man! They totally sold out!" I asked him what he meant because to me, selling out means giving up your integrity (artistic or otherwise) to make money and be successful. I thought Metallica was probably just bored with doing the same thing year after year and wanted to try something new. But Rob wasn't having it. He wanted them to stay exactly the same band they were when he was thirteen and he felt betrayed that they wanted to change.

Husband and I were discussing this phenomenon of projecting your hopes and dreams onto another person instead of pursuing them yourself. We decided it needed a name. We also thought it should be called something similar to a scapegoat - where a person or a group of people single out an individual to be blamed for all problems or evils. So, after kicking around a few ideas, here's the best thing we've come up with so far. We're open for suggestions if anyone has something shorter.


- noun
a person or group made to bear the aspirations of others or to succeed in their place.

Chiefly Biblical
a pony let loose in the wilderness after a high priest laid the aspirations
of the people on its head. Lev 16:8, 10,26 16:816,1610,26.6:8,10,2
–verb (use with object) (used with object) h object)
to make an aspiration pony of: The married men tried to aspiration pony their single friend.