Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Home Game - Michael Lewis

My husband is a fan of Michael Lewis's books, in particular Moneyball and The Blind Side, so when I saw that Lewis had a book about fatherhood, I figured it would be a good one for Jake to check out.  I think I was right.  As Jake read in bed next to me, he laughed out loud and even read me a couple passages (usually one of my annoying habits that I really appreciate seeing in others).  He finished the book quickly, and mostly took away from it that Ferberizing is out of date, and that having more than one kid might require a little more thought.  I then decided to read it for myself...and I didn't find it quite so amusing.  Michael Lewis might be a brilliant writer and asutte investigative journalist type, but he is a class A doofus when it comes to raising his children.  Of course, that's part of the point of the book - to get a laugh at his own expense and to heap credit on to his wife (former MTV news anchor, Tabitha Soren), but I don't find it endearing when fathers pretend then can't figure out how to dress their children or pack a lunch.  But, despite Lewis's at-times seeming indifference to parenting, he did have some good insight on rolling with the punches (I especially liked the stories about his oldest daughter heaping contempt on his following the arrival of her younger sister), and his efforts to be with his kids even when the experiences weren't exactly fun (like camping overnight in Fairyland - which is just down the street from us).  This book can be read in one sitting - and while it may infuriate the parents who are the ones keeping track of all the doctor's appointments and waking up multiple times in the night for feedings, I think it's a good book for those other parents - the ones who might not always feel like their kids necessarily need them, or like they might have missed the day when they were supposed to have developed a deep-seated bond with their child - it will help them realize that kids always need more people in their lives that just love them and appreciate them for who they are, and that your love for a child will come, maybe when you least expect it, but always when they need it most.

A Stolen Life - Jaycee Degard

Going in, I knew this was going to be horrific - this is Jaycee Dugard's memoir of her life - kidnapped off the street while walking to school at age 11, and kept in a room as a sex-slave for 18 years.  Everything about this book is truly unimaginable.  Dugard tries to write the book as she lived her experiences, and then includes "Reflection" paragraphs where she looks back on everything from present day.  Because she was taken while so young, and put through such traumatic events, the recollections are often piece-meal and incomplete.  For anyone who has read "Room" - a fictionalized account based on similar events, much of this book seems old hat (which is grotesque in and of itself).  I find it amazing that Dugard was able to write this book relatively soon after her escape, and to be so coherent and together.  Despite that, I think I am interested in reading a book from a more neutral perspective (which obviously isn't the point of a memoir).  Perhaps this book, plus a book about the wife of her captor, plus a book that discusses the lives of Jaycee's two children, raised until their teenage years in this limited environment.  Of course, no one would want to put those children through any more than they've already been through, but there was still so much about the story that could not be told because it was solely from Dugard's perspective and knowledge.  And, again, that's obviously not the point - not to get a complete picture of what happened, but to give a voice to the survivor.  But, regardless, this book is haunting.  It's one of those books I would never recommend reading because it is so truly terrible and shows the worst of the worst our world has to offer.  At the same time, it is a story of incredible survival, strength, and courage and a necessary read to confront some of our greatest fears - it's amazing to me that Dugard is where she is today, and I hope writing this book has helped with her healing process.

City of Bones - Michael Connelly (City of Bones #8)

I've read these books a bit out of order, so it's difficult for me to keep track of the underlying "Life of Detective Bosch" narrative - he always seems to be retiring from the force and coming back, and I definitely can't keep track of all his love interests.  So, I'm basically just focused on the murder narrative at this point.  City of Bones opens with a man walking his dog in the woods.  The dog runs off and returns with a bone.  A human bone.  And so opens a cold case that has been on the books for decades.  As usual, Bosch takes on a little too much - sleeps with someone he probably shouldn't, follows a lead without telling his partner, and in general manages to piss off all of his superiors.  In all the books, he seems to take a wrong turn (not necessarily always his fault) that leads to the death of a semi-innocent character.  But, in the end, he always gets his man.  Not sure what Connelly's commentary on it all seems to be - by any means necessary?  Or, a cautionary tale that sometimes things buried in the past were meant to be left there.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Shakespeare's Sonnets - Samuel Park

A college dorm-mate of mine recently came out with a new novel...but before I started in on that one, I went back and discovered his first novel - Shakespeare's Sonnets.  Set at Harvard in 1948, this is a love story between two men - one who denies his sexuality to conform to society, and the other who thumbs his nose at convention and embraces that which could get him expelled.  The two meet in a class on Shakespeare, and together explore the Bard's professions of love in his sonnets.  While many scholars opined that Shakespeare wrote the poems to a mysterious lady, one of the men controversially argues that Shakespeare's muse was actually a young man.  The illicit nature of the romance had me holding my breath as I read the book - on the one hand afraid of what would happen if they were discovered, and on the other hand hoping that they would find happiness in the truth.  I was incredibly surprised by the ending - it wasn't one that I think would have actually happened in real life, but it was the ending that I wanted.  As an English major, I really enjoyed the exploration of the ideas behind Shakespeare's sonnets - and it made me want to do some independent research of my own to find out how much of the ideas in this book were based on fact vs. fiction.  It's been awhile since I've read a book that I would characterize as "literature" - but this one fit the bill.  I started it on a bus ride into work, and had to stop off in a park to keep reading.  It made me late to the office, but I just found the love story so compelling that I needed to keep reading.  I am excited for Sam's latest book, This Burns My Heart, which is set in the vastly different location of post-war South Korea, but is certain to be just as painfully beautiful.

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk

I read this book months ago, but have been so delinquent in keeping track of things that I'm just getting to review it now...which means that I have nearly forgotten what it was all about.  But, this collections reads like a demented Aesop's fables (which I loved as a kid).  Each story features anthropomorphised animals taking on the traits of our most annoying humans.  In typical Sedaris fashion, they are cynical and observant, wildly hilarious, and irritating.  I can see reading each story here and there - while waiting in line for lunch or for the bus.  They aren't particularly insightful, but if you like Sedaris, they will probably bring you a little chuckle.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Zen Attitude - Sujata Massey (Rei Shimura Series #2)

I need to start doing these updates in a more timely fashion - I keep forgetting what these books are about!!  But, this is the second in the Rei Shimura series...at this point, Rei has semi-established herself as a high-end antiques dealer in Toyko.  When she is sent to find a tansu (cabinet) for a wealthy client, she finds herself swindled by a fake.  The salesperson mysteriously dies, and Rei is once again simultaneously investigating a murder, and attempting to avoid her own demise.  Her relationship with the Scotsman, hits a rocky patch and I'm hoping that it will be over and done with by the next installment, as I find their interactions annoying and childish.  I continue, however, to enjoy Rei's immersion into Japanese society, and her attempts to navigate it as an outsider who looks and speaks like an insider.  The descriptions and dialogue are sufficiently straight-forward to keep my sleep-deprived attention, but the story complex enough to remain interesting.  I mostly love anything set in Japan, so this is a series I will definitely keep coming back to, even if probably couldn't stomach too many in a row.