Because I Failed…

What did I fail at?  Writing my A Game of Thrones ‘review’.  It was meant to be up today, but the weekend got really busy.  Also, there might have been a Lost marathon happening at my house to distract me.

In the meantime, I’ve been dealing with some frustration over searching out book descriptions.  Normally, Goodreads is awesome for this, but not always when it comes to classic literature.  I was creating the voting survey for the Litwits and needed a synopsis for A Passage to India.  You’d think that would be easy to find.  Amazon gives you practically the whole novel, Goodreads gives you next to nothing, and several other bookish sites just kind of expect you to know what the book is about since it’s so famous.  I’ve found this to be the case with many famous titles.  Either they write a couple of cryptic sentences or just go ahead and spoil the entire story.  What is up with that?

Anywhoosie, how is World Book Night going for those who are participating?  Most of my books (Ender’s Game!!!) have been pre-destined for spaces in classroom libraries of some teachers I know.  I did try to give away a couple of copies at the gas station and the next-door McDonalds.  I was refused three times in a row!!!!  People looked at me like I was giving away bombs or poison.  Oh well.  All of my books will find worthy homes!


Happy Drunk Accountant’s Day!

That’s right, folks!  Tonight hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands of accountants across the country will be drinking their weight in alcohol.  Young – old – doesn’t matter:  tonight they are all 21-year-old kids looking for a good time and to blow off a lot of steam.  Be on the look out – hide your kids, hide your pets, hide your bottles of alcohol because this shiz is going to get serious!

For those who don’t know, I’m a CPA.  And while I’m not currently practicing, for the past three years I was a public accountant working as an auditor in the real estate business.  THIS MEANS I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT TAXES.  Yes, some accountants don’t do taxes.  Anyway, for public accountants tax season (busy season) is four months of straight-up hell.  We drag ourselves to work post-Christmas knowing that we won’t see daylight again until tax deadline.  In the office by 8 am – crawling back home around midnight (or later if you’re my husband).  Night after night.  We get a brief reprieve on Sundays, but let’s be honest – most CPAs are working Sundays as well.

And then comes April 15th (or 16th) when the madness stops and accountants emerge into the daylight.  Our companies find the nearest, nicest, most adequate of drinking holes and we run, blinded by the sun, for liquid relief.  It’s a really scary sight, but simultaneously hilarious.

Above Picture:  Simone and I – Let Down Party 2009

So, if you know any CPAs – wish them a happy Let Down and thank them for their service!

Slide by Jill Hathaway

Slide was an ebook I got off NetGalley a while back and subsequently ignored.  Not sure why, just never got around to reading.  I think I’ve been ignoring my Kindle in general.  Initially, I loved my little eReader, but now, I’m finding myself sticking to turning actual pages.

Hathaway’s novel tells the story of  high school junior Vee Bell who has the ability to ‘slide’ into another person’s body.  As long as she’s touching something they’ve left an emotional mark on, she can briefly and literally see through their eyes.  She can’t read their thoughts; it’s more like borrowing their eyes for a few moments.  During one of these slides, she realizes she’s slide into the eyes of a killer and is looking down at the dead body of one of her sister’s best friends.  Since the murder looks like a suicide, Vee must work alone in finding the killer.

I’m not sure I liked this book and I’m not sure that I didn’t like it.  A very mixed bag at best – there were things well done and parts better left undone.  The premise really initially sparked my interest.  The idea of ‘sliding’ seemed somewhat fresh and the idea of sliding into a killer seemed like a distinctly horrible problem for a high school student.  Hathaway succeeds at making Vee’s ability both intriguing and terrifying.  Vee’s voice, and many of the other high school aged voices throughout the story, are also well done.  These kids sound and think like realistic teenagers – something I often find lacking in YA novels.  It helps that Hathaway is a high school English teacher.  I love that she’s not afraid to make teachers silly and insipid and students sometimes much smarter and more mature than their teachers.

What bothered me was the mystery aspect – the whodunit.  Not well done at all.  I knew who was involved in the murder as soon as that particular character was introduced.  And while I didn’t know all the meaty details eventually divulged, nothing was surprising AT ALL.  And to be honest, none of the characters mattered much to me.  Not even the unlucky few who lost their lives among the pages.  I just didn’t feel anything for them whatsoever – never a good thing.  And since I didn’t care about them in Slide, why would I care about them in sequels?  No offense to Ms. Hathaway, but this novel should most definitely have been a stand alone.  I just don’t see how this will turn into anything other than a boring mystery procedural series.

So, for me, Slide had a story line that could have been great, but fell short.  I needed more mystery to the mystery and a bit more depth to my characters.  But at 250 pages and fairly well paced, Slide isn’t an entirely terrible read and could fit the bill when you need something simple, fluffy, and a little different than your average YA recycled plot.

Tuesday Salon:

Since I totally missed the ball on writing a Sunday Salon post, I’ll just tack on a couple extra paragraphs to this post!  Hijacking my own blog is kind of fun.

Been reading a good bit lately so that I think I can officially proclaim the end to my much too long lasting reading slump. So far in April I’ve read three books and have gotten a good bit of the way through a couple of others.  Not too shabby!  Currently reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (so fabulous) and A Game of Thrones (finally!).  I’ve been so scared to start George R.R. Martin’s series.  All the hype, the massive page counts, the fact that the series isn’t complete and time between book publication is SO. FREAKING. LONG.  Then there’s all the warnings people have thrust upon me – all your favorite characters will die – no one is safe – the twists are insane, heartbreaking, jawdroppingly intense.  Oh dear.  I’m scared to turn the pages!!!  I’ve found myself assuming that once I like someone they’ll be dead within 50 pages and this helps to manage my fear.

Still watching a ton of movies – Moneyball, In Time, Death Race 2 (don’t ask), Winter’s Bone.  Also watching The Sarah Connor Chronicles with Jimmy.  He loves the Terminator movies and I love all things fantasy/sci-fi so we are able to come together around this show.  Not having cable has been kind of fun – we’re getting to rediscover movies and shows we missed.  Plus, I’ve been watching some television programming I would have completely skipped over otherwise.  Since we’re still getting a handful of network channels free – I’m been watching some really fun stuff on PBS.  I’ve learned about blue whales, the game of Polo, Belfast’s link to Titanic, and famous people’s ancestry.  Also watched a good bit of the BBC’s newest adaptation of Great Expectations and loved it.  Gillian Anderson is a marvelous Miss Havisham.  What have you been watching?

Divergent by Veronica Roth

I have FAILED as a book blogger this week and apologize profusely.  Not a single post has gone up since Sunday.  I have no excuse other than complete laziness.  Anyway, I was reading!  So many people have recommended Divergent and I finally got around to reading it – very late to this particular party, I know.

For those who don’t know (and do those people even exist anymore?), Divergent takes place in a dystopian Chicago where citizens are separated into 5 factions – Amity (for the kind and peaceful), Dauntless (for the brave), Abnegation (for the selfless), Candor (for the honest), and Erudite (for the intelligent).  These five characteristics were chosen as ultimate solutions to war and once a child turns 16, he/she must choose which faction best suits them (aided by a diagnostic test).  Our main character, Beatrice, receives inconclusive results from her diagnostic test which makes her ‘divergent’ – something that she’s told is extremely dangerous and she must never tell anyone.  All she knows about being divergent is that she fits into more than one faction, three to be precise – Dauntless, Erudite, and her home faction, Abnegation.  On Choosing Day, Beatrice decides to join the Dauntless and begins the initiation process where she learns not only truths about her new home, but also about the city as a whole.  Crazy action ensues.

Did Divergent live up to the hype?  Mostly.  Without a doubt, I turned these pages at an impressive clip unable to break away from Tris and her Dauntless initiation tasks.  They were so brutal and the action was absolutely non-stop.  Initiation sequences, training montages, mind games – these sorts of things suck me in without fail.  Roth’s novel is paced impeccably and if you are a fan of action/adventure you will not be disappointed.

Tris, herself, is a refreshing female lead.  She’s complex, not always easy to connect with or even like, and has deep character flaws that are just a part of who she is.  Thank goodness for a little ugly truth in humanity.  She can be cold, vindictive, and utterly unapologetic.  At the same time, she’s filled with self-knowledge, bravery, strength, and a moral code I wholeheartedly respected.  My only gripe is the whole overplayed ‘I’m so ugly’, but she’s really beautiful cliche that needs to go away.

The love story is not a triangle!!  I’m almost afraid to say that since there are two more books and this could change at any moment, but I appreciated the single love interest.  As a couple, Four and Tris are believable, if maybe a little flat.  Their story is hardly new or original and learning Four’s true identity was far from shocking.  But I was just so happy to avoid choosing a team that I forgive Roth this minor flaw.

Many readers have stated that the world building was a little lacking and that we don’t learn enough about how Chicago became a city of factions.  This didn’t bother me as I assumed the next two books will fill in all the plot holes sprinkled throughout Divergent.  I like being kept in the dark a bit since Tris is also in the dark about so many things.  Others have bemoaned how implausible separating people into 5 single personality traits is and feel that leads to a very shaky foundation for the plot to stand on.  But that’s the point.  The book is called Divergent which essentially means that people aren’t any one thing – we are complex, varying, evolving animals who change on a constant basis.  This world was doomed from the very beginning.  This is a world where people were so desperate to avoid or stop war that they made a very rash, illogical decision and I can’t wait to see what event led people down such an incredibly stupid path.  I also love exploring the idea that war is inherently a part of human nature and will never cease to exist.

While incredibly enjoyable, Divergent isn’t perfect.  There are plot holes, the back story is lacking, the villains are a bit one-dimensional, and the ‘twists’ were predictable.  At times, I also found myself a little emotionally un-involved.  Many characters die (Roth is not afraid to eliminate anyone), but I found myself not caring too much – even when the reader was clearly supposed to care.  So, if I have one wish for Insurgent which is being released next month – make me care!!!!  Give the characters a little more depth and help me as a reader connect with them better.  If Roth can manage this task, this series might become one of my all-time favs.

TSS: A Week of Movies

This past week was filled with movie watching – far more so than book reading.  I’m not the world’s biggest movie person, but every now and again I watch an obscene amount of movies in a very short amount of time.  My husband and I devoured some cinema this weekend and enjoyed quite the eclectic mix.

Earlier in the week, I viewed Sarah’s Key by myself.  The Litwits read de Rosnay’s novel very early on and so I greatly looked forward to the film version.  Overall, I was quite satisfied, but didn’t find the movie amazing.  It was engaging, simple, did great justice to the book, and eliminated  most of the modern day Julia inner monologue that I hated in the novel.  If you’ve read the book, I recommend the movie and promise that the subtitles aren’t too distracting.

Friday night Jimmy and I sat down to Contagion.  They title really sums up the plot and I’m told the science in the movie is superbly accurate.  All in all, a decently engrossing film.  I particularly enjoyed the Matt Damon story line of father and daughter during the outbreak – touching, realistic, and worth the watch.  Jimmy jokingly thinks the movie is anti-Asian propaganda.

Out of the 5 movies I’m quickly reviewing, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is the only film I don’t recommend.  I think the movie LOOKED amazing, the actors are brilliant (Gary Oldman, Colin Firth), but the film itself is heavy-handed, convoluted, and extremely long/boring.  Maybe I’m just completely stupid, but many other reviews I’ve read have said this version of the story is incredibly hard to follow as it cuts out most of the novel.  People highly suggest the mini-series as an alternative.  Nothing good can be happening when I am repeatedly asking Jimmy – “do you understand what’s been going on?”

To rid ourselves of the bad taste left by TTSS, we immediately turned to True Grit which I admit being wary of.  Nothing about ‘western’ really turns me on.  But this movie was by far my favorite of the week!  I adored it entirely and all of the actors did an amazing job.  The movie is hilarious, but at the same time gives enough weight to its rather serious material and themes.  I loved Jeff Bridges as Rooster – superb performance.  Watch this movie!!

We ended our Saturday night with Harry Brown starring Michael Caine – because who doesn’t like Michael Caine.  Jimmy selected the movie just because he loves Caine’s accent.  Seriously – that’s all we need to persuade us to watch a movie.  Harry Brown is not a movie for everyone and I was pretty convinced based off the summary that I was going to hate it.  The story takes place in a modern day Britain where young thugs and the criminal element have pretty much taken over normal society – very reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange.  The police are barely even allowed to do their job – most times only knocking on doors to tell loved ones of violent deaths with no hopes of catching the guilty parties.  Riots are the norm.  Michael Caine loses his wife and best friend back-to-back, gets sick of how things have gotten, and begins a vigilante spree that is gory, gritty, and admittedly, extremely satisfying.

Who knows what we’ll watch tonight?!  In the way of books, I did reread Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins and loved it the second time around.  I’ve started One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest which sucked me in immediately.  Also began reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower which is the April read for book club.  Hopefully, I’ll be reading much more this next week.  I think I’ll probably post a review of Mockingjay on Monday since my opinion on the story did a complete 180.

Happy Reading!