Monthly Archives: May 2006

Mediocrity sucks

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Last week, after finishing another Barbara Delinsky book, The Passions of Chelsea Kane, I thought I would dip into some of the lighter books I picked up at the book closeout store at the beginning of the year. When everything went on sale, I thought I would pick up some books that I wasn’t so sure about, because they were cheap enough to risk it. Still, when I finish one book and look at my shelves to pick a new one, there is a fairly tall stack of “chick lit” type paperbacks that never looks that appealing. I mean, they still look like they might be interesting, but never interesting enough to actually pick up at that moment. However, after the run of heavy, difficult books I had a few weeks ago (The Historian, Reading Lolita in Tehran and My Sister’s Keeper), I felt that I was ready for lighter stuff.

The Barbara Delinsky book, I loved, as usual. While it addressed issues of abuse and abandonment, both from parents and spouses, it was overall a pretty light and easy read. It had a romance, and the central mystery (the main character was adopted as an infant, and she is looking for her birth parents) was intriguing. While not strictly in the romance genre, it is definitely a book written for women to enjoy, and I certainly did enjoy it. So, I decided to turn to my stack of ignored books and try them out.

First, I picked up Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber by Adele Lang. Eh. Why would I want to read a book about a shallow, mean, vacant sociopath? Especially one who manages to turn her terrible character flaws into a newspaper column, and, according to the cover, a movie? I am sure there is a deeper point to all this, but 50 pages into the book, I still wasn’t really sure I wanted to continue, which I take as a sign to stop. Actually, that wasn’t the kicker—the kicker was that when I put it down and came back later, I had no real desire to pick it up again. I’ve read books that I wasn’t sure I liked (see Life Before Man below, but also Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, which turned out to be one of the best books I had read in a while), but I kept coming back to them. While I was reading, I would view them as books I was giving a try, and I wasn’t sure if I would continue, but every time I had time to read again, I would pick them up. With this one, I put it down, went to do something else and found myself coming back not to it, but to the bookshelves to see what else I could find.

Every Inch of Her, by Peter Sheridan was next. It was all right. I brought it to work with me and read it on the train. I had a hard time feeling sorry for the protagonist, though, a woman who leaves her 5 children at home with her abusive husband and tries to join a convent. Still, I didn’t find myself putting it down to look out the train window instead, so I thought I might finish it. Only, when I got out of work, I had no desire to read further. Fortunately, reading wasn’t on the menu that night anyway—it was my friend Ellen’s last day at work, and we went out to happy hour and beyond to say goodbye to her.

When I was ready to read again, I decided I had had enough of the stack of ignored books. I went to the bookstore again (It was Mandy’s fault! She knows I have no will power when it comes to the bookstore!), and bought books that I really want to read. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote (great book, wow, very impressive). Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro (I am only 40 pages into this book, and already deeply attached to the main character—and no, I haven’t seen the movie). Lake News, by Barbara Delinsky. Don’t Eat This Book, by Morgan Spurlock. I have other books on my shelf that I do want to read, but I think I am going to get rid of that stack that I never seem to want to get to. Life is too short for mediocre books.

Also, my list of books-to-be-read will become much shorter. And then I won’t have to feel so guilty the next time Mandy suggests a visit to the bookstore….

I am too tired to go find the links for the books I mention in this post, but I don’t want to leave it for later, so I am putting it out there in the hopes that I will get back to it later to finish the links. And, if not, Google is your friend (or amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com or any other book website).

The perils of reading in public

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If you decide to read My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult, don’t go to a restaurant to sit and read when you are near the end of the book. Unless, that is, you think creating a spectacle of yourself sounds like fun.

I should have known it would be like this. My wise and wonderful friend, Tiny Coconut, when summarizing the books she listened to on tape last year, mentioned that she was sobbing at the end of the book–an ending that completely blindsided her. I have been wondering what that was the whole time I was reading this book, and I got near the end tonight while eating dinner out. My kids are at their dad’s, and it seems less lonely to eat out when they are gone, so I thought I would risk it, although I knew I would get pretty close to the end within an hour or so of reading. Just over an hour after I got to the restaurant, I had to put the book down, because I was starting to cry. I quickly paid the check and left, because while I didn’t want to make a scene in the restaurant, I wanted to find out what happened.

Oh my God, it got worse when I got home. I bawled. I had to put the book down and just sob, because I couldn’t see the pages. I soaked through tissues–three of them. After I was able to pick up the book and read the last few pages, I cried some more. Then I stared off into space, dazed. Heck, I am starting to tear up again now. I may cry myself to sleep tonight.

Sure, this book has its problems (the characterization of the mother was a bit off, for one), but it was well worth the time. The questions that Picoult raises are good ones, and she doesn’t try to make them easy; life is not like that, esecially when dealing with complicated questions like childhood cancer and donations of body parts. The ending may have been a bit manipulative, but it was very well done. I can’t believe I didn’t see that ending coming.