A Telling Review: The Cuckoo’s Calling

Vitals-

Title: The Cuckoo’s CallingAuthor: Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling; Genre: Fiction

The Gist– A struggling private detective is hired by a former schoolmate’s brother to investigate the supposed suicide of his ultra-famous super model sister.

What Stuck- Rowling once again creates realistic, complex characters. I am personally very impressed by authors who seem to be writing about real people as opposed to people they invented. Rowling accomplishes this with ease.

Should you give a flip- Yes.  It’s a good tale with multiple sub-plots that add to the story’s complexity. I admit that it was in many ways a standard crime novel.  The ending wasn’t a jaw-dropper, but it was a solid story and strong debut into the genre.

Happy Reading!

P.S. This Friday is the book date, so don’t forget to tag along! For those who may have missed last Friday’s post about the impending day of epicness check it out here.

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It’s a Date- A Book Date!

It was just a couple of weeks ago that I realized my “to-be-read” pile sitting on my bookshelf at home is dangerously low…as in only five books left low! This is terrifying and unacceptable, so next Friday, September 29th my good friend (and superb editor of this blog) Kelsey and I are going on a book date…all day!

We are starting off the day properly with a boozy brunch and will then proceed to several locally owned bookshops here in Chicago. We will be sharing our adventure and finds along the way (here comes the shameless social media plug).

So please follow along as we attempt our very first instagram story! We will also be sharing our adventure via Twitter and Facebook. We -by which I mean mainly me- are new to this social media game, so Friday will be a real learning experience.

Come along for the ride; it’s going to be absolutely wonderful and probably hysterical. Kelsey and I are both stoked about this, and will be breathing a huge sigh of relief once we have secured more reading material.

Speaking of reading material, if you have any book recommendations let us know so we can check them out!

 

 

A Classic Tale of the Classics

If you are a sports fan or know a sports fan, you may have heard of the “Sports Illustrated” cover jinx.  This is simply an urban legend that if a team appears on the cover of the magazine they will become jinxed. Fans (and I would assume players/coaches) have been known to become upset when their favorite, and currently winning, team gets selected for this “honor.”

I wonder if writers don’t feel something similar when their books are dubbed or compared to “classics.” Because let’s face it, readers tend to look at them with a certain amount of dread and distain especially when we were assigned to read them in school.  They really can be dull and laborious, and the assignments due upon completion could be such a drag.

In my academic career, I was always less than pleased when I would have to digest, process, and regurgitate the “hidden” meaning of underlying themes and messages that the author may or may not have intended. Granted, I enjoyed writing, but not necessarily about literature. Thus, for many years, the unassigned volumes of so-called “greats” went unread.  Dickens looked daunting.  The Bronte Sisters dreary.  Dostoevsky confusing.  And while everyone had heard of books like Fahrenheit 451, they weren’t in the free reading pile.

However, a couple of years ago, I decided that my classical reading was supremely undernourished. If I was going to tout that I was a reader and think of myself as well read, it was high time I cover a few of the basics I hadn’t been assigned.  So I made a list. I decided I wanted to read at least one book by Dickens, Dostoevsky, Austin, Tolstoy, etc.  I wanted to read A Picture of Dorian Gray, Animal Farm, To Kill a Mockingbird, and yes, Fahrenheit 451.

In my mind these reads would be epic tasks that would require great strides of perseverance and stamina. But I would conquer them and then I would brush my hands off and be done with that silliness. This was to be my reading training so to speak; push my limits, and exercise my mind.

First up:  A Tale of Two Cities by the one and only Mr. Charles Dickens.  I chose it basically because it was the smallest Dickens novel I could find sitting on the shelf at B&N and thus appeared the least painful.  I began and, of course, encountered the famous beginning: “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times…” I grimaced and marched forth.  My attitude towards this project is inspiring, isn’t it?

But I was stunned…

I not only read the first few pages at a reasonable rate, but I understood them. (I don’t know why but for some reason I thought that not only would these reads take me weeks to complete, but I wouldn’t have a clue what the hell they were talking about.) I found the meter of the writing beautiful and strangely inviting. I read descriptions that were amazing in their uniqueness and clarity.  I understood why Dickens was indeed a master.  I finally realized what all the fuss was about.

I finished A Tale of Two Cities in a matter of days, and I found myself wanting to read more Dickens not just the one I had personally assigned myself.  I acknowledged that maybe the classics weren’t all that bad after all.

Over the next year or so, I read all the classics I had put on my original list and shockingly out of all of them there was only one that I didn’t really enjoy.  It was Anna Karenina by Tolstoy that lived up to all my classical expectations.  But I found all the rest not only tolerable but enjoyable.  I admit that Dostoevsky was tough but worth the effort.

I read two more Dickens novels and added more classics to my reading list, but this time I added them not out of self-imposed obligation, but because I genuinely wanted to read them.

They are, at times, more difficult to read. Though while I do have to adjust to the writing style, they have great stories to tell.  And when I’m not worried about writing a paper after reading them, the experience is not as troubling or as grueling. Within the next year, I hope to tackle Sense and Sensibility, The Brother Karamazov, and The Prince.

I understand why classics are assigned in class, but I do feel the process casts a shadow on these stories and causes people to shy away.  However, they aren’t simply stories with which to torture high school and college students.  They are incredible tales of love, triumph, and intrigue.  Maybe we, as a free reading population, should cut them some slack.

Playing Another Review: House of Cards

Happy Friday! Hope everyone has a fun weekend planned.  I thought we could start this grand day off with a little review.

Vitals-

Title: House of Cards; Author: Michael Dobbs; Genre: Fiction

The Gist- A intricate story of back-stabbing politics within the British Parliament to obtain the coveted seat of Prime Minister.

What Stuck- There is more narrative and exposition than many American novels, but Dobbs use it to quickly and thoroughly cover large spans of time which I appreciated.

Should You Give a Flip- Yes? Here’s the rub- I read it after I had watch the T.V. show (American version with Kevin Spacey). So I knew what was coming when I read the book. Perhaps I need someone else to read it who has not seen the T.V. show and let me know their thoughts. I think in general it was a good book.  It was just a bit anti-climactic for me, but I don’t think that’s the book’s fault.

Has anyone else read this?  Have you read this without or before seeing the T.V. show? Do you prefer to read books before viewing the movie or show adaptation?Thoughts…anyone…Bueller…??

Goodreads: A Discovery

I love lists.  I’ve always loved making lists, and growing up keeping a list of books to read was my jam. However, my list mania soon grew to include a list of books I had already read.  At first, I just kept it in a notebook, but then when I was a junior in high-school I got an actual book journal.  I didn’t journal about the books I read, but it was a good place to keep track of all sorts of reading things (i.e. lists of…books to read, book read, books borrowed, books lent.)  It was really a list markers paradise.

As I’ve gotten older this obsessive list making has come in handy.  Once after watching a movie with my roommate I said, “I feel like I’ve read this.”  At the closing credits, it showed that it had been based on a book.  I went and got my book journal and sure enough I have read the book about three years previously.

Recently, I began to wonder why more people didn’t have book journals.  Didn’t they want to keep track of all the things they had read and all the books they hope to read?  Why weren’t there more people who loved books and lists as much as I did? Then I remember this newfangled thing called Goodreads

I give you permission to laugh. I have the soul of an 89-year old, even though physically I’ll turn 30 in December.  I go to bed at 9 PM.  I am completely baffled by Instagram and Twitter, but I’m trying my best.  I have an apron collection.  So it shouldn’t be too surprising that Goodreads showed up on my radar this late in the game.  I had heard of it.  I just didn’t know anything about it until I decided to investigate.  I immediately understood why it wasn’t really necessary to keep a book journal or at least in the list sense that I do.

While I’m staunch in not giving way to too many electronics regarding reading and books, I will concede that Goodreads is pretty groovy.  And I think my account is here to stay.  It still gives me the satisfaction of making lists and checking things off, but Goodreads is a terrific help in finding new reads that I otherwise wouldn’t have known about.

I realize that this is not revolutionary news to anybody, but me, but I was surprised at how much I liked it.  Maybe all technological advancements aren’t so bad after all- Good Grief!  I do sound like I’m in my 80’s.

Hieroglyphs Back in Style

I think we are reverting back to hieroglyphics or perhaps ever further back to painting on cave walls.  Just instead of images being chiseled or painted onto stone tablets. They are being sent via some sort of electronic tablet.

I have recently started receiving e-mails with a thumbs-up emoji from my mother if she is in agreement with my archaic form of communication also known as words.  A bit ironic for a retired English teacher.

I mean when the offer on my house got accepted.  I received a string of smiling cowboy faces and clapping hands before my realtor cared to explain himself.

I believe the original argument or rather one of the original arguments for emoji usage was speed, but given the 42,000 different emoji options available today.  I’m not sure that argument holds water since to pick the perfect one would probably take longer than actually just writing out what the hell you mean.

Don’t get me wrong, emojis are fun, but to say they are faster or clearer than actual words is just silly.  There are so many miscommunications via pixels that we certainly have only added to the quagmire of misunderstanding to this argument inducing medium.

“No, that poop emoji meant ‘that’s shitty’ not ‘that you’re shitty’.”

Or…

“So he sent me a smiley face with heart eyes does that mean he loves me or that he loves that I bought him car show tix for his birthday?”

Okay this one’s probably obvious, but you get the picture.  The possible crazy is never ending.

Seriously, if we mull over the absence of an exclamation in a text.  You have to realize doctorate level thesis analysis is going into emoji deciphering.  And don’t act like you don’t know the difference between “Okay” and “Okay.”  That dot speaks volumes…fuck grammar/usage and mechanics…that period is there to say much more than simply pleasing the grammarian gods.

I think my evidence about miscommunication in the digital world is strong, so you can probably understand my hesitancy with emojis.  Trust me they are not a replacement for facial expressions and odds are the general masses aren’t a bunch of Pictionary champs. So, enjoy the humor and laughter, but use sparingly to avoid the drama.

Paper vs. E-books

There are two camps when it comes to reading platforms.  There are those who have and use e-readers, and there are those of us that staunchly refuse to give up our paper tomes.  We grip them like a mother protecting her child from a grizzly.

We, tome hoarders, attempt to be open and cool with e-readers.  We are grateful that they are getting more people to read. Nevertheless, secretly we are scared of them.  We fear that e-readers will one-day push paper books to be as ancient and reminiscent as VHS tapes.  And for those of us hard copy readers, this is a terrifying prospect.  Why are we so incredibly attached to the bulky paper volumes?  Well the answer is quite complex.

Personally, a book is so much more than the simple content written between two covers. For me, it’s a multi-faceted experience that is incredibly tactile.  A book’s experience is enhanced by the binding that has been chosen.  The type of paper.  Are the edges smooth or rough? The font.  The line spacing. (These last two items can typically be manipulated on an e-reader.)

I love the smell of pages and feeling the weight of accomplishment as the pages begin to stack up in my left hand.  I can use fun books marks.  I can give it to a friend.  I don’t have to carry a charger or remember to plug it in when I get home.

They look very comforting all neatly lined up on my book shelf at home.  I like the mixed heights and varied thicknesses.  I like to see the stack of them piled in the corner patiently waiting to be read.

I understand the practicality and utility of an e-reader.  I understand you can carry around a whole library with you at all times.  That you never lose your page (but seriously where is the fun in that.) And that you don’t need to worry about lighting.

But I’m not making an argument based on practicality.  Heaving Anna Karenina around for a month was a pain in the ass, but it’s about a certain experience that e-readers cannot accomplish. I understand that hard copies are not for everyone; however, there is a real fear of it being taken away.

We hard copy readers may come off as snotty about e-readers simply because we wish to fiercely protect the experience of reading we so cherish.  And that this attitude is one that is purely defensive. Granted, there are many people who have e-readers and still read hard copy books and see their value.  And I hope one day I can confidently make this transition, but for now I will lug around a thousand plus page volume without complaint or regret.

So, where do you fall in the paper book vs. e-book world?  Do you use only one?  Both? Do you think the fear of e-readers becoming the sole method of reading is unfounded? I would love to hear your thoughts!