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Okay, so I know I've read a lot of Regency romances this year. But none of them quite measured up to what I wanted (although I'll admit, Beyond Seduction came close). While there are multitudinous reasons why I read and/or buy historical romances, I prefer them to have:

a) light-to-heavy banter between the couple;
b) the lead female character having some power in the relationship [meaning, even if she is sold as a sorry form of cattle to a duke or something, her personality and characterization gives her power over her man];
c) action and violence, but not against the lead female character perpetrated by the lead male character.

A few years ago, I had picked up The Secret History of the Pink Carnation on a whim. Okay, actually, I picked up the third book in the series first, and because I'm an idiot with a material bent, I then went and bought Secret History because apparently, libraries don't work. From the way the back cover reads, I did not think it would be so ... romance-ey. I was pleasantly surprised. (There's a part in there in a boat that doesn't usually get talked about in Regency romances. Hoo boy.)

Continue reading for what is, for once, a fairly concise explanation of the plot, and also a few spoilers. Sorry.Collapse )

THERE. Now I'm caught up. So I just have to finish this STUPID BOOK that I'm only still reading for two reasons: 1) I've been writing the review of it in my head since I picked it up at the library and 2) spite.

Grade for The Secret History of the Pink Carnation: 5 stars
Fucking-A, man. As one of my heroes, Frank Vitchard, once said: this is getting ri-goddamn-diculous. I finished this book back in October. October. Like, before Halloween. And I'm just getting to write about it now? The hell, man?

And as if that weren't bad enough, it has taken me three weeks to read one book. You know how I know it's been three weeks? Because the book (and the four others I took out from the library) are due this week. I'm not sure which day they were due -- all I know is I'm looking at some overdue fees because I'm too lazy to get out my library card and renew them online. And I'm not even sure I can renew them once they're overdue (although I think I've done that in the past).

Let's put this in perspective. In the time since I've finished Practical Demonkeeping and tonight, when I'm writing the review, the following things have happened: 1) LucasFilm was bought out by Disney; 2) Barack Obama was reelected President of the United States; and 3) Hostess went out of business, thereby ruining stonerdom for all time. You all want signs of the apocalypse? There's three for you right there.

Okay, so, speaking of apocalypses. Apocalypsi? Shit. I suddenly find myself needing to know the plural of apocalypse. And now I'm pissed that I'm quoting Riley Finn, of all people. And now my thumb hurts, for no readily apparent reason. That's karma for ya.

OKAY, ALAINA. I said, "Speaking of apocalypses," let's talk about Practical Demonkeeping. This was Christopher Moore's first novel, but not the first novel by him that I read. Back in the middle of October -- y'know, when I actually read this damn thing -- I found myself going through a terrible bout of nostalgia. I had realized that I had six months to remain in my twenties, and there is a long list of Things I Want to Do Before Turning 30. (Which now includes "Travel to Washington, D.C. for a Weekend so I Can Touch the 1964 Aston Martin DB5 That Lives in the International Spy Museum." Thanks, Skyfall!) So as a way to make myself feel better about not accomplishing anything on that list thus far and, also, as a way of dealing with my return of Saturn, I picked up Practical Demonkeeping because a) I keep meaning to read more of Moore, and why not restart at the beginning, and b) because my landlady's husband was currently reading H is for Homicide.

Practical Demonkeeping introduces the town of Pine Cove, California, which I imagine to be a tiny town close to Big Sur. I say 'imagine' because, if y'all recall, when I was supposed to drive through that area last year, a chunk of the PCH fell into the ocean, causing my detour into Salinas. So I can't really say that it is Big Sur; I can only guess. I was really looking forward to driving over the Bixby Canyon Bridge while listening to "Bixby Canyon Bridge."

Wow. Apparently I am still pissed about that. Fucking gravity, man.

Pine Cove is a sleepy little town where not much ever happens. Augustus Brine runs the Bait, Tackle and Wine Shop. Mavis runs the Head of the Slug tavern. Robert and Jenny are going through a divorce, and the entire town knows about it. The same thing happens every day -- and because this could be a potential Moore-sian twist, no, it is not Groundhog Day. It's just that nothing ever happens in Pine Cove.

Until one day, a stranger named Travis arrives in town. He's quiet, very polite, and a shark at billiards. At the same time, Augustus is visited by a Djinn, who tells him he needs to help fight against a demon.

Turns out, Travis has been traveling for ninety years with the demon Catch, who eats people. Catch is controlled by a spell created by an old Pope (or something), and is only able to remain in Travis's control by the strength of Travis's will to control the demon. (Does that make sense? I've been trying to write this review for three days, and I'm too … something to go back and rewrite that sentence.) Travis's will begins to falter when he meets Jenny, which allows Catch to go on an overnight quest amongst the residents of Pine Cove to gather the tools to gain his freedom.

Practical Demonkeeping is a very funny book, but not as funny as Lamb. Sure, there were some laugh-out-loud moments, but I think the reason Lamb is funnier is because the subject matter from which Christopher Moore creates his novel is decidedly not funny. One doesn't expect humor to come out of the Bible; when it does show up, what was supposedly a tiny little joke becomes exponentially funnier.

Okay. One review down; one more to go, and then I need to fucking finish this other book I'm reading. Three weeks for a 300-page book? Seriously?

Grade for Practical Demonkeeping: 3 stars

Fiction: "Banker" by Dick Francis

Good lord, I finished this book weeks ago. And then between reading two other books, staying abreast of Fall TV (OMG VAMPIRE DIARIES WHY DO YOU BREAK MY HEART SO), occasionally posting some classic movies taped off of TCM to Movies Alaina's Never Seen under the Insomniac Theatre heading, and oh yeah, working, eating and sleeping, it's been difficult for me to find the gumption to review this title.

And the worst part of it all is that I know that, once I start writing this (as evidenced here), the words will just pour out as always, I'll read it through a couple of times quickly, then hit the 'post' button, go to bed, wait until tomorrow and then update again.

But now I'm sitting in the midst of Hurricane Sandy. I thank my lucky stars that the house in which I'm living comes equipped with a generator, so not only am I caught up on Vampire Diaries (DAMON AND ELENA go on another ROAD TRIP? IS IT THURSDAY YET?!), but I've also killed off all the Conan episodes, and now I'm working through Elementary, which honestly? I'm still not sure I like.

What I know I like is Dick Francis. And it surprises me, a bit, that for an author I claim to love, and for an author whose entire collection I own (save for a non-fiction title and the ones he wrote in partnership with his son following his retirement), I don't read him very often. The last title of his I read was back in March of last year, when I flew out to California.

Hmm. I just realized I've lit a candle in case the generator fails, but then I remembered that my landlord has an oxygen tank and signs everywhere that say "No Smoking." Candles don't count as smoking, do they?

Continue reading for another trip down Memory Lane, a brief digression into some Movies Alaina's Actually Seen, and what the damned book is actually about.Collapse )

Well. This entry took me longer than I thought (an episode of Elementary and two episodes of The Daily Show), and while I only have one light on in the apartment, I'm feeling guilty with the storm going on, so I'm going to save this Word document until we get the internets back.

To all my friends on the East Coast: I'm thinking of you. I know Maine got off fairly lightly when it comes to the wrath of Sandy, so please let me know in some fashion that y'all are all right.

And to my friends elsewhere: stop with the Grease jokes, I'm begging you. They are old and tired -- much like Danny Zuko nowadays.

Grade for Banker: 2.5 stars
This is, I kid you not, the third time I have tried to write this entry. It's hard, you guys -- not only writing, but figuring out which angle to tackle with this book. Also, I've had the worst cold in history (yes, *all* of history), so that's also been a delaying factor.

Continue reading for a fun new drinking game: take a shot every time Alaina says 'I think that.' Also, there are more references to an excellent movie that everyone must see. No, seriously - go see this. Plus: Art!Collapse )

Grade for Jennifer Government: 2 stars
Hey, check it out! I finished a book today and I'm writing the post today! IT'S A MIRACLE.

So this is that book I started reading, then realized I needed to read the first one first, only to discover it wasn't an homage to Archer, which made me sad. So.

This picks up about a year after the last one ended, and this title focuses on Anastasia Wittig, the ... hm. I don't have the requisite Charlie's Angels reference to make, because I totally never watched that show, and I'm not sure which of those women were the quiet, intellectual types. Well, totally mixing my metaphors here, but Anastasia is the 'Q' branch of this little trio of spies. She spends her days in the basement building things and decoding other things, and pretty much being Tony Stark but without the Billionaire Playboy Philanthropist stuff. Or the arc reactor. Or the snark. Hm... maybe that was another failed metaphor.

Continue reading for more horrible metaphors and a promise to get back to bloody stuff in the future.Collapse )

Grade for Desire Never Dies: No stars.

Essays: "Fraud" by David Rakoff

Written September 5, 2012

Oh my god, this is the most frustrating thing ever. Well, okay; one of the most frustrating things. This is easily in the top ten, though.

As y'all know by now, I've been having issues getting internet. So here I am on my day off this week, doing laundry at the semi-local Laundromat. (There's a localer one in Freeport, but I didn't even go inside. It didn't look clean, and there were no tables or chairs. In fact, for lack of a better term, the whole place looked pretty … rapey, and I don't like throwing around that word. [IT IS SO A WORD, SHUT UP BRAD, who doesn't even read this]) So I drove down to Portland and went to my old Laundromat, because yeah, it's a bit out of my way, but I know I'll have a table and a chair on which to write while my laundry spins. And all the light bulbs work.

(Except that, when I get here, there are no chairs. The chairs by the tables have disappeared. And so, I'm sitting on a table cross-legged, with my netbook in my lap. And my iPod's battery is in the red, so I'm playing Chicken with Barney the iPod to see who cracks first. All I need is a pair of Old Navy flip-flops and my ratty FPC sweatshirt and it'd be just like college up in here.)

(FPC = Franklin Pierce College. Fuck you, Franklin Pierce University. I mean, what the shit is that?)

So anyway. I'm perched, and I happen to see that there are internet connections available. And I've almost never been able to connect to WiFi here, but I'm desperate, so I give it a shot. And holy shit -- the Yahoo! page comes up! And I can open another tab and then Google comes up! And I can vote for the Tubeys on Television Without Pity! And then --

AND THEN THE ROUTER CONKS OUT AND I'M INTERNET-LESS AGAIN.

Dear Internets: why do you hate me? All I want to do is love you, and learn with you, and watch TV on you, and interact with you. You've been a true companion over the past decade; why are you turning on me? ALL I WANT TO DO IS CONNECT WITH YOU AND YOU WON'T LET ME.

Continue reading for a resolution to the Alaina Vs. The Internet story, one of the most fantastic quotes of all time, and why I loved this bookCollapse )

And with that, I am caught up with my backlog. And also, I have internets at the new apartment, so I shouldn't have to steal from Starbucks any longer. Huzzah!

Grade for Fraud: 4 stars
Written September 4, 2012

So … remember that time when I showed y'all all those romance novels I've accumulated over the years? And that time when I said this about one of those romance novels I accumlated?:

I'm picking up the back of a book, and it has a generic title and normal plotline, and I'm thinking to myself, "Why did I buy this?" And then I see that the male character is named the Duke of Bradford. And then I went, "Oh. Right." And then, my brain went, "Wait -- why did you buy this book?" And then I remembered: this was a purchase I made on one of my late-night Wal-Mart runs, and I was clearly sleep-deprived enough to think that reading it would be funny. Because now, in the harsh light of 1 p.m., I'm thinking, "Do I really want to read a book where the heroine could be calling out 'Oh Bradford' mid-coitus?" No; no I do not. And so that title has been placed in the "To Sell Back" pile, without being read. Because, again: ick.


Question: If you're a blogger, and you quote yourself, does the Internet fold in on itself like a wormhole? LET'S FIND OUT.

So y'all thought that was it, didn't you? You probably said to yourself, "Well, good for Alaina, not damaging any more of her brain cells by reading something that will not be able to provide enjoyment. That was a wise decision on her part."

And then you realize that what Alaina should get tattooed -- instead of the A from the Avengers logo (because she's a geek, in love with Iron Man, and her name begins with 'A': #logic) -- is I Am A Masochist in very curly script. Because that is what Alaina is: a Masochist. With a capital M.

Because, yeah: I didn't sell the book back. I read it instead. Because that's the kind of stupid shit I do.

So now, you're probably wondering, "Well, wait -- why is it so bad to be reading a book about a character named Bradford?" Well ...

Continue reading to learn just why a name has the power to squick me out, a very unfortunate word choice, and also, three reasons why I thought this book Punk'd me.Collapse )

Fiction: "Loyalty in Death" by J.D. Robb

Written August 30, 2012; finished much earlier than that
An Actual Text Sent From Me To The [former] Roommate: I'm in ur apartment, stealing ur internets and watching ur Netflix

You guys, this has been kind of painful! I guess I didn't realize how connected I was before the WiFi and Jeremy III IV* were unavailable. To show what happens when you get your news from Twitter (and not from CNN on Twitter, either), I thought Pussy Riot was a new rapper from SoCal, and it took me an entire afternoon to realize that Todd Akin really is a shithead who --

Actually, I can't say what I would like to do to Todd Akin, because by writing them down, I could be found by the government and then thrown in jail for threatening a government official. But anyway, I did not realize that Todd Akin was a Real Thing That Just Happened.

Anyway. While I've been waiting to figure out why my cable doesn't work (and also, why I can't get WiFi even when the Landlady says I should have it), I've finished re-watching Arrested Development (again), half of Daria, and then I have one more episode and I'll be on to season two of Community. I've also finished reading three two three books.**

[[*The Roommate switched out Jeremy II and named her new one Jeremy III. Since mine's not set up yet, mine must be named Jeremy the IV. And if that box needs replacement, its name shall be Jeremy the IV, Part II. Or, possibly, Jeremy, Episode IV: A New Hope. I haven't decided which works better, or which version of geek I am more.]]

[[**When I was originally writing that paragraph, I got to there and then realized that I had finished the review of Up in the Air but never posted it, so I distracted myself into doing that. When I came back a couple of days later to finish this (September 3, 2012), I was going to change it to two, but then I realized that I'm only writing this now because I finished another book, so I'm back to a backlog of three reviews.]]

Continue reading for some weird prognosticating (of sorts), an homage to one of my favorite movies, and a treatise on oblivious women.Collapse )

So, at the end of this very long, slightly rambly entry, I do have some good news. Good News #1: I am now only two entries behind. Good News #2: the next post will be shorter, because it's for a book that I will never, ever, NEVER read again. Good News #3: The next few J.D. Robb titles I have to read, I own, so no spending money for me!

Bad News? Um … now I have to find another Lunch Break Book.

Grade for Loyalty in Death: 3 stars

Fiction: "Up In The Air" by Walter Kirn

When I finished How to Read Literature Like a Professor, I needed another Lunch Break Book. (I'm considering creating a tag/category for it, but honestly, I'm just too lazy.) My big bookcase was almost -- almost packed up; all that remained were a couple of random titles and the Patricia Cornwell series (because … *shiver.* But guys, why are you surprised that not only did I pack them, but I then moved them into my new apartment? Seriously - have you all missed the memo about me being a masochist?) Anyway, this was one of those random titles, and I liked the movie when I watched it for Oscar!Watch (hence, the buying of the book in the first place), and I don't know; it was another "HEY THIS WILL WORK" book.

First and foremost, I did not realize how different the book was going to be from the movie. Not much from the book survives into the movie. Oh boy -- how am I going to explain this without spoiling both the book and the movie? I mean, should I do that, I think I win the title of Queen Spoiler, but believe it or not, that's not a title I'm looking to have.

Okay, I think I figured it out. I'm going to do movie first, even though I haven't seen it in two years. George Clooney played Ryan Bingham, a corporate Joe that's made a name for himself in "Career Displacement Services" (or something), which essentially means he fires people for a living. But what he really jives on is his frequent flyer miles. Bingham spends nearly 20 out of 24 hours of every day either on a plane or in an airport, hotel, or rental car. He is speeding towards his goal of ten million frequent flyer miles, and the luxury that comes with it.

Until, that is, he himself is told he will be outsourced in the near future. Rather than firing people in person, the company he works for has decided to go with video-firings. Bingham feels betrayed, because this is happening just before he gets to his ten million mark.

In the novel, Bingham is hell-bent on getting to the one-million mark, but before his boss finds his resignation letter. He is over the whole firing people thing, and has a few different irons in the fire for the future: he has written a book, similar to Who Moved My Cheese?, a short missive that will inspire the masses towards individualism and achievement; he proposes to a mentor a line of merchandising and classes on the subject of his mentor's teachings; and he's angling for a position at the aptly-named MythTec, a consulting firm that is never quite explicated in the text. While all of this is going on, his little sister is getting married in Minnesota, he meets a woman on a flight to Reno who intrigues him -- right up to the part where she practically stalks him.

What this book attempts to do, and almost succeeds, though in an oblique way, is -- as one of the quotes on the back of the book state -- show us that, by pursuing our goals, we may lose sight of who we are as people. I'm sorry -- there are an awful lot of clauses in that sentence. Bingham is so focused -- as I said, "hell-bent" -- on earning his millionth mile that he loses part of his compassion. His other sister asks him to buy a flight for a bridesmaid with some of his miles; with the deadline fast approaching, he refuses, because his goal is more important than his family. He's determined that that final mile is his reason to live -- he doesn't even want to fly anywhere on them, he just wants to achieve the status and then donate the miles to a children's hospital, which could use them for sick kids and Make a Wish Foundation wishes. He has fake relationships in 'AirWorld;' people he sits next to on flights become his neighbors, his cohorts, his confessors. There's an interesting passage where he asks some guy who's frequently on CNBC about a stock mid-flight, and CNBC-Guy gives him some great advice. Bingham's touched. But then that night, Bingham's in a strip club with a client and sees CNBC-Guy getting a lap dance. It throws him, because AirWorld personalities become completely disparate from RealWorld personalities.

I liked the book. I couldn't tell you right now if I'd ever read it again, but I like it enough to not sell it back to give it the chance. I do know that I want to rewatch the movie, and see if I can catch more differences, but damn Redbox and Netflix for both not having it readily available.

Which is why I'm rewatching Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows right now. (And all I can think while watching it is: Poor Lane.)

Grade for Up in the Air: 2.5 stars
After I read From London With Love, I started reading Desire Never Dies, which was the second title in that triad. But I must admit: I also started reading that book about the Duke of Bradford that I said I was going to sell back without reading it. Remember, guys: I'm a masochist.

[I'll talk more about it once I finish it, but … it's bad. On so many levels. The good news is that some of the bad parts are also funny parts that made me laugh out loud. But they're not redeeming enough to make me change my mind about getting it out of my new house once I'm done with it.]

So while I read those two trashy romance novels, I started reading this title as my Lunch Break Book. I didn't make a conscious decision to read it. Sometimes, when I'm reading a romance novel, I'll use the Lunch Break Book as overcompensation for the guilty pleasure I'm reading behind the scenes. (Ooh, that sounded dirtier than I had intended.) Like, while I was reading Breaking Dawn at home, I was reading The Maltese Falcon at work, a) of all because I didn't want my friends teasing me, but b) of all, I was writing a pulp-esque novel at the time and wanted to hear how true, old-fashioned pulp sounded. Also, c) of all, it's considered a classic and I hadn't read it up to that point. With How to Read Literature Like a Professor, it was the top book on one of the piles I was packing up, so instead of saying "I'm going to read this because I enjoy reading literature and I enjoy learning how to do it better," it was more like "SHIT I can't read historical romance porn in public, people will make fun of me OH LOOK THIS WILL PROBABLY WORK -- yoink."

Continue reading for discussions on symbolism, a list of works to read in the future, and a brief conversation about Raiders of the Lost Ark.Collapse )

Grade for How to Read Literature Like a Professor: 4 stars
>>>This section of the post written July 28, according to the date it was last modified
Remember that post I made a couple of weeks ago, wherein I took a picture of all the romance novels I had bought? Well, one of them is/was Desire Never Dies, which I started reading right after finishing Beyond Seduction. That was one of the titles that fell under the category of "Lady!Spies!", and I was intrigued.

I actually started reading it, and I got about five pages in when I learned that one of the characters -- Meredith -- recently married someone whose last name was Archer. I put the book down, and said out loud, alone in my room, "OH PLEASE LET HIS FIRST NAME BE STERLING."

Knowing how romance trilogies work (oh, I'm sorry, romance!world -- apparently trilogies are for movies, and 'trios' or 'triads' are what they call a series of three books. Apologies.), I immediately began my bookstore search for the first title in the triad (because thanks to GoodReads, I learned that Desire Never Dies was the second book in the triad. Of course it was - that's how I roll). But no luck -- Annie's Used Books didn't have it, Books-A-Million didn't have it (though they did have the next J.D. Robb title I had been looking for), and Bull Moose didn't have it.

So I did something I'd never done before: I bought a book to read on my phone.

This is a Big Deal. My friend Brad and I have had -- well, not long or huge

>>>The Document cuts off here, mid-sentence. I pick up the thread nearly two weeks later, in the middle of a Laundry-Day What Up Wednesday

HAHAHAHAHA Oh man … what a place to end that sentence. Anyway. I thought y'all might like to see how the writing process works - I'll write a couple of paragraphs, put it away and return to it two weeks later, and I'm usually scratching my head over what I wrote.

For instance: I neglected to mention in that first paragraph that, according to the Prologue, the triad was set up like a Regency version of Charlie's Angels - the mentor who gives the Lady!Spies! their missions is named Charles, and there are three women. As my hero Britta Perry would say, duh-doi. But then she'd get into a rant about how Charlie's Angels is too misogynistic, and that there should be a TV show called "Charlotte's Devils" or something to have the feminist equivalent, and she'd try to actually make that happen, but she'd only end up Britta'ing it.

And then the thing about me and my friend having something that's neither huge nor long… oh my god, if I didn't know that Brad didn't read this thing, I'd be terribly embarrassed by that cut-off. But since I know he doesn't read this (or Movies Alaina's Never Seen, which is weird -- he should have a vested interest in that one), I'm just going to giggle at myself for a while. Hee hee hee.

Continue reading for a discussion on Kindle vs. Real Books, even more Archer references, and some unfortunate quotes that I couldn't help but include because they're hilarious.Collapse )

Grade for From London With Love: 2 stars

Fiction: "Beyond Seduction" by Emma Holly

I make no apologies for my reading lately. Looking back over the past few months, I've read some heavy shit. Sometimes my brain just needs a little candy. In addition, I'm moving a couple of towns over at the end of this month, and I'm attempting to read as many books I own during this time because if I decide I hate them, then I don't have to pack them.

(Unfortunately, so far, that theory isn't working, because I really liked this book.)

Over the past five years, I have accumulated a lot of historical romances that I have not yet read. In fact, let me show you them, because this will accomplish two goals: a) I get to take a funny picture of my craziness, and b) they will all be in the same place and thus, make them easier to pack: cut for pictureCollapse )

That's forty books I've bought. Of those forty, I've read seven. So far, I'm keeping all but three (the two by Stephanie Laurens, and The Cove, which I need to return to my mother, rather than burn it, which is what I really want to do to it.) And guys? Some are missing. I purposely didn't include the Book From Whence My Name Derived (I can't make it that easy for you), and I have three copies of it now (all the harder to find it, my dear!). And I could have sworn that I had purchased another Stephanie Laurens title even after the awfulness that was Devil's Bride. Because I? Am a masochist.

Continue reading for a discussion of why I even buy romance novels in the first place, why I will never ever read Fifty Shades of Gray, and oh yeah, the actual book I read.Collapse )
This is the fourth title in Charlaine Harris's "Southern Vampire" series -- or, as I (and I'm sure, a few others) like to call it, the True Blood series. As usual, I have read the book before watching the season to which it corresponds, for two reasons. One, because I always like to read the source material before seeing what type of atrocities occurred in the requisite adaptation. And two: my Netflix Queue is full up with Return of the Jedi, Firefly, and ... Muppet Treasure Island?! Holy shit, I forgot that was in there!

Needless to say, I'm gonna be busy for a while.

Continue reading for a brief overview of the plot of not only this but Season 4 of True Blood, a look into Sookie's psyche, and a plea to the Casting Gods.Collapse )

Grade for Dead to the World: 3 stars
And finally, more than a year after the last entry, I come to G is for Gumshoe. G is, quite simply, one of my favorite books of all time. But not in the ways you may think. For instance, the writing in G isn't any better than any other mystery Kinsey embarks on; nor is the plot that surprising, terrifying, or different. When I reread G (and this read was, like, number 5, I believe), I am immediately transported back to when I read it the first time. This book -- for me, at least -- is a highway to nostalgia, when I was first allowed to read "grown-up books."

Continue reading to yes, learn about the plot (because what kind of book reviewer would I be if I didn't mention that), hear more about Alaina's young adulthood, and why I've always had an affinity for spiral staircases.Collapse )

Grade for "G" is for Gumshoe: 4 stars
After the interminable time-suck that was Great Expectations, I needed something short, sweet, easy-to-understand, and above all, funny to read next. And since this year I have made myself promise that I am only reading books I own and not a) buying any more or b) borrowing them from the library because I have so many books [note: I have broken that Promise A twice in the past 48 hours], I found this title hiding underneath a bunch of Bad Romance Novels and Dick Francis titles in my little bookcase.

I can't remember how I heard of Sloane Crosley. I think I was reading one of the many Entertainment Weeklys that Johnny used to give me and they had reviewed her second book, How Did You Get This Number, and I, being both the Masochist and the Completist that readers over on Movies Alaina's Never Seen have come to know and both love to hate and hate to love, decided to find her first title and read that before reading the second, because obviously, essays have sequels?

So anyway, like so many other books I own (I swear, one of these days I'm going to post pictures of the two bookcases in my room, plus the three tubs of books I've got scattered throughout the house so y'all understand), I bought it and then promptly forgot about it. Until three days ago, when I picked it up and then promptly blazed through it in good ol' Alaina fashion.

Three days! I finished this book in three days! Huzzah! (and there was much rejoicing.)

Continue reading to learn more about unique names and where they come from, How To Be a Bridesmaid, and other things Ms. Crosley and I have in common.Collapse )

Grade for I Was Told There'd Be Cake: 4 stars
So, I have a confession to make. I am very proud of the fact that, while I majored in Business Administration & Finance, I minored in 19th Century British Literature (a.k.a., English). And I've read a lot of 19th Century-era British novels - I've read all of Jane Austen's novels, I've read Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre multiple times, I ... well, I have enjoyed Thomas Hardy in the past, Mayor of Casterbridge notwithstanding. And don't get me started on the myriad of times I've read Dracula.

So here's the thing -- I have, somehow, managed to not have ever finished a Charles Dickens title before now.

How is that possible? Well, somehow, through high school and college, I always managed to ... bypass it. We didn't read A Tale of Two Cities in my freshman year at Brunswick High, I may have skimmed the majority of The Mystery of Edwin Drood (don't tell Ms. Van Orden), I read three hundred pages of Bleak House (but then I watched five out of the six episodes of the BBC miniseries -- I stopped watching after Esther agreed to marry Jarndyce, and I didn't want to see her break his heart when she left him for her sea captain), and when we read Hard Times in that summer class I took, I literally couldn't read the book because my glasses had broken. Like, lenses falling out of the frame. I literally could not read it. Last year I tried to read Oliver Twist, and I gave up forty pages in. Or was it David Copperfield ...

So. Congratulations, Great Expectations, for being the first Dickens novel I was able to finish! And thank you, Gillian Anderson, for making me want to read it so I could enjoy your portrayal of Miss Havisham.

Continue reading for, well, pretty much a Cliffs Notes version of the plot, a brief commentary on the BBC version that just aired this year, and also, a game of Spot the Movie Reference!Collapse )

Anyway. I liked it, I guess? For a book that I really wanted to finish so I could move on to something else, but didn't have the energy or wherewithal to? And to be honest, I'm kind of speeding through this review because apparently, I am REQUIRED to watch a movie called Hobo With a Shotgun before I go to bed. So, check out the sister blog at moviesalainasneverseen.com for that particular review.

Grade for Great Expectations: 2.5 stars
I think it's been pretty well established at this point that I am not a historian. As much as I'd love to have a business card that proclaims me to be a "Master of the Occult and Obtainer of Rare Antiquities," what I don't know about history -- both American and non -- would fill about a frillion books. So while it was -- oh wow, coincidence -- this time last year that I spent the entire month of April reading about the first third of Theodore Roosevelt's life, apparently April became American History Month over here at That's What She Read, because this month I read Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

Now, as you can tell by the title, it's not exactly actual history. After all, while it would be freaking amazing for our sixteenth president to have been a vampire hunter -- and Mr. Grahame-Smith does make a convincing argument for it -- it probably didn't actually happen. Probably.

Continue reading for a comparison of Abraham Lincoln's real life to his vampire hunting life, the worst comparison to Angel I've ever made, and finally, a comparison to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I promise to never compare anything to antyhing else ever again.Collapse )

Grade for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter: 3 stars

Fiction: "Money Shot" by Christa Faust

Money Shot is another title from the Hard Case Crime publishing imprint, and I am making it one of my life's goals to read all of their titles. I've enjoyed every title I've read so far -- all three of them; each one has had just the right blend of violence, sex, and humor that, in this case, was the perfect palate cleanser to all of the non-fiction books I've been reading over the past two months.

Important Fun Fact!: Christa Faust was the first female author published by Hard Case Crime. And after reading Money Shot, I want to write like her, because she is awesome.

The story follows Angel Dare, former queen of the porn industry. She has "retired" from video, but is still in the industry by being an agent for women who are in or joining the industry: arranging shoots, dancing, that sort of thing. One day, she gets a call from her mentor to do "one last shoot," and out of fondness she goes to the location. Of course, Admiral Ackbar don't have nothing on me, and I'm still a little surprised that Angel was able to walk right into what turned out to be A TRAP, because upon arrival she gets beaten up, tied up to a bed, raped, and asked about a briefcase of money.

Turns out, Angel was around the day the girl the bad guys are looking for lost a briefcase full of money, and the bad guys want to know what Angel did with it. When she admits she doesn't know, they toss her in a trunk and shoot through the trunk, hoping to kill her. Lucky for the story, she survives, and now she's on a mission of vengeance: find the briefcase before the bad guys do, and -- in the spirit of my two favorite vigilantes -- kill 'em all.

She teams up with a security guard from her building, known solely as Malloy. There's some interesting tension between the two characters, as Angel doesn't want to rely on him for support, but recognizes that for the most part, she can't go on this journey by herself. I will admit the way the relationship resolved itself was a little bit unfulfilling, but it makes sense in the story for how it happened.

I liked the story -- there's plenty of violence, and also, plenty of fun porn talk. But most importantly, and I breezed through it in, like, four days, which was awesome, compared to the three weeks it took me to read the last 200-page book I read. Not only would I read it again in the future, I'm also looking forward to the sequel, Choke Hold. But seeing as how this year I'm not buying any books (Christopher Moore's Sacre Blue excepting), that one will probably have to wait.

Grade for Money Shot: 3 stars
Sterling Archer is the world's greatest secret agent. And while the FX series that details his escapades (titled after himself, naturally) is animated, one shouldn't assume that means it's fictitious. After all, one knows what it means when one assumes. It means you're a dick.

Mr. Archer was asked to write a how-to book on espionage for HarperCollins. Unfortunately, Mr. Archer thought that they were asking him to write his memoirs:
"A how-to book?! A book can't teach someone how to be equal parts deadly and sexy! That's like asking a cobra to write a book about how to be a cobra!"

"Well, I'm sorry, but a how-to book is what you just signed a contract to write."

I pause, thinking about my options. And about money. And John Huston. And cobras.

"Could it have a chapter about cobras?" [xiii]
SPOILER ALERT: there is no chapter about cobras. And don't think he doesn't ever let that go.

Continue reading for an in depth appraisal of the how to book written by the world's greatest spy. It's both humorous and educational!Collapse )

Grade for How To Archer: 5 stars

[this line won't make sense if you haven't read the rest of the entry. So, spoiler, or whatever.](no seriously, if that fox-eared asshole Babou had made an appearance it would have easily made that sixth star.)
Okay, I am done (for the time being) with non-fiction. I can't believe it took me over two weeks to read this book. I mean, it's only 200 freaking pages! I should have finished it in five days! Two weeks? The hell?

Okay yes, I was kind of opening up my store, and maybe I had a lot of things going on plus sleep, but still. It's kind of disgusting.

This was the last of the books I borrowed from the library that I'm going to read. When I picked up Moneyball and Bad Science, I also had, like, four other titles to read. Then I realized that there's no way I'm going to have time to read four books in three weeks. I always do that -- go to the library to pick up the one book I reserved, and end up with seven others to take home. Who does that?

So anyway. Barbara Ehrenreich also wrote a book that's on my To Read List For Life: Nickel and Dimed, which is supposed to be about her attempting to live on minimum wage. Well, Nickel and Dimed wasn't there, but I remembered Bright-Sided got some good reviews, so I said "what the hell" and added it to my pile.

Flash-forward six weeks later (yes, I had to renew it once), and I'm ... not unimpressed, but more "why did I spend so long on that?" Because while I liked the premise -- the subtitle is "How the relentless promotion of positive thinking has undermined America" -- I don't think the execution was what I expected, and my opinion of the book suffered for it.

And look, I totally own that. It's nothing against Ms. Ehrenreich, but I think I reached burnout on non-fiction about sixty pages in, but I wanted to see where the undermining came from so I kept reading, and it didn't show up (in my opinion) until the last fifty pages. Her interest with the idea of positive thinking begins when she's diagnosed with breast cancer, and she finds frillions of support groups online who proclaim that thinking positively about beating cancer will help fight the illness. Ms. Ehrenreich -- who, similarly to myself and Chuck Klosterman, thinks the same things as me about the same things -- wants to know where the scientific data backing up that statement is. That leads her on journey through American history, wherein she discusses America's background with Calvinism as a force to be reckoned with.

Here's an interesting thought from the early pages that struck me:
By the twentieth century, though, [positive thinking] had gone mainstream, gaining purchase within such powerful belief systems as nationalism and also doing its best to make itself dispensable to capitalism. We don't usually talk about American nationalism, but it is a mar of how deep it runs that we apply the word "nationalism" to Serbs, Russians, and others, while believing ourselves to possess a uniquely superior version called "patriotism." [6]

She proceeds through corporate America, and how people who are constantly optimistic are rewarded versus people who may do the same amount of work but with more snark and skepticism. In addition, there's a bit on the coaching and positive psychology industries that have popped up in recent years and how corporations are relying on them to shape the workforce.

But the chapter that I was waiting for and that I truly enjoyed reading was the last one: "How Positive Thinking Destroyed the Economy." I'm not going to quote everything that I liked -- and I had plenty of dogears in those fifteen pages -- but suffice it to say that the people on Wall Street are idiots that believed in their own bullshit Ponzi scheme and then were shocked when the Ponzi scheme didn't work. (Has there ever been a Ponzi scheme that worked? Has there ever been a scheme that wasn't tinged in shadiness?)

However -- before all y'all get up on your soapboxes and start Occupying places again -- Ms. Ehrenreich ends with an epilogue that, boiled down to its barest essentials, pleads with Americans to follow the only good piece of advice that Ronald Reagan ever uttered: "Trust, but verify." In a way, Ms. Ehrenreich's message is similar to that of Dr. Goldacre from Bad Science: you need to know the information before you go off doing something about it. And also -- and most importantly -- if you want to create change that is positive, you're going to need to put some action behind your thinking about it. Because sitting in a park with signs about being the 99% and yelling at people walking by in suits is all well and good, I suppose (if you're a fucking hipster), nothing's going to happen unless you get up off your ass and actually work to change what you're seeing. Because guys, the status will remain quo until we make it not quo.

Grade for Bright-Sided: 2 stars

Non-fiction: "Moneyball" by Michael Lewis

I watched Moneyball for my annual Oscar!Watch; this year, due to reasons both within and outside of my control, I only managed to watch five of the 20 major nominees. I'm still unsure how Moneyball was one of the lucky ones I was able to get on Redbox -- probably because it was available on Redbox. Anyway, I liked the movie but not enough to want to buy the movie when I can find it for five bucks or less; but I did like it enough to find a copy of the book that it was based on.

See, one of the problems I had with Moneyball the movie [and now all I want to do is call it Moneyballs: The Movie, and if you don't understand why, then I'm sorry, the Schwartz must not be with you] -- aside from the fact that I couldn't get past Brad Pitt not really acting -- was that it didn't really deal with the science behind the idea. The movie played up the 2002 season for the Oakland Athletics as some battle between Brad Pitt's character and the other members of the A's management -- Brad Pitt wants to go with the underdog characters, while the management team (namely, Philip Seymour Hoffman) wants to run the team the same way he always has in the past. It didn't explain what Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill were looking for on their computers with their stats; the audience only knew they were doing something different. In short, to quote the Great Moz (from White Collar): "The game has nine innings, the same number as Dante's circles of Hell." That was the movie: all nine circles.

So I was intrigued enough to see more of the math behind it. I picked up the book, and I was surprised when I really enjoyed it. I mean, for those of you who don't know me in "real life," I am the epitome of the Playoff Fan. I have some good friends who are die-hard fans of both the Red Sox and the New England Patriots. I also have a couple of friends who are die-hard fans of the Yankees. I will watch the Red Sox games when they're on ESPN or NESN or whatever if there's nothing else on TV, but in terms of following the entire season and keeping track of who's been traded and the draft and all of that shit? Fuck it, I'm too busy for that. But when the Patriots or the Sox get into the playoffs, then yes, I'll pay attention.

And I will never start paying attention to the games in the regular playing season, because I get a perverse sense of pleasure from the frustration my ignorance causes in my guy friends.

Anyway. I really liked Moneyball: The Book, because it didn't deal completely with Billy Beane (Brad Pitt's character in Moneyball: The Movie</i>). There would be one chapter about Billy, but then the next chapter would go into the statistics behind sabermetrics, or, even better, an unsung ball player that I've never heard of. The main point behind the A's attempt at team-making was that they went after ball players that had incredible stats in getting on base. The profiles on Scott Hatteburg and Chad Bradford were very interesting. And as someone who considers herself to have a heart of stone where reading books is concerned (unless the book is one of the last four Harry Potter novels), I will admit to getting slightly choked up at the description of Hatteburg being able to win the A's 20th game in a row.

I'm not a sports girl by any means -- I'm fairweather at best. But I really enjoyed this book, and I would recommend it for anyone who likes baseball.

Grade for Moneyball: The Book: 3 stars
After the hell that was the last two books, it was extremely refreshing to read this compendium of how the media and medical communities manipluate scientific findings in order to further their own agendas.

Dr. Ben Goldacre runs a blog (also titled Bad Science), and he turned his blog into the book. He is a medical doctor in England, and while I'm unsure if he practices medicine, he definitely understands medicine -- and the scientific method -- well enough to distill complex theories down so that someone like me can understand them. Some of the concepts he discusses are: the homeopathy movement and the placebo effect; the new career path that is the nutritionist path; and the MMR vaccine potentially (and, it turns out, spuriously) being a cause of autism.

That sounds like a lot of points. But his main point, throughout the book and the different scenarios and studies, is that in order to understand these complex concepts and ideas, all one needs to do is remain informed of the root of the problem.

Continue reading for examples of Goldacre's points, a brief look at Cultivation Theory in communications, and Alaina's Pet Peeve O' the Day actually helping to illustrate Alaina's Point O' the Day.Collapse )

Anyway. Soapbox destroyed. The point, once more, from myself and from Dr. Goldacre: if people took the time to read things more, and to take the time to become more informed on the facts of a story before storming off to the papers or to post the link to your interwebs, the world would actually be a lot less scary.

Let's all try it and see if it works. Huh? Come on! It'll be fun!

Grade for Bad Science: 3.5 stars

Fiction: "The Cove" by Catherine Coulter

Oh ... my god. Oh, my god. So I'm not even sure why I grabbed this for my vacation. I think I had been wanting to re-read some of Catherine Coulter's stuff, but clearly, I had been able to block out the memory of reading this the last time. Because oh my god, you guys, I found a book that's written worse than either Twilight or anything Patricia Cornwell's spit out.

Because look: Twilight has bad messages and bad characters. Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta is a snobby bitch, pure and simple. But in spite of the stuff that makes me rail against them long and hard, at the end of the day I am still able to find good things to say about them: Twilight, as bad as it is, at least is able to stay true to its own canon, and the violence is pretty decent in the Scarpetta novels. But this ... I'm pretty sure that if there were a rating worse than "twilight stars," this would get it. Maybe "die in a fire stars"? I mean, I could see myself burning this at some point.

Why do I want to eradicate this from my existence through the cleansing power of fire? Because it's badly written. And not just a couple of typos here and there like in Twilight; it's just ... awful.

Continue reading for the ludicrous plotline, a lot of capslock, and at most 21 direct quotations illustrating that this book needs to be rewritten or burned.Collapse )

I can't even, you guys. I can't even. All I know is about halfway through the book, I would read a page, roll my eyes, and then proclaim loudly, "I am reading a book with substance next. I can't take this shit anymore."

Alaina Patterson: Reading Shit So You Don't Have To (since 1986). You're welcome.

Grade for The Cove: Twilight stars
Well, add this title to the growing list of Bad Books Alaina's Read So You Don't Have To. And before I figuratively rip this book to shreds, allow me to point out to everyone that, while it's currently not a vacation, I have flown to Annapolis for training for my new job, and I think everyone knows what it is mandatory for me to read when I'm in an airport. Oh yes, that's right. Coming up shortly: the next Patricia Cornwell.

Bring it on.

Continue reading for a brief overview of the plot, and then a lot of blathering and questions about what makes vampires and human servants, and then there's a horrifying concept that I may have found a writer worse than Stephenie Meyer.Collapse )

So there's that. I'm not sure I have anything to add to that, aside from the fact that Ms. Hamilton still plays fairly fast and loose with grammar. But I could almost -- almost -- overlook the grammar if the rest of it was making sense. And I'm not sure I can say that it does.

But, y'all know me -- you know you're going to see me read the next one within a year. Because I'm -- say it with me now -- a masochist.

Grade for Circus of the Damned: 1 star
Okay. So look, I've been busy. Between one thing and another (and also, sleeping), I haven't been able to find the time to write the review for this book. I find that to be ridiculous, because I finished this on the same day that I finished Murder Superior. Why has it taken me a whole two weeks to write the review for this dinky little romance novel?

Maybe it's time for me to acknowledge that I'm attempting to do too much. Between Oscar!Watch!2012, movies Alaina's never seen, arranging travel for myself for new job training (!!!!) and my friend who's flying out to Portland at the same time I'm going to be in Annapolis (yeah, that didn't work), and saying goodbye to good friends I've seen almost every day for nine years, and trying to maintain my reputation as a stellar baker ... I mean, I have two and a half weeks' worth of Conan episodes to catch up on.

So now I find myself multitasking. Because right now, if you were to look into my apartment (perv), you'd find me sitting on my bed, writing this review and watching my #9 movie of all time: Anchorman. And if references to this wonderful, super-duper film happen to show up randomly through this review? Well, you're just gonna have to deal with it.

Continue reading for a multitude of references to Anchorman, plus an overview of the plot, As Told By The Main Characters.Collapse )

And they all lived happily ever after. Thanks for stopping by, and hey -- you stay classy, San Diego.

Grade for Madame's Deception: 2 stars

Grading System

[Six stars (equiv. to A+++): If I could %!@& this book, I would.]

Five stars (equiv. to A): If I could eat this book, I would.

Four stars (equiv. to A-): Have I talked to you about this book yet? No? Let me tell you how much I enjoyed it/it moved me/I'm lending it to you but YOU HAVE TO READ IT.

Three stars (equiv. to B): It was good; glad I own a copy, because I'll read it again. Do you want to borrow it? Keep it as long as you want!

Two stars (equiv. to C): Reading this once was good enough; it gave me some amusement. Now, back to the library/used bookstore with you!

One star (equiv. to D-): Wow. Note to self: never read this again.

No stars: I did not finish this book.

Twilight stars (equiv. to EPIC FAIL): I dented the wall when I threw it across the room, it was that bad.

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