Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October 2012 Books

Lots of books read this month, mainly several non-fiction books which I read quickly.

NON-FICTION
  • Cool, Calm and Contentious by Merrill Markoe
    • Collection of humorous essays about her parents, her dogs, her relationships. 
    • One essay covers her relationship with David Letterman without ever mentioning him by name.
    • I enjoyed the book but was not a big lover of the dog-related essays. I'm not a big lover of dogs. I'm not even a liker of dogs.
    • B
  • Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher
    • Another memoir following on the heals of Wishful Drinking which I read earlier this year. Ms. Fisher utilizes electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) as part of her treatment for depression. One of the side effects is memory loss. She mentions the memory loss throughout but the ECT chapter is a relatively small part of the book. She covers many other things: the loss of her father, her friendship with Elizabeth Taylor, life with her mother and various stepfathers, her marriages, her weight, her daughter, etc...
    • B
  • Is It Just Me? Or Is It Nuts Out There? by Whoopi Goldberg
    • Ms. Goldberg writes a series of essays on how civility has been lost, basically covering a whole raft of pet peeves and giving advice on how to behave in various circumstances.
    • This is not a comedic book so don't read it looking for laughs. I think of it as more of a behavioral guide. Sadly rude behavior is ever more commonplace.
      • Pops and I were at the grocery store yesterday and I needed to grab some onions before we moved on to other parts of the store. But a big guy had his cart in the way of both yellow and white onions and he was blocking the leeks, shallots and garlic with his body. And he was just standing there talking VERY LOUDLY on his cell phone. I said to Pops, "I'm going in," and I squeezed myself between the guy and his cart to reach for the onions I wanted. He just grabbed his cart, continued gabbing on the phone and moved himself in front of the bananas instead. Luckily I didn't need bananas. But nor did I need to hear his side of the cell phone conversation.
      • Last week we were driving in Cotati and the person in front of me was driving erratically, unable to choose a lane so she drove down the middle for a while and then put on her turn signal to change lanes. I'm not sure you can say you've truly changed lanes when you were halfway in it to begin with. As I zoomed by we saw she had her cell phone held to her ear. Which is illegal.
      • Cell phones account for the majority of the rudeness in our world today, don't ya think?
    • B
  • Fifty Animals That Changed the Course of History by Eric Chaline
    • Each animal got 2 to 6 pages, depending on their importance such as earthworms for two and six for cows.
    • Lots of typos ("purp le" and I was trying to remember my high school French --- le purp? les purps? --- when all it really meant was purple) and then I find I am mentally proofreading the book instead of enjoying it.
    • I was going to try to read the other related books (Fifty Minerals, Fifty Machines) but I decided I didn't need to do that. And they're not even in my library's system so that's 2 books on my list of things to read that I can delete! Sometimes a small victory is better than reading a book.
    • C
  • Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen's Maid's Memoir That Inspired 'Upstairs, Downstairs' and 'Downton Abbey' by Margaret Powell
    • Originally published in 1968 this is a quick read about a girl's start in service as a kitchen maid and her various jobs until she becomes a cook. Then she marries and leaves service.
    • If you've seen either of the two series mentioned in the title, you've seen some of her words brought to life by the writers inspired by the memoir.
    • B
  • Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV by Warren Littlefield and T.R. Pearson
    • An oral history of NBC's Thursday night television history from the 1980s to the early 2000s. Interviews with actors, writers, producers and others are interspersed with comments by Mr. Littlefield who was the president of entertainment for NBC during those years.
    • The shows covered include Cheers, Seinfeld, Friends, ER, The Cosby Show, Will & Grace, Mad About You and Frasier.
    • Fun to read some background information on how some of these shows developed and became hits despite some bumpy roads.
    • B+
  • At Home on the Range by Margaret Yardley Potter
    • This is a reprint of a cookbook originally published in 1947. The author's great-granddaughter is Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame (I haven't read that book though) and she re-discovered the cookbook when unpacking some boxes of family books.
    • The recipes are written in paragraph form rather than a list of ingredients and then step-by-step instructions.
    • I only wrote down one of the recipes to try in the future called Quick Tea Cookies.
    • Elizabeth Gilbert's introduction, with the biographical sketch of her great-grandmother, was interesting and it was great fun perusing the old style recipes.
    • B
  • Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark by Brian Kellow
    • Movie critic Pauline Kael was born in Petaluma in 1919. As a current resident of this town I was especially interested in reading about that part of Ms. Kael's life but alas, her family moved to San Francisco by about page 8 and Petaluma was mentioned only once or twice more. Oh well.
    • But it was also interesting reading about the movies that Ms. Kael reviewed for The New Yorker magazine. I was not a reader of The New Yorker unless it was in a doctor's waiting room so I haven't read many of her reviews first hand nor have I read any of her books.
    • I adore movies and when I see one I like to learn about its background if I can but my research rarely delves into old movie reviews. All this is to say that I probably won't hunt down her books of compiled reviews but it was interesting to read about her life and her opinions about films. 
    • The book is very detailed so it was kind of a slog in some spots.
    • B-
  • Jeannie Out of the Bottle by Wendy Leigh and Barbara Eden
    • A memoir by Ms. Eden about her career and personal life. She is especially poignant on the topic of her son, who died of a drug overdose. 
    • But the fun part of her story is all about Jeannie and we get several fun anecdotes about the filming.
    • B
  • The Lexicographer's Dilemma: The Evolution of 'Proper' English from Shakespeare to South Park by Jack W. Lynch II
    • Unlike some other books about grammar, this one is not a rule book. Rather it is a history of various efforts to try to regulate or officially organize the rules of English. It also covers the various dictionaries and spends a bit of time on the war on split infinitives and on prepositions at the end of sentences ("to boldly go" is a famous split infinitive).
    • I really like books about grammar so this was fun in that it includes history, another favorite topic of mine.
    • B+
  • Lucy at the Movies: The Complete Films of Lucille Ball by Cindy de la Hoz
    • Just what it sounds like, a coffee-table-sized book with lots of photos from the various films which are especially fun for the earliest films when Lucy was just an extra.
    • I didn't read the synopses of each movie included in each film's chapter but the background detail was fun and put each movie into context with where she was in her personal life.
    • It's amazing she had such a huge career in films before she ever became Lucy Ricardo. When I was little watching "I Love Lucy", "The Lucy Show" and "Here's Lucy" I could never have told you she had been in so many movies.
    • A-
  • Untied: A Memoir of Family, Fame and Floundering by Meredith Baxter
    • I thought I would like this book but I didn't. Ms. Baxter presents her life in such a way that almost all of it is a relentless downer until the last few pages. 
    • It was a quick book to read though.
    • C-
  • Tough Without a Gun: The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife of Humphrey Bogart by Stefan Kanfer
    • I'm not sure how originally researched this book is as it has no footnotes and a huge bibliography. It might be more of a book based on other books and the close watching of Bogart's films.
    • Plus he refers to Bogart as "Humphrey" and Lauren Bacall as "Lauren" throughout which seems weird since he is almost always called Bogie and she is almost always  Betty (her real name) in other books. So sentences like "Humphrey and Lauren had a dinner party..." are just weird to read.
    • I have a biography of Spencer Tracy from the library right now so I should check and see how that book refers to the Bogarts!
    • C+
FICTION
  • Timeless by Gail Carriger
    • The fifth and final book of the Parasol Protectorate series (see the last two months of books read for more details). There is a new series coming next year which will pick up with the daughter of this book's main character.
    • I really liked this series but having read all five books in a couple of months was a little overwhelming. 
  • Angelfall by Susan Ee
    • Book 1 of the Penryn and the End of Days series. Yep, another dystopian post-apocalyptic young adult series. 
    • It has angels as the bad guys and takes place about 6 weeks after the apocalypse. I liked the story but I'm not sure I liked it well enough to pick up the next books in the series which won't be out for a year or two at the earliest.
    • B
  • Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster
    • A novel mentioned in a book I read last month (Dear Pen Pal) as a classic but I had not read it or even heard of it. This is the only book by this author in my library's system so I will not be able to read the sequel to it.
    • It's a cute story about an orphan and her secret benefactor who pays her tuition for school as long as she writes a monthly letter to keep him updated to her progress.
    • It was obvious who her benefactor was early on but it was still a charming story.
    • B+
  • These is My Words by Nancy Turner
    • The novel was inspired by the author's family memoirs.The main character, Sarah Prine, tells her story in journal form. It starts in the 1870s when Sarah is 17 and concludes about 20 years later.
    • The characters travel from Arizona to Texas (and back) and suffer many hardships (characters drop like flies from disease and skirmishes with indians). 
      • It reminded me of a great story my son wrote in 4th grade about a family's covered wagon journey. In every other sentence another tragedy happens to the family as they make their way west. We read it and tears stream from our eyes because it's hilarious! The wagon wheel breaks and then Pa breaks his leg. Then he breaks his arm. And then they all get dysentery. And so on.
    • But this book was not funny and is based on real events. There are two sequels and I started reading the second book but I decided that, fascinating as its history of the Southwest is, it's just too downbeat to keep delving into for now.
    • B+
  • Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
    • Hooray! A standalone book by an author who generally writes young adult series.
    • A plane full of teen beauty pageant contestants crash land on a deserted island. It then combines elements of Lord of the Flies, "Lost", 1984 and an intense reality show and consumerist culture to frame the story.
    • Fun read. A couple of parts are certainly implausible but others are right on the nose.
    • B+
  • Crossed by Ally Condie
    • Book 2 in the Matched series (Reached, the final book, comes out next month). The book was good and I am looking forward to the final installment, despite its focus on the "which guy will she pick" plot.
    •  Cassia spends the book trying to find and join the resistance movement while searching for Ky. Ky gets his own viewpoint chapters in this book so half is from Cassia's POV and the rest from Ky.
    • B+
  • The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde
    • The first book in The Chronicles of Kazam series for young adults. Fforde wrote the Thursday Next series which I really love.
    • This book takes place in an alternate world where Great Britain is known as the Ununited Kingdom. And there are dragons. And magic so it's totally fun and cute.
    • The 2nd book has already been released in the UK and Canada but won't be released in the U.S. for another year or 2. Very annoying.
    • A

1 comment:

  1. Kelly...if you haven't read David Niven's books, you should look for them at the library, probably the only place you might find them. He's quite witty (no surprise there) and has loads of old Hollywood stories. The titles are from an e.e. cummings poem (The Moon's a Balloon) and a Sam Goldwyn quote (Bring on the Empty Horses). I think the former is more about his own life and the latter is about Hollywood.

    Interesting that you like Lon Chaney...I've always liked his son, who only seems to show up in horror films.

    J.

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