Monday, December 21, 2009

It's Been a Long Semester

I haven't written all semester, therefore this will be quite a long post. To the three of you who actually read this blog, I'm sorry. To myself, I'm even sorrier. I haven't read much this semester that wasn't school related, and I promised myself I wouldn't do that during law school. I have read a few things, though, and those books are listed below. Also, I posted a couple of pictures at the bottom of what I've been doing since I finished finals. Finally, I posted another poll of what I should read next - choose wisely.

I started off the semester reading something I should have read a year earlier, although I'm not sure I would have understood everything fully. This is a good book, but there were no surprises here. Only jealousy that this guy had the money and abilities to get into Harvard. I try to tell myself that it's better I didn't go to a fancy school with the incredible pressures that would go along with it, but who am I kidding? Of course I wish I was at Harvard or some other Ivy League school. I never even applied - why not? What's the worst that would have happened? If they said no, I'd be where I am now. It's not a bad place to be - in fact, I've done fairly well for myself. The point is that the entire time I read this book I was angry at the author for his success and his "hardships." It's an interesting take on law school from a now famous author, and therefore it was worth reading once - but never again.

The Serpent and The Rainbow was a very interesting and true story. It's a story of mystery and Vodoun (a.k.a. VooDoo) and secret societies in Haiti. The mysteries are partially solved by investigation, befriending of the right people, money and, most importantly, science. The book uses as a premise the stories of two individuals long dead. They died after disputes and were buried. 20 years later, each was seen walking around their old neighborhood. No one could explain how or why they were there, least of all the individuals in question. The conclusion? They are zombies - the walking dead. People who do not think for themselves or take note of the world around them. How is this possible?

The science chapters were hard for me to get through, because I don't like science, nor do I really understand it. But the descriptions of the Vodoun ceremonies and the Haitian people met along the way are vivid and wonderful. I suggest reading this, but don't use it as your nightly reading right before bed - you will either have strange dreams or fall asleep after one scientific page.

I don't usually read books of essays unless they are written by Augusten Burroughs, but the title of this book intrigued me as did the cover (as you know I am an unabashed judger of books by their covers - not just books, but movies by the poster, menu items by the picture, etc.). The Jewish author is clever, if not always funny, and her stories of dating, holidays with her family, and her desire for a more exotic existence and name are entertaining and light. It's a good book to have in your purse in case you have to wait in line at DMV, or if you are going to the doctor and don't want to read a 6 month old issue of Good Housekeeping. Other than that, don't rush to buy it.

FAVORITE BOOK OF THE SEMESTER ALERT: This book was fun, silly and oddly comforting. Elizabeth Bennett is, of course, a fantastic Zombie killer (I know, it's like I have a zombie obsession - I also saw and loved "Zombieland," but that's a different blog). This is one of the many things Mr. Darcy loves about her. The story remains almost entirely intact. Mr. Collins is as oblivious as ever, and the showdown with Lady Catherine is as superb as ever. It's just that here and there on the way to Meryton they encounter a group of zombies very desirous of feasting on some brains. Therefore, nothing is to be done other than to kill the zombies by chopping off their heads.

I had the pleasure of attending the West Hollywood Book Fair this October and there I met the author of this book - Seth Grahame-Smith. He was very nice and funny, and I completely choked when I asked him to sign my copy of the book. He was nice about it, but did not laugh at my lame joke (who can blame him?). I really need to learn how to talk to celebrities.

Many have criticized this book for being an affront to Jane Austen and to her work. It is argued that adding zombies to her masterpiece trivializes her work. I beg to differ. This was written with the utmost respect to Jane. Also, Jane was a fan of Gothic novels and works, and therefore would not be opposed to the idea of zombies. Finally, Jane was Hollywood before there was a Hollywood - she wrote fairy tales and happy endings and love stories better than anyone up to that point (or since, in my opinion). Hollywood took its cues from her. This book is the Jane Austen version of a summer blockbuster. It is meant to be fun and exciting and adventurous - not to be taken seriously as a great literary achievement. Also, it's being made into a movie (shocking!) starring Natalie Portman as the zombie assassin Elizabeth. I think it's a good choice.

I was really looking forward to this book. Audrey Niffenegger's novel, The Time Traveler's Wife is certainly in my top 10 books of all time. I cry at a lot of books, and even more movies. But that first novel of hers was one of the most emotional books I've ever read. Therefore I had high expectations for her second novel, Her Fearful Symmetry. So of course I was disappointed. It was still a good and highly emotional book. It was a love story, but an obsessive one. There were a lot of strange things that were hard to buy - it was more difficult to suspend my disbelief in this novel of ghosts and the supernatural than it was to do so with time travel. It just wasn't written on the same level.

Or, maybe, it was because I didn't like the characters. The main "hero" was creepy and strange. The heroine was selfish and cold and manipulative. All of the side characters were mildly likeable and some were quirky, but most were just irritating with their quirks. The twin sisters who wear matching outfits and don't do anything without the other were nauseating. In the end, I'm glad I read it. I thought about the novel for weeks after reading it, which is usually a good sign. But it's not so good when the thoughts were all anger at how the story turned out. I don't always need my stories to have a happy ending, but there should be something to hold on to.

I am still reading this book, and I probably will be for awhile. It is about one of my favorite subjects in the world - the British Monarchy throughout history. The focus of this nonfiction book is the daughters of King George III (you know, the one who was King when the US declared independence, and who later went mad). Also, it is during this time that Jane Austen is alive and writing, and the Duchess of Devonshire is playing politics and astonishing society (see the movie "The Duchess" with Keira Knightly, or better yet, read the book Georgiana which is a nonfiction account of that incredible woman's life). It would be very difficult for me to not like this book, but the author tries really hard.

She's a terrible writer. I have to constantly re-read sentences because they are convoluted and senseless. The entire book feels disorganized. King George III had a lot of kids (13 to be exact), and six of them were daughters. But it shouldn't be difficult to keep the daughters straight. I don't even remember all of their names. I think the problem is that she tried to be too broad. The subject of the book is supposed to be the daughters, yet often the story goes outside of that scope, with in-depth discussions of their father's "illness" and treatment. The doings and relationships of all their brothers are also outlined. All in all, it's just really confusing. It's hard work reading this book, and that's not what reading should be - even when reading nonfiction. I wish the writing was better, and I wish there were more pictures. One of the best things about these history books is all the pictures.

I will finish the book, because I love the subject matter. But I will certainly think twice about reading any other scholarly historical work by Flora Fraser.

Next, I'll be reading Angela's Ashes, but I've put up another poll on the side here - please vote. The theme here is "books that start with the word 'the.'"

Here's what I've been up to this winter break:

This 2000 piece puzzle hasn't been too difficult yet, but all of that empty space there is all blue sky, so that will be a challenge.

This is the stack of magazines I've been saving to enjoy, and I've been through another stack about as high as well. I love winter break!


  1. Hey Brooke!!
    It's so nice to see you have finally made a new blog entry. I've missed your bookish insight! I totally agree with you about Her Fearful Symmetry. Overall, it made me really angry. The Time Traveler's Wife was so could this book be so...disappointing!? It was sad. I've wanted to read That cake book for awhile. I'll have to buy it or something eventually. The Serpent and the Rainbow sounds interesting too, but I feel like it would give me really scary dreams. Anyway...I look forward to more entries from you, oh wise Book master!

  2. Thanks Bryan! I'll send you the cake book when we send you a care package next month. I read Angela's Ashes and I'm reading 'Tis right now, so that will be the next entry. I keep checking your blog too, so keep writing! Miss you!