Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mary Sue Got Married

Okay, after reading several essays on the subject, I might be taking slight liberties with the term Mary Sue. But my personal understanding has always been that this character is someone who is obviously the author's idealized self and stand-in in a story, and whose role is to allow the author to live out their fantasy of interacting with the awesome characters they're writing about. The term is usually used in fan fic, where you can imagine the temptation to write a story in which "you" basically get to have your way with your favorite hunky TV heroes.

Anyway, The Housewife and the Bachelor, by Shannon Hale, is a book about a very pregnant Mormon housewife with a very sharp wit who, on a brief trip to LA to sell a screenplay she wrote, happens to run into, charm, and have dinner with a vaguely Hugh Grantish Hollywood heartthrob whose movies she's drooled over for ages. In the first 30 pages, she's proven to the jaded actor that pregnant Mormon housewives who've never had a drink can be every bit as scintillating with their anecdotes about the neighbor's wiener dog as can the most jaded movie starlet.

Let me tell you what it really reminds me of--once I was browsing through the YA section and I found a book targeted at seventh grade girls, containing four stories that were basically the fantasies these girls have anyway, of meeting and being wooed by movie stars. The one I remember is a girl who goes with a friend to her rich cousin's party at her Malibu beach house. Our Heroine wanders away from the wild party where she doesn't belong and goes for a lonely nighttime walk on the beach, where she sees another figure walking toward her. Lo and behold, it's Leonardo DiCaprio, also going for a solitary stroll, and they walk together and really bond and he kisses her before they part ways.

That is what this book reminds me of.

But as I got further into it, I started to realize that the author buys way too much into the "wholesome" thing, and into the idea that all those sad Hollywood stars need is a healthy dose of good middle-American fun and they'll be happier. I started to suspect that the upshot of this story is that men and women can't be friends, because it will get in the way of their marriages. I don't trust the author enough to read the rest of the book and see if I'm wrong.

Also, a funny book should be shorter than this.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Vacation Work

I spent the weekend with friends, and poor Emily made the mistake of putting me in a room that had bookshelves. I can only thank God that she is an academic, and the vast majority of her books are about advanced statistical analysis and health policy in the media age.

As it is, I have a stack here. I took Machiavelli's The Prince, which I've been meaning to read forever. (Between him and Sun Tzu, I'm planning to take over the world.) I've got something called The Probable Future by Alice Hoffman, whose work I've found hit or miss, but I liked the premise of this book. Plus The Wisdom of Crowds, because I love pop social science, and The Bomber, which is a Swedish political mystery/thriller that Emily herself actually recommended. It sounds like the plot is not bad, but the main character has a lot of practical working-mother life issues that are well drawn and interesting. Also, being all Girl With the Dragon Tattooed up, I'm all about the Swedish thrillers.

Though I have to say, I'm having a harder time getting into The Girl Who Played With Fire. I think I needed it to jump right into something, and the mystery of what Salandar is thinking when she runs off on her mystery vacation isn't quite enough. Let's get to the meat, kids, I've been listening for almost half an hour now, chop chop!

I'm supposed to hit the BPL on Wednesday with my buddy Sheila, so I need to get some serious reading in. I might have some time during Adam's nap tomorrow--I'm going to throw myself hard at Conspiracy of Kings, which I'm enjoying, and see how that goes.

Speaking of which, Em, I'm going to mail you The Thief. Watch the post!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Not Surrendering

Mike asked me the other day why I was working so hard to finish The Dead-Tossed Waves. The answer goes in three directions. None of them is particularly compelling.

First, I appear to have gone to school with the author. But no, wait, I think she actually just went to the same college I did. I'm pretty sure she was far enough behind me that we would never have overlapped. Not compelling.

Second, it's in a series and I read the first one. By that logic, I should read New Moon, and I never never never never never never never never will. So that one's out.

Third--and really, the only one that means much of anything--is it SEEMS like I should like it. If you gave me a synopsis, I'd jump all over it. If you gave me a one sentence teaser, I'd jump all over it. But God, I just don't like the book.

Now, I had dreamed up a couple of clever ways to blog about not liking this book. I think my favorite was going to be a matching quiz, in which four passages lifted from the book all describe the main character's hear throbbing in her ears/nearly pounding out of her chest/pumping the blood through her veins, and/or her breath stopping suddenly/coming raggedly/exploding outward, and/or her head swimming/her stomach heaving/her skin prickling in the damp summer air. And then these would need to be matched to the scene that they occurred in: a) a good looking boy accidentally brushes her hand, b) she tells her mother a fib, or c) she is chased up a deserted beach by a pack of flesh-eating zombies.

Also, a huge percentage of sentences in this book were actually sentence fragments. Incomplete. As though she were trying to find the right words to make her point, but couldn't. So she'd rephrase and repeat. Reiterate. Until you got it.

But I didn't write those clever posts, because it felt too mean.

And now I feel like a jerk. I'm going to go crawl into a hole now. Hide. Not come out till morning.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Wise words from Editorial Anonymous.

Update in the pipeline on zombie book. I'm trying to write a review without being a jerk, which should tell you something.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Land of the Lost

There is a page in my Goodreads account that makes me very sad.

In structuring my collection and the lists I keep, I have things mostly divided into to-read, currently-reading, and read, the default shelves. But I've added some others--"like to think I will read," which are books that sound interesting or improving, but that--who are we kidding?--I'll probably never get around to. It's sort of a catch-all for books that I've heard of and don't want to forget exist, but doubt I'll ever get to. Interesting-sounding books about political topics that are no longer immediately relevant (What's the Matter With Kansas?), classics that intimidate me with their heft (Vanity Fair), books that got high recommendations from people I usually agree with but seem to be the opposite of my style (Shogun), books I want to like but just can't seem to (The Book of Night Women).

For the most part, these books don't make me sad. They represent hope, and the fact that anything is possible--even me reading The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson.

The list that makes me sad is the one that represents surrender. The shelf of books I gave up on. It's a shelf without hope. "Did not finish."

This shelf has a sub-category of "never tried," which pretty much means I really thought I wanted to read it, picked it up and got through three pages before I put it down. Or, I really, really wanted to read it, because I love the author, or the premise, or I have huge, high hopes for some other reason, but even before touching the book, I know I just can't.

Flash Forward, which has a great premise, also has the absolute worst sample on Audible. It's got to be pages of how this computer programmer's girlfriend dresses him, and what about his outfit is comfortable vs. casual vs. fashionable, and how he really doesn't care. Just pages. Just...ugh. There's The Zookeeper's Wife, which by all accounts is excellent, but was the book in which I realized that number of Polish street names in the first five pages of a book pretty much makes or breaks the thing for me.

But "never tried" doesn't hurt nearly as much as the rest of "did not finish." I was so excited about 3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows, which was supposed to be a companion book to the Traveling Pants, but which just fell flat. How much hope did I have for Brides of Eden, about a religious revival in Oregon at the beginning of the twentieth century? How great an idea did The Explosionist sound like? I mean, I was tingling at the thought of reading The Explosionist. Who wouldn't be--what a great title! Alternate history, domestic terrorism in Great Britain in the '30s, a girls' boarding school for crying out loud! And then somehow that was also a ghost story? With very obvious romantic complications right on page 5. God, what a let-down.

And now--now I'm about to stop reading The Illuminator. I just have too many other commitments--Sharon Shinn and I are involved in a kind of exclusive thing, but I'm trying to juggle the new Megan Whalen Turner on the side (oh, God, Eugenides is right there in the pile and I'm sitting here typing to you people?), plus the other, what is it, 25? Books I have checked out right now. I'm not kidding, I think it's 27. Minus books for the baby, that's like 23. God in heaven, I need to go read.

I don't think The Illuminator is going on "did not finish" yet. I think it's going back in to-read. Because I'm all about the power of hope.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Author Crush

I'm in love with Sharon Shinn. Love love love. We have the same name--squee! Seriously, I can't stop reading Archangel. I wish the cover weren't so damned ugly.

I'm not going to go any further into it, because for right now I just need to bask in it.

I'm sorry this update isn't more significant, but I need to go read.