Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Adventures with Extremists
by Jon Ronson

I have become a real fan of Jon Ronson. I really like the way he writes and I really like how he structures his books and makes them accessible to the average reader. He puts himself in some crazy situations and I admire that. He doesn't just interview some interesting figures, he spends days or months with them and truly getting to know their side of the story. It's excellent.

This book is fascinating. I am just amazed by the people Ronson interviews and spends time with. They see the world in ways I never thought people considered.

After reading "Them" and "The Psychopath Test" I became intrigued with David Icke. He is a brand of crazy I just cannot understand. I won't go on about it. But I will say I looked up some interviews of his on youtube and discovered I just cannot bear to listen to him speak. But what do I know? Maybe the world is ruled by bloodsucking alien lizards.

"Them" brings you into the paranoid world of conspiracy theorists. What's truly amazing to me is just how convinced these people are of what they believe and perceive to be true. The men Ronson interviews are certainly passionate people. The book takes you on an interesting journey of their minds. It may not change your views on who is really running the world, but "Them" is worth exploring.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Joy Luck Club

by Amy Tan

I really enjoy these kinds of anecdotal stories woven into a novel connecting people. It's like an investigative way of getting to know the characters and how they relate to one another.

What else is there to say about this novel that hasn't already been said? It does make me think about the generations of women in my family and how much I really know, or don't know about them; the lives my mother and grandmothers lived before they got married and had children; whether I want to or would rather not know.

Tan has excellent pacing in this novel. She keeps the readers' attention with one character long enough to paint the necessary picture and plant a seed of understanding and relation. Each story maintains good momentum and provides a kind of moral or reveals a deeper meaning to the character's life and relationships. Every character's life is unique and vastly different from each other and distinctly interesting. I do wish there had been a little more talk of the actual Joy Luck Club and how these women and their families came together.

I don't know that the novel needed the mechanism of the journey to China and the discovery of the long-lost sisters. I could have done without that one piece.

But this is a great book. It may be a "girl book" because it is almost exclusively about women, but it is by no means "chick lit." It's definitely a book worth exploring.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Psychopath Test

A Journey Through Madness
by Jon Ronson

This book is completely fascinating.

I was especially interested about madness in the media. It's completely true. I love watching trashy reality TV shows because they're just mad enough. I can watch and judge and feel content in the fact that I'm not as crazy as those people. We are a society of schadenfreude.

The people Ronson interviewed are remarkably interesting, from Scientologists to psychologists to psychopaths. I mean the man interviewed Toto Constant! Just about everything I read in this book was a shock. And Ronson's writing style makes the complex accessible to the average reader. I am now a fan. I plan to read "Them" next. I appreciate Ronson's open mindedness about the subjects and the people her pursues.

"The Psychopath Test" is like nothing else I've picked up. The only word I have to describe it is "fascinating." The people who devote their lives to psychology or fighting psychology, they are all so convinced of how right they are. And truly, I believe that everyone is mad. I do think that society on the whole is over diagnosed. We all have madness in us and it's better to accept that and live in a way that makes it work for us, without harming ourselves or others, rather than trying to curse ourselves of our mad tendencies. But, as for psychopaths, I don't know that there is much hope of curing their madness. All I know is that putting them in facilities together and giving them LSD is not the way to do it. Maybe they really are a completely different breed. Maybe there is nothing that can be done for them.

This book will make you question and consider psychology, medication, the people around you. I think reading this book will help anyone feel sane.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Help

by Kathryn Stockett

I really enjoyed these stories. The book is gossipy and entertaining and just fun to read. It's not easy subject matter, it's not comfortable subject matter, but it's addressed in a way that makes it comfortable (almost). The book is honest without being too heavy or serious, but is wonderfully poignant when it needs to be.

Only two things stuck out that I didn't like: Skeeter comparing herself to Boo Radley, because she is nothing like Radley, at all. It's fine to reference a book you think is relevant to yours, especially since "To Kill a Mockingbird" was published around the time this book is set, but don't make a half-hearted reference for the sake of making a literary reference you think makes you look smart. I also disliked the riding-into-the-sunset ending of Aibileen. In my opinion, endings are the hardest to write, and the riding-into-the-sunset variety are the easiest to fall into. I wanted a more concrete ending, but I'll take it.

Also, I have mixed feelings about the book within the book. It's a little too metafiction. The book "The Help" and "Help" are essentially the same thing. I understand Stockett needed something to make her book work, which was to make her characters tell their stories for the purpose of writing their own book, but there's something about that I don't like, which is why I think the movie will be so successful. That being said, the stories and characters were so strong and vivid that I could put my misgivings aside.

All of Stockett's characters are clear and strong in their own right, even the not-so-bright pushover Elizabeth. Hilly is wonderfully wicked in her racist convictions. Minny is a great sort of comic relief at times, but her stories were no weaker than Aibileen's; I loved Minny's relationship with Miss Celia and looked forward to her chapters.

At times the book felt drawn out; all the repetitious anticipation for the book to be finished and then to be published. But every incident, every story was fun to read. The atmosphere of the book is wholly engrossing and an interested place to set yourself in.

I'm probably one of the last people to read this book, but if you haven't read "The Help" yet, it is well worth it. It's a cliche and it's corny, but this book will make you laugh, make you cry, break your heart, and lift you up.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

House Rules

by Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult was the first author I gravitated to when I was looking for "real" authors to read. I was out of the Young Adult section and a long time out of Junior Fiction and was looking for "real" fiction to read. To be honest, I don't remember which of her novels I read first, but I read a lot: "My Sister's Keeper," "Keeping Faith," "The Pact," "Vanishing Acts," and "Plain Truth." Then I decided I needed to take a break; that and I read the first line of "Nineteen Minutes" and decided I just couldn't read it. So "House Rules" is the first Picoult book I've picked up in a few years. A woman came into the library and recommended it to me.

I really enjoyed this book. It's suspenseful. I think Picoult has great timing and pacing. However, I also think her novels are very formulaic, and so I really need to space out my reading of them. That being said, her novels still feel unique and authentic. She tackles some hard issues in a very intimate and very well-researched way. I like that she tells the story through multiple characters' perspectives.

I think autism and Aspberger's especially is fascinating, and this book is somewhat eye-opening. Jacob is a very complex boy. I loved his humor and his frankness. And God bless his mother, Emma.

This book made me realize I've probably watched one too many episodes of CSI (ironic) because I figured out early on what happened to Jess. But the ending still warmed and broke my heart. Jacob is just so wonderful, there are no words.

On a side note, I do not like this cover. I know that's a trivial thing, but I don't like it. It has nothing to do with the book or its themes. All it shows is a boy, too young to be Jacob or Theo, playing by himself. It's no good. No, I can't think of what would be more fitting off the top of my head, but I'm sure they could have found something better.

I think Jodi Picoult is an extremely accessible author, and I recommend her books to any young adults looking to read "real" fiction.