I Drink For a Reason

David Cross is one hilarious guy. But the only comic I’ve ever found palatable as a writer is Steve Martin, and Shopgirl was barely passable. Even John Hodgman was a bit tedious although I did enjoy some of his bits.
Fresh off watching the entirety of Arrested Development, I gave in to the temptation of overloading on David Cross and got his book. But put it down, go rent Arrested Development, buy Cross’ standup albums, and leave this book where it belongs– at the store.

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Rubies in the Orchard

I really wanted to give this book a chance. Especially since the POM blogger outreached to me and sent me a copy for review with a nice letter asking for feedback. Alas, I made it 92 pages and am pulling the rip cord to escape.
There’s this tone of self-righteousness that gets me. That, and the fact that it’s co-written by someone else who actually gets billing on the back flap (Francis Wilkinson). It’s basically a bio-fluff piece by a wildly successful marketeer who wants to share her decades of wisdom with us. Unique selling propositions and such. Resnick does have an impressive list of marketing successes: running her own marketing agency at age 19, taking over Teleflora and creating the USP that the vase is a beautiful gift the flower recipient is left with, creating a unique bottle for POM that shows the shape of the fruit, buying Jackie O’s fake pearls and then making copies of them for the Franklin Mint ($26M in profit).
But when someone who owns fields of pomegranates starts funding “independent” research on the health benefits of pomegranates, my antennae shoot straight up. It might be a detoxing wonderfruit, but I’m going to believe you a little bit less due to your profit motive.
And did she really need to name drop Rita Wilson on us? Plus, from that introductory scene, her famous gal pals ask her what her dream is, and she says she wants to write a book, but then she has to go and co-write it?

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Atmospheric Disturbances

Psychiatrist thinks his wife’s doppelganger has replaced her in his life. I lasted 70 pages, really wanting to like the book, but it had eerie echos of the madness of The Raw Shark Texts, which I enjoyed immensely. For some reason, I could never quite get in sync with the madness of the main character; I came close, nearly falling into the rest of the book, but realized I was pushing myself falsely past that barrier I usually erect.

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No More Mondays

At times it’s a small thing like book design that puts me over the edge about a book. This is one of those books; each page is a cornucopia of bullets and sidebars and inset text. I can’t take it, I’m going to cut and run. And why do I keep reaching for these books about starting my own business? Just start the business already!
This book might help some, but for me it made me dizzy with the amount of pages and designed elements and methinks the actual content of the book could be boiled down to a few concise blog entries instead of stretched out over 250 pages.

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Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?

Two words, “who cares?” Put it down and walk away. I was looking forward to reading it, but sadly, this book is boring and self-centered with no redeeming qualities. I pushed myself to the 65 page mark, where our “intrepid” writer is bedding fellow travelers and loaning them money on day one of his adventurous jaunt into Brazil. The plodding, detail-infested, pedestrian tale is too reminiscent of my own travel writing to take any pleasure in.

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In His Sights

I’ve been having some issues with my latest crop of books I’ve attempted to read. This is only one of the bad bunch. Supposedly written by a professional writer (er, journalist), the quality of the writing is 6th grade level, thus qualifies as worse than a beach book and nearly unreadable. I stranded this one, even though I’m intrigued by the real life premise, which is that her ex-boyfriend stalks her for years by doing things like breaking into her apartment and rearranging furniture before disappearing for months. That level of heightened fear is interesting, too bad Brennan kills my interest in the story with boring language like “When I withdraw my hand, I recognize this as a moment that seals a connection.” Blargh.

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Stuffed & Starved

Life is too short to suffer through reading a bloated 300+ page book that was inflated from a doctoral dissertation. I don’t have anything against non-fiction, in fact I’m devouring a well written and approachable 1491 (America before Columbus); I just feel strongly that these types of issues could get more visibility if the writing wasn’t so starched and dry.
Basic idea of the book is great– exploring why a billion people are starving during an era when a billion people are obese, globalization’s effect on small farmers, farmer suicides, etc.
Unfortunately, his writing style renders it unreadable.

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The Education of Henry Adams

I was excited to re-read this autobiography when I saw it pop up on the NYT Reading Room discussion board. My excitement for the book began to wane as I forced myself through hundreds of pages of self-absorbed whiny drivel. While I did shoot off one comment into the blog-discussion-ether, I didn’t feel I had enough days left in my life to dedicate any more time to the hundreds of pages left. Mr. Adams hides behind his pen, does not give us any real sense of himself, and merely capitalizes on his family connections by parlaying blood ties into a book. This book is billed as a great account of a man moving from the 19th to 20th centuries, but my 21st century eyes are too tired to care about his minor triumphs in the diplomatic arts while his friends and cousins were being slaughtered in the Civil War.
And it is on that single straw that I put this down.

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Natasha’s Dance

St. Petersburg built from nothing in 1700s as the door to Europe, build on marshy land, in styles borrowed heavily from Vienna (?Venice?) and Paris. Everything French was considered superior to backwoods Russian until the War of 1812 when Napolean invaded. Then the backlash against the French language began, the upperclass had to teach themselves Russian from the peasants. The Decemberists born out of the war of 1812, eager to grant freedoms to the serfs. Pushkin the poet did much to create the Russian language, which was missing many of the nuanced terms; there were basic terms but not many for ideas of the mind. Anything sneaky or dishonest was said in French.
Stranding this one b/c of the onslaught of other books hitting my desk. This is a thick one, and something I’ll revisit later.

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Never have I sweat so much about putting a book on my Stranded list. But strand it, I must, after 50 pages. This is not the kind of reading I enjoy. I never would have picked up this book had the author not pressed it into my hands and asked me to read it. Sorry Mr. R, but I’m not your target audience for these books.
The background on how the story came about– the title of the book occurred to Mr. R in a dream as “Dress Me Not in Mourning”, which he imagined to have come from an Emily Dickenson poem. Armed with the title, the story poured out of him. His publisher deemed the title too highbrow, and spun the tale as Afterlove.

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Midnight’s Children

Why does everyone love Rushdie so much? I’m giving into the hype again and trying him on, but it is not smooth sailing so far. 100 pages in and it’s a struggle to convince myself to pick it up and keep reading at the end of the day.
Basic premise is autobiography of a man born on the day of India’s independence, a glimpse of life in India in the 1940s, concern over Pakistan’s creation & England’s power subsiding.
As if you couldn’t sense it coming, I’ve stranded this one. Not finishable in my current state of impatience.

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Collection of short stories looked tantalizing from the distance, since it appeared to be a sort of travelogue winding its way from Japan, Hong Kong, etc. Instead, Mitchell creates distinct short stories with the age old trick of including characters from the previous story into the current story. And so each story is related to the other in some nondescript way. Writing is almost above average, but the cutesy inclusion of other characters ruined it for me. Couldn’t get past the 3rd story.

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