Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “hellokatieo”

HelloKatieO’s #CBR4 Review #66: The Revolution was Televised by Alan Sepinwall

I love television. Like, really love it. Television is what brought me in Pajiba’s direction (and so ultimately to this Cannonball). Ever since I watched the British Office in its entirety, three times, in one week, in 2005, I basically made television my hobby and never looked back.

So, if you love television, and you read about it constantly like I do, you will certainly enjoy this.  It’s basically a history of modern television, starting with Oz.  Alan Sepinwall interviews the producers and writers between twelve of the most ground breaking shows in recent memory (The Sopranos, Oz, The Wire, Deadwood, The Shield, Lost, Buffy, 24, Battlestar Galactica, Friday Night Lights, Mad Men or Breaking Bad).

For me, the most important thing about this book is that Sepinwall acknowledges that television didn’t begin with the Sopranos.  Even modern television didn’t begin with the Sopranos (that honor goes to Oz, the “farm team” for the Sopranos and the Wire). Sepinwall dedicates a chapter to the television programming that came before these shows that changed the way stories were told and pushed the boundaries of what you could show on television – Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere (the original “are you kidding me with this ending?!” series), the X-Files.

And he doesn’t let up with the reminders of how earlier television informed what we see today. He connects everything back to older shows – plot lines, certain story arcs, what shows the creators of the “modern” shows trained on, their mentors, shows they cite for inspiration.  Even though this book is about the (probably aptly named) television revolution, I love how he doesn’t pretend that television didn’t exist before the Sopranos. Because it did, and much of it was very, very good.

A sample of things I learned while reading:

  • HBO was choosing between picking the Sopranos up to pilot and a show from the creator of My So Called Life about a female business executive. Would the following shows have been a series of female driven vehicles if that show had won the race?
  • The Shield pioneered the concept of the a season long, big name guest star when Glenn Close arrived in season 4.
  • Bryan Singer was originally tasked with helming Battlestar Galactica, but the story line hit uncomfortably close to 9/11 so they shut down pre-production in 2001.  Singer was out because he was committed to the second X-Men, and Ron Moore came on board. Sliding doors!

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HelloKatieO’s CBR4 Review #65: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

This beautiful book about the drama of family, country and medicine had been recommended to me one thousand times over and I could never bring myself to read it. And then this weekend, I read the entire book in one sitting on a plane ride and I’m so happy I did.

The story of twins, Marion and Shiva, born to a nun and a brash British surgeon in Ethiopia, is hard to tear your heart away from. Mostly narrated by Marion, you learn the story of his life. How he was raised by two doctors working at the same Ethiopian hospital his mother had worked at, who found love in raising him and his brother. How he loved the girl next door, until the hormones of adolescence and political upheaval in his country changed the way he saw her and their relationship.

Medicine is it’s own character in this book. Third world medicine, tropical medicine that’s driven by need and necessity rather than money and the desire to make groundbreaking medical discoveries, is covered in a raw and real manner. And the American medicine system I’m used to is partially skewered, and partially glorified, for all of its strengths and weaknesses. Every critical moment in this book centers around a hospital room. No emotion is shared unless within the bounds of an illness, injury or life threatening situation. The power that medicine holds over both patient and doctor is front and center in this book, and the way medicine was presented was fairly thought provoking.

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HelloKatieO’s CBR4 Review #64: The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King (Dark Tower II)

So I’m making excruciatingly slow progress through theDark Tower series. But I love it. I really do.

The Drawing of the Three is basically the book whereRoland makes some friends. Most importantly, he makes two friends. Eddie Dean the heroin addict and Odetta Holmes, the Lady of the Shadows. What really stood out  was how Stephen Kingwas able to thrust Roland into a world I understand, our modern, American world, and make my own world feel foreign to me.

Eddie and Odetta, Roland’s new companions, seem like poor choices of companions. Neither of them are as strong or focused as Roland. And more importantly…neither of them particularly want to be there, with Roland. Joining his journey offers them some advantages; but they still miss home. The comforts of their old lives – the drugs, the mental illness, the power that money gave them. They need to learn to navigate their own personalities, their strengths and weaknesses, all over again, with their new strange friend Roland. It’s a frightening prospect, and I’m excited to see how it plays out.

Witnessing Roland’s weakness was also important. When I am truly intrigued by a hero (or potential antihero), I want them to show me something weak. Or something more human. Roland couldn’t cure his own infection. And the care that Eddie took to save Roland was as much of an insight into Eddie as it was into Roland. Roland is fearful of the assistance of others, and he’s not the kind of person who takes on the baggage of others. But now Roland is saddled with two companions who are motivated by things he does not fully understand – love, drugs, mental illness. They don’t share is singular motivation of finding the tower. And that will be a challenge for Roland, their leader, moving forward.

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HelloKatieo’s CBR4 Review #63: Use Me by Elissa Schappell

I’m obviously out of practice and a bit behind on my reviews. I read Use Me a few weeks ago and it was very engaging. Schappel highlights ten major events in Evie Wakefield’s life, mostly focusing on her complicated relationship with her father, through a series of short stories.

Her relationship with her father was particularly interesting. The book starts when she’s a young girl, who absolutely worships her father. As he cheats cancer year after year, she almost becomes more obsessed with his status as a god-like figure in her life. He seems immortal, his personality is larger than life and women tend to respond to him with devotion.

While Evie is blind to her fathers small, but obvious flaws, we see then. We see her father’s flaws – in the way he hides his cancer, he breaches Evie’s trust, breaches her mother’s trust, in the way his ego and his own mythology gets in his way. But even when Evie sees the cracks in the facade of her relationship with her father, she still fights violently to turn a blind eye to his imperfections.

And who can blame her? No one wants to see their parents as flawed. Or unable to protect them. Or anything but immortal. We want our parents to be superheroes. Many books have been written based on the family suffering in a child’s life. Books based on divorce, abuse, marital conflict, emotionally distant parents, etc provide great fodder for a compelling story that sets up the parents as shaping their children for better or worse.

 

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HelloKatieO’s Review #62: Gods of Gotham by Lindsay Faye

This is the best mystery I’ve read this year. Set in New York City in 1845, Timothy Wilde and his unpredictable but highly political brother Val find themselves among the first police officers in NYC. One of the last major cities to form and fund a police force, the cities residents aren’t necessarily fond of the new “copper stars.”

What is the role of the police in our society? Something I’ve always taken for granted is that cops do two things: they prevent crime, and they solve crimes after they happen. In this historical fiction novel, in the early days of the police force, they had to spend their extremely limited resources on preventing crime. Protagonist Timothy Wilde proves himself far more adept at solving crimes.

During his first patrol, Timothy encounters a young girl covered in blood, and takes her home to secure her safety. This little girl, Bird, was a child prostitute working in the city who leads Timothy to a graveyard filled with the bodies of 19 children, almost surely other child prostitutes, with giant crosses cut in their midsection. Timothy finds himself trying to untangle the mystery, making enemies of politically powerful madams, his own brother, and trying to navigate the complicated religious politics (Catholic v. Protestant) of the time.

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HelloKatieO’s #CBR4 Book Review #61: Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney

Bright lights, big city is a phrase I’ve heard a thousand times, applied to New York. I always associated it with the physicality of New York, and the hope that people have when they move there. I haven’t seen the movie adaptation (starring Michael J. Fox and Kiefer Sutherland), and this book was unexpected. This phrase really speaks to how the bright lights can blind you and the big city will swallow you up.

Jamie Conway is kind of everything people hate about New York. He’s a fact checker for a famous magazine, and when he finally “makes it” to New York (and makes it in New York?) he can’t help but over inflate his self importance. When we meet Jamie, his wife has abandoned him and he’s living the life that many people associate with New York. Cruising the hottest bars, clubs and restaurants with his partner in crime Tad Allagash, drugging himself into oblivion and having shallow conversations and empty sex with women as soulless as he is.

We’re meant to feel sorry for Jamie. I think. Or at understand how he became the quintessential, arrogant asshole that he is. As the book goes on, and he begins to burn the “glamorous” life he built for himself with his magazine job to the ground, we learn more about the abandonment, tragedy and desertions that brought him to such a wretched place in his life.

There’s more!

HelloKatieO’s #CBR4 Review #60: Switch by Megan Hart

So, I read this book as a product of my impatience and apparent inability to read context clues. I only read the first paragraph of the back of this book. And that first paragraph sounded generically intriguing: young girl moves back home to reboot her life and career, young girl starts receiving notes in her mailbox intended for someone else, setting her off on some kind of journey.

If I read just one more sentence, I would’ve realized that these notes definitely sent her on a journey. An erotic journey. About 50 pages into this book, after reading 4 extremely graphic sex scenes, it dawned on me. This is an erotic novel. The cover of my copy is almost identical to the  50 Shades of Grey Cover. And if I’d kept reading the back of the book…it was clear that this book is about a girl who discovers her dominant side. After the jump, you’ll see the traditional, non-Target cover, and think “how did you not know this was an erotic novel?!?!”

HelloKatieO’s #CBR4 Review #59: Seriously…I’m Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres

I like reading books by female comedians. I’d probably like reading books by male comedians, but I just haven’t gotten around to it. I’ve recently enjoyed Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Tina Fey’s Bossypants, and Chelsea Handler’s My Horizontal Life. Unfortunately, Ellen’s Seriously…I’m Kidding was the worst of the bunch. Through no fault of her own, really.

Ellen’s book was what you expect from a female comedian: a series of essays that feels like a long comedy set. The short essays ranged from 1 to 5 or 6 pages, and they were structured like traditional stand up. She even warmed up the audience in the introduction. And the book was hilarious. Honestly, truly, laugh out loud funny. It was like hanging out with Ellen for an hour. And I love Ellen.

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HelloKatieO’s #CBR4 Review #58: Sweet Valley Confidential by Francine Pascal

Sweet Valley Confidential is pure, unadulterated nostalgia. I grew up devouring the Sweet Valley High Series, following them on to college. They were a few years older in the books than my age, so I felt like they did everything first. I read about their high school adventures while in middle school, and their college escapades while in high school.

Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield have the same appeal that the characters of Sex and the City have. Everyone identifies a little bit with both sisters, because they are sort of extreme versions of character traits most of us have. Elizabeth is smart, studious, practical and down to earth. And Jessica is impulsive, emotional and compassionate.

Francine Pascal wrote this recently, and it serves as a “where are they now?” for some of the most beloved characters in young adult fiction. Elizabeth is living in New York City, estranged from Jessica because she found out Jessica was having an affair with her fiance. And yes, that fiance was Todd Wilkins. Jessica is working her charismatic magic as a PR girl in California, but struggling through a dark period as she realizes that her relationship with Todd lost her her sister.

Take a walk down memory lane…

HelloKatieO’s #CBR4 Reviews #53 – #57

I got a little (a lot) behind in my reviewing this summer. Here are the remaining reviews of books I read before returning to law school this weekend.

Review #53: Ghost Story by Jim Butcher. I’ve been meaning to read the Dresden Files for ages. These are the things I love most in books: series, mysteries, supernatural elements, private detectives and police officers. The Dresden Files hits everything on my list. Full review.

Review #54: Bee Season by Myla Goldberg. The story of a family falling apart as their youngest daughter achieves national fame as a spelling bee champion, with a heavy dose of Jewish mysticism and religious exploration. Full review. 

Review #55: The Gunslinger by Stephen King. Look out world, I’m finally reading the Dark Tower series and I am OBSESSED. So good. I plan on reviewing the remaining 6 books consecutivel, once I get them out of the library. Full review.  

Review #56: The Boy Under the Table by Nicole Trope.  Do not read. This is the book equivalent of one of those crazy/sappy Lifetime movies. Full review. 

Review #57: Irish Girls About Town by Various. Chick lit, in short story form, by famous Irish authors including Maeve Binche, Cathy Kelly and Marion Keyes. Full review. 

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