June 16, 2013

Hamlet

William Shakespeare, 1600
His father's ghost lets
him in on the secret of
his untimely death

I first read this play my senior year of high school, when I chose to take a playwriting class instead of AP Lit. It was a class of misfits, like a sort of Breakfast Club, but we had the best time reading aloud from Pygmalion, The Glass Menagerie, Brighton Beach Memoirs, and Hamlet. I remember this class so clearly because I felt like it was the first time I truly appreciated Shakespeare. It may have helped that our teacher also taught drama. 

Hamlet is a tragedy from any angle, and with most texts is prone to strange interpretations on the part of actors and directors. Some delve heavily into sexual interpretations, allowing for Oedipal comparisons, but the themes of corruption and revenge are what really carry the play. One scene, in which Claudius attempts to pray, is particularly disturbing. This is one of Shakespeare's longer plays, but is well worth the read for any true fan. (PG-13)

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June 1, 2013

Breakfast at Tiffany's

Truman Capote, 1958
Holly Golightly
does what she wants and leaves a
trail of men behind

If you were hoping for the plot of the 1961 film starring Audrey Hepburn, you're out of luck. Although there are obvious similarities, this novella is not a romantic comedy. I'll be honest, I don't even really like the movie. I know there will be some astonished gasps after this confession, but I just don't really get it. The characters are so quirky (and a little sketchy) and I've never been able to fully enjoy it.

Same goes for the book. The narrator of the story ("Paul" in the movie) remains unnamed and doesn't have a relationship with Holly other than a kind of admiration/fascination. She's just the kind of girl that gets under people's skin, I guess. She marches to the beat of a drum, but I don't think it's hers, and I don't know if she even knows what kind of drum it is, or where all this marching is taking her. (PG-13)

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May 16, 2013

Charly

Sam learns to see past
old mistakes and discovers
the love of his life

I came upon a copy of this book on my mother's shelf sometime in the early '90s, and although the Farrah Fawcett hairstyle of the woman on the original cover may not have initially drawn me in, I gave it a shot, and I'm glad I did. I loved the story and I LOVED the idea of a Mormon author writing about Mormons (as if I couldn't believe that any member of my faith had the skills or talent required to write a book).

Jack Weyland is not only the most prolific writer of YA fiction for the LDS audience, but he's also probably the reason this genre even exists. While attending college at BYU-Idaho he became my bishop. It was the best ward I was ever a part of, and much of its success has to be attributed to him. "Author" is just one of Jack's many hats.   (PG-13)

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May 1, 2013

Delivering Happiness

Tony Hsieh, 2010
Working with people
makes this book relevant to
almost anyone

My boss gave this book to me and two other managers, and at first I figured that it would go the way of all the other reading assignments I'd received over the years, however, I quickly noticed a difference. In school I paid to not read the book, but here I was being paid to read it. Or something like that. Either way, I'm glad I was motivated enough to give my first read from the "How to Succeed in Business" genre a try.

Hsieh (pronounced Shay), the CEO of Zappos.com, has a similar story to that of Mark Zuckerberg (except Tony Hsieh actually appears to have friends). As an entrepreneur with the dream of making big money (original idea, I know), he realized that the only way for his company to thrive was through out-of-this-world customer service. An eye-opener for anyone in the service industry, and the only company I would consider working for if I was ever forced to live in Las Vegas. (PG-13)

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April 16, 2013

Mockingjay

Suzanne Collins, 2010
Katniss must become
the symbol of hope for all
the districts combined

My husband and I were both super excited for the release of this book, but for some reason, right after we got it we got busy with other things and suddenly a year had passed and neither of us had read it. (If this means we're not diehard fans, so be it.) I'm not sure if maybe the span of time between reading the other books in the series had anything to do with it, but I didn't enjoy this one at all.

This story seemed nowhere near as interesting as the first two. It's possible that my beef is with trilogies (or tetralogies in the case of Twilight...). It was sad to see something so cool come to such a blah conclusion. But then, I'm of the opinion that there should have been only one Pirates of the Caribbean movie. (PG-13)

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April 1, 2013

The Bourne Identity

Robert Ludlum, 1980
Jason (or is he...)
struggles with memory loss
and with his purpose

This was another book that I'd started years ago and never finished (right around the time the Matt Damon film came out). I finally broke down in the Houston airport last year and and bought another copy (who knows where the first one went...). After trying a second time, I now remember why I never got very far in the first place.

Something about this drags. It seems like it would be fast-paced, I know, but I had a hard time following the spy lingo, and an even harder time believing Jason & Marie's "relationship". (It's in quotes cause it's a bunch of malarkey.) She falls for him after he saves her life, but logically, he's the reason she nearly died in the first place. I haven't heard of Stockholm Syndrome presenting in the first 24 hours before. (PG-13)

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March 16, 2013

The Jungle Book

Rudyard Kipling, 1894
Kipling's story of
Mowgli and Shere Khan is not
all this book entails

I was surprised when the story of Mowgli ended just three chapters in. I never realized that the book was actually a collection of short stories and poetry about the jungle (I don't necessarily think the title explicitly implies this...). Tales of tigers and elephants and even mongooses made sense, but randomly there a story about a seal off the coast of Novastoshnah (which sounds a lot like Nova Scotia to me). Not sure how we got from the jungle to Canada.

For some reason I can't think of the name Rudyard Kipling without associating him with The Jungle Book. and because of this I always picture him as being Indian. But I'm wrong. He's British. The youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, and a man who has inspired countless generations of poets and writers, will always, in my mind, look like Gandhi. (PG)

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March 1, 2013

The Help

Kathryn Stockett, 2009
It's hard to have to
realize how unfair times
are for some people

I was interested in reading this book as I'd had friends rave about it and seen previews for the newly-released film, so I was pretty excited to see a copy sitting on my mother-in-law's shelf. I’ve got to say that I found the hype over the film to be a little over-the-top. I always think the book is better, but I didn’t think this movie was all that well-done, especially for a major award-winner. I feel many people were calling it a great movie just because of the subject matter.


I grew up in a white, middle-class family in California in the 1980's. My sense of what is fair and what is not is based on what I've learned in history classes and from reading books. Although I may not have the life experience necessary to fully appreciate the sacrifices and hardships that others have experienced, I feel that books are here to help me with that, even if it's just to comprehend the tiniest bit of someone’s existence. (PG-13)

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February 16, 2013

Les Misérables

The story of life
and all of its struggles through
one criminal's eyes

"So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilization, artificially creates hells on earth, and complicates a destiny that is divine, with human fatality; so long as the three problems of the age — the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of woman by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and spiritual night — are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a yet more extended point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless." This is the preface that Hugo wrote for the book...how can you ignore something so profound?

While I wouldn't suggest reading the unabridged version, I'll admit I feel a sort of pride that I did. (The bad pride, not the good kind.) I would have preferred however, to finish it in less than two years... This book offers a beautiful look at a life that is filled with mistakes and trying desperately to atone for them. I don't see how anyone could not love Jean Valjean. And if you think you don't have time to read the book, then at least see the musical. I hear it's great. *weep weep* (PG-13)

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February 1, 2013

Robinson Crusoe

Daniel Defoe, 1719
The shipwrecked Crusoe
discovers an island and
cannibals lurking

Growing up I thought the Disney equivalent, Lt. Robin Crusoe U.S.N. starring Dick Van Dyke, was the actual story of Robinson Crusoe. I'd say I was pretty confused for the majority of my childhood. It's not surprising, considering I told my 4th grade PE teacher that I couldn't run because my "independix" was going to burst. Good on me, confusing freedom and volatile body parts.

The real story of Robinson Crusoe was interesting enough (and a little like Castaway without the volleyball) as the main character is extremely resourceful. And although he deems those unaware of Christianity as being mere heathens (which I guess was the thing at the time) I see the book as showing how thankful we should be for our blessings, and that even in times of extreme trial there is always something we can be grateful for. (PG)

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