Whatcha reading? Rooms by Lauren Oliver

I'm not sure if I'm ever going to have the privilege of reading a better Lauren Oliver book than Before I Fall, but Rooms is a trip. The distance between reality and paranormal is whisper thin, as it should be but almost never is. There are ghosts around every corner of, in every pore of, in every breath taken in this family house where the family has departed (until they return with the father's death).

This could be YA, like Oliver's previous work, because she nails the viewpoints of the school-aged son, his twitchy cute neighbor, and his beckoning sprite of a visitor offering dark promises indeed. However, Oliver bills this as her first adult book, but her adults in name only--the severely alcoholic mom, the bitter grasping daughter, the better off dead father, and the two ghostly, bickering lingerers--often act less maturely than her teens. 

The real star of the show though is the remote house itself as it begrudgingly reveals its secrets and begs for the ultimate mercy with a roar.

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Whatcha reading? Where'd you go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Does it ever happen to you that the way someone sees something is so antithetical to the way that you see it that you literally can't understand how it is possible that the other person sees it that way? No, this is not going to become a political screed about abortion or guns or some other political hot topic. Rather, it is my attempt to understand why Bernadette's husband and child think that she is so great while to me she appears a selfish, whiny, egomaniacal, antisocial bitch. 

Now Bee I love. Talk about a kid who has survived every obstacle that life has thrown at her—being born blue with a massive heart defect, having a father who works every minute of every day, having a best friend who isn't much of a friend, attending a school where each person is nuttier than the last, and did I mention, having a terrible mother—yet who cheerfully accepts each day's challenges as another kid might enjoy a trip to the amusement park or destination of choice. When Bee decides that what she wants as a prize for her report card is a family trip to Antarctica, I thought of course that is what she would want.

Her father? A Microsoft guru who wants to make life easier for disabled veterans but can't see that his own daughter needs a father, that his wife may be just left of sane and sound at this point, and that it isn't normal to live in a house where the gardener has to weed-whack inside isn't much of a guru in my book. He at least is enthusiastic about the trip, unlike Bernadette.

The Galer Street School interactions made me laugh out loud (though if you want to laugh until you cry read Maria Semple's piece in The New Yorker entitled "Dear Mountain Room Parents"). Bernadette's fellow parents Audrey Griffin and Soo-Lin Lee-Segal would try the patience of any saint going, yet Bee has thrived here. It is Bernadette who is unable to cope—with anything besides dropping and running, even if a fellow parent's foot might or might not be in the way.

Another aspect which I enjoy is my difficulty in classifying this book. I have written before about how I think genres hurt as often as they help readers find books right for them. In this case it's hard to say whether it's YA contemporary (since it is written in Bee's voice), coming of age fiction (ditto), or simply contemporary fiction (given its modern structure of interspersed text, dialogue, letters, emails, sticky notes, official documents, and more). The structure is clever, witty, engaging, and of today in every way. But will the absent Bernadette grow on me?

If you want to see my rating once I finish, you can follow me on Goodreads. I rate every book I read.



Books Into Movies and why are some so terrible?

I finally watched the second installment of The Hobbit: Or There and Back Again movies. First why, oh, why, did they make it into three movies? Duh, because it will make more money that way, but still, why turn a marvelous gem of a book into a sprawling war epic so vast it morphed, bloated, into CGI-generated video game territory and rarely returned to life-sized? This was doubly discouraging because though Peter Jackson masterfully and painstakingly hand-carried The Lord of Rings from page to screen--ah! perhaps the answer is that he did hand-carry, rather than relying on so much CGI--this trilogy falls flat, tripping over itself all the way.  A few glimmers reminded me of the book I love (the naming of Sting, the hopscotching through Esgaroth, the knocking of the thrush) but most lay stomped upon, victim to too loud and too much, kin to the absurd volume of gold under this Lonely Mountain. Even the dragon, Smaug, for whom I had actually watched the movie since he enthralled me as a reader with his wily wickedness, caricatured himself, too much "I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house down," shame on you, Benedict Cumberbatch, a usual favorite of mine in another excellent page to screen transition as Sherlock Holmes, all-time favorite The Hound of the Baskervilles, and so doubly disappointing.

Now, dragons, if you want real dragons as well as real characters who rise above (and below) the frequent large and small battle scenes, head on over to HBO's Game of Thrones. Perhaps it helps that the author helms the show as well, though I can't say for sure because I haven't read the book(s) yet. Back to the TV dragons, which I adore!, and which live and breathe and fly and love and hate and feast and sulk just as dragons should. I got pulled into this show resisting all the way, fearing the violence, the weekly deaths which breathlessly enthrall the water-cooler crowd, but once I sat down and beheld Khaleesi Daenerys Targaryen and her brood, well, now I wait restlessly for season 5 like everyone else. I rarely do this, watch first, read later, but we will see how it turns out this time.

For me the real answer? Make me care about what I see the way I cared about what I read, and then it will be a great adaptation.

I rate every book I read on Goodreads.