Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Other Girl: A Midvale Academy Novel
Sarah Miller

rating: 3.5 out of 10 "books"

Summary From School Library Journal:

Predicting your boyfriend's every wish is easy, especially when you are in his head. Molly knows everything that Gideon thinks, and she uses that to be there when he wants her, to leave when he doesn't, and to fulfill his fantasies when the opportunity arises. However, when she catches him thinking of another girl during an intimate moment, Molly dumps him on the spot. And when a game of spin the bottle goes wrong, Molly ends up inside the head of Pilar, the hottest girl in school, dealing with her insecurities as well as her fantasies about Gideon.—Chris Shoemaker, New York Public Library

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Ok, so I got lazy with my review this time and used a review from School Library Journal on's webpage (this is me giving you credit!) Unlike the reviewer in the above summary, I actually liked this sequel to Inside The Mind of Gideon Rayburn much better. But after trashing the first novel, some of you may be wondering why I even bothered at all to read this next installment of the Midvale Academy (series?)? Well, originally I got The Other Girl from the library only later realizing it was a sequel. So I had the book, why not read it? I was holding out with the hopes that the next book would be better. And I wasn't totally disappointed. However, the book is by no means phenomenal. The characters are still pretty annoying, but there were some pretty humorous moments involving Pilar and a bit more development as far as the plot goes. Unfotunately, I don't think this book would work all that well as a stand-alone story so you could just skip the first story. With that said, I'd recommend that this two part story be skipped altogether (unless Sarah Miller does make this a series and produces more stories).

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Inside The Mind of Gideon Rayburn
A Novel by Sarah Miller

rating: 2 out of 10 "books"

When this book first came in for me at my local library, I was a little embarassed to be seen carrying it around to be honest. I have no idea why the publishers would choose to make the cover a close up shot of a girl's chest regardless of the fact that the book basically details the life of a horny teenage boy. There could have been other ways to achieve this effect, especially since the target audience for this story is probably teenage girls (afterall, what teenage girl wouldn't want to know what their male classmate/whatever, is actually thinking?). The only reason I could see this being done is to draw in a more male audience.

With that opening rant, I have to say, Inside The Mind of Gideon Rayburn does not get much better. The premise is interesting: girl mysteriously ends up in boy's mind and uses this advantage to secretly win him over without his even knowing, because she knows what he wants and how he wants it. The narrator states at the very beginning of the story that, "My feelings, though perhaps passionate for someone my age and experience, are pretty normal. But my situation -- that is unique, and that's what puts me in a position to tell you everything. I mean it. Everything you've ever wondered about what guys think (and feared about what they want), I'm going to tell you. You are going to learn what boys say when girls are not in the room and how they feel when they're on top of one. I will, for now, leave out one very crucial thing: who I am. I'm in this story too, and not just inside Gid's head. But there are a lot of girls -- and women -- in this story. Which one am I?" Sounds interesting enough, but the majority of the story is about an oversexed boy trying to get a girl he doesn't even know, to sleep with him in order to win a bet his egotistical, misogynistic roommates set so he can prove himself to them. The romantic part, if you can call it that, is that in the end he happens to have feelings for his "lay."

I hated this story. The happy ending could not make up for the trashiness and sour taste left after reading the beginning to middle of the story. This is not a story for teenagers, at least not high school aged. The kids in the story are supposed to be High School Prep kids, but the story reads more like a dumb Van Wilder or American Pie movie, minus the funny. There's tons of bad language and sex talk, which although I can understand for a book that's supposed to be about what guys think and talk about, I guess I just wasn't expecting as much. If anything, the book is at least honest in that regard. Still, this is not a book you would want to add to your classroom collection or school library. For as much as I didn't enjoy the book Youth In Revolt, at least that one was bizzare and entertaining. You know the phrase, "Don't judge a book by it's cover?" With Inside The Mind of Gideon Rayburn, you should and it will save you a lot of time. I gave this book a rating of 2 out of 10 "books" which I consider generous and only did because while the entire story was lacking, at least the concept was somewhat original.

Friday, January 22, 2010


Happy Friday Bloggers!

Well, hopefully your start to the weekend has been going smoothy. I just wanted to give you all a little update. Recently a bunch of Borders booksellers stores have started to go out of business and all their books have been marked down as much as 80% off. It's sad to see bookstores go out of business, especially when they see the most business the last few weeks of business with all the sales, but I've been like a kid in a candy store trying to find books to buy. Here's some of my newest book purchases:

Following the book to movie trend as mentioned in my review of "Derby Girl" or evidenced by many of my reviews:

October Sky by Homer Hickam         Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer


And a book that I bought for my boyfriend that I might end up reading:

The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson

I guess that's all for now! Be sure to look out for my still to come reviews of "Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn" and "The Other Girl" both by Sarah Miller.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Derby Girl
Shauna Cross

rating: 7 out of 10 "books"

I don't really know why, but I seem to enjoy reading a lot of books that are later turned into movies or read books after I've discovered that a movie has been made about them. I think it's just my love of film that makes me do this. Having said that, I find it no surprise that I was drawn to the book "Derby Girl" by Shauna Cross when I discovered it was the book that later became the Ellen Page movie, "Whip It."

"Derby Girl" is the story of Bliss Cavendar, a 16 year old punk rocker who is, unfortunately, stuck in the small Texas town of Bodeen where football rules and people like her are limited. From her small Texas town to her "two culturally clueless imposters for legal guardians," Bliss imagines her "real parents" are out there somewhere doing cool art stuff or something. Bliss is into all things "punk rock." She loves indie music, thrift store shopping, etc, and has even dyed her hair blue to show her disgust for all things ordinary. Her mother is addicted to beauty pagents and is always trying to get Bliss to compete. Luckily Bliss's 4 year old sister fulfills much of that void, but "Brooke" (her mother) still has the delusion that Bliss will participate in the Miss Bluebonnet beauty pagent, a Cavendar tradition that has seen both Bliss's grandmother and mother win.

Her only friend is the beautiful Pash Amini who moved into town and shares the same indie rock spirit as Bliss. They spend most of their free time slaving away at the "Oink Joint," a gross barbecue restaurant that all the local hicks frequent. The only thing that gets them through the hell of small town Texas life is each other. That, and imagining finding the perfect rocker boyfriends whilest getting the hell out of Bodeen.

But everything seems to change when Bliss picks up a flier for Roller Derby while shopping in downtown Austin with her mother and sister one day. She doens't even know what it is, but Bliss knows she has to go check it out. She instantly falls in love with Roller Derby the first time she sneaks out to go watch a match. When one of the Roller Derby girls encourages Bliss to try out for an opening, the idea scares her, but yet as Bliss states "something about watching those Derby Girls and hearing their skates pound on the track -- it's like I got to peek through the window at what life could be like outside of Bodeen. I want more. I need more." Remarkably, Bliss makes the team and lies to her parents that she's joined an SAT study group in order to get away with coming home late. Bliss is suddenly immersed in a totally different culture. She falls in love with a rocker boy and gains a whole group of friends like she's never had before. Bliss even finds herself being nicer to her mother, and agreeing to enter the silly beauty pagent to appease her. But while her life gets better because of derby, her friendship with Pash begins to suffer.

"Derby Girl," is the story of a teen finally finding out who she is and gaining a sense of belonging. There's some heartbreak and true learning experiences thrown in there, but it's something Bliss, I'm sure, would not trade for the world. I enjoyed this story a lot. It was a super easy read (the book was small in size and length), and had a lot of enjoyable moments. However, this was also part of what I did not like about the book. I felt like the author could have developed the story a lot more; really gotten into Bliss's emotions. It felt like as soon as I began the book it was over. That's why I've given this book a rating of 7 "books" out of 10. If you want a humorous book that will take you no time to read, I think "Derby Girl" is perfect. From the first page of the story I could also see why they cast Ellen Page as Bliss: it sounded exactly like her character in "Juno." I have yet to see the movie, and have heard some negative reviews of it, but I wonder if it has anything to do with the shortness of the book. Oh well, I still want to see it!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Greetings book bloggers! Just wanted to give you all an update as to where I am at right now. My computer is fixed! I had to reformat it but everything is all good. I just need to get Office and then I can resume posting reviews on this computer. So look forward to reveiws coming on the following books!:

Derby Girl by Shauna Cross         Inside The Mind Of Gideon Rayburn by Sarah Miller


Until then, Happy Reading!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Her Fearful Symmetry
Audrey Niffenegger

rating: 8 out of 10 "books"

Having read Niffenegger’s first novel “The Time Traveler’s Wife” and not caring for it in the least, I went into the reading of this book with no expectations. The main reason I even picked it up was because I discovered after seeing Neil Gaiman speak at one of my local libraries and reading his Newbury Medal Award winner, “The Graveyard Book,” that Gaiman and Niffenegger both visited Highgate Cemetery (I believe it was Highgate…can’t remember all the details) together while writing their “ghost stories” respectively.

I’ve seen many reviews by people saying this book is a huge disappointment; that it doesn’t measure up to “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” blah, blah, blah. And I suppose I can understand why people might feel this way. However, if you go into the reading of “Her Fearful Symmetry” expecting “The Time Traveler’s Wife Part II” you will no doubt be disappointed. This book is in no way a love story. Sure there are some romantic elements to the story, but if anything the overarching theme is people moving away from one another over time, not the other way around. The story begins with the death of Elspeth Noblin, who in her will, leaves her London flat and everything in it to the twin daughters of her own twin sister, Edie. Elspeth and Edie have long been estranged, and part of the mystery of the story is finding out the reason why this is. Twenty-ish year old twins Valentina and Julia move to London from Illinois to live in the Aunt they’ve never met’s flat, at least for one year before selling it, as the will states. They encounter all of Elspeth’s neighbors; from her much younger lover, Robert, to her strange upstairs neighbor, Martin, who suffers from severe obsessive compulsive disorder, causing his wife to leave him for Amsterdam early in the story. The twins not only look about twelve, as described in the book, but they act that way much of the time as well, which may cause readers some annoyance. The girls have never had a job, never really been on their own, and can’t even stay in school long enough to get any sort of degree. The story almost feels very Young Adult more than Adult at times, which may be reason why dedicated fans of “The Time Traveler’s Wife” may not like this book.

The title of “Her Fearful Symmetry” factors in a few parts of the story: the twins are what the author calls “mirror twins.” Valentina is the exact opposite in appearance from Julia in that while a mole on Julia’s face is on one side, let’s say the left, Valentina’s is on the right. They are identical but each of their features is opposite as if they were looking into a mirror when glancing at each other. Even the girls’ internal organs are opposite. While Julia has a normal layout of internal organs, Valentina’s are all opposite; from the placement of her heart on her right side of her chest and so forth. The author describes how the doctor had to use a mirror when performing surgery on Valentina as a baby because the reflection that it gave (of a normal heart) was how he was used to seeing it. Another portion of the novel that references symmetry is a passage narrated by Martin describing the way he likes to have symmetry in his washing and shaving patterns. As for the actual meaning of the title, that is up for the reader to decipher.

Although the twins do everything together and dress identically, their behaviorisms are very different as far as attitudes and interests. Julia is more outspoken than her twin and Valentina often feels resentful for the things they do not do because they are always things Julia does not want to do. Whereas Julia seems to have no life aspirations, Valentina would love to go to fashion school and get a real job. As the story begins to unfold, we see the twins’ relationship begin to unravel. Add to that the fact that the flat may be haunted by the ghost of Elspeth, which we do in fact find out, is the case. The story builds up to a very twisty climax and finishes on an utterly somber note.

As mentioned before, this is not a book for those looking for a happy ending. I was very surprised at the turn this book took. Niffenegger’s writing was very well done, especially in the descriptions of Highgate Cemetery, and I found this story very easy to read. There is definitely a style that I think Niffenegger has developed that can be seen in this story as well as in “The Time Traveler’s Wife.” I don’t know exactly how to pinpoint it, but in reading her passages on the more “intimate” parts of both stories, I can see a definite resemblance, especially in the male point of view. I honestly have to say that I enjoyed this novel. It was very different than much of the literature out there, and I felt it took a very different perspective as far as “ghost stories” go. I didn’t find it predictable in the slightest. Maybe it’s the average rating I would give “The Time Traveler’s Wife” that enables me to look past Niffenegger’s first novel and not feel disappointed by the second. I therefore give “Her Fearful Symmetry” a rating of 8 “books” out of 10.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Handmaid’s Tale
By Margaret Atwood

rating: 10 out of 10 "books"

Honestly, I’m not really sure how to begin this review other than to start by saying that “The Handmaid’s Tale” blew my mind. It was so seemingly out there yet eerily possible at the same time that after each time I set the book down I couldn’t help but think about what I had just read. Not only was this book amazing along the lines of the whole “dystopian society” theme (think “The Giver” but way more messed up), but I had a hard time tearing myself away.

Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” is the story of a woman by the name of Offred. The story starts off in what had once been an old gymnasium. We as the readers have no idea when or where in time the story is taking place, but by the descriptions it is easy to assume it is in the near future. We come to learn that this is exactly the case, but that things are very different. For one, the United States is no more. The former U.S. is being run by a type of religious military operating under the front of a “return to traditional values.” As Offred remembers back to the past early in the story, she can recall the dangers that existed for women. However, now women “walk along the same street in pairs and no man shouts obscenities at us, speaks to us, touches us. No one whistles.” Men must be of a certain age or rank to even touch a woman. Offred even teases one of the young men and instantly feels ashamed but then finds she is not at all. She says she enjoys her power. Men have no sexual outlets in this new society, except themselves. All the pornographic magazines, films, and substitutes have been abolished. Places that used to exist with names such as “Pornomarts,” “Feels on Wheels,” and “Bun-Dle Buggies” are no more.

It all sounds pretty great right? How awesome, as a woman, would it be to not have to deal with all that crap that many men do? The story almost sounds pro-feminist when I describe the story in this manner. However, this is only one facet of the story. The larger scope, or rather the trade-off, is much worse. Men rule society completely. Women have no rights. They cannot own property or work. They are not even allowed to read or write. In this futuristic story, the birthrate is shockingly low, and most of the female population is infertile. “Handmaids” have been employed, whose sole purpose is to breed for married couples. Offred, who is part of the first generation of handmaids, describes her and her lot as “two-legged wombs: sacred vessels, ambulatory chalices.” They are each designated to one “Commander,” or high ranking male, with whom they must have sex with to try to provide a child for the Wives, the infertile married women. All the other women despise the handmaids, believing them to be slutty, but mostly jealous of them because they themselves cannot conceive. Women are divided up in the society by function and men by power and age. Unwomen, or old women and any women against the new form of government are sent to work in the “Colonies,” where they starve and eventually die trying to clean up toxic waste dumps, nuclear plant accidents, and leakages from chemical and biological warfare stockpiles of the past. Homosexuals, or “Gender-Traitors,” are also sent to the “Colonies.” Handmaids may also be sent there if they cannot provide a child for the Wives and Commanders after three tries. They are cycled between couples, so they are not with one Commander the whole time. Once a handmaid provides a “keeper,” a baby not stillborn or containing deformities or defects, she is guaranteed to never be declared an “unwoman” and sent to the Colonies.

We learn early on that Offred is not even the narrator’s real name. It is the name given to her after she has become a handmaid. The name “Offred” itself is more of a slave name, meaning she is the possession “of Fred,” who we assume is the name of her current Commander. We find out that Offred once had a real life, with a husband and a daughter of her own. We only find out in the end how they were torn apart, and how Offred became a handmaid. We even find out that she had a choice in the matter. All throughout the story, Offred tries to keep her sanity and individuality, no matter how private she must keep it. She explains, “I try not to think too much. Like other things now, thought must be rationed. There’s a lot that doesn’t bear thinking about. Thinking can hurt your chances, and I intend to last.” She doesn’t know how long her current enslavement will last, let alone any outside information other than what she can get through whispered conversations with other handmaids at the market, but she is determined to someday reunite with her husband and daughter. She holds out for some sort of message from her husband, who may or may not still be alive, of which may never arrive but is the one thing that keeps her alive.

This type of fiction has been described as “speculative fiction,” meaning the events that occur in this story could actually happen. It takes specific attitudes held about women and sees them towards potential conclusions if they keep going down the path that they are following. Many points in this story are very chilling. One of the characters, the Wife named Serena Joy, was a huge promoter and speaker on the return of women to “traditional values” and when her religious and social beliefs become reality we see the outcome of all this. It’s kind of a “be careful what you wish for” sort of moment. Even the abolishment of pornography and treatment of women that occurs in this story has such a moment. Yes women do not have to deal with the sexually abusive treatment by men anymore to a certain degree, but is their current state in the book any better? And these moments are not only for the women. I believe there are definitely some “be careful what you wish for” type moments for men. In a conversation between the Commander and Offred the Commander says of the past, “The problem wasn’t only with the women. The main problem was with the men. There was nothing for them anymore. With all the “Pornycorrners” etc., the sex was too easy. Anyone could just buy it. There was nothing to look for, nothing to fight for. Men were complaining most about their inability to feel. Men were turning off on sex even, and on marriage.” The story even gave a frightening look at what could happen in the future if we don’t do something about the environment today, evidenced by the low birthrate due to damages made to the environment by nuclear power plants, etc.

This story really impacted me. One of the worst parts was the whole description of the beginning of the end of Offred’s real life; from the loss of her job to the loss of any money she had earned, all being transferred over to her husband. She described the scene of facing her husband as if something had suddenly changed. Her husband tries to console her saying, “at least we have each other,” but the narrator reflects on how “something had shifted, some balance. I felt shrunken, so that when he (her husband) put his arms around me, gathering me up, I was small as a doll. He doesn’t mind this,” she thinks. “He doesn’t mind it at all. Maybe he even likes it. We are not each other’s, anymore. Instead, I am his.” For some reason this was just a really powerful passage to me. I find myself not even being able to imagine something like this happening to me. The organization of this book is really great too. The story slips between the past and the present in a way that doesn’t give itself up all at once. This is what keeps the reader at it for hours if possible, until he or she must put down the book to finish or attend to some other task or what not. If I could have read the story in one sitting I would have. That’s how enthralling this book was.

There is so much that I wish I could include in this review, but I know it’s already super long. All I can say is that you must read this book. It is not preachy or outwardly “feminist” in any way (not that I think there is anything wrong with the latter). I whole-heartedly give “The Handmaid’s Tale” a rating of 10 out of 10 “books.” I have been really careful in my ratings to give what I believe are the best ratings and not inflate them in any way, and I honestly feel this book deserves not but the highest rating.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


It's been a hectic past few days to say the least. As of right now, my computer is holding on for dear life. I have been attempting to repair it, but it seems like I may have to reformat it in the end. Thus, my postings may be a little more spread out than normal but I will try to get them out at a decent pace! Look for my reviews of "The Handmaid's Tale" and "Let It Snow." Yeah, I know... I've been lazy about reviewing the latter.

Until then, Happy Reading!

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Graphic Novel)
By L. Frank Baum
(Adapted by writer Eric Shanower and artist Skottie Young)

rating: 6.5 out of 10 "books"

Like many people, I had seen the Judy Garland film production of “The Wizard of Oz,” but never actually picked up the original story written by L. Frank Baum. It was only after my boyfriend suggested I read the graphic novel version of the story that I even thought about the original text created so long ago.

The main story line is still the same: Dorothy is caught in a tornado in her Kansas farmhouse that transports her to a strange but beautiful land called Oz. When she discovers her house has fallen upon and killed the Wicked Witch of the East, she is hailed by all the “Munchkin” peoples, who were at the time enslaved by the Wicked Witch of the East. But this does not make her feel any the better, and longs to return home to her aunt and uncle in Kansas. Thus begins her journey to the Emerald City to see the Wizard of Oz, whom she has been told is her best chance of getting home.

While the yellow brick road and the scarecrow, tin man, and lion are all the same, there are some major differences between the Hollywood movie and the original story. For one, Dorothy’s shoes, which she confiscates from the Wicked Witch of the East, are silver not ruby red (a minor difference but so what!), but also the timeline of the story is different. Dorothy meets the colorful characters of the scarecrow, tin man, and lion, but the greatest part about these characters is that we are given their back stories. We not only find out the usual stories of the scarecrow wanting brains, the tin man a heart, and the lion courage, but we discover how these wishes came to be. For instance, I would never have known that the tin man (called the wooden tin man in the story), had actually once been a man, but when his ax was enchanted by the Wicked Witch of the East it caused him to chop off his limbs and body, and he had them replaced with tin. I thought the most interesting back story was that of the flying monkeys. Having only seen the movie, I thought they were pure evil, doing the bidding of the Wicked Witch of the West, but it turns out they were not that way at all, that there was a lot we did not know from just watching the film.

The City of Emeralds was also very different. When Dorothy and the rest of the group arrive at the city gates, they must wear spectacles when entering the city because they are told the brightness of the city could blind them. Everything in the city is bright green, even the people. They end up staying in the palace of the Wizard of Oz for several days, because although Oz has agreed to see them, he will only see one person a day. Oz only agrees to help them if they can all ensure the destruction of the Wicked Witch of the West, who is very different from the movie character herself. The Wicked Witch of the West is terrified of the dark as well as water and only has one eye. There is really no mention of the Wicked Witch of the East and West having been sisters, and it seems the only reason she wants Dorothy and her friends destroyed is because they are in her territory and unfit to be slaves. I don’t think it had anything to do with Dorothy accidentally killing the Wicked Witch of the East. Other differences occur involving wolves, crows, bees, a city made of china, etc., that make for a pretty entertaining story.

Overall, it was a pretty enjoyable read. It was a bit repetitive at times. Between the characters repeating that if they had a brain/heart/courage they could do this, or because they didn’t have it (a brain/heart/courage) they could not do whatever, it got a little annoying. If I had been more interested in the story matter, I probably could have knocked this graphic novel out in one sitting. I found the background on writer L. Frank Baum a bit more interesting than the actual story. I never knew that he had actually written thirteen sequels to “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” or that after the rights to the story were made public after the 1950’s, there have been tons of adaptations. However, I have to take into account the adaptation itself when it comes to rating this story. The story, combined with the awesome drawings interpreted by Skottie Young, led me to the 6.5 rating I landed at. If you are looking for something short to read with a lot of really cool pictures, I’d recommend this story. Or, if you are a huge fan of the Wizard of Oz, then this graphic novel is definitely for you.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Guest Review by Rachel

Death Note: Another Note: The Los Angeles BB Murder Cases

rating: 7.5 out of 10 "books"

Death Note: Another Note is a branch off of the popular main Death Note manga/anime series. The novel first starts off being narrated by a previous main series character named Mello. Naomi Misora, the main character, is mysteriously contacted by notorious L (yes his name is simply a letter, but one of many names that he goes by), to help work on a case, known as the Los Angeles BB Murder Cases. The gruesome serial killer in question is terrorizing the streets and has been leaving strange clues behind for the police force to discover. Naomi Misora is serving as L’s eyes and while she is at one crime scene, runs into a bizarre man, named Ryuzaki, who claims to be a detective hired by the victims families. As the story progresses, we begin to find out that the past somehow links the killer and L together. What follows is an intense search for the truth and a battle for justice.

Being a past follower of the Death Note manga and anime series, I enjoyed this book. I do not recommend this book to those who are not familiar with the main series, though, because it would be difficult to understand a lot of the terms used throughout the novel. The complexity of the characters transitions well to this novel from the original Death Note series, and makes for an interesting read. To all those manga/anime fans, and to anyone looking for something new and different to read, I recommend this book.

Guest Reviewer!

I am excited to welcome Rachel to Ambrosia Salad as a guest reviewer! Not only was she responsible for helping me come up with the name for this blog, but she has also agreed to add her thoughts and reviews on genres in the Manga, YA, Fantasy, and Sports (Running) ranges as well as others.

Keep a look out for her reviews!!!

Happy reading!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


I am pleased to announce I have joined the 2010 100+ Reading Challenge over at J.Kaye's Book Blog website! If you feel up to the challenge, you can sign up and view the rules Here or click on the Reading Challenge icon on the right sidebar.

I've also attempted to beef up my website a bit. It's been a long time coming, and I suck at HTML, XML, CSS, or whatever these blogger templates are made of. Oh well!

Happy Reading!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Up In The Air
Walter Kirn

rating: 4 out of 10 "books"

Having spotted this book at my local Target store one early December day, and having seen the movie trailers for the new book-turned-movie starring George Clooney, I decided to give this Walter Kirn story a try. I had seen the movie version of Thumbsucker which Kirn had also written, so I knew Up In The Air would be just as interesting of a story, or at least a pretty interesting idea.

That being said, Up In The Air is indeed a pretty interesting case study of Ryan Bingham, a business man who spends more time in the air, traveling from city to city to take on the task of firing people for different corporations, than anywhere else. A self described member of a “mutated species,” Ryan takes comfort in the whole process of flying: from the VIP airport clubs, to the adrenaline rush of taking off and landing, Ryan finds peace in what he calls “Airworld.” With no earthly place to call home, only an apartment used for the storage of his few belongings, Ryan Bingham calls Airworld his home. As he describes, Airworld is “a nation within a nation, with its own language, architecture, mood, and even its own currency – the token economy of airline bonus miles that I’ve come to value more than dollars.” At the start of the story, we discover that Ryan is on his “farewell tour.” Fed up with his job at ISM as a Career Transition Counselor, Ryan decides to quit after “six more days and eight more cities to go,” on his itinerary. The major deciding factor for his quit date however, is the few more flights on the company dime that he needs to reach one million frequent flyer miles. After that, he swears he will quit. With a juicy book in the works and an increasingly prospective job at MythTech in the near future, Ryan figures he should be golden. But what we come to learn in the course of the story is that Airworld is taking its toll on Ryan. From his “mounting memory problems,” to his growing paranoia that someone high up is trying to toy with him (he suspects it could be the airline, his company ISM, MythTech, etc.), combined with his obsession with obtaining his coveted one million frequent flyer miles, Ryan is clearly falling apart.

I found this story very fascinating in the way that Kirn’s character Ryan finds comfort in things people normally despise. The beginning of this story was very entertaining to read about Ryan Bingham’s attitude towards his life in “Airworld.” From the way he views people in Airworld; the normal: “Fast friends aren’t my only friends, but they’re my best friends,” and the famous: with all the athletes, rock stars, and famous people he’s flown with in first class, “This is the place to see America, not down there, where the show is almost over,” it’s an interesting outlook to read about. We see where Ryan’s love of Airworld comes from, and ride alongside him all the way to the very end.

The only problem is that the story feels unfinished. The beginning and middle I felt were very well written; however, although we know Ryan is starting to lose it, we never really feel it. There are little reminders throughout, but they don’t mesh in very well with the rest of the action. The lead up to the end of the story was very confusing, and the whole issue of Ryan’s paranoia is never really revealed to be one way or another. The biggest let down was the ending. Things are revealed that were never really hinted at anywhere in the book, and as a reader I didn’t feel the excitement and accomplishment of Ryan’s obtaining the all important frequent flyer miles which encompassed the entire goal of the story. It left me feeling like nothing really happened at all in the book. Hence the reason I’ve only given Up In The Air 4 out of 10 book stars.

After reading an Entertainment Weekly article about the book and movie comparisons where article author, Missy Schwartz, describes the book as being “about a man having a mental breakdown, a guy who’s losing it,” and the movie as being “about a guy who finds it,” I’d be interested in seeing the movie as a way of comparing the two. After all, the movie is getting tons of good buzz, and changes in the plot have surely helped the story out. They book by Walter Kirn is definitely not one that can be read in one sitting and although I rated it as average, it’s definitely a different kind of read if that’s what you are looking for. My suggestion: go see the movie instead, but if you are planning on both reading the book and seeing the movie, read the book first to lower your expectations for the film. That way, you can’t be disappointed by both.


So it's been awhile since I've posted to Ambrosia Salad. Although I'd like to be able to pin it all on the holiday festivities, I must confess I've been a bit lazy as of late when it comes to my reading. Not to fear though! I have some book reviews on the way, that I hope to be able to get out soon. Until then, here's a look at some of the book reviews to come!

Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle:
*** Finished reading, just have to review ***

Up In the Air by Walter Kirn:
*** Almost finished reading ***

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau:
*** Yet to read ***

The People of Sparks (Sequel to City of Ember) by Jeanne DuPrau:
*** Yet to read ***

I've also been thinking about initiating some type of rating system to better help describe my love/hate/middle ground feelings towards the books I review. I'm planning on having it look something like this:

Out of ten books, 10 being the highest rating and 1 being the lowest. Nothing too complicated.

Until my next review, happy book reading!