Tuesday, February 23, 2010

My Horizontal Life
Chelsea Handler

rating: 7 out of 10 "books"

For anyone who's ever watched the E! channel relatively late on a week night, I'm sure you've come across "Chelsea Lately," a late night talk show hosted by the hilariously witty, Chelsea Handler. On the show she openly talks about subjects that many would consider taboo or controversial, dishes out and speaks her mind about celebrity gossip, and most of all makes fun of the Hollywood elite. With her roundtable of guest comedians and her personal assistant, whom she calls her "little nugget," Chelsea Lately is hardly boring. I have become an avid viewer over the years, and try to catch it when I am able to stay up that late, but I had never really known anything about her personal life or other work-related projects outside from the show. I had never seen her do standup either, whether in person or on a TV special, so I was curious to read "My Horizontal Life" to try to find some kind of explanation as to the experiences that shaped the character that she is.

Of course, this book is a true story about a bunch of different one night stands, and given the subject matter may not be the best book for anyone under the age of 21 to read. However, apart from all the intimate details, this book is filled with laugh out loud moments from the situations (both embarassing and bizzare), down to Handler's writing style itself. While I had a hard time reading about her childhood memories and believing that she could act in such a manner as a 7-10 year old (the style of writing makes it feel like as a youngster, she spoke and thought much like she does now), eventually I was able to get used to it. I mean of course, having written this book as an adult, things are going to come across in her current voice... I think I just had a hard time believing she could be so clever and funny all her life. I sought some sort of explanation as to what kind of made her into the person she is, and yes the situations more than explain it, but somehow I still didin't find my answer. But again, that was not the intention of this book at all.

All in all, "My Horizontal Life" was a super fun read. I was able to get it read in no time at all. If you are a fan of Chelsea Handler, or just need an entertaining book to read on vacation or wherever, then I'd definitely recommend this book! Now I just need to get my hands on her other book "Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea!"

Friday, February 19, 2010

Happy Friday!!!

Greetings Book Bloggers! Well, as Chelsea Handler from "Chelsea Lately" on E! would say, these past couple weeks have been a whirlwind! I have had a LOT going on as far as trying to keep up with my reading, personal life stuff, and of course -- The Olympics!!! Seeing my fav athletes win has been pretty exciting and got me thinking that maybe I should try to find a biography or two to read to find out a little bit more about these amazing people.

I've currently been reading "The Other" by David Guterson and so far it has been pretty interesting. As far as reviews to come, look out for my thoughts on "City of Ember" and "The People of Sparks" both by Jeanne DuPrau.

Until next time, Happy Reading!


*** Pictured above: (Olympic Gold Medalists) Women's Skiing; Lindsey Vonn, Men's Figure Skating; Evan Lysacek, and Men's Snowboarding; Shaun White ***

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Unit
Ninni Holmqvist

rating: 8.5 out of 10 "books"

I saw a summary for this book on an ALA online booklist website once and have always wanted to read it. The only problem was the few copies my local library services had always seemed to be checked out. I had actually seen this book before I even heard mention of “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood (reviewed further down my site), and when I was finally able to get my hands on a copy, I devoured this story! So without further adieu, here’s my review and thoughts on “The Unit.”

The main character of “The Unit,” Dorrit, has reached her 50th birthday at the beginning of the story. She recalls how she can hardly believe this benchmark has come so fast. She can remember like it were yesterday, when she’d just moved into her house at 42 years old and still regarded the future with optimism. “I still believed and hoped that it wasn’t too late to have a child. Or at least to start earning money from my profession and become financially secure, or find a partner, someone who would love me and want to live with me.” Dorrit has never been in love nor had someone love her other than her dog, Jock. A lot of this, we find, seems to stem from her upbringing.

Dorrit lives in a world in which, as she explains it “the housewife and her male provider have not only been out of fashion for a long time, they have been eradicated. And children are no longer a drag, a hindrance, for anyone. There is no longer the risk of ending up as a dependent, or falling behind on the salary scale, or losing skills in the workplace. There is no longer any excuse not to have children. Nor is there any longer an excuse not to work when you have children.” For in this dystopian society, everyone is equal; for the most part. You see, society is based on a sort of scale that measures people’s worth based on what they can offer the world in terms of children, financial prosperity, and success; anything that can benefit the future of society. In this type of world, men are ashamed if they openly show off their physical strength and women are scorned if they dare to be physically weak or accept help with heavy jobs. It is actually against the law for either party to take part in such activities.

So what it comes down to is: those who are “needed” and those who are not or, in other words “dispensable.” Dorrit finds herself amongst the latter, and therefore required to leave her world and spend her remaining life at the “Second Reserve Band Unit for biological material.” Women who are 50 years old and do not have a husband, children, or any significant accomplishments to speak of and 60 year old men with no wives, children or successes are all sent to “The Unit.” Here, their everyday lives revolve around scientific experiments and organ donations because those who are “dispensable” constitute a reserve, that when, in the event that a seriously ill “needed” person requires an organ “donation,” the “dispensable” person would provide the matching organ. The longer a person remains in “The Unit,” the more risky the experiments he or she is expected to participate in, while at the same time he or she moves closer to donating vital organs. The people of “The Unit” refer to this as the “final donation,” because the removal of their vital organ ultimately results in the “dispendable’s” death.

However, the treatment of the “dispensables” is hardly uncomfortable. Their living arrangements are very comfortable. Each person has their own apartment with all the amenities. They are allowed to bring any personal items they choose, although they can have no contact with the outside world (no telephone, email, text messaging, etc.). People in “The Unit” can pursue any hobby or professional activity they wish and never have to worry about finances again because everything is taken care of for them. There is a garden, library, cinema, theater, art gallery, cafĂ©, restaurant, sports complex, etc. Above all, as the director of “The Unit” explains it, “you have each other. For the majority of you it isn’t until you come here that you will experience the feeling of belonging, or being part of something with other people, which those of us who are needed often take for granted.”

Dorrit, like everyone else just entering “The Unit” is very scared, but she tries to keep her head up and distract herself from what is going on by keeping busy at the sports complex. She begins to realize that the experiments are humane and the workers of “The Unit” try to keep them alive as long as possible before the “dispensables” are sent in to make their final donations. But even realizing that is not enough to keep Dorrit’s spirits up all the time. She explains to her psychologist that, “I used to believe that my life belonged to me. Something that was entirely at my disposal, something no one else had any claim on, or the right to have an opinion on. But I’ve changed my mind. I don’t own my life at all; it’s other people who own it.” The only thing that gets her though her situation, what makes her believe what she’s doing is meaningful, is to tell herself she’s doing it for the good of “the needed.” Things get even more complicated however, when she falls in love with Johannes, a fellow writer like herself. Saying goodbye to your "Unit" friends(the only friends you've ever really had)is hard, but this story begs the question: how can you deal with having to say goodbye to the only person you've ever loved?

"The Unit" was really amazing. Even with how horrible the overall idea of the story was to imagine, I found it one hundred times better to think about than what occurred in “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Like another reviewer put it, I really enjoyed the characters, even if none of them were very memorable. This was another one of those “speculative fiction” stories, where the events presented in the story, while although appearing all science fictiony, are actually not all that far off from becoming true. I could totally see this happening in the near future, bizarrely enough. Of course, the one thing I did not like about this book was the ending. Yes, I am yet another reader who was unsatisfied with the ending of this book. I mean, I’m all for books having unpredictable endings, but this one just killed me. That cost this story points in my book. I’d like to rank “The Unit” by Ninni Holmqvist a 10 out of 10 “books,” but because of the above mentioned, combined with the less “wow” factor I felt between this story and “The Handmaid’s Tale,” I am going to have to give “The Unit” a rating of 8.5 out of 10 “books.” I do suggest anyone and everyone read this book though!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Vampire Diaries: Team Stefan or Team Damon?                           What side are you on?

Hey bloggers! Happy Groundhog Day! Or maybe not so happy with the way things turned out this morning :(

Anyways, Zoe over at Zoe's Book Reviews has started a debate over which brother from the CW television show "Vampire Diaries" is better. She has graciously let me argue on the behalf of Damon, and I decided I would also share it here on my site. If you haven't seen the show or read the books, you NEED to! The show is sooo good and the books aren't too bad either ;)

OK then! Here goes:

I hate to hop on the Damon bandwagon, but like the other Guest Posters I am Team Damon all the way. Not only is Damon way more mysterious, hunky, and all that good stuff that you immediately pick up on while watching the show, but I think Damon is also waaaay deeper than he appears. He may have some tricks up his sleeve (but come on, it only makes things more interesting!), but deep down I know he is a good guy. Yeah Stefan may be conflicted with his whole vamp situation and disgusted by what he must do to get food, but Damon I believe, is more conflicted with himself (as in, not what he’s become, but who he is). Yes, Damon is pretty secure with himself as a vampire and feels no remorse killing, but I also think (as evidenced by this past Thursday’s episode), that Damon does have a caring side. He really seems to want to help protect Elena, for the sake of her well-being and not for the sake of his own personal interests (at least some of the time).

In this way, I think Damon has the potential to change – a lot. Now, I’m not saying he’s going to become all “Saint Damon,” but I think he could become part of “the group.” But getting back to my argument, it’s simple: Stefan is boring, dorky, and pretty much a “solid” guy while Damon is charming, funny, and most of all, the brother with the most range (I guess is the right word?) What I mean is that Stefan as a character is kind of stuck. He’s kind of this straight arrow type and it’d have to be some sort of mega-disaster before Stefan “switched to the dark side.” Damon on the other hand, has a lot of room to develop. Combine that with what the other Team Damon guest posters have said (see Zoe's site for the guest posters pieces), and I think we’ve done a pretty good job of supporting our side of the argument!

Again, I encourage you to read the books whether you are a fan of the show or just interested in the whole vampire craze. The books are somewhat different than what has happened on the show, and it's fun to watch the show after having read the books and try to guess what the CW will use from the books and so on. Definitely see my reviews of the first part of "The Vampire Diaries" books which have appeared in earlier posts.

Since we have six more weeks of winter, might as well make the most of it... Grab a book, a blanket, maybe even some hot chocolate and settle into your favorite reading spot! Until next time... Happy reading!