Tuesday, September 22, 2009

six great books, after a Warcraft rant

I'm still reading a lot. I'm tired of playing my level 80 paladin on Warcraft; I'm not geared well enough to do heroic raids, and it turns out I frigging hate running level 80 dungeons too much to get well-geared as an elite, top-of-the-server player. Too much squabbling and bossiness. "Hassen [a Warcraft nickname], I need you to do this." "Hassen, when I say something, I need you to do it IMMEDIATELY." "One of the pallies doesn't have 'pally power' set on interactive! Hass, you really need to change that." (No matter what snotty random Warcraft players want, if I set anything to allow random other Warcraft users to have any access to my computer whatsoever, my geeky husband will be all over me in a New York minute for Egregious Stupidity On The Internet).

Here's the truth: if I wanted to get micromanaged, I would go get a paying job. If I am going to put up with that much attitude, there had better be something in it for me. And that's the crux of the matter: I never get anything worth my while from these runs. Instead, I end up losing money having to repair my armor (and although my gear isn't good enough for WoW snobs, it is good enough to be very, very expensive to repair). I've been working on a rogue character, but it turns out that the rogue class is harder to play than it looks. Everyone complains, myself included, that rogues are overpowered and it's sickening how they can just murder you so easily, sneaking up on you while they're invisible and stabbing you in the back, but it turns out that it's not as easy to be a master assassin as the other players make it look. To speak in the lingo of the game, I never seem to have enough energy or combo points for finishing moves. It may indeed be that I suck at Warcraft, my chosen game, sad to say. Anyhow, I've been reading, and I've had some great books on my plate lately, and here are some reviews for the few brave readers who struggled through that Warcraft rant:

"Roux Morgue"(2008) by Claire M. Johnson (an occasional commenter here on this blog!): This is the second in a series about a spirited but unlucky hard-drinking pastry chef, following Ms. Johnson's award-winning debut, "Beat Until Stiff." I had put off reading "Roux Morgue" because usually an author writing a series has a sophomore slump. I don't know what causes it, but it's ubiquitous, affecting talented authors as diverse as Patrick O'Brien and Lisa Lutz. However, it certainly didn't happen with Claire M. Johnson. Instead, she got better. "Beat Until Stiff" was very good, but "Roux Morgue" is great. I hated to put it down and actually attempted to read it while baking a chocolate cake. I got a little buttercream on the pages, which I had to wipe off like a slob. Somehow that seemed fitting, though.

"Perfect Life" (2009) by Jessica Shattuck: a driven pharmaceuticals executive with an infertile husband gets her old Harvard boyfriend to donate sperm to her and sign away all his rights. He shows up back in Boston at the baby's christening, though, causing emotional havoc. This is a very clever book capturing the way people think and feel about parenting and careers at this point in time.

"Blame" (2009) by Michelle Huneven: a funny, brilliant, alcoholic history professor wakes up in jail with a terrible hangover, to find out that she's facing murder charges for running over two people. She blacked out and can't remember what happened. Moving and thought-provoking, this is a book that makes you ponder atonement, forgiveness, repentance, and fate.

"Panic Attack" (2009) by Jason Starr: a successful, happy psychologist wakes up in the night to discover two intruders. He shoots one to death, and after the shock subsides, he expects to be hailed as a hero. Instead he becomes infamous as a crazed vigilante... and someone starts leaving him anonymous, scary notes. I hated all of the characters in this book, but I was riveted. A true page-turner; I had trouble sleeping while I was reading it.

"When You Reach Me" (2009) by Rebecca Stead: Iris and I read this for a mother-daughter book club, and we were blown away. Miranda, a sixth grader and latchkey child in 1979 New York, gets a very weird anonymous note: "I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own. I must ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter." Her mother is preoccupied with getting on a game show, and her best friend isn't speaking to her, and how is she supposed to handle these bizarre and unsettling notes which she keeps finding? Brilliantly written, this young adult book is worth reading by grown-ups as well. It's on a number of shortlists for the Newbery Prize, and I expect it to become a classic.

"Breathers" (2008) by S.G. Browne: Andy comes to a few days after a horrible traffic accident as a mutilated zombie, and his mortified parents make him live in their basement, cringing during any interaction with him. Miserable, Andy seeks revenge by drinking his way steadily through his parents' magnificent wine collection, he starts some zombie activism, and he gets a crush on a glamorous goth zombie. A brilliant take on the zombie genre, replete with zombie sex scenes!

Read, people, read! When your beloved hobbies pall upon you, when you're afflicted by micromanagement: there's a world of literature out there ready to sooth and distract you.


hughman said...

maybe you should try out for game shows and iris could write about it! she's far from a latchkey kid but i bet lola would be happy to leave mysterious notes.

Claire M. Johnson said...

Oh honey! I'm working on third book, just read a novel that had me sobbing because of the beauty of its language (and it's sad how poorly written most books are these days), which completely flattened my confidence, well, flat, and then. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

And you will appreciate this. I lost my car keys yesterday. The second set in less than a year. I thought of you. Unfortunately, they were NOT in my trunk. I wish.

the Drunken Housewife said...

Oh, sweetie, thank YOU. You gave me hours of enjoyment with your latest book, and I look forward to the next one.

Hugh, Iris wants me to go on "Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?" She'd be happy if I won some cash and also happy if I looked like an idiot on television and had to say that children are smarter than me. It's a win-win for her!

hughman said...

that Fifth Grader show is hard. you'd do better with Trivial Pursuit. (not that i watch both of them regularly at 11 and 2).

Missy said...

You could totally ace the Fifth grader show with a little minor studying for the trick questions.


Keith said...

Oooh! Two recommendations: (1) Take a Warcraft vacation...D&D Online just went free this summer. I've been happily blasting away my WoW blase with a good old fashioned magic missile spell....ah, pen and paper RPG days... (2) get an alt and join The Spreading Taint on Proudmore. Largely a glbt guild, but it encourages misfits, and the background chatter is priceless (in a kids-probably-shouldn't-read-it-and-no-taint-doesn't-refer-to-the-word-evil-just-because-we're-horde-go-google-it-yourself sort of way.) Cheers.

virago said...

When your beloved hobbies pall upon you, when you're afflicted by micromanagement: there's a world of literature out there ready to sooth and distract you.

But reading is my beloved hobby! Sadly, obligations to my place of painful employment -- talk about micromanagement -- and my public policy classes -- I'm in midlife-career-change mode and am trying to get a master's -- distract me from my life's true purpose. (Not that I don't spend hours reading fiction when I should be reading case studies for my Public Finance and Budgeting class.)