We started this blog in 2010 after a New Years' Resolution to read 60 books between the two of us. (40 for C, 20 for D.) After reaching our goal, we decided to keep going in 2011. This year, C has pledged to read 30 books, and D will read 12. By no means are we professional reviewers; we're not even professional bloggers. We're just two people who love to read and decided to share our thoughts and offer our limited insights. We hope you enjoy!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Special Post: Another Year Over

Well, we have seen another ball drop here at the old blog. Let's recap what happened this time last year:

  • We changed the name of the blog to Descripted, due to the fact that "Sixty Books" wasn't really accurate anymore.
  • We started a monthly Descripted Book Club via Google Groups.
  • I (Chassi) resolved to read thirty books in 2011, while Derrick made the gutsy resolution to read a whopping twelve -- one for each month of the book club.
Now, let's see how that stacks up:

  • We're sticking with Descripted. Not that it matters. Raise your hand if you care... Didn't think so.
  • The book club lasted for about four months, although I don't think we ever had a single month where every member read the book and participated in, you know, actually discussing it. I gained the nickname "Book Club Nazi" because I was constantly reminding people to nominate, vote on, and post about books. I tried. I really did. Unfortunately, the club was comprised of real adults with real lives. Truth be told, even if the book club had kept on truckin' after the summer, I probably would've dropped the ball around August because things got crazy at work, with school starting back (job #1) and football season rolling in (job #2). It was a pleasant idea, and I wish we had all had more time to devote to it. I read books I never would have read without the book club (Life by Keith Richards, American Gods by Neil Gaiman) and... kind of... enjoyed them. Sort of. Who knows, maybe we'll try it again sometime when we're all a bit more settled, or perhaps we should give longer time periods... Or maybe I just shouldn't be such an anal-retentive jerk about it. We'll see.
  • I read thirty-four books, because I'm an over-achiever like that, and Derrick probably read abboouuuttt... .three, unless you count comic books or text books about educational leadership. (But let's give him some credit -- he is a mere internship away from completing his Master's Degree in May!)
As for my goals for 2012, I think 30 is a good number of books to read in a year. I had plenty of time, I read a variety of things, and I didn't feel rushed or tempted to opt for a short, easy book just to help myself meet a deadline. So... 30 more in 2012!

Here's to reading a book that'll change your life this year. Cheers!


Book #34 -- Water for Elephants

Uhhhhhh, woah. This book was aaaaaamazin'.

Sarah Gruen's Water for Elephants has been immensely popular since is publication nearly six years ago. I'm not sure why I ignored it for so long, but earlier this year, when it was turned into a movie (starring none other than Twilight's Robert Pattinson -- gag), I definitely know why I continued to ignore it. Just didn't seem like my cup of tea.

I recently found out that because I'm an Amazon Prime member, I can take advantage of the new Kindle Owner's Lending Library and "borrow" some select titles for free. I was browsing through the titles, and this one was the first one I came across that I recognized. I clicked to borrow it, mostly just to see how the whole lending thing worked. I had access to it for ten days, so I thought, "Why not give it a try?" So. Glad. I did.

The story is about Jacob Jankowski, a young student in veterinary school during the Depression. After a family tragedy that forces him to miss his final exams at school, Jacob takes off and jumps a train to try to escape his shambled life. He finds himself on board with the Benzini Brothers' Most Spectacular Show On Earth. At first, the shady circus workers he encounters on the train car are threatening -- in the days of the Depression, circuses were suffering, and free-loaders looking for work weren't welcome. When they find out that Jacob has a background as a vet, they realize his talent could come in handy with the show's exotic animals. Jacob land himself a job travelling with the show and soon learns about the strange (and often horrifying) things that go on behind the scenes of a train-circus in the 1930's. He also finds himself falling for Marlena, the beauty that performs with Liberty Horses as one of the show's biggest highlights. She also happens to be married to one of the easily-angered circus bosses. As more and more circuses around the country are closing due to the economy, things get heated, and eventually the Benzini Brothers' train takes a turn for the worst.

This is such a beautiful book. Gruen is a genius, and she absolutely did her research. One of my favorite parts of this book was reading an interview with the author at the end where she talks about how deeply she delved into circus archives from the era and describing that many of the events that take place in the novel -- the ones that are either so strange or so gut-wrenchingly horrid that you can't believe they're true -- actually did happen on train circuses in America. That really adds a lot to the emotion of the book, and I kind of wish I had known it before I read it.

The novel alternates between chapters told from Jacob's perspective while he was on the circus train, and chapters told from Jacob's perspective as a 90-something-year-old man in a nursing home. It's really just... awesome. I want to say so much, but I want you to read it so you find out for yourself.

And I suppose I'll watch the movie soon. Robert Pattinson (and Reese Witherspoon, too... bleh!) make me a bit nervous, but I found out that one of the deliciously evil characters is played by Christoph Waltz, who plays one of my favorite villains ever in Inglourious Basterds, so that alone is enough for me. We'll see how it holds up.

Read from December 22, 2011 to December 30, 2011.

5/5 Stars


Book #33 -- Atonement

Hmmmm. This is going to be a tough book to review, but I'll do my best.

Ian McEwan's Atonement is a much-celebrated novel that was made into an even-more-celebrated film in 2007. I knew of the film, due to its wide critical acclaim in the award season following its release, but had not seen it before reading the book.

The book begins in pre-World War II England and is centered around the well-to-do Tallis family. There's the always absent workaholic father whose name I don't even remember, and Emily, the mother who is such a poor motherly figure that her children call her by her first name. There are three Tallis children -- Leon, Cecilia, and Briony. Briony is a brilliantly talented writer, even at the young age of twelve, with a very active imagination. So, when she  "accidentally" witnesses a couple of awkward, flirtatious situations between her sister, Ceclia, and Robbie Turner (the son of the Tallis family's live-in help), Briony lets her imagination twist the situation into something that it isn't. Later in the novel, a young cousin of the Tallis' is raped. Briony's mind is so skewed that she aides the police investigation with some false information. Obviously, false accusations can easily ruin lives... So the rest of the book is about Briony dealing with her own guilt and seeking atonement (see what they did there?) from those she has wronged.

I should also add that there is a layer of (what appears to be) self-critiquing in this novel by McEwan himself. He uses Briony's writing to discuss the struggles of authors and the guilt associated with "playing God" and determining your characters' fates... Blah, blah, I don't really like all that abstract, introspective crap, so I'm not going to discuss it in the review, although I thought I should mention it so that no one thinks I'm an idiot who just didn't notice it. I did; I just don't care.

Let me start by saying that I think McEwan is a terrific writer. Really, he's got beautiful phrasing, and he's very good at playing out emotions. The novel itself lagged in a few places, but overall, the pace was good. I enjoyed reading the novel, but I did not enjoy the actual novel itself. That doesn't seem like it makes sense, but, as I have said many times -- the ending of a novel will make or break it. In this case, it wasn't really just the ending, but... maybe the lack of an ending? I mean, it ended, but it was utterly pointless. I kept waiting on some giant secret revelation that was going to crack the whole book wide open, but it never came. The latter parts of the novel cover about ten years, and I thought surely something was going to come of all those words on all those pages, but... No. Maybe I'm completely crazy, because there are tons of people who rave about this book, but I felt like I wasted my time. I realize that all books don't have to have a happy ending where all the lose ends are tied -- in fact, I prefer books that aren't like that -- but this one just didn't work for me.


I'm about to say something I do not ever, ever, ever say, and I will probably never say it again, so prepare yourselves.

Are you ready?


The movie is so, so much better than the book.

..............Bleh, that leaves a terrible taste in my mouth. But it's true. The film stays very, very close to the plot of the book with only a few minor changes, so it doesn't make up for anything that's wrong with the book. Same plot, same ending, same everything. But somehow, it is a beautiful movie. That's so strange to me, but it's true. Joe Wright, the director, must be some sort of cinematic genius. I have never seen a movie directed so well. I don't want to turn this into a movie review but I do want to say this:

One of my biggest issues with books-turned-to-movies is that you often lose the sense of perspective that you get from being inside different characters heads. Atonement brilliantly worked around this by using a specific  cue (e.g. a close-up of a doorknob turning) to signal the beginning of an important event (e.g. the first time Briony witnesses Robbie and Ceclia's flirtation). You watch it from Briony's perspective. Then the movie returns to that same cue and goes through the event from Ceclia's perspective. It's not that clean-cut, but you get the idea. Really well done. For once in my life, I am telling you to watch a movie but skip the book. I must be going crazy.

Read from November 28, 2011 to December 21, 2011

2/5 Stars