Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Quotable

For Leduc, literature, like life, was a place where some people damage us and some people save our lives—and then it is lunchtime.
 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Good article

I'm one of those that just doesn't get all the hullabaloo about Neill Blomkamp movies. With Chappie coming up, someone else who it seems is also left a little disappointed by his films has written a really nice article. It's a bit long but worth it if you have an interest in films and or sci/fi.

The one thing I do quite admire about Blomkamp?

The original sci-fi movie not based on a preexisting intellectual property is an endangered species, but Blomkamp has made three in a row.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Quotable

There’s a profound insecurity at the heart of any agenda that presumes that if kids aren’t spoon fed a black and white fairy tale of our national greatness, they’ll have no pride or loyalty. Arrogance isn’t patriotism, and education isn’t indoctrination. And anyone who doesn’t comprehend that difference doesn’t just need a history lesson, he needs a dictionary.

 By Oklahoma’s demented fight against AP US history.

 

 h/t

Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx

Title: Close Range: Wyoming Stories (includes Brokeback Mountain)
Author: Annie Proulx
Publisher:  Fourth Estate (1999)


I really enjoyed starting our year of posts with a reader suggested title (thanks again for spearheading that new twist, Michael). This month starts our picks and Brokeback Mountain is one of mine. I did the audio on this a few years back; this time I read it with my very own eyes and it only gets better with more reads. And at the risk stepping outside the author's intentions, I plan to fangirl all over this short story. Note: I attempted some of the other stories but none could hold my interest - I'm not much of a short story person - so this review does not include the entire collection.

For those that are new to our monthly series, this is when Michael reviews a film adapted from a book which gets a review here. 


Click here for Michael's film review of Brokeback Mountain
at It Rains... You Get Wet



They were respectful of each other's opinions, each glad to have a companion where none had been expected. Ennis, riding against the wind back to the sheep in the treacherous, drunken light, thought he'd never had such a good time, felt he could paw the white out of the moon.

Ennis and Jack, the summer they are both about 19, end up herding sheep on Brokeback Mountain in 1960s Wyoming. Their friendship develops almost immediately and later progresses to intimacy. Their passionate summer spent together begins a decades long covert relationship.

...they shook hands, hit each other on the shoulder, then there was forty feet of distance between them and nothing to do but drive away in opposite directions. Within a mile Ennis felt like someone was pulling his guts out hand over hand a yard at a time.

The two men do not live near each other and don't see each other for four years after that first summer. When they finally connect again, both having married and started families, their feelings for each other have not diminished in the slightest.

It ain't goin a be that way. We can't. ... Can't get out of it. Jack, I don't want a be like them guys you see around sometimes. And I don't want a be dead.

They are both caught by a time and a community that won't tolerate an open relationship between two men. Ennis copes with this by living the life expected of him; his relationship with Jack the only exception. Jack copes through dreams and affairs that the reader usually has to infer rather than experience. However they manage alone, it is with each other that they find solace through annual vacations.

Years on years they worked their way through the high meadows and mountain drainages... but never returning to Brokeback.


One thing never changed: the brilliant charge of their infrequent couplings was darkened by the sense of time flying, never enough time, never enough.

It's difficult to go too deeply into a short story without revealing everything of it. Perhaps this story has become so famous that many folks know it anyway. However, even if you're familiar with it from the movie (or media coverage) I can't stress enough how worth it it is to read the story. The breadth of character and experience conveyed by Proulx in 37 pages is wonderful, absorbing and heartbreaking. I struggle to think of a more magnificent and touching love story.


Now about that movie... Don't forget to check out Michael's post. 

 
rating: 5 of 5 stars
 


Coming up next:  
Lost Moon by Jim Lovell & Jeffrey Kluger



Links to previous joint posts under the cut: 



Thursday, February 5, 2015

Nice interview

Check out this very nice interview with David Oyelowo. I saw Selma last weekend and it's the best movie I've seen in I don't know how long. Can't recommend it enough.

Quotable

Everyday is for the thief, but one day is for the owner.

English translation of Yoruba proverb included at the beginning of Every Day is for the Thief by Teju Cole

Friday, January 30, 2015

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote


Title: Breakfast at Tiffany's
Author: Truman Capote
Publisher:  Random House (1958)


I'm really excited to start the year (perhaps moving into our sixth year of doing this??? Michael, can you remember?) with one of the titles gleaned from Michael's poll results. It was a fantastic idea that Michael had to allow interested readers to make suggestions for our book/movie postings; and then for everyone to vote on them. One of the winning titles, this one, I haven't read/watched for over a decade. It's been cool to re-visit.

For those that are new to our monthly series, this is when Michael reviews a film adapted from a book which gets a review here. 


Click here for Michael's film review of Breakfast at Tiffany's
at It Rains... You Get Wet



From an indeterminate point in the future, the narrator in Breakfast at Tiffany's recounts his friendship with Miss Holiday Golightly, Travelling. We know at the outset that he hasn’t seen her in the intervening years. He even mentions he never thought to write about her until an acquaintance calls him up to see a remarkable photograph of a piece of artwork resembling Holly. Both men, in remembering Holly, exhibit the melancholia that pervades this novella. Even in scenes when Holly and the narrator are pulling larks in their neighborhood, having drinks, and shooting the shit there is an ever present sense of sadness. The narrator, who is never named, meets Holly after moving into a room in the same boarding house. Holly keeps forgetting her key and ringing his bell. They don't actually meet until a night hiding in his apartment from a john (windows make such handy exits) but then she stops ringing his bell. After writing a polite note to her the next week, she invites him to a party.

It feels melodramatic to describe the narrator as obsessed with Holly but it’s difficult to find another word for it. He’s one of those people that is never quite comfortable being friends on the terms that are offered. Holly is described multiple times as ‘a fake but a real one’ which mostly seems like a superficial alternative to noticing that Holly wasn’t given the life she wanted so she’s attempting to take it. The narrator is relentless in trying to get at what he thinks is real about her and almost equally relentless at rejecting what he sees as fake. (Or, at the very least, judging it.)

Breakfast at Tiffany's is an interestingly crafted book as the reader is never outside of the narrator’s very strong view of things yet it’s still easiest to know more about Holly than him. I get Holly. I get her fears, insecurities, ambitions, and frustrations. I get her charm, guardedness and managing nature. I don’t get very much about the narrator. It’s possible that’s a pretty personal reading of it, though. I’m not a call girl living in 1940s New York but I get the challenges that were present for women flying solo in that time period. The narrator, despite only hinting at his non-Holly life, seems to have one; but readers only see him through the lens of his obsession with Holly. For me, that’s a limiting view of a character. 

(For a counterpoint, see this article by someone who connected deeply with the narrator. I was struck particularly by this line: "Capote doesn't claim his alter ego's sexual identity, but it's clear that Tru [narrator] is gay from his infatuation with Holly." It was illuminating for me to read that as it's a perceptiveness that my experience has not yet brought to me.)

The narrator and Holly have a lot of good times together (and some full-on quarrels, as well) but a sense of menace is never far below the surface. It’s not just the narrator’s structure that makes it feel like an hourglass is running down for Holly. It’s the edge she’s always pushing to get the life she’s decided is the one that will cure the 'mean reds.'

I’d be remiss to not mention that this can be a difficult read due to the racist attitudes of many of the characters. A lot of slurs are bandied about - in addition to a questionable decision on the author’s part - which makes this a very white-centered NYC story. (And I’d love the chance to ask Capote about Holly’s assessment of gay women. I'd like to know what inspired him to make that choice.)



Now about that movie... Don't forget to check out Michael's post. 

 
rating: 3 of 5 stars
 


Coming up next:  
Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx



Links to previous joint posts under the cut: 



Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Love at second sight

Watching this video this morning I felt a special glow of warmth for Marshawn Lynch:



Watching this video this evening I knew it was love:


Quotable

Because we come to the world fresh we foolishly suppose that with our new lives new possibilities are born. It isn't true. The short range of possibilities are already worked out. We can change nothing, we can expect nothing. However long it takes the world will teach us our places, by preaching itself against ourselves...


After Z-hour by Elizabeth Knox

Amazing!


Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014 Favorites

I'm a bit slow to get this up (and a bit MIA from the internet these days, gorgeous weather ya know) but it's time to skim over the books read this year and see what it was I liked best. This year I didn't keep up my spreadsheet so I only have this Goodreads link to include for all books read this year.


Favorite fiction: The Vintner's Luck by Elizabeth Knox

Favorite non-fiction: Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China by Jung Chang

Favorite mystery/thriller: Devices and Desires by P.D. James
(Didn't read a lot of these this year so this wins by default; really didn't like the last third of the book.)
Woops!!! How could I forget a book I just read last month and was definitely better than the above?!?
Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

Favorite historical fiction: Empire of the Sun by J.G. Ballard

Favorite fantasy: Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox

Favorite Sci-fi: Salvage by Alexandra Duncan

Favorite Romance: Laura Kinsale audio releases
(Didn't read a lot of this genre either and didn't come by anything new that I liked.)

Surprise hit: The Sword and the Dagger by Ardath Mayhar

Surprise blunder: Bitten by Kelley Armstrong
Heard lots of good stuff about this one but couldn't even get past the second chapter

Favorite author discovered in 2014: Elizabeth Knox
(h/t Ingrid!)

Most re-read book first read in 2014: None for 2014 so instead...
Most re-read author in 2014: Laura Kinsale audiobooks. Ah, bliss!

And since I do occasionally do something other than read...

Movies:
Favorite - The Edge of Tomorrow
Surprise hit - The English Teacher
Surprise blunder - Guardians of the Galaxy

Video games:
Favorite - Bejewelled 3


Honorable mention to Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D as I'm having so much fun with that TV show





Past Editions: 
2013 Favorites
2012 (Half-year) Favorites
2011 Favorites
2010 Favorites

Friday, November 14, 2014

This is not somone you want to see nude!

And running!


Thankfully my seat was far enough back that it was entertaining rather than disturbing. :)

As an ex-pat American, this whole streaking at sporting events is so weird to me!

Monday, November 10, 2014

"On the lookout for books and movies"

My wonderful partner in crime has got the explanation covered really well over at his blog so I'm just going to link. If you'd like to make a request for our joint posting series definitely check it out!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Hell House by Richard Matheson

Title: Hell House
Author: Richard Matheson
Publisher:  Viking Press (1971)


I think this final title of our year might be the third Matheson book in our joint post series. A moment, please, while I do a quick search... For once, my memory serves me well. Here's the first we did and then another earlier this year for a second go. I was hoping third time's a charm for me and this author - who I don't click with - but, alas, it's clearly not meant to be. At least I know for sure now and can comfortably move on from Matheson's backlist.

For those that are new to our monthly series, this is when Michael reviews a film adapted from a book which gets a review here. 


Click here for Michael's film review of The Legend of Hell House
at It Rains... You Get Wet


Title/cover: 
Title rivals Florence for the best thing about the book. It sounds cool, it’s succinct and apt. (As you’ll see, I’m really reaching for anything positive to say about this book; don’t say I didn’t warn you, if this is a novel you like, you won’t like this review.)
  
 
Premise: 
Two mediums, a scientist, and an assistant have one week to take on the powerful, clever, cursed, and diabolically haunted Hell House.



What works: 
Florence. There are essentially 4 characters in this novel (not counting the house) but only one of them is well-characterized. When Florence first appears it seems like she’s going to play the ‘dippy sensitive’ role but she turns out to be a very well-rounded character. She is quite sensitive (she’s a medium so I’m using this word more in those terms) and very empathetic, both of which turn out to be great strengths and great weaknesses in her time in Hell House. It was also a cool feature of her character that her communion with the dead was intimately tied to her monotheistic faith.


The mystery-related dramatic tension. This story is a melding of a haunted house story and a mystery. The dramatic tension related to the mystery periodically created moments of tension and excitement.



What Doesn’t: 
So many things!!! The writing is poor, the dialogue is uneven, and the characterization is not well done (Florence excepted). It’s sexist, misogynist, and homophobic. One could argue that it is the characters/house who are these things but I could argue (and do!) that choices were made by the author that go beyond simply assigning characteristics. This not being my first Matheson book, I am seeing a definite pattern in his choices as an author and they’re a problem. (I’m also pretty sure he’s of the school of thought that says ‘but there’s no reason for it.’ Gross!) 

It features extreme sexual violence against women whilst the men are attacked in multiple, non-sexual ways and usually via their perceived mental faculties. 

ScienceFail: The scientist’s arguments are built upon completely unscientific reasoning. I’m not referencing the scientific reasoning of house hauntings (clearly I’m buying that conceit if I’m reading) but he’s supposed to be a physicist and he doesn’t even know how to build a case using the scientific method. 

The Ending [major spoiler to come, highlight if interested]: After spending the length of a book with a super powerful villain puppet mastering every single scene, he is defeated by what amounts to name calling. Seriously? Name calling? (And while we’re here, the villain’s motivation is that he’s short????)




Overall: Skip this one, it sucks.


Now about that movie... Don't forget to check out Michael's post. 

 
rating: 1 of 5 stars
 


Coming up next:  
Annual holiday break, see you next year!




Links to previous joint posts under the cut: 



Sunday, October 26, 2014

Quotable

Oh, hey, look! The internet is still here and so am I! Fancy that!

Here's a cool article.

My fave bits:

Nothing good can just happen and then end.”

“Because if you bring 2014 Will Smith along, then you have to give a role to Jaden. And then Jaden’s going to want to run social media for the film.”

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

(Mostly) A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin

Title: The Earthsea Quartet* 
Author: Ursula Le Guin
Publisher:  See note



As I recall, this month kicks off The Slide (made infamous by Michael:) and I've found The Slide started early this year. What with connection problems and a hard drive crash making computer/digital work more trouble than it was worth for most of the month, and Spring weather keeping me outside, it's no wonder Sept has flown by. October here already? No way, I'm just not ready. But instead of thinking of time passing us by at Ludicrous Speed, let's talk books.

*note: This quartet volume was issued by Penguin in 2012 and includes A Wizard of Earthsea (1968), The Tombs of Atuan (1972), The Farthest Shore (1973), and Tehanu (1990) 

For those that are new to our monthly series, this is when Michael reviews a film adapted from a book which gets a review here. 


Click here for Michael's film review of Tales from Earthsea
at It Rains... You Get Wet


This review, as hinted in the title, will be mostly about the first Earthsea book but I did pick up the quartet edition with the ambitious goal of getting through all four since the movie purports to be inspired by the entire Earthsea world (in reality it seems to mostly focus on the third book). In A Wizard of Earthsea a young boy from Gont, an island in the northern area of Earthsea, shows promise at the arts of witchcraft and wizardry. He is taken as an apprentice by the old wizard in residence. His headstrong ways don't mesh well with the old wizard and he eventually goes to a fancy school for kids with his talents. His boastful nature ends in a spell that releases a shadow which he will eventually have to face. The subsequent books follow an older and usually wiser wizard as he accomplishes some of his greatest deeds. This last bit we know as the reader as it's implied that his deeds are known throughout Earthsea via songs and poems.

For all the grandeur that is implied by great deeds, wizardry and poems, Ged is a rather isolated individual. Many of his adventures he chooses to go solo or is accompanied by only one other person. He is accustomed to harsh conditions and silence. While not unfriendly, it often seems as if his mind is somewhere else entirely. He has a subtle sense of humor and a soft spot for young, headstrong people. As you might guess, Le Guin's deft hand at characterization is on full display in these books. Add to that her exquisite writing and it seems like a slam dunk for an excellent time as a reader. I know this is true of many readers but the Earthsea stories just don't hold my attention. It was for this reason that I chose this title (and I'd been wanting to watch the movie). I wanted to give them one more try as I'm such a Le Guin fan but I must face it that these aren't the stories for me. I can't even quite put my finger on what it is but I find it so easy to put the Earthsea books down and do something else.

It's a wonderfully built world that is at once completely fantastical and readily accessible. The characters feel real and their actions true. Yet I remain unhooked. I stopped reading about halfway through the third book and I think the second half of the second book was probably the most engaging. I like the creativity and the subtle interweaving of the tales as you progress through Ged's life but, again, it was always so easy for me to put the book down. I find it fascinating when I am blown away by excellence of craft but not at all engaged. It's an odd reading experience.

One thing that kept coming to mind while reading was that it would be an excellent book to read aloud with a group. The language and style lend itself perfectly to an epic saga to be shared aloud. And I do mean shared! I don't think it would quite fit the bill to just listen to an audiobook. I don't know if anyone actually reads aloud together after the age of picture books, etc but these would be the books to do it with.

So is Ged able to face the shadow creature he unleashed? Well, after a side quest with a dragon and an encounter with a powerful royal couple, he does turn his mind more fully to the shadow. What happens after that is only for those that read to the end. 



Now about that movie... Don't forget to check out Michael's post. 


rating: 3 of 5 stars
 

Coming up next:  
Hell House by Richard Matheson




Links to previous joint posts under the cut: 



Saturday, September 6, 2014

Star Wars Love Poem

So happy to have internet changeover complete and good connectivity back. For many reasons obviously but also because I got to play swtor and this happened:




Friday, August 29, 2014

The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton

Title: The Andromeda Strain
Author: Michael Crichton
Publisher:  Knopf (1969)


I assume we'll all be glued to our televisions this weekend for the opening games of college football but if you need something to read during halftime this title might be just the thing. It's short, on point and a little educational, too. That is, if you're interested in late 60s cutting edge technology. That statement has a hint of sarcasm but it's unintended. It is actually interesting to read this sci-techno thriller a few decades post-publication.

For those that are new to our monthly series, this is when Michael reviews a film adapted from a book which gets a review here. 


Click here for Michael's film review of The Andromeda Strain



When two Army personnel attempt to recover a research satellite that made an unplanned re-entry landing in Arizona, they encounter a town whose inhabitants have fallen prey to a fatal attack. Before much longer, they too have died. Their commander activates Wildfire and five civilian researchers begin a 5 day race to understand and contain an extraterrestrial pathogen. 

I've always thought of TAS as the first of Crichton's novels in which his signature style began to coalesce. It always felt like the first of the type of novels that garnered him the most fame: a group of very smart, qualified people come together using the latest technology to resolve a crisis. It's a style of novel I've always enjoyed (Jurassic Park anyone?) and while I don't think this is his best, it's still an enjoyable Crichton story.

After the Wildfire team has examined the stricken town and brought the satellite to their super secret lab facility, you learn a little about how each of them examines a scientific problem and you learn a lot about bacteria and the scientific tools available to researchers in 1969 (at least, if they had unlimited resources). There is a lot of technical detail in this novel and Crichton hadn't yet mastered how to incorporate it within the dramatic narrative. The book is introduced as a recounting of "recorded events" but it strays too often into the personal to keep to that structure. It's a flaw of the novel but if you like techno-thrillers this will probably still be a fun read despite the thriller aspect not really starting until the last few pages (however, if you don't like them, this is probably not the one to start with). 

My two* big complaints have to do with the loaded language Crichton so often used not coming to anything in the end and, well, the ending. The loaded language went nowhere and the end wasn't very satisfying. Obviously, I can't go into detail as it would be a major spoiler but let's just say that the ending - while not inconceivable - was unlikely and, what's more important, pretty meh. Actually, there is something I can share to illustrate my point. If you were to take all the information learned by the researchers (plus what the reader gets to know) and tried to use it to reach The End you probably couldn't do it. There certainly isn't any rule that a writer must provide the reader with a roadmap to the end but it's hard not to think: well, what'd you [author] bother with all that detail for if I couldn't use it for anything? So let's call this one a journey type of book. If you enjoy technological details and what-if situations then this title will satisfy. 

*I was mighty tempted to do a science nit pick review but decided to pass. Crichton novels do so much better than average on that type of thing that it just seems mean to pick out all the mistakes (and I've already done it to him once:).



Now about that movie... Don't forget to check out Michael's post. 


rating: 3 of 5 stars
 

Coming up next:  
The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula Le Guin / Tales from Earthsea




Links to previous joint posts under the cut: 



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Reading Roundup

I haven't exactly been reading (or posting!) up a storm lately but here are a few recommendations which will give an idea of what I have been reading lately and whether or not I enjoyed it.

currently reading
The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton
The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula Le Guin
The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (still!)


recommended
The Virgin and the Whale by Carl Nixon
--slow starter but some interesting developments as it goes
Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox
--very cool premise, world-building done well
(Dreamquake is the follow-on to above, I'm not sad I read it but I probably wouldn't have been sad to have missed it.)
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
--always enjoyable to read old favorites, the series is good but YMMV A LOT with the most recent
Hombre by Elmore Leonard
Clarkesworld: Year 5 (short stories)
I Do Not Come To You By Chance by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
--a bit up and down for me but, in the end, i enjoyed it
Salvage by Alexandra Duncan
--cool premise, good world-building
Lessons in French by Laura Kinsale (audiobook)
--much like LK, any NB is better than no NB but I'd feel less than truthful if I didn't state that I thought this was the least satisfying performance of LK's backlist so far
She-Wolves by Helen Castor
--the last of the non-fic that I read surrounding powerful women in England's history

not recommended
The Widow's Daughter by Nicholas Edlin
The Memory of Love by Linda Olsson
Divergent by Veronica Roth
The White Princess by Philippa Gregory 

DNF
Bluestocking in Patagonia by Anne Whitehead
Bitten by Kelley Armstrong
In Search of an Impotent Man by Gaby Hauptmann
The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken by Tarquin Hall
--however this one did reference a book that sounds really good so I'm glad for that even if I didn't like this one enough to finish it


What have you been reading lately?