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.


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:


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


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 2013: Elizabeth Knox

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...

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 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.)
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


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!)

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 

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?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Alan Rickman Reel: Michael Collins

My household are big fans of Alan Rickman. As such, we decided to review his films from start to finish. Using IMDb, that put us starting with Die Hard (Die Hard!!!!) and we knew Dogma and Galaxy Quest would be in there, too. Not to mention all our other favorite Alan Rickman films. Plus, you know, we thought we'd discover so many more fun movies. That is probably still true but we've been discovering some real duds in our journey and it's sucking the fun out of this activity. As such, we've decided to keep going in chronological order but to focus on the ones we like or what sounds good to us.

If we skip one of your favorites feel free to make a case for it in the comments. Links to previous reviews can be found below, under the cut.

Dr Musacha: This movie is 2hrs and 13min long.
sgwordy: It feels it.

sgwordy: Alan Rickman wasn't in this all that much.

Dr Musacha: I think we've found our first thing that Alan Rickman DOESN'T do well in a film, as his Irish accent left a bit to be desired.

sgwordy: So true. It's really the first genuine fail we've seen out of him. He was in good company, though. The accents were pretty crap all around. Were you able to get a handle on his character at all?

Dr Musacha: He came across as nothing more than a foil for Michael Collins, which is weird because he was portraying a real person and so probably had more depth than that.

sgwordy: I agree and actually find that emblematic of the entire film. I assume everyone had more depth but the film wasn't successful in communicating that.

Dr Musacha: Agreed, I kept looking at Julia Roberts (an otherwise talented actress) and thinking, "Why are you here? There's nothing for you to do in this movie."

sgwordy: And, what's worse, is that I got to the end and, quite without irony, mentally wondered why so many people were at Michael Collins' funeral. I think that's a real problem when making a historical drama. Speaking of the historical part... how was Alan Rickman in the costumes in this one?

Dr Musacha: He was mostly in suits but he did have the weird looking glasses.

sgwordy: He wore glasses?

Dr Musacha: I thought so. Anyway, not his best look.

sgwordy: I'm starting to forget what he looks like in regular clothes.

Rate the movie on a scale of 1 to 10:
Dr Musacha –6
sgwordy –6

Was Rickman the best thing about this movie?
Dr Musacha – No. I give the nod to Aidan Quinn's character.
sgwordy – No, making fun of the terrible accents was.

In the context of his body of work, on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate Rickman as Rickman?
Dr Musacha –3
sgwordy –2

Favorite Rickman quote from this movie?
Dr Musacha: That's no excuse for obscenities.
sgwordy: Ditto.

Must Read!

16. For the first time in his life, he found himself imagining a future together with someone. He was embarrassed to tell her this but he had never really been in love with the women he had dated. “Well who would play me in this rom-com of your life?” she teasingly inquired. “You have such beautiful olive skin,” he crooned, “so you can be a person of color or racially ambiguous in the book but definitely a white woman in the movie.”

Don't miss the whole article here!

Science is Cool!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

It's more than the paper.

I'm not picky about how I get my stories. I'll read on my computer, my phone, my tablet, in my books, in the books at the library, on my eReader, listen to audio (thanks to Michael:); I'll read in any format, anywhere. I like stories, I like learning, I like reading.

I also like going on vacation.

(This probably seems like a non-sequitur but stay with me.)

And going to movies, and spending time with my animals, and getting new bikes occasionally, and getting credit for what I do at work, and being recognized for my intellectual output, and being able to eat dinner/have a roof over my head, and buying video games, and (did I mention?) going on vacation.

I get to do all those things I listed because I am compensated for my work in the form of money. Yay, money.

The price of a book is not just (or even mostly) the paper.

"Unlike retailers, publishers invest heavily in individual books, often for years, before we see any revenue."

And behind the publishers are all the people (hello authors and all the rest of you!) who have worked for years to create what ends up on paper. They deserve to get paid for their work.

(Don't you like getting paid for your work?)

So, folks (and fucking Amazon!), quit complaining about the price of ebooks. It's (a lot) more than the paper.

(This, incidentally, is why I don't participate in piracy. Everyone deserves to get paid for their work.)

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Smuggler Tradition

(I'm the one in carbonite, not the one with his back facing the camera.)