Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Nerd goes to the Movies: 2012 edition

So, I do have a fascination with reading the source materials for movies, if possible before seeing them.  I know I am not alone,  So, here are THE books you need to read before going to the movies this year.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs:  This short story by the Grimms is generating two movies this year: Mirror Mirror (3/16) and Snow White and the Huntsman (6/1).  Can't wait to see all the stuff the producers and writers throw in there to fill out a couple hours.  These movies, being based on such a short story, are reminiscient of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.  Something tells me the results will not be the same.

The Hunger Games: (3/23) This literary phenomenon has now been made into a blockbuster from Hollywood.  I just saw the preview a couple of days ago and it looks interesting.  I really liked Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone, so this should prove to be a good one for a Saturday rental after it comes out on DVD.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter: (6/22)  While not really up my alley in terms of literary choice, I am intrigued by the fact that it is directed by Tim Burton.  -D is a big fan of Burton, but I do think he makes a misstep every once in a while.  What I am looking forward to more is his version of Dark Shadows later in the year (he does odd camp best).

The Hobbit: (12/14) The prequel to the Lord of the Rings is finally getting the full Hollywood a la Peter Jackson treatment.  I will be forced to see it with the hubby, so I might as well get to reading this one.  I tried once before, but I struggled in the first chapter and put it down.  We shall see...

The Great Gatsby: (12/25)  So if I get dragged to the theater to see the previous two picks, I will get to turn the tables for this one.  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Baz Luhrmann and cannotwait to see what he does with this one.  I will have to refresh my memory because 11th grade English was not kind to Fitzgerald.

and last but not least:

Team of Rivals (Lincoln): (December, I hope) Rarely do I get all tingly whilst reading the actor list on IMDB for an upcoming movie, but I did on this one!  I ablsolutely loved Dorris Kearns Goodwin's masterpiece on the Lincoln presidency (it is hand's down my favorite Lincoln book), so I cannot tell you how excited I am that it is coming out this year!  I won't force Drew to go see this one with me.  I loaned the book to my dad after I read it and he loved it as much as I did, so sounds like a dad-daughter outing is in the offing!!  Yea! 

Are there any books that are being adapted for the screen you are excited about this year?  Oh, I just realized I left off Twilight (how could that have happened? I wonder).  If Twilight is the movie you are most excited about, please do not let me know; I will mock you mercilessly inside my head.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Help: A Rumination on Civil Rights and such

So, I have a small timing issue (previously discussed on this blog) in which I do not read according to current bestseller lists.  I wait a little while, try to give a book some time to breathe (for me to forget all the spoilers I think I have heard through my stopped up ears), and then I read. 

The latest read to fit into this category of books for me is The Help.  The ubiquitous read was EVERYwhere last year and the year before: book blogs, newspapers, morning television, etc.  The furor was renewed with the creation of the motion picture adaptation.  Which is what brought me on board. 

I like to attempt to read the source materials for most of the movies (that have source materials) before I see the movie.  In fact, I tend to refuse to see movies until I have read the book...yes, still waiting on The Maltese Falcon.  So, since The Help (the movie) has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture and I am going to the AMC Best Picture Showcase in a couple of weeks, I found myself with some reading to do! 

Thankfully, the book is of the page-turning sort.  It is a well told story, even if the dialect gets in the way a little bit. 

I couldn't help thinking of my summers in Mississippi with my grandparents in the late 80s.  Many of the vestiges of the racism that formed the struggle at the center of The Help, were still evident.  A trip to the Piggly Wiggly with my grandmother was still included a chance to hear the n-word used, to see the lines drawn subtly between classes and races.  My grandmother had a black woman to help her around the house on a weekly basis and this was still pretty common.  My grandmother looked down on her, but also showed her kindness and a concern for her family that was palpable to a child under the age of ten.  The contradictions inherent in these kinds of relationships were easily recognizable and equally infuriating. 

I grew up with a strong aversion to racism and had a real-life struggle with friends at a young age that left an impression on me forever: that the lines drawn between people are often not drawn by others for us to see, but are drawn by suggestion.  Some of us can overcome the power of that suggestion and shrug off stereotypes to examine people as individuals.  Some of us cannot overcome the power of those persuasive influences and are doomed to follow in their opinions and actions.  What it comes down to in the end is the question: are you going to follow or ar you going to lead? 

The characters who form the center of The Help are of the latter group: leaders.  They don't stand up and make speeches or try to force others to see things their way.  Instead they live quiet lives of conviction and wait for others to catch on.  I think it is this portrait of a leader in the midst of the civil rights era that has made The Help the phenomenon it is.  There is something that resonnates in the queitly done everyday activities that change the way others think.  It is leading by example, even if it looks like no one will follow.  This is the type of person who really accomplished civil rights reform in America and Kathryn Stockett paints their portraits sharply and beautifully.

I am glad I read The Help and I really am looking forward to seeing the film.  I am also interested in getting the audio version.  Has anybody seen the movie or heard the book?  Please let me know what you think.

Rating: 6 out of 7


Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Whilst reading my latest book, I often thought of how I could write a spoiler-free review for it.  After finishing the book, I am still struggling with the problem of revealing too much.  In  my opinion, to tell the premise of the story would be too much; to tell the narrative style would be too much; to tell practically anything would be too much. 

Thus, I will say:

The book is separated into four sections.  The second section is the best.  The first section is just mildly less interesting than the second section.  And the last two sections are almost an afterthought.  In my opinion the book could have ended almost at the end of the second section. 

Yes, that is my review.  You would have to read it to get it and if you have, I much appreciate your input on a spoiler-free review.

In conclusion, I would like to say that I think Tubthumping is an inappropriate song for a 5 year old, but I am not judging.

Rating: 4.5 out of 7

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Woman in White

So, I just finished the Woman in White by Wilkie Collins and I have to say:

1. Doppelganger stories are such fun. 
2. Multiple narrator stories can be a bit tedious because the reader may not like some of the narrators.
3.  Wilkie Collins was indeed a genius.

Who doesn't love a good doppelganger in their mystery?  I mean they look just alike and can be played by the same actor (oh, if only Susan Luci had been blond and made the movie back when she was young!).  The device employed by Collins to have a low-brow and a high-brow look-a-like contest is used quite nicely and gives him many sleight of hand opportunities which he uses.  The novel is very much a mystery.  I found it to be quite page-turning at times.  Collins does depend a little too much on the whole the weather portends the coming events device, but I can't fault him; many authors and screenwriters do that today (did you see last week's episode of Revenge?).

A while back I read and reviewed The Moonstone by Mr. Collins and remember very much liking it for the multiple narrator device he employed.  He took a stab at it again in The Woman in White with a little less aplomb.  It is interesting when you like the character detailing the events of the story, less so when you don't like the character.  One character in particular is devastatingly annoying and thus, Collins mercifully kept his portion of the storytelling to a minimum. 

While The Moonstone is considered one of the world's first detective novels, The Woman in White is considered the first of another genre, sensational novels.  The sensational novel was characterized by bizarre plot points occurring in close to home settings.  The sensational novel is distinguished from other Gothic literature because it brought the "horror" home instead of keeping it abroad (where awful things happen akin to movies like Hostel).  But, don't be fooled, The Woman in White is a type of detective novel itself.  And add to that: it has a twist on the detective genre in that it features a man-woman pairing of detectives (and their partnership does not have any romantic overtones, they saved that for Moonlighting and Castle).  This partners in investigation technique works brilliantly because Collins created just the right characters with just the right motivations for their work.  So in two ways, The Woman in White broke ground, thus making Collins a genius because he figured it out and then made money on it (while he was still alive).

I do have to say that the story has a tendency to drag in parts (a possible downside to serialized literature) and the denouement is a little drawn out for my tastes (it also has a "neat little bow" ending that grates just slightly).  But for the most part this is a great novel. 

Rating: 4.5 out of 7


NOTE for those who have read the book (SPOILER ALERT):  Did anyone notice that Collins made a small error (or did you think it was an error) in having Fosco make an entry into the journal of Miss Holcombe at the end (presumably while she was incapacitated), but then never explained how he got his hands on the journal or mentioned a horror that he had read her journal?

Friday, January 6, 2012

For Further Reading

Literary Blog Hop
I have been working on getting a little bit more into the book blog thing this week (new year's does that to me for some reason) and I thought I would give the literary blog hop hosted by Blue Bookcase a try to see if I can meet some like minded bloggers (that would not include the YA fanatic down the block). 

So the question up for discussion for the hop is: Do you like to supplement your reading with outside sources, like Sparknotes, academic articles, or other bloggers' reviews? Why or why not?

I have about two resources I count on when reading classics:
1. a dictionary or footnotes (if necessary) - pretty self explanatory.
2. the book 1001 books to read before you die.  This one is for no other reason than to discover just how far off base they are on their reviews.  I have discussed it before on Goodreads group for this book, but seriously, I would think the literary "experts" they got together would remember a basic thing like plot line or denouement.  I oftentimes think wrong and enjoy calling them on it in the quietness of my own mind.
Otherwise, I tend not to read other academic articles or reviews by other bloggers because I have a serious fear of finding out what is going to happen before I read it.  This happened to me one time and I was bitter about it for quite some time.

So, yeah, that's how I do it.  What about you?  Are you interested in what others have to say or are you a solo-going, my-thoughts-are-the-best-thoughts-so-why-read-anyone-else kind of person?  Discuss.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sweet Jane

As I promised in a recent post, I have thoughts on Jane Eyre.  And here they are:

This was a reread for me.  The last time I read the book was my senior year of high school, when I thought I understood everything there was to know about life.  Apparently my 31 year old self would tell my 17 year old self: "Yeah, right!"  As with other rereads I have done since starting this blog, there was so much more to see than a young person could see at that point in life experience.  Namely, the distinction between a mutually respectful, sacrificial relationship and a mutually respectful, selfish relationship.  Also, I did not remember most of the second book (not a surprise, because most of the second book is boring until you get to the end). 

If you hvae a nook reader, you can get Jane Eyre for .99 here.
Jane discovers through various relationships what true love looks like.  This is not erotic love necessarily, but a filial type of love, based on mutual respect.  But respect can only take one so far down the road toward true companionship.  There must also be selflessness, even sacrifice.  As the reader watches Jane throughout the book, we see a growth of understanding of these things.  It can be compared to a painting Jane describes the process of designing.  She first knows what love is not, establishing the parameters of love like the outline of a painting.  Then she discovers that love is respectful, then gentle, then forgiving, then forbearing, each of these qualities like the brushstrokes of the painting using different shades and techniques.  Then she discovers that love can in fact break your heart through disappointment.  She builds upon that foundation a final understanding that for love to be fully realized it must be returned.  When she has finally discovered love, she has the completed painting before her in the picture of her chosen husband.

Jane Eyre is not so much a romance novel as a coming of age story in which the main character seeks, ultimately, respect.  She seeks a place among society that is not questioned.  She seeks companionship based upon the quality of her character and one's enjoyment of her person.  In this way, it could be considered feminist literature (because those feminists love to take every strong female character and use her for their cause), but it is a human story of growth in love. 

Other things not observed by 17 year old self:
The overt "Christian-ness" of the book.
The mega controlling nature of the relationship between Jane and St. John (some of the things he said to her were doozies!).
The slowness of the plot unfolding.  I don't remember the story taking quite so long to tell.

P.S. Has anyone seen the recent remake of the movie?  I am interested to check it out and see what they left in and left out of the St. John story line.  I am also interested to see how Mia what's her name plays Jane.

Rating: 4.5 out of 7


Monday, January 2, 2012

Here's Hoping

The title of this post is meant to be said in a sort of wistful sarcastic tone.  Reason: I have been such a bad reader lately and I would love to reform myself, but really, life happens and reading is not my life's pursuit. 
So, everyone seems to be setting book reading goals around the book blog community and I have to say, I too have some goals.  Here's hoping.

The Top Ten theme for this week over at The Broke and the Bookish is Top Ten Books I am Excited to Read in 2012.  Since I have a list (just made it this evening), I thought I would share it with you: (in no particular order)

1. When They Come for Us We'll Be Gone.  Not only an amazing title, but a promising non-fiction account of the attempt to save Jews during the Cold War in the Soviet Union. 

2. Forgotten God.  I got this one from my husband for Christmas.  It is Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle's book on the Holy Spirit.  It should prove good.  I loved Crazy Love, so I am really looking forward to delving into this one.

3. The Woman in White.  I read another novel by Wilkie Collins a couple years ago and wanted to take a good long break in between, so now is the time. 

4. Curse of the Narrows.  Another non-fiction account of events in Halifax, Nova Scotia during WWI: a crash of a munitions ship and another vessel, an atomic-bomb like explosion that caused a tsunami, and a blizzard that cut Halifax off from the outside world (all occurring on the same day).  Until I picked up this book, I had never even heard of these events, but the dust jacket is so riveting, I can't wait to hear the rest of the story. 

5.  The Crossing.  I started the Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy a while back and loved the first entry.  This is the second, and I assume it will be wondrously sparse, just like all the rest of his works.

6. Room.  I got this for my sister in law for Christmas last year and she read it very quickly and recommended it highly.  It has been sitting on my shelf way too long.  It will beckon me very soon.

7.  Half Broke Horses.  I started reading this the week before I gave birth last year, but never got back to it.  I loved the opening stories so much, I look forward to reading the rest.

8.  An Expensive Education.  Highly recommended thriller and who doesn't need a little thrill in their life?  If you get a chance to look at the picture of the author, Nick McDonell, on the back of the paperback, please tell me if you think he looks like he belongs on the cover of a romance novel?  Too funny!

9. The Great Gain of Godliness.  From my absolute favorite Puritan (yes, I have one).  I have a long standing goal to read all of the works of Thomas Watson I can get my hands on.  This is the one I will be reading this year.

10.  Only Time will Tell.  I was waiting on my dad to finish this one so I could save myself the cost of the book, but he lost it.  I will be buying it for my nook color soon.  So excited!  Archer is my favorite contemporary author!

What is on your list for this year?  Have you read any of my future reads?  Any advice on them?

New Year's Read

I am of the opinion that all reading done in the month of December should be light reading.  I am also of the opinion that all reading done during the week between Christmas and New Year should be simple, almost to the point of mindless. 
Thus, I met my goal for this month by reading 3 books at the end of December, all of which fall in line with my opinions. 

First, I finally finished Jane Eyre (a re-read put on hold by a certain small being needing almost constant attention for 6 months and my lack of a nook color reader during the intervening late night feedings).  But I will review that one later.

Then, I started and finished (emphasis on both of those events because of the aforementioned long pause in reading) Babywise: Book Two.  But I may not review that one on this blog ever because it is really just about introducing food to your baby (not riveting stuff, folks).

And lastly, I started and finished Vince Flynn's Transfer of Power.  This book very easily falls into the category of simple reading.  I have read approximately 4 of Flynn's Mitch Rapp books and find them action packed enough for a road trip/beach read.  They are nothing great in terms of characterization (most of the characters are painted with a broad brush - the politicians are incompetent for the most part, and the men on the front lines are the heroes; which I must say, I don't necessary disagree). 

Transfer of Power has one distinction from the other Rapp books I have read in that it was written before 9/11.  This was before Americans had a concept of jihad, radical Islamists, or terror in their own backyard.  Thus, Flynn proves prescient at points in the novel and at others, it seems a little implausible.  The story revolves around a 9/11-light terror attack on the White House during which the terrorists storm the White house and take hostages.   The number of people actually killed by terrorists in the book is extremely low (leading a post 9/11 reader to wonder, "What makes that such a big deal?") and the idea of hostage-taking terrorists is a bit more 1970s/1980s style terrorism than the Al Qaeda style multiple suicide attacks of the twenty-first century.  But at it's heart, Transfer of Power asks many of the questions that confront Americans (and indeed all the world) when terrorists strike: Is negotiation a feasible solution?  Is one man's life more important than another's?  How should terror suspects be brought to justice? 

Overall the book is a good rest-your-brain and watch the action kind of read.  It is surprising that one of his books has not been adapted into a Hollywood screenplay yet, but I assume it is in the works.  What each of Flynn's books (this one included) end up saying is the good guy is the one who takes down the terrorists without remorse and without flinching while the politicians sit on their hands and wonder what the best course of action is. 

NOTE TO VINCE FLYNN:  PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE get a better editor (both content and grammar).  Goodness gracious, you misspelled your main character's name in this one.  The errors get so tedious!

Sorry, just had to put that in there in case he reads this. 

Rating: 3.5 out of 7