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REVIEW: Stardust Aug. 19th, 2007 @ 12:39 pm
This morning, I took myself out on to the balcony with my robe and a glass of water (like I did yesterday morning, except with tea instead of water) and finished Stardust by Neil Gaiman, and a full two days ahead of schedule!

I enjoyed the book. I mean, there was nothing about it not to enjoy. It was a fun romp through a fantasy world of magic and adventure, and it wasn't tired or trite like The Book of Lost Things was, a little. There was even a touch of ducal succession, just for me!

The entire thing was very original and well-conceived.

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It was a delightful book and I definitely recommend it. The book club meeting is still three weeks away, so if you'd like to join us on 9/7 for the movie and discussion, there's plenty of time!

I have Atonement next on my list, but I don't know if I'm in the mood. The next book is Was, which sounds a little fantasy-esque, and I'm a bit on fantasy overload right now, so maybe I'll take the rest of the day to breathe.

INVITATION: Stardust Aug. 8th, 2007 @ 12:18 am
Hi folks,

The Page & Popcorn Book & Movie Club has chosen as its next selection Stardust, by Neil Gaiman.

We will gather to watch the movie and discuss the book and its film adaptation on Friday 9/7 in Manhattan. More details to come. Please let me know if you're interested in joining us!

REVIEW: The Book of Lost Things Aug. 7th, 2007 @ 11:51 pm
I just finished The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly. In the book, a boy named David living in WWII London mourns the loss of his mother, with whom he was very close. His father remarries and has another child, and David feels like an outsider and resents his father's new wife and son. All throughout this, David has been having paranormal experiences such as books speaking to him and strange creatures appearing in his room. David hears the voice of his mother calling him from the woods behind his house and he follows it into a fantasy world from which he cannot return.

The rest of the book takes place in that fantasy world. David meets people who aim to help him return to his world and people who try to hurt him. He encounters people and situations he recognizes from fairy tales and books. On his way to see the king who, he is told, has a book that can help him return home, he has many adventures and learns a lot and matures into a young man along the way.

The book was interesting, but I just don't think it was a very well-crafted story. Some things were over-explained, other things weren't explained very well at all. The author leaves a lot of loose ends, the plot was predictable, and the writing style was inconsistent. I liked the concept, and that's what kept me reading, but overall the book is forgettable.

My opinion of it doesn't seem to be very popular though; I read several raves of it on GoodReads. I think the cover is very pretty.

Current Music: Arcade Fire -- "Antichrist Television Blues"

Three reviews Jun. 26th, 2007 @ 11:31 pm
It's been a while since I've posted about a book. I will post about three.

Stiff, by Mary Roach
I loved, loved, loved this book. Mary Roach is so charming and witty, and she manages to write amusingly about anatomy, forensic research, funereal studies, and other topics having to do with cadavers. I say this about every good book I read, but it really made me want to write. This is the sort of book I think I could write. I could totally take an ass-boring subject and make a funny book about it. I might have to do some research though. That's the thing. Either Mary Roach is rich, or she found someone to finance her trips all over the country and to China in the name of cadaveric research (well actually, cadaveric research research, since she was compiling information about the study and use of cadavers). Such a benefactor would have to just take my word that I'm funny, and capable of writing a funny book on a dry topic that people will actually want to buy. Anyway, this book was great.

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
Meh. I'm glad it was short.

Breakfast with Tiffany by Edwin John Wintle
This book has nothing to do with Breakfast at Tiffany's and neither did my choice to read it. Breakfast with Tiffany is a memoir of a forty-year-old gay man living in Manhattan who suddenly finds himself the guardian of his troubled, teenage niece. It's a very sweet and emotional book and I'd definitely recommend it. It makes me want to be a parent even less, but this was not your typical parenting situation. As you read, you not only learn about his relationship with his niece and his struggles to put her back on the right track, but you also learn about his past, his other family members, and his dating and professional histories. It's a very interesting read, heartbreaking at times, but well worth your time.

On my to read list:
  • John Connolly's The Book of Lost Things which I'm currently in the middle of.
  • Was by Geoff Ryman, which Courtney got me for Chanukah
  • The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir, which Mike gave me and I'm very excited about, but I know if I start it before Was, I'll never get to it, or anything else for that matter.
Assuming I someday finish the Henry VIII book, Mike also got me the His Dark Materials series for my birthday, so I'll be reading at least the first of those in preparation for the movie in December. And speaking of movies, the Page & Popcorn Book Club has chosen Ian McEwan's Atonement as their September selection. And of course, everything stops for Harry Potter seven.

Some books May. 28th, 2007 @ 09:26 am
I don't feel like writing "reviews" but it's been a long time since I posted here so I thought I would just tell you what I've read lately:

Palm Sunday by Kurt Vonnegut.  I thoroughly enjoyed this.  It's no secret I'm a big Vonnegut fan, but I particularly enjoyed this autobiographical "collage" as he calls it.  Some of his essays and speeches were fantastic.  I also enjoyed reading his account of his family history, and other personal stories.  I started reading it just after he passed away, so it was particularly poignant for me.  I highly recommend it

What Johnny Shouldn't Read by Joan Dellaforte.  An acadmic (reads like a college book) piece about censorship in American primary and secondary school textbooks and readings, primarily in the 80's (the book was published in the early '90s).  A dry read but fascinating and chilling.  It made me want to homeschool the day lights out of my kids.

Mount Dragon by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.  More enjoyable fluff from my favorite pop thriller writers.  I think was actually their second book, after Relic.  It's completely separate from their main series of characters.  The story is about a secret biological facility in the New Mexico desert where an extremely lethal virus is being manipulated, supposedly to better mankind (by curing the flu) - but IS IT???  You get the idea.  I read the whole second half of the book yesterday while I was relaxing/sick/walking on the treadmill.

Next up: The Secret Lives of the First Ladies by Cormac O'Brien.
Current Location: home
Current Mood: sicksick
Other entries
» And I said what about
THIS FRIDAY the Page & Popcorn Book & Movie Club will be discussing and watching Breakfast at Tiffany's at Puddhaven (Lindsay, Courtney, Andrew & Mike's place). If you haven't read it, never fear! It's like the shortest book ever. And if you don't feel like reading the book, feel free to swing by anyway. The P&P is really just an excuse to get together and play Wii.

Let me know if you'd like to come!

x-posted to proko5

To come, perhaps not today:
  • My review of the Artemis Fowl audiobook
  • My review of Mary Roach's Stiff
  • My review of Breakfast at Tiffany's (definitely not today, since I'm only on page 60, but incidentally, that's halfway through)
Now to do some actual work, grumbly.
» REVIEW: Bee Season
There was plenty for me to relate to in Myla Goldberg's Bee Season: Judaism, word obsession, teenage insecurity (after all, who can't relate to that?), etc. It took me a little while to get used to Goldberg's writing style, which includes tacking additional predicates on to the end of sentences, like so:

Eliza expects to be able to poke her finger into the walls, is surprised to find she cannot.

Once I got over that, it was smooth sailing.

In Bee Season, Eliza Naumann is an aspiring spelling bee champion, her father is a cantor at the local synagogue, her mother is a workaholic, and her brother is a seventeen-year-old boy. Roughly 50% of the book is spent on interactions between the family members and the other half is the individuals pursuing their own lives and thinking. In the pages focused on individuals, we learn about the mother's hidden compulsion, the brother's spiritual identity crisis, the father's struggle to relate to his children, and Eliza's insecurities and feelings of inadequacy. It's truly the most depressing book about a spelling bee I can imagine there being.

Yet, it's kind of delightful. It's very sweetly written. Eliza's innocence is charming, as is the father's unwavering love for all of them in the face of such a diverse spectrum of conflicts, among which is his own family history.

The story is interlaced with moments from a Jewish childhood that are nostalgic for me. I loved reading about Eliza's experiences in temple, especially the scene in which she describes the game/social experiment she and her brother played during the silent prayer. They would take turns subtlely nudging their chair to simulate the sound of people sitting down, and see who could get more of the congregation to sit as a result of the ruse.

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It was a very good book and I'm glad I read it. It took me forever to read, but I think that's just because I'm a slow reader and I've pretty much only been reading on the subway lately, where I read about five pages per trip or less.

I'll post an invitation to read whatever the Page & Popcorn selection ends up being in a few days. Right now it looks like the frontrunner is Breakfast at Tiffany's, which would be good because it's a short novel, and most publications of this book come with a few of Capote's short stories, so maybe we can read and discuss those as well.

I just found out that they made a movie of The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. I'd love for that to be our selection, but the movie's been out for a few weeks already so we might not finish reading it in time to catch it in theaters. We'll have to save that one for DVD.

Other book/movies we're considering for when the movie comes out are The Golden Compass in December and Kite Runner in November. Nanny Diaries and the 5th Harry Potter movie are also coming out, but I'm not going to waste my time linking those.
» INVITATIONS: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Bee Season
I'm so sad that Book Badge is not working. I never got to use it.

Anyway, chickenamazing book and movie club, The Page and Popcorn, has selected Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt.

We will discuss the book and watch the movie on Saturday, March 24th, most likely at our apartment. Let me know if you want in.

While I wait for that book to arrive via Bookmooch, and in obedience of my LJ book list, I am reading Bee Season by Myla Goldberg.

Spelling bees are certainly en vogue right now, as far as I'm concerned anyway, having recently seen both The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Akeelah and the Bee. As with the above book, I plan to watch the movie (which I'm told is not quite the bext thing since sliced bread) after finishing the book.

Let me know if you'd like to join me in reading either of these books.
» darkly dreaming dexter
My good friends, I have finished a book!

It has taken me over two months to finish this 288-page mystery novel.

Anyway, I liked this book. It was nothing special. The characters were mildly interesting. I was kind of disappointed that Jeff Lindsay made Deborah so dumb, but I guess that was his choice.

For those who don't know, Darkly Dreaming Dexter is a mystery novel about a serial killer whose policeman father discovered his homicidal tendencies at a young age, and trained him to suppress them. Dexter's father coached Dexter to only kill the people that deserved it. Dexter grew up to become a blood spatter analyst for the Miami Police Department, and the plot of the novel centers around one particular case: a serial killer who catches Dexter's interest with his creative and alluring murders, through which Dexter believes the killer is trying to communicate with him.

Let me know if that made any sense.

The book started out well enough. Dexter's background is interesting enough, and the constant conflict between his vocation and his hobby keeps you reading. The author, speaking as Dexter, writes very nonchalantly about his penchant for killing and utter lack of human feelings. Dexter constantly refers to himself, without remorse, as non-human. It's a very different perspective, and an enjoyable read, if you can separate yourself enough from your morals to truly relate to a serial killer.

The book gets boring towards the end, when Dexter starts to get too introspective. he keeps doddering back and forth between two possible solutions, essentially repeating himself. I got really sick of reading Dexter's thoughts, because there weren't very many of them, despite how superintelligent he claimed to be.

And speaking of intelligence, it bothered me how Jeff Lindsay made Deborah, Dexter's foster sister (and an officer in the Department), so dumb. One of the reasons why Dexter and Deborah despised Detective Laguerta (their boss and something of a sub-antagonist in the book) is that she was a stupid cop. I expected Lindsay to provide some contrast between the villain, Laguerta, and one of our heroes, Deborah, but in my opinion, they were both kind of bad at picking up on certain things and following a simple train of thought. It took Dexter too long to explain things to Deborah.

But what really aggravated me was the ending which I will discuss under this cut, because I entirely spoil itCollapse )

So the ending was kind of ridiculous, but I suppose I enjoyed the book overall. It's nice to indulge in some genre-fiction every once in a while.
» The Manuchurian Candidate
I finally finished The Manchurian Candidate.  I was reading for about a month I guess... no, longer, because I started it before we moved.  Maybe six weeks.  Anyway, I haven't had much time to read, so it was touch-and-go for a while.  I was interested in the book as soon as I started reading it, but it took a while for me to understand what was going on, which I think is intentional.  By the time I was halfway through I was totally engrossed, and I spent two hours this evening polishing it off.

I was really impressed with this book.  I knew absolutely nothing about it going in, so it was a pleasant surprise.  The writing was engaging, the story was intense and surprisingly fucked up, and I didn't see the twist coming at all.  In retrospect of course it's sort of obvious, but honestly it was so well done I was blindsided, which is very rare.  I literally gasped.  Gasped! I think the book got a tad bogged down in the middle, but it was totally worth it. 

I have both movie versions in my Queue, although at the rate I'm going it will be years before I see them (Pieces of April has been on the coffee table for about three weeks).  I'm really curious about them.  The biggest shock of the book would be ruined if you saw certain scenes, so I'm wondering if they were avoided entirely or else how they were staged to make it work.  Or if that whole aspect was written out, which I can't imagine but I wouldn't know until I saw it if that would work.  I know that the modern version uses a Big Company as the ominous evil instead of the Communists, which I guess is an acceptable alternative.  I'm not a big Denzel Washington fan, but Meryl Streep alone would make me watch that version.  I want to see the original first though.

Now I'm going to read Harry Potter.  That's right, you heard me.  And if I like it, I can get the other six (or whatever) books to read on the plane next month.
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