Books read in November 2012

Full-on Mock Printz prep this month. Plus a great non-Mock-Printz-YA Novel which will probably be a top 5 favorite for this year.  And Dennis Lehane’s new book, which I didn’t like very much, alas.

The Brides of Rollrock Island
Margo Lanagan
Read for Mock Pritnz
This is that kind of fiction that I think is supposed to be “literary” because there are a lot of words, and pretty, carefully written words at that, but not a lot of explaining because, I guess, the author thinks the reader should be smart enough to figure things out.  But when it’s not really clear to me from the beginning what is going on, it’s hard for me to attach to the book.  Also, I didn’t find the characters very distinct from  one another, so I was always a bit confused.  That said, there are a few pages in the last quarter of the book that are beautifully written and if you “need” to finish the book, just keep waiting for them. They might make the whole book worth it.

Every Day
David Levithan
A very clever plot device (main character wakes up in a different body every day) executed brilliantly by Mr. Levithan.  This book questions the nature of gender, love, brain chemistry, sibling relationships, family relationships, body type, race, sexual orientation and probably other things I’m forgetting.  I couldn’t figure out how he was going to end the book in a way that made everything okay, but he did it.  I will be recommending this for years, so you should go and read it now so I don’t have to harangue you.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Emily M. Danforth
Read for Mock Printz
I recently lamented that all the up-and-coming actors in my age demographic have either become “too old” and disappeared (mostly the women) or have become established actors, full of gravitas (mostly the men.)  However, it seems the novelists in my age demographic are just now really getting started. Ms. Danforth would be a novelist in my age demographic who has set her story in the same period (more or less) when I attended high school which had a lot to do with my enjoyment of this book.

But!  I also liked that it was set in a tiny Montana town where a friend lived and worked after college and I have even visited that town so I could picture it in my mind’s eye.

And!  I loved it was a coming-of-age novel about a lesbian as those are in short supply (at least I think so, I don’t come across them often.)

Also! I loved the writing–at least three passages made it to my quotes page–and the characters were great. Danforth is quite good at capturing little details that made the story come alive.  The hair tucking of the young minister who looked like Jesus, or Eddie Vedder was one such example. This was one of those books I liked so much I was recommending it to people before I had even finished it.

The Quitter
Harvey Pekar
Read for Book Group
Eh.  It’s a graphic novel, which aren’t my medium.  And I’m not the biggest fan of Harvey Pekar’s schtick.  I thought the art was a good fit for the time period, but I didn’t love this book.

Live by Night
Dennis Lehane
Dennis Lehane, here are the things you do very well as an author:  You create fabulous characters, fully-formed, flawed, smart and smart-assed.  You write plots that are interesting, complicated, a bit dark and have a social justice bent to them.  These things are very good and will keep me always reading your books. But you know what you do better than everyone else?  Star-crossed love.  And when your book, interesting as it might be and this one was, does not have star-crossed love I feel a great sadness and find myself feeling a bit cheated.  So you maybe you want to move away from star-crossed love.  Okay, I’ll still read your stories.  But I’ll be patiently awaiting your next book with star-crossed love.

Ask the Passengers
A.S. King
Hey look, it’s another book about a girl who likes a girl!  And it deals with that whole “questioning” issue.  That’s a good thing.  I think there is a lot of questioning going on.  Overall, I thought this was a pretty successful book. The main character’s relationships with her sister, family, friends and girlfriend felt pretty true-to-life.  The “ask the passengers” device never stopped feeling like a device.  But I kind of liked it.

Started and did not finish
Read for Mock Printz
I get a big heavy feeling in my chest when I read about species in peril because it seems to be too big of a problem for anyone to solve and the whole thing feels hopeless.  This book is about the amazing journey of a bird, but  it’s also about the trouble his fellow birds are in.  I don’t know what to do about that and dealt with my despair by putting the book down and never picking it up again.

Also, I found the prose rather breathless.  And that annoyed me.

Just when I was ahead of schedule

I wash my face with a half-and-half solution of castor oil and jojoba oil.  I just had mixed up a new batch two days ago.  But sadly, I put it on an unstable surface in the medicine cabinet so look what happened when I opened the door.  Happily, it all ended up on the counter and was pretty easy to clean up.  It still set me back a good ten minutes, though.

Three sentence movie reviews: Argo

I really liked this movie because I expected it to be very dramatic and tense and it was, but it was also quite funny in places.  This made it a great night at the movies.  I also remembered why I originally preferred Ben Affleck to Matt Damon when the two of them became famous.*

Cost:  Free due to passes.
Where watched:  Regal City Center Stadium 12.

*Ben Affleck has those fabulous sad eyes and is better looking in general.  But then he started starring in all those horrible movies and there was the trip to rehab and the best-forgotten Bennifer brouhaha.  Whereas Matt Damon kept his nose clean and just kept making quality film after quality film.  But now that Affleck is directing himself, his acting seems much better and doesn’t distract me from his good looks.

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Three sentence movie reviews: Anna Karenina

I’ve not actually read this book, (though I know how it ends) so I was going in with no bias.  I loved the claustrophobic/theatrical use of the stage set and in general this was a very pretty movie to watch.  The acting was also quite good (you can put me down as “fan” in the Keira Knightly column) and I was absorbed the entire time, though nearly everyone else in the theater got up at some point to go to the bathroom.

Cost:  free due to birthday movie gift card
Where watched: Regal Fox Tower

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Three sentence movie reviews: The Cake Eaters

While sometimes grabbing an unfamiliar movie from the library works out, sometimes it means 90-120 minutes of “ugh”.  So was the case for this movie which despite starring Kristen Stewart (who I like) and being directed by Mary Stuart Masterson (who was good in some key movies in my life) was not a very good movie at all.  Aside from the fact the title never bothers to connect itself to the movie,* the plot itself has many confusing attributes** that were just annoying.

*No cake was eaten, no discussion was made about cake, frosting or any desserts at all.
**Here’s a partial list:

  • Kristen Stewart’s illness was never really explained.  If you are going to have a rare disease in a movie, it pays to let your audience know what’s the deal.  
  • They live in a tiny town and yet these people seem to have no idea of the existence of each other.
  • “Intricately plotted” should only be used when the plot is, well, intricate. This was just members of the same two families sleeping with each other.
  • If you are going to have a “very sad realization” happen to one of the characters, you need to spell out a little better what the heck the realization is.
  • Movies where hair is cut in a dramatic fashion should manage the wig situation well enough so that the audience can’t tell there is a wig involved.

Cost:  Free from library (thank goodness)
Where watched:  at home.

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(note that the cover of the DVD had a big picture of Kristen Stewart unlike this original poster.  I think this film was picked up because of Twilight.)

A loud message.

But perhaps not quite so clear?

This was on the walk to Lowe’s which is not a pretty walk. It’s chock full of speeding cars, little-to-no sidewalks, some careful walking along the edges of mud, various industrial things and then a boring section of seemingly endless parking lot and big box-type stores. It’s a utilitarian walk.  So I heard the message on the sign loud and clear, but I was confused by what it was telling me.  I was confused enough to stop and ponder.  My first question was  “My left, or your left?”  I think they must have meant my left, so I looked to the left of the sign and saw nothing that looked extremely dangerous, just more parking lot and building.  Then I looked to my left and saw the usual, cars driving by, sidewalk.

I finally decided the extreme danger was the steady flow of cars exceeding the 40 mph speed limit in the quest to get to the freeway on-ramp.  And I think the people who put up the sign are not the business we see in the picture, but the business across the street.  Their customers must pull out of the lot into very fast traffic.  The road slopes a bit so visibility might not be very good.  With my mystery solved–at least in my mind–I walked on to Lowe’s and purchased my plastic anchors and wandered back home.

Three sentence movie reviews: The Tourist

The review I read for this movie could be summed up as “eh,” so I bypassed it when it was in theaters.  But because I loved Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s* previous film** and because the movie was just sitting there at the library and because I really like both main actors I took it home and watched it.  And I LOVED THIS MOVIE which was chock full of glamour and intrigue in that old Hollywood way without being slowly paced in that old Hollywood way.

Cost:  free from library
Where watched: at home

*My favorite director name, ever.
**The Lives of Others, which you really must see if you haven’t already.

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