Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Wednesday Wars

Book:  The Wednesday Wars
Author:  Gary D. Schmidt
Like/Don't Like:  How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.

Holling Hoodhood is a seventh grader on Long Island and the only Presbyterian in a class full of Catholics and Jews.  All of his classmates leave on Wednesday afternoons for their different religious classes, leaving Holling alone with his teacher, Mrs. Baker.  To pass the time she makes him read Shakespeare plays, which at first he hates, naturally.  But over the course of the year he learns to love them and finds them very applicable to everyday life. 

So, that's it in a nutshell.  But it is an incredibly nuanced story.  The writing is magnificent.  It is sweet and very funny and I laughed and cried my way through it. I loved Holling.  His voice was so distinct, as are all the characters in it.  Everything wove together beautifully and bonus, Shakespeare!


Movie:  Inception
Like/Don't Like:  Like!

This movie is the capitol of Crazytown.  I finally got around to watching it and by finally I don't just mean that it's been out forever but that it has been sitting in the Netflix envelope on top of the DVD player for about 2 months now.  Why?  Because everyone told me that I needed to pay close attention because it's a little hard to follow and I just haven't had patience for those types of movies lately so I kept putting it off until last night when I had the time and attention span it needed.

I don't usually go in for action movies.  I don't like guns and punching and stuff like that - so my senses were a little jarred by the end of it.  And my mind was spinning because, Knights of Columbus, that was confusing.  All those layers of dreaming were tough to keep track of.  And I got a little tired of all the dialogue sounding like a dream technician's textbook.  But on the whole it was a really cool movie.  The premise was cool, the music was cool, the stunts were cool (and I never notice stunts).  I thought it was so fascinating and I was on the edge of my seat through most of it.  I wish I had watched it with someone so at the end of it all I could have turned to them and said, "What the...?" and then had an in depth convo about the whole thing. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tanya's Lebanese Kabab

Restaurant:  Tanya's Lebanese Kabab
Location:  915 W. Foothill Blvd, Upland, CA
Like/Don't Like:  Mmmmmmmm...shawarma.

This place opened up just down the street about 2 months ago and at the previous meeting of the restaurant club it was suggested as our next stop.  Great call, Heather!  And also, you're coming with me the next time I go, which will be soon.

It's a tiny little place in a strip mall, sparsely decorated but clean.  We ordered the chicken kebab, beef shawarma, falafel, kuftah, and mutabel.  All standard Mediterranean food and all super delicious.  The seasoning on everything was great.  The tahini was mild, which I liked, and their garlic sauce was not, which I REALLY liked. 

The price was terrific.  We paid $30 for all of that food and it was more than enough.  And best of all, the service was wonderful.  The owner/cook came out several times to see how everything was going and to chat and when I asked what a certain drink on the menu was he brought it out for us to try for free.  It's called jalab, by the way, and it tastes like a bouquet of flowers steeped in syrup.  Very, veeeeery sweet.  But it smelled like a garden. 

Overall - awesome.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Thirteenth Tale

Book:  The Thirteenth Tale
Author:  Diane Setterfield
Like/Don't Like:  It was exasperating.  Don't.

This is a 400 page book, which is not much of a challenge.  I mean, it's not Dickens or Atlas Shrugged.  Yet it took me one month to read the first 200 pages (ONE MONTH!  Did I somehow end up in Remedial Reading?) It zapped my will to read.  So this morning, at only halfway through, I made the decision to stop reading.  I even made an announcement, "I'm not going to finish that book."  Because I just didn't care.  I didn't care about the characters, the mystery was too slowly revealed, the pacing was laborious.  I could not justify spending another minute on the book.  So how did I get to this point - a mere 12 hours after making the proclamation that I quit?  Spite.  I was a little peeved that I had wasted an entire month of reading on a book that I wouldn't even finish.  So I postponed cleaning my room and dug in.  And I have to say the second half was decidedly better than the first.  But not enough to make me want to recommend it to you. 

The concept is an interesting one and, on a personal level, a familiar one.  A woman whose twin sister died at birth (I thought that would give me some kind of connection to the story because I have a twin sister who died at 4 months.  It didn't.) is brought in to write the biography of a famous but reclusive writer who is also a twin.  There are a lot of mysteries and all of them are solved nice and neat and the end.  But the problem is that I felt very little satisfaction in any of the answers because getting there was so exasperating.  The story really suffers from a lack of good editing.  What could have easily been said in 1 paragraph was often said in 1 chapter.  Characters who should be important to you seem to have no personality beyond what is necessary to keep the mystery alive.  It was hard to care about anyone in this book.  Once I made the resolve to finish the book it went really fast.  The pacing was still dragging but more things were revealed, enough so to keep my interest.  But once the big reveal came - the point at which I should have been yelling, "No way!!" because I didn't actually see it coming - I just shrugged and said, "It figures."