Tuesday, August 16, 2011

True Grit

Movie:  True Grit
Like/Don't Like:  Liked very much

I hesitated watching this movie because I am a delicate flower.  I don't like violence, particularly gun violence, the kind that is often found in westerns.  But several people have said that I could handle it and that I would like it in the end.  I am happy to report that they were right on both counts, although I had to avert my eyes several times.

Thinking back, I really loved everything about it (ok, except for the shooting).  It's definitely a whole package film.  The acting was sensational (I'm a little upset now that Hailee Steinfeld isn't playing Katniss - as originally rumored) the score was perfect, and I loved the stylized dialogue.  Everyone, even the drunks, spoke with crisp drawn out sentences.  No contractions.  It somehow added a sense of importance to the story.  As soon as it was over I wanted to watch it again. 

The City of Ember

Book:  The City of Ember
Author:  Jeanne DuPrau
Like/Don't Like:  It could have been better

This book would have been significantly improved with better writing.  The story was gripping - an underground city whose inhabitants don't know anything more than the fading light bulbs and dwindling supplies left centuries ago by the people who built it - but the storytelling was lacking.  There just wasn't any spark or magic.  There were plenty of times when I found myself getting caught up in the story, I would imagine what it must be like to live in such a place, the constant fear of black-outs, only breathing stale cold air, a food supply that was quickly running out.  There was a wealth of emotions and feelings to pull from but most of them were just alluded to without any kind of depth or understanding.  Which made the characters seem very flat and dull and made a really great story a bit disappointing.

Monday, August 8, 2011

When You Reach Me

Book:  When You Reach Me
Author:  Rebecca Stead
Like/Don't Like:  Really liked.

There was something about this book that made me feel nostalgic.  It's set in the last 70s, a time I vaguely remember, but that's not why.  It sort of had a feel of an after-school special, or a Judy Blume novel.  Maybe that's it.  Warm feelings aside, it's a pretty great book.

Miranda is in the sixth grade and is tackling the usual 11 year old stuff like losing a best friend to outside forces, trying to make new friends, a mom who is trying to figure how to raise an independent kid in a dangerous world.  Pretty familiar story.  Except for a twist:  Miranda is receiving letters that appear to be from someone in the future.  I would hardly call this a sci-fi book.  The letters are vague and not often referred to, the story mostly focuses on the daily problems Miranda is dealing with.  But they gave the story a bit of a mysterious edge that was unexpected and appealing. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Withering Tights

Book:  Withering Tights
Author:  Louise Rennison
Like/Don't Like:  Duh.  Like.

Lovers of Georgia Nicholson - REJOICE!!!  We saw the end of her diaries with her snogging Dave the Laugh on the Cake Rack of Lurve and sighed that it was all over.  But the good news is that she has a cousin, Tallulah, who is off to the rugged moors of Yorkshire attending theater school.  Comedy ensues.  There's plenty of Irish jig dancing and marauding bands of local youth and attack owls and fretting about bouncy hair - basically everything we love about Louise Rennison is in here.  I think this calls for a Viking Hornpipe Disco Inferno.

Okay For Now

Book:  Okay For Now
Author:  Gary D. Schmidt
Like/Don't Like:  Loved so much

When I finished this book I thought, "This is the type of stuff I want to read all the time."  It is sweet and funny and clever and thoughtful.  I loved it.

It is a follow-up to The Wednesday Wars, which I also loved.  One of the characters from the book, Doug Sweitek, moves to a new town and his family instantly becomes that family, the one with the alcoholic father and hooligan brother all living in a dump of a house.  He struggles with these things and more as he begins a new school and tries to fit in.  What I love about it is that the voices are so clear.  I love it when a character is so well written that you know what he's going to say and think.  So the twists and turns of the story surprise you just as much as they surprise him because you're right there with him.  It is such simple and lovely writing that when the powerful stuff comes it sometimes took my breath away.  I love being surprised by books.