Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Eat, Pray, Love

Movie:  Eat, Pray, Love
Like/Don't Like:  don't

It wasn't that this movie was particularly bad.  It just didn't resonate at all.  It seemed to be a collection of self-help aphorisms and pretty pictures.  Very pretty, really.  I silently wept into my pillow as they showed scenes from Rome because I miss my gelato guy.  Julia Roberts' character was difficult to relate to, and sometimes difficult to like, and the side characters, Richard Jenkins especially, seemed a lot more real and compelling but were only on for about 20 minutes each. It didn't motivate and it wasn't particularly entertaining.  But Jarvier Bardem in nice to look at and it inspired me to eat more pasta just for the joy of it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Princess Academy

Book:  Princess Academy
Author:  Shannon Hale
Like/Don't Like:  Like

Hey, who's taking the day off of work to watch the royal wedding?  Who will be throwing a party complete with tiaras and crumpets in honor of it?  Yeah, it's me.  Because I love royalty.  The pomp, the jewels, the scepters, the delusional sense of entitlement - it's all just so grand!  And you just know the Queen is going to be wearing a marvelous hat. In my heart I know that the Queen and I would be best friends if she would ever accept my invitation to join my book club.

So, the Queen - yes.  But princesses?  No.  I blame the marketing department of Disney for their ubiquity, and therefore my distaste for them.  Why does every girl want to be the princess when the queen is where all the real fun is?   It was this distaste which led me to putting off reading this book, even though several friends and the Newberry people have all recommended it.  The title gave me a false impression that it would be all about tulle and etiquette.  But it actually had a lot more depth to it.

It's set in a mining village deep within the mountains.  Miri is 14 and not allowed to work in the mines with everyone else and because of this feels like she is not accepted by her community.  A royal proclamation arrives saying that all the teenage girls must attend a princess academy because it has been prophesied that the prince would marry a girl from their village.  This is where the tulle and etiquette come in, but only as minor scenes and mainly as jumping off points to touch on classic YA themes of acceptance and relationships.  It was not what I expected at all and I was quite pleased with it. 

Side note:  This was fantasy-lite - which is just my type.  I have no problem suspending reality but one of the reasons why I don't read too much fantasy is because the worlds that are created are more often than not over-created and lose any sense of familiarity.  This actually felt like a place that could exist, even though they could talk to each other over great distances by singing to rocks.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Ella Minnow Pea

Book:  Ella Minnow Pea
Author:  Mark Dunn
Like/Don't Like:  Liked.  Clever.

Most of the time it's the story that carries a book.  Sometimes it's the characters.  This book is carried almost entirely by the style.  Normally I would roll my eyes at this but it was so well done that I didn't mind it at all.

The story is told through letters about a fictional island nation off the southeastern coast of America that was founded by the (made up) originator of the sentence, "The quick red fox jumped over the lazy brown dog."   In the center of town is a monument to the man with the sentence underneath, each letter having it's own tile.  When one tile falls off the island council determines it's a sign from the man that they should stop using that letter, and attache punishments for people who use it.  This proceeds until nearly all the letters have fallen.

Since the story is told through letters between several people, all under the restriction of not using certain letters, the writing becomes pretty creative.  You'll need a dictionary. 

While it was clever and pretty fun to read there were some drawbacks.  The story and characters are lacking.  Most of the emphasis is put on the language so you miss out on back story, character development, important things that generally make a book worth reading.  Which is why I found it so successful.  Once I got into it those usually essential items became secondary to the fun of just reading along.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Utah Blaine

Book:  Utah Blaine
Author:  Louis L'Amour
Like/Don't Like:  Like.  Mostly for circumstantial reasons, but enjoyable all the same.

My grandpa loves Louis L'Amour and has a vast collection of his books.  So a few months ago when he moved and had to get rid of his books I made sure to snag one - for sentimental reasons.  I've never had any interest in the genre.  But I've been in a reading funk and when I get this way I will pick anything up in the hopes of finding something worth my time.  This did the trick.

The plot is just like any western movie you've ever seen.  There are bad guys and good guys and one really good guy and some ladies who are mostly just lips and hips.  And there are shoot outs and saloons and horses and fist fights.  There's lychin' and fightin' and ridin' and shootin' - because everyone drops the g, ya' cityslicker.  There are men described as, "short and blocky with a beefy red face."  Is there a better description than beefy?  I doubt it.  How about this one, "He was a hatchet-faced cowhand."  And it even teaches you how to challenge someone to a fight, "Come on, you big lug, stack your duds and grease your skids.  I'm goin' to tear down your meat house!"

Pretty fun stuff.  As I was reading I could feel the funk liftin'. 

A Flaw in the Blood

Book:  A Flaw in the Blood
Author:  Stephanie Barron
Like/Don't Like:  Nah.  Not much.  Sigh.

Is it me?  Or is it Winter?  Is it my reading ennui that has tainted everything I pick up?  Or is it just plain mediocre writing?  Because it's been ages since I've enjoyed a book.  And I specifically picked this one up because I love Stephanie Barron's Jane Austen Mystery series.  They're fantastic reads.  But this one?  It was like hearing a sad trombone while eating unbuttered toast.

The plot centers around Patrick Somebody (it's been a few weeks since I've finished.  It's all pretty hazy.), an Irish barrister living in London, and Some Girl Whose Name I Can't Remember Because She Was So Underdeveloped Even Though She Was a Central Character, and Queen Victoria, of all people.  Prince Albert has just died and the Queen is a wreck, and Patrick and the Girl have some clues to Albert's death that Victoria doesn't want the public to know of so she sends some German henchman out to kill them.  They must unravel the mystery before that happens.

The plot sounded interesting and I've always thought that Barron was a gifted writer when it comes to pacing a mystery. But this was was pretty weak all around.  It switched between several POVs (a pet peeve, as you well know) and it just didn't go anywhere.  Sure, it traveled all over London and the Alps but the story just dragged without any real revelations until the very end and by that point it didn't seem so revelatory or earth shattering as it should have. 

There's supposed to be a new Jane Austen Mystery (and I really do recommend them, which is rare because I don't normally sign on for knock-offs of classics) and I'll have to give that a try to get this one out of my head.