Reading Roundup: April 2008
Though I spent most of my life (up until the last five years) avoiding fantasy novels, I did fall in love with Beauty by McKinley sometime around eighth grade. This is the second book I've read by her and I really liked it. As some of the reviewers on Amazon point out, the plot and characterization really aren't all that unique--if you want a unique take on Sleeping Beauty you should read Briar Rose by Jane Yolen. But McKinley's writing is beautiful and this book is truly "spellbinding".
Making Peace: Personal Essays by Eugene England
Click on the link, spend seven dollars, and buy and read this book. Seriously. It will be the best seven dollars you've ever spent. During the last few years I've started collecting books by Eugene England and I haven't been disappointed yet. The essays in this collection are all well-written and timely--although published over ten years ago most of them discuss peace, diversity, and violence and seem quite appropriate for our time right now.
March by Geraldine BrooksI've only read Little Women once and it was a long time ago, but I still liked this book. The idea of expanding on the life of a fictional character is an intriguing one to me and it seemed like Brooks did this fairly well, especially since the fictional character was himself based on a real person. I thought the story and the writing were both beautiful.
This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust
I heard an interview with the author of this book on NPR shortly after reading a review of it in the NY Times and they both piqued my interesting enough to put it on hold at the library. Then it serendipitously arrived at the same time as March and I got to spend several weeks reading about the Civil War. I thought this book was fascinating, and it's well-written and very readable. Books like this always make me want to become a historian instead of a literary scholar, but I guess I'll just enjoy well-written history books instead.
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
We read this book for my book group this month and I liked it a lot more than I expected to. The writing isn't fantastic, but the story is really fascinating. We had a great discussion about cultural interaction, aid to foreign countries, religious belief and education. I think this is definitely a book more people should read and discuss.
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
I also didn't expect to like this book; the plot seemed very cliche and it uses just about every convention in modern literary fiction. But I still found myself falling in love with the characters and I really cared about what happened to them. It was a surprisingly good read.
Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before by Tony Horwitz
I struggled through the first chapter of this book and nearly put it aside for later. Thankfully I kept reading because it turned out to be one I couldn't put down. The author traces the steps of Captain Cook around the Pacific and writes about his adventures as well as the history of Cook's voyage. I liked the combination of historical narrative and modern travelogue and felt like I not only learned a lot, but also enjoyed the trip.
Bride and Prejudice
So this wasn't the most artistic movie we've ever seen, but it was still a lot of fun. We laughed out loud during a lot of parts and enjoyed all the singing and dancing. I really liked the way the director combined a variety of styles to create something unique; I love stuff like thatSo I read a lot of reviews of this movie stating that it was "surprisingly good"; we weren't all that impressed. We don't watch very many crude movies and were actually uncomfortable with the level of crudity in this; I was reminded of why I don't miss high school much. It did have some funny parts, but it wasn't really that great. I liked Juno better.
Another movie that didn't live up to the critical hype for me; it had some good parts, but I found myself looking at the clock a lot while watching it. The acting is great and I liked a lot of the aspects of the direction, but the story wasn't very exciting and it went on for way too long.This is actually a TV show, but it took up a lot of our time this month so I'm counting it here. At first I wasn't sure about this, but I loved it and Mr. Fob and I are officially hooked.
The Bishop's Wife
We've only ever seen the remake of this with Whitney and Denzel, but I was pleasantly surprised by the original. I think it's a very sweet movie about learning to listen to other people and to appreciate them for who they are. Next Christmas watch this instead of something lame like The Santa Clause or Elf. (Me, opinionated? No way!)
The Sea Inside
This was a very interesting movie; it's a little slow and mostly involves talking instead of action. But the questions it raises about life, love, and our obligations to other people are fascinating. The acting is pretty amazing and so is the cinematography, so it's no surprise that this one swept the Goya awards in Spain and won the Academy Award for foreign film.
I've read a lot about this film from a critical perspective, and I agree that the acting is great and the sexual dynamic is quite complex. But I still thought it was kind of boring and slow to start. The tension and resolution come late in the movie and resolve relatively quickly. Not my favorite Hitchcock, but still an OK movie.