Reading Roundup August 2008

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

Most reviews I've read inevitably compare this book to Lahiri's short story collection (Interpreter of Maladies). I also really liked that book, and can see some ways in which this novel may not quite measure up, but still think this one is excellent. I liked reading a novel about average, every day people. Their lives were very different from mine and yet I could still find things to relate to here. The writing is beautiful and the characters are all interesting. After the book ended I sat around missing it and everyone in it for a while.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

I'm still not sure how I feel about this book. It was a compelling read and obviously well-researched. I read it quickly and liked the story, even though I guessed the plot twist from the beginning. But I ended the book feeling yucky; I know I have a somewhat high tolerance for violence and stuff, but this book is very "gritty". I didn't like how everyone in it was mean and violent, and there were a number of parts that just felt over the top to me.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

I've been hearing all kinds of wonderful things about this book for several months so I decided it was finally time to read it. I felt somewhat deflated, because it really wasn't as good as I had thought it would be based on all the hype. I've read better memoirs that seemed to have more substance to them. But the writing was good and the story was interesting so in the end it wasn't a bad read.

Being Enough by Chieko Okazaki

I've read a few other books by Sister Okazaki and really liked them, but for some reason this one just didn't grab me as much. She had some beautiful insights, but I also felt like she relied a lot on padding from inspirational quotes and sayings and I wanted more of her own unique experiences that she had used in earlier books.

Oil! by Upton Sinclair

I still haven't seen the movie based on this book, but I have more interest now after reading the story. It took me a long time due to the density of the language, but I thought it was a well-written novel and a compelling story.

Hooligan: A Mormon Boyhood by Douglas Thayer

I've read a few other things by Doug Thayer and have to admit that they all really do sound the same. This book is no exception, even though it should be more personal since it's a memoir. As one reviewer pointed out, the narrator is barely present and seems to be more of an observer than a participant in the action. There were several repetitive passages and I often felt as though the author was trying to list things rather than describe them. It was a quick and easy read, but not a particularly memorable one.

On the Road to Heaven by Coke Newell

After a month of mostly lackluster books I was pleasantly surprised by this one. I had been warned that the writing itself was not the greatest, and I certainly could have done without a few of the tangents or the seventies-era poems, but the story is compelling. One of the most real and fascinating conversion stories I've read in a long time and a good example of the potential for good Mormon writing.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

I read this back in high school but remembered little about it. This time around I was surprised by how readable it was, and yet it managed to be more than just a newspaper story. Capote really does deserve the praise he got for his innovations in nonfiction writing.

Movies

The English Patient

I don't think it's a good sign that Mr. Fob and I both laughed during the sex scenes in this movie. There was very little chemistry between Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas. And even though I had read the book before I still had trouble following the plot as it jumped around in time and space. The book is definitely much better, although this is a very pretty movie.

A Separate Peace

It's pretty hard to make any movie about a boys' boarding school not turn into a homoerotic fantasy, and for the first half of this movie that's what it feels like. I thought it was a decent adaptation that mostly follows the story of the book, but it wasn't anything special.

Spellbound

I don't think this film has aged as well as some of Hitchcock's others, but it was still enjoyable. I liked the casting and I didn't see the twist in the ending at all

The Work and the Story

I was surprised to see this on the shelf at my library so I decided to take it home and watch it. Some parts of it were really funny, but it was very slow and felt much longer than it really was.

Heroes: Season 2

So this is a TV show and not a movie, but we just watched the whole second season and loved it. I liked it just as much as the first season and now we're looking forward to the third starting soon. If you haven't seen this show you really should, although there are parts that creep me out even more than most books I've read or movies I've seen.

Comments

Courtney said…
I read the Namesake about two years ago, and I absolutely loved it. I still need to read Lahiri's new novel. I love her writing style.
I wish I could watch Heroes-- I have seen a few episodes, but they are just too creepy I end up having nightmares. My husband just started watching the second season and he loves it.
I've really been wanting to try "In Cold Blood" for some time. Maybe you have pushed me over the edge toward checking it out. A Seperate Peace is one of my favorite books. In college I was frightened to realize how much the the relationship between the narrator and Finny (is that right?) resembled myself and Pocohantas. Maybe I need to re-read to realize that I have matured past that point. Or that I haven't.
PS Loved "Lighten Up" for Sis. Okasaki's insights on culture and practices vs. principles.
We've been hooked on heroes from the beginning. The only thing we didn't like about second season was that we felt like they introduced too many new people and the story was getting spread thin.
Earth Sign Mama said…
When we saw "The English Patient" in the theater, I don't remember laughing at the love scenes, but I do remember the incredible ennui the entire movie inspired in me. Blah. It had been billed as just so good...
Th. said…
.

May I comment on a bunch of these?

The Namesake: Now that I've read Interpreter and learned this is the same author, I'm excited to give it a spin.

Water for Elephants: Lady Steed had an almost identical reaction. I read parts of it over her shoulder on the plane and thought it looked really good, but her overall review talked me out of reading it.

The Glass Castle: I read almost half of this about a year ago and really want to finish it. I love the part I did read.

Oil!: I want to see the movie more than the book. Is it terribly long? If it's much over 200 pages, I'm not sure I'm willing. But the movie I'm quite interested in.

Hooligan: See, I really want to read it (I own it, for pete's sake!), but just can't get excited. And the more people with taste who read it, the less anxious I am.

On the Road to Heaven: This one I liked.

In Cold Blood: This I want to read also. But I probably never will unless I pick up my own copy at a fifty-cent library sale.

---

The English Patient: Isn't there a Seinfeld episode about this?

Spellbound: I agree. Hasn't aged well. But the documentary of the same name is awesome! Have you seen it? Want to borrow it?

Work and the Story: This had a hilarious poster and I desperately wanted to see it. Until the reviews started coming in....

Heroes: I wish we'd started at the beginning. I don't see us ever putting in the seventy hours to catch up. But we're very excited for 30 Rock to start back up!

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