Reading Roundup July 2008

Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley

I first read Beauty as a twelve-year-old and it soon became one of my favorite books. I was surprised to find out a few years ago that McKinley had retold the Beauty and the Beast story again, but I decided to give this book a try. It's quite a bit different, and longer, but I enjoyed it as well. The writing is beautiful and the story is interesting. I didn't like the main character in this one as much as in Beauty, but it's still a good book.

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

I read this book when it first came out, but I didn't remember it at all. This time around I was mostly struck by the beauty of the writing. The characters are all interesting and the plot kept me in suspense. I do admit to being turned off by the ending; I was disappointed because the book is so unique and yet the ending is just like every other best-seller out there. It's a wonderful book except for the last few pages.

A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam by Neil Sheehan

I've had this book sitting on my shelf for years but was always intimidated by the length (800 pages). Now that I've been on vacation I had time to sit down and read it. I was surprised by how readable and interesting it is. Sheehan does an excellent job combining the specific biography of Vann with the larger history of the war. I felt like I learned more about Vietnam by reading this book than I had with any other one book; it manages to be comprehensive and personal at the same time.

Fields of Clover by Marilyn Arnold

I'm really not sure why I finished reading this book, since I didn't like it very much. First of all, it was poorly edited and much of the writing was overwrought and melodramatic. I was also bothered the whole time by the seeming discrepancy in the behavior of the characters and what should be their ages (though what their ages were was never made clear). It's the story of elderly parents and their children, but the children behaved like they were much too young to be the children of 90-year-old parents. That bothered me for the entire book, as well as the fact that each of the children was a total stereotype. Definitely not the best book I've read in a while, but at least I bought it cheaply at DI.

Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World by H. Stephen Glenn and Jane Nelsen

Like most parenting books I've read, I found some good things in this and some things I didn't agree with. I liked their ideas about responsibility and I really liked the point that our getting angry at children makes them think about the anger rather than the problem at hand. Generally I liked it, but they had some statistics about drug use and rebellion that seemed unnecessarily alarmist and not quite believable.

Thoughts of Grasshopper: Essays and Oddities by Louise Plummer

I love Louise Plummer--she manages to be so funny and so real at the same time. This is a little collection of assorted essays and other writings. Some of them I had read in other places and some were new to me. They were all hilarious; I've never been disappointed by Louise.


Batman Begins

I've already seen this a few times, but we had to watch it to prepare for The Dark Knight. I really like this movie for a lot of reasons. The character development of Bruce Wayne is interesting, the plot is captivating, and the film is fun to watch.

Batman: Gotham Knight

Mr. Fob and I both felt unimpressed by this collection of animated Batman stories. Neither of us is into anime, and the stories just weren't all that interesting. Some of the visual effects were cool, but it certainly wasn't a favorite. And Target really should not shelve it in the "movies for kids" section.

The Dark Knight

This was the finale to our week of Batman movies. I hope to write a longer review, but I was certainly impressed by the quality of the film. I was also disturbed by a lot of it and thoroughly creeped out by the Joker.

Love Actually

This was my second time viewing this film and Mr. Fob's first. We both agreed that some parts of it are fabulous, but other parts stink. I also really wouldn't call it a "romantic comedy"; there's some romance and some comedy, but there's plenty of pathos too. I would recommend it, but it's not on my list of greatest films.


I normally (read: nearly always) avoid R-rated movies and I remember being really disappointed that Love Actually, with a whole bevy of actors I really like, was rated R. Being so very British, I figured it was probably a language problem, but I still avoided it. A year or two ago I caught part of it on TV and wasn't that impressed. I had a hard time buying Hugh Grant as the PM. I did like the part with Colin Firth--he was so earnest and unsure of himself. So unlike Mr. Darcy. Very cute. I did want to read Cold Mountain, just to see what attracted such high profile actors to star in the movie. And I didn't like Rose Daughter as well as Beauty either. The ending was a little bit too obtuse for me. I love the whole premise in the first book that she is actually named Honor, but hates the name and jokes that she'd rather be called Beauty despite being the plainest of three sisters. (In McKinley's "The Outlaws of Sherwood" Robin Hood is actually a really lousy shot.) I read something she wrote once about the second telling of the Beauty and the Beast myth. She basically said that this story is one that has been a part of her always--the story she was meant to tell. After revisiting her first story, she felt like it was incomplete and wanted to expand on the rose theme. She feels like there is a little bit of Beauty and the Beast in all of her stories.

Have you tried her Deerskin? I think you would love it. A fairy tale for grown ups without being as abstract as too much of the fantasy rubbish that gets published.

Sorry, McKinley is one of my all time favorite authors and probably the one I admire the most: I never pass up a chance to sing her praises.
Kristen said…
Hi there! I love reading your blog, although I don't usually comment. :)

I've noticed you're on Goodreads and I was just wondering if you would be my goodreads friend if I invited you? I figured I might as well introduce myself before you get an invite from a stranger. I've been impressed by your reading round-ups and would love to get your reviews on Goodreads!

And if not, that's ok, too. I'll just keep lurking around here anyway. :)

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