Reading Roundup: October 2013

The Bookman's Tale by Charlie Lovett

The premise of this book was interesting, and I'm a sucker for historical mysteries--especially those that involve rare books and romantic intrigue. This book, however, was just a bit too over-the-top for me; the coincidences stretched credibility too much, the writing was clunky, and most of the characters were just one-dimensional stereotypes.

Rebecca by Daphne Du Marier

This was our book club pick for the month; I first read it years ago in high school, and I remember at the time feeling completely sucked in to the book and shocked by every twist and turn in the story. Rereading it as an adult was an interesting experience. When the book started I didn't remember much about it, but as things progressed I remembered more of the details. There are aspects of this book that haven't aged well, but it's still a good read and an important contribution to contemporary genre literature.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

I avoided reading this book for a long time; any descriptions I read of it sounded kind of weird and it just didn't appeal to me. I remained skeptical even through the first chapters, but despite my best efforts to resist it, the book drew me in and I ended up really liking it. I particularly liked the way the author made the tiger into a fully-fledged character that I cared about while avoiding any anthropomorphizing of the animal. This is an unusual book that takes some narrative risks, but in this case those risks worked out well.

Lightning Tree by Sarah Dunster

This book started a bit slowly for me--it takes a while for the action to get started and I was a bit confused because I had misremembered some earlier reviews and had a wrong idea about what the main conflict in the story was supposed to be. Also, although I often complain about historical novels that spend too much telling readers all about the historical context, this one was confusing in the beginning because I don't know much about the history of early Provo and I had no idea what year it was or why Brigham Young had been there and why he was moving back to Salt Lake. Just a bit more explanation of the historical setting would have been helpful in setting the story into context in my brain. That being said, I generally liked the book. I haven't heard it described much as a YA novel and I'm not sure if it was intended to be one, but the protagonist's age is only 15 (or 16?) and the struggles she has with identity, as well as her attitude and behavior really fit into YA conventions. This is a coming-of-age story where the protagonist has to confront issues about her past and her family and change her perception of herself. I really liked all the characters--they were complex and nuanced, and very believable. I think the book could have used a bit more editing, both for typos and to tighten up the story a bit, but generally this a quality piece of fiction.

1984 by George Orwell

I had not read this book before and decided it was time to correct that hole in my cultural literacy. It was much darker than I expected; I wouldn't say it was an "enjoyable" read, but it was still a good book and really made me think.

Movies

Gravity

 I can see why this movie has won a lot of praise in reviews; it is amazing to watch (and it made me feel a little sick, even not in 3D). The acting is great, the special effects are fabulous, and the suspense is real. That being said, it's not a particularly memorable movie and didn't inspire much deep thought in me.

The Saratov Approach

I saw this movie along with the other two all on the same weekend. I decided to experiment by doing something I had never done before--seeing more than one movie in theaters within a 24-hour time period. It was an interesting experience, especially since I saw three movies with fairly similar styles and themes. This movie surprised me with its quality and depth of feeling--it really was well-done and I got a lot out of watching it. I talk about my experience a little more over at the AML blog.

Captain Phillips 

 I felt the same way about this movie as I did with Gravity--outstanding technical achievement (great acting, directing, effects--although the pacing dragged a little). Tom Hanks is still one of my favorite actors and he is in fine form in this movie. Although there certainly was real suspense in this movie, the desire of the director to stick closely to the real-life events made it feel a little less meaningful than it could have been (especially since the ending was rather abrupt). 

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