Tuesday, July 7, 2015

DNF: Green Hell by Ken Bruen

Green Hell by Ken Bruen

Published: July 7, 2015 (Mysterious Press)

I have heard high praise for this author, and I can see why. Based on what I read, I can tell this author is a talented writer. And I was intrigued. However this novel wasn't working for me.

It is written in a somewhat surreal, stream of consciousness-like style. I often enjoy this kind of writing. However, I read more that 10% of the book, and I honestly had no idea what was going on. Perhaps if I had previously met the protagonist, whose narrative voice was driving the novel, this would have given me a reference point and I would've understood what I was reading or at least been motivated to persevere. But as it was, I was lost.

I suggest checking out other reviews on Goodreads; many of them are positive. Many readers seem to love this character and the author's style. And although this one didn't work for me, I will probably try other books by this writer.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

There Will Be Coffee and Cookies in the Gandhi Room After the Revolution + Man-Thongs + Blogger Links

Between playing the role of Mom and trying to get my business off the ground, I don't seem to have time to review anything anymore. Plus my blog visitation has plummeted -- I apologize. I miss my cyber-friends. And to those of you who haven't given up on visiting this blog, thanks. ;-)

There was good news from the Supreme Court of the United States. It upheld the Affordable Health Care Act and paved the way for legal same-sex marriage in all 50 states. For the most part, I've been ignoring the backlash from opponents of same-sex marriage. I assume it will be much like biracial marriage here in the southern U.S. For reasons I've never been able to fathom, people were terribly distressed about it, then they just got over themselves, got on with their lives, and got used to it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Thursday Movie Picks: Adaptations of Classics (No Poems or Plays)

Hey -- I haven't been around much lately. I've been focusing on a new endeavor, and the whole business has been draining most of my time and energy. I miss blogging and reading all your posts.

This week's topic:  Adaptations of Classics (No Poems or Plays)

Jude (1996) 

Young Jude Fawley dreams of becoming a university scholar. He becomes a stonemason while pursuing his studies every free moment he gets. He is both an industrious working man and an accomplished autodidact, working toward his dream of moving to Christminster and matriculating at the university.

I'd like to tell you this is an uplifting story of a young man overcoming the overwhelming odds against rising above his social class in nineteenth century England. However, if you're familiar with the works of Thomas Hardy, an author whose novels are frequently pimped out by English teachers as examples of naturalism and Victorian social realism, you already know better.

This movie is bleak -- unrelentingly bleak. At the same time, it is aesthetically beautiful, with pale landscapes and a richly developed sense of time and place. And Christopher Eccleston rocks this role. As a young man, he is convincingly hopeful and innocent, and throughout the movie there is an exceptionally raw quality to his ever-increasing agony.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

This is heresy among nerds, but I enjoyed Peter Jackson's film adaptations more that Tolkien's books.

Don't get me wrong -- I love what Tolkien did, using his deep knowledge of mythology and classics to create a world that virtually spawned an entire genre of its own. But brilliant as he was, Tolkien had a penchant for overlong descriptive passages, the kind that -- if I saw them in student papers -- I would be determined to edit out out. :-) The storytelling and plot often stumble over the plethora of detail, In the movies, we get the imagery without it affecting the story's momentum.

Where the Wild Things Are (2009)

Surely no one is going to argue that this isn't a classic? My husband and I both fell in love with it when we were very small, and we bought a copy for our kids before they were even conceived. It is has been bedtime story fodder for generations. The movie, obviously, is quite different, but it retains the fanciful, dreamy quality of the book.

Bonus Pick:

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

This is the very first series of books in which I fell passionately, irrevocably in love as a child and my favorite childhood movie. You young punks who grew up with VHS tapes or DVDs have no idea what it was like to wait all year for this movie to come to television. :-P It is one of the crowning memories of my youth.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day Special: 12 Spectacularly Crappy Cinematic Dads (Warning: Spoilers!)

I was planning to review Chinatown today; I just saw it -- finally! -- for the first time. But I decided to observe Father's Day instead.

The Hubby and I have been in the parenting business for 21 years. Twenty-one years of the most horrific and glorious job known to mankind. You could say we are experts at it by now, if by "experts" you mean well versed in screwing up, bouncing back, hanging in there, and striving to do better.

In honor of John, who is a totally awesome dad, I want to talk about memorably bad fathers in the realm of movies and television.

Fathering wives and White Walkers in Westeros.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

TBR Update & Blogger Links

Happy weekend and welcome to summer in the Northern Hemisphere. My 11-year-old and I went to the lake, with friends, for the first time yesterday. Our garden is mostly planted, and I've ordered the kids' end-of-year standardized tests. It's time to demonstrate to the local school board that I'm doing something other than getting drunk all day while my kids are allegedly learning at home.

As I've mentioned, my son recently started his first job, at a movie theater. Schools are out for summer break, so parents are looking for ways to shut them up for a couple of hours seeking engaging family entertainment. So business at the theater is picking up, which means more hours for him.

On that note, there are a bunch of movies at his theater I want to see: Spy, Inside Out, and Mad Max. Yet that kid hasn't scored any free movie passes yet. What's up with that?

Fun-Sized Book Review: What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman

Fun-sized book reviews are 200 words or less.

What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman

Thirty years ago, Sunny and Heather Bethany disappeared from a shopping mall. The two girls were never seen again, their bodies weren't found, and the investigative trail ran cold. A woman has just been apprehended for a hit-and-run, and she claims to be Heather, one of the long-lost sisters. Investigators are sure she's lying, and she’s driving them crazy with her manipulations and evasions. 

Our intrepid detectives, including Kevin Infante and Nancy Porter, work toward unraveling the mystery woman's story. Meanwhile, alternating chapters explore the Bethanys' lives 30 years ago, what happened the day the girls vanished, and their parents' lives after their daughters’ disappearance. 

This book was riveting, in part, because of the author's careful attention to the Bethanys’ tenuous survival after losing their children. I found the story intense and surprisingly emotional. The complex plot held my attention. I guessed the main "twist" early on -- Lippman abides by fair play with readers by strewing subtle clues along the way -- and I was eager to see whether I was right and exactly how it would unfold. And as always, the novel stands out for Lippman's patient character development and rich exploration of the complexities of human relationships.

Rating: 8/10

Fun-Sized Book Review: The Likeness by Tana French

Fun-sized book reviews are 200 words or less.

The Likeness by Tana French

Detective Cassie Maddox returns in the second installment in the Dublin Murder Squad series. After the ordeal of Operation Vestal and her shattered friendship with her former partner, Cassie left the murder squad. Due to an extraordinary turn of events which I will leave you to discover for yourself, she’s pulled into a murder case and finds herself working undercover, impersonating a PhD candidate in English, no less.

Cassie is living, with four classmates, in an old manor house one of the students inherited from his aristocratic forebears. Adrift in her own life, Cassie becomes absorbed into their world and identifies with the murder victim, a young woman who relentlessly cut ties everywhere she went.

As she bonds with this eccentric group of young scholars, entangled in their playful moments, arguments, and sexual tensions, she tries to discover whether one of them is a murderer. She also becomes aware of simmering hostilities toward residents of the manor house in a village scarred by exploitation by Anglo landlords.

French’s mysteries stand out for the vibrant, lyrical writing, carefully observed characters, and attention to the complexities of human relationships. Despite an implausible premise and pacing that occasionally dragged, this was a lovely, absorbing, and satisfying read.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, June 15, 2015

Updates, Art Journaling & Blogger Links

Been Reading:

I finished reading The Likeness by Tana French. As I said before, I didn't love it as much as the prequel, In the Woods, but it was a good read.

French stands out because of her lyrical writing and carefully drawn characters. I also like the way she weaves Ireland's painful history into her writing, shedding light on how centuries of oppression by English landlords has left its mark through social stratification and simmering hostilities. Sometimes she does this lightly, and with humor, and at other times it's a bit grim.

Eventually I plan to read the entire Dublin Murder Squad series.

Have you read this series? Which book is your favorite?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Stopping By to Chat, Book Talk, Zombie Beavers, & More + Blogger Links

I am on a partial vacation now. My family does home education throughout the year, and I am still seeking freelance writing and editing work. But I don't teach during the summer, and -- happily -- my soccer mom gig is on hiatus.

I am still reading The Likeness by Tana French -- I'm making slow progress. It doesn't measure up to the first book in the Dublin Murder Squad series, In the Woods, but it is a good read. I have to say, though, that the way Cassie is treating Sam is breaking my heart.