Friday, December 30, 2011

read: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (5 stars)

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and ClayThe Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I keep thinking that a five star review is supposed to be reserved for a 'perfect' book. I wanted Michael Chabon's "Kavalier and Clay" to be such a thing. And for a while I thought it might be. Alas, there is no such thing as a perfect book. This might not be the 'Great American Novel'. But it still deserves five stars.

It deserves five stars for its rich prose, distinct characters, vivid settings, and strong story. That's not to say that we haven't seen similar characters and settings and themes before. But Chabon weaves them together in a way that sweeps up the reader and carries them along such that the pages simply fly by (most of the time). There's not only the pair of journeys from boy to man, including the classic loss of innocence. There are also the journeys from urban to suburban, from child to parent, and peace to war to peace.

It's not a perfect book. There are quite a few spots where the narrative loses focus and seems to get off track. It sags a bit in the middle. It's also lacking in universal appeal. It is definitely a male book, about manly pursuits and male bonding. There are few women and they are only there to illuminate the men in the story. But these are only minor quibbles.

This is a great book and highly recommended.

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

"Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" [B+]

My main complaint about the first Guy Ritchie/Roberty Downey Jr/Jude Law "Sherlock" was that there was not enough detecting and interplay between Holmes and Watson. That complaint is addressed in this entry, which doesn't exactly explore their relationship, ut does expand on it a bit. This feels a bit more 'Sherlock-Holmesy'. Here, too, is plenty of action, even some big guns and big explosions. The gamesmanship between Holmes and Moriarty is, appropriately, kept key. And they provide the inevitable climax. This isn't exactly your father's Sherlock Holmes. But do you really want it to be?

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (IMDb)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

read: Ganymede (5 stars)

Ganymede (The Clockwork Century, #4)Ganymede by Cherie Priest

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I give up. I finally have to give one of Cherie Priest's books 5 stars. It's not perfection and it's not literature, but it's well written and darn good fun. I was disappointed to have reached the end, not because it was bad, but because I wanted more. This is the best story in the series so far. Since the others all got 4 stars, this gets 1 more.

This book, like the others, is full of wonderful characters, most with wonderful, arcane names. What's different is that in this one the relationships between the characters get explored a bit more richly and broadly. This is a result of a somewhat more laid back pace, which wasn't lazy, but does allow for more exploration of characters and the setting.

A few things didn't work. Much was made of leaving Andan Cly's airship somewhere to get refitted. But the result is glossed over or omitted. A supposedly shocking revelation was made about one of Josephine's girls. But the point of it eludes me. It did not seem to make any difference to the story. I felt a bit cheated by the climactic battle. There was tension and danger. (minor spoiler coming) But we were never given an all-is-lost moment. And then things wrap up quickly.

The next book in the series can't come out too soon for me.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

read: Microstyle: The Art of Writing Little (4 stars)

Microstyle: The Art of Writing LittleMicrostyle: The Art of Writing Little by Christopher Johnson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a book about finding the crunchy hidden meanings of words and phrases and then using them to efficiently deliver a message. Most of the examples are from advertising or headlines, with a few movie and book titles thrown in. Then again, it's not so much a book about how to do that as it is a book about how others have done it. In that sense, it's not very successful. On the other hand, for anyone that loves words and writing and wants to think a little deeper about how words work, it's an interesting, light read.

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Monday, December 12, 2011

read: If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't) (4 stars)

If You Ask Me: And of Course You Won'tIf You Ask Me: And of Course You Won't by Betty White

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very engaging book that's not quite autobiography or memoir or essay, but a charming mash of all three. Betty catches us up on her most recent activities, but also goes back to tell some anecdotes from the past. The audio book is an extra delight, because she reads it in her inimitable, expressive style.

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

"Green Lantern" [B-]

I was looking forward to this film so much, then didn't get to see it in the theater. Finally caught it on blu ray. I thought it was not so much disappointing as... disappointing. I mean, how can you be disappointed when there is so much Green Lantern action on the screen? And so much... exposition. I think they needed a script where there was much more story in the here and now and not so much set in the past and the future. Even though the fate of the world was at stake, it never really felt like it was. The stakes needed to be higher and more immediate. Without that, it was just a pretty decent superhero flick.

"Hugo" [B+]

I guess I'm a sucker for stylishly shot movies (as long as they don't suck, too). I definitely liked this movie. It is stylish and interesting. I relented and saw it in 3D. It was worth it. It's not actually science fiction, but it feels a little like it. It gives off the same sort of vibe.

I have to agree with other reviewers that there's not a lot of story here and the acting is a bit wooden most of the time. But that probably is the director's fault more than anything. The actors are always trying so hard.

This is recommended if you like film or historical fiction or both.

Hugo (IMDb)