Sunday, August 26, 2012

"Recount" [B]

Very well done television movie of the debacle that was the Florida Presidential election of 2000. All star cast, well plotted, well directed, probably some invented drama and time compression. But I remember the actual events being just as dramatic for the time.

Recount (IMDb)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

read: Under the Volcano (3 stars)

Under the VolcanoUnder the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There. I finished it. I almost didn't. Portions of this book are so disjointed and stream-of-drunkenness and opaque that I often thought of putting it down. But I felt like I'd made a commitment to my book club, the same commitment that caused me to start reading this in the first place, so I pushed on through and finished it. If I were to rate this book on overall readability, I would probably only give it 2 of 5 stars.

On the otherhand, those same troublesome passages are part of the art of this book. It is full of the writer's art. From the construction of the plot, such as it is, to the characters, rich and alive, to the settings, true and vibrant, the book engages and challenges the reader at every turn. That is why casual readers may turn away, mystified by the hype. That is why some readers insist it is one of the great works of literature, thereby creating, intentionally or unintentionally, that very same hype. On art alone, I would give this 4 out of 5 stars. I would not give it 5, because it does fail to engage so many readers.

On a personal note, I can't decide if reading this at a more leisurely pace would have made it more or less frustrating. Perhaps the same passages that I rushed through because they made no sense would have been even more incomprehensible with more time analyze.

This is definitely not a fast food book. One might call it literary. That doesn't make it bad or snooty. Just challenging. For now I give it 3 stars (average of 2 and 4).

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Saturday, August 18, 2012

read: Cinder (4 stars)

Cinder (Lunar Chronicles, #1)Cinder by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was fun. And I give it four stars for being such an awesome idea (Cinderella as a future cyborg!), having interesting characters, and a decent enough story pretty decently told. But what could have been a five star book, gets at least one star knocked off because it left me wanting more. Not in the sense of more story. That's obviously coming in future volumes and this one has an ending that is not gratuitously incomplete.

No, I wanted more about Cinder as a cyborg. Why does society and her stepmother brand her as such an outcast? Where are the other cyborgs? Are they also outcasts? If this going to be a major issue for the main character, than it needs to be explored so I can understand it. Otherwise, it just seems thrown in as something the story needed.

I also wanted more about this future where there are emperors, queens, princes and lost princesses. What social upheavals resulted in governments reverting to a form of monarcy? This seems counter to the evolution of society toward democracy, unless hindered by a tyrant. This element would have felt more natural if it involved some form of aristocracy that didn't involve actual monarchs.

I also wanted to know more about the plague, and the lunars, and the bazaar, and New Beijing, and... Too much here just seems tossed in to give the story the impression of inhabiting a rich and varied world. But the world building left me unsatisfied.

On the other hand. Good prose. Good characters. Fun story. I look forward to the next book.
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Saturday, August 11, 2012

read: Get Known Before the Book Deal (4 stars)

Get Known Before the Book Deal: Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author PlatformGet Known Before the Book Deal: Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform by Christina Katz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I heard Christina speak at a writing conference and liked her overall approach and attitude. This book is a thoughtful and thorough study of what a writer's "platform" is and how to have one, even before you've sold your first book. I picked up several tips that I will start using to ramp up my platform presence and identity while I'm still toiling away at learning craft.

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Sunday, August 5, 2012

"The Amazing Spider-Man" [B+]

This gets extra points for having real actors and a real script. The effects were pretty well done, too. It gets marked down for having to re-visit the origin again. Why can't we start getting some superhero movies that just pick up where things were, or even in the middle. Time passes. We don't have to keep reinventing the same hero, over and over, do we? Also not quite convinced of the chemistry between Peter and Gwen. Why, exactly, does she like him?

The Amazing Spider-Man (IMDb)