Archive for June, 2009

26th June
2009
written by Tony
The other night Steph and I stayed up until 1:30 a.m. giggling like children as we came up with various ideas for fictional romance novels. This is one of our favorite games when we go into a bookstore: look at the ridiculous romance novel titles and laugh at how incredibly stupid they are (I'm looking at you Venetian Mobster Takes a Virgin Bride). So as we burned the midnight oil and the ideas kept coming, we decided we could do it better. Who knows, maybe some of these will get picked up? I think they have real potential. So, without further ado, here is cover number one. If we don't get too much hate mail this will be a recurring series until we run out of ideas (read: never).

Yes!

Yes!

25th June
2009
written by Steph
Just wanted to remind all of you that as the month draws to a close I (and many others) will be posting a review of Part Two (The Part About Amalfitano) of Roberto Bolaño's 2666.  I just finished it yesterday and need a bit of time to sort out my thoughts, but I can't wait to hear what the rest of you think!  To those of you toying with the notion of joining us, I will say that Part Two is the shortest part in the book, coming in around 60 pages.  So even if you haven't started reading it yet, there's still time!  After all, I'm sure most of you read far more than 60 pages in a single day! Also, if you need more incentive, check out some of the insightful posts other members of the read-along posted last month on Part One.  Everyone seemed to pick up on something slightly different, and it was really edifying to apply their ideas to my own reading of the text.  This is definitely a book best shared and discussed with others!
22nd June
2009
written by Steph

Sometimes reviewing classics can be a pain in the bottom, because much of what you think of saying has already been said before, probably far more intelligently than you can think to put it, and likely in someone’s doctoral dissertation (then again, who really reads those?).  Also, it can be difficult to review a classic when you get that divide happening between enjoying a book and appreciating it.  Moreover, sometimes a book was so powerful, the writing so precise, it makes it seem foolish to try and use my words to pay homage to it any way, shape, or form.  And then there is Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair, in which all of these factors conspire against me writing a coherent and meaningful review. (more…)
19th June
2009
written by Steph
Indubitable!

Indubitable!

The Sign of Four is the second novella penned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle featuring the illustrious and magnetic Sherlock Holmes.  Miss Mary Morstan seeks the council of Sherlock Holmes when she receives a mysterious note informing her that a grievous wrong has been conducted against her, and moreover, the letter writer can shed some light on the fate of her father who has been missing for over a decade.  The duo agree to accompany her to meet the mysterious author writer, but soon find themselves investigating a murder all the while trying to track down some missing treasure. In this novella, Conan Doyle reveals the darker side of Holmes’s character her, specifically his dabbling with his infamous “seven per cent solution”.   Other than that delightful little bit of character development (I know drugs are bad, but it’s such an integral part of the Holmes character it was cool to see it introduced), however, for me it did not have quite the same charms as A Study in Scarlet.  I found the mystery (yet another “locked door” mystery) less compelling and more obviously depending on background information that no reader has any chance of knowing until it is revealed.  Also, I didn’t feel the backstory was as artfully communicated as was done in A Study in Scarlet.  Holmes’s deductive skills are swift and keen, but I felt quite helpless while reading The Sign of Four, and it was all perhaps a little zany for my tastes.  Of course A Study in Scarlet was a bit out in left-field at times, but I suppose there were elements apart from the core mystery (such as the humor and wit in the writing) that I was able to enjoy independently.  Here I felt much of the spark and vim was missing to the storytelling, which is disappointing since three years elapsed between the publication of Scarlet and this.  Perhaps because of this I was more aware of certain unsavory mentalities that weren't so obvious (in my opinion) in the first book - at times Holmes/Watson can be quite racist and sexist.  A product of its time, I know, but still quite jarring to me.   It wasn’t a flop, just a bit of a letdown following such a vibrant debut.  Sophomore slump, I suppose. But I’m still carrying on in my attempt to read through the series, so next in line is the collection of stories The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.  I know I read some of these when I was younger, but I’ll be damned if I can remember how any of them turn out (or what any of them were about!)! Rating: 3.5 out of 5
18th June
2009
written by Tony
Despite this poster, the movie isn't scary. At all.

Despite this poster, the movie isn't scary. At all.

The word is out that this movie is better than the first, which was apparently really, really boring. And Tom Hanks had some sort of theological-mullet (theomullet?) going on. Granted, neither of us actually saw the first movie (to our credit, I think) and only Steph has read the first book. So I was essentially a tabula rasa going into this, and that was fine by me. Let’s see, why did we go to this movie in the first place? I think we were looking for a way to drown $14.00 and kill an afternoon with what was described as a movie that was “comically bad.” Let me warn you now: the nature of this review necessitates spoilers. That being said, if you haven’t seen it yet and are here reading this, then forge ahead and save the money. Also, Steph brought a little notebook to take notes so we wouldn’t forget any important details. Before we get to the actual movie, let’s mention some of the high-quality selling that took place during the previews. There was the one for the Jodi Piccoult movie (My Sister’s Keeper) that lead with “Most babies are accidents…” Exactly. Then note #2 says simply “Shia LeBouf=douchebag.” Probably for Transformers 2. “Tyler Perry – I feel bad for all the people who laughed at this.” On with the show! (more…)
17th June
2009
written by Steph
I'm just gonna call it now: best movie of 2009

I'm just gonna call it now: best movie of 2009

How’s this for a short review: if you haven’t seen this movie, go and see it.  Now!  The end. Ok, did you do as I said?  No?  You need a little bit more incentive?  But it’s a PIXAR movie.  Those things are pretty much guaranteed to be cinematic gold (with the exception of Cars… what was up with that one?  I never saw it and quite honestly have no interest to ever do so.  Oh, also, I’ve never seen A Bug’s Life, but I consider that an oversight on my part and I’m going to go put on my Netflix queue right now…).  I didn’t even really know what Up was about for the most part going into it (my synopsis pre-watching Up: it’s about a crotchety old man who makes his house fly using balloons), and yet based on the fact that it was Pixar, I knew we had to go see it.  The 98% fresh rating over at Rotten Tomatoes didn’t hurt either. [By the way, my post-watching synopsis?  It’s about a crotchety old man who makes his house fly using balloons and is AWESOME.] (more…)
15th June
2009
written by Steph
Not all Greek to me!

Not all Greek to me!

Since the weather has finally gotten consistently warm here in Nashville, I’ve been wanting to take advantage of the fact that our building has a pool and do some tanning and swimming.  I’ve talked fleetingly of my search for appropriate “pool reads” (and I’ll probably be posting more about that in the future… so stay tuned), which it turns out is a pretty perilous proposition.  You need a book that isn’t too dense, since lazing about in the sun can make the mind sluggish, but it’s important the book be engaging and not vapid, because otherwise there’s no incentive to read instead of getting into the pool.  After a little bit of soul searching, I settled on Beginner's Greek (Great Expectations by Charles Dickens doesn’t seem quite right for the summer, does it?  Don’t all those moors evoke Autumn to you?), which turned out to be a great choice. Billed as a modern-day Jane Austen novel (or chick lit written by a man), Beginner's Greek revolves around Peter Russell who is a romantic at heart and is waiting to find his true love.  He tells us that whenever he gets on a plane, he really believes that this will be the trip where he is seated next to a beautiful woman with whom he will fall hopelessly in love.  Lo and behold, on a cross-country trip from New York to L.A. Peter finds himself across the aisle from Holly, a beautiful and charismatic young lady and it seems the two form a magnetic attachment.  She gives him her number and tells him to call her while he’s in town, and he vows to do so… only to lose the paper on which her number is written and with no other way of tracking her down (you see, she never told him her last name).  The rest of the novel then chronicles the ups and downs of Peter & Holly’s lives (as well as the people who orbit around them) as they try to make their way back to one another. (more…)
12th June
2009
written by Steph
Growing up, I loved me some Saved By The Bell.  I watched it every Saturday morning, and had a huge crush on Mark Paul Gosselaar, who played the incorrigible Zach Morris.  Who didn't cry when he and Kelly Kapowski broke up while dressed as Romeo and Juliet?  And I hate to think of how many times I've seen their SBTB Hawaiian-Style made-for tv movie (where they work at a resort in Hawaii, and Screech winds up at some ill-fated pig roast), or my personal favorite, SBTB: Wedding in Las Vegas, when Zach & Kelly finally get married.  People, my brother and I even watched the ill-advised SBTB The College Years. I'm just saying, I loved that show.  Embarrassing confession time: recently my family was cleaning out the basement, and my brother claims that they happened upon a letter stashed somewhere safe (but not safe enough) that my best friend and I had written to good old MPG.  Clearly my love was true, only knowing the limits of postage at the time. Anyway, things change and most of the Saved By The Bell alumni are now safe in post-teen idol obscurity.  I had known for a while MPG was starring on some legal drama on TNT or something like that (there have been billboards around Nashville), and has suffered from terrible hair, but I didn't really think anything of it.  Until recently, when I stumbled upon this genius clip from a recent appearance he did on Jimmy Fallon's show to promote his new show.  Only, I think he wound up promoting his old persona way more, which has made me giddy like my 8-year old self once more. I have no idea if a SBTB reunion will ever happen, but honestly, I'm just happy MPG was such a good sport as this has to be one of the best interviews I have seen in a long time.  The only thing that would have made this better was if it were Ellen interviewing him instead of Jimmy.  If you were ever a fan of SBTB, you owe it to yourself to watch this interview!  Chock full of in-jokes and nostalgia, what more could you ask for? Please enable Javascript and Flash to view this Flash video.
10th June
2009
written by Steph

Sucks to be Bill...

Sooooo good.  Tony said he didn’t think I would necessarily like these films, but I loved them!  Everything about them worked for me, and I wish I had seen them when they first came out rather than being the last person on the planet to see them. Or maybe I’m not the last person to see the movies, in which case the basic gist is that Uma Thurman plays a character known as “The Bride”, who was a member of Bill’s assassin squad.  Only he puts a hit out on her and she gets jumped the at her wedding rehearsal only to wake-up 4 years later with one thing on her mind: revenge.  First she’s going to take out the assassins who massacred her wedding party (and her unborn child), and then she’s going for Bill. Honestly, I really did like everything about the movies.   I loved the way they were filmed as well as the style – in a way, the greatest compliment I can bestow is that I really wished I were reading the movie as I watched it, because I haven’t read a book in a long while that I enjoyed as much as this movie.  It was just wildly creative and inspired and super stylized, and everything about it was interesting to watch.  Plus, who doesn’t like a good old-fashioned revenge tale?  Better yet, it’s a lady pulling the punches! The fight scenes were kick ass, the music even better, and I thought Quentin Tarantino told the story in a really interesting way.  And I think that he's a huge douchebag in real life (cocky little pisant is probably more accurate), but I have to give credit where credit is due: the man made an amazing movie and really knows his music.  The story is fractured, but the “chapter headings” (if you will) are more than enough to orient you and keep you interested.  Great modern take on the classic samurai tale, and I had so much fun watching it.  Most people tend to like Vol 2 more than Vol 1, but I think I actually enjoyed the former more.  I think I felt there was more exploration in style, or maybe I was just so impressed with the first part it was hard for the second to live up to it (if I had watched it when it first came out, there would have been a considerable gap between the two, and maybe that would have helped). Best movie(s) I’ve seen in a long time, and I really want to add this to our home collection. Rating: 5 out of 5
9th June
2009
written by Steph
AKA "The Not-Very-Well-Kept Secret Adversary"

AKA "The Not-Very-Well-Kept Secret Adversary"

Since 2009 is the year that I’m rediscovering my love affair with the mystery novel, I decided that I would like to reacquaint myself with the Queen of Mystery – Agatha Christie.  I read a bunch of her books when I was in middle school/highschool, but my memory for the titles I did read is absolute rubbish, so I figured it might be fun to start reading the books in the order they were published.  I haven’t made much headway in this personal challenge (challenge is perhaps the wrong word – long-term goal, is probably more apt), as The Secret Adversary is just Christie’s second book.  And as much as I love Dame Christie, it shows! Christie wrote  about several detectives, and The Secret Adversary is the novel in which she introduces her sleuthing duo, Tommy & Tuppence.  The basic premise is that the two longtime pals meet up in London following WWI, both down on their luck and swiftly running out of money.  Tuppence announces over tea (bizzarely and hilariously, in my opinion) that the only cure for it all is for them to become adventurers (?).  Following the meal, Tuppence is approached by a man who overheard her and says he might have just the ticket for her.  He wants her to go to Paris and pretend to be someone, but when he asks her her name, Tuppence throws out the name “Jane Finn” on a whim, which enrages the man, who asks how much of the scheme she already knows, and ultimately dismisses Tuppence from the office, telling her to come back the next day… only for him to have vanished upon her return!  And so Tuppence and Tommy wind up embroiled in a scheme to overthrow the British government – one that will succeed unless they can track down the real Jane Finn, who was given some national documents prior to the war that would be most damaging if they fell into the wrong hands.  Will these green sleuths be able to outwit one of the most elusive criminal masterminds to challenge the Empire, the sinister Mr. Brown?  And how is it that he always seems to be a step ahead of them? (more…)
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