Posts Tagged ‘3 out of 5’

26th April
2010
written by Steph

A year ago, Marie Arana wrote a piece for The Washington Post in which she argued that the Nobel Prize was merely a political instrument that was less interested in honoring quality literature and thus, it was time to get rid of it. She cited many of the authors that the prize has overlooked in favor of authors she personally considered to be far lesser writers.  One such example given was John Steinbeck, whom she described as being “merely average”. No, you read that right.  By Arana’s estimation Steinbeck was “merely average”. Color me stunned.  I think there are a lot of ways in which once could describe Steinbeck, but “merely average” is not necessarily the choice I would make. I’ve by no means read his entire back catalog, but I remember being completely enthralled by East of Eden during a summer in highschool, and if Of Mice and Men isn’t the saddest thing I’ve ever read, then I don’t know what is.  True story: My dad gave the book to my brother and asked him to read it, when my brother was maybe 12 or 13.  My brother wasn’t really a reader, but the length of the book was such that even a non-reader like himself wouldn’t feel all that intimidated.  A few hours later he came out of his room and said he had finished it, but neither my dad nor I believed him since he was so calm and collected.  My dad told him to go back and really finish it… and bang!  20 minutes later, Ty came out bawling, totally distraught.  That’s when we knew he had finished it.  Honestly, Of Mice and Men is one of those books that can be your trusted litmus test to see if someone has working human parts.  If you can read it and not be moved to the sharpest pinnacles of grief, well… you scare me. (more…)
16th February
2010
written by Steph

Ever since falling ill last week, I’ve fallen woefully behind in my book reviews.  Not that I’ve been reading a ton, because I haven’t (that’s how sick I was… a week spent pretty much NOT reading!), but still, I’ve read some and then haven’t had the energy to write about any of it.  It probably doesn’t help that I’ve spent time on some fairly mediocre reads, The Egyptologist, being one such book. This is a novel told through letters and diary entries, which is actually a pretty cool conceit and helps the story flow a lot better than it might otherwise have done.  We open with a letter from one Ralph Trilipush addressed to his fiancée, essentially telling her that if she’s reading this letter then he must be dead.  He left a few months prior to the date of this letter on an archeology expedition in Egypt with the aim of uncovering the tomb of an ancient king whose very existence is hotly disputed.  In the letter, Trilipush mentions that he is sending along his private journals and dig notes so that his fiancée can publish his findings.  The rest of The Egyptologist is made up of these bits of writing allowing the reader to slowly reconstruct what happened to Trilipush.  In addition, we are also privy to the correspondence of an aging Australian private eye, who was hired many years ago to find the illegitimate offspring of a wealthy English shipping magnate; these letters are addressed to the great nephew of Trilipush’s fiancée, and as readers we slowly begin to piece together a larger mystery that is in play and that heretofore has never properly been resolved. (more…)
12th January
2010
written by Steph
If it's an international best-seller it's gotta be good, right?

If it's an international best-seller it's gotta be good, right?

When it comes to following up a Jane Austen novel, clearly the perfect choice is a gory crime novel, right?  Ok, maybe not most people’s choice, but I finished Northanger Abbey on our flight from Toronto to Chicago and clearly couldn’t stand an hour-long flight without some alternate reading material.  I figure that so long as there are airports, the publishing industry doesn’t really have anything to worry about because people read A LOT when flying… including myself!  So I snagged myself a copy of Stieg Larsson’s debut novel, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, because for better or for worse this thing has been hyped to high heaven the world over and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. There are several storylines running throughout this novel, but I suppose a boiled down synopsis would go something like this: When journalist Mikael Blomkvist is convicted of libel for printing an unfounded article about one of Sweden’s financial bigwigs, he thinks life as he knows it is at an end.  There goes his reputation, his career, and maybe his magazine in one fell swoop.  But then Mikael is approached by Henrik Vanger, ex-head of the Vanger corporation, and offered a job in which he’ll spend a year investigating the disappearance of Vanger’s niece, Harriet.  The twist?  Harriet went missing 40 years ago… and most of the Vanger family is a suspect.  In return, Vanger will pay Mikael a handsome salary and at the end of the year, will give him some information that will let him exact his revenge on Wennerstrom.  No one really expects Mikael to make any headway in a case that has stumped the authorities for 4 decades, but when he makes some unexpected discoveries, it’s time to call in hacker extraordinaire, Lisbeth Salander, to do some exceptional and unconventional digging.  Will they figure out what happened to Harriet?  If not, will Mikael be able to bring Wennerstrom down? (more…)
18th December
2009
written by Steph
Thanks, but no thanks...

Thanks, but no thanks...

For well over month now, I’ve been struggling to reclaim my reading groove.  I’ve just felt completely listless when it comes to picking my next read, and then worse yet, sticking with it.  With the weather getting increasingly cold and grisly outside, now is the perfect time of year to curl up with a good read.  Just my luck that good reads seem impossible to find right now.  My last few books have been too grim for my tastes, and seem only to increase my winter blahs.  I decided I needed something light and whimsical, so I turned to one of the Jeeves & Wooster novels that I picked up on our trip to New York.  You’ll all recall that I adored my first dalliance with Wodehouse a few months back, so I was certain this would be just the ticket to cure me of my reading malaise.  So, you can imagine my extreme disappointment in discovering that whatever kind of magician Wodehouse might normally be, I did not love Thank You, Jeeves and it was not the panacea to my biblio blues. Now, in saying that I did not love Thank You, Jeeves, I do not want you to think that this means I did not like the book.  Far from it.  It was very funny, very Wodehouse, very English… but it failed to charm me the way that Jeeves in the Morning did.  I have several guesses for why this is, but before I get into it, I’ll give you a quick rundown of the basic premise of the novel:  After being evicted from his London apartment due to his incessant strumming of the banjo, Bertie decides to embark for the country where he can play his instrument in peace.  Alas, Jeeves cannot abide the instrument and the two decide to part company.  A chance encounter with an old friend Chuffy has Bertie heading to an old cottage in the township of Chuffnell Regis where his banjo will bother no one.  But as is the way with Bertie and his rotten bad luck, his visit happens to coincide with that of an old flame, Pauline Stoker, not to mention her overbearing father, and one of Bertie’s old nemeses, Sir Roderick Glossop.  Hijinks ensue as Bertie tries to help Pauline & Chuffy find true love with one another, but as Jeeves would helpfully remind him (were he still in his employ), the course of true love never did run smooth, least of all for Bertie… (more…)
29th October
2009
written by Steph
Someone's gotta do it!

Someone's gotta do it!

I still consider this little blog to be a fringe element when it comes to the world of blogging in general, and book blogging in particular, so it really was a flattering surprise when Trish from Hey Lady! Watcha Readin’? contacted me regarding reviewing something for TLC Tours.   Having never been part of such a thing, I thought it would be fun to try something new, so after perusing the selections for October/November, I signed up to read Looking After Pigeon by Maud Carol Markson. Looking After Pigeon is a thin novel, one easily read in a single afternoon (which is what I did).  It is a story told in retrospect – Pigeon as a grown woman has some serious scars and issues related to her past, and in an effort to move past them, she has undertaken the task of writing down the events of one summer, which she attributes as the source of all her relationship/commitment/general anxiety woes.  We learn that during the summer in question, Pigeon was just five years old, and it was this summer that her father up and abandons the family with no warning.  Consequently, Pigeon, her two siblings (Dove and Robin), and their mother move to a beach house on the Jersey shore.  This summer marks upheaval and dramatic change for the entire family, but ostensibly it is Pigeon who is affected most by the various events. (more…)
30th September
2009
written by Steph
In a way, this book does dig its own grave...

In a way, this book does dig its own grave...

One of the nice things about going to a used bookstore where the merchandise is pretty much dirt cheap is that it allows me to be more adventurous with my reading choices.  I would never plonk down $14 on an unknown author, but when a book is only $2 or so, I feel I can take some risks.  When I found The Gravedigger by Peter Grandbois, the mentions of magical realism and comparisons to Gabriel Garcia Marquez made this a book I knew I wanted to read, even though I’d never heard anything else about it.  I decided to take a chance… but did it pan out? Before I talk about my reaction to the novel, the basic premise: Juan Rodrigo works as the gravedigger for a tiny rural village in Spain.  As undertaker, he is tasked with more than just burying the dead, he is also a gifted storyteller who is able to communicate with the spirits of the recently departed, sharing their life’s true story (both the highs and the lows) with all who remain behind in the land of the living in the hopes that he can ease their burdens and help them move on with their lives.  Both jobs come with quite the burden of responsibility, but Juan Rodrigo has one other important task he must undertake on a daily basis: raising his thirteen year-old daughter, Esperanza, who is as headstrong as her deceased mother.  And as Esperanza begins the fraught journey that every girl must take as she begins to blossom into a woman, Juan Rodrigo finds that this job is about become even more difficult. (more…)
27th August
2009
written by Steph
But will I be into this movie?  That's the really important thing!

But will I be into this movie? That's the really important thing!

Normally Tony is very good about indulging my desire to watch bad movies. While he might not be first in line to see the latest chick flick, then again, normally neither am I. But sometimes I do want to see a predictable rom com where I can turn my brain off, but hopefully still be charmed. These tend to be cases where Netflix comes into play, so that we can watch from the relative safety and privacy of our own home. This is how I get away with watching crap like Twilight and, well, He’s Just Not That Into You. In this case, though, I actually watched this one day at home over lunch while Tony was at work, because while I knew he would watch it with me, I knew it would probably be little to no fun for him, so I figured I would save him the agony. To be fair, I was expecting this movie to be so bad that I wound up being mildly impressed by how not bad it was. Don’t get me wrong, the movie isn’t really very good, but I had expected it to be so irredeemably bad that I wound up feeling it had perhaps been too harshly judged by its critics. It’s not reinventing the wheel, it’s not breaking any new ground, but I don’t know that this is a huge crime against the movie-going public. It’s a romantic comedy! I’m not saying these can’t be thoughtful and well done, but that’s not normally their m.o., and moreover, the people who tend to go see them generally don’t want them to be surprising! If you go to see The Proposal and Sandra Bullock and Mr. Scarlet Johansson don’t fall in love at the end of it? A bunch of people are going to be pissed! (more…)
24th August
2009
written by Steph
G'day, G'day!

G'day, G'day!

I am not sure if I have ever documented it here, but I generally dread watching movies that are more than 90 minutes long.  Normally I can stretch myself to 2 hours if necessary, but in most cases, movies past the 120 minute mark are needlessly bloated and I get grumpy about having had to sit still for that long.  Plus I tend to get bored and sleepy.  Maybe part of this stems from the fact that we don’t have any kind of cable (basic or otherwise), so we tend to watch Netflix stuff during the evening… and if a movie is longer than 2 hours, then that means a good chunk of our night is gone if we’re watching it on a “school night”.  So things did not bode well for Australia going in, and some might wonder why it even wound up on our queue.  Well, I love me some Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge is probably one of my top 10 favorite movies) AND I have recently been going through a phase where I am fascinated by the land down under (mostly the accents, I think)… so both of these factors managed to cancel out the 165 (!!!) minute runtime and we decided to give this a go. (more…)
23rd August
2009
written by Tony

I don’t get this movie. I mean, I get it, I just don’t get the allure. Steph and I watched this for the first time the other day and we were both kind of left flat. I am aware that this is probably a pretty unpopular opinion since I know very well that there are a lot of Hepburn fans out there and that this movie is well loved by many. Before I get in to why this movie was so uninspiring, I’ll detail the plot for those of you who have not seen this movie (or saw but didn’t pay attention). Hepburn plays an escort (essentially, Capote was much more explicit in his novel about what she did for a living, but her assumed name is Holly Golightly — you be the judge) who is living out some sort of selfish delusion that involves her taking little to no responsibility for her life or her actions, so much so that she even abandons her patrons mid-date (despite this being her bread and butter) and has yet to unpack her apartment after one year of occupancy. George Peppard plays Paul, who is essentially a kept man. His wealthy benefactress comes and goes throughout the movie and everyone does a good job dancing around the fact that he is a gigolo. Mickey Rooney is the blaring Asian stereotype, Mr. Yunioshi, who lives upstairs. I guess I thought the 60s were more enlightened or something, but putting Rooney into yellow face just astounded me. Patently offensive may not be the right turn of phrase, but it’s where I’m left at the end of the day. (more…)
21st August
2009
written by Steph
Note: unless you are seeing a movie based on a comic book, guys in capes are a bad sign...

Note: unless you are seeing a movie based on a comic book, guys in capes are a bad sign...

We are big Paul Rudd fans here, although I don’t think we really realized this until seeing I Love You, Man earlier this year. Twice. Sure he was always on our radar, shining in flicks like Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Knocked Up, and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy… Heck, I’ve even liked him a good deal since I was a teen when he played Paris in William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, and who can forget Clueless? (I haven’t a clue! Ha!) But despite all of these factors, our stance towards Rudd was essentially that his appearance in a movie would be a welcome and happy surprise, but he wasn’t really a motivating force in terms of getting us to actually go see a movie. And then we saw I Love You, Man and got to thinking that Paul Rudd is genuinely a funny dude and maybe we need to watch more of his stuff and should get pro-active about doing so. This is how we came to rent Role Models. (more…)
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