Sunday, November 28, 2010

It's Like This, Cat - Emily Neville

It's Like This, Cat.jpg

I first read It's Like This, Cat when I was in... hmmm... I'm guessing fourth or fifth grade. I enjoyed it quite a bit back then and the title has always stuck with me. Recently, I decided to read it again and see if, as an adult, I still thought it was a good read. I'm happy to report, it is. Maybe not so much as when I was eleven, but still, very enjoyable. Also a Newbery Medal winner so that probably has something to do with it. Part of what I enjoyed as a kid and still appreciate as an adult it that the story is set in NYC in the early 1960s. No, not the hippie days. Pre-hippie. In fact, there's even reference to a beatnik.

Still, if you have a child that likes to read - It was originally marketed as a book for boys, but I loved it as a kid - then I highly recommend it. Or, if you'd just like a peek at NYC in 1963 through the eyes of a young teen, also good.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Marlon Brando in Burn!

Husband and I ended up watching Burn! by accident last night, but it turned out to be very thought provoking. It's one of Brando's lesser known movies, went way over budget and did dismally at the box office, but turned out to be quite interesting as far as plot. First, you have to get past the very cheesy opening credits and adjust your brain for Brando's over-the-top posh British accent. But once you've cleared those hurdles, the story takes over and you're hooked into watching to the very end.

Brando's character was inspired by extra crazy sociopath southern gentleman William Walker. If you don't know who he is, check out the link. The movie shows very clearly how the inhabitants of a Caribbean island were repeatedly manipulated and decimated with the goal of getting sugar for the English to have in their tea. Brando does a very good job (barring the accent) of portraying a ruthless yet appealing manipulator working on behalf of England's interests. Be sure to watch to the end and pay attention the development of Brando's frenemy. Really a well-crafted story and it's a shame that it's not better known.

p.s. - Check out that Walker link. So insane.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

White Cat by Holly Black

I enjoyed White Cat. Holly Black is very good at creating well thought out worlds and likable lead characters. Ms. Black takes a break from the land of fairies and delves into a world where there are people who can curse you by touching your bare skin with their hands. So, everyone wears gloves. This skill - curse working - runs in families and the story follows the life of a teenage boy who comes from a family of curse workers, but he has no skill himself. His deep, dark secret is that he murdered his best friends three years earlier and can't remember much about it. (No, that was not a spoiler, it's on the book jacket.)

Lots of tips on grifting, etc... in this one. Also, many twists and turns. Worth the read.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built is the tenth book in Alexander McCall Smith's series The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.

I normally don't read much past the third book in a series. Usually the characters and premise of a story peters out for me after two or three books. That is not the case with The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. (Okay, I haven't read the series straight through from book 1 - 10 and beyond, but I have read several of them ad hoc, so I feel reasonably comfortable in my statement.) Smith's stories and characters for The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency become increasingly rich and complex as the series moves on. Plus, they make me wistful for Africa and the contentment of enough pumpkin to eat and cup of hot bush tea. (Actually, bush icetea is my go to caffeine free drink - but it's not the same)

I've read some other of Smith's books and while enjoyable, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is really his wheelhouse.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Douglas Adams

Why is Douglas Adams' dialogue so funny in his books and so awkward in film or television? Husband and I just tried watching a BBC production of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It was a very true telling of the story, but awkward as anything. Somehow having Arthur Dent say, "I never could get the hang of Thursdays," is hilarious in print, but just falls flat when an actor says the line.

For a quick memory boost as to how funny the books actually are, check out the wiki.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Bad Seed

Did you know Nick Cave is an author?

Yes, that Nick Cave


He's very multi-talented, apparently.

I guess I'm going to have to read something of his.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cleveland, City of the first traffic light, city of magic

Euclid Avenue and East 105th Street in Cleveland, Ohio...that's where you would have to have been on August 5, 1914 to watch the first traffic light click from red to green to help the flow of traffic. And traffic in those days was chaotic and not quite as simple as it is today; it included horses, cars, and streetcars.

The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club

I have to admit, I picked up this book by Dorothy L. Sayers because the title amused me. Previously, I had been unaware of Ms. Sayers' existence. She was apparently quite the woman. Best know for her detective novels about the amateuar sleuthing of Lord Peter Wimsey, she also:

- Was a notable Christian Scholar. (although she had a child out of wedlock way back 1923 - Scandal!)
- Did a translation of Dante's Inferno that is still respected today.
- Was the first woman to receive a degree from Oxford. (Previously, women could attend the university, but didn't receive degrees.)
- Was a success in the advertising (She created that campaign for Guiness that features the toucan. Not sure what a toucan has to do with Guiness, but it is charming. Also, credited with coining the phrase, "It pays to advertise.")

I was excited after reading the first few pages of The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club to realize that it was set in post WWI England. I am fascinated by post WWI and think it is a very overlooked time period. New innovations in killing and healing kept alive many soldiers who previously would have perished on the battlefield. Civilians had to learn how to deal with these shell shocked and disfigured veterans. Definitely a time of change.

Anyway, I enjoyed The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, largely for its authentic historical setting, but also for the character of Lord Peter Wimsey. I did find it interesting that Sayers was very harsh on women in the novel, frequently having the male lead characters kvetch about them. For such a progressive, groundbreaking woman, I found that part of her writing a little surprising. But, she may have been frequently criticized by her female peers during life. No one likes a progressive...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Artemis Fowl - Eoin Colfer

I had heard Artemis Fowl praised as a fresh take on Harry Potter, so I was curious, but not exactly scrambling to read it. As a matter of fact, I had read the first few pages a year ago and then not kept going. This time, I persevered and am glad I did. Besides the fact that there is a twelve year old boy as one of the main characters and there happens to be magic, I wouldn't say it's like Harry Potter at all. If anything, it's more like Terry Pratchett's Discworld. Lots of comedy, very anachronistic, etc...

Artemis Fowl is the 12-year-old villain of the book. He's a genius, but has no magic that I'm aware of / shown in the first book of the series. The magic comes from creatures that Fowl is trying to extort for gold. Fairies, trolls, etc... It's a clever and well-imagined world.

Artemis Fowl first edition cover.jpg

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Clockwork Orange - Part II

Well, I finished listening to A Clockwork Orange and I really did enjoy it. (Even though I confess to fast forwarding over some of the ultra-violence. The really bad bits were not for me.)

To begin with, the reader, Tom Hollander, was fantastic! He really brought the character to life. Impressive. He definitely added to the book with his performance. If you choose to listen to the book instead of reading it, his is the version to get.

Anthony Burgess claimed to have written Orange in three weeks. If that's true, then I want to pursue some of his books that he took all of a month or more to write. If he thinks he's done better, then I'm all for reading them. He made the character of Alex absolutely deplorable, but also somehow appealing. I mean, this is an out-of-control hoodlum who literally beats someone to death just on a lark. Yet, you still end up liking the character and caring what happens to him. No easy trick.

About the controversial last chapter... Hmmm... I have to admit I liked the book ending with the last chapter (the missing American chapter) and I think I was more satisfied with the story for having read (heard) it. In a way, I can see why Kubrick ended the movie the way he did. It is not a happy ending, but it is definitely a movie ending. Should Burgess have been as bitter as he was about the book/movie? Well...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


What instructions did Wham give their hair stylist before shooting their second album cover?