Monday, May 26, 2008

Jennifer Government

What a horrible future is presented in Max Barry's Jennifer Government! What if we actually are heading for such a world? It's not impossible... A world where people's last names are the companies they work for; where companies own everything, from schools to hospitals. A world where you can't get an ambulance to come if you don't have a credit card from the right company. Where absolutely everything is about money.
This is one of those books that will stay with me, I think. It's incredibly original and it's not only the big ideas that are good, the story is entertaining too. I cared about at least some of the characters and I really liked how their lives came together in the end.

I think the author is a hoot. I've never before used this phrase, but I can't find anything more approrpaite here. Even his foreword and acknowledgements made me laugh. Check out his website, which I just found out is also hilarious! And his latest novel, Company, may just have to go on my list!

Challenges: A-Z Challenge... and that's it! Still worth reading though! :-)

If you're reviewed this book, leave a link in the comments please!

Recent movies

This is what I saw in the last couple of weeks:

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
IMDB summary: A story of a group of California teenagers who enjoy malls, sex and rock n' roll.
It was ok - fun, but not great. I wanted to see it because I'm trying to watch more movies by female directors and Amy Heckerling also directed Clueless, which was fantastic. Perhaps this was the sort of film you had to see while in high school in order to love it!
My rating: C+

Mystic River (2003)
IMDb summary: With a childhood tragedy that overshadowed their lives, three men are reunited by circumstance when one loses a daughter.
Great cast, good story, brilliant direction. Still it's a very dark film, so not for every occasion!
My rating: B+

Bee Season (2005)
IMDB summary: A wife and mother begins a downward emotional spiral, as her husband avoids their collapsing marriage by immersing himself in his 11 year-old daughter's quest to become a spelling bee champion.
I thought it was really weird! There was so much going on and so much of it was unexplained. It was based on a book and I'd be interested to read it because I expect that there's a lot more to the story than a movie could handle. Has anyone read it or seen the film?
My rating: C-

The Princess Diaries (2001)
IMDB summary: A socially awkward but very bright 15-year-old girl being raised by a single mom discovers that she is the princess of a small European country.
I now it's cheesy and for teens, but I really enjoyed it and will be renting the sequel soon! :-)
My rating: B+

Friday, May 23, 2008

Weekly Geeks #4: Things that matter

This week’s theme for Weekly Geeks: Choose a political or social issue that matters to you. Find several books addressing that issue; they don’t have to books you’ve read, just books you might like to read. Using images (of the book covers or whatever you feel illustrates your topic) present these books in your blog.

Well, Dewey is certainly making me think! This has been on my mind for a few days now, just because there are many things that I care about. Then it was on my mind because I was trying to find the right words for the social issue that concerns me most. I couldn't come up with a word, but here are two: consumerism and commercialism.

These two concepts encompass so much, I know, but then all of these social issues are related to the state of the world and its future, sometimes it's hard to separate things.

Now, I am certainly not a minimalist person and I definitely like shopping as much as the next girl, but I don't understand why people need absolutely everything in double or in triple and in the largest size available. I don't understand why everything is reduced to having money. I don't understand why I have to pay for drinking water, why every event I go to means I am bombarded with advertising and why any kid can buy cigarettes. I don't understand why in a debate about GMOs, the argument 'for' consists of 'but otherwise trade would suffer'.

I think we've passed a line and if more people don't start to live life a tad differently then our world will change into something we can't even imagine.

I'm currently reading Jennifer Government by Max Barry. It takes place in a future where everything is run by big corporations - even the government is a big corporation and only has funding for crime prevention, but not punishment. So if a family member is killed, there can be no investigation until you put up the cash. It's a strange world, but some details about it make me think of today's world already. Probably not a good sign.

Along the same lines, David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas deals with how the world around us evolves. I read this a long time ago but I still think about it, it was powerful. This is the second time today that I plug it so if you noticed that know that I just really liked it, I'm not getting paid for publicising it or anything! The part of Cloud Atlas that takes place in the distant future shows us a world where fear and inhumanity are normal. Is that where we're heading?

Inhumanity and the concept of what exactly we're prepared to ignore to keep our own lives as comfortable as possible is also dealt with in Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. A chilling book, it depicts a certain state of things that at first glance seems unthinkable - but I don't think I'd be that surprised if I found out that it happens already.

Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser really illustrates how industry works in the US and how people with no morals decide about things that affect our everyday lives. I read this book a long time ago and still think about it - very powerful. Not to mention that I haven't been able to set foot in a McDonald's since I finished it.

The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan is one that I haven't read yet, it's planned for this year and I hope to get to it soon. All I know is that it's about going to the beginning of our food chain, which seems like a smart idea to me!

Not on the Label by Felicity Lawrence is another one I've been wanting to read for a while. The subtitle is 'what really goes in the food on your plate' so I'm sure I'll find it interesting. All this concentrating on making money had made people stop thinking about simple things like this.

I can't think of any more so maybe it's time to get down from my soap box. I hope my contribution to Weekly Geeks will be accepted, even though I didn't list ten books!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

New Books!

I went to the used book store today - and went overboard again:

Crow Lake by Mary Lawson
Winter Rose by Patricia McKillip
The Rise and Fall of the Yummy Mummy by Polly Williams
The Abortionist's Daughter by Elisabeth Hyde
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
Welcome to the World, Baby Girl by Fannie Flagg
Unless by Carol Shields

So - have you read any of these? Which one(s) should I read first? :-)

To Kill A Mockingbird

I finally got around to read this beautiful classic by Harper Lee and I can't believe that it took me so long! I really thought it was fantastic. My favorite classic so far, I think.

A while ago when we were talking about our favorite heroes for Booking Through Thursday, so many bloggers chose Atticus. I didn't really understand why, how could he have gotten so many votes? Now I see how. I loved Atticus. He is a wonderful character - such personality, such integrity. You don't see that so much these days, not even in books.

I loved that the story was told by Scout, that we could see everything through the eyes of a child. I suppose it helped that I really liked the way this particular child's mind worked. The way she explained what was happening around her was beautifully put and completely believable at the same time. It was clear from her reactions to those around her that Atticus did a fantastic job raising her and her brother.

I really liked so many of the characters - Jem and the way he took care of his sister, Cal and the way she cared for those around her, the ladies of the neighborhood and their ways. The sense of community was certainly present whenever I spent time on their street. I even came around to Atticus' sister in the end - she only wanted to help.

From what I knew about this book from before, I thought that the entire story was about a white lawyer defending a black man accused of raping a white girl. When I started to read the book, while I read about Scout and Jem and Atticus, I kept waiting for this storyline to appear. By the time the trial came around I was more than half way through the book and I realised that To Kill A Mockingbird is about so much more than that. Family and growing up and what's fair and right in the world. How people will follow the majority. How where you come from doesn't always matter and how sometimes it really does. And about so many other things.

Oh and so beautifully written! I actually read it with the right accent, I think. :-)

I will carry the characters of this book and their story with me for a long while.

Challenges: 888 Challenge, A-Z Challenge, Banned Book Challenge, Southern Reading Challenge

Booking Through Thursday: Books vs Movies

Considering that my blog is meant to be about both books and movies, I thought this week would be a good time to join in with Booking Through Thursday again. The question is:

Books and films both tell stories, but what we want from a book can be different from what we want from a movie. Is this true for you? If so, what’s the difference between a book and a movie?

I want both books and movies to entertain me and/or to make me think. Depends on my mood. :-) No matter what mood I'm in though, I love when books and movies involve me in such a way that I lose myself in the story they're telling and nothing else exists.

I suppose it boils down to emotion - I expect both the words of a book and the images of a movie to convey emotion so that I can feel it too. I think directing a movie is just as much of an art form as writing is. You can definitely spot the good directors out there.

I must admit that these days the movies I tend to watch are light - so at the moment I expect books to make me think, but I expect movies to only entertain me and help me forget about the day's troubles. I'm avoiding the more serious movies for now!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Classics Challenge

Trish from Trish's Reading Nook is organising and hosting a fabulous-sounding challenge - the Classics Challenge. There are several options to choose from - I chose to read 5 classics from at least 3 different countries, from jUly to December 2008. Whereas my choices are already on other lists meant for this year, this is actually quite a hard challenge for me. Aside from one, my choices are ones that I myself consider heavy and am a bit scared to start. Not to mention that two of them are whoppers and only the Gods can know how long it'll take me to get through them! But hey, that's why we call them challenges, eh?

Completed: ALL as of 20 November 2008

My five are:
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (Russia)
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (England)
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (Ireland)
Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz (Poland)
Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne (England)
edited to add other books to this list...
The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery (Canada)
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (United States)
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (Canada)

Trish has added something really cool for a sixth book to be read as part of the challenge - participants offer suggestions of books that they think should become classics in the future and we're expected to read one of those too!

I think that David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas should and will become a classic. It's structure is (almost) unique, the six stories the book consists of are written in completely different styles, and the storylines are engaging. Plus it shows a lot about how our world is progressing, what's important to the present generation and we think will be important in the future. I am convinced that it will stand the test of time.

There are already many recommendations for the sixth book on the challenge blog. I don't think I'll have a problem adding one, I think I'll have a problem choosing as I can already see several that I've been wanting to read for ages! It'll be one of the following:
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Astrid and Veronika by Linda Olsson
Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man by Fannie Flagg
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Giver by Lois Lowry

Or maybe I'll manage to read all of these! ;-)

Chick Lit Challenge

I saw this fun challenge hosted by Twiga the book addict 4 life and couldn't pass it up. The challenge is to read at least 3 chicklit books from June 1 to September 1. Go to the challenge post for all the info. With summer coming (hopefully soon), I think that this will be easy for me to do. I already have some chicklit books on my list anyway and I tend to like reading them as the weather gets warmer. I plan to read at least three of the following:

Completed: all as of 31 July 2008 - read my wrap-up post here.

P.S. I love you by Cecilia Ahern
Something Borrowed by Emily Griffin
Can you keep a secret? by Sophie Kinsella
Charmed and Dangerous by Candace Havens
Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik
The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants by Ann Brashares
Don't you want me? by India Knight

Hmmm... I only came up with 6 possibilities! I guess a lot of what I call chicklit isn't actually chicklit... Now I'm really looking forward to everyone else's choices and reviews so that I can add more of these to my list!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

What can I say about this last installment of Harry's adventures except that it was fantastic as always? I don't want to put any spoilers in here so I won't talk about the book too much, except to say that I liked the story and the ending. It managed to surprise me in a couple of places, which was nice. I'd like to re-read the entire series at some point, it would be cool to start at the beginning knowing where everything ends up. I'm sure there are tons of clues.

If anyone else has reviewed this book (not that these basic thoughts qualify as a review!) then let me know and I'll link to it. It might take me some time, so bear with me!

Challenges: 888 Challenge, Once Upon A Time II, Initials Reading Challenge, Chunkster Challenge

Also reviewed by:
Nymeth at Things Mean A Lot

Saturday, May 17, 2008

I don't know how she does it

I was going through a difficult time last week and so needed a book that would occupy my mind but wouldn't actually require too much thinking. Allison Pearson's I don't know how she does it fit the bill perfectly - it was entertaining and had a good story which made me think about priorities in my life.

It tells the story of a successful businesswoman trying to make it in the City in London, a total man's world, and take care of a family at the same time. I'm going to keep this short since there's not that much else to be said. It did exactly what I needed it to do - a good title to keep in mind, all of us need this sort of book at times.

Challenges: A-Z Challenge, 888 Challenge

Friday, May 16, 2008

More books arrived

Amazon is having a clearance sale so I of course got a few things. Well, actually I get a few things each month. Anyway, here's what arrived today:

Pagan's Crusade by Catherine Jinks
How I Paid for College by Marc Acito
The Giver by Lois Lowry

And two films: Mars Attacks and Corpse Bride

I've also been to the library recently and got:

The Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland
Jennifer Government by Max Barry
The Ninth Life of Louis Drax by Liz Jensen
This is Your Life by John O'Farrell
Charmed and Dangerous by Candace Havens

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

Also, I'm looking for my next audio book and would love some recommendations!

The Boy on the Bus

Deborah Schupack's novel got a lot of good reviews because it was original and well-written. The story is about Meg Landry and her son Charlie - the boy that gets on the bus in the morning, her asthmatic little boy, is not the same one that comes home after school. At least he doesn't appear to be. The book tells us about how Meg and the rest of the family handle this new situation.

The tone of the book is quiet and calm, despite the emotional subject matter. I also found it a bit desperate. The writing is light but the book makes the reader feel heavy. At least it did that with me.

When I finished it, I wasn't sure that I understood it! I think I do now, so maybe it just needed some time to be digested. Nevertheless, it wasn't the same book that I was looking forward to, somehow I'd expected something completely different. And I can't say that it was fantastic, only OK.

Let me know if you're read and reviewed it and I'll link to your review!

Challenges: 888 Challenge

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Films I've seen...

I loved the idea of reading challenges so much that I also created lists of films to watch so that I get to classics and more serious films too. Otherwise I'd end up watching chick flicks and tv shows. I haven't been good at reviewing what I watch, I think I have enough to do trying to review the books I read. But I would like to rate the films I've seen so far this year, so here they are, in no particular order:

1. The Sting (1973)
IMDB plot summary: In 1930s Chicago, a young con man seeking revenge for his murdered partner teams up with a master of the big con to win a fortune from a criminal banker.
I don't know what it is about con movies but I really like them!
My rating: A

2. The Bourne Identity (2002)
IMDB plot summary: Who is Jason Bourne? Not even he knows for sure. Considered a rogue agent by the Treadstone Project, Bourne is an amnesiac who must piece together the clues to his true identity while staying ahead of the assassin's bullet.
A very enjoyable thriller - I couldn't believe how fast-paced it was!
My rating: B

3. Wag the Dog (1997)
IMDB plot summary: Before elections, a spin-doctor and a Hollywood producer join efforts to "fabricate" a war in order to cover-up a presidential sex scandal.
Fantastic - clever and entertaining.
My rating: A

4. Almost Famous (2000)
IMDB plot summary: A high-school boy is given the chance to write a story for Rolling Stone Magazine about an up-and-coming rock band as he accompanies it on their concert tour.
My rating: B

5. Babel (2006)
IMDB plot summary: Tragedy strikes a married couple on vacation in the Moroccan desert, touching off an interlocking story involving four different families.
Very original - I loved the way everything was connected.
My rating: A

6. Heavenly Creatures (1995)
IMDB plot summary: Two girls have an intense fantasy life; their parents, concerned the fantasy is too intense, separate them, and the girls take revenge.
I couldn't believe that this was based on a true story! Make sure you check out the related newspaper articles after you watch the film, it's really interesting.
My rating: A

7. In America (2003)
IMDB plot summary:An Irish immigrant family adjusts to life in the United States.
Very touching, not cheesy at all!
My rating: A

8. Underworld (2003)
IMDB plot summary: Selene (Beckinsale), a beautiful vampire warrior, is entrenched in a war between the vampire and werewolf races. Although she is aligned with the vampires, she falls in love with Michael (Speedman), a werewolf who longs for the war to end.
Horrible. Seriously bad. Couldn't even get through it.
My rating: F

9. Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
IMDB plot summary: A young New York socialite becomes interested in a young man who has moved into her apartment building.
Pleasant - although not as great as I imagined it to be!
My rating: B

10. Annie Hall (1977)
IMDB plot summary: Neurotic New York comedian Alvy Singer falls in love with the ditsy Annie Hall.
See my review here.
My rating: A

11. Beetlejuice (1988)
IMDB plot summary: A couple of recently deceased ghosts contract the services of a "bio-exorcist" in order to remove the obnoxious new owners of their house.
Absolutely fantastic! I remembered it vaguely from when I was a kid and it's still just as brilliant!
My rating: A

12. Mr. Holland's Opus (1996)
IMDB plot summary: A frustrated composer finds fulfillment as a high school music teacher.
Cheesy but very good. I loved Mr. Holland's ideas about approaching music. Anyone who has/had a teacher like him is very lucky.
My rating: A

13. Children of Men (1996)
IMDB plot summary: In 2027, in a chaotic world in which humans can no longer procreate, a former activist agrees to help transport a miraculously pregnant woman to a sanctuary at sea, where her child's birth may help scientists save the future of humankind.
See my review here.
My rating: D

14. Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others, 2006)
IMDB plot summary: In 1984 East Berlin, an agent of the secret police, conducting surveillance on a writer and his lover, finds himself becoming increasingly absorbed by their lives.
Slow, but good. Worth watching for the historical aspect as well.
My rating: B

15. All that Jazz (1979)
IMDB plot summary: Director/choreographer Bob Fosse tells his own life story as he details the sordid life of Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider), a womanizing, drug-using dancer.
See my review here.
My rating: A-

16. Music and Lyrics (2007)
IMDB plot summary: A washed up singer is given a couple days to compose a chart-topping hit for an aspiring teen sensation. Though he's never written a decent lyric in his life, he sparks with an offbeat younger woman with a flair for words.
OK, nothing spectacular, but nice to watch.
My rating: C

17. The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
IMDB plot summary: A naive young woman comes to New York and scores a job as the assistant to one of the city's biggest magazine editors, the ruthless and cynical Miranda Priestly.
Very entertaining. I liked it as much as I liked the book, whereas usually the book is better!
My rating: A

18. Muriel's Wedding (1995)
IMDB plot summary: Muriel finds life in Porpoise Spit, Australia dull and spends her days alone in her room listening to Abba music and dreaming of her wedding day...
Fantastic. I love the Abba dance moves in this. And the deeper aspects too, of course! ;-)
My rating: A

19. Hot Fuzz (2007)
IMDB plot summary: Jealous colleagues conspire to get a top London cop transferred to a small town and paired with a witless new partner. On the beat, the pair stumble upon a series of suspicious accidents and events.
Only ok. I thought Simon Pegg's Shaun of the Dead was way better.
My rating: C

20. Juno (2007)
IMDB plot summary: Faced with an unplanned pregnancy, an offbeat young woman makes an unusual decision regarding her unborn child.
The wittiest teen movie I've ever seen. I absolutely loved it.
My rating: A

21. Thank you for smoking (2005)
IMDB plot summary: Satirical comedy follows the machinations of Big Tobacco's chief spokesman, Nick Naylor, who spins on behalf of cigarettes while trying to remain a role model for his twelve-year-old son.
Joe and I really enjoyed watching this about a year after we both quit smoking. Very good.
My rating: A

Hmmm... that ended up being quite long, maybe I need to do this monthly!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Southern Reading Challenge

When I saw that so many of my fellow bloggers had good things to say about the Southern Reading Challenge (hosted by Maggie Reads), I really wanted to join. But then I thought that I can't possibly add any more books to a reading list that I already have no chance of finishing this year. Just for the fun of it though, I checked through my other lists to see if any books would already qualify and lo and behold, I came up with quite a few! So this means that I'm in!

The rules are described here - choose 3 Southern setting books by Southern authors to read between 15 May and 15 August. I think all of the following qualify, let me know if I'm wrong! Otherwise I'll be choosing from this list:

Completed: 29 July 2008 - read my wrap-up post here

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Daisy May and the Miracle Man by Fannie Flagg
Murder on a Girls' Night Out by Anne George

Two challenges to help me along the 1001 books list

There are two challenges out there that relate to reading books from the '1001 books you must read before you die list' - a list which I've made in to a long term reading project. I'm joining both of them because they're compatible, so why not? :-)

The 10 out of 100 out of 1001 challenge runs from 1 May to 31 October 2008 and requires one book per ten from the first 100 - so ten books. If you've already read something from a group of ten you can skip that group. Go to the challenge blog for more coherent information. Here's my list:

1-10: skipped (I've read Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro)
11-20: skipped (I 've read Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon)
21-30: Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
31-40: Gabriel's Gift by Hanif Kureishi
41-50: skipped (I've read Atonement by Ian McEwan and Life of Pi by Yann Martel)
51-60: The Devil and Miss Prym by Paolo Coelho
61-70: The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
71-80: Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee
81-90: Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
91-100 The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

That makes 7 - I'm adding the following ones to make the ten required for the 1% well-read challenge, which runs through to 28 February 2009:
1. Perfume – Patrick Süskind
2. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
3. The Third Policeman – Flann O’Brien

I should be able to make at least one of these challenges! :-)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Like Life

I did not like Lorrie Moore's short story collection at all. I'm surprised, actually, because judging from comments I've heard or read I expected to like it a lot. I guess sometimes that's just the way it is.

I thought the characters were two-dimensional and not believable. I didn't care about any of them. I started each story with a fair bit of hope that 'this one would be different', but I just couldn't connect to any of them or to the storylines and by the end I was only half-reading. The stories were all about people and how they relate to others - the prevalent feeling I got was one of desperation.

Has anyone else read this? Perhaps I just didn't get the point! If you have, leave me a link to your review in the comments of this post, I'd be interested in the views of others!

I think this is the first book I read this year that I really disliked (a D-), so I won't focus on it too much. It contributes to the A-Z Challenge and the Title Master Reading Challenge. It's also one of the 1000 books you must read before you die, which surprises me, but hey, there are a thousand books on the list, what are the chances of liking all of them!

April Round-up and Weekly Geeks #2

I'll start with this week's Weekly Geeks challenge, because I think the idea is really fantastic. Dewey got this week's idea from Darla at Books and Other Thoughts. When Darla reviews a book, she also includes links to other bloggers' reviews. The reasons for why this is so great are well-explained by Dewey here - and we are encouraged to try this idea. As a new blogger still making a lot of new contacts I think this is a brilliant way of being part of the greater book blogging community. I'm going to try this so if you see that I reviewed a book that you also reviewed, leave the link in the comments and I will add it to my original post. What do you think?

And my round-up for April - these are the books I read:

1. Summer Sisters by Judy Blume (C+)
2. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (A)
3. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (A)
4. The Xmas Factor by Annie Sanders (C+)
5. This Book Will Save Your Life by A.M. Homes (C)
6. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne (A)
7. The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood (B+)
8. The Speckled People by Hugo Hamilton (B+)
9. Like Life by Lorrie Moore (D-)

Not too bad and I was lucky enough to have had a good amount of very good books last month!