25 March 2013

Stuff I've Been Consuming: Jan - Mar

  • The Getaway Car, Anne Patchett
  • Deadweather and Sunrise: The Chronicles of Egg, Geoff Rodkey
  • NW, Zadie Smith
  • Adaptation, Malinda Lo
  • Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow
  • Tears of the Sun, Antoine Fuqua
  • Gangster Squad, Ruben Fleischer
  • Side Effects, Steven Soderbergh
  • The Gatekeepers, Dror Moreh
  • Beautiful Creatures, Richard LaGravenese
  • Oz the Great and Powerful, Sam Raimi

Three months in, my fiftyfifty.me is suffering. You would think that being stuck inside for multiple storms and winter weather would increase the number of books consumed. That wasn't the case. After (barely) successfully completing the challenge last year, 2013 is going to be a struggle. So far I've completed four books and seven movies. That's a good bit off the pace. I'm unconcerned about movies, of course, since I'll easily eclipse fifty this year, but books, uh oh.

The books I have read have been mostly gems. I talked about how much I loved Ann Patchett's Truth & Beauty last year, and while The Getaway Car is only a Kindle single, I just had to read it. It's a short memoir about her writing life, and it made a nice companion piece to Truth & Beauty.

We did NW for book club, and if were not for that enforced completion, I probably would have put it down. I generally love Zadie Smith but this was a tough read. I think most of it could be attributed to the beginning section, told in a first person perspective that I found difficult to get into. I found myself being constantly distracted by reading other things by Zadie Smith, such as her book of essays, Changing My Mind and her famous article from 2008, "Two Paths for the Novel." I had trouble shaking the idea that Smith was experimenting a lot with her form for NW. All in all, while the book eventually improved for me, I couldn't in good conscience recommend it except to Smith completists.

Two books I can wholeheartedly recommend are Deadweather and Sunrise: The Chronicles of Egg and Adaptation. The former is the first in a new middle grade series about pirates. Sorry, let me say that again: Pirates! The setup reminded me of so many classic adventure stories I read growing up, but jazzed up with sophisticated humor for older readers and compelling action for younger kids. I've read a lot of middle grade and can report that Deadweather and Sunrise stands out in a big way. I just saw Geoff -- whom I met at last year's KidLitCon -- and told him how excited I was for the next two books in the series.

As for Adaptation, fellow 2009 Deb Malinda Lo smoothly switches genres from fantasy (Ash and Huntress) to scifi. Adaptation starts with a mysterious series of plane crashes -- caused by flocks of birds -- and the race is on to find out what's happening. As fair warning, I was compelled to shoot through most of the book in one day, and you likely will be too. Malinda is a huge X-Files fan and that shines through. Adaptation's sequel, Inheritance, is coming this fall, so that'll give you plenty of time to get on-board the conspiracy train before September.

Short shots on the movies I've seen this year. Zero Dark Thirty was tensely majestic, Gangster Squad had Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone ('nuff said), Side Effects had a hilarious plot twist that made me question if Soderbergh was even a deft director anymore. The Gatekeepers is an Oscar nominated documentary that interviewed six former heads of Shin Bet, Israel's internal secret service. If you're into that kind of thing, it's definitely worth a watch.

Beautiful Creatures is from a pair of 2009 Debs, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, and their best selling novels worked wonderfully on the big screen. The movie was beautiful and atmospheric, and let's be real, the film is way better than the first Twilight. I've been following along on Kami and Margaret's Tumblrs, which have been full of behind-the-scenes tidbits. Kami and Margaret both have new series coming out later this year, Unbreakable (The Legion) and Icons, respectively.

I was terrified that Oz the Great and Powerful would suck, since I love anything Oz-related so much. If it flopped -- like 1985's Return to Oz -- we might not see another Oz movie for decades. Luckily the movie came out huge, to the tune of an $80 opening weekend, and a sequel is forthcoming. Sure it wasn't the greatest movie ever, and maybe Mila Kunis' huge head was distracting, but overall I found Oz to be humorous, gorgeous to look at, and with some nice hat tips to the original. A lot of critics thought James Franco mailed in his performance but I appreciated his wry take on the Wizard. I think I giggled a lot, mainly at some of the lines by the little China Girl.

Speaking of James Franco, who's ready for Spring Breakers?! Aka possibly either the best or worst movie of the year...