Friday, December 30, 2011

Girl With The Dragon Tattoo: The Movie

I finally got out to see this movie last night. This might be the first time I ever was meh about a book but really wanted to see the movie. It might have something to do with Daniel Craig.

My main issues with the book were the sexual violence which did get toned down in the movie, although not by much, and the slow moving, too detail oriented pace. My thought with the movie was that they would have to remove a lot of the details that I felt moved way too slow in the book. And they did! While the movie wasn't a fast paced movie (it felt like forever before the characters met up, but less forever than the book felt) it moved along quite nicely.

Craig and Mara were excellent in their roles. Although I admit to just enjoying Daniel Craig pretty much no matter what, he was a really good Mikael and Rooney Mara was a great Lisbeth.

I think in the case of this series, I'll forgo the rest of the books and just wait on the movies. I've already added the Swedish versions to my Netflix queue to see how those are in comparison.

On a side note, seeing as how the movie is set in Sweden in the winter, I was loving the knitted hats and scarves. I particularly liked Lisbeth's slouchy gray hat. Setting off to find the pattern ....

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Flash and Bones by Kathy Reichs

While I love Bones, the TV show, I much prefer the Temperance Brennan books. She's not nearly as socially awkward in the books even though she's just as intelligent.

This was an almost 9 hour audiobook (the last 2 hours entertained me while deep cleaning my bathroom and bedroom - thanks audiobooks!) that is based in Charlotte, and centers around NASCAR racing. I didn't know this going in which is good. I'm not a NASCAR fan but this book kept the mystery interesting with only a bit of NASCAR related info.

A body turns up in the landfill behind the speedway, encased in asphalt in a barrel. People come out of the woodwork with speculation on who it could be: Cindy Gamble or her boyfriend Kale Levett, who went missing in the 90's. Could it be an Atlanta guy, Raines, who was supposed to be at the speedway and disappeared off the face of the earth? Add in idiot right-wing Patriot Posse members, the FBI and NASCAR fanatics and you got a mighty fine book.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

A lovely audiobook read by Mr. Gaiman himself. I really enjoy it when he reads his own books, he just has that way about him.

Published in 1998, this is a good little story about fairies and regular folk. The audiobook was about 6 hours long so it seemed like a short little book. The village people of Wall guard their wall and the only gap in it very sternly because on the other side of Wall is the land of Faerie. Every nine years, faerie folk come and set up a market right outside of Wall and the villagers get to mingle with the faeries, who they otherwise ignore.

A villager and a faerie got together (*cough*) and a baby was born, named Tristran. He does not know the circumstances of his birth, being raised inside Wall with regular family. He falls in love with Victoria and as they are walking to her house they see a falling star. Desperate for any sign of affection from Victoria, Tristran offers to fetch her the star if she will give him anything he desires. She agrees. He goes off, through the gap in the wall and past the guards.

Tristran does find the star, and a slew of other faerie folk who keep the story moving along pretty quickly.

Another great book by Gaiman.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

2011 Best of Books

I attempted to read 50 books this year but as of today I'm at 44. BUT it turns out I've listened to a boatload more podcasts so in some ways I consider myself even.

Here are the best books I read in 2011:

Two Stephen King books top my year and one was so old I read it when I lived with my parents. Bag of Bones was a re-read and a wonderful one at that. The story changes when you age about 13 years. 11/22/63 was King's new book this year and caused me to sit for hours on end just absorbed in the story.

I really enjoyed the A Song of Fire and Ice series (first 2 books) more than I thought I would, although I think that was helped along by the HBO Game of Thrones series (NEEEEEEDDDD!)

The newest Dresden novel, Ghost Story, also topped my list this year but again, the anticipation for it helped a lot. This is really an excellent series by Jim Butcher and I encourage anyone to give it a try.

On a non-fiction note, I 100% recommend The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. The HeLa cells that have helped with chemotherapy and to cure polio came from a poor black woman named Henrietta. It's an amazing story that just needs to be heard.

Mary Roach always rocks my world and her Packing for Mars book gave more more tidbits and facts I need to gross out my friends and coworkers. Thanks Mary!

If you want to try Tina Fey's Bossypants, I suggest listening to the audiobook. Fey reads it and adds a lot to the experience. I realized I love that woman.

Looks like it was the year of non-fiction because Bill Bryson tops my lists with A Short History of Nearly Everything. Facts were my THING this year and entertaining facts are Bryson's specialty.

Jane Goodall wrote a wonderful book that helped me change my eating habits (or at least look at things more carefully). Harvest for Hope is a great book to start with if you want to learn where your food comes from and how to eat better for yourself and the environment (and no, she doesn't lecture about becoming a vegetarian).

Another series... sorry, but Kim Harrison's The Hollows (Rachel Morgan) series is really really good. For A Few Demons More was the last one I read and I need to get back to it. They keep getting better as you keep reading.

Getting back to basics, I recommend checking out and downloading some classics. I re-read the Wonderful Wizard of Oz this year and remembered how much I love that story.

Maybe my goals for next year should include more fiction that isn't part of a series?

Here's to happy reading in 2012!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Bag of Bones : The Movie

The book is a favorite of mine, so I was was warily excited to see it brought to life even if it was a TV miniseries. Wary because I can count 2 King adaptations that are GOOD. Stand by Me and The Shawshank Redemption. My gut feeling is that these 2 are so good because they were based off of short stories. Bag of Bones is a huge book (although not King's biggest book) and I knew stuff would be cut.

First, I do love Pierce Brosnan. I do! But he is too old for this role! He's 58 and Mike Noonan, I think, was in his late 30's/early 40s. Pierce is still quite handsome, but just wasn't right. His acting was good but the maniacal cackling was a little ... campy. And excessive.

While I was expecting stuff to be cut, I didn't expect so much to be changed. It felt like it was changed to be shocking to the viewer instead of heartbreaking as it was in the book. Jo didn't get hit by a bus (really????). She died of an unexpected aneurysm while running to help victims of a car accident.

The "Once for yes, twice for no"? Oh so creepy and awesome in the book, happened WAY too soon in the movie and not in the right places. They lost the oomph that the phrase had. The history of the cabin was left out, as well as the name (Sara Laughs). It never even said where the story was set which I thought was weird. I watched this with my family and my sister's friend had to ask questions that should have been answered by the show. Heck, I was confused and I read the book several times.

The book was published in 1998 and the movie makers decided to update that by putting iPads and iPhones in nearly every scene. It irritated me to see that simply because I wouldn't think someone going away to a cabin in Maine and being haunted by ghosts of his dead wife and a dead singer from the 30's is going to worry that much about new technology.

The racism issues were completely erased. Along with the bonding scenes between Noonan and Maddie and the kid. Those were needed, in some shape, because it made no sense that the kid would just adore this old guy after meeting him once for less than 2 minutes.

And finally.... the kid's mom had her head blown apart by a bullet and less than 24 hours later watches this strange man murder another lady, and yet, the kid and Noonan go off hand in hand to go frickin' canoeing. WTF?

If you think it would be easier and less time consuming to just watch the show, delete it from your DVR now and go read the book. The book is a beautiful piece of literature that deserves the attention that you give it. It doesn't try to hit you with a bus or spurt blood all over your carpet. It takes your hand, gently guides you through a haunted and stunning love story. Please, trust me. You won't end the book wishing for those hours of your life back.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Shakespeare by Bill Bryson

For someone who is so well known, there is really not much known about Shakespeare. You'd be hard pressed to find a person who didn't know of Shakespeare, which is pretty impressive for a guy who lived in the 1500s.

Bryson is such a good writer when it comes to fleshing out facts into something that is entertaining and memorable. Even he concedes that this is a very short book because if we're going on fact, there isn't much to go on. Shakespeare led a life off the papers, showing up only sometimes in court documents. We know he married young, had children and went to London for the theatre and wrote fantastically brilliant plays. Little else is known but much else is speculated.

Bryson tries to weed fact from fiction in this book and, when laid out as such, it's amazing to me how much is just guessed at about Shakespeare's life.

This is an interesting little book if you like the bard but you won't really learn a lot. But if it's facts you're after, they are here.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Front by Patricia Cornwell

I only got this because it was in the bargain bin. I really should have saved my $5.

This is an extremely small book (about 180+ pages) and contain none of Cornwell's characters that I normally care about. The plot was awful, the characters were awful and made me want to punch them. In short, DO NOT READ THIS BOOK.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Books into Movies!

Although I didn't get the hype of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, I didn't think it was a terrible book. I just didn't think it was as great as what most people proclaimed.

Well, the new US movie trailer is convincing me to give it a chance as a film (Daniel Craig!). For me, this might be another case where the movie turns out to be better than the book. Limitless turned out that way. So we'll see. In the meantime, the trailer:

A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Finally finished this audiobook today. I'm not saying that in a way that is derogatory towards the book, but in a way of "I had time to finally finish!!"

Firstly, the audiobook was well done and I really enjoyed the reader.

Secondly, what an interesting book. Not so much in plot but in layout. Because it was an audiobook I couldn't flip back and forth to get things straight, so it might be easier in a real, hold-in-your-hands book. This isn't a complicated book either. What it really does is follow 2 characters, Sasha and Bennie. Bennie is a record exec who longs for the old punk rock days and Sasha is his assistant.

It sounds simple enough but the way Egan laid out their storylines was the most intriguing part of the book. Many places I was left wondering how we got to point C from point A but it usually became clear fairly quickly.

This review is sounding as confusing. Basically, we're introduced to Bennie and Sasha's lives through a series of, I'm going to say, short stories of other people's lives. These new characters somehow always connect back to Bennie or Sasha and managed to not only introduce a new character (that will show up later) but provide a substantial portion of Bennie or Sasha's life. It works amazingly well.

The characters themselves may not be amazing, some are even whiny and kind of annoying, but how the book was laid out and unfolded for the reader was worth it.

11/22/63 by Stephen King

It's amazing how less monstrous books seem when they are on the Kindle.

Time is a funny thing. While reading this book, I kept remembering something I said to my mom, when she lamented about wishing her father (who died when she was just a small kid) was still alive. I said that would have changed everything, for one person to be alive when they weren't supposed to be. My grandpa was my grandma's first husband. It took my grandma's 3rd husband's stepson to introduce my mom to my dad. If my grandpa had lived? I, for one, believe things would be worse (I wouldn't be here....duh).

In 11/22/63, a time portal is found in a diner. The diner's owner was using the portal pretty frequently and made a decision that he had to save JFK from assassination. His logic was all well and good and he was rife with good intentions, but he didn't get the deed done before getting to old and ill to carry it out. So he passed it on to Jake Epping, a newly divorced high school English teacher.

The time portal always starts out on 9/9/1958. Always. For as long as the traveler is in the past, it only appears they are gone from the present for 2 minutes. In order to save Kennedy, the traveler would have to stay in the past for over 5 years (and age five years - this isn't magic). Which is exactly what Jake does.

I'll try not to give away spoilers but I'm putting this book on par with Bag of Bones. King has somehow turned from a scary horror writer into an epic storyteller. I'm not sure where the transition happened, although I'm thinking it was around The Green Mile.

Clearly a lot of research went into this, because it felt like authentic 1950's/60's. But how would I know? I'm eager for my mom to read this and let me know what she thinks.

You'll learn a lot about the butterfly effect in this novel, something I've always been intrigued by. The tiniest change or action by one can cause a huge chain of events somewhere else. A good time travel book expounds on this theory and King didn't disappoint.

Now, that I'm finished with the book, the only thing I keep thinking is "The road to hell is paved with good intentions". Was it really a good idea to try and save Kennedy? What kind of President would he have been? Clearly people assumed he would have been a great one. He's still talked about in awed tones. But no one knows. And frankly, it's probably best left unknown.