Thursday, January 26, 2012

Books + More books

I finally got a library card from my local library last Tuesday, and I'm on a bit of a reading rampage. I wanted to do a quick review just to share my opinion on the ones I've read this past week.

First up: Bossypants, a series of anecdotes about the life of a comedian by the comedian.
via Barnes&Nobles
Like almost everything Tina Fey is involved in, I enjoyed it and laughed at all her silly antics. I admired her professionalism and her feminist views that were firm, but unpretentiously expressed. At times, I thought she overdid it with the self-deprecating humor. While I definitely recommend this and read her stories with a smile, I would rather watch (and re-watch) her made-up ones on 30 Rock.

On the other hand, I liked The Help more in written form than on a screen.
via Barnes&Nobles
Aside from the performances by Viola Davis who breathed life into Aibileen Clark and Jessica Chastain who made a ridiculous character likeable, I thought the book did a better job of fleshing out its characters (which is a bit understandable given the time constraints of a movie). My criticism for the movie remains the same for the novel, however. I thought the protagonists and antagonists were too clearly defined as such and that Hilly Holbrook's comeuppance was served much too easily. For a tale told in an "authentic black voice", it's not the most believable. Still, I enjoyed Kathyrn Stockett's feel-good story and found it a quick read.

You know what's not a quick read? The Land of Painted Caves, which chronicles the life of Ayla during the Late Stone Age.
via Barnes&Nobles
Had I not been given the first book in the Earth's Children series more than ten years ago, I would not have picked up this tome of more than 700 pages. This is the sixth and final book in the series, and each one grew increasingly repetitive. Everything and I mean everything from the many characters' actions, reactions, looks, clothing, thoughts, and feelings are carefully explained and repeated throughout the novel. If you didn't catch what they use cattails for, don't worry! It'll be patiently restated at least five more times in each book. In case you're curious, they can be used for food, beverages, medicine, fuel, baskets, and more. They're apparently delicious as pancakes. Don't get me started on which part of the cattail is used for what.
via Wikipedia
But while I've been a little catty describing the series, Jean M. Auel has clearly done extensive research and her love for the time period is sincere. And for all my complaints, I did care enough about the protagonist to read each book whenever I stumbled across them over the years. There's no need to worry about Ayla though. She is an impossibly perfect woman. She's an expert hunter, gatherer, healer, cook, craftsman, artist, animal-whisperer, racial mediator, wife, mother, leader, and overall good person. Read the series if you're into the prehistoric times, and start with the famous first novel, The Clan of Cave Bear, which was by far the best.

Next up is The Night Circus, the debut novel by Erin Morgenstern about two illusionists battling it out in a wondrous and fantastical circus. The game ends only when one succumbs to death. Except...they happen to fall in love with each other.
via Barnes&Nobles
Cue dramatic music. Maybe it's because I feel we've been inundated with stories of children being used as pawns for whatever harebrained scheme people will come up with next, but I didn't like this book. I didn't feel for any of the characters, and I thought there was a lack of tension throughout. The two lovers didn't really understand the point of the game, and I didn't either by the end. One of the characters advises early on that "[t]he trick is to make it seem as thought none of it is purposeful, [t]o make the artificial feel natural." And yet, I didn't understand why the two fell in love except that it was essential for the plot to move along. If we are to be told another story involving child abuse, I wish the author had gone much darker. When a child's fingertips are slit open so that she can learn to magically heal them, I don't want her tormentors to be redeemed so easily, especially if one of them is her father. Instead, we are treated to pages to pages about a delightful circus, created for the most part, by two illusionists who should be much less inclined to do so. Don't get me wrong; the circus is the best part about the book. And I am no doubt being picky since The Night Circus is lauded by many and being made into a movie. A movie I'm very willing to watch because I'm sure the effects will be stunning, and for once, I won't mind the changes they'll make.
via notsoaveragemama
This post is much, much longer than I thought it'd be...and I might have gotten harsher with each book. I'm currently reading about the rise of modern Israel because I thought it'd be a nice change of pace and because I was getting tired of nonsensical tales. No matter how much I complain though, if Le Cirque des RĂªves did roll into town, you can bet that I would be in line.

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