Thursday, August 30, 2012

Night Watch by Terry Pratchett (Discworld #29)

Commander Sam Vimes is about to be a father.  But he has been forbidden from his wife’s side.  What’s a good copper to do besides wear a hole in the carpet pacing?  Catch bad guys!  And Carcer, known murderer, bad guy extraordinaire, has been spotted and the Watch has him surrounded.  Joining the hunt is the best thing Sam can think of to keep him occupied.  But a harrowing encounter with Carcer atop the Unseen University Library during a freak magical storm sends Vimes and Carcer back in time.  Their presence alone disrupts the thread of time but when Carcer murders John Keel, the man who mentored a young Sam Vimes, the older Vimes must assume Keel’s identity and mentor himself if he is to be the Sam Vimes that he is.  Even if time has been disrupted certain events must take place: teaching a young Sam how to be a copper, being the face of a revolution and grabbing hold of Carcer to bring him to justice and back to the timeline they belong in.  If Sam fails, the life he knows, will never be or have been.

Oh time travel what a tangled web you weave and Pratchett handles it wonderfully though there were moments that confused me but I think that’s just the nature of time travel and this is Discworld after all.  Night Watch is also quite dark and gritty, and I’m often surprised by this at times because the humor and fantasy elements are hilarious and outrageous.  Pratchett doesn’t shy away from violence and the truth and motivations behind the mob mentality, rebellions and class warfare.  There’s also plenty of light moments and comedy.  I don’t know how Pratchett is able to balance everything out but he does.  There are moments that make you cringe, nod your head in agreement, stifle a laugh; his books are very engaging.

I really loved seeing the younger versions of Sam, Colon, Nobby and Vetineri.  A skinny, street urchin, pickpocket Nobby is the cutest, filthiest thing ever and Vetineri is just as sly and smart as an assasin just as he will be a sly, two-steps-ahead-of-you patrician.  And of course, Sam is Sam, always the copper, always determined to do what is right and he has become one of my favorite characters, not just from Discworld, but also from the fantasy genre altogether.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Every Day by David Levithan

Every Day by David Levithan is about A.  A wakes up in a different teenager’s body every day.  A is not sure why it happens, A just knows it does and there is nothing A can do about it.  So A lives the life of that particular teenager for a day, trying not to disrupt their routine.  That is until A ends up in the body of Justin and A meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon.  Forgetting the rules, A will do whatever is possible to be with Rhiannon, even if it means exposing A’s unusual ability.

I’m not really sure what prompted me to read Every Day by David Levithan.  The cover didn’t really speak to me and I’ve been wary of young adult books for a while until I read Railsea.  Maybe because I enjoyed Railsea so much that I was willing to give YA another chance.  Whatever the reason, I requested it from Net Galley and decided to give it a try 4th of July morning.  I ended up getting sucked into it and spending 3 hours reading in bed.  While I still like Railsea better I did enjoy Every Day very much.

A having no gender was hard to relate with at first and I couldn’t help but feel that A was male because in the beginning of Every Day, we meet A in Justin’s body.  Over time, though, as the story developed and I got to experience A living a day in the life of different teenagers, it became easier to see A as this non-gender consciousness who is still a person, who can feel and love and was just as comfortable in female bodies.  It was interesting to read over time how comfortably A was able to occupy male and female bodies without being troubled with how to behave in their bodies.

The romance between A and Rhiannon was not really my favorite part which were the experiences in the bodies.  The writing is simple enough to breeze through this but it leaves an impression as each experience is described, such as A’s experience as an overweight boy and the effort of carrying so much weight around, the young immigrant girl who worked all day cleaning houses to the point of exhaustion and there was also a young girl who was so depressed I was moved to tears.  Just the description of what it feels like to hate living in your own body; that disconnect between the body and mind that even A was affected by it is just heartbreaking and gives you just the smallest peak at what it's like to experience such depression.  

Then there was Zara and her girlfriend.  The two of them together was just so beautiful and uplifting.  I just loved their hidden romance, which was so tender and their friendship side that they showed to the world was filled with understanding and respect.  They were not ashamed of their feelings and even Zara’s mom, though never saying out loud that she knew about them, expressed in her own way how she was completely accepting and supportive.  It was a very refreshing read and my favorite part.

Though I didn’t care much for the romance, it did help drive another interesting part of the story, such as A using the body of one teenage boy who ends up believing he was possessed after the experience and is determined to find out what happened to him and why.  This storyline, along with the other experiences really made Every Day very interesting and one I would likely read again.  Also, as far as I know, this is a standalone, but the way it ends leaves it open for the imagination but also leaves a little something for a sequel.  If a sequel does happen, I will be reading it to find out what happens to A.

* Every Day by David Levithan will be available on August 28th, 2012.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What’s going on?

Oh, just being a slacker.  I've taken an unscheduled break from blogging and it’s not that I don’t have anything to write about.  In fact, I have several books lined up.  So instead of making excuses, I’ll give a reading update and hopefully this will get me back to my blogging schedule:

Every Day by David Levithan
Spoiled by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt
Night Watch (Discworld #29) by Terry Pratchett

Currently I am reading The Cavalier in the Yellow Doublet by Arturo PĂ©rez-Reverte, and I’m also reading aloud to Venessa, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente.

Also, here are my new library picks:

The Hemingway Hoax by Joe Haldeman
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Camouflage by Joe Haldeman
Goblin Quest by Jim C. Hines
Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days by Alastair Reynolds

This weekend I have plans to visit our local library branch.  For the past three weeks it’s been closed as they move into their renovated location, right next door and today was their grand re-opening.  We’ve been watching their progress as we drive by and have been anticipating this move because they will have a lot more space and the plans looked great.  Venessa and I are really looking forward to seeing their new space because this is the branch that’s closest to us so we’ve been regulars there all summer before they closed for the three weeks.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Singin' in the Rain at the All Saints Hop Yard

Last Saturday, the All Saints Hop Yard hosted an outdoor movie night. The movie of choice and one near and dear to my heart: Singin’ in the Rain. On a warm night under the stars, with some beers and lightning flashes miles away we spread out our blankets on the grass to watch this amazing movie. We had a blast and we were even part of the entertainment as my daughter and her friend were up and dancing throughout most of the movie. They even got some compliments after the movie from a group of attendees who said they were enjoying their dance routines more than the movie.

It had taken me years before I finally got around to watching Singin’ in the Rain. I had always loved musicals, watching Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Grease dozens of times with my mom and sister. But it wasn’t until the AFI’s list of 100 greatest American films did I finally get around to watching it. I was on a mission to watch every movie on that list and while I haven’t completed that goal yet, I did watch all the movies in the top 10 and Singin’ in the Rain was one of them. I remember when I watched it for the first time with my sister and how this movie had us laughing til we cried. Since then I’ve seen this movie dozens of times and since I own a copy on DVD we watch it constantly. So if I own a copy, why did I pay a cover charge to see it? I wanted to experience this movie with others and see their reaction. From what I could hear from the laughter and the humming, my family and I were not the only one who were enjoying it.

Singin’ in the Rain has so many iconic scenes it’s hard to pick a favorite part. All the dance routines and songs are fun and full of joy and you can’t help but tap your foot and sing along. Gene Kelly is dreamy, Donald O’Connor and Jean Hagen are hilarious, Debbie Reynolds is charming and don’t even get me started on Cyd Charisse with those gorgeous legs of hers and that sassy performance with her and Gene Kelly.

What’s also fun about this movie is its mini film history lesson as silent movie stars transition to talkies after the surprise hit of The Jazz Singer (which if you haven’t seen is an excellent movie too). I’m also big into behind the scenes stuff that goes into making movies and there’s some fun trivia that goes with Singin’ in the Rain:

  • Donald O’Connor, who smoked four packs of unfiltered cigarettes a day, was physically exhausted after performing Make ‘Em Laugh, but then had to to re-do the entire scene when the footage was ruined.
  • Gene Kelly was a tyrant and would yell at poor Debbie Reynolds because she couldn’t dance and Donald O’Connor was afraid of him too. But of course they gave their all and were true professionals.
  • Jean Hagen, actually dubbing Debbie Reynolds, whose character Kathy Seldon was actually dubbing Jean Hagen’s character, Lina Lamont! (Confusing I know but hilarious once you got it figured out)
  • Gene Kelly performing Singin’ in the Rain when ill with a temperature of 101!

This movie also gave me one of my all time favorite quotes from Lina Lamont (who is a quote machine!) “What do they think I am, dumb or something?

And while I love all the musical sequences when I think about it my two absolute favorites have to be Fit as a Fiddle and Moses Supposes. I was a violinist for five years in school and one of the most important things about playing in an orchestra is your bow movement and staying in sync with everyone around you. There are even notations on your sheet music telling you which way your bow should be going at certain points. So when I watch Fit as a Fiddle I’m even more impressed with that extra degree of difficulty when you watch Donald O’Connor and Gene Kelly dancing together all while keeping the bow movements in sync. Also the song is super catchy.

In Moses Supposes, again, there’s that extra difficulty when Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor are dancing side by side on the desk. That is a small desk! And that is precision dancing there. Again this song is super catchy too (and these two are spiffy in their sweaters and slacks) and it’s not uncommon in our house that we end up humming a song or two from this movie, usually this one.

So count me as a fan for life of this movie and if you haven’t seen it yet, and are a fan of musicals, give it a try. You won’t regret it. And thank you to the All Saints Hop Yard for a great evening and I’m looking forward to more outdoor movie events.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle

Twelve year old Mary O’Hara is having a rough time.  Her best friend has just moved away and her beloved granny is in the hospital.  One day Mary meets a mysterious woman named Tansey who claims to be the ghost of Granny’s mother and she needs to pass on a message to her daughter.  Mary does not doubt this claim and with the help of her mother, Scarlett, they help Tansey to deliver her message to her daughter with an impromptu road trip to the past that strengthens the bond between these ladies, mothers and daughters.

This was such a delightful book to read.  Mary is clever and very cheeky, despite her protestations that she is not being cheeky at times.  She has a very healthy relationship with her mother and grandmother and the three of them together were some of my favorite parts, despite most of their visits taking place in a hospital.  But you feel the love and respect they have for each other.  It's so refreshing to read their story without any resentment or past family dramas (which there are none, thank goodness) creeping in to overshadow their time together.

I also really like Mary’s musings regarding her changing relationship with her older brothers feeling she doesn’t really know them anymore.  I could relate in a way.  Growing up, my sister and I spent a lot of time with our cousins, three brothers, and we were all close in age and got along fairly well.  But as we became teenagers we drifted and started doing our own thing.  I could also relate to Mary and her minor annoyances with her mother.  It’s something that happens to all of us as we grow and begin to become our own person but they get along well and love and support each other.  The dialog between the two of them is fun and charming.

But this book was not just about Mary.  It was also about her mother, Scarlett, and Scarlett’s mother, Emer, and Emer’s mother, Tansey, the ghost.  Four generations of ladies who spend an evening together reminiscing and providing comfort for each other.  It's also about change, growing up, life and death.  This was a quick read but it definitely packed an emotional punch.  I found myself crying at the end and it made me want to hug my daughter, mom, and grandmother.  Don't let the possibility of tears scare you away.  This is still a book I would love to read again and highly recommend.