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24 Thoughts on Disney’s “Moana”

Our family went to see Moana the day after I saw Fantastic Beasts, so it was a fully magical weekend for me, cinema-wise.

moans-sunset-movie-still

Some thoughts on Disney’s latest epic:

  1. It’s a musical! I’d only seen trailer dialogue, so I didn’t realize this (even though I should have) until I was already watching it. Songs make me all happy.
  2. The music is co-written by Opetaia Foa’i, Mark Mancina, and Lin-Manuel Miranda (who got famous for Hamilton only after signing on). It had me teary-eyed from the first song. It’s powerful, full of drums and lavish harmonies.
  3. The music is also apparently well-done in terms of authenticity, since Foa’i is a distinguished Samoan musician and he would know. (Also the whole team of composers immersed themselves in a Pacific music festival in New Zealand as part of the preparations.)
  4. Related to that, and predictably, I also loved the dancing. Not just the exuberant “choreography” for the musical numbers, but the lilting, traditional Polynesian movements that seem to come right from the ocean, performed by certain characters seemingly by instinct. The dance isn’t a topic in the movie, it’s just part of the fabric of the life portrayed. As it should be.
  5. The animation is just… indescribably beautiful. The scene at the beginning with baby Moana picking up shells… I could hardly bear it, with the shining colours and the living water and the perfectly-rendered toddler-walk. SO. TOTALLY. GORGEOUS.
  6. I cried a few times. Maybe several. Mostly due to beauty.
  7. Moana is a tough cookie. I liked her a lot. Described by producer Osnat Shurer as “kick-ass, feisty, [and] interesting.”
  8. She is also NOT a princess, as she explains with meta-Disney-humour. (She is, however, already being lumped into the “Disney Princess” club by social media.)
  9. I am grateful for her status in the Disney canon; that is to say, that she is one of an ever-expanding line of female heroines I’m glad for my daughter (and my son, for that matter) to emulate. I love that she’s going to succeed her father as chief, and no one makes any kind of deal about her being a female chief. (Sorry, I just spoiled it by getting excited about it being no big deal.)
  10. I’m also grateful that she’s not white. Much as I appreciate the multidimensionality and strength of character in recent white heroines like Rapunzel, Merida, Elsa, Anna, and Riley (and even Judy Hopps, since even though she’s a rabbit, she’s got a distinctly Caucasian vibe going on), we’re a global society at this point. Time to represent – and properly.
  11. As I watched, I did wonder often how the (non-white) peoples represented in the film would feel about it. I get that as a white viewer, I could potentially be enthralled by something someone else would find offensive. It made me happy to read afterwards that reception of this movie has been mostly really positive among Pacific Islanders, including those involved in the production, as well as other Indigenous people and other people of colour. Disney is gradually turning things around regarding cultural appropriation.
  12. Moana, the character, is ridiculously beautiful, of course. But no more so than Auli’i Cravalho, who voiced her.
  13. And that gal can sing!! Holy smokes. I think she nailed the whole part, actually, despite being the youngest Disney “princess” voice ever (did the work at age 14, movie released on her 16th birthday).
  14. I couldn’t help adoring Grandma Tala’s character. The deep matriarchy in this film is so satisfying – especially when you compare it with all those movies where Mom dies (Bambi, Finding Nemo, Frozen) or is already somehow dead or gone when the movie starts (Snow White, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Jungle Book, Lilo & Stitch, The Rescuers, Big Hero 6).
  15. It also seemed significant to me that the animal sidekick Moana ends up bringing on the voyage is not the adorable tiny pig she has as a pet, but the bizarre-looking dumb-as-a-post chicken. Just another way to mix things up.
  16. That chicken is voiced by Alan Tudyk (also known as Wash, as well as the Duke of Weaselton and a number of other Disney bit-part voices). We did not guess it was him.
  17. Maui, the demigod, is well-played by (half-Samoan) Dwayne Johnson. More complex than he first appears, of course, with quirky moves that will apparently be familiar to fans of The Rock.
  18. Dwayne can sing too! What! He was great. We were fully impressed.
  19. The animation for Maui’s tattoos is hand-drawn, unlike most of the movie, which is CGI. And they are beautiful. That’s part of what makes the movie stunning: the Pacific-Island art. It’s woven throughout the movie’s imagery.
  20. Sean and I enjoyed hearing Jemaine Clement (of Flight of the Conchords fame) voicing Tamatoa, the giant sparkly coconut crab/thief. Jemaine is great at weird+funny+sinister. (Did you know his mom is Maori?)
  21. There were a lot of laugh-out-loud moments in the film, both for us and the kids. Some of them even overlapped.
    1. 21 b) I sure am glad I’m raising kids in the days where kids’ films are made with the parents in mind too. It’s very easy to watch them over and over. If I didn’t have kids, I’m sure I’d still watch them, and laugh and cry and feel my heart squeeze.
  22. Speaking of the kids’ reactions, there were some scary moments. Four-year-old AB quailed a bit watching the lava monster, Te Ka. She held onto my arm, but she never wanted to hide her eyes and never opted for my lap. And there were no nightmares or anything. So – scary but not regrettable.
  23. Although I’d say the main theme is the Belonging vs. Identity Quest thing (as it often is), to me the Sustainability message was also big. The unhappiness of Te Fiti (Mother Earth goddess with stolen heart) is a powerful message, but even more so is the “we only have this one island that provides for us and if it is ruined we are screwed” message. All of us have only got this one rock in space to live on (for now, at least) and we need to enact some healing before we kill ourselves off.
  24. I only figured out what was going on at the end a few seconds before Moana did – didn’t see it coming at all. I don’t want to spoil it, so I’ll just say that the dénouement was totally goose-bumpy and amazing… and yep, I shed tears.

moana-movie-poster

To sum up: highly recommend to all humans, goddesses, demigods, chickens, piglets, and Oceans.

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17 Thoughts on “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”

As with the books… it’s been a while since I reviewed a movie too, huh? Might be rusty. Hence, the numbered list/crutch. Here goes! (No spoilers, I promise.)

J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them… Newt Scamander, young magizoologist, comes to New York City from England, sometime in the 1920s, just as a strange black shadow has been ripping apart NYC neighbourhoods… And what ensues? The hi-est kinds of jinks.

fantastic-beasts-where-find-poster

  1. It’s just THRILLING to see a new movie from the wizarding world! (I’m sure there are those cynics saying “ahem, money grab,” but those of us who are fans have just been wishing in our hearts for more… and here it is!!)
  2. I went to see it without worrying that it would suck, because Skye (fellow Level 5 fan) had already seen it, and came back with one of those grins that tells you it was not just good, but great.
  3. It’s basically one happy nerd-treat after another, for folks who know their lore. Having read the books to my kids so recently, I had all the details in my mind of the significance of the Murtlap, Bowtruckles, Erumpent, etc.
  4. Eddie Redmayne, as Newt, is great at being awkcute.
  5. The movie is worth the ticket for the Niffler alone. Hilarious and adorable. HOW do they animate such attitude into a squat little animal with a duck bill? He could have his own movie: Fantastic Trinkets and Where I Found Them.
  6. The Ministry in the states is called MACUSA – the Magical Congress of the United States of America. (I was picturing it “MACOUSA.”)
  7. Katherine Waterston, who plays Tina, the MACUSA employee who kind of first befriends Newt, is great. I’d never seen her in anything but I enjoyed her acting.
  8. She’s apparently British. I couldn’t tell.
  9. Jacob Kowalski, played by Dan Fogler, is a fun character. A lot more multi-dimensional than he first appears.
  10. I think they told Alison Sudol, who plays Tina’s sister Queenie, “Just channel Marilyn Monroe, witch version.”
  11. The fantastic beasts are truly fantastic. When you meet them, it’s like going on this mesmerizing journey of imaginative glee with the creators.
  12. There seems to me, at this moment in history, to be nothing CGI can’t accomplish.
  13. It was cool, but slightly saddening as well, to hear the characters calling Seraphina Picquery “Madam President.” Sigh.
  14. I think it’s possible that they let Eddie Redmayne improvise some bits where he’s communing with certain beasts. They were strange and wonderful, if a bit oddly-paced at times.
  15. I did not find the plot predictable, which is always good – and it’s fun to watch a wizarding movie for which I have not read the book multiple times (or at all).
  16. Skye and I nudged each other at the end, noting Newt’s yellow-and-black scarf: “He’s a Hufflepuff!” We keep an eye out for our peeps. (Because despite my identity crisis, I was a Hufflepuff first.)
  17. Apparently, we can look forward to 4 more Fantastic Beasts movies! They sure set up the audience for more at the end. Needless to say, I AM IN FAVOUR.

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A Smiley Video for a Happy Frozen Friday

My kids love the movie “Frozen.” Like almost all kids. And I’m not ashamed to say that I also love it; I’ve probably seen it a dozen times and I could still cry every time, if I let myself. I will most likely go on about the reasons why another time.

For now, here’s two-year-old AB’s side of a (highly edited) conversation we had in November about the plot of Frozen. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll probably recognize a concept or a direct quote here and there. You may also notice some outright fallacies. If you haven’t seen the movie – don’t worry! This information doesn’t make enough sense to contain spoilers.

Mostly, I just love her sense of drama. I wish you could see her, when E closes his bedroom door – she’ll go knock and sing the whole first verse of “Do You Want to Build a Snowman,” complete with wistful “Okay, bye…” at the end. Or even better, the two of them do an inspiring version of “For The First Time In Forever” – with many bits missing, but the passion is there.

Anyway, here’s this. I hope it makes you smile. Happy Friday!

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BANG Double Feature Review: The Imitation Game + Into The Woods

Dilovely had herself TWO MOVIE DATES over the holidays, y’all. Both are still kinda recent (released in Canada on Christmas Day, only two weeks ago!), so I figured I could still say a few words. After all, it’s been ages since I reviewed a movie. (It’s the lack of frequency and/or freshness. That is to say, for example, that by the time I saw Guardians of the Galaxy, it had been in theatres for ages and was on its way out.)

into the woods poster

Into the Woods I saw with a friend and two of my siblings (plus the third in spirit!), one week after it came out. I had been really stoked to see it because A) yay musicals! and B) double yay Sondheim! and C) Anna Kendrick Meryl Streep Emily Blunt Johnny Depp Chris Pine and company, you know?

Let’s start with B), the brilliant Stephen Sondheim, cliché-defying composer of 23 musicals, including Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (made into a movie by Tim Burton in 2007). His work has been criticized for being un-hummable. He does use unpredictable timing, melodies, and key signatures a lot of the time – which can be fun and/or confusing – but let’s be clear: he can also nail a memorable, sweeping refrain to bring tears to your eyes.

We had varying degrees of Sondheimism in attendance: my brother Ben was Props guy for a production of Into the Woods at his university years ago; my sister Emily has been a Sondheim junkie for a long time (since the era when she would pirate soundtracks from the library onto cassette tapes) and I’d wager she has memorized the lyrics of at least a dozen of his musicals, including this one. I, on the other hand, am an odd kind of Sondheim fan – I’ve known every word of Assassins for many years; I saw Sweeney Todd on stage; I did a project about Sondheim in university, learning many interesting things about the man and his music; but I was only acquainted with about 1/3 of the songs of Into the Woods.

I was actually in an ideal position to enjoy this particular film. I had the advantage of being familiar with Sondheim’s rapid-fire, overlapping lyrical techniques, as well as the most common melodic themes – but I didn’t really know anything about the story itself, other than that it interweaves lore from a bunch of different fairy tales. Thus, I could simply relish listening to Sondheim’s dazzling rhymes unfolding, without being weirded out by his unconventional style AND without being distracted by comparing every vocal nuance to a pre-memorized soundtrack (as I did with Les Mis). I felt that the editing made it possible to understand what was going on, even during fast, complex sections of lyrics.

into-the-woods-red-riding-hood

Also, I could watch the story happen without knowing what to expect. I felt like a kid, spellbound by a dramatic tale that might go anywhere.  The story is unusual and interesting, the locations are beautiful and real, the singing is top-notch, and the effects, banal as it sounds, really bring the plot to life. We all enjoyed it thoroughly, feeling it must be just what Sondheim wanted when freed from the constraints of the stage.

I also appreciated that, as always, Sondheim put his critical thinking skills to work when he created this story, spoofing or overturning stereotypical prince and princess characters. (I have several posts brewing about princesses.)

In case you’re wondering, my favourite songs/scenes were “Agony” (a sentiment shared by iTunes customers, apparently) for the melodramatic comedy, “On the Steps of the Palace” for sheer lyrics-based delight, and “Your Fault” for the singing (and editing) agility. They nailed ’em.

We did all wonder what it would be like to see this movie without prior knowledge. According to one friend, it was “really strange but really good,” which makes sense. Obviously people are agreeing with this – despite music that is not as conventionally catchy as, say, Les Misérables or ChicagoInto the Woods tickets, along with the soundtrack album, are still selling like hotcakes. It makes me happy that current moviegoers are open to this, and to movie musicals in general. That means more musicals to come, for all of us!

For more on my intermittently obsessive relationship with musicals, please click here.

And to hear a memorable, sweeping Sondheim refrain, please click here.

(I heard recently that seeing hyperlinks in the middle of an article, even if you don’t click on it, seriously disrupts one’s reading experience. I’m pretty sure it’s true. Henceforth, I’m putting my links separately.)

And now, on to The Imitation Game. An altogether different sort of film.

The-imitation-game-benedict-cumberbatch-poster

I went to see this one with my Hubbibi just a few days after it opened, having only seen the trailer, and knowing little about Enigma, the supposedly unbreakable encoding machine used by the Germans during World War II.

I did not know anything else about the plot or about Turing’s life, other than that he’s the genius known as the father of digital computing, and that he was gay. (Not a spoiler – it’s made known early on.) Oh, and I knew that Enigma was eventually solved and the Allies won the war.

Here’s what I can tell you without revealing any other plot points:

  • The movie manages to be suspenseful and heart-pounding at times, even though we know the outcome of the codebreaking efforts and the war. It also has a surprising number of chuckle-out-loud moments, and several that make you want to cry, for different reasons. (I didn’t cry, but I could have. The tears hovered in my chest for the whole film.)
  • After reading a novel called “Enigma” many years ago, then watching this movie in 2014, then watching the documentary “Codebreaker” (which I recommend, if you’re interested), I still didn’t understand what made Enigma so hard (how is it different from simple letter substitution?) until I found this sentence at plus.maths.org: “What made the Enigma machine so special was the fact that every time a letter was pressed, the movable parts of the machine would change position so that the next time the same letter was pressed, it would most likely be enciphered as something different.” OH. Now the movie makes sense.
  • Keira Knightley’s role as Joan Clarke, the only female cryptanalyst to work on Enigma with the men, is memorable and incredibly satisfying to watch. I’d like to see a movie all about her.
  • Benedict Cumberbatch impressed me. Perhaps the most because he is playing a character with great similarities to his Sherlock from the BBC series (genius, arrogant, socially odd), and yet his portrayal is not the same at all. His accolades are well-deserved. And I can’t think of a weak link in the supporting cast.
  • The only aspect I found a bit feeble was the structuring of the story, flashback-style, around Turing’s interview with Detective Nock. It was compelling at the beginning, but it kind of fizzled. And then they had to drop it before the final scenes anyway. But I guess these days a linear story doesn’t cut it. (Except in movie musicals with many overlapping plot lines; see above.)

the-imitation-game-benedict-cumberbatch-keira-knightley

If you’ve already seen the movie or know lots about Alan Turing – or don’t care about spoilers – I can also tell you the discussion topics that Sean and I chewed over after the movie:

  • It’s mind-blowing that Bletchley Park (central site of the Government Code and Cypher School, where all this codebreaking took place) wasn’t declassified until the 1970s – and some people who worked there maintain secrecy about it to this day. During the war, even high-up military officials didn’t know that the intelligence was coming to them via Enigma (an imaginary MI6 spy codenamed “Boniface” got the credit). Codebreakers never told their own spouses, even long after the war was over.
  • This also means that Alan Turing, whose own work literally made it possible to win the war, was never formally recognized for his monumental contribution. He could never tell that nasty-face Commander Denniston: “HA! See?? I TOLD YOU IT WOULD WORK.” Which must have rankled.
  • Even more mind-blowing (though sadly inevitable at the time) is the fact that the British government not only failed to honour Turing for his work, it criminalized him for his homosexuality. He opted for chemical castration (in the form of synthetic estrogen) over prison, in the hopes of continuing his work – not knowing it would wreak havoc on his mind as well as his libido.
  • Therefore, even though his death from cyanide poisoning at age 41 was chalked up to suicide, in my mind, he was killed by his own government, whose members didn’t know they basically owed him their existence. It could hardly be more tragically unfair.
  • Interestingly, it seems that on December 24th, 2013, the Queen issued a posthumous “Royal Pardon” for Alan Turing. How nice. No offense to the Queen, since I don’t think there exists a posthumous “Royal Acknowledgement of Heinous Injustice and Subsequent Begging for Forgiveness,” but a royal pardon does seem a bit thin. Not to mention grossly overdue.
  • Alan Turing did amazing things with his unique gifts while he was alive, and could have done many more of them if he had lived longer. Doesn’t it make you wonder how many great, world-changing minds and ideas have been quashed by people’s fears and prejudices? How much further we might have come by now, as a species, if we hadn’t been spending so much time and energy squelching humans because they were gay/black/women/etc. – and how many victims of prejudice had brilliant brains being wasted in obscurity?
  • It is also interesting to consider which individual humans in the world have truly changed the course of history. If Alan Turing hadn’t lived, the Allies might have lost, and the world might be extremely different right now. Which other historical figures – or present-day people – have had (or will have!) such impact? Discuss.

We also talked quite a bit about War then vs. War now, but that’s for another blog post.

So, to sum up: see Into the Woods for fun and singing; see The Imitation Game for heartstring-pulling and brain stimulation. I highly recommend each, but I wouldn’t try both in one day.

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Rest in peace, Robin.

What a shock, to learn that you’re gone from us. We are sad about it – devastated, bereft – all over the planet.

We have not yet had time to process how much the world is depleted by your absence; we only know that when we found out, we could hardly believe it. Our jaws dropped. Our hearts hurt. The incongruity of the happiness you brought us, in spite of your personal suffering, is not lost on us. We are sad for ourselves, and for your family and friends, but especially for you.

I hope that you really are resting in peace, finally. Your manic energy and high-speed chatter that made us all guffaw out loud – those might have been pretty difficult to have going on in your own head.

I hope that you had plenty of moments of true joy. You sure gave a lot of them to us.

I hope that you got to experience love as deeply and often as your characters did.

I hope that wherever you are now, you are able to understand the full magnitude of love that humanity feels for you. I’m sure that having millions of strangers love you is not as useful, in daily life, as having close friends to know you well and support you. But that doesn’t make the love less real. You put your own self into every role you played, and you profoundly moved people. You touched their hearts, changed their lives, and made their bellies ache with laughter.

Thank you for all those gifts you gave.

1 robin williams good morning vietnam
Good Morning, Vietnam
5.0.2
Dead Poets Society
3 robin williams the fisher king
The Fisher King
4 robin williams hook
Hook
robin williams aladdin genie
Aladdin
6 robin williams mrs doubtfire
Mrs. Doubtfire
7 robin williams the birdcage
The Birdcage
8 robin williams good will hunting
Good Will Hunting
9 What-Dreams-May-Come-robin-williams
What Dreams May Come
X robin williams patch adams
Patch Adams
XI Night-At-The-Museum-robin-williams
Night At The Museum
XII In-the-Wild-Robin-Williams-with-Dolphins
Robin Williams Swims With Dolphins

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An Unabashed Christmas Post

Now that my li’l family seems to be out of the woods for now, sickness-wise (yes, my kids did trade germs with each other), it’s time to get FESTIVE!

I’ve realized something, as an adult: Christmas to me, now, is all about the season.

It was a fairly gradual shift from being super-duper-mega-crazy excited about PRESENTS (as a kid) to… you know, enjoying presents but being much more excited about other things.

Such as food!

  • Clementines – we only buy them when they’re really good (even though these days they’re in grocery stores well past their peak).
  • Cookies made specifically for Christmas… they’re just specialer. I’ve been lucky to be part of a cookie exchange for several years now – so all the more special cookies!!
  • Egg nog – but ONLY President’s Choice World’s Best Egg Nog. No other kind is as good. (Well, maybe Organic Meadow.) And don’t even get me started on fat-free egg nog… A travesty.
  • Nutcracker Sweet Tea – we can’t find it in stores these days, so my sister kindly smuggled some over the border facilitated an Amazon order for me. It’s heavenly with the egg nog mentioned above.

nutcracker sweet

  • Christmas meals – some are different every year and some are recurring favourites, but I get stoked about them, and I don’t even eat turkey. (Posting recipes soon.) Folks bring their A-game dishes on Christmas.

And music. I could listen to Christmas music nonstop for all of December, but I think I’d drive my Hubbibi crazy. So we strike a balance, I think. As I’ve mentioned, traditional carols are my preference, but I like a lot of non-carols too. Some of my favourite holiday albums to listen to are:

  • David Francey’s Carols for a Christmas Eve – Just simple and cozy and, well… I just adore David Francey. Luckily, so does the whole family. (Good King Wenceslas is my favourite on this one.)
  • Canadian Brass’s Sweet Songs of Christmas – And anything else Canadian Brass does about Christmas. Those guys rock. We saw them live once, and if you’ve never seen a tuba player “melt” while playing Frosty the Snowman, you’re missing out.

xmas canadian brass

  • Les petits chanteurs du Mont-Royal’s Christmas Around the World – It took me a while to get used to the unfamiliar carols in different languages, but now I love them.
  • Kevin Ramessar’s Acoustic Christmas – Beautiful guitar arrangements of Christmas carols (Away in a Manger is my fave). I would love this album even if Kevin weren’t a (wickedly talented) university friend of mine. Ahem-hem.

Kevin-Ramessar-Acoustic-Christmas-highquality

  • The Barra-MacNeils’ The Christmas Album – A Canadian-Celtic folk album, with unusual versions of carols – some Gaelic (Christmas in Killarney is my fave).
  • Steve Wingfield’s Sleigh Bell Swing – My mom sent me a cassette tape of this as part of a care package when I was in university, and I still use that tape – it’s worth it. (It IS on iTunes, though. Silver Bells is my fave.)
  • Three Quarter Ale’s Shall We Gather By the Fire – A Renaissance Faire trio with an album that runs the gamut of styles from cheesy to sublime (Ding Dong Merrily on High is my fave).

christmas three quarter ale

Also, there are a few individual songs that make me cry, in a good way. I think it has to do with connecting Christmas and motherhood.

And of course there are holiday movies that must be enjoyed. Our family collection includes:

  • Mickey’s Christmas Carol (including the short with Chip and Dale’s shenanigans in Mickey’s tree)

MickeysChristmasCarol1

  • The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (animated version with Boris Karloff)
  • Miracle on 34th Street (1947 version)

Miracle on 34th

  • White Christmas (the best things happen while you’re dancing)
  • It’s a Wonderful Life (still breaks my heart every single time)

Its-a-Wonderful-life

  • The Family Stone (I always laugh out loud, even though I know what’s coming)
  • Joyeux Noël (again with the FEELINGS, man oh man).

joyeux-noel-merry-christmas

And of course there’s The Holiday and Love Actually – not exactly Christmas movies, but they get an in for being set at Christmastime.

Plus there’s

  • Pretty lights
  • Christmas trees and wreaths and boughs and whatnot (this image – and the design behind it – is from my friend Ardis at Rustic Retrievals)

greenery at rustic retrievals

  • Snow (I hope – it still makes me happy for the first couple months)
  • People singing together (I wish that happened more in life)
  • Wood fires (at my parents’ house at least)
  • Games and silly times with people I love
  • Reminiscing
  • Spending lots of time in pajamas
  • Giving gifts that turn out to be perfect
  • Everything reflected in the shining eyes of children – especially mine.

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BANG Book Review: 9-Volume Bookstravaganza!

{Tra la, this post was supposed to be finished and posted OVER A WEEK AGO. Ridonculous. Had several rough nights with congested baby, also working on E methodically testing every boundary he can think of, especially the one where he tries to get us to do his bidding by being a whine-meister. Boo, excuses.}

Sooo… You may or may not have noticed that I haven’t posted any GGG book club reviews for a while. I got behind by a few, and then they just piled right up. You know, like books.

Ergo, I’m going to catch myself up, shorterness style: Four Bullets Only Per Book. !!! ONLY.

1. One Day, by David Nicholls.

One-Day-David-Nicholls

  • A love story in which we follow the relationship of our protagonists for one day per year (St. Swithin’s Day) for twenty years. A neat idea, though it makes for a (deliberately) disjointed story.
  • Very readable, smart, interesting, but if you’re expecting a light, fun summer read, look elsewhere. This book has quite a bit of sad/depressing/frustrating stuff along with the romance.
  • It’s set in the U.K., written by an English author, and therefore contains cute words you don’t read in North American books. I enjoy them generally, but I noticed certain ones (such as as “raffish” and “larky”) came up too many times to remain charming.
  • One Day has the distinction of being the first book I ever read on my Kobo (e-reader). I loved its portability, but the editing was wonky: there were well over a dozen instances where the second letter was missing in words starting with F, so “flatly” became “fatly” and “frightened” became “fightened”, etc. At first it made me chuckle, and then I thought it was a weird joke I wasn’t getting, and then it made me unreasonably annoyed.

1.1 We watched the movie at our book club meeting, because obviously. (I get an extra set of bullets for that. Since it’s my blog and I say so.)

One-Day-one-day-movie-poster-Anne-Hathaway

  • I think I actually liked the movie better. *gasp.* The embodied characters were more endearing, probably because I liked the actors.
  • I finally saw the appeal of Jim Sturgess, who didn’t do anything for me in Across The Universe. Somehow, he was cuter and charminger in this – maybe I just don’t like him in Beatles-y hair.
  • Anne Hathaway was great, as usual, though her pronunciation (I think it’s supposed to be a Manchester accent) was unstable. AND, they actually made her look full-on frumpy in one scene. Impressive.
  • If I remember rightly, I got kinda choked up at the end. In a good way. (Whereas at the end of the book I was more like, “HUH???”)

2. Falling Backwards, by Jann Arden

jann arden falling backwards

  • Memoir of Jann Arden’s journey from (sorta) normal Canadian childhood to successful music career.
  • This lady is FUNNY. Also bizarre and disarmingly candid. I laughed out loud, many times.
  • She’s also a really good writer – very honest and unaffected, with occasional profound phrases that seem to pop up out of nowhere.
  • And she did some crazy stuff in her life. Alcoholic father, very troubled brother, and personal illnesses aside, she had adventures in fields and woods, rivers and high seas – and the urban jungle. Not exaggerating.

3. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley.

sweetness at the bottom of the pie alan bradley

  • Eleven-year-old detective Flavia de Luce narrates a tale of murder-mystery-solving, and gets herself into some serious escapades.
  • This character drives the book. She’s mischievous and smart and sassy and a little vulnerable sometimes, and I relished her.
  • She makes you want to learn chemistry. (That’s where much of her Sherlock-ability lies.)
  • There are more books about her! Someday I’ll have time for those. (But don’t worry, unlike SOME books, this one has its own gratifying ending.)

4. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert M. Pirsig

Pirsig zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance

  • Classic (1974) philosophical novel about a guy who takes a motorcycle road trip with his son and some friends, and lets his deeper mind do most of the talking.
  • This book was ground-breaking, life-changing, when it came out. (As indicated above.) My own parents have referred to it in such terms.
  • For us, it was not as thrilling as we’d hoped. Many (though not all) of the ruminations on technology are obsolete, and some bits seem kinda naive. Most of the GGG found it dense slogging, to the point of groanishness. I found some parts quite interesting, but to be honest, I haven’t finished it. I do plan to… someday.
  • I now associate it with the horribly sweet neon-orange beverage I had to drink during the 3.5-hour glucose test I did while pregnant with Baby AB, because Zen and TAOMM was how I passed the wait.
  • One extra point! to state that later editions have a bonus ending section that is not part of the original! Yes, I’m saying that if you haven’t read this since the 70s… THERE IS MORE TO THE STORY. (See how it makes sense that I get an extra bullet? Boo-yah, loophole.)

5. The Colour of Tea, by Hannah Tunnicliffe

color of tea hannah tunnicliffe

  • Grace moves to China for her husband’s work and is left listless by news of her infertility. Eventually, she picks up her bootstraps (or whatever the phrase is) and starts a new life as a café owner.
  • The heroine irritated me for the first few chapters (even though I could hardly blame her for her torpor), but I ended up liking her a lot.
  • The descriptions of the city of Macau are vivid and interesting, but not as much as the mouthwatering descriptions of the café food, especially the macarons of different flavours. (NOT macaroons – these are more like gourmet meringue sandwich cookies, as pictured on the cover. Our host procured some for the book club meeting, because obviously we were dying to try some, but I missed it. 🙁 )
  • The synergistic ending was one I (and probably many others) saw coming from a mile away… but it was still satisfying.

6. The Knife Of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness

The_Knife_of_Never_Letting_Go_by_Patrick_Ness

  • In the land where there are no female humans – and the males can all hear each other’s thoughts – all the time – one young boy must escape. Things are not as they seem. Dun dun dunnnn.
  • Really interesting, thought-provoking concept. I think all of us enjoyed the way this alternate world was imagined, and were fairly carried away by the plot and flinty characters.
  • We were unanimously annoyed by the deliberate wrong spellings, though, since they only partially made sense. Maybe they appeal more to the (intended) YA audience.
  • Warning: it’s not over at the end! In fact, I was somewhat ticked off at the end. HUGE… BUILDUP… CRESCENDO… OMG CAN WE PLEASE JUST KNOW HOW IT ENDS?? And then it’s over, but nothing’s wrapped up because go read Book Two, people. Hmph.

7. White Teeth, by Zadie Smith

white teeth zadie smith

  • An unlikely bunch of people in London are connected, practically as family, by a strange history and even stranger present events (present being mostly the 70s in this case).
  • I was fully impressed by the confidence with which Zadie Smith, at age 25, wrote this debut novel. The writing is quirky and opinionated and speaks brashly about all kinds of topics where I’d be tiptoeing. Evidently the rest of the world was also impressed, because it became an immediate bestseller and won a bunch of awards.
  • Some in the group found it kinda hard to get into. I found it mostly interesting, full of characters that were engaging if not completely likeable, but it helps that I was reading it on a very lightweight device, as it was apparently a very large book. The absorption-to-weight ratio matters.
  • There was one part in particular about a young black girl going to great lengths to achieve straight, silky hair. It is now branded on my memory forever, because shortly after finishing the book, I watched the documentary “Good Hair” on Netflix. It’s true and it’s crazy, y’all.

8. The Story of Beautiful Girl, by Rachel Simon

the story of beautiful girl rachel simon

 

  • Where do a deaf black man and a woman with Down Syndrome find true love together? At the School for the Incurable and Feebleminded.
  • This is an amazing and lovely story, written sensitively and beautifully through the POVs of several different people. We were all moved by it.
  • The author’s note at the end was great, too. She wrote humbly about not wanting to appropriate voices that weren’t hers, but needing to write about this, and give these characters a more joyful story than the real ones on which it’s based.
  • This book, like The Help, makes you shudder. This kind of treatment of differently-abled people was only a few decades ago (or less? could still be happening?) in the United States (and probably here in Canada, too). How scarily, horribly recent. How outrageously shameful.

9. Something Fierce, by Carmen Aguirre

something-fierce carmen-aguirre

  • Memoir of a young adulthood spent as a (daughter of a) revolutionary in South America, particularly Pinochet’s Chile; winner of Canada Reads in 2012.
  • One of those books that makes your jaw drop. Seriously?? She did all that stuff? At WHAT age? How was she this brave??
  • It reminds you that concentration camps and everyday danger are not limited to the WWII Holocaust. As the author points out, we have a sheltered, relatively naive existence here in Canada.
  • Despite all this, the book is not as harrowing or depressing as you might imagine. It’s written with a dark humour and frankness, and the evolution of Aguirre’s 11-year-old self to her adult self, under crazy circumstances, is fascinating.

Alors, voilà!

There are (I think) three books missing from this list (namely Animal Vegetable Miracle, Quiet, and Gold), which I will be reviewing individually, because the five-bullet rule was just not going to work for me in those cases. Please stay tuned.

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