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blythe025


Joyful Girl

Andrea Blythe's blog about writing, reading, and everything else


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Books Read & Movies Watched in September
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blythe025
A little late, but here it is....

Books Read:
1. Ash, by Malinda Lo
2. The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives, by Lola Shoneyin
3. Essential Do's and Taboos: The Complete Guide to International Business and Leisure Travel, by Roger E. Axtell
4. A Concise History of Germany, by Mary Fulbrook
5. Top Ten Berlin, by Juergen Scheunemann and Dorling Kindersley
6. The Children of Men, by P.D. James
7. A Local Habitation, by Seanan McGuire
8. Johnny Cash: I See a Darkness, by Reinhard Kleist


1. Ash, by Malinda Lo
When Ash's father dies, she is forced to live with her cruel stepmother and two stepsisters. Ash is put to work as a servant.But in the woods she meets two people who present offers of comfort. Sidhean, a fairy, offers the longing desire for the beauty of fairyland. Kisia, the king's huntress, opens her up to the possibilty of love.

This is a beautiful reimagining of Cinderella, and Lo's story and world is so well woven that she not only retells the story of Cinderella, but turns it on its head and makes it fully her own.


2. The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives, by Lola Shoneyin (was a free ARC)
When Baba Segi brings home his fourth wife, Bolanle, an educated woman, he is completely unaware of the conflict this would create in his home. Two of the other wives are convinced that Bolanle is a witch, trying to disrupt their home, and vow to everything they can to get rid of her, while the last wife is too timid to do anything about it. But Bolanle has secrets of her own, which threaten to draw out the secrets of all the women in the home.

While Shoneyin's writing vividly describes these people and their lives, I have mixed feelings about this book. A full and complete portrait is drawn of each woman, and yet the story still seems to come off as an innocent women walking into a nest of vipers. The women are nasty and cruel, which is fine, as I have no doubt that this kind of behavior happens. I can see this story as though it happened in real live. It's as thought I could travel to Africa and perhaps meet just these people.

And yet, I was slightly disappointed by how things turned out. No one seemed to learn anything, except perhaps Bonlanle, but even then I'm not quite sure how she came to do so. How did what happened bring her to the conclusions she comes to? I wanted something more to happen, something more to develop from what unfolds, and yet, what happened seems the only natural course for things to turn out. So, yeah, I guess all I can say is that I'm torn.


3. Essential Do's and Taboos: The Complete Guide to International Business and Leisure Travel, by Roger E. Axtell
Information on the different ways misunderstandings can occur when interacting with different cultures, from hand gestures to speaking in English euphemisms to etiquette. Anecdotes help to keep things interesting in what would otherwise be a very dry book. It definitely brought to attention things I might not have thought of while traveling.

For example, the book says that the English language has thousands of euphemisms for going to the bathroom ("bathroom" being one of them), which can create confusion when your traveling. It suggests using "toilet" as the term of choice to avoid any confusion. Something I learned to be true, when I asked where the "restroom" was in Germany, only to be met with a blank stare.


4. A Concise History of Germany, by Mary Fulbrook
Just as the title says, this book presents a very short generalized history of Germany. Things are most confusing from the middle ages up through the 1800s, though this is because of the sheer fluctuation of the country, the lack of clear centralized government, and the constant changes going on, rather than a judgment on the author's capabilities. I also appreciated that Fulbrook attempted to stay neutral as possible, pointing out how easy it is to oversimplifications and stating various viewpoints on the matter as much as possible.


5. Top Ten Berlin, by Juergen Scheunemann and Dorling Kindersley
I flipped through and read just about every page of this guidebook both before my trip and during. The use of top ten lists and the suggested day trips were quite helpful and easy to read, and I agreed with most of their suggestions. What the book cannot help you with is the underground culture that is rampant in Berlin, from artist squats to reclaimed abandoned buildings, which is a vital part of the city's pulse (though I can't blame them too much for that, because underground culture is a constantly shifting landscape).


6. The Children of Men, by P.D. James
In the year 2021, men have become sterile, and the world collapses into a sense of hopelessness with the British government promising at best a chance to live in comfort while living out their last days. Historian Theodore Faron is content with this comfort, letting his life fall into a routine without passion, but when one of his former students approaches him for help, he soon finds himself drawn into a scheme to overthrow the government and discovers a secret that may save the human race.

I picked up this book, because I loved the movie so much. They are both (movie and book) somewhat bleak in the way they reveal the carelessness, desperation, and violence that occurs when people are stripped of all hope. The sense of hope is more tentative in the book, and even when I put it down, I didn't feel all that great about the potential of human race, but I suppose that commentary is part of the point.

As a whole, this was an engaging book, which started slow, but drew you with the detailed world that is created, with the intrigue of this radical group, and with the emotional and spiritual evolution of Theo.


7. A Local Habitation, by Seanan McGuire
Book 2 of the October Daye series, in which Toby Daye faces various political intrigues and baddies of the complex fairy realms that overlay the San Francisco Bay Area. In this book, her liege Duke Sylvester sends her on an errand to check in on his niece in Fresno, a land at the center of a sticky political situation. When she gets there, she finds a greater problem than an uncommunicative niece, however, as slew of bodies starts to pile up.

McGuire's sense of plot and style has improved this time around and the mystery propels along at a good clip. As I remember I only felt that Toby was being dense at one moment, when she conveniently forgets a very important clue. But it's a good fun read and McGuires characters are fun and vivid. I'm looking forward to see what occurs in Book 3.


8. Johnny Cash: I See a Darkness, by Reinhard Kleist
Biographical graphic novel about the life of Johnny Case. Most of the story is told from the point of view of an inmate in Folsom Prison, who eagerly relates what he knows about Cash's lonely drug filled life to one of his buddies as they eagerly await Cash's concert to be held there.

Not much new information was revealed to me with this, but I enjoyed the style of the whole thing, including the dark shadowy artwork. I especially liked how certain songs were pulled out and presented as vignettes, illustrated as individual stories.


Movies Watched:
1. Machete (2010)
2. The Bounty Hunter (2010)
3. Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006)
4. Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)
5. The Joneses (2009)
6. Jaws (1975)


1. Machete (2010)
Machete is violent, sexually, gratuitous, oh, so offensive, and totally hilarious. My friend and I laughed through the entire thing; it’s one of those delightfully bad movies.

Let me give you an example. In the first five minutes, Machete tears through a drug house, chopping up bad guys left and right, blood splatters the walls and floors and everything. Inside he finds the uberhot girl he’s supposed to rescue, who is completely naked and acting drugged out. He carries her out of the room only to have her stab him with his own machete and pull a cell phone out of her hoo-haw in order to call the bad guys.

AND THIS IS JUST THE FIRST FIVE MINUTES.

After staring slack-jawed at the screen, I turned to my friend and said, “Wait. Did that just happen?”

She nods her head and we both continue watching, slack jawed and rolling in our seats with laughter for the rest of the movie.


2. The Bounty Hunter (2010)
When I saw the preview, I was really looking forward to this one, but it turned out to be kind of bland. Both exes were not very likable (though Gerard Butler is hot, so that helps) and their reasons for hating each other are pretty superficial and seem to only exist as the writer's contrivance. So, even though much of my attention was distracted from the movie due to an intense conversation (ahem, fight) with a friend (which probably tainted the whole experience a bit), I think I would have been slightly bored by the movie anyway.


3. Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006)
After committing suicide, the main character ends up in a world that is exactly like this one, except that it's slightly worse (which seemed like a brilliant and fitting afterlife for that sort of thing). When he discovers, however, that his girlfriend committed suicide after he did, he goes on a quest to find her, meeting a variety of odd characters along the way.

One would think that the whole premise of suicide would make this one a downer, but it turned out to be darkly funny and ultimately a sweet story. I thoroughly enjoyed it.


4. Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)
I watched this in Germany, in German, with no subtitles. I've always enjoyed all the Resident Evil movies, and I figured that if I was going to see a movie in which I wouldn't be able to understand any of the dialogue, then this would be the perfect one. I wasn't disappointed. It was action packed and fun, and just what I needed.


5. The Joneses (2009)
Bringing the phrase "keeping up with the Joneses" to new meaning, this movie is about a family that appears to be perfect, but is really just a fake, hired by a marketing company to increase product sales by selling the idea of the perfect life. This movie is funny and sad, but I wish they would have taken it further. I kept hoping that they would be able to go beyond the "fake" of the family to create a real family for themselves in each other. They make progress, but don't quite get there. And I felt slightly let down by the supposed growth of the characters.


6. Jaws (1975)
Saw this for the first time (finally!), and I enjoyed it. Much of the effects were laughable, but you don't really notice until the final scenes on the boat. Spielburg knows how to do suspense right. Great movie.