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Joyful Girl

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


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Books Read & Movies Watched in October
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blythe025
Books Read:
1. Pride and Predjudice, by Jane Austin
2. The Boy with the Cuckoo Clock Heart (audio book), by Mathias Malzieu
3. The Sun Also Rises (audio book), by Ernest Hemingway
4. The Witch of Portobello, by Paulo Coelho
5. After the Dance: A Walk Through Carnival in Jacmel, Haiti, by Edwidge Danticat
7. Chasing the Dragon, by Nicholas Kaufmann
8. Brideshead Revisited (audio book), by Evelyn Waugh
9. Woman on the Edge of Time, by Marge Piercy
10. Fables: The Good Prince, by Bill Willingham


1. Pride and Predjudice, by Jane Austin

This is my second read of this classic, and it was just as engaging the second time around. I love how strong Elizabeth is throughout this book and how she playfully speaks her mind, even though she is from time to time mistaken.


2. The Boy with the Cuckoo Clock Heart (audio book), by Mathias Malzieu
Born on the coldest night on Earth, Jack's frozen heart is replaced with a cuckoo clock that helps to keep him alive. It ticks oddly from his chest and when he's excited it lets out a loud cuckoo noise. Dr. Madeleine, his foster mother, warns him that his cuckoo heart is too fragile for him to handle the turmoils of love, and that he should avoid it at all costs. But he sees a pretty little dancing girl who bumps into things, he can't help but fall for her. Thus begins a journey that take him to Paris, where he meets a mad clockmaker/magician on to Spain in search of his love.

This is a supremely sweet fairytale. The writing is textural and vivid and the world in which little Jack inhabits comes to life as he describes it from his uniquely romantical point of view. It's often sorrowful, but is really so charming and beautiful that I love it completely.


3. The Sun Also Rises (audio book), by Ernest Hemingway
The narrator Jake Barnes, an American expatriate living in Paris, describes his love for Brett, a woman who has many admirers and men who love her.

This is not my favorite of Hemingway's works. While the writing is poetic and the characters interesting, the meandering plot moving from one party to the next, from drunken dinners in Paris to drunken nights in Spain during the bull fights just didn't appeal to me. It's one of those stories that doesn't have much actually happening. Rather it has the appearance of things happening, but the people don't change. They move from one location and kind of night out to the next and all the characters go through the same motions wherever they go.

The travelogue nature of some of the book did hold my interest, but in some parts, especially the beginning, I was slightly bored by it all.


4. The Witch of Portobello, by Paulo Coelho
Athena is many things to many people, a witch, a mystic, a bank worker, a dancer, a crazy woman, a mother, a gypsy ... The picture of Athena unfolds in this novel, told by the people who knew her, who hated her and loved her. It's a beautiful story, invoking the goddess and ripe with the potential of female power, both spiritual, magical, and mundane.


5. After the Dance: A Walk Through Carnival in Jacmel, Haiti, by Edwidge Danticat
Edwidge Danticat takes us to the streets of Jacmel and through the wild, brightly colored, irreverent ceremony of carnival. Mixed folk lore, history, and historical analysis with personal memoir, Danticat's journey through Jacmel, before and after carnival, is delightful, and makes me long for a trip to Haiti.


6. Breathers: A Zombie's Lament, by S.G. Browne
Discussed elsewhere.


7. Chasing the Dragon, by Nicholas Kaufmann
The legend goes that Saint George fought and killed the dragon, but the legend is wrong. Saint George failed and the dragon still walks the earth, feeding and killing and raising the dead for her own personal army. The charge of battling the dragon has passed down through the family line all the way to Georgia, who is torn up by her own internal demons, dealing with her addiction to heroine. While she hunts the dragon, the dragon also hunts her.

This is a good old fashioned horror story, the kind that pulls no punches and incorporates perfect amounts of blood and guts, while presenting a character who is believable. I love Georgia, because while she has been broken down by her life and her addiction, she perseveres and finds the strength to keep fighting.


8. Brideshead Revisited (audio book), by Evelyn Waugh
Upon finding himself stationed at Brideshead during the second world ward, Charles Rider begins to remember how his life has weaved in and out of the Marchmain family who once lived there. Charles was best friends with Sebastian Marchmain in university and visited with this wealthy and dysfunctional Marchmain family at Brideshead.

This book is rather tragic as it mainly deals with the fall of the old aristocracy with the Marchmains as the representative family. Sorrow upon sorrow seems to be heaped upon them, and Charles shares in it due to his close connection with the family.

It's a wee slow in some areas, but it's also rather beautiful in the way of nostalgia. The book in a way serves the same function as Charles' paintings of old houses, manners, and castles, as a kind of relic to a way of life that doesn't quite exist in the same way any more, while also creating deep characters that for one reason or another will not allow themselves to be happy.


9. Woman on the Edge of Time, by Marge Piercy
After smashing her niece's pimp in the face with a bottle, Connie Ramos is declared violently insane. Trapped in the terrible tedium of the asylum ward, Connie, as a receiver, is able to escapes via her connection with Luciente to the year 2137. She sees first hand a utopian society, in which division of gender and race is nonexistent and people live in peace and connection with the earth and its animals. Meanwhile, in her own time, the doctors have signed her up for a dangerous experiment that could sever her from herself forever.

Connie is clearly sane, much more so than the many people on the outside, from the doctors (who see themselves as heroic gods) to her niece (who lets herself be beaten, abused and used over and over again) to her brother (who wishes to control everyone and everything around him). However, it's never really clear whether this utopia she visits is a real place or not. Piercy presents the time traveling in such a straightforward manner and the future in such rich detail, that one at first takes it for granted that its real, just as Connie does.

Real or not real doesn't really matter, however, for this vision of the future presents Connie with a different way of seeing not only the world around her, but also herself full of struggles and suffering. It also gives her the strength to fight back.


10. Fables: The Good Prince, by Bill Willingham
In this series, the Fables, people, beings, and creatures that we know from storybooks and fairytales, have made a home in our world, after escaping persecution and death when they fled from their homelands.

In this tenth volume of the graphic series, Ambrose, the frog prince and the kind-hearted janitor, goes on a quest back to the homelands to set up his own kingdom. His journey leads him down into the witching well, from which no one has returned, and along a road of many trials.

This is probably one of my favorites of the Fables storylines. It's a true heroes tale, along the lines of classic Arthurian romances, such as those featuring Sir Galahad or Sir Gawain of the round table. It's an soothing epic, a perfect calm before the storm that will arrive in then few books to series.

*

Movies Watched:
1. Dead Snow (2009)
2. Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (2010)
3. Tombstone (1993)
4. Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)
5. Creep (2004)


1. Dead Snow (2009)
A group of twenty somethings head up into the mountains for a skiing vacations. They hit the slopes, get drunk, and have gross sex in outhouses, until a creepy guy shows up at their door with a tale of Nazis who died fighting up in the mountains and who may be lingering still. How do you make zombies even more hated? Make them Nazis, too. The characters are an even combination of smart and stupid, cowards and badasses -- though anyone character could be one or the other at any given time. This Norwegian take on the zombie story is a blood drenched gore fest that turned out to be quite fun. It's totally ridiculous horror in all the right ways.


2. Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (2010)
Classic tale of the battle between good and evil, though in this case with owls. The animation is simply gorgeous, and if there was nothing more to it, that would be enough for me to recommend the movie. Fortunately, the story holds up well and there's a good collection of characters to love, or love to hate, as the case may be.


3. Tombstone (1993)
The tale of Wyatt Earp's showdown with a local murdering gang. A pretty basic western, which my friend got me to watch one lazy afternoon at her house. Definitely enjoyable, but by no means great.


4. Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

More banging around, more moving furniture, more bumps in the night. After seeing the first one, which scared the crap out of me, I had to go see the second and I wasn't disappointed. It works as a great companion piece to the first flick and has some good scares in there. I definitely got a couple of good screams in there.


5. Creep (2004)

After falling asleep in a station, a woman (Franka Potente) finds herself trapped in the twisting labyrinth of the London underground -- and she's not alone. My family and I wanted a scary movie to watch, so we found this one on demand. It's okay. It starts out with, well, more subtlety. You can't really tell who or what is coming after her, but then about the halfway point it switches to showing you everything. The killer's right there doing horrendously graphic things to people. Some of it is definitely creepy, but some of it is probably too much. So I would say that I'm not in love with this one, but it's watchable.

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I really want to see Dead Snow. And PA2, but nobody will go with me, because for some reason everyone I know hated Paranormal Activity except me!

The horror!!! I mean really, what wrong with those people.

If only we weren't separated by an entire ocean, I would totally come to see it with you.

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