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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 January
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Books:
1. Happy All the Time, by Laurie Colwin
2. Dreadnought, by Cherie Priest
3. Tithe, by Holly Black
4. Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar . . .: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes, by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein
5. As I Lay Dying (audio book), by William Faulkner
6. Don't Hex with Texas (Katie Chandler, Book 4), by Shanna Swendson
7. Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth, by Apostolos Doxiadis Christos H. Papadimitriou; illustrated by Alecos Papadatos and Annie Di Donna


1. Happy All the Time, by Laurie Colwin
This is a book about love happening between four generally good, intelligent, and interesting people. The men are good, genuine men, who love their women deeply. The women are smart, sassy, classy women. The story that unfolds is gentle and funny, a kind of comedy of manners in which the characters say clever things you wish you could think to say. The book transpires like a good relationship or marriage, there are moments of great happiness and there are moments of great sorrow or pain, but throughout all there is steadying flow of contentment throughout. Every time I put this book down, it was with a smile on my face and I couldn't wait to pick it up again. For me, this book was pure joy.


2. Dreadnought, by Cherie Priest
Mercy Lynch works as a nurse at Robertson Hospital, where they heal more patients than they loose. She will will patch up anyone put in front of her, whether Confederate, Yankee, or Reb. In rapid succession Mercy finds out that her husband died in the war, and her father, who she hasn't seen since she was girl, is out west in Tacoma on his deathbed. Suddenly free of ties, she decides to make the dangerous trek across the continent to reach her father.

On her way, she finds herself aboard a train pulled by the Dreadnought, a heavily armored terror of a steam engine, which soon meets harsh resistance from rebels and pirates and something even more dangerous, something inhuman. Mercy can't help but wonder why the train it meeting such resistance, and begins to unravel the mystery of the second and last rail cars with their secret cargo.

I loved Boneshaker, Priest's first foray into steampunk, and Dreadnought is an excellent companion novel and fills you in on what some of the characters you loved from the first book are now up to. The book definitely picked up more steam, as the elements of espionage and mystery entered into the story, at which point I didn't want to put it down. Priest does steampunk right, presenting a torqued view of history and a fun ride through an imagined wild west.


3. Tithe, by Holly Black
Tithe follows the story of Kaye, a girl who follows her nomadic mother quest for fame through dive bars in Philadelphia. Kaye is grateful when their nomadic lifestyle comes to an end, however, and they are forced to return to her grandmother's house, offering her the opportunity to reconnect with fairy friends both human and faery. It isn't before long, however, before she finds herself entangled in a political and dangerous intrigue between the faery courts. The faeries in this book are tricksy and deadly throughout, just as they ought to be. It was a thoroughly enjoyable read with enough adventure and well-wrought surprises to keep me excited. I'm definitely looking forward to the next two books in the trilogy.


4. Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar . . .: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes, by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein
Using jokes to illustrate their discussion, the authors of Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar present an introduction to the varying theories of philosophy, from existentialism to applied ethics, feminism, and more. Each subject is briefly discussed, essentially just enough to get a very basic understanding of the form of philosophy before moving on to the next. It's an excellent and entertaining way to get to know the basic tenets of philosophy, so that if there is a particular philosophical field that appeals to you, you can go to other sources to learn more.

Of course, I can't leave this review without including a joke. (^_^) Here's one I liked from the "Feminist" section, which turns basic expectations of the "Blonde Joke" on its head:
A blonde is sitting next to a lawyer on an airplane. The lawyer keeps bugging her to play a game with him by which they will see who has more general knowledge. Finally, he says he will offer her ten-to-one odds. Everytime she doesn't know the answer to one of his questions, she will pay him five dollars. Everytime he doesn't know the answer to one of her questions, he will pay her fifty.

She agrees to play, and he asks her, "What is the distance from the earth to the nearest star?"

She says nothing, just hands him a five dollar bill.

She asks him, "What goes up a hill with three legs and comes back down with four legs?"

He thinks for a long time but in the end has to concede that he has no idea. He hands her fifty dollars.

The blonde puts the money in her purse without comment.

The lawyer says, "Wait a minute. What's the answer to your question?"

Without a word she hands him five dollars.



5. As I Lay Dying (audio book), by William Faulkner
The Bundren family must take the body of their matriarch, Addy Bundren, to her home town in Jefferson, where she wants to be buried. Along the way, the unlucky family meets obstacle after obstacle. Faulkner jumps points of view, getting into the head of each character, revealing their inner hopes and fears, with precise clarity of voice. Each character is multi-layered and complex, as though they were flesh and blood.

I certainly liked this one far better than The Sound and the Fury. As I Lay Dying, despite being innately morbid, is less overtly bleak and the writing is less dense and more readable. Though I came, bit by bit, to hate the father figure, who seemed unconsciously cruel and stubborn, I actually liked many of the characters in this book. Despite their many hardships, I believed many of the characters had enough humanity and goodness in them to find a way to pull out of the spiraling despair of their lives.

So if you are interested in reading a Faulkner, I would definitely recommend going with this one over The Sound and the Fury.


6. Don't Hex with Texas (Katie Chandler, Book 4), by Shanna Swendson
Discussed elsewhere.

7. Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth, by Apostolos Doxiadis Christos H. Papadimitriou; illustrated by Alecos Papadatos and Annie Di Donna
Discussed elsewhere.


*

Movies:
1. Waitress (2007)
2. Conan the Barbarian (1982)
3. Season of the Witch (2010)
4. Shrek Forever After (2010)
5. The Last Exorcism (2010)
6. Whip It (2009)
7. Ergo Proxy, episodes 13-23 (2006)
8. Black Snake Moan (2006)
9. Black Swan (2010)


1. Waitress (2007)
A very cute and quirky movie about a woman stuck in an emotionally abusive marriage. She has a plan to get out by winning a pie baking contest, but then finds out that she's pregnant. Full of delightful surprises and Nathan Fillion is super hot in this.


2. Conan the Barbarian (1982)
A classic so-bad-it's-great movie about a warrior slave who wants to take revenge on the man who murdered the people of his village. Arnold Schwartzenegger barely talks, which is probably a good thing, since his accent is so thick. He's scary muscled out in this, too. I definitely enjoyed seeing it.


3. Season of the Witch (2010)

Nicholas Cage has to take a woman accused of being a witch to a distant monastery, where there exists a book that will cleanse her evil from the world. I honestly don't know why I had any hopes for this at all. I suppose I at least hoped that she would turn out to be innocence, though in an ideal world she would have been a "good witch," something the priests just misunderstood. But no, it was very predictable and very lame.


4. Shrek Forever After (2010)
None of the sequels can match the sheer wonderfulness of the first Shrek, of course, but this fourth installment was still fun to watch.


5. The Last Exorcism (2010)
Oh, oh, the pain. You know, the idea of a preacher, whose questioned his faith coming face to face with something like a girl who may really be possessed is a great idea for a movie, and in the beginning it certainly progressed well. It maintained a steady and growing tension, while keeping the viewer questions decide whether the girl was just abused and disturbed or if she was really possessed. It had the makings for a really great horror flick. Then, the ending ruined it all. Dammit!


6. Whip It (2009)
A young woman finds a place for herself in the world of roller derby. Really cute movie.


7. Ergo Proxy, episodes 13-23 (2006)
I finished up the final episodes of this Anime series. The whole series dragged for me with too little being revealed too slowly. Some episodes definitely seemed to be there for no other purpose than to lighten the rather heavy mood, and I think the series could have been shortened by a handful of episodes. However, the animation was gorgeous and the series ended well, making me feel it was worth the viewing.


8. Black Snake Moan (2006)
Samuel L. Jackson plays a lonely old blues player, who finds Christina Ricci half naked, beaten all to hell, and left on the side of the road. He takes her in to help her get on her feet, but when he finds out from local gossip that she's a sex addict, he chains her up to his radiator and aims to keep her from trouble. Despite being totally ridiculous sometimes, this was a very enjoyable movie and the friendship that grows between Jackson and Ricci's characters is actually very sweet.


9. Black Swan (2010)
Discussed elsewhere.