Now What Do I Do?

Posted in books on April 27th, 2011 and tagged , , , , , , , , ,

The title of this blog post makes me think of the movie Forrest Gump – remember the part where Forrest runs and runs; pretty soon he has a pack of people following him, running with him, and then suddenly he stops and says, “I think I’ll go home now.”  The pack of followers is suddenly lost and without purpose.  “NOW what do we do!”

That’s kind of how I feel now that I’ve finished the masterpiece novel I was reading, Under the Dome by Stephen King.  This book was a page-turner from start to finish, all 1000+ pages of it, and it’s one of those books that’s so good it sends the reader into withdrawal once they’ve finished the story.  Not helping is the fact that I’m sick, and the only good part of being sick (if there is a good part of being sick) is curling up with a good book.  But now I’ve finished my good book.  I’m reading two others, but they’re not the same type of book.

One additional note about Under the Dome:  I learned before I had read too far into the novel that they were making it into a tv mini-series, and as the novel progressed, I kept wondering how that would work given the book’s adult themes and graphic violence.  Now that I’ve finished the book, I felt comfortable doing a google search on it since I didn’t have to worry about the ending being spoiled (don’t worry, I’m not going to do that to you – not when I recommend it so highly for you to read for yourself; it’s really very good!).  Here I learned that it is indeed being turned into a tv mini-series – for cable tv.  That makes more sense, and I will have to find a way to get my hands on it when it comes out; maybe that will help cure my withdrawal!

The Story Of Edgar Sawtelle

Posted in books on April 18th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , ,

e-sawtelle2

I just finished the almost 570-page novel Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski.  It took me months to read this mega-novel; especially because I only read at night before bed.  There are some nights when I can’t read at all because I’m just too tired (and this book was heavy – both physically and emotionally – for reading late at night!).  Some nights, I only read a few pages, and then there are times like the night I finished the book – when I actually went to bed around 10:30 just so I could stay up reading for over an hour – and this is how I finally finished the story.

Edgar Sawtelle is an amazing book – it’s almost indescribable.  It took me a few chapters to get into the book however, mainly because of the author’s extremely descriptive writing style.  I wouldn’t say it was boring in the beginning, but the narrative is very detailed, and it took awhile to get used to as well as for any actual events to take place.  Once the action began, though, it didn’t let up, and I was hooked.  It’s one of those books that I looked forward to ending my day with and one I was sorry to finish.  Surprisingly, this is Wroblewski’s first novel!

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is set in the early 1970’s in rural northern Wisconsin over one summer.  It follows the life of a mute boy on the brink of manhood who is forced to grow up really quickly due to a set of tragic family circumstances beyond his control.  Edgar’s family has been breeding a special breed of dog for generations, and they do more than just breed the dogs.  Almost from birth, the dogs are very meticulously trained.  The book has been compared to Shakespeare’s Hamlet.  Although I’ve never read Hamlet, I read a summary, and the stories do sound as if they have similarities.  The descriptive nature of the novel paints a beautiful picture of the Sawtelle’s farm and the countryside beyond.  There are some very well developed characters as well.  That’s as much as I’m going to describe of the story because I realized I’m not doing it justice.  I wouldn’t want to turn off anyone just because I’m writing an unintentionally bad review.  I loved the book; I really did – I’ll go into that more later.  For now, here are some of the raving comments the novel received – most notably from author Stephen King, who knows a thing or two about story-telling himself!

I flat-out loved The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. In the end, this isn’t a novel about dogs or heartland America, it’s a novel about the human heart and the mysteries that live there, understood but impossible to articulate…. I don’t reread many books because life is too short. I will be re-reading this one.”
—Stephen King, author of Duma Key

The most enchanting debut novel of the summer… this is a great, big, mesmerizing read, audaciously envisioned as classic Americana…. Pick up this book and expect to feel very, very reluctant to put it down.
— Janet Maslin, New York Times

Nothing quite compares to my experience of reading The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. This debut…. is one of the most stunning, elegant books I have ever read…. what can deservedly be called a great American novel.
— Lisa Jennifer Selzman, Houston Chronicle

I am completely smitten…. The most hauntingly impressive debut I’ve read all year…. Edgar might be silent, but his story will echo with readers for a long time.
— Yvonne Zipp, Christian Science Monitor

Overall, a great read, a book I highly recommend.  Be warned however, that The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is not for the casual reader.  I think that for one to truly enjoy this book, he or she has to be a dedicated reader –  someone who truly enjoys reading and has the time to devote to it, for reading this book is an experience.  If you are at all interested in reading the book, then stop reading my review now because there is something I must add that will be somewhat of a spoiler.

*SPOILER ALERT-SPOILER ALERT-SPOILER ALERT*
DO NOT READ BELOW THIS LINE IF YOU INTEND TO READ THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE!
CONSIDER YOURSELF WARNED!

The ending SUCKS.  As much as I truly enjoyed reading the book, the ending came close to ruining the experience for me.  Not because of death, but because of the way it’s handled.  The book ends rather abruptly, and I felt abandoned and ditched as a reader.  There isn’t any closure.  The main character, Edgar, learns and grows so much during the course of the novel, and he takes us readers with him.  But his knowledge isn’t shared with any of the other main characters, mainly his mother!  And his personal growth is also rendered pointless.  And then there’s the very last chapter, seen through the dog Essay’s point of view, which I just didn’t understand AT ALL.  What was Essay’s choice?  I just didn’t get it.  And I know I’m not alone.  It really says something when you do a google search for ‘Edgar Sawtelle ending” and all that comes up is a bunch of complaints from readers.  That being said, I think it’s still worth it to read this book – it was that good where a terrible ending didn’t ruin it.  But it came very close, and I was VERY disappointed when I first finished the book.

The Night Listener Returns

Posted in Movies on January 3rd, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Regular readers of my blog know that I thought The Night Listener was a terrible movie.  It stars Robin Williams as a radio show host who…  you know what, I don’t even remember.  For a plot synopsis, click on the link above.  I was actually surprised that an A-list actor like Robin Williams would do such an awful movie as The Night Listener, but he did.  After sitting through a movie like The Night Listener, my husband and I are weary of Robin Williams.  However, 3 of our friends and fellow tangents.org authors all agreed that August Rush is a good movie, so we checked it out.  And you’ll notice that the title of this post is called, “The Night Listener Returns”, so uh-oh.  But that was more of a joke, and now I’ve explained it, so let’s get on with my review of August Rush.

Not nearly as bad as the Night Listener; I wouldn’t even call August Rush a bad movie.  At the very least, it was really refreshing to see a movie whose target audience was over the age of 18 that was absent any filth whatsoever.  August Rush is a cute story, but I think the movie could have been done a heck of a lot better in some ways.  The tale follows the life of a young orphan, an almost magical boy, named Evan Taylor as he “follows the music” to find his real parents.  There were a few circumstances and events in the movie that weren’t believable in any shape or form, and even if you suspended your disbelief, the cheesiness of other aspects of the movie was annoying.  The storyline is intriguing, and the acting is not bad, but there are a few things that would have to change about August Rush in order for me to consider it a great film.  To name just a couple of those things, I couldn’t get over the fact that this entire love story is based upon a one-night stand.  Tactfully done – as I said, there isn’t any filth in this PG rated movie, but still, knowing it’s true love after just a one-night stand?  Come on!  And, I guess you’ll have to see the movie to appreciate this, but would an abandoned theater really still have its electricity working?  Doubtful.  Like I said, just a few examples of what I perceived to be holes in the plot, but there are other things about the movie that could have easily been changed, improving the film’s quality.  Doing so would add much enjoyment and just plain common sense to this movie.  And Robin Williams was not the shining star in August Rush either; that was left for Freddie Highmore who played Evan – he was also wonderful playing twins in the great movie The Spiderwick Chronicles – another highly recommended flick.  Williams seemed almost annoying in his role as a musical outlaw with his multple piercings and goatee.  I flip-flopped between deciding if his character “Wizard” was a good guy or a bad guy.  Maybe that was the point, I’m not even sure.

The actor who played Buford Benjamin Blue (Bubba) in Forrest Gump played a preacher in August Rush, so I was wondering if the line, “Run August run!”  was a reference to the extremely famous line, “Run Forrest run!” from the Oscar-winning film based upon the Winston Groom novel, one of my favorite movies (one that I highly recommend).  Or maybe it was the filmakers’ way of laughing at us for even thinking of an awesome movie like Forrst Gump during August Rush.  Ok, it wasn’t that bad…  I did appreciate the sentiment.  But my lack of suspension of disbelief just got in the way of me getting swept into the magic of the movie, I guess.

Sorry for those who disagree with me, but I’m still glad you recommended the movie; it was definitely worth a screening – thanks!

Marley and Me

Posted in Movies on December 31st, 2008 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Reluctantly, I saw Marley and Me in the movie theater yesterday.  It’s not that it was a bad movie, but I didn’t want to see it in the theater because I knew it would be a tear-jerker since I read the book by John Grogan.  Unfortunately, I don’t remember much about the book since I read it a long time ago, and I do all of my book reading while I’m dozing off just before bed, which sometimes makes it difficult to remember what I’ve read.  But I know I really enjoyed the novel and recommended it to my family and friends.  The story is about a family who gets a puppy named Marley, and the novel follows his journey through life as the ‘world’s worst dog’.  But eventually, Marley charms his way into the hearts of his family, even helping them through life changes and tragedies.

From what I remember, I think the movie stays pretty close to the book, although I don’t necessarily agree with the casting choices of Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson as Marley’s masters.  I was a big fan of the tv show Friends, but every movie I’ve seen Jennifer Aniston in since seems like she’s still Rachel, her character from Friends.  She’s just not a very diverse actor in my book, which I also think she has in common with Owen Wilson.  But characters in this heartwarming family film were not very deep, so in the end the poor casting did little to sink the movie.  And you’ll notice that I crossed out family film.  Another thing that disappointed me was the PG rating Marley and Me received.  There are about 3 too many adult-themed scenes that I wouldn’t want my kids to see, and I’m really glad I previewed this film before I let them see it, which I usually do anyway.  This movie should NOT have received a PG rating, and it will make me more careful about making sure I preview everything before the kids view it, regardless of rating.

But overall, cute movie.  If you’re an animal lover or have ever owned a dog, prepare to cry.  Sorry if you consider that a spoiler, but it’s been all over the media and has dominated water cooler talk everywhere about how sad the movie and book are.  I’m sure you can guess what happens and you think you can prepare yourself, but you can’t.  I was a total wreck in the theater and have had a bit of a cloud over me ever since.  But don’t let that scare you away from seeing Marley and Me.  I think it just struck a chord in me because we own a dog who was once ‘The World’s Worst Dog’ and is now an old lady who has been a huge part of our family for over 10 years.  I probably would not watch this movie again, but only for lack of wanting to ride the emotional rollercoaster it provokes in its viewers.  The big screen version of Marley and Me was entertaining, and it made me definitely want to read the book again…  if only I had time for that.

Christmas With The Kranks

Posted in Movies on December 26th, 2008 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ok, going in, I knew it would be a terrible movie.  When Christmas With The Kranks came out in the movie theater, it was met with terrible reviews from critics, and its imdb.com rating is a measley 4.7 with over 7,000 votes.  So why did I want to watch it?  Two reasons – I wanted to watch a Christmas movie on Christmas Eve, and I had read Surviving Christmas –  one of the rare John Grisham books that isn’t legal fiction, “Surviving Christmas” months ago – I always like to see books come to life on the screen.  Well, ok, not always…  because Christmas With The Kranks was simply awful – even worse than I thought.

The story is about a couple of empty-nesters who decide to skip Christmas since their daughter will be out of town.  They plan to take a tropical cruise and go about getting fake tans and whatnot to prepare for their unconventional holiday celebration.  Not such a big deal, you’d think.  Except that the Krank’s live on a street that is famous for their Christmas decorations.  Every house is expected to put a Frosty the Snowman decoration on their roof every year, and so when the Kranks are preparing to leave town without doing so, the neighborhood is abuzz.  That’s it.

The novel was alright; it was a fun little story, and although it wasn’t one of the best books, I did get all the way through it.  But I can’t say the same about the movie.  We turned it off in the middle and I can’t say I missed the rest.  My main problem with it was the casting of Tim Allen as Luther Krank.  While reading the book, I kept picturing Luther as a crabby senior citizen, but Tim Allen made Luther more angry than crabby.  In the novel, John Grisham does a nice job setting scene of a small, close-knit community, but all that is lost in the movie, especially with Tim Allen involved.  I was shocked to read on imdb.com that John Grisham has casting approval rights for movies based on his novels.  Maybe that was established because of Christmas With The Kranks.  Well anyway, that’s enough time wasted on this movie.  From what I hear, it’s not the best example of a John Grisham book, but worth a try, I suppose, if you have lots of spare time and like to read.  On the other hand, I wouldn’t recommend the movie to anyone.

4 Christmases

Posted in Movies on December 6th, 2008 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I shouldn’t have liked it.  It’s an 82 minute comedy farce co-starring Reese Witherspoon – what’s to like?  But I actually enjoyed the movie 4 Christmases more than I thought.

So why did I see if I thought I’d hate it?  For one, it was the only thing playing at the matinee price and for two, I had a sort of curiosity about the acting abilities of two country music super-stars:  Dwight Yoakam and Tim McGraw.  Actually, having seen Dwight Yoakam in Sling Blade, I’m well aware of his acting skills.  It was such a great performance in Sling Blade that I thought it was Oscar-worthy.  He’s not given much to work with in this movie however, and his role as one of those Leap of Faith-type preachers is not very well developed.  I don’t think it’s any fault of Yoakam, though, but more a testament to the lazy script.

Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon star as a freewheeling couple who don’t see the need to marry since they’re already happy, and they don’t want kids.  The first scenes of the movie really emphasize how perfect this couple’s lives are, and it’s almost sickeningly sweet how well they get along.  Enter their extended families, and they become miserable people.  It begins when their flight to Fiji is cancelled on Christmas and they are featured on the news.  The couple (their names were not memorable) is now busted in their annual lie about travelling to some exotic location for charity work.  They fib about this every year to their families so they can avoid seeing all 4 families (each set of parents is divorcd) for Christmas.  So now that they can’t go to Fiji, they have to visit 4 sets of crazy relatives on one day and yada, yada, anticipated baby jokes and predictable chaos ensues, you get the picture.

For some reason, a lot of Hollywood stars agreed to be in this movie.  And just as I expected, Vince Vaughn was the same in this movie as the characters he always plays.  He can be funny, but he’s not very versatile.  I was surprised that Reese Witherspoon did not get under my skin because for some reason, she annoys the heck out of me, and it’s distracting when watching her in movies.  As far as the country music super-stars are concerned, I consider this movie a waste of Dwight Yoakam’s acting talent, and Tim McGraw was barely in the movie at all.  I read somewhere that he beefed up for the role, and he was hard to recognize, although I don’t really know why he bothered gaining all the weight for a part that hardly has him on camera and with barely any lines.  Other big name actors making cameos were Mary Steenburgen, Jon Voight, Robert Duvall, and Sissy Spacek – maybe it’s just me, but even though she’s almost 60, I still look at her and see Carrie the fire-starting teen from the famous Stephen King horror movie of the ’70’s.

Overall, there was only one scene where I couldn’t even watch because of its ludicrousness, so instead I turned to my husband and whispered, “This is unbelievably dumb”.  Other than that, I was entertained, and mostly because it was a holiday movie, it was fun to sit, watch, and eat popcorn.  I wonder how Christmas With The Kranks will compare.  I’ve heard that one is just awful, yet I want to see it since I read the John Grisham novel upon which it was based.

Down And Out In The Magic Kingdom

Posted in books on November 24th, 2008 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I was doing a search in the library’s database, and I came across the title Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow.  Further investigation showed it to be a science fiction book about Walt Disney World in the future.  Not usually my type of novel (and I strongly prefer to read non-fiction anyway), but since we’re Disney affectionados, I couldn’t resist the read.  It took me over a month to read it, and that’s not even soley because I’m so busy.  The book is difficult to read – author Doctorow does a nice job at placing the reader in the characters’ futuristic universe, but it’s almost too much – he neglects to provide an explanation of certain things.  For instance, the characters all have “Whuffie” and “HUDs”, and these concepts are constantly revisited throughout the story, but it’s never explained exactly what these things are!  My interpretation is that Whuffie refers to a meter in one’s body that measures a person’s positive characteristics, experiences, and emotions – and others can see your Whuffie level.  A person with low Whuffie is shunned in society, and sometimes even denied entrance to Disney World.  HUDs seem to be a person’s computer – it almost seems to be a part of their brain.  They can look up stuff and send things to each other instantly with their HUDs like directions to places.  It seems to be kind of like today’s internet, yet it’s built right into people’s brains.  So, yeah, you can see why it was slow reading as the reader had to get around all of these unfamiliar concepts.  But onto the story itself…

In the future when Down and Out…  is set – and I don’t know what year that is, he never specifically says – Disney World is now a retro-park; something that is preserved only because it’s an example of the great works of our current time.  The main character, Julius and his girlfriend Lil (who was raised in the Magic Kingdom) are on a mission to save the Magic Kingdom and keep the attractions as they are: old-fashioned rides through vintage dioramas.  There is a group of people trying to “rehab” all the rides and give them a futuristic makeover, and they do get ahold of the Hall of Presidents – they make it so that the guests can actually see what it feels like to be Abraham Lincoln and the rest of the former Presidents.  It is the goal of Julius, Lil, and their friend Dan to keep the rest of Liberty Square (a section of the Magic Kingdom), especially the Haunted Mansion, away from the “ad-hocs” as the rehabbing group is called.  Throw in Julius’ murder (don’t worry, he’s been “backed up” and can reclaim his life in a clone) and the fact that he now has to find out who killed him and keep it from happening again, and that’s how the plot thickens.

Overall, it was a very interesting read, but probably not something I’d re-read.  It was worth stepping out of my usual non-fiction genre for the experience to read a science-fiction tale, but it wasn’t anything stupendous.  The story was interesting, and the author did a great job of detailing life in the future, even if it was at times confusing to the reader.  I kept feeling like I was coming in on a sequel having missed the first part.  I thought there’d be more details about the Magic Kingdom, and in that respect, I was disappointed.  But if you like sci-fi books and you’ve been to Disney World, I recommend this book only if you read a lot and have lots of spare time.  On a grading scale, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom gets a C- from me.  Up next for me is My Lobotomy by Howard Dully- a non-fiction book about a guy who was involuntarily given an “ice-pick” lobotomy as a 12-year old.