Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Enthusiasm, by Polly Shulman

This was so fantastic! I've been eyeing it for a few weeks and finally read it tonight- wonderful YA!

Now, I've read Jane Austen, but I've been baffled by the flood of Jane Austen based books lately- everything after Bridget Jones left me high and dry. But this was a blast- with teen female characters who I totally wanted to know, a romance that I wanted to work out, interesting characters and language, and it was so much fun. Yay!

I've been reading so much dystopian and suburban melodrama YA that it felt incredibly new and fresh to read about absolutely healthy people. Lovely.

The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart, by Bill Bishop

Normally, I think I would love this book, but it's another that took me an unearthly long time to finish, and i don't know how much is me and how much was it. Interesting look at how cluster demographics have come to redefine much of how we are targeted by marketers, politicians, churches, and how the niche-ifying of America is breaking down civic engagement. Kind of Bowling Alone with even more numbers, if you know what i mean.
Interesting stuff when you read it for the first time, and some very tasty nuggets about how Republicans were early adopters of some of these techniques (snagged from megachurches, who had snagged them from marketers!) and how that led to certain losses for Democrats. Ok, but I wouldn't really recommend it to someone who wasn't already into that stuff. "The Clustering of America" by Michael Weiss is a much better, if older book about the study and use of cluster demographics, "Latitudes and Attitudes: An Atlas of American Tastes, Trends, Politics and Passions" by the same author is even more fun, and "Bowling Alone" by Robert Putnam had such a big readership that I just don't think this one fits on the shelf. That sounds so much meaner than I meant it to come out.

Mummy Dearest, by Joan Hess

Well, I was so excited when I saw this on the shelf- a new Joan Hess! But for a variety of reasons, it took me ages and ages to get through it, and by the time I was done with it, I not only didn't care who the killer was, I didn't remember who was dead.

This is, I think, for 2 reasons. I've been kind of half-brained lately (Thanks, Lab 257), but also, I don't enjoy Joan Hess's Claire Malloy books as much as the Arly Hanks series, which I adore. I don't know why, but I can't put down an Arly Hanks book, but Claire and Caron Who Talks In Capitals and Inez the dowdy poker-shark and especially stupid Peter drive me nuts. I can't stand the way they talk, I would drown Caron if I met her, and I wish Peter would be captured by terrorists so he wouldn't be so damn smug.

I think I sound vaguely deranged- but I've read a LOT of her books, and I suffer through the Claire Malloys hoping for more of her others, and I guess I've grown to feel strongly about the characters.

I might as well get the other Hess books out of the way and listed out here, while I'm at it. I reread the ones I have a lot in the bath, but unfortunately for me, I've read them so many times even I remember 'who done it'.

Claire Malloy books

Damsels in Distress

Out on a Limb

A Conventional Corpse

A Holly, Jolly Murder

Closely Akin To Murder

Busy Bodies

Death by the Light of the Moon

A Diet To Die For

A Really Cute Corpse

A Murder At The Murder At The Mimosa Inn

Strangled Prose

Arly Hanks books

Maggody and the Moonbeams

Murder @ Maggody

Miserly Loves Maggody

The Maggody Militia

Maggody in Manhattan

Malice in Maggody

Mischeif in Maggody

Muletrain to Maggody

Madness in Maggody

Much Ado in Maggody

O Little Town of Maggody

Miracles in Maggody

Malpractice in Maggody

Mortal Remains in Maggody

Monday, May 12, 2008

Practically Perfect, by Katie Fforde

Classic Katie Fforde genteel real-estate porn- Anna purchases a crumbling Cotswolds cottage with an inheritance, and using her skills as a qualified interior designer, plans to fix it up herself. She needs to recreate an original staircase! She adopts a rescued greyhound! She has an entirely predictable romance! But oh, the house stuff leaves you (well, ok, me) drooling- all wide oak boards and limed walls, enclosed gardens and a third floor garret transformed into a bedroom with a walk in shower- ooooh, la la.

Children of Men

Wow. Very powerful but wildly depressing movie. Set in a dystopic England of 2027, this was a hell of a disturbing, all too easy to visualize future.

Women haven't had babies- anywhere- for 18 years. Terrorist attacks have destroyed most major cities. Britain is a locked down police state using constant surveilance to track and imprison illegal immigrants fleeing wrecked nations.

Clive Owen was amazing in this as Theo, and Michael Caine broke my heart in some of the tenderest scenes- I'm getting all choked up. Ack. Alfonso Cuaron directed the 1995 Little Princess and the 1998 Great Expectations, both of which I thought were wonderful, but I had no idea this would be so so heartbreaking and scary.

But seriously, this was HARD to watch- I paced around during a lot of it. Ouch.

Pretty Little Liars series, by Sara Sheperd

Well, I read the first of these (cover pictured) before I started this blog, but I just read the two sequels Flawless and Perfect. The fourth, Incredible, will be published on the 27th of May, so I guess I'll read it once it's out.

YA, obvs, and kind of I know What You Did Last Summer crossed with The Clique with a little more sex. Murder, blackmail, and mayhem. Who is A who is tormenting Hanna, Emily, Aria and Spencer?

Right now I'm guessing it's Melissa, but I am almost definitely wrong- I never guess the right murderer, even in Mary Higgens Clark, where the murderers pretty much are named Killer McStabby, so that should put Melissa in the clear, then.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Railway Children, by E. Nesbit

This was lovely- I don't know how I ever missed reading it before! It was actually recommended to me by someone at the library, a lovely seeming Eastern European woman who asked for it in beautifully accented English. I am ashamed to say that I thought at first that she was looking for The Boxcar Children, and she had to tell me about the story. Well, she sold me on the book so much that as soon as I finished putting in her request for a copy of the book, I put in a request for myself!
Classic family story, set in an England of barges on canals, friendly station masters, Doctors who made housecalls, Russian exile writers, hawthorne flowers and buns with icing for special occasions. If there's a heaven, it will be that England, for me. I don't think it exists now, and maybe it never did, but should heaven be real, for me it will be a place with bunches of roses and tea and coal fired stoves and friendly bakers and parcels wrapped in newspaper.

The Bourne Ultimatum

Ooooh, FANTASTIC. Bourne kicks ass.

I really love the whole Bourne series- it's like an American Bond. This one had some darker stuff too, behind it- I don't want to be a spoiler, although I think I might be the last person to see this movie who wanted to. Anyway, super fantastic kick ass action movie.

Under The Tuscan Sun

Well, it wasn't much like the book! But it was, well, charming, and filled me with longing to rusticate in a European village drinking regional wine and eating olives, so I guess it was successful.


This movie was hysterically funny for about 5 minutes, then kind of long, stupid, and sophmoric, and then hystreically funny for the last 2 minutes. If the entire thing had been the troopers chasing those 3 stoners around, it might have been the funniest thing I've seen in ages. Unfortunately, it wasn't.

So Yesterday, by Scott Westerfeld

So Yesterday.

Scott Westerfeld rules. Smart, consumer-aware YA fic. I love it how he took the entire cool hunting viral marketing thing and made it read as creepy as it is.

Compulsive Acts, by Elias Aboujaoude

Ok book by a psychiatrist who treated some special cases of obsessive and compulsive behaviour- the saddest was the case of a gambling addict- a former statistics professor who had moved with his wife from rural China to Las Vegas in search of a better life. He ended up a suicide. She ended up a highprice call girl. So sad.

Fires in the Bathroom, by Kathleen Cushman

Well, this was kind of awful, I thought. It was aimed at teachers, with advice from high school students for how to relate and get better behaviour from them- for reasons I will not go into, I hoped that I might get some ideas for how to... well, I'm not getting into that!

But as well intentioned as it was, and as touching as some of the students comments were, it just seemed kind of useless to me. Most of the stuff in it was pretty high school teacher specific, and of that, a lot of it just reminded me that teenagers really are kind of aggravating and lack common sense. The kid who said if school was all about animals, she'd be interested, because she wants to be a vet, well, really? What about, um, kids who don't want to be vets? And obviously this girl will never be a vet if she doesn't get her head out of her...

Yeah. Anyway.