Thursday, January 31, 2013

january bookstand

Yay! Back to books! It was actually a very productive month, especially if you add in last month as well. My reading material has been pared down to two shelves, with the third being given over to the reading backlog of my LSH.

The God of All Animals, by Aryn Kyle
Recommend, and one actually from the bookshelf! This book, about a failing family farm and a failing family in Montana, was at times hard to read because the feeling of impending doom and disaster was so pervasive. The protaganist is a twelve year old girl and her struggles to develop a sense of self, in the absence of anyone paying attention to her, were treated very sympathetically. By the time the denouement (actually, several of them) finally came, the characters were so established and well-drawn that it was impossible to look away, even though very few of them were likeable people.

About a Boy, by Nick Hornby
Recommend, and another one from the shelf! (I have not seen the movie.) Again, a lost teenage protagonist to whom very few people, including his parents, pay the slightest bit of attention. The dynamic is different because Marcus manages to find someone to fulfill that role. Unfortunately, the person he finds is Will, a person who is so shallow that he invents a son to meet single mothers. Will's ruminations on the nature of lies and growing up, as well as Marcus's thoughts about the nature of family and friendship, provide a substantial basis for this story of making connections.

The Dressmaker, by Kate Alcott
Recommend. A library book, probably published to coincide with the 100 year anniversary of the Titanic's sinking. The novel focuses on the story of (unknown to me) real-life fashion designer, Lady Lucile Duff-Gordon, who was saved on the life raft with only 12 people aboard. Rumors abounded that she and her husband forbade the others in the boat from going back to rescue others, and even bribed them not to do so. The author uses the congressional testimony as the basis of her book, though it is told from the perspective of Lucile's maid, Tess. The book dragged in parts and the characters were too thinly drawn to allow for much sympathy, but it was an interesting historical read.

Bonus this month! A few movie recommendations for you, because I am more enthusiastic about some of the movies I watched than the books I read.

"Bernie" (2011): A wonderful look at small-town life, in the context of a true crime tale. Bernie Tiede was the well-loved assistant funeral director in Carthage Texas. Everyone had a good word to say about Bernie, even after he was accused of the murder of wealthy, mean Marjorie Nugent. Jack Black turns in an excellent performance as Bernie, in a departure from his usual characters. The use of actual townspeople and their words to flesh out the people and the story makes it a unique gem of a crime movie.

"Queen of Versailles" (2012): A documentary about the Siegal family. He's a time-share tycoon, she's a former model trophy wife, and together they are trying to build the largest single family home in America, measuring an astonishing 90,000 square feet. The moviemaker started out to document the building of that obscenity of a house, but ended up with an up-front story of the financial collapse of the banks and real estate markets in America, and the consequences of the fallout for the Siegals, his business, and its employees. It's insanely watchable, like a slow-motion train wreck.

"Strictly Ballroom" (1992): A lot like "Dirty Dancing", but better hair, better outfits, better accent (Australian) and less creepy story-line (Patrick Swayze was just too old for Jennifer Grey!). I don't know how I missed this one for so many years, but it is a lot of campy fun. Did I mention the hair-styles?

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