Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Cannonball Read - TRIPLE Shot!

It's hard to find time to write when I spend every waking free-time moment reading. And watching the Oscars. And American Idol. And going to Chicago. But yes, I'm still reading, and the time on the train to and from CHI really helped me along (remember when I read a whole bunch on my way to and from California? I need to go on a trip every month). First up: The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman. Some of you may know Pullman for his His Dark Materials trilogy - and some of you may not know him at all. Nate gave me this book for Valentine's Day, and since it was short and written for teenagers, I thought I'd give it a whirl and bump it up to the top of my list. There's mystery and intrigue, drugs and beatings, dead fathers and stolen diaries... so basically, it was kind of lame. It just didn't hold my interest. I finished it, but just because the protagonist is female and it's a book for teens, that doesn't mean I have to love it. Sorry, Nate.
Next up was Bill Bryson's Neither Here Nor There, about his excursion through Europe. I read Bryson's A Walk in the Woods last year, and then something else he wrote, and again, these funny writers just aren't that funny to me. Also, I've never been to Europe, so reading about the roads in Italy or the nasty food in Austria didn't really mean much to me. I think I'm done with Bryson for a while.
Finally, The Road by Cormac McCarthy. This book won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and Stephen King (and Nate) loved it, and even though I tried to read it last year and didn't get very far, I decided to give it another whirl. And - WOW. This book is out-of-control awesome. I ANNIHILATED it on the train - started somewhere around Valparaiso and finished outside of Jackson. McCarthy has created a terrifying world and two wholly compelling characters, both of which you as a reader know so little about (where are they? what happened?), and I found it hanuting and sad and horrifying - which I thought maybe I would like, but didn't know I would love. And it made me think that maybe we need to have a can opener in our apocalypse survival kit.
The Ruby in the Smoke - C
Neither Here nor There - C-
The Road - A

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Oscar Picks

UPDATE: I got 18 out of 24. AGAIN. That's the best I've ever done - I just can't break that 75% accurcay barrier. Maybe next year.

For those of you who are interested, here you go, my Oscar picks:

Oscar Predictions

BEST PICTURE "Slumdog Millionaire"

BEST DIRECTOR Danny Boyle ("Slumdog Millionaire")

BEST ACTRESS Kate Winslet ("The Reader")

BEST ACTOR Sean Penn ("Milk")


BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR Heath Ledger "(The Dark Knight")

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM "Waltz With Bashir" (Israel)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY “Milk” (Focus Features), Written by Dustin Lance Black

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Anthony Dod Mantle

BEST EDITING “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Chris Dickens

BEST SCORE “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), A.R. Rahman

BEST ART DIRECTION "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"

BEST COSTUME DESIGN “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Jacqueline West

BEST ORIGINAL SONG “Jai Ho” from “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Music by A.R. Rahman, Lyric by Gulzar


BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE “Man on Wire” (Magnolia Pictures), A Wall to Wall Production, James Marsh and Simon Chinn

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT "The Witness - From the Balcony of Room 306,"A Rock Paper Scissors Production, Adam Pertofsky and Margaret Hyde

BEST MAKEUP “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Greg Cannom

BEST ANIMATED SHORT “Presto” (Walt Disney) A Pixar Animation Studios Production, Doug Sweetland

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT “Spielzeugland (Toyland)” A Mephisto Film Production, Jochen Alexander Freydank

BEST SOUND MIXING “The Dark Knight” (Warner Bros.), Richard King

BEST SOUND EDITING “The Dark Knight” (Warner Bros.), Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo and Ed Novick

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton and Craig Barron

WACKIEST OUTFIT man: Sean Penn; woman: Freida Pinto (bless her, she just doesn't know any better) or Meryl Streep

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cannonball Read - Book 12

This one wasn't so easy. Ian McEwan is lauded as one of the world's most brilliant contemporary writers, and this book was exceptional, but it was a bit of a tough read. Here's a quick synopsis: this guy Henry has a day off, and does all kinds of shit and all kinds of shit happens. Makes you want to read it, right? But it's so intricate, and while reading it, I really felt like I was along for the ride on Henry's Saturday. The details are rich and layered, and not overwhelming, but it's not the kind of book you can just read at night before going to bed. You need to dedicate some waking hours to reading. Shelve it until you can hunker down with it, that's my advice. I was definitely drawn in to Henry, the main character - he's so well-developed that at times I felt I was reading a true account of one man's day, instead of a fictional tale.
The weirdest part of this experience? Saturday is set on Saturday, February 15, 2003. I started the book on February 13th, and finished it on the 16th. Completely unintentional.

Saturday - B+

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Cannonball Read - Book 11

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld is book 11 for the year. You may know Sittenfeld from her novel Prep, set in a boarding school (loved it!). American Wife is the fictional story of Alice Blackwell, a librarian who falls in love with a rapscallion with a storied family, a not-so-smart goof who drinks too much and ultimately ends up buying a baseball team - and who then becomes President of the United States. Sound familiar? Sittenfeld obviously based her protagonist on Laura Bush - but it's all fiction. But not. There are many aspects of Alice Blackwell that are ripped from Laura Bush's life, but she remains a fictional heroine, and certainly there are things that Alice says and does that we'll never know if Laura said or did...
This book is OUTSTANDING. I loved it and can't wait to a) loan it to all my friends and b) re-read it when this year-long project is over. There were lots of twists and turns, but encompassed in an incredibly familiar story - familiar because it's based in truth, in a woman that was part of our lives for over eight years. Now that George Bush is out of office, I wonder if Laura will come forward and speak about her life - now that I've read this book, I'd like to hear more about the real Alice Blackwell.

American Wife - A+

Monday, February 09, 2009

Cannonball Read Double-Shot

I'm still reading, but at a slower pace than in Janaury. Fewer holidays, busier weekends, that sort of thing. I am concerned that I will not meet my February goal, but I've also determined that I need to read 25 books every three months. Sounds doable, right?
Book 9 is Lucky You by Carl Hiaasen. I've only read one of Hiaasen's books before, and they're a nice diversion for me, as I don't usually go in for ecological mystery/thrillers about sport fishing, turtles or rednecks. Lucky You was a good read, kept me entertained, but I didn't LOVE it. It hasn't catapulted to the top of my all-time favorite books list, nor will I ever read it again. But that doesn't mean that it was bad. I guess I'm ambivalent.
Book 10 is Sweet and Low by Rich Cohen. I got this book for Nate for Christmas, because the cover was TOTALLY AWESOME. And the story sounded great, too: Brooklyn after the war, family rivalry, the diet craze, the Mafia, disinheritance... but ultimately, it was too much. The story was great, and certain sections were totally captivating and engrossing, but then there would be a whole separate section on a totally different topic and I couldn't quite stay plugged in.
Overall, I'd say two minor missteps in the year in books so far.

Lucky You - C+
Sweet and Low - C+