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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Best of 2012

So as we hit the end of 2012, I offer up my best in entertainment of the past year. Keeping in mind not all of these were released this year, it’s just what I saw/read.

Best Movie – Lincoln
Honorable mentions – Pina, Skyfall

Best Book – A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
Honorable mentions – Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood, The Round House by Louise Erdrich

Best TV series (drama) – Mad Men
Honorable mentions – Downton Abbey, Sherlock

Best TV series (comedy) – Happy Endings
Honorable mentions – 2 Broke Girls, Modern Family

Best Music (album) – Magic Hour by Scissor Sisters
Honorable mentions – Some Nights by fun., The Truth About Love by P!nk

Best Music (single) – Somebody That I Used to Know by Gotye (feat. Kimbra)
Honorable mentions – We Found Love by Rihanna (feat. Calvin Harris), Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen

Best Theatre – Black Watch
Honorable mentions – Once, Now.Here.This.

Best guilty pleasure – Pitch Perfect
Honorable mentions – Revenge, seeing Betty White live and in person

Best Board Game – At the Gates of Loyang
Honorable mentions – Seasons, Airlines Europe, Heartland

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A Game of Thrones – a book review

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1)A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I would actually give this book about 4 1/4 stars. It read at a feverish pace, as Martin takes you along for the ride at breakneck speed. Court intrigue, pitched battles and family honor dominate this tale in a mythical world that feels like what we dream medieval England would have been like in an alternate universe.

What I enjoyed was the changing perspectives, as the book follows the thoughts and lives of a few characters and through them we get a lens into the overall action. The plot moves along effortlessly even as the perspective shifts. Although the book could drag at times in lengthy descriptions of past events, and an overwhelming number of names, on the whole it’s easy to breeze past it.

Richly drawn characters that you want to root for – even the nastier ones. I look forward to picking up book 2 when i can, and checking out the HBO series.

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The Walking Dead Compendium Vol. 1The Walking Dead Compendium Vol. 1 by Robert Kirkman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The first hefty graphic novel I’ve read in quite awhile. It’s definitely entertaining and you want to keep reading.

But it can also get really depressing. I’m not spoiling you by saying people die – a LOT of people die. More than in a Shakespearean tragedy.

So if you want to delve into this, I’ll pass on the same advice my friend Austin who loaned this to me said – “Don’t get too attached to any of the characters.” He’s not kidding.

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In case you hadn’t heard yet, my lovely friend Jessica Spotswood is an author and on the verge of becoming a household name.  She has an exciting book coming out, and today the cover was revealed – check it out below.

I hope you’ll pick this up when it comes out next year – it’s going to be a hit – mark my words!  (Or Jess’ words, really.)  You can even pre-order it on Amazon here.

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A Scattered LifeA Scattered Life by Karen McQuestion

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book follows the lives of three different women and although they don’t serve as narrators in their respective chapters, they are written from their points of view. Skyla is a restless spirit looking for an anchor in her life when she realizes her husband and daughter aren’t enough. Roxanne is the gregarious mother of five that she befriends. And Audrey is Skyla’s mother-in-law, full of rigid ideas and seeking a place where she’s really needed.

In general this was an enjoyable read, but it lacked depth that I kept hoping was around the corner. The book ended too quickly, and the characters had profound changes happen faster than I think is believable. If you’re looking for some light summer reading, this will do nicely.

Part of the reason I was curious to try this is that Karen McQuestion originally self-published this for the Kindle, and I think it’s always worth checking out authors that haven’t found the right publisher yet.

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Reviewing The Help

The HelpThe Help by Kathryn Stockett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book reminded me a lot of Fannie Flagg’s writing with its easygoing dialogue between friends. But the subject matter here is far more serious as the life as a black person in 1960s Mississippi is one of constant danger.

On the whole I really enjoyed this book which blazed by in no time. Perhaps the ending was a little too pat (perfect for a Hollywood movie). I mostly appreciate Stockett’s ability to juggle three very different narrators, giving each her own voice.

I’m only sorry I didn’t pick this book up much sooner.

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Agatha Christie's Secret NotebooksAgatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks by John Curran

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First let’s be honest – this is a book meant for hard-core fans of Agatha Christie. But it might also be a curiosity for other authors that are interested in the creative process of the most widely published writer in history.

Curran unearthed a treasure-trove of Christie’s notebooks where she sketched out ideas for most of her work. It sometimes reveals fascinating insight into possible alternate endings, how she developed the names of characters, and how/when she decided on a detective for a given book.

So for the Christie fan, this is all quite interesting. It mainly just got me excited about going back to some of her novels to read them again. Even though this book is full of spoilers, it’s easy to forget them when you’re reading so many.

My two main criticisms…

First, the book is not ordered in the most logical way. Curran has chosen to group notes on books based on a few themes, such as book titles based on famous quotes, or books that take place in foreign locales. Perhaps it’s more interesting than a chronology, but sometimes the books grouped together are just too disparate.

Secondly, the author is extremely opinionated, and sometimes offers up his opinions as fact. He lavishes praise over novels like Crooked House and Endless Night, while pointing out perceived faults in others. And it appears that he has no love for the Tommy and Tuppence books, which are not examined in any detail. All this is not to say that Christie’s work varied in quality, but I just found it presumptuous that Curran expects we will agree with his opinions. Sometimes I did (yes, Hallowe’en Party was weak) but other times I strongly disagreed (Endless Night was an unsurprising retread in my eyes).

In summary, taken with a grain of salt, this book is invaluable to any true fan of Agatha Christie.

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