Sunday, May 19, 2019

All the Wrong Questions #4: Why Is This Night Different From All Other Nights?

Why Is This Night Different from All Other Nights? (All the Wrong Questions, #4)Why Is This Night Different from All Other Nights? by Lemony Snicket

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm glad I read this series but also sad to see it end. I thoroughly enjoyed it but was saddened when one of my favorite (relatively minor) characters died. I hope Lemony Snicket, a.k.a. Daniel Handler, returns to middle grade writing again some day.

Favorite quote from this book: “Villainy can win against one library, but not against an organization of readers.”

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Charlaine Harris's Stand-Alone Mystery 'A Secret Rage'

A Secret RageA Secret Rage by Charlaine Harris

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hello, I'm not dead. I did kind of forget that I had a book blog, though! But I have been reading. Here's a brief review of the novel I finished today.

This mystery in which the perpetrator of the murder is also guilty of a number of sexual assaults has characters who express some very problematic ideas about sexual assault in general. Even a generally skillful writer, as I believe Charlaine Harris is, must tread carefully around these issues, and this stand-alone mystery left something of a bad taste in my mouth.

Perhaps I was a bit biased because I'm a Northerner and the Southern-born-and-raised character refers to her New Yorker neighbors as sounding like a bunch of squawking bluejays. (We have bluejays in the North, Charlaine - I know exactly what that sounds like.)

I also felt the writing was a bit more unpolished and clunky than I'm used to in such favorite series as the Southern Vampire Mysteries and Midnight, Texas.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Thursday, January 31, 2019

'The Magician' by Carla Cook #ParanormalRomance

The MagicianThe Magician by Carla Cook

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is an older PNR that I found at a used bookshop, and it was surprisingly good. I liked the characters and the way the author took her time with the romance and didn't force the characters into an unrealisticly quick head-over-heels.

I deducted one star because I had issues with the pacing and structure in the second half of the book. The "all is lost" moment hits, the big bad is revealed, and then the resolution seems to come too suddenly and too easily, without the characters having to stake too much to regain equilibrium.

Then, after the big bad is put down permanently and they're safe, the story has one of those J.R. Ward-type "oh no, it's hopeless, they'll never be together" feints when we all know perfectly well, with only 3-5 pages left, that the happily-ever-after is right around the corner. J.R. Ward often does it well, but in this novel, it fell a little flat for me.

But if you happen across this one at your used bookstore, do give it a read. It has a very likely heroine, she has an adorable kiddo, and there are some really interesting paranormal plot elements.

I purchased this book with my own funds and was not obligated in any way to review it.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Because I Can Never Resist New J.K. Rowling...

Fantastic Beasts the Crimes of Grindelwald: The Original ScreenplayFantastic Beasts the Crimes of Grindelwald: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I didn't like this screenplay/movie as much as the first one, because a) Queenie is acting out-of-character stupid in service of the plot :( and b) no real!Percival Graves, who had such great chemistry with Credence in the first one. (This is no knock against Claudia Kim, whom I think did a nice job in the Nagini role she was given. I actually liked her relationship with Credence and I hope she gets a bigger role in the next one.)

The first movie shouldn't have had more homoerotic subtext than the second one given that this screenplay includes scenes with young Dumbledore and young Grindelwald together. I know same-gender romances are frowned upon in some non-U.S., non-U.K. film markets, but if J.K. Rowling let that economic consideration stop her from exploring the Dumbledore-Grindelwald relationship, she shouldn't really have told us that Dumbledore is a gay character. Commit to your characters' background stories or leave them out.

Also, there are continuity issues with what we already know from the Harry Potter books and Pottermore addenda. Minerva McGonagall shouldn't be at Hogwarts yet in 1927, should she? I read somewhere that she shouldn't even have been born yet according to a previously plotted timeline. So I don't love that.

But it does have some nice touches nonetheless, such as the blood troth and the baby Nifflers. Jacob is still his wonderful Jacob self even if Queenie is sacrificed to bad writing, and Newt & Tina still have their adorably awkward spark. "Salamander eyes" is my new favorite compliment.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Inside Story of the Darkest Batman #Nonfiction

Christian Bale: The Inside Story of the Darkest BatmanChristian Bale: The Inside Story of the Darkest Batman by Harrison Cheung

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Harrison Cheung, a Canadian who loves movies, was Christian Bale's unpaid personal assistant for many years. He does not have a very high opinion of Mr. Bale, whom he characterizes as incredibly self-centered. Disdainful of publicity to an extreme, Bale didn't even attend Heath Ledger's funeral because he didn't want to face the public, even though Bale and Ledger had become friends. (Some people get along with Christian Bale. Heath Ledger was one, and Russell Crowe is another.)

This book is full of short, interesting tidbits, but it also contains some strange errors and omissions. When mentioning Christian's interest in playing Mercutio in the Baz Luhrmann 'Romeo + Juliet' film of the '90s, Cheung and co-author Nicola Pittam mention that Bale lost the role to "an African-American." What an odd, vague way to describe Harold Perrineau, the actor who not only steals the movie with his impassioned portrayal of Romeo's volatile friend but is also well-known to American audiences through the TV shows 'Lost' and, now, 'Claws.' Do the authors really not know who Harold Perrineau is?

Another section refers to Colin Farrell as a British actor. Colin. Farrell. Is. Irish. Irish people are NOT British, and since Cheung lived with a British family (Christian, Louise, and David Bale - brother, sister, and father) for years, shouldn't he know this?

Cheung also has a low opinion of Winona Ryder, a former friend of Bale, his co-star in 'Little Women,' and the one who introduced Bale to his wife, Sandra (Sibi) Blazic. He describes the petite star as foul-mouthed and rude.

The whole narration has to be taken with a small grain of salt because Cheung obviously has a bone to pick with the Bale clan. They owe him thousands of dollars, if he genuinely never received a paycheck for working as Bale's personal and social media assistant from the earliest days of the Internet. Maybe he's exaggerating, or maybe he has cherry-picked the incidents that paint Christian Bale and his semi-con-artist father in the worst possible light. I don't know. It was still an interesting, relatively quick read.

I purchased this book at Barnes and Noble with my own funds as was not obligated in any way to review it.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

'Shakespeare Saved My Life' by Laura Bates

Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the BardShakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard by Laura Bates

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dr. Laura Bates writes about her work with the prisoners of Central Indiana, close to where I currently call home. In particular, she recounts her teacher-pupil relationship with inmate Larry Newton. With little formal education, convicted murderer Newton had a keen, insightful mind and a particular gift for relating Shakespeare to the circumstances of his fellow inmates. He might have become the first inmate to earn his Ph.D. in prison -- if the state of Indiana hadn't ended all funding for education in prison.

It's really stupid to end prison education and Shakespeare programs, by the way. They've been shown time and time again to reduce the amount of violence between inmates. America is horrible to its incarcerated persons anyway, but it's especially boneheaded to make the workplace more dangerous for prison employees as well as more dangerous for inmates themselves.

Bates writes that she is not a prison reformer, but maybe she should be. American prisons are a human rights nightmare, as Orange Is the New Black has recently shown many of us. And we should all care, because not every prisoner is incarcerated for the rest of his or her life. They'll become our neighbors, and it's always better to have an educated neighbor with insight into his or her own character and actions.

I checked this audiobook out of my local library using the Libby app. I was not obligated in any way to review it.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

'Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right' by Jane Mayer

Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical RightDark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Is this a well-researched, thoughtful work of journalistic nonfiction? Yes. Is it infuriating? Also yes.

The Supreme Court made a huge mistake when it ruled in the Citizens United decision that money counts as free speech, and now the Republican Party has run with that decision to a disastrous degree. The loser is democracy itself. I wish every American voter would listen to/read this book.

These out-of-touch-to-the-point-of-delusion billionaires push their loony brand of libertarianism out through the "conservative" media and Americans without two nickels to rub together start spouting the wishes of billionaires to their own detriment. Wake up and smell the manipulation, America.

I checked this audiobook out of the library using the Libby app. I was not obligated in any way to review it.