Sunday Salon: Year of the Snake

Sunday Salon

Hello everyone! Today is the first day of Chinese New Year so Happy New Year!

This week my reviews for Fifty Shames of Earl Grey, The Giving Tree, and January Monthly Movies were posted.

This week, I read The Best American Travel Writing 2012, Paris in Love by Eloisa James this week and I am currently reading Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin. I am enjoying the latter just for the suspense and the pacing though there are a lot of characters, and I know I shouldn’t attach onto them too much.

I’ve been doing well in reading nonfiction books this year, but not so much in TBR challenge. It’s always harder to read books on my shelves since I have two piles of library books at any time. For the library goers, do you ever have to balance between these kind of stacks?

I’m off for a winter hike after that big snowstorm on Friday. I am not sporty especially in the winter, but I do like walks.

Have a good week, everyone!

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

The Giving Tree

My parents did not read to me as a child so I had to read a lot of children’s classics on my own as a kid or now, later as an adult. I also remember being read to a few times in school of course, but not this classic.

Most people know this story already but essentially it is about a tree who loves a boy

I really liked the book as I read it, and I had certain expectations for the ending such as the boy repenting about what he did to the tree or treat it with respect. But no, he just sits on her stump and she’s just happy about it. I was perplexed about this. Then I read all the polarizing views about this book. Frankly, I am not sure what I would rate this book.

This book is highly subjective. Many people likens the relationship to that of a parent and child, some see it religiously (Tree as a Christ figure), others frame it in political/economic terms, and more directly, a story about humans and the environment. Having recently read Cloud Atlas, I’m inclined to the human nature, greed and abuse of the planet aspect of it.

There is also the interpretation the relationship between the anthropomorphic tree and the boy represents all loving relationships and how selfless or self-sacrificing love is or should be at the end of the day. In love you give, but you ask nothing back in return. On the other hand, if this book really is about parents and children since there seems to be a story of growing up with the boy, it is the idea that all parents must give to their children. Where this analogy takes a real dark turn is that the parent must be cut down for the child.

After the ending and thinking it through, I am not sure I would read this to a child. I think if I read this as a child, I’d be really sad about the tree and quite angry with the boy (so I haven’t changed much in that regard). Also, perhaps guilty about human nature’s inclination to take things from the environment, from each other, etc. It could make me feel that you should not ask for so much from anything nor you should take things for granted. It is not spelled out like that at the end though. I do not mind sad endings even for children’s books, but this ending was very ambiguous. It felt unsatisfactory in its lesson whatever that may be.

I rated the book out 3 of 5 on Good Reads in the end because I think it is though provoking. Not many other picture books can generate this much interpretation or controversy and doubtless will continue to. It makes you consider the book at all angles. I recommend it to most people just for that reason.

Read January 31st 2013.

Booking Through Thursday – Influence

Do other people influence what you choose to read? When a family member recommends something, or a friend says they hated a book you were planning to read … does it affect your reading choices? – BTT

Yes, and it does not always happen very often because I read more than most of the people I know. I do take recommendations easily. As for the other end of the spectrum, I consider it, but I always wonder about the books (or movies) we do like and disagree on. I am more open minded about certain items than friends and perhaps they are about others that I am not keen on either. If I plan on reading a book, I usually stick to it unless a lot of people say it is bad.

How about you?

Monthly Movies – January 2013

The Dark Knight RisesBatman: The Dark Knight Rises (03 01 2013) – This was long. I think I got a headache from watching it. Batman (DCAU) is part of my childhood, but Nolan’s Batman will never be my Batman. I can’t imagine Batman giving up for eight years in seclusion or even saying goodbye to Alfred. Nolan really made sure Batman lost everything though: his money, his city, his identity, Afred, but I did like the ending of this film. This film felt like two films though. There was perhaps a little too much going. I thought the casting was great in all parts. I like Tom Hardy, but I wasn’t really in love with his Bane voice or his portrayal until the very end. Marion Cotillard is amazing in anything. But really, the stand out for me was Joseph Gordon-Levitt whom I continue to adore and have since “Third Rock from the Sun”.

A Young Doctor's NotebookA Young Doctor’s Notebook (17 01 2013) – This is a TV mini series. I don’t watch enough TV or movies nowadays for them to get separate posts. This four 22-minute episode series stars Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe playing older and younger versions of a Russian doctor the 1934 and 1917. It is based on stories written by Mikhail Bulgakov (one of Radcliffe’s favourite authors). The plot is rather thin, and it’s more a psychological analysis of the doctor. Hamm and Radcliffe talk to each other as the former reminiscences about his earlier self. It’s on the gory side and there are a couple of sexual situations (no nudity) with Radcliffe aka Harry Potter. While I don’t imagine Radcliffe when I read the Harry Potter books, he is still one version of Harry so it weirded me out to see him in those situations. Still, there is some really dark funny moments for it, but this series is not for everyone. The ending is dark which is typical of Russian literature. Not really a light series.

ScandalScandal (22-23 01 13) – I watched all of season one and caught myself up to date with the episodes of season two. This is an addictive show, and I have not really liked Shonda’s writing, but her team is doing a decent job of the writing. The serialized procedural aspect is not often interesting and usually all about sex scandals. A couple of the characters are a bit flat. Of course with a lot of shows I watch, I overlook the writing for the actors. Kerry Washington and Tony Goldwyn have some best on TV. I am definitely an Olitz shipper. I also adore Olivia Pope’s wardrobe. Good show.

Cloud Atlas (29-31 01 2013) – Movie and book review posted here.

Notably Rewatched

Sliding DoorsSliding Doors (earlier in January) -I skimmed this to all my favourite i.e. all the scenes with John Hannah. I’ve seen this film at least four times. I do see the gaps in the plot and the timeline, but it is a dramatic rom-com so I can’t be too hard on it. This is still the only movie where I find Paltrow tolerable, but is very thin in this movie.

Fifty Shames of Earl Grey by Fanny Merkin aka Andrew Shaffer

Fifty Shames of Earl Grey

As one can postulate from the title, this is a parody of Fifty Shades of Grey. I am going to keep this review short; I probably shouldn’t have read this book since I only found this book just Okay. On the other hand, it was so over the top and silly at times that I actually laughed out loud a few times. Some of the moments were so stupid and absurd that I had to laugh.

Some of the other moments were just very strange. There were a couple of gross moments which is why I think the author was going for since the original work does have those moments too. The book was a bit too long as well; I do not think novel length parodies are really my thing. It did remind me again how awful the Fifty Shades Trilogy actually is. I think the parody’s Anna is actually smarter than Ana Steele.

I only recommend this book if you have a dark sense of humor and if you found the actual Fifty Shades trilogy funny because it was so very bad.

Read January 30th-31st, 2013.

The best satire or commentary of the trilogy is still Jen Reads 50 Shades of Grey trilogy. She’s on the last book now.

Sunday Salon: Reading Fervor

Sunday Salon

Hello! This week, I was very productive. I posted myFO: Cable Braided Necklace, read and review Yes, Chef and Cloud Atlas (both book and movie).

Additionally, I read Fifty Shames of Earl Grey: A Parody, The Giving Tree and Sandman: Dream Hunters. All of the reviews will be posted over this week.

I am currently reading The Best American Travel Writing 2012 which is a series I read every year.

On the knitting front, I started my first pair of socks in 14 months. I’m also knitting a light alpaca sweater as well.

I plan to read and knit more this week as well continue my job search. I am also playing the violin again after a couple of weeks with a snapped A string. I’m really of the mind I must keep busy especially in the winter where it’s easy to became lethargic and moody.

How was everyone’s January? What are your plans for February?

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

This was a clever and well written book. It was ambitious and unique.

It took me awhile to read this book. It was on my Kindle so I often forgot I had it and it didn’t give me incentive to read it in time like my library books. The other reason I would forget about this book is the different narratives from this book. It is very well written and I liked it more than other books that had this kind of style such as Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad. It does mean that once you get comfortable with one chapter’s story, it changes and you have to start all over again.

It took to reading the sixth and final narrative in the middle of the book that I realized what Mitchell was doing. At that point, I had to finish the book. It became gripping and I really liked the every changing structure and tone.

The best thing about reading on the Kindle besides the convenience of having dozens to hundreds of ebooks in a small vessel is the built in dictionary. I don’t have to pause and look up the word on separate dictionary. I am not really a wordsmith, but I do love words and language so it is always fun to read an author who clearly can employ a number of unusual words.

The diction and vocabulary was quite neat in the earlier stories since Mitchell used a number of archaic words. I really enjoyed that bit and enjoyed Mitchell’s ability to shift his structure and style with each story. He had suspense, character development, great writing style, and most of all, consistent themes which weren’t too cloying.

“What precipitates outcomes? Vicious acts & virtuous acts. What precipitates acts? Belief.”

All of the stories deal with the idea of how human nature does not change and that it never really will. The idea that greed, oppression and controlling civilization will always be present is quite true and very sad. There are moments of hope of course and a lot of the stories have good endings, but I am wary to reread this again. There was something melancholic about all the stories since death and oppression were in all of them. It was not the most depressing read, but it is not one that makes you feel good. It is a good reminder of the darkness of human nature in a well written novel form.

I recommend this book for those who are interested in speculative fiction and unique structure & styles. This book is literary and also thought provoking.

Incidentally, Mitchelle was apparently influenced by Italo Calvino’s If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller which is a book I just took out from the library last week. It is one of those books I requested while browsing GoodReads so now I actually have even more incentive to read that as well.

Read on the Kindle October 31, 2012 to January 27, 2013.

The Movie

Cloud Atlas

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