Archive for September, 2010

Tread with Caution

A few weeks ago my friend Bryce from Only The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy proposed a book reading challenge. The challenge was to grab a random book in the bookstore and to read it. You were not to know anything about the author or the title but just pick randomly, if by the picture on the cover or if something struck you about the cover or the summary. Oh, and there is no research involved. So no looking up the author or book pre or during book reading.
This was kind of hard for me. I never realized how much I research a book before or during a reading. I know if I’m really interested in a book or series or if I’ve stopped reading a series and need to get back into it I will look up information on it. I think the fact that this option was taken away made me want to look up info even more. Now, as I’m trying to write this and look up background information, I can’t really seem to find too much on the book.

The book I chose was Shulamith Levey Oppenheim’s The World Invisible. I didn’t find it in the book store; this book has been haunting my father’s house for probably two decades. I’m betting that my sister brought it home one day from the bookstore she worked at in high school. I’ve always loved the cover of this book. It had a beautiful woman on the front and the grayish colors and the seals make it seem very mysterious. I tried to read it once before either in high school or during my undergrad years but couldn’t quite get into it. Now, I’m years older and can handle a tough read (coming soon…reading China Meiville’s The City and The City) so I thought this would be as good as any time to pick it up.
The story takes place primarily on an island near Scotland (I think…kinda foggy) in maybe the late 1800’s. It is mostly about a boy who grows up on the island and a teacher who is running away to the island to escape a difficult romance. It is kind of hard to say what the story is about from there because the plot isn’t very well developed. The characters didn’t really change and only the teacher had any sort of revelation or growth during the story.
I really wanted to like the book but I just couldn’t see where it was going. There were promises that the boy would be some great person and constant hints of mysterious magic that the reader would eventually learn the secret of but I didn’t. There were so many hints with no final explanation that I just got irritated with the book. Also, the boy didn’t grow into anything. He was intelligent and sweet as a boy and continued on that way as he found his love. The boy’s father was mopey until he died, the two servants were sweet and encouraging through the whole book, the island bum was a nefarious animal killer until he died and the teacher was a romantic coward until the very end when he decided that enough was enough, it was time to be a man. Something I found very odd was that although the boy and his father grew older, no one else did, including the animals and the nefarious bum. I could have sworn at the beginning of the book the man was 70 and yet 10 or so years later he was still 70 and a serious danger on the island. I also found it odd that after 10 years the teacher’s love interest waited for him even though they weren’t together that long and she believed he was a coward for not standing up to her father.
I couldn’t really recommend this book to anyone unless they just wanted to read a bit about the life of people during this time period. Even then I would have to say tread with caution.


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Busy Bees

Do you know the saying that once you finish school you won’t know what to do with yourself because you’ll have so much free time? That doesn’t seem to be my case. It’s been non-stop running around and playing tag, it seems, with all of the events that I’ve been missing for the last two years. I’m finding that there are so many things to do that I’m planning weeks ahead of time how I’m going to spend my non-work hours. It’s amazing and I’m having so much fun. I’ve spent the last three weekends sleeping on couches as I bounce between Boulder and Story. I’ll be glad to spend the next couple weekends (at least) in my own bed but instead of state or city hopping I’ll be event hopping. For example, this week I’m taking my dog to agility class, attending a lecture on the best practices when investigating serial killers, a lecture by a Norwegian artist, a walk-through by the Norwegian artist, a law school chili cook-off, a public viewing of all the exhibitions in the UW Art Museum, a Cowboy’s vs Boise State football game and possibly a nature hike. I’m having so much fun! But in the middle of all this running around I’ve still had time to do some reading, movie/play viewing, quilting and writing. Below are a couple quick reviews.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarks

I finally finished Jonathan Strange after a month. I have to say that it is a very long book. However, on the plus side it is totally worth reading. A one sentence summary for the book would be two men attempt to bring magic back to a nineteenth century England. The imagery is amazing and the story is great. The characters are well drawn out and interesting. I often found myself interested in what the antagonist was doing and irritated by one of the protagonist’s actions. If you like Austen and dark fiction you should probably read this book. If you just like dark fiction you should still read this book.

The Fall

This movie was a lucky find. I’m still not sure how I came upon it but I remember coming across it once or twice when I was checking IMDB for what movies a couple actors had been in. The more I think about The Fall the more I enjoy it. It takes place primarily in the 1920’s in a hospital. A stuntman after performing a jump ends up damaging his spine and can no longer walk. He is visited by a little girl with a broken arm and begins to tell her a fantastical story about a group of men who have all sworn to kill an evil Governor. The stuntman stops his story at cliff hangers so that he can convince the little girl to steal drugs for him. It was a gorgeous film made beautiful by the cinematography. If anything, check it out for the scenery and attention to detail in costumes and landscapes. Also, I was pleasantly surprised to see a Balinese chant sequence. The story is very sweet and sad. The actors were great, especially the adorable little girl. It kind of reminded me of Terry Gilliam but better. Click the picture for the trailer and enjoy.

Let me know if you have any questions about the movie, events or the book. There was a lot of content I just glossed over.

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I spend a lot of my driving, walking, and exercising time thinking about my stories. Many times I am wondering how a sub plot is going to work or how can I make a character more realistic.

It was on one of these occasions that I found a really fun game that actually helped me develop one of my characters. I originally intended to see how many of my characters were too similar and how to make them more unique. I had no idea it would help me realize some deeper feelings my characters had like prejudices and beliefs.

So here is the little exercise and it is meant to be fun.

Pick out the main characters in your most developed stories and put them together. How do they like each other and get along? Would character 1 from story A get along with character 2 from story B? If so, why? If not, why? I think one-on-one introductions are best.

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