Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

Those Who Save Us was not easy to read, but it was worth it. It's two stories, told in alternating sections, one about a young German woman living in Weimar during World War II and the other about her daughter 50 years later who's trying to figure out her past because her mother has never talked about it. It's hard to read because of the sometimes graphic war stories, not all of them about violence against Jews. Most of them aren't even violent; they're sexual, but they're still war stories. (That's my warning.)

It's also hard to read because the characters are so complex. There are no easy answers to why they make the decisions they make, but I think that's what makes this book outstanding. The answers aren't easy, but they're realistic and believable. After I finished the book, I dreamed about it all night and then told Jon all about it and why it was bothering me. His comment was "Life is messy." This book really captures that.

Our book club had a great discussion about it, too. It's a different perspective on World War II, and there's a lot to talk about. (See warning above, however! Having said that, I'm glad I read it.)

Until the Real Thing Comes Along by Elizabeth Berg

I read Open House by this author several years ago and liked it, but this novel set me on an Elizabeth Berg path--I've since read two more novels and some short stories by her. It's like finding another Anne Tyler. Not that they are the same, but it's been a while since I've wanted to read more by a particular author. (It's also kind of nice to discover an author after she's written several books, instead of having to wait for whatever she's writing next.)

The descriptions of longing in this are so real they made my heart hurt. I loved it. I'll post about the other books by her soon.

Made of Honor (2008)

I liked this. I don't know if it's actually better than your average romantic comedy, but it seemed like it was. Maybe I just haven't watched any good ones lately. Anyway, it's good, and you get to see Patrick Dempsey in a kilt, albeit a "mini-kilt" that looks kind of ridiculous. I think the music was decent, too.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sydney White (2007)

I thought this was cute, a smarter-than-average teen flick based on the Snow White fairy tale. I could do without the feel-good speech at the end of a movie like this, but whatever.

The Painted Veil (2006)

This is not a happy film, but it's very good. Based on a novel by W. Somerset Maugham, it's about an English couple in a loveless and faithless marriage. The husband, a doctor specializing in infectious diseases, takes them off to a remote Chinese village to deal with a cholera outbreak, where they go through some harrowing stuff that changes their relationship. Very good.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

What Happens in Vegas (2008)

Run-of-the-mill rom-com, predictable but occasionally funny. My favorite line, from the Girl's best friend to the Guy's best friend: "If I could kill someone with my mind right now, it would be you."

The Devil and Miss Prym: A Novel of Temptation by Paulo Coelho

This little novel is a quick read, but unfortunately, I didn't like it much. It's possible that I objected most to the parable-like style of it. I had the same feeling of impatience while reading Ishmael by Daniel Quinn: interesting ideas, but just get to the point already!

On the other hand, we had a very interesting discussion about it at one of the book clubs I go to.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Waitress (2007)

This independent film was recommended to me by my friend Kim. I'd seen it in our local video rental store many times and was always intrigued, but I avoided it because the description on the back hinted that the main character, Jenna, might cheat on her husband, and normally I'm against that kind of thing and don't really want a movie to make me feel all warm and fuzzy about the new guy, who's so much better for her and really understands her, etc., etc.

But Kim recommended it, and I trust Kim. I liked it a lot. There is marital infidelity in it, but the movie doesn't force you accept it as somehow inevitable and the only way to true happiness, and it serves to develop the characters quite a bit. The characters are more complex than in most movies, too. There are great scenes where the Jenna, a waitress who makes unique pies at the diner where she works, creates pie recipes with names based on what's happening in her life: "I Hate My Husband" Pie (he's definitely hateable) and "Earl Murders Me Because I'm Having an Affair" Pie (I don't think I'm giving anything away here).

Anyway, it's a good movie that actually makes you understand life and people a little better. Thanks for the recommendation, Kim!

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Don't read this part unless you want to be sad; it kind of ruined my initial enjoyment of the movie: The film was written and directed by Adrienne Shelly, who also plays Jenna's fellow waitress and friend Dawn. She was pregnant when she wrote the film, and her daughter plays the toddler at the end. Just after it was accepted at the Sundance Film Festival, Adrienne Shelly was murdered, apparently in a fairly random incident: she walked into her office and found someone stealing money from her purse, and he killed her and tried to make it look like a suicide by hanging her from a shower rod with a bedsheet. Her husband found her. The guy who did it is in prison now. Anyway, sad stuff happens to all kinds of people, I guess.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls

This is one of the most fascinating books I've ever read. It's the true story of the author's unusual childhood with parents who were intelligent and loving, but also eccentric, to put it mildly. They were often homeless, hungry, and "doing the skedaddle," which was her father's term for picking up in the middle of the night and fleeing bills and other responsibilities.

It's entertaining and easy to read, even when the stories are appalling. It's also thought-provoking on many levels. I coerced Jon into reading it after I finished. I could go on and on, but I'll settle for posting this right now, and if anyone wants to discuss, please comment. Highly recommended.