Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Weeks Too Late: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. Directed by Tom Tykwer & Written by Andrew Birkin, Bernd Eichinger & Tom Tykwer (Screenplay).

Aside (but enough about me, how are you doing?): Due to popular demand (alright one or two people mentioned they liked it) me and my lovely cohort have decided to do another one of these tandem movie and book reviews. You are excited, I know you are.

Preconceptions: Nerts, I read and enjoyed Perfume the novel a few years back. Why is this a bad thing, you ask? Usually, I try not to read the source material of the movies based on books until later, if I intend to review them. I know the last thing I'd want to read in a movie review is mewling about how much better the book was. I mean, typically (with a few exceptions, I'm looking at you: Thank You for Smoking) the book has a heads up on the movie. But who cares? It's a pretty widely held belief and doesn't tell you a damned thing about the flick. So I'll try and keep that muck out of here.

That being said, I know that Tom Tykwer had a pretty big task in front of him. Making a movie revolving around the sense of smell is a pretty tricky task. I've got no idea how you'd even begin to do that.

Finally: Uuuugh two and a half hours? My goldfish attention span thinks that is probably too long.

General Review: Alright. So I was wrong about the length. One of the best things about Perfume was the pacing. It kept me interested for the full two and a half hours and none of the acts dragged (not even the second, usually the most wig wearing, besequined, draggiest of acts). Another bit of high praise is the way the extremely different acts fit neatly together. We go from feral boy child, to perfume slave, to murderer remarkably smoothly. I was afraid it'd feel like watching three different movies (particularly since it was so damned long), but not at all.

Overall I don't care for narrators. With very few exceptions they feel like sloppy story telling. And it's jarring having some godlike figure yacking over the movie telling me how I should feel and reminding me what's going on. Goldfish like attention span or not, I can usually manage on my own. Unfortunately, Perfume wasn't one of the exceptions. I know Tykwer had a lot to convey with a nearly mute main character and the sense of smell; but that was the challenge he took on. And actually, a lot of the time when the narrator was gabbling on, I probably could have figured out what was happening without the help. The scene where Grenouille (the main guy) follows the sweet smelling girl through the streets would have been a lot more powerful in silence. Or maybe with one or two lines of added dialogue.

A little more trust that the audience wasn't packed with dullards would have been nice. More than once, I wanted to kick Tykwer in the shins and tell him I didn't need his help or condescension. While at some points of the movie I wanted to throw a tantrum at him, Tykwer did manage to convey the sense of smell visually. Alright, a few of the ways he did this were a bit clumsy (ahem, narrator, ahem) but most of them weren't. Ben Whishaw's performance definitely helped.

Alright, lets talk actors. Man, was Ben Whishaw good. He's a pretty major reason a lot of the difficult scenes worked. He sold the whole feral, meticulous, tortured genius thing. It didn't come off campy or mincing or over the top (I'm looking at you: Brian Cox as Dr. Lecktor in Manhunter). And man oh man, was Dustin Hoffman bad. The character of Giuseppe Baldini, the old Italian failing perfumer, was pretty freaking funny. Dustin Hoffman playing him as the same old New York Jew I've seen him play in countless movies, was not.

I know Alan Rickman was a good guy in this...but I was convinced right to the end that he'd suddenly laugh manically and kill or terrorize his own daughter. He's just got such good bad guy presence.

Ultimately, I found the end of the movie a bit unsatisfying. I know, I know, it's the same one as the book and they're doing a Jesus allegory. A Jesus allegory doesn't make something good, even if you set it up earlier in the movie. Despite my couple of quibbles, overall it was a a movie worth seeing and not a bad book adaptation.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Girl on Book Action: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind
ISBN: 0-375-72584-9


In the slums of 18th-century Paris a baby is born and abandoned, passed over to monks as a charity case. But the monks can find no one to care for the child – he is too demanding, and he doesn’t smell the way a baby should smell. In fact, he has no scent at all.

Jean-Baptiste Grenouille clings to life with an iron will, growing into a dark and sinister young man who, although he has no scent of his own possesses an incomparable sense of smell. Never having known human kindness, Grenouille lives only to decipher the odors around him, the complex swirl of smells – ashes and leather, rancid cheese and fresh-baked bread – that is Paris. He apprentices himself to a perfumer, and quickly masters the ancient art of mixing flowers, herbs and oils. Then one day he catches a faint whiff of something so exquisite he is determined to capture it. Obsessed, Grenouille follows the scent until he locates its source – a beautiful young virgin on the brink of womanhood. As his demented quest to create the “ultimate perfume” leads him to murder, we are caught up in a rising storm of terror until his final triumph explodes all of its horrifying consequences. Told with dazzling narrative brilliance, Perfume is a hauntingly powerful tale of unnatural passion and sensual depravity.

Preface: This week we once again offer up a combination post, where I review the book and Wren shall review the movie version of Perfume. These reviews are also part of the vampire reviews (I explain this connection in more detail in my actual review, so keep reading). Now onwards to the actual post!

My Thoughts:

This was the second time that I’ve read this novel, but the first time I read it was some six years ago. I have to admit, I’m not sure how I feel about this book, regardless of having read it more than once.

I’m just going to get into it without much preamble. I think the problem I have with this story is that there is nothing human that allows the reader to relate to what is happening. Grenouille is a character with whom you can’t really sympathize and none of the other characters are even present enough to act as anchors. Now, you might argue that not having a character to be emotionally involved with allows for critical thought regarding the material being presented, and you might be right. However, I think that it is possible to write emotionally engaging fiction that also makes readers think.

The novel is well written, although I wonder if maybe some of the impact was lost in the translation (the book was written in German). I always felt as though I was skimming on the top of the narrative without really being able to dive below the surface. Stylistically speaking there were also a lot of long passages of descriptions of different smells, which I found to be a little bit too much as these sections sometimes just ended up being long lists of things.

Perhaps the language and the characterization combined were what made me feel as though I was always held too far outside of the narrative and so didn't enjoy the book as much as I might have liked. I suppose a book needs at least one of the two to make me feel engaged with what I'm reading and this one delivered neither.

Probably the most interesting exercise with regard to this novel is reading Grenouille as a sort of vampire: he doesn’t have a scent of his own so he has to steal scent from objects and ultimately people in order to survive. Rather than killing for blood, he is killing for scent. Given my interest in vampires, this kind of reading is appealing to me (and the possibility of this reading is also why this novel and movie are included in the material of the vampire class I took some years ago).

My overall sentiment is actually that I was bored reading most of the time, and I can’t tell if that has to do with having read the book before, or if I was just bored in general. No matter how hard I try to be interested in the ideas presented regarding human nature, the importance of something like scent, nature versus nurture I just can’t get excited about any of it. I thought that a character with such disdain for humanity might be an engaging perspective, but I was wrong. Perhaps I’m just not an olfactory person and that may detract from my involvement with the topic. Or maybe it’s just that it’s very difficult to write a novel where the primary sense is that of smell, because the written word might not be adequate in conveying this sense. I just can’t tell exactly where the problem is, so I’m left feeling bored and vaguely annoyed.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Weeks Too Late: How To Train Your Dragon

How To Train Your Dragon. Directed by Dean DeBlois & Chris Sanders & written by William Davies, Dean DeBlois & Chris Sanders.

Preconceptions: It is a matter of public record that I have a surprising soft spot for children's movies. However, much of the CG animated crop lately has been dull, dull, dull. I don't expect great and complicated plotting in a movie meant for kids, but the movies don't have to be tiresome either. I was planning to give How To Train Your Dragon a miss, thinking it was going to be another Cars. Soon after I decided not to see it, I watched the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (I saw it the next morning, because Late, Late, is too late for me). He's in the movie and to plug it he said: "Do you know how How To Train Your Dragon is different from every other movie I've been in? IT'S AWESOME!" Well, this made me laugh, plus I trust that magnificent Scotsman, so I went to see it.

General Review: Don't go into this thinking it isn't a kids movie. It is. If you don't like em, you probably won't like this. It isn't one of those sophisticated flicks where kids can enjoy the main story and adults can enjoy the hidden snark. While it doesn't have the appeal to all age brackets (unless you're a weirdo that sits in the back of the theater clapping your hands and laughing at children's movies-certainly not like me) it is deeply adorable.

If you had told me three weeks ago that that the CG kid's movie would have better monsters (and fewer Sam Worthingtons) than Clash of the Titans, I would have challenged you to pistols (at dusk).

The dragons and other creatures were neat and I generally liked the look of the whole flick. With apologies to my movie going friend of Scandinavian descent, I'm a fan of the giant horned Viking helmets (and a fan of sitting in a movie with someone who knows down to her bones that they didn't wear them, or have Scottish accents. Seriously. Hilarious.). The monsters lurking around in fog looked great and so did the characters and village. A lot of the time you only get cool looking monsters or good looking people. Not the case in this. Unfortunately, still suffering from regret (and a headache) from the terrible 3D in Alice, we chose to see this in flat, so I can't report back on the quality of the 3D.

The story is a pretty simple finding your place in the world standard. What was nice to see was that a pretty usual boy's story about coming of age and seeking your fortune, was about learning to cohabitate with the people around you rather than having to defeat them. While most of the story was pretty usual, I thought that was a cool diversion. (Alright, I'll admit that what I liked even MORE was that the main girl character wanted to go out there and slay. Right on, battle axe sister!)

I haven't seen Jay Baruchel (who voiced the main kid) in anything before, but he was good in this. He sold some pretty cheesy lines, and selling cheese always impresses me. Actually, his strong showing is making me lean towards seeing his strange looking new movie Trotsky. Craig Ferguson, of course, was fun, but didn't really do much in the way of acting. More like....voice showing up and recording than voice acting.

Random Thoughts (beware ye readers for here there be spoilers): The movie also delivers on its premise. It makes it abundantly clear that how you train your dragon is to cripple it first. It also seems to work on children.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Girl on Book Action: Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean by Justin Somper

Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean by Justin Somper
ISBN: 978-0-316-01373-4


Twins Connor and Grace never dreamed that there was any truth to the Vampirates shanty their father sang to them before he died, but that was before the two were shipwrecked and separated from each other. For Connor, who is taken aboard a pirate ship, there’s the chance to learn to sword fight, but for Grace, aboard a mysterious ship of vampires, the danger is great.

The lure of the pirate life at sea may be just tempting enough to make Connor forget his past, but without him, Grace will not be able to survive.

If you’re ready for an adventure that will take you into the future, aboard a pirate ship and a ship of vampires, join Connor and Grace in an unforgettable race against time and the elements.


My Thoughts:

Where do I begin? I guess at the beginning, where I tell you about how I came to purchase and subsequently read this book. My lovely cohort and I were meandering around a mall, disappointed with the lack of awesome things to buy and we decided we deserved a break so we went to the bookstore. While picking our way through the bargain section, we spotted Vampirates and for the low price of $6 I just couldn’t say no.

I wasn’t really expecting a lot aside from the story being ridiculous and it was fairly ridiculous, but it was also problematic. I know it’s a children’s / YA book, but that doesn’t mean that important details of time and place should be ignored. The book is set in the future (2505), but the pirate ships are you know, the kind we expect from the 17th and 18th centuries. This disparity is never explained. There are also repeated references to the ocean rising at some point, but that isn’t really addressed in the book either. Another major complaint for me is that, while this is a book meant for younger audiences, I think the fact that the pirates make a point of not killing anyone when they plunder and pillage and the vampires are also “nice” vampires that don’t kill people is lame. I think Vampirates should at least be a little scary. They also didn’t really seem like pirates since from what I saw in this first installment they mostly just hid and didn’t plunder and pillage. Everyone was just too nice. There was less killing in this book than in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

I think the absolute best part of the whole novel is the Vampirate Shanty. Various lines and snippets from this Shanty show up in nearly every chapter. Let me share with you my favourite stanza:

“The Vampirate ship has tattered sails,
That flap like wings in flight.
They say the captain, he wears a veil
So as to curtail your fright
At his death-pale skin
And his lifeless eyes
And his teeth as sharp as night.
Oh, they say that the captain, he wears a veil
And his eyes never see the light.”
(Somper, pg. 8)

Pretty awesome, don’t you think? That had us laughing pretty hard, especially the veil part. Really, with a shanty like that how could anyone not want to read this book? Another selling point is that it’s a children’s book, so it takes about 2 hours to read it. So if you see it in a bargain bin somewhere I would recommend it, mostly for the novelty of the title and the shanty. If I had children, I think I would buy this for them and let them read it – but I would probably accompany their reading with discussions on the true nature of vampires and issues regarding the unexplained anachronisms (yes, I would likely be a terribly boring mother ruining all of their childhood fun).

So the overall verdict: worth the $6 due to amount of laughter induced. And I may read the other 4 or 5 books in the series if I see them for a reasonable price in the future. Also, not a bad bet if you have children.

Postscript: And here are your poll results. I'll be reading Portrait of a Lady by Henry James (3 votes), both of the other choices held their own with 2 votes each. Thank you to everyone who voted.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Weeks Too Late: Clash of the Titans

Weeks Too Late: Clash of the Titans. Directed by Louis Leterrier & Written by Travis Beacham & Phil Hay.

Preconceptions: I like movies about monsters and swording. A lot. There are few things I enjoy more than clapping my hands while a hero jumps around stabbing at some great rubber or CG thing (too easy). I haven't seen the original Clash of the Titans since I was a very young girl, but I enjoyed it then and my tastes have changed very little. Fortunately for you, my little cupcakes, I haven't seen it in ages and this review will not be me boo-hooing about how a treasured childhood memory has been ruined. I have, however, read the Greek myths about Perseus recently, but I'll try to keep my nerd complaining to a minimum (no promises).

General Review: You know I don't like to talk about the acting first...but I can't seem to get past how much I hate Sam Worthington. I keep trying to write about other aspects of the movie, both ones that I enjoyed and hated, but Worthington's terrible acting is stuck in my craw. In this day and age, I rarely go out to see a movie where the headliner's acting is truly rancid. Oh it happens (like when I'm forced to watch that mouth breathing skank bucket Megan Fox), but usually it'll be that the quality of acting isn't what I'm expecting, or it's a bit flat.

Worthington's skill level shouldn't be seen outside of fan films and it certainly shouldn't be seen in a giant blockbuster. He was flat and uninspired in Avatar, but I didn't hold that against him. The writing in that was pretty lame and even one of my favourite leading ladies Sigourney Weaver (who's gone from MILF to GILF in my books) didn't make her role sparkle.

As a side note, does loving Sigourney Weaver and hating Megan Fox make me a tired gay man stereotype? I'm leaning towards yes. Stupid Wren, quit being a hack. Where was I? Yes. Worthington had some not terrible standard heroic speeches, the whole "Gods killed my family, who needs gods?" "lets all go show those giant monsters!" sort of thing. He might as well have been telling me about the soup special. Apparently, he falls in love with one of the chick characters, but you could have fooled me. You'd think getting into a mock fight and grinding her into the floor would show interest, but nope, not that I could see.

Alright, alright, something about Titans that isn't Sam Worthington hate related. Hmm. Well, I know a lot of the visuals were meant as homages to the old movie. Unfortunately, rather than being charming they just looked cheap. How you make a multi-million dollar movie look like it was filmed in my garage with some throw pillows, I don't know.

The monster fighting and swording you ask? How was that? I stomp my little foot, because it was dull, dull, dull. Alright: the Medusa fight was pretty cool. But other than that, snoozeville. And spoiler alert: the Kraken (which I'm pretty sure has been released) looks like a giant turtle with tentacles. Pfft. The movie based on a ride had a better Kraken than that. My BATHTUB has a better Kraken (he eats the rubber duckies, I call him Bathken and he has a loofa). I don't want to waste much time talking about Hades (the main bad guy) because the movie certainly didn't take any time making him cool or interesting. But in passing, a grey, floating, hunchback does not an inspired villain make.

I know it wasn't meant to be an ensemble movie or anything, but there was a lot of walking on, delivering a line and then wandering off again. Whole groups of characters were introduced to be basically ignored the rest of the movie or killed almost immediately. I understand the need for cannon fodder in a swording movie, but eesh, why give them names at all? The gods were barely even introduced. Most of them just glittered softly in the background (while Zeus glittered outrageously in the foreground).

Now, if I may break out my myth nerd for a minute: I will say I liked the choice to make it a story about men defying the gods with their own gumption, rather than men going around picking up god-treasures and using them to win. That works a bit better for me than the original (the myth not the movie). Something they cut from the original that I do miss is Perseus being a lying, tricksy Bugs Bunny character. I liked him better as a smooth talking cheater than as the bland hero. And boy a hero could not get more bland than Sam Worth...never mind.

To conclude, I spit on Sam Worthington's name, I think this movie was filmed on location at my house and don't bother with this until the rifftrax comes out.

Random Thoughts: I'm not saying that Alexa Davalos isn't pretty or anything...but if you're going to pick someone who's supposed to be the most beautiful woman in the world, a woman who's gorgeousness threatens the gods, you might want to aim a little higher.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Girl on Book Action: Reader's Choice Poll #3

Candidates for Reader’s Choice Poll #3

As with the last poll, I’ll be writing a short little paragraph about each book. Please take this opportunity to tell me what to do and cast a vote!

The Portrait of a Lady – Henry James

We’ll start with the “fiction and literature” pick. This time we have a piece of American fiction, which I picked up on a whim at the bookstore the other day. I know nothing about it, really, aside from what I read on the back cover.

Monster Island: A Zombie Novel – David Wellington

And this would be our “fantasy / horror / sci-fi” selection. If you recall, I reviewed David Wellington’s newest novel Frostbite in January. Monster Island is the first part in a trilogy about zombies that he wrote. That seems pretty straight forward, right?

The Red Tent – Anita Diamant

Last, but certainly not least, we have the “re-read” selection. This book is an elaboration of the life and story of Dinah, who appears briefly in the Bible. I read this first some years ago and found that it was deeply moving in the way in gives a voice to a female character who is nothing more than a sidenote in the Book of Genesis.

Girl on Book Action: The Red Tree by Caitlín R. Kiernan

The Red Tree by Caitlín R. Kiernan
ISBN: 978-0-451-46276-3


Sarah Crowe left Atlanta, and the remnants of a tumultuous relationship, to live alone in an old house in rural Rhode Island. Within its walls she discovers an unfinished manuscript written by the house’s former tenant – a parapsychologist obsessed with the ancient oak growing on a desolate corner of the property.

Tied to local legends of supernatural magic, as well as documented accidents and murders, the gnarled tree takes root in Sarah’s imagination, prompting her to write her own account of its unsavory history.

And as the oak continues to possess her dreams and almost all her waking thoughts, Sarah risks her health and her sanity to unearth a revelation planted centuries ago…


My Thoughts:

The Red Tree is the best book I read in all of 2009 and I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say that it may also be the best book I’ll read in 2010. The first time I read it, I read through it in one day, only taking breaks for food – it was a sort of mad-dash through this 380 page narrative that left me feeling haunted and wistful and wanting more. I finally caved, giving in to the craving and re-read it now and when I finished the last page I had a strong urge to just flip back to the beginning again and start over once more. There is something so beautiful and terrifying in this story.

Let me get my gripes out of the way. Really, there is only one and that is that the book ends as it inevitably must end. The Red Tree is my “stranded on an island book.” It’s a book that could keep me satisfied for years and years. Okay, enough of my unabashed gushing.

Writing a review of this novel is really difficult, because I feel like no matter what I say it won’t do it justice. I’m not sure I have the right words to express the intricacies of the narrative, the allusiveness, the deep unconscious impact of Kiernan’s prose.

I realize I still haven’t said anything specific or concrete and I don’t know how to say anything without possibly spoiling the book, but I’m going to have to say something.

Caitlín R. Kiernan has a gift that transcends her amazing use of language and pushes her into the realm of mythmaking. While reading The Red Tree I began to feel reality subtly shifting around me. The narrator’s journey into what can be explained as either madness or the strange malevolent mythology of the red tree pulls you in and doesn’t let you go. It leaves you puzzling out the clues and details and wondering endlessly about what is real and what is madness. Kiernan’s ability to draw on emotion and dreams, her talent for blending and molding what is real and what is not is breathtaking.

I think part of the emotional impact of this novel comes from the first person narration – a stylistic departure from Kiernan’s earlier works which are written in third-person. The apparent confessions of Sarah Crowe, her digressions, her self-deprecation in the journal entries make you feel close to her and that’s the big trap and once you’ve stepped too close you're lost in this impossible world. It doesn’t matter if the world Sarah Crowe sees is real or if it’s a delusion, because you’re invested in her even if you don’t always like her. I love the way Kiernan employs unreliability in her narrator. It reminded me of Nabokov’s Pale Fire for some reason. Another specific thing I really loved was the use of dream sequences. The nightmares added another layer to the intricate web of reality vs. delusion.

The setting was well-chosen and the atmosphere of isolation and loneliness played a large role in the appeal of the novel. Wight Farm is a creepy house and the surrounding area sounds like it might get really unsettling if you’re just alone out there.

I’m starting to feel as though I’m just rambling on and on, so I think I will bring this review to a conclusion. I love this book. You should read it.

I am going to add a warning here: Since this book deals with intense emotional issues and delusions, and because it is so powerful I wouldn't recommend it to people who are feeling depressed or psychologically unstable.

A quick note on the images: the first is the official cover; the second is an alternate cover.

Anyway – best book of 2009, strong contender for best book of 2010. You should read this book.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Weeks Too Late: Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland. Directed by Tim Burton & Written by Linda Woolverton (screenplay).

Preconceptions: Well, my little cupcakes, it's no surprise that I've been anxiously awaiting the new Alice in Wonderland movie. And not just because 16 year old me would be dancing for joy at all the tie in merchandise (lacy gloves and befeathered hats, you say?). Though I do admit that part of the excitement came from the knowledge that 16 year old me would have loved the idea of Tim Burton working on a creative property that 6 year old me liked.

Look at tiny me:
Of course I would have loved this years ago.

And just so we're clear, my cohort with more refined tastes would have loved it too:

But despite the endorsement of young me I wasn't entirely gung-ho. I'm well aware that edgy teen versions of story book characters have long since peeked (not that I can think of much except Lost Girls that I really enjoyed it in). However, no matter how hackneyed an idea is, I'm usually willing to give it a go when it's done by creative teams I like (and how many teams do I really enjoy as much as Burton, Depp and Carter?).

General Review
: Oh that was fun. No shocker that a movie by Tim Burton was visually entertaining. It was nice to see him working in such a colourful palate again. As much as he does the dread and doom well, I think I prefer it when he's not just using black and red (though don't get me wrong, there is a lot of black and red). I don't know whether or not it was a supposed to be a direct sequel to Disney's 1951 animated movie but there are a number of nice design touches that tie the two together. The look of the March Hare and the talking garden for two.

Lets talk 3D. Avatar won me over to the idea that 3D didn't just have to be a cheap gimmick but could have merit on it's own. It was, in fact, in the trailers before Avatar that I saw the 3D ad for Alice. It seemed like the perfect sort of movie to utilize 3D (I seem to be saying 3D over and over again. Perhaps I'm getting paid by the mention...of 3D?). I was also curious to see what one of my favourite directors would do with the technology. Unfortunately, it was a huge let down. It was the slap dash bid to get more kids interested nonsense that I feared from 3D initially. It was blurry, didn't make use of the possibilities to make a scene look larger, or even do any really cool smoke effects with the Cheshire Cat. And it gave me a headache. This is one movie that you should see in flat.

Alright, because I can't hold off any longer, lets talk about the cast. Burton would have had to try awfully hard to find a cast that would delight me more (maybe squeeze Carey Elwes into the movie, somehow). Both Stephen Fry and Alan Rickman have those resonating voices that add to the mysterious characters of the Cheshire Cat and Caterpillar. Fry also captures the playfulness I imagined reading the books as a little girl.

I was all settled in to sigh and fawn over Depp's Mad Hatter when something strange happened. He and Crispin Glover (being the Knave of Hearts) would both be in a scene and I found myself more interested in Glover. Ew! A few bracing slaps to the face later and it was still no good. Crispin Glover was attractive in this, somehow. And to add insult to injury, more attractive than Johnny Depp. I wish I could say I was alone in my perversion, but I was not. Others felt the same way (though this time the feeling was not shared by my cohort). Shudderful.

Despite the obvious sinister mind control perpetrated by Glover, Johnny Depp didn't let the panting nerd girls down. I don't want to talk about a cool blockbuster movie as though it was high art, but there was something a bit wistful and memorable about his performance as the Hatter. I've noticed that when they work together Depp and Burton do something that I like (besides making out with Helena Bonham Carter): there is no specific romance scene between two of the characters, no mention of romance, but somehow the feel of the romance shines through. I was still thinking about it the next day, not something I often find myself doing about any aspect of big popcorn movies.

Alice in Wonderland was a good time almost all around. Just remember not to see it in 3D (pst...3D).

Random Thoughts: I don't know why the Red and White Queens seemed to be Queen Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scotts in Alice, but I quite liked it.

Everyone do the Anne Hathaway:

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Girl on Book Action: Godslayer by Jacqueline Carey

Godslayer by Jacqueline Carey
ISBN: 0-765-35098-X


Supreme Commander Lord Tanaros fled the realm of Men and chose darkness when he killed his adulterous wife and his liege king who cuckolded him. A thousand years have passed in service to his master, the dark god Satoris. The world views Satoris as Evil Prime and the name Tanaros is the byword for treachery.

The races have united in their quest to rid the world of the Dark God. The key to the prophecy is the beautiful Elvish princess Cerelinde – and Satoris has captured her.

Yet not all tales told are true. Satoris refuses to act like the monster that he is made out to be for he recognizes in Cerelinde a spark of the love that he once bore for his fellow gods. But this spark of light might prove to be a danger to Satoris…and a greater danger for Tanaros and all that he holds dear. For Cerelinde might remind him that the heart that he willed to iron an eon ago is still very much mortal.


My Thoughts:

Last week I reviewed the first part of this duology and here I shall review the conclusion.

Just as a general warning, since this is part two there might be some slight spoilers for Banewreaker scattered throughout this review, but I’ll try to be vague as much as possible so I don’t ruin for anyone who wants to read these books without knowing the outcome ahead of time.

Let me begin by saying that the phrase “it smelled like blood only sweeter” was basically absent from this book, which was a great relief for me. I don’t think I could have stomached it otherwise.

I’m also glad that while Carey’s characters weren’t particularly flat, they also weren’t the kind of characters that you have a lot of emotional attachments to – since if you did you’d spend most of this book lamenting that they have died. I suppose in a book that leads up to a big battle you have to expect some casualties, but considering the build-up of the first book, the deaths were not what I was expecting. And some characters' deaths were almost glossed-over, which I suppose could be read as a product of large scale battles where the loss of life is so great that focusing on the individuals, even if they are powerful, seems senseless.

I guess overall I just wasn’t impressed with the way the story turned out in the end. I was hoping for more than what I got. I’m not sure what that more really could have been; I just know that the resolution left me feeling unhappy.

I probably enjoyed the last 100-150 pages of the book the most, because things were finally happening. As with most quest-narratives there is a lot of repetition of themes, like the heroes are nearly caught, or things don’t go as expected for the villains, that type of stuff. So when the plot finally advanced to the showdown I was relieved and interested enough that I stayed up way too late in order to get to the end. Now that I’ve gotten there I’m not sure it was worth losing a couple of hours of sleep over.

Ultimately, my issues with the way the book turned out probably go back to this being mid-grade fantasy. I’ve come to expect more from Carey as a writer based on her Kushiel books, and more from fantasy due to writers I’ve mentioned in this blog before. I know that Carey can write characters that a reader cares about deeply, I also know that she can make you cringe and laugh and cry, but somehow that magic that she’s shown in other novels wasn’t present for this duology. There were hints of it throughout, but it never came out fully. And I’m starting to feel as though I’m repeating myself, so perhaps it’s time to wrap this up.

My overall opinion remains that these books are worth reading and are enjoyable, although you could read better in both the genre and also by the author. As I said in last week’s post, this duology might be a good alternative to Carey’s more sensual books if those aren’t quite your cup of tea as this story is rather chaste. I also think that there is quite a bit of value in these as a response to Lord of the Rings as the outcome, while disappointing in some respects, does still complicate the straightforward nature of the quest-narrative.

Post Script: I know you’ve all been wondering about when I’ll be doing another Reader’s Choice Poll, and the answer is that I’ll be starting a new one next week. So there you go!