Reading and Reviewing

As I said in my last blog post, I’ve been reading a lot lately, at almost a dangerous pace.  So much so fast that it seems I could have a reading crash and injure my dictionary.  But I still am not as bad as my wife, who I caught reading while she was walking down the stairs two nights ago.  In a house with kids, not watching where you are going is really not a great idea.

So what’s been on my reading list?

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch.  This is a pretty famous book about a computer science professor from Carnegie Mellon University who is diagnosed with cancer, and the inspirational last lecture he gave to his students and the faculty there.  It’s a quick read, but it isn’t always easy, and if you’re not careful, it may just change your life.  You should also watch the video of his last lecture (either before or after is fine)

I got a lot lighter in reading after that.

The Spellman Files, Curse of the Spellmans and Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz (Yes I read all three of these in the past month).  A series of novels about a private investigating family in San Francisco.  The books are good, pretty funny and a quick read, but they have one really annoying flaw that drove me nuts.  Footnotes.  Not footnotes as in references to other books, but parentheticals that constantly distract from the flow of the story.  As a writer, I’ve learned to never distract the reader and disturb the flow.  A couple of times, this might be fine, but, to do it so constantly is just annoying, and were it not for my OCD and the fact that my wife recommended the books, I would have stopped after book one.  My hope is that Lutz stops this practice going forward, or at least minimizes this device.  I’d like to read more about the Spellmans, but I’m on the edge about actually doing it if I have to fight through the distractions.

Life As We Knew It – Susan Beth Pfeffer – A great Young Adult Apocalyptic fiction book that will have you restocking your pantry by the last chapter.  We bought this book at John Scalzi’s recommendation.  Lisa loved this book and so did I.

The Inside Ring – Mike Lawson – A disclaimer here, I’ve met Mike a couple of times at PNWA functions and got him to autograph this book.  This is a political thriller revolving around the attempted assassination of the President of the US.  It’s a good book, but I can tell that it is a writer’s first book, and it has a couple of flaws that I noticed as a writer, that the average reader my not.  I’ll read more of Mike’s work, and from what I hear, the writing gets better in the next book.

As for Movies, with the death of the 2009-2010 TV season, I’ve had more time to watch movies.  So here are the recent ones.

Seven Pounds – Will Smith – 3/4 Stars.  If you don’t tear up at the end of this one… then you weren’t sitting where I was last night. This was a much better movie than I expected, and I really liked it.

The Enforcer/The Dead Pool – Clint Eastwood.  Two movies in the Dirty Harry series.  I’ve been watching these to say that I have, but I was really glad they were only about 90 minutes of my time and that I watched them when I couldn’t really do anything else. 0/4 stars.  Keep those three hours of your life and use them to take a bath or something.

The Blind Side – Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw – A true story about a white family in Tennessee who takes in a disadvantaged black kid from the projects who goes on to play in the NFL.  Not a bad movie, and worth a watch, especially since I’m a big NFL fan and watched the draft where Michael Oher was drafted.  Bullock was good, but McGraw stole scenes with some great lines. 2.5/4 stars

The Hurt Locker – Oscar winning film about bomb disposal techs in Iraq.  Great movie, with really well done visuals and movie effects.  It is about the Iraq war, and there are a number of scenes that might be hard to watch.  It doesn’t drown you in them, but it doesn’t let you into a false sense of safety either. 3/4 stars

Crazy Heart – Jeff Bridges in another Oscar winning role.  Don’t expect to be uplifted by this, but the story isn’t bad, if not a little cliché at times. 2/4 stars

Notorious – An Alfred Hitchcock classic with Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman.  Good flick which seems a little cliché now… but it’s cliché now because everyone copied  them.  Every time I watch a Hitchcock movie, I gain appreciation for what he did. 3/4 stars

Surrogates – Bruce Willis – A pretty good, pure science fiction movie that I really enjoyed, but I like both SciFi and Bruce Willis, so this one may have been ideally tailored to me. 3/4 stars

The Lovely Bones – A slightly disturbing but good movie about a serial killer in the early 1970s, told through the eyes of one of his victims.  Based on a highly acclaimed book by the same name.  I haven’t read the book, but I still might, if I have time. 3/4 stars

The Commitments – A young man from Dublin forms a soul band to try to find a way out of poverty.  A great movie, but you’d better be able to understand the Irish accent to watch it, and you’d better like music.  3/4 stars

I think that’s pretty much it, for now.  It’s Saturday morning and it’s time to get some stuff done around here, so I can read more or write more or watch more this afternoon.