:The Cloud Pavilion
, by Laura Joh Rowland: OMG THINGS DO NOT LOOK GOOD FOR OUR HERO! ( Spoilers like WHOA. )Graceling
, by Kristin Cashore: I need everyone to read this book so that I can talk about plot specifics, because I would hate to spoil this for anyone, and also because it was just a damn good read. While this is technically a YA fantasy, I would not hand this out to just any kid--the violence in the plot is very high, and Cashore's descriptions of it pull no punches (ha, ha.) Without giving away too much, I can say that I have not read a book like this in a while--that obsessive need-to-know feeling came and grabbed on to me about page 40 or so and did not let up until the very end. Cashore knows how to write fight scenes in a way that both keeps the story going but puts the reader smack in the middle, worried that one of the blows might land on them. Great, layered characters abound, and there's a villain with a truly terrifying magical power. Highly, highly recommended!In Manga
, Volume 1, by Rumiko Takahashi: Takahashi was my "gateway drug" into the world of manga, way way back in junior high, and I'm always excited to see her name on the shelf, especially if I can get in on the ground floor (or first volume) of her incredibly long narratives. Rinne
appears to be borrowing heavily from her previous works (a mysterious boy! an ordinary girl! supernatural hijinks!) and from the current manga-world obsession with shinigami
(death gods), but I see potential here for something greater, with a Takahashi twist of humor and gravitas. I also like that the conflict, so far, seems to stem from the main male character's relationship with his grandmother, and not from a series of increasingly ugly villains. The main female character is plucky but not annoyingly cheerful. Definitely worth looking into, especially since this is supposed to be a near-simultaneous release with the Japanese installments.Yotsuba to!
, Volume 9, by Kiyohiko Azuma: The gentle good humor of this manga never ceases to delight me. In this volume, Yotsuba and her Dad buy a teddy bear (it makes a sound like a sheep: meeeeeeh
, to Yotsuba's delight), Yotsuba attempts to help out one of her neighbors by bringing coffee over, but can never make it between houses without spilling the entire mug's worth (to her despair), and there's a trip to a hot air balloon festival. It's an idyllic view of everyday life, but never too sentimentalized or overdone. I'm also getting some fabulous kanji practice in.In Movies
: I would have been willing to forgive this movie a lot of plot foibles were it not for one my most despised Hollywood visual motifs surfacing before the final act. How do we know that Holmes is a tortured genius? Because HE WRITES ON THE WALLS (in lieu of a chalkboard or whiteboard), and then grimly contemplates WHAT HE DOES NOT KNOW until a MOMENT OF REVELATION comes along. I'm willing to put up with this sort of thing in "House" because most of the time the rest of the script is interesting enough and the mystery compelling; however, in this movie, there wasn't enough interesting or compelling to go around. The entire thing felt like an Indiana Jones matinee, except with Holmes and Watson flailing around London and fighting off thugs of assorted toughness. In fact, the whole thing felt like a half-baked RPG campaign in which the DM was sort of making things up as he/she/it went along. The ideas were there (the occult plot was initially intriguing, and felt appropriate to the Conan Doyle world) but the execution of them was sub-par at best. The story was also held back by the under-utilization of Irene Adler (and by the casting choice of Rachel McAdams, who, while very pretty, does not have the presence to truly make this character seem like Holmes' equal) and an over-reliance on too-fast editing. There was a very clumsy set-up of a sequel. All in all, a rather disappointing outing, especially taking into consideration the good casting of Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law, who do make a nice Holmes/Watson team (and are easy on the eyes.)Flow: For the Love of Water
: This is a highly worthwhile documentary, but, man oh man, is it ever depressing. I will never buy another bottled water again. And I am so glad that I live in a place where the water is (at least reasonably) clean and safe. But as with Food, Inc.
, there was the problem of too much overwrought emotional appeal, and the thread of the argument got lost amongst the anti-big-business ranting. Really, I think a lot of leftist film makers need to take their hands off the wheel and just let the facts speak for themselves. For example, in one of the most aggravating cases in the film, the filmmakers focus on townspeople in Michigan who were suing Nestle for draining their water tables for the bottled water plant one town over. Nestle continued to drain the water during the trial, despite repeated evidence that draining was destroying the local ecosystem and the townspeoples' livelihoods, stating that they (the company) had a right to that water. This is so egregiously wrong that I wanted to throw things. The filmmakers did not need to include a clip from Hitchcock's The Third Man
to illustrate how big companies don't care about people; all of their proof was right there on the screen.