Friday, July 25

midsummer in entertainment

books i read
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Psychological Thriller) Gillian Flynn is a very creative author - the twists and turns in this book pretty much blew my mind.  In case you haven't gotten your hands on this bestseller yet, it's the story of a married couple, Nick and Amy, and what happens when Nick returns home from work one morning to find Amy missing and their home in disarray.  As the authorities investigate Amy's disappearance, it becomes obvious that their once perfect seeming marriage was imploding, and Nick becomes the prime suspect. The first part of the book alternates between Nick's narration and excerpts from Amy's diary, found in the crime scene.  Nick finds himself the beleaguered object of a media frenzy, and his appearances on press conferences and a television show that is obviously based on Nancy Grace leave him stunned and shaken; meanwhile, Amy's journal entries present her as a woman who was doing her best to be a loving wife to a volatile man.  It was hard to tell whose side of the story was the trustworthy one.  Flynn was definitely able to surprise me, and the story built suspense so well that I felt like I had to keep reading, but by the end, I didn't like any of the characters and I was absolutely mortified by the ending. 

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (Fantasy/Parody) - This book has been on my to-read list for ages; although it was published in 1990, for some reason a few years ago it became very popular in the Harry Potter fandom and I thought it was actually a new book when it fact it had simply been re-released in hardcover.  Neil Gaiman is one of my all-time favorite authors, but I've never read anything by Terry Pratchett; Good Omens reads like it is written in one voice, full of equal parts whimsy and sarcasm.  The book's two main characters, Aziraphale and Crowley, are an angel and a demon, respectively, and have become friends since the whole Garden of Eden thing, learning to like humanity and help each other out with their respective duties when it's convenient.  The central plot is a parody of The Omen: Satan's spawn is going to be born on Earth, ushering in the apocalypse.  Aziraphale and Crowley decide to work together to prevent the world's end, setting a comedy of errors in motion.  The hilarious footnotes alone make reading the book worthwhile.

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (Gothic Romance) - This is my mom's favorite book and she's been encouraging me to read it for years. I am so glad I finally did! Rebecca is set in the 20th century, but reads like a classic Gothic mystery.  The narrator, a young woman traveling in Monte Carlo as a companion to a wealthy, society-obsessed lady, begins an awkward friendship with the widower Maxim de Winter.  She believes he has befriended her out of pity or a sense of chivalry, so she is shocked when he proposes.  After their honeymoon, Maxim takes her to his family estate, Manderley, where they will live.  At Manderley, the narrator begins to collect details about Maxim's wife, Rebecca, whose influence still reigns over the home, its staff, and, seemingly, Maxim himself.  Daphne du Maurier's skillful worldbuilding pulled me in and the atmosphere of the story kept me reading although there is little actual action. I did NOT see the story's major twist coming. As a fan of classic Gothic novels like Jane Eyre, I could see where du Maurier probably drew her inspiration, but I think fans of modern psychological thrillers like Gone Girl would enjoy Rebecca as well.

movies i saw

Belle - I can't say enough good things about this beautiful period film directed by Amma Asante.  It is based on a real historical person, Dido Elizabeth Belle, pictured in a 1779 painting alongside her cousin, Lady Elizabeth Murray.  The painting is exceptional because it presents a black woman and a white woman on the same eye level.  The girls' great-uncle, Lord Mansfield,was the Chief Justice of the British Court, and the film centers on one of his most important rulings.  In Asante's story, Dido Belle's father comes to retrieve her when her mother dies.  A Royal Navy officer, he takes her to live in the family home before heading back to sea, asking his uncle and aunt to love her as if she is their own.  They do their best to raise Dido as a proper English lady alongside her cousin Bette, while acknowledging societal norms that prevent her from ever feeling like a full-fledged family member.  When Dido learns, via her uncle's handsome young apprentice, about the case he is working on, in which slaves were thrown overboard from a ship, she becomes more interested than her uncle would like her to be.  While Bette's focus is on love and marriage, Dido's is on social justice. It is essential to her that her uncle rule against the ship's owner, that the slaves be regarded as human beings rather than cargo.  Gugu Mbatha-Raw is absolutely wonderful as Dido, and I think any fan of period pieces, love stories, and strong female characters will love this movie.  See if your local indie theater is playing this one, and if so, go see it!

Pacific Rim - When this movie came out, the previews made it look like a cross between Battleship and Transformers, which completely turned me off.  That's a shame, because when I finally got around to watching it I fell in love with the characters.  In the movie, Earth has been attacked by alien monsters who come through a breach in the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.  The only way to fight the monsters, apparently, is through giant robots that are so difficult to operate that they require two pilots linked in some kind of mind-meld.  Charlie Hunnam plays Raleigh, a pilot who has been re-recruited following his brother's death. When he arrives in Hong Kong, he takes an interest in Mako, the Japanese director of the program who dreams of becoming a pilot.  Even though Raleigh and Mako's emotions make them slightly unstable as pilots, they become a team.  I love Guillermo del Toro for making Mako a really strong, capable female character who is also very emotional.  I also love him for casting Charlie Day as a crazy scientist with tattoo sleeves who has been studying the aliens for so long he kind of loves them.  It's not the greatest written movie ever, but it is fun to watch and word on the web has it del Toro is working on a sequel.

Ender's Game - Apparently I'm on a sci-fi kick when it comes to movies?  The Orson Scott Card novel this movie is based on is a science fiction classic, and one I frequently recommend to my students.  The story focuses on Ender Wiggin, a child enrolled in Battle School, a program that trains gifted children to fight the alien species that attacked Earth and may return at any time. Pegged as a potential leader, Ender is constantly being watched by the school's superior officer, Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford doing a perfect job) and psychologist, Major Anderson (Viola Davis, flawless as always), even as he is subjected to horrible bullying and aggression at the hands of the other students.  I haven't read the book in years, but this adaptation seemed very faithful to the spirit of the book, and as I watched, I started to remember the scenes and characters.  I would really enjoy sharing this movie, and the book it's based on, with the right group of students.

television favorites

The Night Shift - I've mentioned this show, set in a San Antonio hospital's emergency department, a few other times here on the blog, and it keeps getting better as the characters get more fleshed out.  I think my favorite character is Krista the intern: find out your love interest is gay?  Become his best friend, drop truth bombs on him as needed, and keep being an awesome doctor.  The season finale had a cliffhanger ending that was absolutely insane. Come back soon, Night Shift!

So You Think You Can Dance - Things have finally started to get interesting on SYTYCD!  The top 20 dancers have performed in their own styles, with partners from a different style, and, this week, with the partners they'll be sticking with for a while.  There have already been some amazing dances that will probably be performed again when we get into the finale shows!

What's been keeping you entertained lately?  Do 
you have any recommendations for me to check out?

Linking Up:
Little Friday at The Grits Blog


  1. I actually just finished Good Omens last night! I did enjoy it, but I'm still not quite sure it lived up to my expectations. I do have my full review planned on the blog, and it'll be up in a few weeks.

    And i actually wasn't a huge fan of Pacific Rim, but I know the boy was, so we'll probably be seeing the sequel. And finally, while I'm sure I would love it, I haven't actually have to chance to see Belle yet. Although I'm guessing at this point I probably won't be seeing it in the theaters.

    1. I think I had really high expectations for Good Omens as well - I just remember it being SO popular a few years ago and people I knew online basically being *obsessed* with Aziraphale and Crowley. I thought it was really witty but American Gods is still my favorite Gaiman book, and I really liked The Graveyard Book.

      I do think you'd love Belle!