Since I’ve gotten my shiny new MacBook laptop and iPod Touch, I will confess to being more preoccupied with playing with my new toys than doing anything productive or useful, like blogging about the books I’ve read, the movies I’ve seen, or even finding someone—anyone in publishing who will hire me, or finishing revising my novel. (I have not even gotten coffee yet, which just attests to the awesome power of Apple and Steve Jobs.)
It’s mostly because YouTube videos will now actually play on my computer (and iPod!) instead of freezing and skipping about. Last night I stayed up until 4am binge-watching John Green and Hank Green‘s 2007 Brotherhood 2.0 project. Oh internet, never stop being awesome.
But I figure I do owe you a few reviews. This past weekend, I went down to see my Teddy Bear after a long hiatus. Our initial plans were to go paintballing (which I haven’t been since I was 13), but the weather decided it wanted to rain on our parade. Literally. Our Sunday plans to go skydiving also derailed due to inclement weather. Summer, she is mean in a different way from spring. Spring teases. Summer smothers. So Bear, The Inimitable Bex, Oz, and I decided to watch The Hangover instead.
Review of The Hangover
Admittedly, this is not my sort of comedy. I’m not much for the over-the-top manchild bromances and I wasn’t really sold on the idea of watching this. (My suggestions for the Star Trek reboot were pushed aside. What? I freaking love that movie. Also, Zachary Quinto. He has evil eyebrows, just like my Teddy Bear.) That being said, I laughed more than I expected, although I’m fairly ambivalent on the movie as a whole.
Four friends take off for Las Vegas for a stag night to remember. Except when they wake up the next morning, they can’t actually recall a thing. This is especially bad when they find a tiger in the bathroom, someone’s baby in the closet, and the complete and mysterious absence of the groom-to-be. What follows is a series of ridiculous occurrences as they try and piece together the entire night, as well as get their missing friend back to Los Angeles in time for his wedding.
There is an American comedic stock figure, and that is the sweetly earnest and morbidly stupid guy. In this movie, it’s Alan (the pudgy bearded fellow), who carries around a purse (excuse me, satchel) with Skittles, pronounces the word as re-TARD, and is Rainman-esquely good at counting cards. He annoys me, mostly because I don’t find stupidity funny. I hate Patrick from Spongebob Squarepants. I hope that fucking starfish gets washed ashore and becomes a dried husk of himself to be put on display at some seashore curio shoppe. Alan is less obnoxious, but by and large, I only laugh when someone is mean.
Scathing satire is second only to absurdist comedy when it comes to making me laugh. And by “scathing satire,” I mean “being really sadistic and cruel.” I am a mean, mean, mean person. Hence, the absolute funniest part of this movie was Ken Jeong as Leslie Chow, the gayest little Chinese man ever. He says such things as, “Hahahaha, fat guy fell out of car. It’s only funny ’cause he fat!” and “Toodleloo, muthafuckaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaas!” Also, Ken Jeong wins props because in addition to being hysterical, he’s also an M.D. from the University of North Carolina.
Other stock characters are Bradley Cooper as your standard douchebag hottie Phil and Ed Helms as the pussy-whipped straight man Stu. I like both actors; Ed Helms in particular is amazing in The Office as Andy. His impromptu song about the tiger in the bathroom is one the three scenes in The Hangover that made me cry laughing. The others were Mike Tyson’s random cameo in which he’s playing the drums to Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” and the small throwaway line from Alan at the very end: “I didn’t know they gave rings out at the Holocaust!”
All in all, it was a good social movie. Not my brand of comedy, but not bad either.
Review of LIAR by Justine Larbalestier
BEA is awesome. It might be an industry convention, but you can snag such cool swag! Not that I’ve ever attended, but I have friends who have and they do things like snag ARCs of books like Suzanne Collins’ CATCHING FIRE and Justine Larbalestier’s LIAR. Wicked Cool Riley read LIAR while I was in Los Angeles and told me she couldn’t put me down and that she thought of me as she read it.
I don’t know if that means she thinks I’m a pathological liar, but nonetheless, she was very right.
I couldn’t put it down. It is, at its heart, a mystery thriller with an extremely unreliable narrator. It also employs non-chronological storytelling, one of my favourite devices. I had heard of Justine Larbalestier before; she is Scott Westerfeld‘s wife and a member of the New York YA author scene that includes (and used to include) John Green, Maureen Johnson, Cassandra Clare, E. Lockhart, Libba Bray, etc. I have read a book by everyone else in the group, so it was Larbalestier’s turn. Like Maureen Johnson, I read her blog long before I picked up a book of hers to read. Larbalestier has written other YA novels before, including a fantasy trilogy that won the Andre Norton and a recent bestseller called HOW TO DITCH YOUR FAIRY. Apparently it takes pathological liars to prick my interest.
About halfway through the novel, the protagonist reveals something huge that alters the world in which this book is set. I’m not quite sure what I feel about it, mostly because it’s introduced relatively late. I can see the hints laid in throughout the book prior to the reveal and in many ways, it can’t be introduced sooner than that. Yet I can’t decide how I feel about it and I can’t really talk about it either, because it is rather spoilery.
Regardless, this was a compulsive, addicting read and I blasted through it until the end. The end is another bit where I’m slightly unsure of how to feel about it. Again, too spoilery to talk about, but I will say that I had hoped it would be a bit more ambiguous than it is. And the ending is ambiguous, but I wanted to be unsettled more than I already was.
This book pubs in late September 2009. It is highly recommended when it comes out.
(P.S. I like the Australian cover of LIAR better than the US one. I think it more accurately and creatively conveys in a visual medium everything in the book. The US one is more generic.)
Review of CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins
And last but most certainly not least, CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins, the sequel to HUNGER GAMES. I read HUNGER GAMES last Christmas, and while I was initially underwhelmed, subsequent rereads got under my skin. My friend Alex got a galley a couple of months before the ARCs were available at BEA and I was salivating at the mouth for a chance to get my mitts on a copy, any copy.
As there was a line about a mile long behind Alex for his galley, I resorted to asking my friend Russ if he could grab one at BEA while I was in LA. He did, sent me a text message about it, read it during my absence, and then promptly handed the book over to me the Sunday I returned to New York, along with the mockingjay pin that was part of the swag giveaways. (I less than three you, Russ! I am totally wearing it to your event tonight. Speaking of which, for all you New York publishing types, come to his event Just Working On My Novel. Look, Maud Newton wrote about it! Also, I will be reading from my own novel.)
Have you ever seen a cocaine addict try not to take a hit before the appropriate time? I haven’t, but according to Russ, that’s exactly what I was like. I had ordered Indian food and planned to spend the rest of the evening eating myself into a food coma and losing myself in the world of Panem. I was good, you see. I revised my novel while I waited for Gandhi to deliver my prawn vindaloo and vegetable samosas. But CATCHING FIRE was just…sitting there, on my desk, looking all shiny and tempting.
See my Twitter feed from that period of time (in chronological order):
- I HAS A COPY OF CATCHING FIRE. I DANCE WITH JOY.
5:59 PM Jun 14th from web
- But I will not let myself read it until I am finished revising this chapter.
6:00 PM Jun 14th from web
- Normally writing arguments & fights are fun. But I can’t seem to get this one right. CATCHING FIRE is looking so tempting…
7:06 PM Jun 14th from web
- All right, I give up. Once my Indian food gets here, I am curling up & reading CATCHING FIRE on this blustery June evening.
7:31 PM Jun 14th from web
- I will not start CATCHING FIRE before Indian food arrives. I will not. All the awesome must be experienced TOGETHER.
7:40 PM Jun 14th from web
- Finished CATCHING FIRE. They’re so cruel for making we wait for the last book!
11:19 PM Jun 14th from web
Three and a half hours later, I was a wreck. I needed to discuss the book with someone who’d read it, but it was late and all those who had were asleep. So I dumped all my book GAAAAAAAAAH on Bear, who has no time to read anything except medical journals and Fmylife.com. Poor Bear.
Upon the first read, I couldn’t actually form a coherent opinion. I practically inhaled the book and had to physically restrain myself from scanning the page to find out what happens next OMG. I bit my fingernails to the quick, worried that my beloved Peeta might not survive. On subsequent reads, I was able to savour the novel.
SPOILERS TO FOLLOW. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.
After the end of THE HUNGER GAMES, I had assumed CATCHING FIRE would be entirely about the uprisings that were sure to occur. I was half right; the uprisings forms a huge part of the plot, I just didn’t expect Katniss to go back into the Games.
Kind of stupid, I suppose, considering the entire trilogy is called The Hunger Games. However, I maintain that my idea that this entire book would be about Katniss and Peeta’s victory tour through the Districts as they try to cool the embers of dissent, only to fan them into flames of revolution, isn’t bad. Also, I would have preferred to see Katniss have to mentor someone in the Games from her own District rather than enter them again herself. In that vein, I wish the book had lingered on their tour through the districts much more; we have this amazing, heart-wrenching visit to Rue’s District 11 and then the others are perfunctorily mentioned before we speed right into another Games.
About which I’m not sure how I feel. Like, I understand why the Games take place and why Katniss is in them again. It just…wasn’t as intense as the first Hunger Games we saw. Also, the suspense decreased slightly in this portion of the book, possibly because aside from Katniss and Peeta, we’re not emotionally invested in these characters as much as the ones back in District 12. Like Gale and Prim and Katniss’s mother.
I will confess this: I rather hate Gale. I’m not sure why. In any other book, he would be the boy I’m rooting for in the love triangle that sort of develops in CATCHING FIRE: the best friend, the one that who understands who Katniss is, the one who has been by her side nearly her entire life, etc. Instead, I mostly just want him to get mauled by a bear. I can’t be sure if it’s because I love Peeta so much I want Gale to stay out of the romantic picture altogether or if it’s because Gale reminds me of someone I know. While I hate love triangles, I believe the one Suzanne Collins has created. Gale is someone Katniss has known her entire life, someone to whom everyone (including Katniss) assumed she would get married because they’re both from the Seam and both understand what it’s like to be starving and to be the sole caretaker of their respective families. On the other hand, you have Peeta, the boy who gave her bread so she might not starve when she was a child, who is sweet and steady, and with whom she was thrown in such horrible circumstances that it forged a bond between them that cannot be broken.
While the love triangle is believable and actually rather heartbreaking, what I consider Katniss’s stupidity with regards to Peeta drives me insane. I think, based on textual clues, that Katniss is in love with him, not Gale. (Although, to be fair, Katniss has avowed emotional attachment like that and unlike in Katsa from GRACELING, I believe her.) I understand her attachment to Gale (even if I personally can’t stand him), but she seems to prize her connection to him at the expense of her relationship to Peeta. Argh.
I think the biggest problem (for me), is that we see so little of Gale. We see him very briefly in the first book, and then it’s all PEETA, PEETA, PEETA. We see more of Gale in this book, but I think it’s a case of “too little, too late.” I can’t form the same emotional connection to this character, especially as we’ve never seen Gale tested. We’ve seen what Peeta is like under extreme duress. We’ve only seen Gale hunt (and then get punished for it). So for me, this is a triangle heavily biased to one side.
Regardless, when this comes out, I am totally rushing out to buy it, even though I’ve already read it. I’m so obsessed. And now I have to sit on pins and needles for the last book to come out.