Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Twilight Saga (books 1-4) by Stephenie Meyer

Yes, I'm reviewing all four books at once. Mainly because it takes me about as long to read all four as it would take me to read one really GOOD book. The series gets three stars from me. The writer in me knows the books deserve two, but since I cannot stop myself from liking them in a really bizarre, immature sort of way, I have to bump it up to three. I admit it, a little shamefacedly. I do like the series. I'm not an obsessed, crazed fan like many of the ladies I know, but I do like it (do you HEAR the begrudging tone of my voice?).
For several reasons, and in no particular order:
There is something irresistible about your first love being your only love, in spite of all opposition.
It's light and easy and I don't have to think about it. At all.
I really do like the deviation from standard vampire and werewolf lore. I think what Meyer did there was exceptionally imaginative.
I heart Jacob. He's easily the funnest, roundest character in the series. He's the reason I enjoy book 2 the most and the Jacob POV chapters in book 4 make the rest of that installment tolerable.

Now the things that irritate me EVERY time I read the series, in no particular order:
Page after page of overused cliches (nails on the chalkboard).
Being stuck in the point of view of a supposedly mature, yet predictably melodramatic heroine.
While she keeps the physical aspect of their relationship pretty clean, she goes way overboard describing their physical reactions to each other- the heart pounding, electrifying, gasping roller coaster ride that is the teenage condition, I suppose.

I can't WAIT for the final movie to be finished. Because then the collective ADD of the Twilight fan base can kick in and the world can go back to resembling a saner pre-Twilight state of being.
In other words, though I enjoy the series to a certain degree, I don't think it deserve the accolades it has received.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Spirit of Sweetgrass by Nicole Seitz

There's something to be said about a well cast first sentence on page one of a novel - This is what I remember about that night - my last night alive.

Was the main character, 78 year old Essie Mae already dead then and telling her story from the grave? Why did she die? Who was she? I wondered all these things like a fish wonders what that worm dancing in the riffles would taste like. I was hooked. By that first sentence and the warm tones of that cover.

Essie Mae Jenkins is a sweetgrass basket maker who sells her finished products from a roadside stand on a tiny anonymous highway along the coastal islands of South Carolina. From there she sews her baskets, weaving in some of the sweetgrass and Gullah culture, and a little voodoo magic for good measure, all in the presence of her dead husband, Daddy Jim.

Like the vanishing sandy beach ecosystems that sustain that billowing native grass, so is the talent of making these unique baskets. Essie Mae wants to pass it on like it was passed on to her. But nature's forces are working against her, not unlike the forces of prosperity are working against the disappearing sweetgrass. Like all of us as we age, Essie Mae feels like she's slowly disappearing from the landscape as well.

Well-written in great Southern voice, The Spirit of Sweetgrass hits on many levels. It brings into sharp focus the fears that we all worry about as we age - of being forgotten and replaced. I wondered what I would leave behind for my family, suddenly wanting to take up a new skill or perfect the two or three that I have! And, I thought of what's been left for me in previous generations and I became both happy and melancholy at the same time. Memories, love, cherished mementos, and most importantly a knowledge of things particular to my family and friends always bring in torrents of emotion. We all wish for this, in any culture and time.

I enjoyed reading about other lifestyles and customs unfamiliar with my own. Now, if I could just get my hands on one of those baskets!
3 stars

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead A play by Tom Stoppard

To be or not to be, that is the question.

We all remember that famous line from Shakespeare's Hamlet, that play of all plays. Was Hamlet really being told what to do by his dead father, or was he really insane after all? Did his mother know what was going on? Did his uncle really murder his father? Were Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Hamlet's friends from childhood, as funny and brilliant as they seemed?


Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. Hamlet from a different point of view. A play within a play, within a play! Two minor characters bewildered and apparently unable to accept their present condition are brought to life in such a way that I thought of Deep Thoughts on SNL and laughed out loud more than once. It was genius. It was thought-provoking, and as you see from my book - full of such excellent word play between the two characters that I should now buy stock in sticky notes.

A sample -

Inside where nothing shows, I am the essence of a man spinning double-headed coins, and betting against himself in private atonement for an unremembered past.

And -

We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered.

This clip from the movie is one of the best parts of many.

This play is an easier, and much, much shorter way, to view the struggles in Hamlet. It almost explains why it ended like it did - with a cornucopia of death.

We're tragedians, you see. We follow directions - there is no choice involved. The bad end unhappily, the good unluckily. That is what tragedy means.

I highly recommend reading this, and then watching the movie. You will never look upon Shakespeare's most famous play the same again.
5 stars
Thanks to the Good Books Club for recommending it.