Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cannonball! Book #4 Sparkles in the Sun!

BOOK #4: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Ok, folks: there's a lot of hype and hate about the Twilight series, but I believe that you can't judge a book by its cover. Usually. Seriously, though: before you pass judgement on a book, you should read the whole thing.

This is not the first time I have read Stephenie Meyer's young adult vampire novel: my junior year of college, a friend with whom I had a lot in common (at least regarding the books and tv shows we enjoyed) lent me her hardcover copy, assuring me I would love it. I did not--I made it halfway through and ended up returning the book.

Time passed, I graduated, and moved to New York. The first week in my apartment, my box o' books sent from home had yet to arrive, so I ambled on over to B&N to find some pages to occupy my mind. For whatever reason, I picked up a paperback copy of Twilight, deciding to give it a second chance.

Second time was the charm: I fell in love with Twilight. It's not a particularly well-written book, nor is it terribly original, but there is just something about a sparkly vampire and eternal love that gets to me! From a technical standpoint, Meyer does very well when describing places, but with people she falls into a rut of repeated adjectives; the build of the story is slow, but as soon as she hits a major conflict, the pacing becomes far too rushed for its own good. This is where I'll give credit to the screenplay of the movie adaptation for spacing things out a bit more realistically.

Well, as realistic as you can get when we're talking high school vamps.

On the upside though, I really do enjoy the romantic aspect of it all: in Meyer's premiere novel, she's managed to capture the "first love" feeling of youth, where merely standing next to the fellow of your dreams made your heart get all a-tingly. Cheesy, yes--but it doesn't lessen the fact that the simpler times of having a kiss as the be-all, end-all were awesome.

Final round-up: This is a book you have to read one and a half times before you can judge. Yes, Twilight is a relatively immature, definitely mushy, fabulously teeny-bopper book. But it's awesome, even in spite of its flaws.

Hell, let's just say it sparkles.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cannonball! Book #3 Is Rootin' Tootin'!

BOOK #3: Wyatt Earp Speaks! written by Wyatt Earp and Others, Edited by John Richard Stephens
During my sophomore year of high school, I began what would become a years-long love affair with Wyatt Earp and the world of westerns. Something about manifest destiny and the construction of the western half of our country moves me: it was such a blended time of violence and inspiration.
The clue I gave to what this third book would be--"Kevin Costner"--may seem obscure, unless you're familiar with Lawrence Kasdan's epic bio-western "Wyatt Earp," the movie that started it all for me. The titular character is (in my opinion) marvelously portrayed by Kevin Costner--and after having read Wyatt Earp Speaks! I am more convinced that his interpretation of the famous Marshall was spot on--his voice matches that of Earp's, which is at the forefront of the book.
Wyatt Earp Speaks! is a collection of court transcripts, letters, newspaper stories, and other first- and second-hand accounts detailing everything from The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (which was actually next door) to the murderous nature of "Doc" Holliday (some say he killed 6 men in his life, others say 50). It's a really fascinating look at the language of the time, and how very easily stories became myths with the slightest twisting of words.
The clever editor John Richard Stephens is, like myself, very pro-Earp, so this book was a veritable feast of accounts of his stoic bravery and moral nature; however, Stephens doesn't hold back when the facts are incorrect. Throughout the various clippings and letters, he has scattered footnote upon footnote, clarifying dates and names, as well as sneaking in stories within stories. This is, of course, why the reading of Wyatt Earp Speaks! goes a bit slower: constant page turnings between court transcripts and their references makes for a slow pony.
At the end of the day, this book is most likely not for everyone; it speaks to me because of my love of the Earps and the history and mythology that surrounds them. However, I think this could be the book that gets people interested in that period of time, and (if anything) provides a unique look at a controversial point in our country's formation. I say, give it a chance!
Or hey, you could always watch the movie with me.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Just kidding about posting my next review...?

Book #3 is a slower read than its predecessors, not for its content matter, but for the manner in which it is presented. Curious, I know--but the last few chapters will be saved for breakfast.

Review should go up mid-afternoon! This time, for realsies.


Monday, January 17, 2011

A Non-Cannonball Interlude

I'm almost done with book numero trois, and so the review will be up tomorrow. Until then, however, I hereby deliver some mental tidbits to tide you over--oh, the suspense!

1) I have started knitting again--a craft I haven't partaken of since high school. I never completed anything, so this time around I'm super determined. As of now, I have the beginnings of a lumpy purple scarf! Ah, lumpy purple scarves: this year's runway trend.

2) I adore "The Big Bang Theory." No, I would not say it's the best sitcom ever created, but I am perpetually delighted by it's clever words and characters. It makes me snort. Jim Parsons (and congrats to him on his Golden Globe win last night), in particular, is both ridiculous and sweet. Go ahead, take a look!

3) Here's a random hint about the current book I'm reading: Kevin Costner.

Yup. Ponder that one.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Cannonball! Book #2 Puts On A Show!

Please Note: It may seem improbable that I could have actually read another book this quickly, but I assure you, that's how I read. Mind you, I'm not skimming, either; I read thoroughly, but speedily. So trust me, I'm doing this thing for real. Psh!

BOOK #2: Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen

Water For Elephants is a book I had frequently encountered when browsing the shelves at my local B&N (that's Barnes & Noble for all you cool kids who don't frequent the store enough to abbreviate). The cover looked intriguing enough, and while I had no idea what it was about, I'd at least heard that it was supposed to be very good.

Recently, the trailer for the movie version of the novel came out, so I figured I should finally read the book. I'm not adamantly for or against reading a novel before it's put on film--it usually depends on what it is. Regardless, I read the novel first this time--though it was hard to keep images from the trailer out of mind (except Robert Pattinson--he's dreeeamy).

It makes sense that Water For Elephants would be turned into a movie; the novel itself has a very cinematic feel to it. The scenes described are beautifully worded and fit to be transported to screen--Sara Gruen has brought a fantastic subject (circus life, specifically during the 1930's) to light, one not often seen in story or on film.

The book is not, however, without its weaknesses. The beginning seems rushed, as if Gruen was a bit eager to get to the heart of the story she was telling, and the ending seems to follow that pattern as well. I felt that, while the book wrapped itself up just fine, it was so mild compared to the rest of the story; I expected another chapter, even another paragraph!

Regardless of its little overture-big show-even littler finale, Elephants plays right into a favorite genre of mine: historical fiction. Gruen carefully wove circus stories of the day into her own book, leaving a seamless blend of fact and fiction, one that puts you right there with the smell of hay and popcorn and dusty tracks. It did the best thing for me that historical fiction can ever do: it made me want to learn more.

So, on that note, I'm off to research the circus! Or, me and my sleep-deprived self could actual go to bed.

Yeah, the elephants will still be there in the morning.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Cannonball! Book #1 Leaves Me Hungry For More!

Please Note: I'm not quite sure yet of how my reviews will work--it will be an evolving process. You know, don't judge a book by its cover, and whatnot.

BOOK #1: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

If my staying up until 5:00 in the morning to finish reading The Hunger Games is any indication, it's an action-packed, nail-biting, page-turner of a book.

The first in Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games Trilogy, The Hunger Games introduces us to a futuristic North American police state where, once a year, 24 randomly-selected teenagers are forced to fight to the death in a live broadcast. At the center of the story is our first-person narrator, Katniss Everdeen, who finds herself competing in the Hunger Games--literally fighting for her life.

It would be easy, in a story like this, to make the protagonist completely unlikeable--after all, Katniss is both stubborn and selfless, which (if written poorly) could make her the whiniest woman in the world. But Collins has managed to produce a clever fighter of a girl, who makes me want to learn to how build a fire out of nothing and then wire-snare a squirrel.

Not really so much the squirrel thing.

But the book really does keep you on edge: I found myself exclaiming aloud, into the silence of the wee morning hours. Gasps of shock and "No! She's going to--" kept me turning page after page. I felt the tension of survival in the wilderness right along with Katniss. And while it has its occasional predictable moments and some overly detailed dresses and feasts (the first part of the book reads more young adult than the rest), the book as a whole is an action-adventure-romance with frequent head-spinning twists.

I am looking very much forward to reading the other two books in the trilogy, and a lot of that comes from not knowing exactly where Collins is going to go with the story--and I mean that in a good way. There are certain paths for the characters that you can see her laying the groundwork for, but the rest is a mystery and that's fantastic! I'm also excited, partly, because I love a book that's part of a series--if it's done well, and I'm left craving more, it's always exciting to know there actually is more.

That of course means I need to go buy the rest of the series. Better get a move on.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Get Ready for a Cannonball!

...Ah, yes. I've returned. Cue evil laugh.
What? It's not as if it's been eight months or anyth--oh. Well then. Never mind.

Yes, yes. I know. Once again, I find myself returning from a long period of non-updates with the promise that "this time will be different" and "I have a reason to repeatedly post" and other such proclamations.

Statement the First: For the months of June, July, and August, I had little to no internet access. Then September and October came and I was working on one show. Then November and December appeared, and it was another show (my NYC premiere as a playwright!) and Santaland. As you can see, I was a little busy and chose to slack on the blogging rather than something like hygiene, or talking.

Statement the Second: I'm back with a vengeance and a new challenge! One that's sure to keep me posting frequently--so step off.

So, worry not, dear reader(s)! I come bearing wit and charm and typos galore, for I also come bearing a new challenge--yes, folks, I'm attempting my own:

CANNONBALL READ 2011! (ptchu, ptchu, firework sound, boom)

Wherein I shall read and review 100 books in a year--this year, specifically. Now, I recognize that I'm starting a week and a half late, and that I also live a busy life, so here are the ground rules I have set for myself:

1) I must read only one book at a time. [Believe it or not, I tend to read multiple books at a time, but I feel that acts as cheating for the Cannonball Read. Plus, this way I'll have more focused/specific reviews.]

2) I may read certain books that I have read before, but I must actually reread them before reviewing them and considering them checked off. [I'm on a time budget. And hey, it's no shabby thing to read all 7 Harry Potter books multiple times, thankyouverymuch.]

3) What constitutes a "book" will be left to my discretion; however, some things (like three-page picture books) are obviously not allowed. [I will most likely define "book" as novels, certain novellas, graphic novels of length (think "Watchmen"), and collections (such as short story anthologies).]
4) Upon completion of a book, I must write and post my review before beginning a new book. [This is pretty self-explanatory. My reviews will merely be my thoughts on the book, nothing too fancy--but obviously not just a thumbs up or down.]
And finally,
5) I will finish all books I begin reading--even if I realize within a few pages that it's definitely a thumbs down. [Hey, it's not supposed to be totally easy.]
There you have it! My rules, my reading challenge. But why, you might ask, am I doing this?
It's three simple answers: Because there are those books on my shelf or on famous reading lists that I've never read, and I should. Because I need a new challenge, a new goal for myself to focus on. And finally, because I love books.
I love their smell. I love the feeling of the pages. I love the letters strung together to create, not just sentences, but experiences. I love escapism and new realities and traveling through time and space to witness awe-inspiring events, all from the comfort of my room. I love having specific chapters that never cease to make me laugh or cry. I love knowing that there are words and phrases that better express my own emotions than I ever could. I love that through mere ink and paper we are given the privilege of seeing how extraordinary the human mind is. I love shiny hardcovers that crack when you first open them. I love my battered paperbacks with coffee stains and torn pages. I love new and I love used. I love books.
So, on that very lengthy note, I'm off to begin my first book of Cannonball Read 2011.
"Once upon a time..."