Things We Finished

A listing of what we read, what we saw, what we did, and whether or not we liked it. 

Books are red.  (Get it??)
Movies are blue.

11/22/63, Stephen King
 There's a small chance that this is the first Stephen King novel I've read all the way through.  It's a big ol' thing, and I read it in about two days, which means I was into it.  There's something about King's writing that doesn't let me put him into the category of "great writer" (and I hope that's just not commercial bias) but the story is cool: English teacher goes back in time to try to stop the assassination of JFK.  Hijinks ensue, obviously, as the past does not want to be changed. Worth a read. -Katie

Dune Messiah, Frank Herbert
Best to think of this one as just the next part of the first book, rather than a sequel.  Very good follow-up about the backlash that happens when religion and government combine. Not as good as the first, but they rarely are, no? -Katie

Dune, Frank Herbert
I started this book because Joss Whedon said it was his favorite.  I really liked it.  There's a family, and it's the way distant future, and they move to a new, dessert planet where there's a plot to over throw them, and then this kid develops psychic crazy powers.  Uh...that's a bad summary. -Katie

A Dance with Dragons, George R. R. Martin
The fifth and latest offering in what should be a seven-part series, ADWD continues not where the fourth book left off, but rather (mostly) simultaneously with the events of Book 4.  While it is nice to see the characters I missed in the previous book, I found myself impatient for GRRM to just get on with it.  Books 3 and 4 are still my favorites in the series, but I have to say, I still can't wait for the next one to come out.  To Westeros and beyond!  -Katie 

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I hands-down preferred this American version to the Swedish version.  I know, I know.  For those of you who are aghast and for those of you have no idea what I'm talking about, read on.   One, Daniel Craig is way more attractive than his Swedish counterpart, so it makes it at least believable that all these women are randomly throwing themselves at him (a major problem in the book).  Two, Rooney Mara not only does a good job of becoming the elusive Lisbeth Salandar, but she looks the part: very petite to the point of childlike.  Three, the movie was well directed and well-produced.  I worried that a non-reader of the series would think that it moved to quickly to the conclusion (which says something for such a long movie) but David was enthusiastic enough about it to want to read the books.  Go and see and wonder why Mission Impossible 4 is at the top of the box office charts. 

 Blue Nights, Joan Didion
I love Joan Didion's style.  So do, obviously, a lot of people, so if you haven't read her before I would say she should immediately be on your list.  She's a beautiful writer, with prose so carefully and lovingly presented that it reads like poetry.  However, Blue Nights, which serves as a sequel of sorts to The Year of Magical Thinking, isn't nearly as well-constructed as its predecessor.  Ostensibly focused on the death of her daughter (following the death of her husband; see: TYOMT) the book goes from one thought and observation to the next, aimless but still beautiful.  -Katie

Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer 
Now, Artemis Fowl is a kid's book, but so is Harry Potter so I picked it up with high hopes.  A fantasy series set in Ireland based upon a child mastermind?  Sign me up!  However, this is a children's book that reads like a children's book.  I would lend it to a fourth-grader, not a friend. -Katie

Young Adult
Starring Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson and Patton Oswalt
They say Diablo Cody has the rights to the Sweet Valley High series, and she may have used them all here trying to imagine what Jessica Wakefield grew up to be like.  Charlize Theron plays Mavis Gary, a beautiful former prom queen who ghost writes a failing Young Adult series.  She heads back to her small home town outside of Minneapolis right after she hears that her high school ex boyfriend has just welcomed his first child into his marriage.  Determined to save him, she arrives in town in a whirlwind of self-delusion and grandeur.  The movie's saving grace?  It stays away from both the hometown hick and the hometown wisdom cliches.  You'll be surprised. -Katie

Consider the Lobster and Other Essays, David Foster Wallace
Reading DFW is kinda like having a really funny conversation with the smartest person you know.  He tackles a vast array of topics, from the Maine lobster to the pornography industry, always with a million thoughtful and funny asides, footnotes and endnotes.  I loved it enough that I immediately placed Infinite Jest on my Wish List, because no, I haven't read it yet.  -Katie

The Marriage Plot, Jeffrey Eugenides
Unlike Eugenides' other novels, there are  no suicides or transgendered people in The Marriage Plot.  Instead, Eugenides' offers his take on the traditional novel: boy loves girl, girl loves other boy, girl get together with other boy, relationship fails, girl gets together with first boy, her real soul mate.  In this version, though, Eugenides offers three very real characters, all with very real problems, grappling with the very real problem of growing up and dealing with life.  With an obvious influence coming from Franny and Zooey and references to Brown University, this was almost a guaranteed home run for me before I even started it, and I ended it a very pleased reader.  -Katie

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me and Other Concerns, Mindy Kaling
Every girl blogger has a crush on Mindy Kaling.  FACT.  Mindy Kaling has a crush on Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.  FACT.  And a totally understandable one.  That being said, the book is more of a small and chronological series of essays, all of which are pretty funny.  I wish she had touched a little bit more on what it's like to be a woman in the industry, but that's not really the point of the book.  Overall, Kaling's not a novelist, and it shows, but it's a great beach read.  -Katie

Crazy, Stupid, Love
Starring Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Julianne Moore
This should have been your everyday romantic comedy.  It opens with Julianne Moore's character announcing to Steve Carell's character that she wants a divorce after decades of marriage.  He goes out to the bar, meets Ryan Gosling and learns how to attract women.  Sounds awful, right?  And it would have been, if Ashton Kutcher had gotten that role instead of RG.  Instead, RG brings a subtly and depth to the role, allowing the movie to round out and really explore what it means to love someone.  A little forced at the end, but absolutely worth watching.  -Katie

A Feast for Crows, George R. R. Martin
Picked up where the last one left off.  Arguably all of the books do that, but this time I was invested and ready to pounce on this one as soon as I finished A Storm of Swords.  Great character development, new guys introduced, further secrets almost revealed.  Loved it.  -Katie

A Storm of Swords, George R. R. Martin
Finally I see what all the hype is about!  I tore through the third in the series, and started really getting into the history of Westeros, piercing together all these different theories about who-killed-who, who-birthed-who and where-in-the-world-is.  This was probably my favorite in the series.  -Katie

 A Clash of Kings, George R. R. Martin
Okay, so I have a thing for finishing things I start.  I didn't really like the second book at all.  I felt like it took me forever to finish (to be fair, I started it right when things got crazy for health-wise) and I never felt like the plot really advanced all too well.  Still, I plod on...  -Katie

A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin
First in the Song of Ice and Fire series, this is the first in a dense series about the struggle to hold the throne in fictional Westeros.  GRRM introduces hundreds of characters throughout the series, and this first book gives you the first glimpses into a complex history, as well as the chance to get overly attached to characters without a chance of making it to their next birthday.   I liked it enough to read the next one, but wasn't as blown away as I expected to be.  -Katie

Ready Player One, Ernest Cline
I started reading this in the LA airport after getting too annoyed at Jonathan Franzen to once again be able to finish one of his novels.  Opened it up and then didn't put it down until we landed in DCA.  The book is set in a future dystopia, where almost everyone exists more fully in a gigantic game universe than in the very depressing reality.  The Bill Gates/Steve Jobs-like character who created the universe died before the book begins, leaving behind the ultimate gamer Easter Egg: find the secrets locked in the universe and you inherit not just his fortune, but the actual universe.  Crammed full of so many 80s references to music and video games that David, reading over my shoulder, proclaimed me "the nerdiest of all nerds," this book was pure fun from start to finish.  -Katie

Room: A Novel, Emma Donoghue
Narrated by 5-year old Jack, this is the story of a woman who is kidnapped, raped and forced by her captor to live in a room and raise their son.  The story is first of their captivity, which Jack doesn't realize isn't normal, and then their subsequent escape.  Seems like a fantastic plot, but having the story told by a 5 year-old gets tedious really, really quickly.   -Katie