Book Review: Alas, Babylon

Let the reading continue! Yessssss.

This lil beauty was a find on Barnes & Noble's "Buy 2, get the 3rd FREE" table. That's a great table. Especially when you can find books that you actually might sorta kinda want to read on that table. Which I did: Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank.

Apparently this is an old book. The copyright page (which I know how to read because of all those practice sessions in elementary school) tells me that it was first published in 1959. Wikipedia (which I learned how to use once I forgot everything I learned in elementary school) confirms this.

The story takes place in the Nuclear Age town of Fort Repose, Florida. Randy Bragg is just a guy with not a lot of direction in his life...until his Air Force brother Mark lets slip that they've got it on good authority that the Russians are going to be attacking the country. It's going to be bad, and it's going to be soon. So Mark sends his wife and kids to Fort Repose to be with Randy (apparently it was likely to be safe there?) while he hunkers down at a military base type thing in Omaha. Well, the nuclear war happens, and it basically wipes out most of the country, including pretty much the entire state of Florida other than Fort Repose. So, Randy, his new family, his neighbors, his girlfriend, and the rest of the surrounding population have to learn how to survive in this new world in which cash becomes worthless within a few hours, running water and electricity become things of the past, and highway robbers kill for things like honey and whiskey.

It's pretty interesting. It's also pretty terrifying. Especially if you don't have much in the way of food, oh say, me. Seriously, this book was a kick in the pants, if I've ever had one. I even put "Figure out food storage" on my "Things to do when I'm bored" list. True story.

It took a little long for the book to really get going. It seemed to me like too much happened before the actual bombing occurred - which, of course, is what really sets things in motion. I would have liked to be kind of thrown into the middle of the chaos, rather than placed nicely in the neighbor's yard with fair warning of what was about to happen. But you know, that's just me.

What I really liked about this book was the ending. And I can't quite put my finger on why! I won't tell you what happens...not like it's a big surprise or anything, because not much really does happen. I just thought the last few lines had some nice meaning embedded in them.

So, if you see Alas, Babylon on a "Buy 2, get the 3rd FREE" table, at a secondhand bookstore, at the library, on a street corner, or on my bookshelf if you live close to me, I would say this book is worth reading. It will make you think. And maybe even inspire an interesting nightmare or two...not that that happened to me. Even though it did.

Water for Elephants: DNF

I put down Gruen's Water for Elephants for the last time last week.

I was on page 159 of 331. It just wasn't worth it anymore.

I was barely reading it anyway, what with the swear words and the, well, inappropriateness. Call me a prude if you want.

I don't understand why books have to have that kind of crap in them! I would think that it is possible to write an interesting, historically sound story about a circus without being quite so blunt and detailed about the sexual side of things. Just my opinion, I guess.

This one caused quite a bit of buzz, and was on bestseller lists for a while, so I'm bummed about it being unreadable. I looked up the end on Wikipedia, so I at least know what happens.

Another potentially great story, ruined by sex. Shame.

Up next: Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank. Anyone read it? I haven't started yet.

Book Review: The Help

Welcome to "What Katie Thinks About Something or Another, Part III."

Seriously, review central, my blog has become.

Also, apparently channeling Yoda, I am.

Ok, that's gotta stop.

Anyway, I'm loving that I'm finally reading again. It's wonderful. If you don't read...please, please start reading.

And put this book on your "To Read" list:

Yep, I liked it.

Pretty much the only things I heard about it were positive, so I was expecting to like it...but then again, I don't like the "Twilight" books, and I hear a lot of positive things about those, too.

Although, that might just be because "Twilight" lovers are loud. I'm just sayin.

So, The Help, by Kathryn Stockett.

It takes place in Mississippi in the early 1960s, so if that doesn't scream "THIS BOOK IS ABOUT CIVIL RIGHTS!" I don't know what does. And yes, it does focus largely on civil rights. The story is told from the viewpoints of three women: two black women who are employed by white women as "help," and one white woman who is a) desperate to be a writer, and b) questioning the way her white, married friends treat their "help." This white lady is thus inspired to write a book in which she anonymously interviews several different black maids about the experiences they've had serving white families.

There were a couple things I especially liked about this book:
  • Great voice(s). I could practically hear each character telling the story. In fact, sometimes I did hear the characters telling the story, since I read I good chunk of the book out loud to Madelyn. The book is written in such a way that if you read it out loud, you will have a southern black woman accent. Law, have mercy!
  • Got the Civil Rights message across without making me especially angry, upset, or heartbroken. Let's face it, that's not too easy to do. And it even talked about some of the positive relationships that some white women had with their maids, which was nice to hear.
  • Pretty darn funny in some parts. I might have lol-ed once or twice.
But my favorite thing about this book was that (almost) nothing went the way it was supposed to. If there was something that would be just terrible for so-and-so to hear about it, well, so-and-so heard about it. If one character was living in fear that such-and-such would happen, well, it did...

And the characters kept on living and trying and growing. I would say that probably one of the most important things any of us can learn is that life is not always going to go the way we want it to go. Sometimes the worst case scenarios - those things you just absolutely dread even thinking about - will actually happen, and you'll just have to live with them and find a way to keep finding happiness. Tough lesson, right? But I think it's very applicable to all of us.

So yeah, I totally recommend The Help. You'll like the story and love the characters.

I actually finished this one last week and am into my next one: Water for Elephants. Not loving it so far, but I'll let you know the end result.

A movie and a book

I got books for Christmas.

Glory, glory hallelujah.

I was in serious need of some new books to read, let me tell you.

And with nursing time + time holding Maddy while she's sleeping, I've actually had time to read!

More glory, glory hallelujah!

Also...Redbox. The final glory, glory hallelujah is inspired by this one word.

It just so happened that I watched a Redbox movie AND finished a book this weekend. Whoa. you want the good news or the bad news first?

I don't know who would want the good news first. Ending on a bad note? That doesn't really make sense to me.

So, the bad news first. The movie.

Man, I was hopeful for this movie. I remember wanting to see it when it first came out, after I saw the preview. And I feel like I've heard a lot of good things about it from several different people. So when I was the annoying person at the Redbox machine who had no idea what movie I was getting, I saw this one and went for it.

Not what I was expecting. Depressing. Oh, so depressing.

For those of you who don't know, The Soloist is about an LA Times reporter, who, desperate for a story, writes about a homeless man he hears playing the violin on the street. Turns out, Nathaniel (the homeless man) had attended Julliard for showing amazing promise on the cello, but fell behind and eventually dropped out because he started having serious mental issues. The reporter's articles about Nathaniel open LA's eyes to what life is like for the homeless in their city.

Unfortunately, I felt like the movie focused way too much on the negative. By the time we were supposed to be getting something even remotely inspiring or uplifting, I was too depressed. The messages didn't really balance each other out anyway; the positive aspect of the reporter's sort of change of heart (even though he never really seemed like a jerk or anything) was not enough to offset the thousands of homeless, troubled souls.

In short, I felt like no one really changed, and nothing was really accomplished. Is that reality? Maybe. But it does not make a good movie. In my humble

And now for some good news! I finished this book this weekend:

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke.

Yes. Yes, yes, yes.

I realize that any avid readers out there have very likely already read this book, since it got all kinds of acclamation and stuff when it came out a few years ago, but you know what? I just barely read it. So lay off me and let me give you a brief summary of why I think this book is composed of awesomeness. I love the idea of bullet points here. Let's roll with it:
  • Extremely well written. No trite phrases (*cough*TWILIGHT*cough*). 800+ pages seemed like much fewer.
  • Clever! Written like a mock history, complete with footnotes.
  • Original. Puts a mature spin on the "magician" thing.
  • 100% clean. Let's face it...that's not too common these days.
  • Just a little bit eerie. Not in an "I'm horrified and need to sleep with the lights on for a week" kind of way, but more of like a "Whoa that's kind of creepy in a mystical sort of way" way. More Harry Potter book 6 than Stephen King. That's a good thing, I think.
It was really just all around enjoyable to read! I highly recommend it. Yes, it is pretty long...but I wouldn't let that deter you! Like I said, it goes by fast. And you'll feel oh so accomplished at the end.

So, up next for me is Stockett's The Help. I'm anxious to see what all the hype is about on this one. Don't worry, I'll be sure to let you know what I think of it...just in case you, you know, care.

So...what have you read/watched lately, hm?


It was awesome.

I am tired.

But really, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

All previous thoughts still stand. No, they didn't always stick to the book. But as a movie, it was suh-weet. Best one yet, I'd say.

However, there is one final thing that should have been included in the last post, but was not. I feel I must share this with you now.

I am what you might call a Harry Potter Purist. The ultimate solution to this whole book vs. movie thing would have been to never make the movies at all, and let the story exist as it was meant to, in beautiful Times New Roman.
Or you know, whatever font it is.

But then, where would Warner Bros have scraped up $4.5 billion?

I'll just leave it at that.


The sixth Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, is coming out in 29.5 hours.

Or, you know, something like that.

Let me say this right now – I am NOT a Harry Potter franchise fanatic. I am a Harry Potter book fanatic. The difference?

I cried standing in line waiting for the 7th book.
I left for a few minutes halfway through the first movie because I had to pee.
There was no peeing while reading a new Harry Potter book.

This is not to say that I don’t really like these movies. I love the whole story in general, so sure, I’ll stand in line for a few hours to get a decent seat at a midnight showing. I will not, however:

-watch the movies over and over until I have them memorized (honestly, I’ve only seen each of them 2, maybe 3 times)

-know the names of the actors’ pets and/or significant others

-send Rupert Grint a get-well card because he got the swine flu (he really did, you know. But no card from me!)

There is something else I won’t do when it comes to these movies. I will not say this:

“Ugh! That wasn’t NEARLY as good as the book! How could they have left (insert seemingly important scene) out?”

I have one thing to say to people that say things like this: Are you insane?

Of COURSE the movie wasn’t as good as the book. OF COURSE they couldn’t include all the nuances and details of the written word. No movie based on a book has ever been able to do that. If you ask me, that's what made the Lord of the Rings movies so good.

But I digress.

Seriously - can you really expect movie makers to be able to cram everything - every thing - into a 2 hour movie? Or even into a 3 hour movie? It can't be done. It. Cannot. Be. Done.

And you know what else? That doesn't necessarily mean the movie is doomed to failure. Movies and books are two very different things. A book might need a whole paragraph to explain what a character is thinking, whereas an actor has to portray that thought or emotion in a single camera shot. A movie director might have only a few scenes to develop a subplot that the author devoted chapters to. Something might happen in the book that could be done in a more visually appealing way on the screen, so they change it. An author's job is to describe. A movie maker's job is to show.

You get what I mean? There's no way they're going to be the same. In fact, if someone made a based-on-a-book movie in which they included every little detail from the book, the movie would most likely be criticized as lengthy and drawn-out, with a whole bunch of wasted camera time.

And as much as I love the Harry Potter books, I do not want to watch fairly to moderately crappy kid actors try to do the story justice for hours on end. The adult actors are brilliant (hello, Alan Rickman!), but please - the kid actors are not. They're getting better as the movies go on, to be sure, but they are not great. Not great.

Anyway, I will never judge how good a movie is based on how closely it stuck to its book. This I solemnly swear.

I am really very excited for this movie! The previews look spectacular. I'm a little curious as to how action packed it's going to be. I mean, the end is going to be killer, to be sure, but before's not exactly the most plot-driven of all the books. Hopefully they can keep it moving along.

I love Harry Potter.

Do you? You should. Then we can be nerds together.

"And now, let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure."