Saturday, January 25, 2014

Banned/Challenged Books Book Club: January

Since getting my second job in September, I have been unable to attend my previous book club (sad) but have instead done my own posts about books I read (yay).  I’m actually taking that one step further this year.  I have a theme!  Isn’t it marvellous?!  This year for my book club I will be reading banned or popularly challenged books.  A couple of these are stories I’ve read already but most are books I’ve owned and needed to read, with a few books that I wanted to buy and needed a reason (yes!)

The first book for the Banned/Challenged book club was Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.  It starts with a group of men anchored, when one of them, Marlow begins to tell the tale of his trek in Africa to run a steam boat, though it doesn’t start well.  We start to hear of a mysterious man named Kurtz, who made his way into the jungle for ivory dealing.  Once his ship is repaired, Marlow is enlisted to go into the jungle to rescue Kurtz, who has fallen ill.

I had a difficult time making my way through this relatively short story because I found Conrad’s writing style to be lengthy sentences filled with superior vocabulary.  Which in and of itself is a good thing, but rather hard to navigate and make sense of at times.  I found it to be a story that I might have to reread to fully understand because I’m a fast reader and can miss things at times.

The controversy surrounding this story is the negative portrayal of African natives.  Most often compared to the white characters as savages and unintelligent, the post-colonial comparison has a tendency to rub some readers the wrong way.  I can see why this would bother some people.  I certainly had a difficult time reading some of Conrad’s descriptions.  But I think that Conrad’s story is a product of his time.  Authors have the penchant for writing what they know.  For Conrad, it was a colonial representation of Africa and its inhabitants.  That doesn’t mean Conrad doesn’t have a great story about the darkness within each of us.  It just means at times, the descriptions can be hard to read for open minded and modern people.

These are the quotes I particularly liked:

“I don’t like work--no man does--but I like what is in the work--the chance to find yourself.  Your own reality--for yourself, not for others--what no other man can ever know.” pg. 47

“I know nothing as to the fate of the less valuable animals.” pg. 55  referring to humans (!)

“He was there below me, and, upon my word, to look at him was as edifying as seeing a dog in a parody of breeches and a featherhat, walking on its hind-legs.” pg.61  seeing an African man working next to him on the boat

“To keep the eyes so long on one thing was too much for human patience.” pg. 64  

“You can’t breathe dead hippo waking, sleeping, and eating, and at the same time keep your precarious grip on existence.” pg. 68

“He positively danced, the bloodthirsty little gingery beggar.” pg. 87

That’s all for January, but coming soon (aka next month...aka will probably be a month since my life is crazy) is one of my favorite books, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.  I’m thrilled to be rereading this since I know it has been a while!  I'll probably started abbreviating Banned/Challenged Books Book Club, because that is very long to type. Or maybe just do Book Club like I did before....anywho, see you in February!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Movie Review #47: Catching Fire

As any reader of my blog could know, I’m incredibly fond of the Hunger Games series.  Having entered contests to try and get tickets to the red carpet for the first film (including but not limited to making my own Capitol costume), I was insanely excited for the release of Catching Fire.  While I didn’t go to any extremes like costume making for this film, I knew I would be waiting with bated breath until the release.

Of the three books, Catching Fire is undoubtedly my favorite.  I like the uptick in action from the first and the arena is amazing.  I tried to read the book before seeing the movie, but I was unable to get the book finished in time. I have since been able to finish, so here is my book and movie comparison!  Spoilers, btw.  You’ve been warned!

#47: Catching Fire

Katniss Everdeen is back, trying to compose herself from the damage inflicted by the games.  Quickly, President Snow is back on her, telling her that she needs to quell the insurrections or she could lose the lives of those she loves.  When her attempts fail, Katniss instead decides to go all out the other way and do what she can as an image for fighting against the Capitol.  Snow responds by sending her back into the arena.  This time, it’s a sectioned beach and jungle with the cornucopia in the middle surrounded by water and spokes of rock.  Lightning, blood raid, jabberjays, monkeys, killer fog, and a wave of water? Tick Tock goes the clock of horrors.  Fighting against other victors who are already friends and trying to survive, Katniss is constantly questioning who is friend and who is foe.  With no moments to spare, the rebellion kicks off and Katniss is rescued from the arena, only then to discover that her home was been obliterated.

So how did I feel about the film version?


I give the film a 9.5 out of 10.  I thought the cinematography was absolutely amazeballs, especially the arena (omg I love water). The changes that directors always make from adaptations are the catalyst for reader annoyance.  In this case, the changes made were minute or done in a way that included the vital information even if the scene wasn’t true to the cannon.  I wouldn’t have changed anything in particular.  There were only a few things I wish they could have added.

#1: Haymitch’s Backstory
Part of getting to know more about victors included reviewing film of past arenas.  Katniss and Peeta learn how Haymitch survived and it helps them understand him better.  Not as a drunk just hanging around, but as a guy who survived by clever ingenuity and drinks because he’s been through hell and seen countless kids die in the arena.  

#2: Training For The Arena
When the group learns that Katniss is inevitably going back in with either Haymitch or Peeta, all three decide to start acting like careers.  Because this arena is filled with experienced killers instead of newbies, the three tributes of District 12 train intensely for what is ahead.  Even Gale volunteers to help them prepare. I don’t think it would have been too much to do a training montage.

#3: Bonnie and Twill
This is where Katniss gets the idea that District 13 is actually still around from a deal with the Capitol to leave them be otherwise they’ll use nuclear weapons.  While I think it is pretty crappy that they ignore what is going on in other districts under the reign of Resident Douche Bag...I mean President Snow, I understand how they might not have been in a difficult position. But when Katniss comes across two women who escaped from a district in revolt, they tell her the recurring image of mockingjay bird.  I really liked this scene because it helped Katniss truly understand that other citizens want things to change.

Another thing that I absolutely love and have loved since the beginning is the casting.  I was hesitant about Lenny Kravitz but he was amazing as stylist Cinna.  I called Woody Harrelson’s casting and still think he is Haymitch.  But standout in this film is Elizabeth Banks as Effie.  We get to see the character transform from Capitol loving drone to someone who is watching her friends be sacrificed and she takes on a motherly affection for everyone, including Haymitch.  I’ll always remember the reaping scene and how well Banks portrayed Effie’s torment.  Absolutely amazing.

Overall, I not only like the story better but the film as well.  I was very impressed and can’t wait to see what they plan for Mockingjay. May the odds be ever in your favor!