Sunday, June 23, 2013

June: Week Three

Books Read:
  • Modern Music and After (Paul Griffiths)
  • Inferno (Dan Brown)
  • Revenge Wears Prada (Lauren Weisberger)
  • Under the Tuscan Sun (Frances Mayes)

Simple review of the week: yes, no, no, yes. 

Ok, Modern Music and After actually took six weeks to read (the length of my summer theory class). I didn't expect to say this, but I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn more about twentieth-century art music. That's who the book seems aimed at, rather than theorists or musicologists. Also, although a musical background certainly helps, I would imagine that someone without any background would also enjoy this book - just skip over the analytical paragraphs (not that much time is spent on actual theoretical analysis). I'll admit it: there was a large chunk of twentieth-music that I couldn't stand before I took this class and read this book, including the majority of Messiaen's music, which I am totally ashamed to admit now! Contemporary music is SO IMPORTANT, and I fervently believe that anyone is capable of learning to appreciate (if not enjoy) all of the music discussed in this book. 

Now to the two new releases: Inferno initially looked like it was going to be the best since Angels and Demons (the only Dan Brown book that I've enjoyed), but it turned out to be a huge disappointment. I won't go into detail because I know a lot of people want to read this book and deserve a spoiler-free read. I'll just say that after a year of graduate school, Brown's writing style absolutely grates on my nerves. Also, I think it seems like he tried to escape his usual formulaic plot structure, but failed...which is almost worse than not trying in the first place. 

My response to Revenge Wears Prada: was this even written by the same person?? This is nothing like The Devil Wears Prada. I don't even really know what to say, actually. 

Luckily, I get to end this post on a good note. I have always enjoyed the movie Under the Tuscan Sun, so after rewatching it last week I decided I should read the book (which I already owned and just hadn't got around to yet - I am really bad about being a book hoarder). I knew going into it that it was totally different from the movie, which was good because I was able to enjoy this book as a separate entity. I don't read a lot of travel memoirs, but I loved this one...I thoroughly enjoyed Mayes's thoughtful descriptions - remember the scene in the movie where the fictional Mayes writes a postcard for someone and he is totally peeved because his mom will never believe he wrote it? That's how Mayes writes in this book, but it's never wordy or self-indulgent. Reading this book makes me wish I had enough money to buy a villa in Tuscany...maybe one day?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

June: Weeks One and Two

Books Bought (!):
  • Past Imperfect (Julian Fellowes)

Books Read:
  • Snobs (Julian Fellowes)
  • Wedding Night (Sophie Kinsella)
  • Tender is the Night (F. Scott Fitzgerald)

Combining two weeks into one post again - oops. No excuse, I'm just going to dive right into what I read! The name Julian Fellowes may be familiar to you...he is the screenwriter for both Downton Abbey and Gosford Park (which is one of my favorite movies, mystery lover that I am). His book Snobs is set in the present day, but examines the same class of people that Downton Abbey and Gosford Park examine so well. I couldn't decide whether to be surprised about this or not, but his writing flows really nicely, making this a very enjoyable read. I also loved the quasi-third-person-omniscent narrator - although the narrator is a character in the book and sometimes plays a role in the action, he knows everything that happens, telling it like he was actually there...there was something quite old-fashioned about this that I found appropriate. After reading Snobs, I had to buy his other book, Past Imperfect, which my local library didn't have. I got it brand new for $6 - pretty good!

The latest from Sophie Kinsella, author of the Shopaholic series, was a disappointment. Usually her characters are annoyingly stupid about something, but in an endearing way...this time, they were just plain stupid. The plot was farcical and went on for about 200 pages too many. I finished it, but only because it was a Friday night and I was trying to avoid writing a music theory paper. I don't recommend it, even if you've liked her other books.

However, I DO recommend Tender is the Night. After rereading The Great Gatsby a few weeks ago, I decided I needed to read Fitzgerald's other works. Tender is the Night was his last completed novel, and it's quite different from Gatsby. I was discussing this with a co-worker at the music library - it's almost as if Fitzgerald was ahead of his time with this book. I thought it was wonderful!

Coming up books by Dan Brown and Lauren Weisberger!

Monday, June 3, 2013

May: Week Five (and a couple of days of June)

Books Read:
  • Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
  • Bossypants (Tina Fey)
  • The Silver Linings Playbook (Matthew Quick)

I can't believe I haven't bought any books (not counting books for school or research) in weeks...I guess that's the benefit to living close to a public library.

Catch-22 is one of my dad's favorite books, and I finally checked it out from the library. This is one of those "classic American" novels that everyone is supposed to read at some point, and I'll agree with that. It took about 150 pages for me to become invested in this book (out of 450+), and I might have been tempted to stop reading it did I not trust my dad's recommendations. I'm glad I persevered - definitely worth the read. (Plus, isn't it interesting that the catchphrase "catch-22" came from this book? How many other titles of books have become parts of our everyday language?) I'm generally not a fan of war novels, but this isn't what you would usually expect from a war novel. If you're interested in the book, it's worth checking to see if your library has the 50th anniversary tradition - the essays in the back of the book explore what makes Catch-22 such a different book. Also, I 100% agree with the Harper Lee quote on the front of the book that says, "Catch-22 is the only war novel I've ever read that makes any sense." (I had to look up the author of the quote because the Leon County library put a barcode sticker over her name.)

Bossypants is a pretty different read from Catch-22, although, like Heller, Tina Fey does explore serious issues (mainly feminism) in a comedic fashion. Mostly, though, this book is just funny. I only watched SNL for a brief period (while I still lived at home), but that was when Fey came back to do her Sarah Palin impersonations, so I enjoyed reading about that time.

I haven't seen the movie version of The Silver Linings Playbook yet, but I've wanted to for a while. Once I found out it was based on a book by Matthew Quick, I decided to read the book first. It's a quick read - I read it in two days - and I thought it was well done. The characters have depth, especially Pat and Tiffany (although I would have liked to have read more about her - it'll be interesting to see what they do with her character in the movie...and I'm looking forward to see Jennifer Lawrence play her). Some of the supporting characters initially seemed to have stock personalities, but there were some surprises further into the book. I'd recommend it!