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Movie Madness: January Wrap-Up

Movie Madness @ The Talking Teacup & A Girl, Books & Other Things

While nothing beats curling up with a good book and entering a new world, we sure do love a good movie! Comedy, Drama, Action, Thriller; whatever the genre may be, escaping for two hours into a world of Hollywood created bliss is always great fun... Hosted by Kylie at The Talking Teacup and Alex at A Girl, Books & Other Things
I got quite a few DVDs for Christmas, but I haven't watched many of them yet because I've been playing video games. Here are the movies I watched this month:
  1. The Fighter
  2. Mortal Kombat
  3. Batman: Gotham Knight
  4. Superman
  5. Miss Congeniality
  6. Casablanca
  7. Roman Holiday
  8. On the Waterfront
  9. Sabrina
  10. Citizen Kane
  11. The Godfather
  12. Guys and Dolls
Total for January: 12
Total for 2012: 12

Review: Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler

Farewell, My Lovely
Raymond Chandler
Series: Phillip Marlowe #2
Genre: Adult Mystery
Released: 2005 (first published 1940)
by Penguin
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★

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'Cute little redhead,' she said slowly and thickly. 'Yeah, I remember her. Song and dance. Nice legs and generous with 'em.'

Eight years ago Moose Malloy and cute little redhead Velma were getting married - until someone framed Malloy for armed robbery. Now his stretch is up and he wants Velma back. PI Philip Marlowe meets Malloy one hot day in Hollywood and, out of the generosity of his jaded heart, agrees to help him. Dragged from one smoky bar to another, Marlowe's search for Velma turns up plenty of dangerous gangsters with a nasty habit of shooting first and talking later. And soon what started as a search for a missing person becomes a matter of life and death...
Like with most books that I buy, this had been collecting dust on my shelf for quite sometime. I have already read and been impressed by The Big Sleep, and I don't like abandoning a series, so I just had to read this next installment. The small review on the back really sings the book's praises and it even has an introduction (that usually signals that something is good).

As with the first book, I love the pulp feel of the cover. The colours are incredibly vibrant and really stand out on a shelf. The female legs are a bit odd, I'm not sure of whom they belong to; they could be Velma's or any other important female character.

I was incredibly impressed with The Big Sleep, so I kind of expect this book to be just as good. It's physically thicker, so there'll probably be things expanded on. I'm really looking forward to reading this book and maybe even solving the mystery myself.

I am the worst bookworm in the world. I really am. I got completely side-tracked from reading this book and I nearly forgot what had happened. That may be a sign that my interest wasn't sparked and I was bored, but my reason is that I was a bit confused. There's about three cases going on at the same time; helping Malloy, solving a murder, and finding a racketeer. For me, that's a bit too much to happen at the same time (which is why the film Valentine's Day didn't do it for me). With the three cases going on, the plot became a bit of a spider web. However, they do get tied up, as mystery writers tend to do, so that was a relief. I liked the whole "missing person" aspect of the novel because little clues are dotted around the narrative.

This time around, I didn't really pay as much attention to Marlowe as I did in the previous book, my attention was mainly focused on other character. A lot of the characters were written to be your typical shady characters that have a lot to hide and they were a lot more interesting and shady in this book.

I would've liked to have seen a lot more of Anne Riordan, she was particularly interested and I felt that she wasn't expanded much on and didn't appear much throughout the novel. She as a pretty feisty character who I liked.

Marlowe was definitely expanded a lot more in this book. Some of this narrative in certain parts of the book seemed to be nonsensical, but they soon started to make sense. He's a kind of a no nonsense sort of man and he does whatever it takes to get a job done. I also liked how he doesn't let a woman get in the way of a job, even though he does use them and gets used in return.

I'm not familiar with the USA so I was unsure of whereabouts Bay City is in California, since Marlowe is able to get to there from Los Angeles. Is it a district of Los Angeles or is it a completely different city? Not much attention is paid to the settings, which I guess is a good thing as it focused on the action of the novel, rather than being fancy and focusing on Marlowe's surroundings.

I didn't really pick up on any particular themes in the novel but a  lot of small things stood out that I didn't understand. For example, a pink bug climbing up City Hall is mentioned a few times. I didn't understand what that was about at all. I didn't see any significance.

I really admire Chandler's writing style. He made Marlowe's voice incredibly witty and observable without going over the top. I love how he doesn't use any clichéd similes but makes his own up, for example;
"...like a fly with one wing"

for when describing how an injured bar patron crawls across the floor. His similes are very realistic. The observations that Marlowe makes are incredibly detailed but they don't go over the top. They really give a good idea of what a character or room looked like. There are some racial slurs, but not ones that are incredibly offensive.

This book confused me at times, and that's kind of my own fault. However, I did enjoy the writing style and the characters. The book is somewhat engaging, but it is a bit boring at times.

Review: Pearl of China by Anchee Min

Pearl of China
Anchee Min
Genre: Adult Historical
Released: May 1 2011
by Bloomsbury
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★

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In the small southern town of Chin-kiang, two young girls from very different worlds collide and become inseparable companions. Willow is hardened by poverty and fearful for her future; Pearl is the daughter of a Christian missionary who desperately wishes she was Chinese too. Neither could have foreseen the transformation of the little American girl embarrassed by her blonde hair into the Nobel Prize-winning writer and one of China's modern heroines, Pearl S. Buck.

When the country erupts in civil war between the Nationalists and the Communists, Pearl's family is forced to flee the country and Willow is punished for her loyalty to her 'cultural imperialist' friend. And yet, in the face of everything that threatens to tear them apart, the paths of these two women remain intimately entwined.
For once, I did something that I don't usually do; I went into a bookshop and looked for something that sparked my interest (a lot of people do this, but I tend not to for some reason). I had a look around the shelves in W.H. Smith's and this caught my magpie eye (I'm not a Geordie, by the way) because the title is written in a shiny material, which is something that I like.

The cover is incredibly pretty. I'm not a fan of the colour pink, but it works pretty well here. The pink dresses add a pop of colour to the cover. I love how the art is in the traditional Chinese style, as well as the landscape in the background. If the title wasn't on the cover or the spine, I would've known instantly that the book is set in China.

Although the synopsis is a bit off-putting for some people (Christianity and politics at the same time), I have a thing for books based on real-life events, but I can't stand autobiographies and biographies. The element of real-life events being entwined with fiction really interests me and even makes me curious. I've never heard of Pearl S. Buck, but that'll probably make my reading experience more enjoyable.

The plot of this book was incredibly engaging; I was glued to reading and couldn't put it down. I usually read at least two chapters a day, but with this book I was reading six chapters a day. The first chapter is quite slow, since it simply sets the scene, introduces characters and gives a back story. It does speed up by the second chapter. Some moments in the novel were incredibly tense, especially the Nanking Massacre scene. The tension and suspense of the story made the book even more enjoyable. I love it when a book has me on edge and this book achieved that perfectly.

Out of all the characters, I loved Willow the most (she narrates the novel and is the main character). I love how she is able to stand up for herself in times when it is incredibly likely that she will be killed. I like strong female characters and the way Min had written her shows that women can be strong and not depend on their husbands at all times. I liked how she never lets her friendship with Pearl waste away and die or reject her to save herself.

Since Pearl was actually a real person, my opinions of her might not be true. But, she also appears to be a strong female character, although she is a little bit fragile, especially where her daughter Carol is concerned (Carol has phenylketonuria, so she is classified as being mentally retarded). I found it quite sad that she doesn't have a strong bond with her father, who is too busy doing "God's work" but her persistence and determination is admirable.

Madame Mao (Jiang Qing) has been written to be quite a vile creature. She is her husband's advisor, believes that she is one of the most important people in China and that she is married to a God. The way she treats people is, I consider, to be completely unacceptable. It's almost as if she has a complete disregard for human life.

Absalom, Pearl's father, infuriated me at a few points. He's a Presbyterian pastor and manages to convert the entire town of Chin-kiang. Usually, I wouldn't mind that but it's the way he does about it. All Christians believe that you must put God before everything, but completely abandoning and ignoring your family for God is quite bad. He was quite an annoying character, in my opinion.

I loved the backdrop of rural China. It seemed the lot more peaceful than the cities featured in the novel (Beijing and Nanjing). I found it interesting to read about how China transitioned from being an Imperialist country to the Communist state is is today and its effect on the Chinese people. For some reason I pictures Nanjing (called Nanking in the novel) to be quite a small city and even a bit on the rural side. All of the settings are described beautifully and are given a good image of what they would have looked like in the early 20th century.

I'm not really a fan of religious and political themes, but that's mainly because books with those themes have the intention of converting the reader or persuading them to follow a revolution of some sort. However, the two themes tie in very well here as it shows how people were not able to think for themselves and those who did would be persecuted for it. I was actually quite appalled at how Mao brainwashed his followers (especially children into believing that he was their God and that anyone who is not Chinese or doesn't support the Communist Party is the enemy. Above all that, the theme of friendship stands out the most and I felt that that was the most important one.

I really liked Min's writing style. She doesn't beat around the bush too much with fancy descriptions or add too many pathetic fallacies (which I actually like when they're used properly) or even start her chapters in an annoying repetitive style. Her descriptions are beautiful and the imagery is fascinating. You really get a good picture of what the landscapes look like.

I really enjoyed this book. The writing style is beautiful and quite a few of the characters are likeable. I haven't read many books about China or read anything about Pearl S. Buck and this was an incredibly enjoyable read.

Review: Batman: Noel by Lee Bermejo

Batman: Noel
Lee Bermejo
Featured character: Batman
Genre: Superhero Graphic Novel
Released: November 8 2011
by DC Comics
Source: Gifted
Rating: ★★★

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"There is a passion for hunting something deeply implanted in the human breast."
-Charles Dickens 1812-1870

As the Dark Knight pursues his most hated enemy across the frozen landscape of Gotham City, a bizarre series of events threatens to steal his soul... forever.
Written and drawn by comic book superstar Lee Bermejo, BATMAN NOEL tells a Christmas Carol of a different sort.
Surprisingly, this is the only book that I got for Christmas, and I picked it myself out of the extremely colourful graphic novels shelf in Waterstone's. I have a whole shelf on my bookcase in my room that is all graphic novels, and I usually only read the ones that are important to the DCU timeline (before the reboot) or ones that have been recommended. I'd never heard of Lee Bermejo before reading this book, but his art style looks like it's going to be incredibly realistic, which I'm not fond of at all. Oh, and look! Catwoman's on the back.... Oh joy.

I'm very confused as to what to think of this book. It's basically A Christmas Carol but with Batman characters, and that doesn't seem original to me at all. A Christmas Carol is a cow that gets milked by the media every Christmas and I had been hoping for years that DC Comics wouldn't jump on that bandwagon.

Despite that, I did find it interesting how the characters where placed in the roles of Dickens' characters. Obviously, Batman was Scrooge and a new character called Bob who gives the Joker money in order to sort out his work live was, well, Bob Cratchit. I thought it was interesting how Jason Todd was Jacob Marley, even though he doesn't actually appear as a ghost and speak to Batman (who doesn't believe in ghosts). Catwoman (urgh) was the Ghost of Christmas Past, which was actually a good choise because she reflected the changes that Batman and herself have gone through and the times that have passed. Superman was the Ghost of Christmas Present. At first, I didn't understand how that would work, but it did work effectively because he has the power to show you what is going on in the world in a space of about two minutes. He also glowed like the Ghost from the Patrick Stewart film. Nice touch. And finally, the Joker was the Ghost of Chrstmas Yet to Come. I didn't really understand how he was since all he did was drag Batman into an open grave and shovel a crap-ton of soil onto him. Without saying anything. Odd.

I wasn't too keen on the art as it is in the realistic style that I cannot stand appearing in comics. I would've preferred the art to be in a cartoon-like style like Jim Lee's style or Tony Daniel's style. It would've looked more like a comic to me.

I'm a bit on the fence with this book. The art style wasn't my cup of tea, but the way A Christmas Carol was varied was enjoyable. I managed to read this book in one night, so it makes for a good bedtime read, particularly because it has a happy ending. As I said, I would've prefered a different art style, but the book is written very well.