The Mallory Project

"Find something you're passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it." – Julia Child

It’s Kind of A Funny Story – Film and Book Reviews

So I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, when you try to write a complete novel in November [or 50,000 words, which is actually a novella]) and in my novel, my main character, Mac, is a teenager who has a bit of a breakdown and starts drinking and doing drugs, and eventually has to go to rehab. Now, I’ve never done any of that (well, I’ve had alcohol, but not to the point my MC will and the only drugs I’ve done have been prescribed to me by a doctor) but I want my novel to sound and feel real (I am going to lengthen it and try to get it published once Nov is over). So I checked out a few books from the library, books that take place (or partially) in rehab. The first one I read was It’s Kind of A Funny Story by Ned Vizzini, because I also checked out the movie.

I watched the movie first, and I really enjoyed it. The actors were really good, especially Zach Galifenakis (spelling?). He wasn’t his usual bumbling self. His character had lots of heart, and made me tear up a time or two. I really felt for Craig. I’ve battled depression in the past, but never to the extent Craig did. But I empathized with Craig’s ordeal, almost like I was experiencing it with him.

The book intensified those feelings. I even had a bit of a minor breakdown while I was reading it. Vizzini’s writing style is easy to get into and actually sounds like a 15 year old wrote it.

Both the book and the movie made me laugh and cry. They were heart warming, and a little difficult to get through. Not difficult in that it was badly written (it wasn’t!) but the subject matter was sometimes so dark. Especially when you realize that Vizzini wrote this from personal experience. He actually stayed in a psych hospital for 5 days. He wrote the book after getting out.

I’d give the book 4 1/2 of 5 stars, and the movie 4 of 5.

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Divergent Book Review

This was a fast, fun and intense YA read. It reminded me a little bit of the Hunger Games (comparable dystopian setting, similar protagonists) but I didn’t connect as deeply with Tris as I did with Katniss. It is possible I was unconsciously comparing the two, which would definitely color my feelings a little (but I didn’t do it on purpose, I swear!)

I do have to say though, that the lack of a love triangle was very refreshing. The romance storyline was organic and enjoyable.

I didn’t want to put it down during the last 100 pages. I could not wait to find out what would happen next. And it brought a few tears to my eyes.

Now I can’t wait to dig into Insurgent (book 2), and I’m looking forward to the movie (I think it comes out in March 2014) with Shailene Woodley as Tris.

Also, I spent most of the book wondering which faction I would be in. About half way through, I settled on Erudite…though now I’m not so sure…

 

 

 

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Good Enough To Eat book review

It’s an easy read, something that would be on a plane ride or next to the pool. It’s well written, the story is interesting and the characters are well developed.
But I’m not sure whether I liked the book or not.

Like I said, it’s well written. Author Stacy Ballis has a way with words. The reader really gets inside the protagonist’s head. You understand what she’s going through, and you feel almost like you’ve gone through the exact things she’s gone through. You may not be a former fat girl, like Melanie, but you know how she feels. Everybody has a part of their past that they’ve worked hard to overcome, and Ballis celebrates the hard work that it takes to do so.

In Good Enough To Eat, Melanie is a former lawyer who has recently lost nearly 200 pounds. She opened a health food cafe, where she makes food that is good for you and tastes good too. At the beginning of the novel, Melanie’s husband announces that he’s leaving her, for a woman who weighs the same that Melanie did at her heaviest.

The book chronicles Melanie’s journey to “live right”; how to be happy and fulfilled after everything is taken away from her. (Ok, that’s an exaggeration. Only her husband left, she still has her cafe and her friends. But sometimes it does feel, to her, that everything has been taken away.)

The book is very much about food. Each chapter starts with one food item and Melanie’s relationship with that food. For example, apple pie reminds her of her sister. Chili reminds her of happier times with her husband. Ballis includes about twenty pages of recipes at the end of the book, both traditional and “better for you” versions. I can imagine Ballis reading Nora Ephron’s Heartburn and thinking “hmm…I like this, I wanna try it out.”

But she went overboard with the food descriptions. When I read about creamy mashed potatoes, I can taste them just fine. You don’t need to tell me that they are white, silky, creamy, smooth and piping hot.

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The Casual Vacancy book review

The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first post-Harry Potter novel. I hope it won’t be her last, but I also hope her next is better.
I really wanted to like this book. I mean really wanted to. But I didn’t.
I didn’t dislike it. It wasn’t bad. But I did not enjoy it.
My biggest issue was with the language Rowling chose. When you’re writing a book, it needs to be easy to read. I don’t mean it needs to use monosyllabic words. But it needs to use language that doesn’t draw attention to itself. At least once a paragraph, I stopped and thought “did she need to write it that way?” It was very purple. Too many adjectives. It was like Rowling didn’t trust the reader’s imagination. “He never seemed to grasp the immense mutability of human nature, nor to appreciate that behind every nondescript face lay a wild and unique hinterland like his own.”
I also had trouble following all the different characters. They were introduced too quickly, and there were a lot of main characters. Too many, probably. (And that’s saying something, a I was able to follow 98% of the characters in A Song of Ice and Fire. )
I don’t think Rowling liked any of he characters. In every description (and there were a lot), she focused on the negative aspect. Every time she mentioned Andrew Price, she talked about his acne. Howard Mollison is fat. Samantha Mollison is a bitch. Simon Price is a dick. The only character she described positively was Gaia Bowden, and Rowling really only talked about how pretty Gaia is.
I finished the book five days ago, and I am still unclear on the plot. I understood what was happening, but I don’t know what was happening. I don’t know what the climax was, or the resolution. I don’t know what the characters were working towards.
I read some reviews (after finishing the book) and many critics described it as a satire and “very funny”. It didn’t feel like a satire, and I didn’t find any of it funny. But maybe if I knew more about day-to-day British life in a small village? Maybe if I had known it was satire going in to it? I don’t know. I might give it another shot someday. I do really love JKR’s writing, and I still really want to like this book.
Have any of you read The Casual Vacancy? What did you think of it? Leave a comment below!

P.S. I want to apologize for being so unproductive (blog-wise) last month. I was really sick for most of May, and I didn’t have the energy to do anything (except watch Fringe and Arrested Development) But I’m better now, and hopefully will have plenty of stuff for you in June.

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Perks of Being A Wallflower book review

I read this book in two days. I mean, it was really short (only 200 pages) and easy to read. And I felt like I was the person Charlie was writing his letters to. I wanted to keep reading, to make sure he would make it through his freshman year okay.

While I loved the story, I wasn’t sold on Charlie’s “voice”. He didn’t sound 16. He didn’t use much slang, which 16 year old boys usually do. He didn’t really use contractions, either. And I have never met a 16-year-old boy who preferred saying “I would not” as opposed to “I wouldn’t.”

My mom read the book after I did, and she thinks Charlie may have Asperger’s. I didn’t think of that, but after she mentioned it, I can see it. The language peculiarities, the “cluelessness” of social things (as Mom said). It fits.

I also think Charlie’s relationship with his English teacher is a little weird. I understand that Bill is supposed to be young, in his first year of teaching (so probably around 23), but inviting your students to your house? A little weird.
(That being said, I did once go to a teacher’s house, but my mom was with me – my French teacher was taking some of the class to France after graduation, and my mom was chaperoning). But I did like that Bill gave Charlie the after-school reading assignments. Most of those books (To Kill A Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye) are some of my favorites.

Oh, one more thing. A 16-year-old could never read The Fountainhead in three days.

But I did really enjoy this book. And the movie, too.

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