Thursday, January 1, 2015

Resolutions, Audiobooks and Recent Movies

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you've had a fantastic holiday season and have a great 2015 ahead!

When people discuss New Year's resolutions, it's often times things like "lose weight" or "have a better diet." But what about us bookworms? Here are three of mine...

1) Read diverse authors
I started listening to several podcasts this year like Book Riot and Books on the Nightstand and was not privy to the ongoing concerns in the publishing industry about a lack of diversity among authors. BookExpo America, the New York trade show that aspires to be the book equivalent to Comic Con, suffered high-profile public relations gaffe this summer when it had multiple panels that didn't have female or minority authors. While a book's subject matter will still be the proverbial compass I use to determine which book I want to read next, it cannot hurt to consider more diverse voices. In an attempt to put my money where my mouth is, I've recently acquired bestseller Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and both Cristina Henriquez's The Book of Unknown Americans and Ishmael Beah's A Long Way Gone are on the wish list.

2) Aim for 52, hope for more
Goodreads started up their annual yearly reading challenge again today and I put in 52 books, with the hope of topping that number even more. How does one help get to that number? Well...

3) Listen to more audiobooks
For a while, I didn't care for audiobooks. I had canceled my Audible account after having several bad experiences listening to books, most notably Catching Fire, the second novel of The Hunger Games series. After realizing that I was spending my 90-minute roundtrip commute listening to a local sports radio station talk 24/7 about the Lakers, who I don't care for, I wanted to be more productive with that time. I started with Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, then went to Cary Elwes' As You Wish and Michael Koryta's Those Who Wish Me Dead, which I'm almost halfway through. I initially thought I'd take inventory after Koryta's novel, but by the time I was done with Night Circus, I knew I was hooked. Guess I should fire up that Audible account again.

During the holiday hiatus, I saw several movies, most of which were okay at best.

1) Theory of Everything - Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones give fantastic performances and David Thewlis of Harry Potter fame is a nice addition. The movie's classical soundtrack is excellent and the direction was exemplary. The movie is in my top ten of the year, but it didn't strike me as the definitive Best Picture of the year. Grade: B+

2) Interstellar - This year's "great idea, so-so execution" movie. Two of director Christopher Nolan's past movies are two absolute favorites of mine and I eagerly awaited this one all year. Having said that, I mostly enjoyed what the film tried to do, despite a plot that seemed to bend and twist over itself to the point of confusing audiences. There were moments when I was taken out of the storyline because I was trying to digest the science of the previous scene. Having said that, after the movie, I drove over to my local Barnes & Noble and perused Kip Thorne's book The Science of Interstellar. If other filmgoers managed to have their imaginations sparked and pursue the stars, then Nolan can consider it mission accomplished. Grade: B-

3) The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies - I didn't care for the first two parts of The Hobbit, so I went in with minimal expectations. I love the book, but I didn't like the splitting of the story into three films. The resolution of the Smaug storyline could have easily been handled in the second movie (it's finished before the title card, so get to the theater on time). There are now major continuity problems with The Fellowship of the Ring, especially in how Gandalf knows about the One Ring and Sauron. The latter part of the movie I enjoyed, mostly because the damage had already been done. The Hobbit is to Lord of the Rings what the Star Wars prequels are to the original triogy, both in terms of timeline and quality. Grade: B-

4) Exodus: Gods and Kings - After hearing negative reviews online, I went into Ridley Scott's Biblical epic with greatly reduced expectations. Even then, this movie didn't deliver the goods. Dozens of changes from the original text didn't serve the story and seemed to be made for the sake of a change, rather than serving the story. The visuals were good, but with the likes of The Hobbit playing in the same multiplex, there wasn't anything special about Exodus. Grade: C- (the visual work saves it from the F).

Do you have any book-related New Years resolutions this year? Seen any stellar films this year?

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