Friday, June 02, 2006

Reviews: A Book, A Movie, and a Magazine (No Spoilers!)

Before I get to the reviews, I just wanted to quickly say thank you to everyone who commented about the poem, photos, and/or dog in yesterday's post. For those of you who wondered how I did the final photo, I wrote a little bit about it in the comments section of that post. Now on to the reviews... The Book: I finished a book this past week that I REALLY liked. It's Cornelia Read's debut novel, "A Field of Darkness." It's a sharp, witty, articulate murder mystery with quirky characters, fun pop culture references, and edgy (but not cruel) observations about human nature. The main character is Madeline Dare, a downstate NY debutante who grew up among wealth, but her particular branch of the family tree has gotten a bit shabby. She ends up married to Dean, an upstate farmboy-turned-inventor and they live in Syracuse where Maddie works as a journalist for a small weekly paper. She spends her days writing articles on such riveting topics as green bean casseroles and hot winter drinks, and dreaming of the day she and Dean can leave town and never look back. One day everything gets a little weird when Maddie is confronted with an old set of dog tags that her father-in-law uncovered when he was plowing a field - a field that happens to be the scene of a 20-year-old unsolved double homicide. The name on the dog tags is the name of Maddie's favorite cousin and she is gradually, reluctantly drawn into investigating this long-ago crime in order to prove he wasn't involved. I thought the plot was delightfully twisty, with enough clues to allow the reader to try to solve the crime along with Maddie, but enough turns and surprises to make me doubt my conclusions several times along the way. But my favorite thing about the story is the fascinating cast of characters, including Madeline herself. She's smart, funny, flawed, messy, and human. I love the fact that she isn't always perfectly likeable, although I her, that is. I can't wait to see what Cornelia writes next. Whatever it is, I want to read it! The Movie: I went to see X-Men 3 a few days ago. My verdict? Enh. It was ok...I didn't hate it, but I certainly didn't love it. And I'm not being a movie snob. I quite often like movies based on comic books. But this one? Not so much. The action and special effects in this latest installment were ok, but I thought the story was a bit muddled and really not as interesting as I'd hoped. And they did a couple of things with the storyline that I just thought were annoyingly stupid. I can't say more without turning this into a spoiler, but let's just say I think they could've done better. I think they HAVE done better in the past! Two quick things I want to mention to those who have seen it or are about to - no spoilers, I promise. 1. For those who are geeky enough to know why this is cool, Stan Lee has a walk-on in the movie. He's in it toward the beginning as an old man watering his garden, who gets a shock when the water starts falling UP. 2. There's a short-but-significant post-credits scene! If you haven't seen the movie yet, sit through the long, LONG list of gaffers and best boys and caterers, because if they ever do another movie, what happens in that final surprise scene is important. If you've already seen the movie and didn't see the post-credits scene and want to know what happened, say so in comments or email me and I'll tell you. (Although I'll warn you that I'll quite likely be a bit slow to respond to emails this weekend, so it might be Monday before I reply.) Those of you who know this too, PLEASE - no one post any spoilers in comments!!! I know of at least a couple of people who read this blog who haven't seen the movie yet and are looking forward to it! The Magazine: I just received the July/August issue of Quilter's Newsletter Magazine and I cannot even begin to express to you how much I detest the changes that have been made in this publication recently. I've disliked pretty much every change they've made in the past 18 months or so. With this issue they've made even more changes. My reaction? Bleah! Yuck!! PTOOOOEY!!!! Also, I don't like them. Heh. I used to so look forward to that magazine arriving in my mailbox. Now it's just a let down. The only things I found at all interesting were Melody Johnson's color article, which was geared toward beginners, but at least has some good non-traditional quilts shown, and the "meetin' place" profile of Karen Colbourne Martin. Other than that there wasn't a single thing in there to hold my interest. Oh well, I've said before that not all relationships are meant to last and I can see this one coming to an end. I'm casting longing glances at other magazines, even magazines on other topics. I suppose I'll finish my current subscription because I can't be bothered to go to the trouble of canceling, but for the first time in nearly 20 years I won't be renewing. It makes me a little sad. The Daily Art Thang: Today I'm sharing a sketch I did of an oak leaf from the same tree featured in yesterday's photograph. It's rough, but ok: "Oak Leaf and Shadow"