So Close

I needed a slightly fluffier book after reading the last book from our book club, so I picked So Close, but Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, who also wrote the Nanny Diaries, which I enjoyed.  Their new book follows Amanda Lurker, a small town girl who falls into a job with Tom Davis, a rising politician.  The relationship Amanda develops with Tom’s wife, Lindsay is at the heart of the book, as Lindsay clearly becomes the surrogate mother figure that Amanda has always wanted.

There is also a romantic interest for Amanda, a wealthy guy named Pax, who I could never really tell if he was supposed to be “the one” for her.  I saw the plot line involving Davis as the politician who gets corrupted by the power he so desperately seeks coming from a mile away though.  Still, it is easy to want Amanda to succeed in her career ambitions and in her personal life.  She has many obstacles to overcome, including her lack of education and her messed up family life.  It is an easy and quick read and perfect for summer.

Zootopia

My daughter turned 7 a couple of weeks ago and her choice to celebrate as a family was to go to the movies.  Zootopia was at the discount theatre and she hadn’t seen it yet, so the four of us had an outing out to the movies.

The movie follows Judy Hops, a go-getter bunny who wants to become a police officer, even through bunnies have never held that job before because of their lack of size and strength.  She works hard through the police academy and is assigned a position in Zootopia city.  Unfortunately, everyone else on the police force is prejudiced again Judy from the start and she is assigned menial tasks.  It’s not until Judy falls into an adventure to solve the mystery of animals turning wild that she finally earns everyone’s respect and proves that you can be whoever who want to be.

The movie deftly dealt with issues of prejudice and stereotypes and my daughter came out of the movie clearly understanding the idea that she can be whoever she wants.  It also appealed to adults with some funny jokes and movie references.  I especially enjoyed the dancing tigers in the final credit sequence.  It was a great family movie choice.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

Last night I finished A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, a 2013 novel by Anthony Marra.  Our book club chose this as our next read and we will be getting together next month to discuss it.  It was a lot better than our last pick, Fates and Furies, which no one in the group liked at all.

The book is set in Chechnya between 1994 and 2004 and follows several different characters as they react to the Chechen wars and fight for survival.  Despite not knowing very much about the conflict in that part of the world, it was easy to root for the book’s characters, especially Sonja, a surgeon in a remote hospital, Havaa, an eight year-old whose family has not survived, and Akhmed, Havaa’s neighbor whose goal is to protect her.

The book bounces between time periods and fleshes out the backstory, giving the reader more insight into the characters.  Sonja’s relationship with her sister Natasha is especially moving, as Sonja searches for what happened to Natasha and the revelations of Natasha’s past drug use.  Overall, it was a good choice for our book club and I am looking forward to our meeting next month!

Burnt

Coming home from vacation, I chose another movie to watch on the long flight.  I know it had gotten fairly bad ratings, but I needed something light, so I went with Burnt, starring Bradley Cooper from last year.

Cooper plays Adam, a chef who is trying to break back into the scene and earn a third Michelin Star after burning out several years before.  He gathers cooks to revamp a friend’s restaurant in London, including Sienna Miller, who plays his love interest.  The movie is fine…not great, but it was an okay airplane movie.  I enjoyed seeing the great food and it made me want to go to fancy restaurants.

Lawrence of Arabia

We finally made it through Lawrence of Arabia last night after our 4th viewing attempt.  This movie is long – 201 minutes.  We started watching it about a month ago, but between being busy at the end of the school year and going on vacation, we finally had to just bite the bullet and sit down and power through the rest.  You can probably tell I wasn’t a big fan.  I guess I just don’t know what all the fuss is about.

The movie follows the story of T.E. Lawrence, a real person during WWI in the Arabian Peninsula.   The 1962 movie won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.  It certainly is an epic and the scenery and all of the people are epic.  Maybe the story really didn’t interest me that much.  I did like the score.  There are no women in this movie at all and I’m not saying that every movie needs to have a ton of female characters, but really?  Not one?

I also found Peter O’Toole to be a little annoying in the role of Lawrence.  He seemed very passive and possibly the movie wanted to show his reluctance to violence, but the movie is about war and I don’t know what he expected to happen.  I did enjoy his interactions with the various Arabic tribes and how he learned their cultures.  Maybe on a big screen in the movie theatre, I would have enjoyed this more, but over several nights at home, it just didn’t do it for me.

Creed

I was on a long airplane ride and had a bunch of movie choices (yay for premium class!).  I chose Creed mostly because of the good reviews it got last year.  The only Rocky movie I had ever seen was Rocky IV in my freshman health class when I was 14, but I had a general idea of the Rocky storylines.

Creed follows the story of Donnie, the son of Apollo Creed as he trains to become a world class boxer.  Sylvester Stallone reprises his role as Rocky and is Donnie’s trainer and mentor throughout the process.  Stallone won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor.

Overall, I found the movie very engaging.  I liked the characters and liked their relationships to each other, especially the bond between Donnie and Apollo’s widow.  The love story was sweet and the fight scenes were realistic and exciting.  I can see there being another Creed movie in the future, following Donnie’s career as a boxer.