If you’re unfamiliar, a reading deprivation occurs in week four of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. During a reading deprivation, you give up reading for a week. I started mine on January 1 so that means I’m currently on day four. Just like last time, I have basically given up all media that uses words, including social media. I also gave up Bejeweled (except–TMI alert–when I’m in the bathroom) because I definitely use it as a form of distraction and admit that about myself. Unlike last time, I am a little less crazed–probably because I knew what to expect this time and also, maybe, because I have grown as a person in the last four and a half years.
As a result of the no words thing, I am VERY into the Pop Goes Classical playlist/station on Spotify. It is getting me through. Current faves include “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Queenz of Piano and “Lose Yourself” by David Garrett.
The holidays were nice and low-key. Jólabókaflóð (Yule Book Flood) was a success this year. I received The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (reviewed below) and milk and honey by Rupi Kaur (started but, obviously, on hold until the end of the week). I gave The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas to my daughter’s friend who said she wanted to read more classics, and I gave my daughter The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo because she said she wanted to read more about minimalism. We exchanged books, drank hot cocoa, and read together for about an hour or so. It was a delight. Christmas was also a lot of fun with us hanging out, opening presents, watching movies, and eating some food.
I did make a post last week, and I did read some books and watch some movies that I didn’t post about here before the end of the new year.
What I posted:
What I read:
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I love this book. I love Ella. I love Char. I love everything about it except…possible plot hole? (view spoiler)
It’s hard not to compare this to the movie (which I love equally as much), but I will say my biggest movie gripes as compared to the books are (a) the way Ella’s escape from the ogres is handled and (b) Mandy’s motivation for not breaking the curse. Both are horrid, but the latter is the actual worst.
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The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Well, this was just awesome. I loved the narrative voice, the seamless transitions from past to present, and the characterization. That Stella is something else, but I think Bennett deftly shows how though her world seems larger, it’s actually just as small–if not smaller–than Desiree’s. I also appreciated the skewering of moderate racist White people.
All the characters here are sympathetic, and this just further proves my point that fiction can be a better entry point into anti-racist teaching than nonfiction. Also, as always, all Black lives matter and the reminder that “unimportant men were killed to make the point that they were unimportant–that they were not even men” (179) was as true in the 1960s as it is now.
The title works on ~levels~ and I am here for it.
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Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao
I really wanted to like this book, and I gave it a pretty fair shake (up until pg. 194), but it’s just not working for me.
Not only do the characters say everything they’re thinking, but the dialogue is weird and stilted. I mean, this is a real exchange in the book between the two main leads who are Chinese:
“Did you grow up in a similar Asian community?”
“My Asian community was a little different.”
What two members of an in-group would refer to their communities as ASIAN??? WHAT?
Also, there are a lot (A LOT) of parenthetical asides. Listen, I love parentheses as much as the next person (probably more so), but it’s not necessarily something I want to constantly see in my fiction.
I still love the cover, though. It is a thing of beauty.
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Orange Blossoms-Love Blooms by Dalia Dupris
I’m tapping out near the end of chapter four because I do not understand the main character or the pacing at all. She’s supposed to be trying to save her family’s orange grove, has a meeting with the banker to give him a presentation, never tells him about her plans for the avocados (???), then they go on a twenty-minute ride to the groves and talk about…what? Nothing apparently because by the time they get to the grove he still doesn’t know her plan but he was rushing her before they got in the car and his time is so limited but he has time for a forty-minute drive? Also, it’s a family business and her uncle is mostly in charge but she somehow thinks she can just fire the grove’s lawyer without consulting either her uncle or her father and also threatens to sue the banker without consulting the lawyer? And she’s supposed to be super savvy about the business? Yeah, I am too caught up in the logistics of all of this, and I have other books I want to read more (this is a book club pick) so I’m out. Let the record show that I really did try, though.
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What I watched:
Dash & Lily (Netflix)
This was cute and fun, but I probably would have liked it more if I actually liked Dash. He still kind of sucks at the end, even if he’s better than first episode Dash. So, you know, Lily deserves better. Plus, if all the people you care about say the dude isn’t great and your own artwork of him is suspect, take the hint.
That said, I am obsessed with Mrs. Basil E/Aunt Lillian and want to be her when I grow up, and I love Boomer with my whole heart.
Die Hard (HBOMax)
It’s been a long time since I watched this movie from beginning to end since I usually just happen upon it when it’s on TV. That said, this movie is flawless, and though I love older, bald Bruce Willis more than younger, balding Bruce Willis, I still love Bruce Willis so there’s that.
Also, what a relief to see no Black people sacrificed in the action of this movie AND for them to be competent and even excel at their jobs. Plus, a snarky, exasperated Carl Winslow who just wants to get home to his wife is the best Carl Winslow.
The ending and ultimate message (happily ever after isn’t real, but you can create your own happiness) saved this for me. I liked a lot of what this was doing and trying just not necessarily how it was executed. Maybe it was trying too hard? I don’t know.
I have watched this movie every single year since it came out (and sometimes more than once) and this is the first time I realized that Buddy acts like a great big man-child because he actually is a child in elf years as evidenced by the scene of him in the classroom with the other kids. I wish I could say I pieced that together on my own, but my daughter actually pointed it out.
Anyway, everything now makes so much more sense, and even though I loved Buddy’s sense of childlike wonder before (he’s an elf! that’s just how they do things!), the fact that he’s an actual kid elf takes it to a whole other level.
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (Netflix)
This was cute, but the ending reveal made zero sense and really hurt my enjoyment of the movie.
I loved the hair, costumes, and choreography. THAT CHOREOGRAPHY. I love it. The animated scenes were also really cute. Also, I am officially obsessed with MIZ Johnston. She had the best song and, as far as I’m concerned, the best energy. Forest Whitaker as a grumpy old man was also ultimately delightful.
All of the signs with puns were a lot of fun, but the songs themselves were largely unmemorable which is not good for a musical.
It’s a Wonderful Life (Amazon Prime)
This movie is actually perfect. And I relate to George Bailey on a soul level.
Romancing the Stone (Amazon Prime)
I know I watched this when I was a kid because I remembered certain details (mostly the crocodiles). This holds up, and it’s pretty fun. Kathleen Turner is a goddess among women, but we knew that already.
I also started Bridgerton on Netflix and The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel but didn’t get very far into either before my media fast began, so I’ll be getting back to those this weekend.
I hope everyone’s new year is off to a good start, COVID notwithstanding. And what a weird thing to have to type and say and also mean. But I know you know what I mean when I say that. The number of people contracting COVID is rising, and it’s scary out there, so I hope home is a good and safe place for anyone reading to be.