What a lovely film Words & Pictures is. Clive Owen plays an arrogant literature teacher and Juliette Binoche is his equally arrogant art-teaching rival. Their inevitable romance is more sarcastic than sweet and the personal demons of the two teachers threaten to make their mock “war” real. The best parts of the film are the literary quotes (by everyone from Shakespeare and John Updike to Ian McEwan and Jeanette Winterson) and various forms of art (from paintings and charcoal drawings to cartoons and cyber art) that are woven into the story. It’s an enjoyable, artsy, indie rom-com.
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen is an award winning classic tale of a teenage boy’s struggle to survive alone in the Canadian wilderness after a plane crash…kinda like Lost if Jack was the only survivor on the island and the smoke monster was really just a homicidal moose. The adventure setting itself would be an interesting enough read, but what makes the story so riveting is the protagonist’s mental transformation from a young boy upset over his parents’ divorce to a man teaching himself how to live in the jungle and overcoming obstacles both external and internal.
Guest Post By: Brendan
I expected When It Happens To You to be good… for Molly Ringwald, but thought that perhaps from another author it might be considered a disappointment. I was wrong. This is a remarkable work of fiction with glimpses of brilliance.
The work is described as a collection of interlinked stories, but it felt like a novel to me. When It Happens To You is the story of a disintegrating marriage, of betrayal and hope, only briefly touching on the lives of some who interact with the central couple.
The virtuosity of the title segment, which serves as a centerpiece for the book, is at times breathtaking. Here’s a sample…
“When it happens to you, you will ask him why he would choose to forsake this good, sweet life that you carefully built together for a girl who couldn’t begin to understand him, and then you’ll realize that is partially the point. He doesn’t want to be understood. He wants to be misunderstood because in the misunderstanding lies the possibility of reinvention.”
When It Happens To You is the most pleasant literary surprise of the year.
After a few years of delving into classic literature and non-fiction adventure books (mostly about exploring the Amazon and Mexican caves), I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy some new novels this year. I didn’t post a book list last year, so I’m including one 2011 release I read this year. Please comment with your favorite reads of 2012!
A charming, quaint little story about an elderly Englishman’s spontaneous journey on foot to see an ailing friend and the effect his decision has on himself, his wife and everyone he encounters along the way. It would have been my #1 book of the year if not for the second half veering off into Forrest Gump territory.
Set in 1914, a group of survivors in a tiny lifeboat gradually lose all sense of decency and themselves after nearly a month at sea in the aftermath of a sunken ocean liner. As the narrator reveals upfront she’s on trial for murder, you know this ain’t no Titanic.
A classically written novel about a young Jewish refugee who escapes WWII-era Vienna to work as a maid in an English manor. It’s like a romanticized Downton Abbey.
A melodramatic but sweet WWII-era romance about two military outcasts falling in love through correspondence.
“…a charming, cheery little novel…Austin pays homage to Lewis Carroll by dropping her feisty, somewhat spoiled, bookworm heroine, Alice, in a strange, Depression-era, backwoods Appalachia town called Wonderland Creek…one of those uplifting reads that leaves a smile on your face at the end, though you’ll miss that wonderful little world when it’s over.“
“…a romantic fable in unusual binding. This beautiful, open-spined book folds out like an accordion, so you can choose to read Evelyn’s story then flip over to Brendan’s perspective (or vice versa) as they meet in a bookstore, fall in love, are torn apart and attempt to find their way back to each other.“
An unusual fantasy of a couple who miraculously survive an avalanche while skiing only to find the French village they are staying in completely deserted and eerily silent when they return. A chain of strange events and their inability to escape the village lead the couple to question the very world they live in.
Rash certainly imagines some extraordinary plots. Had his 2009 novel, Serena, been released this year, it would also be on this list. Set in WW1-era Appalachia, The Cove tells of a lonely, outcast girl who falls in love with a mysterious, mute stranger who carries a secret of his own.
Another exquisite, multi-cultural, multi-generational tale by Victoria Hislop, who just may be the finest writer alive. Her stories are always a rich, tightly woven, unparalleled tapestry of language.
“…truly a page turner…Morton deftly takes us back and forth from the blitz of WWII-era London through the 1960’s and into the modern age, weaving a universe of mystery and suspense all along the way…so well designed and executed that, for once, the twist at the end took me completely by surprise.“
Browsing Taylor Books‘ fiction shelves, my eye was caught by a glint of gold. The embossed, gold-lettered title of The Thorn & the Blossom by Theodora Goss was shining under the twinkle lights on the top shelf. The small green and gold hardback book itself was unusually lovely and the “two-sided love story” contained within its pages was compelling enough to read in one evening.
The Thorn & the Blossom is a romantic fable in unusual binding. This beautiful, open-spined book folds out like an accordion, so you can choose to read female protagonist’s story then flip over to her male counterpart’s perspective (or vice versa) as they meet in a bookstore, fall in love, are torn apart and attempt to find their way back to each other.
I usually dislike such publishing gimmicks and the lack of binding does require careful handling, but this book reminded me of Nick Bantok’s Griffin & Sabine. The story and characters are imaginative enough to make it an enchanting reading experience.