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Thread: The Book Discussion Thread

  1. #6701
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    Quote Quoting Ezee E (view post)
    I think this is his best book.
    I was gifted a big Hemingway's-four-novels-in-one book, and now there were For Whom the Bells Toll and The Old Man and the Sea left to see if I would prefer anything else (although someone has rec-ed A Moveable Feast to me). Kinda been putting it off because FWtBT is the longest one.
    Midnight Run (1988) - 9
    The Smiling Lieutenant (1931) - 8.5
    The Adventures of Robinhood (1938) - 8
    Sisters (1973) - 6.5
    Shin Godzilla (2016) - 7.5

  2. #6702
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    The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien)

    The Fellowship of the Ring - 5/5
    The Two Towers - 4/5
    The Return of the King - 4.5/5

    Since the books are written as one, I waited until I finished all three to write about them. But I really hadn't expected my preference of the books to exactly match the one I have of the films.

    FOTR, like the film, is the one I love best with its sense of a world springing up fully established and vivid. It's also the only book where Tolkien's world-building doesn't get exhausting sometimes for me yet, because the nature of this part is one whole forward trek with a brief pause in the middle (Rivendell). It's paradoxically a straight-line narrative of epic scope, in which its one-group focus allows you to both luxuriate in its rich environment while engages its vividly thought-up adventure. No surprise that this one makes for most faithful adaptation (and imo best film) as well.

    TT's splitting of narratives cleanly into two halves (or for each "Book") threw me off at first. Book 4 with the trek towards Mordor is as engrossing as FOTR, and with Gollum in the mix, also with a touch of psychological twistedness like in the film. However, I don't know if I'm alone in finding the purely Men part here and in ROTK, though by no mean bad, my least favorite section of LOTR. Book 3's Men part, in comparison with the more intimate telling of Frodo/Sam/Gollum trek, clearly aim more towards mythic language that marks the nobler rise of Men. But it may be too distancing and a tad excessively "noble" (especially towards Book 3's end and Book 5's start) to the point that a drinking game can be made by taking a shot every time you come across "And lo!"/"And behold!"

    In ROTK, even if that noble tone of the language ramps up even more, it mostly suits Book 5's Men part better, with the story's bigger sprawl and gravitas as this nears the end. Meanwhile, Book 6 may be the best of them all: a grand, at-times heartstopping conclusion of an epic quest (Sam is as aching a creation originally here as he comes off, perfectly translated, onscreen); followed by some chapters self-checking if the characters/world can go back to their status quo after they have been through war; before a heartwrenching epilogue answer with "never fully" -- if not physically (an idyllic land ravaged), then mentally (a scar not healed in more ways than one). For all of LOTR being an influential high fantasy archetype with its seemingly simple tropes of good and evil, Tolkien is also there first before today's gritty "realism" of the genre, with the powerful pragmatism of his fantasy in showing complex struggle against that evil (Gollum) and the consequence afterwards (Frodo).
    Midnight Run (1988) - 9
    The Smiling Lieutenant (1931) - 8.5
    The Adventures of Robinhood (1938) - 8
    Sisters (1973) - 6.5
    Shin Godzilla (2016) - 7.5

  3. #6703
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    The Stanley Kubrick Archives (Alison Castle) - 4.5/5

    Cover of the edition I read:
    []

    The in-depth details and images would have made this already essential, but it's also assembled by Castle with such thorough chronological background that makes it a great read. However, this would have been full 5/5 for me if not for two issues:


    1) Each film has a central essay detailing from its conception to its release, so I was anticipating the one for 2001, only to disappointingly find out that it's the only one that breaks away from the format, and is composed of timelines and disparate essays on different elements of the film instead.

    2) From Barry Lyndon onward until Eyes Wide Shut, each film's central essay is all by Rodney Hill, whose writing is tad too hagiographical on Kubrick for my taste. For example, the theatrical release part of his essay -- on every single Kubrick film he writes on -- always points out how Kubrick's films were misunderstood upon initial reception by some circles, preemptively dismissing the criticisms by bringing up praises from critics who "get it", which gets eye-rolling by the third or fourth time he uses this already.

    Also, I was looking forwards to reading about the treatment of Shelley Duvall on the set of The Shining. Considering the involvement of his estate and family with the book, I didn't expect that section to be seriously disparaging towards Kubrick or anything, but past essays haven't shied away from mentioning the frictions or differences Kubrick can have with other actors, like Spartacus (Kirk Douglas and the film's British actors) or Lolita (Shelly Winters). But all Hill mentions, in a positive tone, is why Kubrick casted Duvall for the role, which feels crossing the line from too hagiographical to borderline dishonest for me.


    This is still engrossing in details and gorgeously put together though, even through sections of Kubrick films that I'm not a big fan of (eg. Lolita), so that I'm very glad I blind-bought it.

    Trivial side-note: this book has a ton of BTS stills, and as I was reading through it, I was curious to see Kubrick's switch from his early, relatively fresh-faced look to his more common, older bearded image in later career. I know it's an age thing, and the film's production took over a few years, but it's funny to see from the pictures how most of that transformation seems to take place primarily over his time on 2001.
    Midnight Run (1988) - 9
    The Smiling Lieutenant (1931) - 8.5
    The Adventures of Robinhood (1938) - 8
    Sisters (1973) - 6.5
    Shin Godzilla (2016) - 7.5

  4. #6704
    Administrator Ezee E's Avatar
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    Love that book. It's my favorite coffee table book. Read it cover to cover.

    Barbarian - ***
    Bones and All - ***
    Tar - **


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  5. #6705
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    Quote Quoting Ezee E (view post)
    Love that book. It's my favorite coffee table book. Read it cover to cover.
    It actually tempts me to rewatch the Kubrick I'm meh on (Lolita), which I thought wasn't possible.
    Midnight Run (1988) - 9
    The Smiling Lieutenant (1931) - 8.5
    The Adventures of Robinhood (1938) - 8
    Sisters (1973) - 6.5
    Shin Godzilla (2016) - 7.5

  6. #6706
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    Little Women (Louisa May Alcott) - Knowing about the book's background and Alcott's opinion of it herself, from around the time of Gerwig's adaptation, helps clarify my opinions about the two halves, in which I prefer the first part over the second. The second half's arc is compellingly plotted-out in putting the sisters through more complex world of adulthood, but the writing is a tad more convoluted and doesn't feel as effortless as the charming first half. Also, Alcott's touch of lightly having a moral around the end of almost every chapter is really suited more to the simpler narrative and childhood trouble of the first half as well. All that said, this remains readable and lovely throughout. 3.5/5


    The Long Walk (Richard Bachman/Stephen King) - My love for Stephen King in his sprawl mode more than most (my favorite of his being The Stand) may be a Monkey's Paw wish since that mode can produce his worst works as well. But The Long Walk might be the first King I love for its brutal simplicity, setting up a few introductory chapters of characters and premise then just push the narrative right off, dropping off its world-building in bits and pieces non-intrusively along the way. Its concept is so succinct yet so horrifyingly immediate that this might be his most compulsive read ever. A good thing too because if this is among of his more sprawling novels, I might have actual problems with the crowd spectacle aspect of it, but the relatively sparse writing keeps that as only a few occasional speed-bumps along the way. King also crucially populates the story with different, believably portrayed kinds of male adolescence, so that you can feel yourself getting drawn into this group of doomed boys further and further. And he nails the ending for this one too. 4/5
    Midnight Run (1988) - 9
    The Smiling Lieutenant (1931) - 8.5
    The Adventures of Robinhood (1938) - 8
    Sisters (1973) - 6.5
    Shin Godzilla (2016) - 7.5

  7. #6707
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    For Whom the Bell Tolls (Ernest Hemingway)- I was hugely apprehensive at first when I saw how thick the book is, given both The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms (even if I enjoyed the latter quite a bit) in which his writing doesn't seem able to support a novel of this length (Can't wait to dive more into his short stories after The Old Man and the Sea). But either Hemingway slightly changes his style, or his writing evolves over time; here he still writes in sparse, terse prose, but it's more detailed, emotive, and even at times properly compulsive, which makes the novel his most engrossing yet. At times it's also unsparing in depicting wartime; the two long monologues by two female characters separately recalling the unimaginable cruelty they either experience first-hand or become a witness to will stay with me for quite some time. And the ending packs a haunting punch even more than A Farewell to Arms. 4/5
    Midnight Run (1988) - 9
    The Smiling Lieutenant (1931) - 8.5
    The Adventures of Robinhood (1938) - 8
    Sisters (1973) - 6.5
    Shin Godzilla (2016) - 7.5

  8. #6708
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    The Old Man and the Sea (Ernest Hemingway) - Going briefly over some popular low-star reviews on goodreads, I'm glad I went through my Hemingway four-novels-in-one omnibus book chronologically, as I can see myself being similarly nonplussed (although wouldn't hate it to the same level of some) if this is the first book of his I read. But seeing his rhythmic, sparse style evolving over the years (paradoxically but somehow fittingly) into expansive epics, culminating with For Whom the Bell Tolls that's my favorite so far, I find the scaling back of scope into simple but precise storytelling achieve a mythic, at times transcendental power. Ultimately moving, and reread may prove very rewarding here. 4/5

    My ranking of the omnibus:

    1. For Whom the Bell Tolls
    2. The Old Man and the Sea
    3. A Farewell to Arms
    4. The Sun Also Rises
    Midnight Run (1988) - 9
    The Smiling Lieutenant (1931) - 8.5
    The Adventures of Robinhood (1938) - 8
    Sisters (1973) - 6.5
    Shin Godzilla (2016) - 7.5

  9. #6709
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    Just finished Brave New World, and to make yet another redundant comparison, I may like Orwell's 1984 better in term of actual story, but find Huxley's dystopia world-building here more provocative, disturbing, and, if my memory of reading 1984 in high school is reliable (need to reread it one of these days), a bit more well-written too. Mostly a draw, maybe slightly favoring towards Huxley's for now. 4/5
    Midnight Run (1988) - 9
    The Smiling Lieutenant (1931) - 8.5
    The Adventures of Robinhood (1938) - 8
    Sisters (1973) - 6.5
    Shin Godzilla (2016) - 7.5

  10. #6710
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    Hatchet (Gary Paulsen) - Sparse to the point of almost feeling like a draft at times (the "Secret" barely figures much into Brian's headspace or the events, so that it feels like it is put there to not make him feel too bare a character), which makes Paulsen's writing tics of repetition for effect stand out a bit. Its sole focus on the central story and procedural survival details still makes for a vivid and compelling read though. 3.5/5

    Roadwork (Stephen King) - Not necessarily a good book, but at least I'm glad King wrote it early in his career, because his current, more extended prose would render this down even more for me. As is, King's storytelling momentum makes this generically executed arc still compulsively readable. 2.5/5
    Midnight Run (1988) - 9
    The Smiling Lieutenant (1931) - 8.5
    The Adventures of Robinhood (1938) - 8
    Sisters (1973) - 6.5
    Shin Godzilla (2016) - 7.5

  11. #6711
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    Finally finished Dracula, which is more fascinating than I expected. Haven't realized how many iconic tropes and characters of vampire lore today come fully formed from this book. Rich text too, which I'm mostly intrigued by the Victorian mores, especially on gender (I'm far from knowledgeable but is this pretty progressive for the era, no? Especially Mina's character). Most of all though, there are some truly evocative, atmospheric passages here, which has me realize this is probably the first time I ever read a full-on classic Gothic novel. At first I'm intimidated by the denseness of the language, but it soon gets involving I adjust quickly; two highlights are the Jonathan-at-Transylvania opening and the mid-book Lucy section. I think that denseness is a mixed fit for the characters' planning stages though, making a lot of the third act feel redundant and almost tedious. But all in all, a deserved classic I'm glad to get around to. 4/5
    Midnight Run (1988) - 9
    The Smiling Lieutenant (1931) - 8.5
    The Adventures of Robinhood (1938) - 8
    Sisters (1973) - 6.5
    Shin Godzilla (2016) - 7.5

  12. #6712
    I'm in the milk... Mara's Avatar
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    I really enjoyed the whimsical ambiance of The Night Circus by Ellen Morgenstern. It was imaginative and thoughtful and fun, but I can't help but feel that it would have been much more effective if it had been cut way, way down-- like 1/3 of the way. Every storyline overstayed its welcome.

    In the pro-brevity column, Comfort Me with Apples by Catherynne M. Valente was an excellent little horror novella that resisted the urge to bloat itself bigger than the story. I enjoyed it immensely. I have found myself liking Valente more and more over the last few years, with finding some of her earliest works too stylized to be interesting, enjoying her Fairland series for children, and then totally loving Space Opera. The Past is Red was comparatively less ambitious, but still really impressive. I'm interested to see where she goes next.
    ...and the milk's in me.

  13. #6713
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    Wuthering Heights feels like an epic deconstruction of the genre even when it has just started. The intensity of its passion, in both writing and story, is used to some perversely unromantic effect, especially as the second half pushes the emotional cruelty to some startling places. In fact, although I overall liked the structure of filtering this story through two peripheral characters, I think that the (mostly productive) distance doesn't fully serve Heathcliff's character in the second half at times, with our character remove from him flattening his successively outrageous schemes/actions into one-note villainy a bit much. It sure makes for some propulsive page-turning though. Still marvel at the bracingly unlikable characters Emily Brontë has served as her story's central and supporting figures (even the most likeable ones like Cathy has some realistically mean tendencies), and somehow pull it off. 4.5/5
    Midnight Run (1988) - 9
    The Smiling Lieutenant (1931) - 8.5
    The Adventures of Robinhood (1938) - 8
    Sisters (1973) - 6.5
    Shin Godzilla (2016) - 7.5

  14. #6714
    I'm in the milk... Mara's Avatar
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    Few writers have despised their fellow human beings as thoroughly as Emily Bronte did. I really think Wuthering Heights is brilliant, but its reputation has been tarnished by those who want it to be some epic, sweeping romance and for Heathcliff to be a bad boy romantic hero. Just let it be what it is: a novel-length treatise on how awful human beings are.
    ...and the milk's in me.

  15. #6715
    I'm in the milk... Mara's Avatar
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    To Be Taught, if Fortunate by Becky Chambers is the best kind of hard sci fi. It pairs a deep respect and love for science with thoughtful dissection of what constitutes life, what price is acceptable to further human knowledge, and how to be an ethical citizen of a broader universe. The story is a deceptively simple one of a small crew of scientists and engineers who are on a decades-long exploratory mission, but there's no big horror-reveal or action-packed metaphor. It's just a hard yet compassionate look at human choices. Beautifully written. I loved it.
    ...and the milk's in me.

  16. #6716
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    The Picture of Dorian Gray feels like two very good stories that keep interrupting each other when put into one book. Dorian Gray's moral decay is familiar if still largely gripping gothic drama, while Lord Henry's long epigrams, which I gather tire some readers out, I find both fun and gorgeously articulated (Wilde's prose is great throughout, but especially so during Lord Henry's sections), then fascinating when considered in context of them with Wilde's own worldviews. But I think the way the latter is used as corrupted influence on the former is too thin so that they dilute each other a bit. Loved how Wilde arrived at that ending though. 4/5
    Midnight Run (1988) - 9
    The Smiling Lieutenant (1931) - 8.5
    The Adventures of Robinhood (1938) - 8
    Sisters (1973) - 6.5
    Shin Godzilla (2016) - 7.5

  17. #6717
    It inspired a cool King Diamond record, too:


  18. #6718
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    Call for the Dead (John le Carré) - After reading The Little Drummer Girl as my first le Carré and really enjoying it earlier this year, I finally start his works at the beginning, which is much more of a murder mystery with spies as detectives. Enjoyable enough, and le Carré distinguishes it with details of spy agencies' inner working and field spycraft, but only around the edges (mostly in Smiley's briefly sketched personal life, and the dead guy's wife) can one see glimpses of the writer's psychological depth and melancholy later on. 3.5/5
    Midnight Run (1988) - 9
    The Smiling Lieutenant (1931) - 8.5
    The Adventures of Robinhood (1938) - 8
    Sisters (1973) - 6.5
    Shin Godzilla (2016) - 7.5

  19. #6719
    So, Gone with the Wind is super-racist. I'm not talking about dated stereotypes (though it has those, too), I'm talking straight up white supremacist, Birth of a Nation, "slavery was good actually" racism. I had no idea.

  20. #6720
    Well, isn't the movie kind of exactly the same way, though?

  21. #6721
    The movie is also racist, but not to the extent that the book is. The book has five pages explaining why the Ku Klux Klan was necessary to preserve justice in the south, whereas the movie does not mention the Klan at all. If anything, it's pretty impressive how the movie managed to tone down the racism.

  22. #6722
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    Sense and Sensibility (Jane Austen) - First experience with this story is Ang Lee's film back in 2019, which I liked a fair bit but commented that "the P&P protagonist, whose personality seems a combination of two sisters here, ensures that the mores of the time and most men in her life don't shade into borderline emotional cruelty that makes this rather rough for me at times".

    At the time I haven't read any Austen yet (rectified by Pride and Prejudice last year, which I loved). After reading this and then rewatching the film, it's funny how knowing the story from the insides out changes your perception of it (or reading Austen since then adjusted me to the mores better). I no longer think that, but being Austen's first novel makes the lumpiness of the structure understandable on why I then found the men seem more like mere plot mechanics to make our two leads suffer (and even in the book here I still find both romances somewhat underdeveloped). But if not to the level of P&P, Austen's writing and banter are delightful and intricate from the jump, even if a lot of it still feel like a test run for P&P plot-wise. Also, because I forgot most of this story since that 2019 Ang Lee watch, both reading the book and rewatching the film has me feel like one of the men [
    ] really has more chemistry with one particular sister [
    ] than what Austen has them ended up at. 3.5/5
    Midnight Run (1988) - 9
    The Smiling Lieutenant (1931) - 8.5
    The Adventures of Robinhood (1938) - 8
    Sisters (1973) - 6.5
    Shin Godzilla (2016) - 7.5

  23. #6723
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    The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (Suzanne Collins) - This prequel takes the power rot theme at the heart of Mockingjay (my favorite book of the original trilogy) and runs the gamut with it. Not entirely successful (the least of all 4 Hunger Games books), but at least it's more ambitious with ideas than I expected. Arguably too ambitious, in fact. As much as I disliked cleaving a story into two parts, with the Mockingjay films among them, this book might actually benefit from it, as the final section feels halfway between an epilogue and a semi-sequel, making the book having an ungainly structure with lurching rhythm. Still, this is interesting enough in not being a retreat, but charting out its own identity with good world-building and colorful characters that I still find the book worthwhile. One aspect of the story's final beats also has such haunting ambiguity that I hope the film nails it. 3.5/5
    Midnight Run (1988) - 9
    The Smiling Lieutenant (1931) - 8.5
    The Adventures of Robinhood (1938) - 8
    Sisters (1973) - 6.5
    Shin Godzilla (2016) - 7.5

  24. #6724
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    Mansfield Park is more ambitious and thornier than previous Jane Austen stories I've experienced thus far, and thus maybe why its momentum and rhythm are sometimes off for such a long book. But it's engrossing in its portrait of Fanny, an Austen heroine in a unique position of vulnerability for once, who has a timid personality but remains with an unshakeable value core. She's surrounded by nicely different shaded level of personalities too; the Crawfords especially are such fascinating narrative friction in their mix of genuine feeling for Fanny and other less savory attributes. And you can tell Austen herself had met a personality type like Aunt Norris up close and often because she's almost too vividly real, a character that doesn't feel the least dated and personally I find her among Austen's top (semi-)villains ever. 3.5/5
    Midnight Run (1988) - 9
    The Smiling Lieutenant (1931) - 8.5
    The Adventures of Robinhood (1938) - 8
    Sisters (1973) - 6.5
    Shin Godzilla (2016) - 7.5

  25. #6725
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    A Little Life (Hanya Yanagihara)

    Finished this under 1 month, which is impressive considering these busy days I tend to read on average 10-20 minutes before bed (this one I sometimes lost myself in and then went way past to 1 hour late into the night, and then the story bothered my sleep lol). Anyway, the discussion around this since its release has been divisive, and I find the criticism legitimate, as I have trouble with the book myself at various points. The repetition and over-the-top succession of traumatic backstory I agree are detrimental, but I didn't have a problem with them as much as how Yanagihara parcels them out, dividing in chunks and ending each with obviously looming ominous statements about how it may get worse. It just feels tacky to me to have that kind of horrific story as partly suspense device for both characters and audience to go "What is Jude's past and how terrible is it going to get when revealed next?" I did get actively angry at the Caleb section, as it's a concentrated convergence of those issues, then upped the physical and mental degradation by some notches; previously those issues are contained to the past, but this character and his actions clang tonally hard and feel simplistic within the comparatively normal present-day story and characters, revealing the extreme of how problematic Yanagihara's conception of Jude's backstory is. It's why, apart from the book's compelling introduction (100+ pages or so) passages, I find the story being less bothersome in spots post-Caleb, and especially post-Dr. Traylor last bit of backstory.

    The parts I loved, I really LOVED though. Someone mentioned this before, but I agree with them finding Yanagihara's prose deceptively simple and effective, with some passages having the power to stop you in your track simply just by their simple but conventional statements of emotional truths or analogies. She dives into the present-day characters' feelings and dynamics deeply and with such heartfelt emotions without getting torturous or convoluted; the camaraderie is conveyed so well between these characters, whether platonic, familial, or romantic. They just come alive and you feel like you have known them and their dynamics as if you were there, especially as the years went by and their persisting pains and frustrations evolve along with the ebbs and flows of many relationships. These characters will stay with me for a long while, especially the bond between Jude and Harold; I am now not much a cryer when reading (and the problems I have with Yanagihara in the first paragraph blocks me a bit), but that last chapter did me in good. 4/5
    Midnight Run (1988) - 9
    The Smiling Lieutenant (1931) - 8.5
    The Adventures of Robinhood (1938) - 8
    Sisters (1973) - 6.5
    Shin Godzilla (2016) - 7.5

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