The Jungle Book

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Bill Murray as Baloo is my life:

“Come on, Mowgli. Let’s be on our way.” —Bagheera
“But I’m helping Baloo get ready for hibernation.” —Mowgli
“Bears don’t hibernate in the jungle.” —Bagheera
“Not full hibernation, but I nap. A lot.” —Baloo

In addition, I applaud Jon Favreau for taking this on and thank him for recreating a childhood favourite so wonderfully well. I was skeptical from the beginning. I wondered how and why he could possibly make a live-action movie about talking animals that wasn’t Air-Bud-terrible, but my worries were completely unfounded. He cast some absolutely incredible voice talent (Scarlett Johansson was brilliant as Kaa, and Christopher Walken as King Louie?! Genius!), introduced a child actor who is more than capable of holding his own against a bunch of CGI-d pros, AND included a smashing remix of the original soundtrack. So yeah, he nailed it.

Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol

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You’re smart people, so by now you’ve probably figured out that I’m not the biggest fan of European classics. Dickens certainly did not meet my expectations, great or otherwise, I did not have a whale of a time reading Melville (heh!) and I’m sorry, but for all the fuss about Dorian Gray, his death was my favourite part of the whole novel.

And yet. And yet . . . I had hopes for Dead Souls. Not really high hopes, of course, but hopes nonetheless. I should have known better.

Now, it’s not that Dead Souls is a terrible read. Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov is a unique character with an outlandish mission that entertainingly sets him against a host of overblown caricatures representing all that was wrong with Russia back in the day (greed, stupidity, general suspicion). So it’s bound to have some good points. But my problem with this classic is the same problem I have with the others . . . it’s just so darn sluggish. Literally (for real, literally) a third of the book is superfluous exposition and hyperbole. And then after all the words he didn’t need to write, Gogol had the audacity to end mid sentence! What’s that about?!

Anyways… no. 1 on my challenge. Have I finally learned my lesson? Probably not. I’ll keep you posted.

Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan

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This book is an award magnet. It won the Scotiabank Giller Prize (praise be!), was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Orange Prize for Fiction (holla), and was a finalist for both the Governor General’s Award and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize (hella impressive). So you can bet I was expecting it to be a good read.

It. Was. And bonus: Edugyan is a Victorian!

My only complaint quibble is that the dialogue made it a bit of a sluggish read—but really, it just forced me to slow down and take it all in.

No. 20 on my challenge. Because it was on the Canada Reads shortlist, too.

 

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

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If you haven’t read The Rosie Project, you should go do that now. Because you can’t read The Rosie Effect without first reading its predecessor, and you should definitely read The Rosie Effect. It’s funny, it’s heartwarming, it’s hyper logical, and it’s disastrous in all the best possible ways. An easy read perfect for the bathtub (not where I read it), the airport (also not where I read it), or your favourite green chair (you guessed it: also not where I read it). It’s not a great bedtime read (where/when I read it) unless your intention is to stay awake until 4 am on a school work night.

No. 17 on my challenge . . . because I happened to have this book on my TBR pile when Rosie and I were coming up with the categories.

Book Challenge 2017

Last year my dear friend Rosie and I created a reading challenge based on the pillars of books we already had piled around our apartments. This year our focus is to broaden our horizons by being more mindful of what—and who—we’re reading. I think we did a dang good job:

Six books by people of colour
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

Five books from the Banned Books that Shaped America list
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.

Four books published in Canada or written by a Canadian author
12.
13.
14.
15.

Three books by women writers under 30 (at the time of publication)
16.
17.
18.

Two books belonging to a series
19.
20.

One book of historical fiction
21.

One book set in wartime
22.

One book that makes you smarter
23.

One memoir
24.

One graphic novel
25.

One American classic
26.

As usual, I’ll catalogue my progress on this post, as well as on the individual reviews by categorizing them all as Book Challenge 2017. Let us know if you’ll be joining us—we’d love the company!

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars by Ian Doescher

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When you’re a fan of the Bard and a fan of the Wars, there’s nothing to do but to read this book. Peppered with insightful asides, well-crafted Shakespearean insults, and elaborate illustrations (see below), this book/play/novelization, written in perfect iambic pentameter (the English major in me is whooping appreciatively), actually gave me a better understanding of the movie. Not to mention a few good laughs. This one gets a huge recommendation from me. READ IT. Readitreaditreadit.

No. 23 on my challenge. Though I don’t remember this particular scene from the movie. Mayhap it occurred behind closed doors.

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Illustrations masterfully done by Nicolas Delort.