This movie was a complete surprise. We hadn’t heard much about it, but Joseph Gordon-Levitt has been making so many fantastic movie choices lately, we had to check it out. This movie was pure fun. It was about bike messengers in New York City. Joseph plays one of the best, Wilee. One of his deliveries becomes dangerous when a cop starts chasing and bullying him to hand over the envelope he’s supposed to ride across town. There are a few twists, good action sequences, funny jokes, and good performances. If you are at the theater looking for something to see, don’t have anything in mind, and don’t know of a good crowd-pleaser that won’t get you in trouble with your group, pick this one.
Movie grade: B+
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
This story is set in World War II, and it involves a friendship between two women, a pilot and a secret agent resisting the Third Reich. (The afterward of the book explains that this is historically plausible.) Anyway, the book is powerful and emotional, with a good story and characters you’ll care about, as well as lots of fun historical details. The climax and ending didn’t disappoint. The first part is rough, because it has lots of flashbacks that aren't as intense as the real-time storyline and too much airplane talk (the author is a pilot herself). But the second half stays in the present, answers nagging questions, and brings the book to an effective close. So plow through. It’s well-written, smart, and it will appeal to teens and adults. It blows that Sarah’s Key book away, so if you like the subject and setting, go for this one. It deserves all the attention it should (and might) get in the future once people start reading it.
Book grade: B+
Damned by Chuck Palahniuk
The other of Fight Club is back with a book about a 13-year-old, fat daughter of celebrity parents who winds up in Hell, makes friends there, and slowly remembers the details of her death. The first half kind of bummed and grossed us out, but it improved from there. It never sucked us in to where it was an easy read, but we liked it anyway. We liked the witty narrator, and the book had some great things to say about identity. It’s cool that Chuck can write a 13-year-old girl (albeit a brilliant one) and have us believe it. There were a few laughs, and we’ll probably check out the sequel. The book’s ending is its weak point. We hate a cliffhanger in a freaking book.
Book grade: B-
The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers by Thomas Mullen
Two bank-robbing brothers die and mysteriously come back to life, evade the police, deal with family issues, worry about/look for their molls, and get into trouble. We’d heard good things about this one, and we were impressed by Mullen’s obvious intelligence. A few lines and themes were really well thought out. Weaknesses include an insanity plot that didn’t really go anywhere, an ending that didn’t answer the book’s central question, and an ending that was open-ended in a lot of ways. The ride to that ending was great though. It was fun, easy to read, well-paced, and twisty. We liked the magic aspect, the relationships in the book, the central characters, the revelations, and the flashbacks, which surprisingly didn’t slow things down too much. Read the first couple of chapters, and if you don’t like the writing or want to know what happens next, don’t read it. If you do, it’s not a waste of time. It has some of the most enjoyable prose we've read in a while.
Book grade: B