You guys, look at me posting twice in two days!
I realize I never mentioned a few months ago that I had read A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. Although I had very much enjoyed Towles's previous novel, Rules of Civility, I don't think I would have picked up this one if I hadn't been assigned to read it for my book group—the description just didn't appeal to me. Well, it turned out to be one of my favorite novels of all time. Really. The writing is just gorgeous, with many phrases and descriptions to savor on every page, but more importantly, I fell in love with the main character. By the end of this big-hearted book, I was doling out just a few pages a day to myself so as to keep it from ending—I didn't want to stop spending time with Count Alexander Rostov. In 1922 he is sentenced to house arrest at the famed Metropol Hotel in Moscow. He meets and befriends nearly everyone who works there, as well as many of the paying guests. That doesn't sound like nearly enough to propel a reader through close to 500 pages, but I assure you that this a gem. I've thrust this book at so many people with different tastes, and everyone has loved it. (I noticed in my review of Rules of Civility that our book group didn't have much to talk about with that one, but we definitely did with this one.)
Our next book was The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck. This one had great reviews on Amazon, but none of us liked it. It takes place during WWII in Germany, where three widows from different walks of life are trying to survive with their children. The writing had no sparkle, and the characters weren't interesting enough to make us care about them or their relationship. Ho hum.
I saw three movies too! First up was Wonder Woman, which was fun and exciting, as everyone knows. Gal Gadot stars as the Amazon warrior princess and Chris Pine as the WWII soldier; they were terrific together.
Then Baby Driver, which was OK but mostly felt overproduced—too much heavy-handed choreography and camera tricks for me. Ansel Elgort is the getaway car driver for Kevin Spacey's crew of bank robbers. It was full of cliches—really, can we please have seen the last of two guys spending an entire movie shooting at each other and literally trying to kill each other and then, when one of them finally has the other cornered, he decides to give a soliloquy instead of pulling the trigger?!
Last was The Big Sick, which I really liked a lot. It's the true tale of stand-up comedian Kumail Nanjiani, who plays himself. He is trying to make it in comedy and also avoid having to marry one of the many single Pakistani women his mother keeps parading around their dinner table. He has already met Emily, the girl of his dreams, but she is white—and also ends up in the hospital, where Kumail and Emily's parents (played by Ray Romano and Holly Hunter) get to know each other while they await her recovery.