Ah, 2012! So young, so full of hope. I made a list of things I hope to accomplish. Goals. Resolutions. I was going to share them here, then realized as I read everyone else’s resolutions how mine fall far short, and I was already feeling like a failure. So, I did the one thing on my list I knew I could handle. I started my 50/50 challenge! Yes, I’ve already read one book and watched one movie in 2012!

To be perfectly honest, I had already started the book at the end of December, but I hadn’t finished it. The movie was brand new to me; I’d never even heard of it before. It’s a good start to a year-long challenge, I think. Of course I have to share my opinion, because otherwise there would be no proof that I read/watched a thing, right?

My first entries of the 50/50 challenge:

Book: The Girl of Fire and Thorns, by Rae Carson.

This isn’t the type of book I’d usually like. Sure, there’s magic, of a sort, which in general I love. Sure, there’s a female protagonist. And yes, she’s chubby and has a love for food with which I profess a personal kinship. But mostly this is about a war, and a coming of age (what else would you expect in a YA novel?). I generally avoid reading about war, no matter what form it takes. I’m not a big George R.R. Martin fan, in other words. Not to mention it’s in present tense which I usually hate. However, all that said…this story fascinated me beyond my ability to understand why. I liked the quite literal transformation of a young, fat, shy girl into a beautiful (still young) queen capable of leading a rag tag group of orphans and misfits. I love that the King, although he is an adult man, is weaker both physically and mentally than this young, chubby girl – yet he has a nice streak in there somewhere that keeps him from being completely despicable. And somehow the present tense, first person worked for me. I was hooked, experiencing the change in her world as she did. The climax had me letting the water in the shower run cold as I tried to read just one more word before putting the book down to get ready for work. To me, that’s a great read!

First lines: “Prayer candles flicker in my bedroom. The Scriptura Sancta lies discarded, pages crumpled, on my bed. Bruises mark my knees from kneeling on the tiles, and the Godstone in my navel throbs. I have been praying -no, begging-that King Alejandro de Vega, my future husband, will be ugly and old and fat. Today is the day of my wedding. It is also my sixteenth birthday.” Yes, I was hooked from the opening paragraphs. So many questions! Why does she want her husband to be old and ugly? Why is she getting married so young? What the heck is a Godstone, and why is it throbbing? Read on, my friends, read on!

1 star for great plot, if a bit typical; 1 star for awesome lead characters (chubby people do NOT get enough time in the spotlight I think); 1 star for captivating voice; 1 star for all around fun read. Subtract 1 star for not quite enough action; there were a few points when I thought “nothing is happening” which is never a good thing. However, they didn’t last long enough to stop me from reading or enjoying this. 4/5 stars!

Movie: The Code (Morgan Freeman, Antonio Banderas, Radha Mitchell) Oye, so much potential, so unrealized. Great actors, a potentially good idea, combined with horrible dialogue, bad plot, bad editing. This poor story clearly suffered dismemberment in the cutting room. The scenes felt out of order. Banderas agrees to go forward with the heist before the scene wherein he is given a reason, and convinced, to go forward. This was so blatant it made his entire character flat and unbelievable. The dialogue between Freeman and Banderas was rather stiff. They never felt like a team. However, the chemistry between Antonio and Radha is hot. Mind you, the dialogue is still weak but you won’t care, it’s that hot. There are also a couple of mighty fine Antonio butt shots, which alone could make a rental worth it, but don’t get it thinking you’ll find a good story. If you are a writer, check this one out as a great example of what not to do in logical plot development.

The biggest sin of all was one of omission. To me a great mystery/heist is one where the clues are in front of me the whole time but I don’t guess they are clues. In this movie, the clues are simply not there. They are pulled out of thin air at the end when they need to wrap up the plot. Bah. It’s no fun having bits thrown in at the end which weren’t even hinted at before. How am I supposed to play amateur detective? In the words of Sherlock, “Data, data, data. I cannot make bricks without clay!”

So yes, there’s the inevitable plot twist (actually two of them), but you could never have guessed them with the plot as it’s presented. To me, that’s cheating. So, 2 stars for the fine looking Antonio and a stellar performance by Radha Mitchell. Minus 2 for the lackluster plot and dialogue and overall cheat factor, and minus one for the title. The Code as a title makes no sense in relation to this movie. The original title, Thick as Thieves, was better. Made me wonder if the other movie versions are better, but I doubt I ever go find out.  2/5 stars.