Friday, June 20, 2014

My take on: FaceOff

I rarely read short stories. I don't know why. I guess I'm just not a fan of keeping stories and plots within one book. But............sometimes one of these books makes it on my reading pile.

I was intrigued by the concept of FaceOff. Several of today's best-selling thriller authors team up and have their iconic characters "faceoff" vs. each other? I was definitely intrigued. First, how does this work? The authors are published by various publishing houses. I work for a children's publisher, and I know such an endeavor is HARD! Long story short, all of the writers for this book are members of the International Thriller Writers, the stories for the book are donated on behalf of the organization, the proceeds go to the organization, and author David Baldacci serves as editor.

Some of the stories worked for me, and some didn't. But overall I enjoyed the book. My favorite was Rhymes With Prey, written by Jeffery Deaver and John Sandford. Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs team up with Sandford's Lucas Davenport and Lily Rothenburg. Several years ago, I saw the movie version of The Bone Collector, so I kept picturing Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie in their roles as Rhyme and Sachs. Several Latina women have been murdered in NYC, and it's a race against time to stop the murderer before he strikes again. When they have a suspect, Lily is implicated in a subsequent crime. Is someone trying to frame her? OF COURSE! This worked as a short story, but it totally could have worked as a full-length book. A movie would be nice too! I was speed reading this one. I kept thinking, they're going to get Lily out of this mess. 

Red Eye written by Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly, featuring their characters Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch respectively was pretty good, too. Why do I say "pretty good"? I could see the differences in their writing style. Bosch descends upon Boston to search for a suspect in an unsolved murder. I felt like I was in Kenzie's head, and I connected to his character. With Bosch narrating, I felt like I was reading a different story.

R.L. Stine's Slappy the Ventriloquest and Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child's Aloysius Pendergast was the strangest pairing. A dummy vs. a real person? How can that work? There are definitely some elements of magical realism. Aloysuis wakes up in a mental institution and doctors are trying to convince him that he's locked up for his own good. They're trying to convince him that his memories of life as an FBI agent aren't memories, instead they are hallucinations. The scenes with the dummy just didn't work for me. I don't think I full understood that plot. I might have to read it again.

Overall, this was a clever and unique way to get these writers to collaborate. There are short cuts taken at every corner by the characters, but it works and I hope they do it again!
Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy from Meryl L. Moss Media Relations as part of a blog tour.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

TFIOS: The movie

As movie adaptations go, this was very faithful to the book. Like the book, I did feel the movie got better in the second half. I don't normally cry at movies or when reading books, but The Fault in Our Stars cracked my shell. If you haven't read the book or seen the movie, I will do my best not to spoil it for you.

The Good: The performances by Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe, Nat Wolff, and Sam Trammell. This is the first performance I've seen by Shailene Woodley, and I have to say she captured the sarcastic wit of Hazel Grace Lancaster perfectly. Laura Dern and Sam Trammell were equally captivating, portraying the emotional roller coaster that comes with having a child with cancer. Every movie I have ever seen with Willem Dafoe, he's always playing a jerk. I think he's got playing a jerk down to a science. He was great as Peter Van Houten. Nat Wolff was a breath of fresh air, he was funny and heartwarming in every scene.

The most powerful scene occurs about 20 minutes from the end. Those of you who have seen the movie know what I am talking about. If you didn't cry at that scene, there is something wrong with you. I heard a lot of sniffling, including my own, at that part. I knew it was coming. I was trying not to cry, but I couldn't stop the waterworks.

The Bad: I know A LOT of teenage girls will disagree with me, but .......... for me Ansel Elgort was the weak link in this movie. Yes he is nice to look at, but that's about it. His portrayal of Augustus Waters was not my cup of tea. Every time he spoke, I felt like he was trying too hard. I had a hard time believing the words coming out of his mouth.

You can't include everything in the movie, but I wish the Waters family had a more prominent role in the movie. His parents and his siblings are virtually ignored. In the latter half of the book, they play a key role. A lot of the pain and suffering that the characters go through in the last 80 pages is left out in the movie version. If it had been in the movie, I might have had a different opinion of Ansel Elgort's performance.

Overall: I think Hollywood got this one right. There have been many movie adaptations that failed to live up to the spirit of the book (My Sister's Keeper anyone?), but The Fault in Our Stars is not one of them.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

TFIOS: The book

TFIOS, yes I am going there! A little over two years ago, I heard about a book called The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. The book blogosphere influences my reading choices big time, and this was no different. I read a couple of reviews, and thought I should get that book. I managed to get a signed copy at Walmart. However...............after I bought the book it sat on my shelf, until a couple of weeks ago.

When I bought this book, it hadn't become the phenomenon that is TFIOS! I'm not sure what more I could say about a book that has now become a juggernaut in print and on the big screen. This is more of a reactionary post than a review.

Just a few days ago, Ruth Graham wrote a rather SNOBBISH article for Slate titled "Against YA." This is a direct quote from the article, "Read whatever you want. But you should feel embarrassed when what you're reading was written for children." Those are fighting words! Not only do I read YA, but I also work for a children's publisher.

Certainly, there are some YA books that are worth an eyeroll (**cough** Twilight **cough**), but so are some adult books (**cough** Fifty Shades of Grey, Dinosaur erotica books **cough**). But NO ONE should be embarrassed by what they read. No book is perfect, but read what you want because you're interested in the plot, characters, settings, the writing, and the possibility that you're about to be taken on an amazing journey.

After reading The Fault in Our Stars, I was taken on an amazing and extremely sad journey. Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus "Gus" Waters are very snarky and self-aware teenagers with cancer. They see the world and the people in it differently. They also see each other like no else can, so much so that it did get on my nerves. I know this isn't popular sentiment, but I found some parts of the book just a bit much.

"Do you realize how rare it is to come across a hot girl who creates an adjectival version of the world pedophile? You are so busy being you that you have no idea how utterly unprecedented you are." -- Pg. 123

I'm 31, and I can't imagine an adult male saying that to me. It's a line that could only be in movie or a book! I find it hard to believe a 17-year-old with raging hormones would say that. An adult, writing in the voice of teenager, probably would. Once I got past some of the overly mushy parts, I was captivated by the overall story. The book really picks up when Gus and Hazel make their pilgrimage to Amsterdam to meet reclusive author Peter Van Houten. This trip was the promise of something big for Hazel -- the answers to the mysteries of her favorite book An Imperial Affliction. That promise is unfilled and Hazel is left to ponder: What now? As a teen struggling with the aftermath of cancer treatments, there is very little for Hazel to hold onto. The promise of more details about her favorite book was a big deal ... a dream come true for Hazel. That dream is shattered, but she still has Gus and her parents.

At times the romance in this book stretched the laws of believability. I just find it hard to believe that teenagers can become so enraptured with each other so quickly and that they could be so whitty and insightful ALL THE TIME. What did ring true for me was Hazel's relationship with her parents. She has parents who are willing to do anything and everything to keep her alive. I'm not a parent, but this has to be a hard book for any parent to read.

Going into this book, I unfortunately already knew the ending. I took a class on children's publishing last year, the book was assigned to a classmate, who subsequently SPOILED the whole book. The assignment was to review the book for its strengths and weaknesses, not SPOIL the whole book for the entire class. That's probably why I took even longer to actually read this book, there was no anticipation of the story for me. But with the movie now on the big screen, I felt the need to read the book. I want to see the movie, and I never see the movie before reading the book. So, stay tuned for my reaction to TFIOS: the Movie!!

Rating: Superb

Note: Thanks for the comment. For some reason I can't respond, blogger is acting up!