Sunday, October 8, 2017

My take on: Night Film

In my continuing efforts to read more of my own books, I finally tackled the monster that is Night Film by Marisha Pessl. I bought this two or three years ago, and I'm not sure what attracted me to it. I think it was probably the cover or the discounted price. I'm certain I picked this up from a bargain bin at Barnes & Noble.

The cover certainly hints at something ominous. Something sinister is going on with the woman on the cover. She did something or something happened to her. When I bought this and when I finally started reading this book, I was convinced there had to be a great story ahead. After 600-plus pages, this was a bit of a mixed bag.

Young Ashley Cordova is dead. Her death is ruled a suicide, but bulldog investigative reporter Scott McGrath is not convinced. Scott is certain there is more to the story, possibly even foul play. Ashley is the daughter of the reclusive horror director Stanislas Cordova. Scott has come up against Stanislas before. He once tried to expose the celebrated director's sinister lifestyle and film career, even going so far as to compare Stanislas to cult leaders like Jim Jones and Charles Manson. Actors on his films were worked to the point of exhaustion and even mental breakdowns. But no one will ever go on the record. Stanislas has followers that would do anything and everything for him, including protecting him from people like Scott. The pursuit of Stanislas turned out to be a big failure, leading Scott to become a pariah in the journalism world. That is until Ashley's death. Solving the mystery surrounding Ashley's death could be Scott's ticket to redemption or it could be his downfall.

McGrath's life is in shambles. One day melts into the next. He's estranged from just about everyone in his life. He loves his young daughter, Samantha, but barely makes an effort to spend time with her. It doesn't seem like Scott should be going down the Cordova rabbit hole, but he is. One tip leads to another, and another, and another. Enough clues to fill 600 pages. Along the way Scott gets some help, forming his own squad--reminiscent of Woodward and Bernstein in their pursuit of the Watergate scandal. Yes, Woodward and Bernstein are a running gag throughout the book. Youngins Nora and Hopper, both with connections to Ashley, join the investigation.

It's hard to know what type of book this was trying to be. Horror? Literary? Mystery? Magical Realism? I didn't even get to the mixed media component of the book. Throughout there are fake newspaper articles, magazine articles, web pages, and photographs. They're supposed to enhance the story and there used to be a website/app for the book, but it looks like that's no longer active. The articles, links, and photographs are another character, an annoying character. They don't enhance the story, they slow it down. There are parts of this book that are really good, but some that are just boring, slow, and unnecessary. If this book had 200 less pages, it would have made for a better read. For all of the pages, the final payoff was a big letdown. Without giving too much away, the true story behind Ashley's downfall was not what I was expecting at all. After investing so much time I was disappointed in the ending. Looking at this as a whole, I felt like the whole investigation was pointless because it led to nothing!

Rating: Give it a try

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

My take on: Shine

I'm not sure how many years ago I bought Shine by Lauren Myracle, but I'm glad I finally I dug it out of my TBR pile.

Seventeen-year-old Patrick is beaten and left to die at the gas station where he worked. The horrific crime rocks the small town of Black Creek, North Carolina. People in town and local law enforcement are certain it's a hate crime and it has to be the work of outsiders. Why a hate crime? Patrick is gay. It's easier to believe that outsiders did this rather than admit that someone from Black Creek committed this crime. While it was hard to be himself in such a small town, but Patrick never stopped being himself or denied who he was. Patrick was left to fend for himself after the death of his beloved grandmother, Mama Sweetie; going to school and supporting himself by working at the gas station. He was friends with the local jocks/popular kids in town, Tommy, Christian, and Beef, despite the many times they teased him about his sexuality. Patrick dealt with whatever life handled him with dignity and grace. Now, he's literally in the fight of his life.

Many in town offer their prayers of support for Patrick, but the truth is they would much rather gossip about Patrick than actually try to help him. Except for Cat. As kids, Cat and Patrick used to be best friends. Cat often spent more time with Patrick than her own family. As teens they drifted apart. After a sexual assault, Cat chose to retreat within herself than to seek solace from her best friend. Now that Patrick is in the hospital, Cat is full of guilt and regret. Does she deserve to feel sad after rejecting Patrick for so many years? In some ways she feels responsible for Patrick's attack. Maybe if she hadn't shut him out, Patrick would be OK? Cat is convinced that the only way to alleviate the pain and guilt is to find Patrick's attacker. It won't be easy. There are some, including Cat's brother Christian, who are convinced that Cat should leave well enough alone. Investigating forces everyone to confront their own feelings about Patrick, when they would rather avoid them. Investigating forces Cat to face her own feelings and insecurities, when she would rather avoid them. And more importantly, investigating could be dangerous.

This was very well-paced. Each chapter is an insight to small-town life, small-town "values", and small-town prejudices. It's easier to ignore what's uncomfortable than facing it head on. Cat wants to face everything head on. She's afraid but can't give into fear because she would be letting Patrick down. Patrick's attack is the catalyst for the overall book, but this is really Cat's story and her journey. Although, I do wish we could have heard a little bit more from Patrick's perspective. Everything we know about him comes from other people. It would have been nice to get just a little bit more of Patrick, but overall I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Rating: O.M.G.!!!