Friday, August 19, 2016

More Mercy

Fire Touched, Patricia Briggs
As usual, I'm utterly unimpressed by the cover choices for Mercy novels.  In the first three books Briggs clearly establishes Mercy is the opposite in taste and style as the character who peacocks across the covers.  It's annoying.  But also in usual form, the latest Mercy story is a good read.  It isn't my favourite (this is the ninth novel), but it's very solid.  I really like the central relationship very much.  The end wraps up a little quick for my liking, but there is early action and great group dynamics, as always.   More Mercy here.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25076719-mercy-thompson
Hopcross Jilly, Patricia Briggs
Gah.  This was disappointing.  I won't be reading any more of the graphic novels about Mercy.  It read like a generic urban legend instead of creative, funny and strong Briggs.  The illustrations were also not for me at all.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Icing on the YA SciFi Cake

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25857262-shield
Shield, Rachael Craw
I was so impressed with this author's debut, thrilled when the sequel proved so strong, but now -- oh -- now I can scarcely believe this entire tale was a beginning for Craw since the final installment bears no marks of inexperience -- how she has honed her writing!  For those awaiting Book 3's release in two short weeks, assured be, your pre-order money is well-spent; you will not be disappointed.  I chomped through the pages and came away impressed again and satisfied;
  • Reviewing the online glossary for the world of Spark was sufficient refresher for me to fall back into this story and quickly care about the characters again.  I remembered much of the details from the previous two books without re-reading because the story arcs of both are memorable.
  • I loved picking up where things left off with the central characters.  There's all of this hankering going on and it is a treat quickly delivered for fans.  Furthermore, having a male love interest who offers unfailing loyalty instead of snark? Thank you, Rachael!  Ladies, take note, good guys can be attractive.
  • And the heroine?  A delicate balance of feisty and fallible.  I especially like when she says and does things I am willing her to do but doubt anyone would do...oh wait, Evie would.  Also: Sometimes protagonists who are coincidentally and conveniently Super bug me; but Craw has succeeded in creating a cathartic pleasure in Evie's BA-ness; I don't roll my eyes when she is stronger and better than everyone else, I inwardly scream, "Take that!  Don't mess with Evie!"  It's good writing to have me so on-side and unquestioning.
  • The relationship trees, nay, webs of the story manage to be fun instead of contrived or confusing.
  • The short exchange dialogue remains en pointe!  It's sharp, smart and current.  The lengthier conversations are juicy too, enhanced by thoughtful consideration of each person's motivations and angle.
  • Early on there are a few dream recounts.  A lot of the time I find dream recounts superfluous.  These weren't.
  • I enjoyed the politics of the story and the level of world complexity -- it had enough dimension to make it more than a tough female fighting a system (what system mattered), but not so much that it bogged down the momentum;
  • ...which would be a travesty, since the pacing of the novel is one of its finest features.  I love that this book spits out bookmarks mercilessly, denying any page as a fitting home for such a thing.  Books 1 and 2 were also well-paced, but they relied on novelty, suspense and well-plotted twists for such effect.  Although Book 3 is less novel (we know the world), less suspenseful (we know what we want to happen and hope hard at least 75% of this will be delivered) and certainly less twisty, it is probably the most riveting.  Instead it is a story that sets off running, and doesn't take breaks.  That device works too.
  • I'm not at all surprised Spark is already optioned for the screen, Shield continues to read very cinematically.
  • If you haven't tried this series yet, you're in for the late-comers' delight of a) no wait between title releases and b) the promise the entire journey you're about to embark on is good from beginning to end.  Lucky you -- you need not even go out on a limb and worry you'll be left on a bouncy twig with nowhere else to climb!  It's all solid, friends.  
  • Isn't it a huge bonus that the covers are stunning?!  Good shelf candy.
  • If I had to say there was anything I look forward to seeing polished in future works, it is the resonance and uniqueness of the villain; at some point during my reading the bad guy morphed into an alter ego of The Hunger Games' Snow.  This isn't the worst comparison to have made, especially since it's the only note I feel is worth giving.
Overall, Shield has left me excited.  I wasn't sorry when I closed my review copy that it was all said and done, because Rachael Craw isn't all said and done; her latest tight, confident crescendo work may end this series, but is not the grande finale.  I am looking forward to what YA page-turner she delivers next.


Shield is in bookstores September 1.  Review copy received from Walker.

Mini Movie Reviews: Bulk Hit No 48

 
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2582496/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

Me Earl and the Dying Girl
I finished yesterday's bulk hit with The Duff -- a missable high school movie.  This one's above average.
This is okay.  It's the most I've ever liked Jason Bateman.  I think my lack of enthusiasm probably has a lot to do with how grown-up the story seems (it's a criminal conspiracy) and how crazy-high my expectations were having caught a few review headlines.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1294226/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
Surprisingly nice.  Now with this one my rock-bottom low expectations probably helped.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0817177/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
Flipped (2010)
Loved it. WTB.  It's a great story -- the kind of story I want my girls to watch (around age 12, I'd say). Other things I liked: the high school actors were high school age, it was moving, it was a treat to look at and listen to (think late 50s / early 60s nostalgia), and the cast was great.   This is my favourite of this bulk hit.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0948470/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
So silly. But a little funny. But...so silly.  I get it, it is a movie about a spider and human cross-species, but still...the silly!  Ant-Man's premise is absurd but it was awesome!  This was not awesome.  I think you know what it was.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1414382/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
Surprisingly funny and relatively clean for films of its type.  Haki and I enjoyed it more than we thought we would; general onsensus has it pinned it as very mediocre...we think it's better than that.
Bad.  It even ruined the father-son relationship that made the first movie.  Badly done guys, badly done.
Entertaining fiction.  Let's be clear, this is all very made up.  It did prompt me to think and read more though -- which I like when a movie does -- so I could get a better idea of something closer to what went down (but of course still filtered by what has been recorded by others).  The content is a lot; the M-classification note only lists offensive language but there is so much more (sexual reference, sexual scenes and drug use, among the "more").
Just okay.

The Hundred-Foot Journey
Good.  Really quite good. 
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1935179/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
Mud
I feel like this was close to being great.  It had so many of the ingredients of a timeless tale...but left me wanting, big time.  Overall a stink feeling at the end.  The cover is a bad sell because this story is way more about two adolescent boys and unusual summers.  Overall: missable although it wasn't the worst.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1016075/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
Fame
I'd seen this sometime in the year Esky was born but it was lost in the excitement and didn't make a bulk hit.  In re-watching I found it very...predictable and formulaic, but fine.  It's always a little fun to watch gifted characters jamming together, isn't it?
Bad.
This is very rude.  It also features one of my not-so-favourite character tropes; the too-cool parents.  Something about Emma Stone and the script kept me watching and produced my conclusion that it's rude, but also one of the better high school movies.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2770480/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
Nice.  It lacks the chemistry I hoped for and something's not quite there in the depth of scenes, but it's very clean and nice.  No sex, swearing, or violence (a rarity, really).

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Mini Movie Reviews: Bulk Hit No 47


http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3064298/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

Man Up!
This seemed like the recipe for a better-than-average romantic comedy.  It kind of was -- it was slightly better.  The script is more authentic...but it is so vulgar and crass I wouldn't watch it a second time or recommend it.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1638355/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
This wasn't bad...but it's pretty forgettable; if you asked me to tell you the story now, I couldn't at all.  There's a good guy?  And a bad guy?  And a girl, I'm pretty sure there's a girl.  And a nice or fast car?  Yeah...nothing you wouldn't know yourself from the cover.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2381249/?ref_=fn_al_tt_8

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
This is what it is -- impossible action with Tom Cruise.  This is what I expected and therefore I enjoyed it.

Mirror Mirror
Nice to look at and not a lot more.
Playing for Keeps
Skip it.  It's not great, even if you like some of these names.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2103281/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

This delivered the goods.  It has some truly magnificent blockbuster moments and tips its hat so nicely to the previous films. 
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0478970/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
Ant-Man

This was awesome!!!  I did not think it would be awesome.  I was wrong.  So I can now say that of the Marvel movies I only really like Iron Man AND Ant-Man.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2361509/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1


The Intern
Pretty good.  Home-date-night viewing and we both found "pretty good."

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3659388/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

The Martian
Loved it.  Bought it.  Easily my favourite of this bulk hit.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3818286/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
Alex & Eve
Okay.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1621045/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
Think Like A Man
Pretty funny and a better-than-usual moral for a rom com ensemble movie.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1666801/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
The Duff
Not one of the better high school movies -- and admittedly "better" still usually means "okay" in this field of relativity.  A fair amount of cringing and not as many laughs as I was hoping for.  Skippable.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Mini Movie Reviews: Bulk Hit No 46


A friend recently mentioned to me that I really let them down by not letting them know The 5th Wave was a dud.  He's right on two counts -- it's a dud...and I didn't give him a heads up, or any of you.  So I'm sorry if you took a risk on that one and found out the hard way. 

I haven't posted a movie update this year.  Not one.  So over the next few days, I'm going to catch up with some mini-reviews on the great, the good and the skippable movies of the last 9 months (my last bulk hit was in November).  Hopefully I'll save some like-minded individuals a disappointing viewing and/or point some towards something you will enjoy.  As always, you may disagree!  These are my mini-reviews in case you want a second opinion alongside the RT rating / a rec from a friend who sometimes misses the mark.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0283084/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
Tuck Everlasting
Nice.  I think Alexis Bledel was a great casting choice for Winnie.  I remembered three-quarters of the way through this that I'd seen it years ago, so that tells me it wasn't and isn't mind-blowing.  The film's no match for the book (which you should read) -- but as many of you know, I do not believe the book is always better, take the next movie for example;
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3622592/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
Paper Towns
See this one -- the movie is better than the book.  Some things that were disappointing in the book were tweaked during the adaptation process.  These were major things, in some cases.  Like the movie characters were a little likable!  The book's characters?  Not even a little.  Thankfully the actors infused something in the people of the story that the pages failed to. Other tweaks fixed stupid stuff.  Like throwing glass bottles of pee?  That's stupid.  If you don't like what's written on a shirt, you can turn it inside out.  Tweaked. I liked that the movie seized the chance to edit some of the story's dumb parts.  The big changes were good as well.  I don't think the moral was "prom is everything," but rather "stay on course."  The book was darker, broodier, and more frustrating!  It was about a succubus!  A good guy becomes obsessive over a girl that doesn't deserve his attention.  It made me angry!  The movie?  I got it a little better.  The humour was better on-screen than in print too.  That's it -- John Green, you should write screenplays, not books!  -- let a team of other creatives breathe live, likability, validity and plausibility into them!  The cliches were still there (you poor type-cast teens), but I liked that these teens were smart, and even light on the make-up! (Bonus!)  I wonder if I would have liked the movie as much as I did if I hadn't read the book though...since the comparison was part of what was satisfying, for sure.  It is slightly above average, with fair acting, but if you've read the book, there's a lot of satisfaction in seeing production problems solved.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1726592/?ref_=fn_al_tt_4
Before I Go To Sleep
Creepy.  This is on the borderline of what I can cope with in terms of the realm of things disturbing .  I've seen a few similar stories to this in my lifetime, but this is one of the better ones.  The performances are a big part of why.  I think only some of you readers would like this.  Those who like creepy thrillers.  If you're keen: Don't read the back cover or online synopses, just watch.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1645131/?ref_=nv_sr_2
Romeo and Juliet (2013)
Hmm.  Not bad. 
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2404181/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

Belle
If you, like me, are drawn to period covers like this (and you know you typically enjoy the genre), you'll probably enjoy this one.  It's not based on Hardy  -- that is, this isn't an adaptation that lures you in with a pretty cover only to be awful and depressing!  *party blower*  It is loosely based on a true story.  The villain was hate-worthy (be warned: I'm haunted by an implied violence at his hand still), the heroine lovely, and the story worth getting invested in. 
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1638002/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
Skip it.  I wish I did.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2667960/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

Miss Julie (2014)
It's period -- surely I'll love it!  Flipped it...it's not Hardy OR Dickens!   I took it home.  Oh, this both enthralled and injured me.  I don't recommend it.  Nope.  It's dark and sad and only a small fraction of you would enjoy it, and that same fraction are the type that would ignore my conservative counsel anyway.   The acting is subtle and interesting, the scenes are charged and daring in the static setting -- but it might as well have been Hardy.  It hurts the heart in a bad way.  I'm still sad thinking about it.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2488496/?ref_=nv_sr_1
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
I loved this.  I hear all the purist complaints, but guys, I also loved this.  I'm less from the school of thought that I wanted X, Y and Z from the universe and more of the opinion that I just want to spend more time in the universe, period.  I got to do that; this movie invited me back there.  Haki and I saw this in-cinema, and I left thrilled about Rey.  A gutsy female heroine who wasn't overtly sexualised!?  HALLELUJAH!  AND an inter-racial romance; a "person of colour" in an important role?  THANK YOU!  I don't think it's bad if it seems like a conscious millennial choice to move people from the margins into centre stage!  We need to make more conscious choices, dang it!  I am more interested in my daughters seeing this than I am in them watching Leia.  Not just more interested, I'm excited to watch this with them!  This succeeded in making Star Wars something more appealing for my children.  I hope they'll delve into the archives, sure, but this doesn't require the same penchant for cult favourites; it's accessible but still delicious. 
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1951266/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
Another case of a movie beating the book.  That last book was such a downer!   Its chapters are drenched in blood, and because of the small labour and time investment it is to read instead of watch, it feels as though there is little reward for each loss -- chapters of time and effort render more death. On screen, watching, we quickly recover because we don't have to make the same effort to engage with the material, and because we're watching a movie, not reading a book, we call up our known formulae for survival films; we know in pics like Jurassic World (or Anaconda, Deep Blue Sea -- textbook survival films!) only a few of the starting ensemble will be left standing, and we accept it -- so long as X and Y are among them (even if only X and Y are it).  As soon as one person is a moaner or displays too much bravado we even turn to those we're watching with and say, "He will be the first to die."  We know, we accept.  This doesn't read as well as it plays.  I think there were a few moments that were beautifully executed. I also think the script was pretty solid.  Overall: Horrifying then satisfying.

A great SF thriller. We enjoyed it for date-at-home-night. It is violent and there is implied sex (none shown).
Jane Eyre (2011)
You might think after all I've said about sad period tales that I'm not into Bronte.  You would be wrong.  Bronte beats Hardy and Dickens every time.  Especially Emily.  It's so tragic, but I love every retelling of Jane Eyre so much!  It is dark, yes, but at the end I'm not left with darkness and gloom but a raging happiness and swelling hopefulness (read: I cry the happy tears).  This adaptation has such interesting faces to look at too. 
I enjoyed both the movie and the book of this story.  They are TOTALLY DIFFERENT.  I think the film asks more questions and is more haunting.  I really wanted to talk about it for hours.  Haki?  Not so much.  It made him shudder a little.  I do like Post Apoc more than most, so forgave a lot I think for love of the sub-genre, but if you're similar, you'll probably do the same.


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