Sunday, January 19, 2014

On The October List by Jeffery Deaver - REVIEW

Synopsis (per Goodreads):
Gabriela waits desperately for news of her abducted daughter.  
At last, the door opens.
But it's not the negotiators.  It's not the FBI.
It's the kidnapper.
And he has a gun.

How did it come to this?

Two days ago, Gabriela's life was normal.  Then, out of the blue, she gets word that her six-year-old daughter has been taken.  She's given an ultimatum: pay half a million dollars and find a mysterious document known as the "October List" within 30 hours, or she'll never see her child again.  

A mind-bending novel with twists and turns that unfold from its dramatic climax back to its surprising beginning, The October List is Jeffery Deaver at his masterful, inventive best.  

Normally I would omit the part of the synopsis that is self-congratulatory and gives no actual "synopsis" of the novel.  However, I wanted to ensure here that I left in the point that this is a book that starts from the end and, chapter by chapter, works its way back to the beginning.  If you were the Merovingian, you must take a piss because you had too much wine.  It's effect and cause.  It's the picture of the Merovingian, and then the explanation of why there's a picture of the Merovingian (how many times can Szever type "Merovingian" in one paragraph?).  (4). 

So, the question on everyone's mind is - does it work?  It certainly takes some getting use to.  Everything we read and watch is typically follows that "cause and effect" mentality.  There are snakes on the plane, ergo we get tired of these mother$*($&@ snakes on the mother*$&#(##0 plane.  So, in a sense (while reading this novel) you come to expect what the next chapter will be.  Something bad happens, and then we get the explanation of why or how the bad thing happened.  You read along and think, "there's really no reason for this to be backwards."  It would still be a good story had it been going the "right" way.

Then you hit the last 5 or so chapters and you're Charlie Brown.  You have the kick lined up, you think you know what's going to happen, and that (*#$&R pulls the ball away.  The rather straightforward story you just read completely changes, maybe three times, in very quick succession (hopefully that's not too spoiler-y.  I mean, you had to know there would be a twist if you're reading a book that goes backwards in time).

In the "foreword" section (which is the last thing you read...  backwards and all), Deaver explains he was inspired by some of the great films where chronology is toyed with - Pulp Fiction, Memento, Back to the Future...  He wondered if it was possible for a thriller writer to pull off a backwards story.  And to that I say, you have succeeded, Mr. Deaver.  Mind is sufficiently blown.  

Friday, January 10, 2014

On 2013 - Top Three and Bottom One

So, 2013 has come and gone (10 days ago, I know I'm a little behind on the obligatory "year in review" type of post).  It was an entertainment filled year where I went to the theater to see more movies and read more books than 2012.  I hope to continue this trend in 2014.  

I see a lot of top 10 lists around (most of them posted timely around New Year's, but I'm behind on reading the blogs too).  I will cut the list down to the top three and bottom one.  Movies / Books are linked to my review where one exists.  

Movies (only counts if I saw the movie in the theater):

# 3 - Monsters University

I took my four year old to see this and she loved it.  I did too.  Even today, weeks after she received the movie on DVD over the holidays and we have more-or-less had this on TV any time Yo Gabba Gabba is not on, I still love it.  It is fun, funny, and one of the better sequels done by Disney.  Ok, what it teaches children may not be the best lesson in the world, but it's a fun movie filled with a lot of good laughs.  I mean, it's Revenge of the Nerds for kids.

I don't believe it.  I'm on a top of the year list!

These guys are comedy gold.  All three of the movies are completely different yet all carry similar humor, heart and over-the-top ridiculous goodness.   

Made the list.  Time to hit the pub!

Giant Robots fighting Giant Monsters.  And Ron Perlman.  

I liked the movie this much!

Honorable Mention - The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug  

This loses a little ground in that to me it didn't live up to the first part, and was an hour too long.  

Bottom - Broken City

Maybe it would have been better had I not gone into the theater thinking it would be an action movie.  Probably not.  So.  Slow.  

Books (based on what I read, not year of release)

# 3 Demon Cycle (I need to cheat and use the series since I did a lot of series binging this year)

I never posted a review of these books, so I feel compelled to at least put a blurb here.  I was convinced I would not like the Demon Cycle books (great way to start a review, no?).  I read the premise and thought it really interesting.  And then I picked up book one.  It starts WAY in the past of the "present" storyline (though you don't know that at the time).  Thinking this is what the story would be, I knew I wouldn't like it.  But the present storyline comes on with a vengeance, and it grew on me more and more with each page.  


# 1 The Lightbringer (again cheating with the series name)

Cliche cloaked man doesn't do justice to a FANTASTIC book series (love the coloring though)

Bottom - NOS4A2

I love Joe Hill, and it's really not fair that he holds this position as the bottom of my 2013 pile.  Heart Shaped Box and Horns are fantastic books.  NOS4A2 wasn't horrible, but it really didn't hold my attention as well as his prior works.  And I should add that being the bottom book I read in 2013 is not necessarily a terrible thing.  I had no 1 or 2 (goodreads) rated books in 2013.  I don't read 50 books a year, so I tend to make sure my selections will hold my interest whenever possible.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.  2013 was a good book year for me.  I still highly recommend Hill's works, though maybe you pick up the other two books first.  

On Insane City by Dave Barry AND The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz - REVIEWS

A quick two-fer.  

Insane City by Dave Barry
Synopsis (per Goodreads):  
Seth Weinstein knew Tina was way out of his league in pretty much any way you could imagine, which is why it continued to astonish him that he was on the plane now for their destination wedding in Florida. The Groom Posse had already sprung an airport prank on him, and he’d survived it, and if that was the worst of it, everything should be okay. Smooth sailing from now on.

Seth has absolutely no idea what he’s about to get into. In the next several hours, he and his friends will become embroiled with rioters, Russian gangsters, angry strippers, a pimp as big as the Death Star, a very desperate Haitian refugee on the run with her two children from some very bad men, and an eleven-foot albino Burmese python named Blossom. And there’re still two days to go before the wedding.

As it turns out, it’s not smooth sailing, it’s more like a trip on the Titanic. And the water below him is getting deeper every minute. By the end, amid gunfire, high-speed chases, and mayhem of the most unimaginable sort, violent men will fall, heroes will rise, and many lives will change.

Seth’s, not least of all.

Dave Barry writes characters so bizarre, so out-there, so unrealistic, that they are completely realistic.  His novels (and Insane City is no exception) read like some of the great movie capers - Clue, Oscar...  

Insane City carries that same...  insanity, and adds in a dose of The Hangover.  

A wonderful break from Fantasy / Sci-Fi.  Recommended.

The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel by Anthony Horowitz
Synopsis (per Goodreads):
In freezing London, November 1890, Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson receive a man unnerved by a scarred-face stalker with piercing eyes. A conspiracy reaches to the Boston criminal underworld. The whispered phrase 'the House of Silk' hints at a deadly foe.

I need to admit that it was extraordinarily difficult to read through this without picturing Sherlock and Watson as Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. The novel (the first authorized by the Conan-Doyle estate) takes place in traditional Sherlockian times, but even with the imagery updated in my head to the contemporary BBC version of Sherlock, it still made sense and flowed well.  I suppose that speaks well of BBC's version of Sherlock and how close his character is to the original despite the large time differential.

The House of Silk is told by an older Watson, recollecting one last case that was too disturbing to tell in his times.  Thus it would not be discovered for 100 years, and here it is.  It is a fast read, with what you would expect in a Sherlock Holmes novel.  Horowitz did a good job doing justice to the character and I was glad to get another chapter of the great detective in anticipation for Sherlock season 3.

Also recommended.