If we stream all our movies and download all our books, what's left to ask for as a Christmas gift?

If we stream all our movies and download all our books, what's left to ask for as a Christmas gift?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

This and that

The Christmas and New Year's Day holidays, and the handful of additional full and half days off that nicely sprouted up around them, allowed for a generous amount of reading, audiobook, and movie-going time.  I'll probably write a few full-length reviews about some of the following, but for now here's a quick update on some things I've enjoyed lately.

Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl is a crazy-nuts crime novel centering around the world's worst marriage and the mysterious disappearance of the wife in the story.  An absorbing premise (Where's the wife? Did the husband kill her?), terrific second and third act twists, and the first completely successful use of the "unreliable narrator" device I've seen in ages (in other words, it's not frustrating when we eventually learn it was used in a sizable portion of the narrative) are only a few of the great things about the book.  I'll be writing more about this sharp, scary, and often blackly funny thriller shortly.  But for now go pick it up.  I did this one on audio and the two narrators- Kirby Heyborne and Julia Whelan- are terrific, making the most of the great material at their disposal.  A special thanks to my friend Tom Archer (himself a terrific writer) for recommending Gone Girl to me!

Robert B. Parker's Fool Me Twice, a Jesse Stone novel by Michael Brandman (Don't you hate long titles like that?) was a pleasant, laid back good time, though nowhere near as ambitious as the Flynn book.  Brandman's second Jesse Stone novel after taking over the series from the late Robert B. Parker, this slow-burn thriller has police chief Jesse trying to protect a pretty movie star from her violent, estranged husband while she's shooting a movie in Jesse's town.  Okay subplots, about a spoiled kid who refuses to stop texting while driving and a scandal at the local water company, round out the proceedings.  The various plotlines could have used more tension and complication, but what's on hand gets the job done.  And to be fair, Brandman wasn't afraid to shock readers, about halfway into the book, with a major-league failure on the part of Jesse and his allies that I definitely didn't see coming.   I did this book on audio, too, and James Naughton's smoky voice and mildly cynical demeanor served the material well. 

Flee, by J.A. Konrath and Ann Voss Peterson, features gorgeous female spies battling each other for a small device that can blow up the world.  The first book in the Codename: Chandler series, this is not a slow-burn thriller or, for that matter, a slow-burn anything.  This is relentless action and violent confrontation, with a little sex thrown in.  We get just enough character stuff, squeezed in via internal thoughts and the occasional flashback, to make us care about the characters or, if they're villains, hate them.  But, to be clear, Flee is 90% action (chasing, fighting, grappling, killing), so you have to be in the mood for that.  I was, so I enjoyed it.  I also thought it was cool that the major protagonists were all beautiful women (though some just beautiful on the outside).  I used my Amazon Prime status to borrow this book for free on my Kindle, though you can also buy it pretty cheaply on the device.  Anyway, I'm on board for the second book in the series, Spree, so I guess that's a recommendation, right?  

At the theater, I enjoyed both Django Unchained and Jack Reacher.  The former has writer and director Quentin Tarantino firing on all cylinders, delivering terrific dramatic situations, memorable action sequences (with real consequences), and great performances. I particularly enjoyed Samuel L. Jackson's cast-against-type performance as a black man complicit in the agonies and injustices of his fellow slaves.  Jack Reacher was also good (though not in the other film's league), delivering a well-told mystery story and a fascinating investigator in the form of ex-military cop Reacher, played in an understated, effective manner by Tom Cruise.  Also fun was seeing Robert Duvall as a crusty gun range owner who helps Reacher, and famous film director Werner Herzog, just taking an acting job this time to play (and really well, too) the creepy main villain.

Like I said, there's more to come on some of this stuff, but for now I hope you enjoyed the broad overview of what I've been up to lately, entertainment wise.

1 comment:

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