Book and Movie Reviews

All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

I am reposting this 2013 review because the Audible.com Audiobook is on sale today for $3.95.
All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthySummary: Beautifully written tragic story of desire for what cannot be.

Cormac McCarthy is a spare writer. Lots of detail and almost poetic language. But this is an introvert’s book.  The characters talk, but there is no extra meandering dialogue. Dialogue has purpose.

McCarthy seems ideally suited to write about the idealized lone western male. His characters are self-sufficient, hard, tragic, honest to a fault, do not expect anyone to help them, but want to help others if they can.

In All the Pretty Horses (I have not seen the movie, so I do not know how it compares), John Grady Cole leaves home at 16 with his best friend. After his parent’s divorce, his mother wants nothing to do with ranch life and his father is left without a ranch (or anything else). He can give John nothing that he wants or needs. John and Rawlins (17) head to Mexico to see if they can find the rancher’s life that they seek.

Along the way, Jimmy Blevins, a 13 or 14 year old run away and troublemaker, joins up with them. Cole as the leader of the group allows Blevins to join them because it is clear that Blevins can not care for himself. Cole knows he will regret the decision and the theme is set with the Cole’s wise word:

“Every dumb thing I ever done in my life there was a decision I made before that got me into it. It was never the dumb thing. It was always the choice I made before it.”

No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

My first introduction to Cormac McCarthy was the movie version of No Country for Old Men. My sister-in-law had read the book before the movie and told me the movie was very faithful to the book. So I did not have a pressing desire to read the book.

I found No Country for Old Men at my library on audiobook so I decided to pick it up anyway.

It is wonderful.  Yes, the movie is very close to the story.  But I love the language.  I am sure I am influenced by the fact that I listened to this as an audiobook. The narrator, Tom Stechschulte, was among the best that I have ever heard. Some narrators just seem to match the book, and Tom Stechschulte was perfect for the voices No Country For Old Men.

Mockingjay Part 2: The Hunger Games Comes to a Close

In the beginning of a long-loved series, Katniss Everdeen had much simpler goals living in District 12. However, after the Games, she’s become a completely different person. Although she’s survived the arena twice and has decided to fight back against the government of Panem and its evil dictator President Snow, the Rebellion she’s decided to take the lead in seems to have more in common with their enemy than originally thought. As the end of her journey draws near in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, Katniss must decide what the fate of Panem will be once and for all.
Mockingjay Part 2
picks up where Part 1 left off: Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) has been reunited with Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), only to find their reunion less than ideal when it appears that her old paramour has been turned against her by President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Losing the support of one of the people dearest to her is not the only blow Katniss takes throughout the course of the film. Her childhood friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth) has become someone she doesn’t understand anymore, and President Coin (Julianne Moore) is turning out to be a lesser-of-two-evils with a pretty evil agenda of her own. With the world raging around her, Katniss has to decide who to trust, who to fight, and who is worth living for when all is said and done.

The Scorch Trials, a Step Away From the Book

Unfortunately for Thomas and his fellow Gladers, the maze was only the beginning. With an impressive opening weekend in the box office, the second installment in The Maze Runner series solidifies the latest dystopian trilogy as a hit. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is just the latest in a long line of dystopian fiction to hit the market. In recent years, the young adult dystopian genre has seen a boom of new books published and adaptations continue to hit the big screen at a continuous and steady rate.

Of these adaptations, some have risen to the top of the heap, while others have fallen to the side of the road. The Maze Runner adaptation was initially written off by many critics, and even a few fans, as another mediocre entry into a flooded market. As if to prove these naysayers wrong, screenwriter T.S. Nowlin and director Wes Ball have returned with an even more action-packed adventure straying further from its source material than the original.

The Scorch Trials sees Thomas free of the Maze but far from true freedom. Upon discovering that the omnipotent group known as World in Catastrophe: Killzone Experiment Department – or WCKD – had been responsible for trapping the group in the maze as a sort of experiment to fight against a post-apocalyptic threat, we once again watch as Thomas leads his fellow Gladers out into a desolate area known as the Scorch and fight to escape WCKD’s experimentation plan. After being rescued by a mysterious third-party group and becoming suspicious of their true intentions, Thomas and the group once again venture out into the Scorch taking us on a wild ride coming up against deadly superstorms, depraved scoundrels, and lethal “Cranks.”

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

screenshot_02Life of Pi is a fiction novel that was written by Yann Martel. One of Martel’s most famous works, Life of Pi, which was published in 2001, is about an Indian boy, Pi, growing up and navigating his way through life first as a boy in India, second as a teenager drifting out to sea for 227 days and third as a survivor. Pi states in the beginning that his is a story that speaks on the existence of God. The novel shows how one might survive on a lifeboat with only himself, his beliefs in God and a Bengal Tiger to depend on.

There was a lot of hype surrounding this book and even more when the movie came out. Because of that, I was hesitant to give it a try. When Forrest Gump came out, my mom, brother and I went to see it and really liked it, so we told my dad that it was a great movie that he would really like. When he finally watched it at home on VHS, he was a bit let down because of all of the anticipation. But, everyone knows that Forrest Gump really is a good movie. When I finally got around to reading this book and then watching the movie, I was surprised to find that I was not all that disappointed. With the exception of one aspect of the novel, there was a lot that I liked about the book. The descriptions in the book were very intense so much so that some parts were difficult to get through. The emotions described by Pi were palpable to the point where I was almost in tears when the tiger walked into the jungle.

UnknownAn interesting part of the story, to me, was that, even though I didn’t know how Pi had survived, I knew that he had indeed survived. It was the same feeling I got from reading Unbroken. I knew that the Olympic runner had survived but kept reading because I couldn’t imagine how it was possible. Whereas the book Unbroken is non-fiction account of what happened to Louis Zamperini, this book is a work of fiction. It is a work of fiction made to seem like a non-fiction account of Pi surviving at sea for 227 days. There were a number of occasions in the book where the narrator assured us that the story was true and that the account given was accurate. This was not at all the case, of course. In college, we watched an Oliver North film about the “desparecidos” of El Salvador called Salvador. The movie came across as a non-fiction account of what had happened and even included script at the end of the movie explaining what happened in the country after the story ended. While many atrocities did occur in El Salvador during the period, the movie was actually fiction, which I felt cheated us from learning about really happened, and I felt tricked. I don’t like feeling tricked and that’s why I only really like this book and don’t love it.

From the Library to the Megaplex, Five More Books Come to Life Onscreen

Filmmakers have long turned to novels as a consistent source of inspiration. Over the past few decades, the phenomenon has taken on a life of it’s own with a slew of record-breaking, billion dollar franchises like Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games (which continue to find new fans on iTunes and DTV). Recent films such as The Fault in Our Stars and If I Stay point to the continued and bankable success of YA novels on the big screen.

But the books-as-movies concept isn’t just for kids: some very adult books have also reached blockbuster status, 50 Shades of Grey and Gone Girl being two prominent examples. Any fears associated with film adaptations of beloved literary tales have faded in favor of mass audience approval and enormous payouts. If you’ve been to the theater recently you’ll know that this trend of big budget book adaptations shows no sign of stopping anytime soon – so lets look at some more books that have been optioned for films and see if we’ve got another blockbuster hit in our midst.

Artimis FowlArtemis Fowl

This purchase of the book rights to the successful Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer by Disney was made back in 2013. They grabbed Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and Robert De Niro to produce the film, which was to be adapted to a screenplay by one of the Harry Potter series’ screenwriters; Michael Goldenberg. They made the same announcement that they were in pre-production earlier this year as well, so it’s safe to say we won’t be seeing the film hit theaters for a year or two yet.

UnknownBefore I Fall

This dark, high school version of Groundhog Day penned by Maria Maggenti was released in 2010, and Fox optioned it for a film almost immediately. It’s a promising page-to-screen adaptation because Maggenti herself is likely to be the screenwriter; given her past employment as one in both film and television we can expect to see her working on this film and ensuring it stays true to the story. The film hasn’t gotten past the development stage yet, but they’ve announced a director, Gina Price-Bythewood, so it appears it’s still moving forward.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth (Book and Movie Review)

Insurgent is the second novel in the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth. The second novel shows what life is like for Tris and the other survivors now that their faction system is falling apart. Whereas before the factions were created so that everyone could coincide peacefully utilizing their natural talents, now one faction is trying to take all of the power and control the others. Tris and Four along with some others are known as divergent because they don’t fit in to just one faction. The divergent are hunted down in this novel because the faction that wants to rule over the others discovers that they can’t be controlled. Tris leads the movement to try and stop the controlling faction.

I really enjoyed the first book in this series and I didn’t quite experience that same enjoyment with the second novel. The first novel was exciting because here was this new society and their unique traditions. Tris was doing her best to navigate her way through the training in the faction that she had chosen, which was different then the one she had grown up in. In this novel, all of the intrigue of the new exciting faction is gone and we are left with the aftermath. I feel like the reason I liked this novel less than the first is the same reason that I liked the third Hunger Games novel least of all. It was too different from the first two novels that included the excitement and intrigue of the actual games. I am hopeful that the third novel will provide the reader with similar enjoyment as the first novel.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by John Safran Foer

Reposting this 2012 review because the Kindle Edition is on the the Kindle Deals of the day and on sale for $2.99 today only.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly CloseExtremely Loud and Incredibly Close is an intense novel about a boy who has lost his father in one of the twin towers on 9/11. The majority of the novel is made up of the inner workings of this boy’s mind as he attempts to navigate through life carrying the burden of the tragedy of his father’s death. Oscar is a very smart boy and there are times where you would think that his thoughts belong more to an adult, but there are also times when his fragility and youth are revealed. While the boy is the main narrator, there are times when the boy’s grandmother and grandfather reveal their thoughts through the form of a letter.

Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History by Antonio Mendez and Matt Baglio

Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood pulled off the most audacious rescue in History by Tony Mendez is his first-hand account of the rescue of six Americans during the Iran hostage crisis.  As the lead operative on the project, Tony recounts how he hatched the plan, carried out preparation and executed the plan so that everyone would be brought home safely.  This spy story is set apart from others because this rescue was successful in part because Hollywood was used to make the mission a success.

In this recounting, Mendez tells how he got involved in the CIA, how he climbed the ranks, and how he thought of and was able to execute his plan. In Iran, the people were angry at the United States because they had allowed their former leader to be extradited into their country.  A group of people decided to storm the U.S. Embassy and take everyone hostage.  Six people were able to sneak away from the embassy and therefore escape becoming hostages.  This mission is also known as the “Canadian Caper” because not only were the six Americans passed off as Canadians, but also they were kept hidden at the houses of the Canadian ambassador and a Canadian Immigration Officer in Iran and they escaped from Iran to Canada.  Because all of the other ideas to get the Americans out wouldn’t work, Mendez had to be creative in coming up with a way to get the Americans out.  He decided to form a fake production company out in Hollywood, find a real script, a real cast, publish real advertisements and then use the movie as an excuse to visit and then leave Iran.

This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

This is Where I Leave You is a novel by Jonathan Tropper mainly about how life is always a bit more complicated than we imagine it will be. This book is mainly a comedy but it certainly does have its share of tragedy and drama as well. The novel is set-up to be a classic dramedy with many funny moments mixed in with some sad and pensive moments. This is how life goes, right?

The book follows the main character, Judd, as he deals with his marriage falling apart due to infidelity, the death of his father and having to live with his family for a week to observe the Jewish practice of Shiva. While my life is not as dramatic and funny as the lives of the family members in this book, I found myself relating to the characters on some level, which made the book rather relatable to me as well.