Tag Archives: Book Review

Book Review: Beautiful Creatures

With the film coming out next week I decided to read “Beautiful Creatures” by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl. I was pleasantly surprised how much I actually enjoyed this book. It takes place in a very small town in South Carolina. The town itself is just a few stop lights and if you blink you would miss it.

We are introduced to our narrator Ethan in the middle of a kind of nightmare involving a girl he’s never seen and a song that seemingly disappears from his iPod when he seeks it out. With his father now a recluse since his mother’s passing, Ethan has found life more difficult than it once was, and it’s about to get a bit more complicated. When Ethan hears talk of a new girl in his high school (something which never happens) he is shocked to find that she is the girl from his dream.
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This Then That: Gone Girl & Before I Go To Sleep

If you liked…

Gone Girl (2012) by Gillian Flynn

Then try…

Before I Go To Sleep (2011) by S.J. Watson

This past summer’s runaway hit Gone Girl is a dark, addictive thriller filled with surprising twists and turns.  The story of an ill-fated couple’s crumbling  marriage — which culminates in the wife’s disappearance and possible murder — topped both the critics’ lists and bestseller charts.  Now that you’ve tore through that dozy of a book, why not pick up S.J. Watson’s Before I Go To Sleep?

Before I Go To Sleep hooks you early with an intriguing premise.  Every morning, Christine groggily awakens to find herself in an unfamiliar room, in bed with an older man she has never seen before. When she looks in the mirror she is shocked to see a stranger’s face stare back at her.  Christine’s mystery bed mate turns out to be her husband Ben.  Ben patiently explains that she was in an accident 20 years ago and has sustained inquiries that seriously impair her memory: Christine is unable to retain memories for more than 24 hours.  In the morning the couple are doomed to repeat the same painful process.  Christine keeps a journal at the urging of her doctor; after reading her previous entries she becomes suspicious of Ben and the nature of her accident.

Equally hypnotic and foreboding, both Before I Go To Sleep and Gone Girl share similarities in tone, pacing, and subject matter.  Both novels also address provocative questions about the nature of love, trust, and betrayal:  How well can you really know your partner?

Predictably both novels have been optioned for future film adaptions, so why not read them before they hit the big screen?  The Library has multiple copies of Gone Girl and Before I Go To Sleep, so stop in today and pick them up.  After all, who couldn’t  use a little mystery and intrigue in their life?

Book vs. Movie: The Thin Man

 The Movie: Starring Myrna Loy and William Powell (1934)

I’m starting with the movie because, like so many of these pairings, that’s what I fell in love with first.  How much do I love this movie (and all of its sequels)?  I own the box set.  I’ve watched it more times than I can count.  I love it so much that when rumors started circulating that there was going to be a remake with Johnny Depp I was filled with a righteous indignation that anyone would dare tamper with my beloved Nick and Nora.

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Book vs. Movie Review: Howl’s Moving Castle

The Book: 1986

This children’s book by Diana Wynne Jones was published in the 1980s when I would have been part of its target audience, but I didn’t discover it until the 2000s.  Nonetheless it quickly became one of my all time favorites.  I don’t think there is an age limit for appreciating Howl’s Moving Castle – it’s one of those books that I turn to when I want something comforting, satisfying, and entertaining, and I always enjoy it no matter how many times I’ve read it before.

Sophie, our heroine, is a timid and rather bored young woman who bemoans her fate as an eldest sister, because in a land where fairy-tales are everyday realities, everyone knows that only younger sisters lead lives of adventure and romance.  But Sophie’s life takes an unexpected turn when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste and finds herself magically transformed into an old woman.  Not wanting to face the shock and sympathy of her family, she runs (or rather hobbles) away, determined to seek her fortune and break the curse.  In doing so, she finds herself teeming up with the infamous Wizard Howl whose magical moving castle has been terrifying the inhabitants of her village.

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Here Ye Here Ye, a Buena Park Library District New Book

Driven by James Sallis
Released April 2012

If you’re a fan of the film, Drive, which was based on the novel of the same name by James Sallis, then you will be a fan of the sequel, DrivenIt delivers more neo-noir, with its minimalist plot, short vignette-like chapters, and poetic-yet-street-tough dialogue.  For all those wondering if The Driver lives at the end of the original, yes, he does!  Seven years have passed putting the murders of Nino and Bernie Rose behind him and he is actually trying to live on the straight and narrow as he now goes by the fictitious name of Paul West.  The novel grabs you from the first page when his fiance, Elsa, is murdered by a couple of hitmen and all hell breaks loose.  The Driver goes back to his old habits sinking back into anonymity, and with the help of his friend, the ex-gangbanger Felix, The Driver seeks his revenge.  The Driver also confronts his past in more ways than one with the help of his friend from the first novel, the eccentric screenwriter Manny (whom he shares ridiculous conversations with), and newcomers such as the “fixer” James Beil, who shares an important connection with him, The Driver’s platonic girlfriend Billie, and her father, the ex-cop Bill.  One of the strong points is that Sallis creates these mysterious characters, yet they are beautifully etched with crisp dialogue where you feel that you know them already.  But the best part is that The Driver’s past comes back to haunt him as one by one, various hitmen go after him and one by one they falter, and I might say, in detailed fashion, almost as if Sallis really enjoyed describing how they were dispatched.  And of course, there is a lot of driving, whether it’s a car chase, working in a garage, or taking a spin around town.  At just 147 pages, Driven can almost be considered a novella; every word counts.  And even though it can be hard to keep up at times as the plot is chopped up in a non-linear fashion including flashbacks from the first novel and concealed descriptions, it is definitely worth the read where you really get to see the perseverance of what The Driver is made of; he is driven.

“Long Train Running”

May 10th marked the 143rd anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad.  The Central Pacific Railroad heading east from San Francisco and the Union Pacific heading west from Omaha, Nebraska met at Promontory Summit, Utah in 1869.  A ceremony was held marking the joining of east and west by the driving of a golden spike into the last railroad tie.

Author Richard White has written a Los Angeles Times Book Prize winner (and a Pulitzer nominee) work about the transcontinental railroad – its social, economic and political impact on America – called “Railroaded: the transcontinentals and the making of modern America”.  White looks past the “triumph of progress” to examine the negative impact of the railroads on everyone (except the few who managed to get rich in spite of their incompetence and illegal acts). – the displaced Native Americans and the destruction of their way of life, the relations between management and labor with the recruitment of Chinese workers, wholesale political graft and corruption, environmental degradation, and finally, financial collapse resulting in the Panic of 1893. White draws parallels between the railroad magnates of the 19th century and the Wall Street bankers of the present times running highly leveraged businesses which contributed to their eventual collapse and causing an ensuing depression.

While some of White’s conclusions may be controversial, White’s sardonic descriptions are entertaining. Of John C. Fremont, “Fremont, in railroads as in many things, was a man not to be trusted.”  Or when describing a railroad, “For hubris, grandiosity, and repeated failure, few corporations could surpass the Northern Pacific”.

To read a blog written by Richard White about the 1901 Frank Norris classic, The Octopus, see the Library of America website.

Book vs. Movie Review: The Hunger Games

The Book: 2008

I jumped on the Hunger Games Bandwagon shortly after the final book was published.  At first I was resistant to the hype because I’ve been burned before (I’m looking at you, Twilight) but I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  I love science fiction, and this book is science fiction that manages to be highly accessible –  no spaceships or aliens, simply a fascinating dark vision of a future American society, adventure, action, and characters that immediately draw you in.

This story reminded me of other literature that I have loved and that’s definitely not a bad thing.  There’s a little bit of Shirley Jackson’s short story The Lottery, and definitely some Lord of the Flies.  There are many parallels with Battle Royale of course, and all with a modern twist that seems the logical development of our culture’s obsession with reality TV.

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A Night to Remember

100 years ago, on the evening of April 14, 1912, the Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic. It sank a few hours later with the loss of over 1500 lives.

To commemorate the anniversary, you could watch James Cameron’s Titanic one more time, in 3-D, or you could check out this newly acquired title:

The Band That Played On: the Extraordinary Story of the 8 Musicians Who Went Down with the Titanic by Steve Turner

When the Titanic collided with the iceberg, the eight members of the band put on their overcoats and played in the ship’s lounge, and later on the deck of the sinking ship, to calm the passengers and lift their spirits. Survivors claim they heard music playing until the very end. Their bravery became an instant legend but until this time, little had been written about the lives of these men. The author presents a portrait of eight unique individuals and takes on the controversy of the last song played by the musicians (was it “Nearer, My God, to Thee” or “Autumn”?)

Book vs Movie Review: The Big Sleep

The Book: 1939

I think it took me this long to get around to reading this book because I have never been a mystery fan.  However, after finishing I immediately embarked on a quest to read every single one of Chandler’s books, and when I finished that I started on Dashiell Hammett because I suddenly could not get enough of those hard-boiled detectives.

The Big Sleep introduces Philip Marlowe, Chandler’s iconic detective. The Thrilling Detective sums him up pretty well:  “Philip Marlowe, for better or worse, is the archetypical private eye….He runs a single man operation out of the Cahuenga Building in Los Angeles… he likes liquor, women, reading, chess and working alone… He used to work for the district attorney, but was fired for insubordination, thus starting a cliche that still hasn’t run out of steam.” 

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Pride & Prejudice + Murder = The Ultimate Jane Austen Sequel?

Crime thriller readers and Jane Austen fanatics don’t usually seem like they have much in common, but one famous writer may be bringing them together. P.D. James, who the NY Times calls “the greatest living writer of British crime fiction,” has written a sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice called Death Comes to Pemberley.

Many beloved characters return to the page, but this time, instead of navigating the pitfalls of romance and marriage (or fighting zombies for that matter), our heroine and hero are faced with a murder mystery that hits dangerously close to home.

Intrigued? Check out this NY Times Review and this Telegraph interview with P.D. James.