Fast Five? Yes, Please.

I took a break from reading today to consume some senseless mind candy. By that, I mean, I ventured to the theater to see Fast Five. Before I say anything about the movie, let me begin by telling you what the movie is not. It is not high art; do not expect the Oscar committee to be considering this for the 2o12 Academy Awards. It is not designed to have the audience pondering the meaning of life or to spur audiences to social action. It is not a film that takes the laws of physics into consideration, do not take your favorite science professor (or mechanic, for that matter) to this movie.  What it is, simply, is fun.

Anyone who has seen any of the previous movies in The Fast and The Furious franchise will be familiar with the formula: fast cars, epic chases, and bad guys. Admittedly, that last point is not always so clear. After all, Dominic Toretto is not exactly on the right side of the law, but he is the one you will be cheering for. What is different about this addition to the series is the focus on the heist instead of simply focusing on the cars and racing. Some moments of Fast Five felt a little like Oceans 11 or The Italian Job, though not quite of the same caliber in terms of acting. 

Fast Five takes the crew to Brazil after the obligatory opening chase scene to rescue Dom from a police transport van. This opening chase scene did not have the same punch or tension as did the opening sequence in Fast and Furious (2009).  Not to worry, after a few minutes of exposition Brian, Mia, and Dom find themselves in an epic heist involving a train, and from there the action continues. Our protagonists find themselves being hunted by both a Brazilian kingpin, played by Joaquim de Almeida, and a DEA Special Forces agent, played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. It becomes necessary for Dom and Brian to assemble their own dream team, and so, familiar faces start appearing on screen. Matt Schulze is back as Vince. Tyrese Gibson returns as Roman. Ludacris reprises his role of Tej. Tego Calderon and Don Omar are back as friends Tego and Rico. Sung Kang brings back Han Lue, and Gal Gadot is once again Giselle Harabo. Director Justin Lin has certainly put together an homage of all the best of the previous films and the actors fall easily back into character. Another noteworthy element of this movie is Justin Lin’s preference for creating live-action stunts in lieu of CGI whenever possible, thus giving the movie a more gritty and authentic feel (despite the complete disregard for physical possibility).

As a longtime fan of this franchise and a lover of car-chase movies in general (I have similar love for all of Jason Statham’s movies) I was not disappointed by Fast Five. It is a fun action movie with lots of fast cars and snarky dialogue. As a bonus, there is an epic fight scene between Dom and Hobbs (Diesel and Johnson) that will make up for any of The Rock’s questionable kid-friendly films prior to his return to the action genre. If you’re looking for Oscar worthy performances, stay away. If you’re a fan of action and fast cars, this is for you. And, when you do go to see this, be sure to stay through the credits.  Thank me later.


What I'm Excited About Today

While there are many titles I'm still organizing from BEA and a ton of books I'm eager to get to in the near future, I wanted to pause and share with you a book I'm super excited about. Starcrossed will be released 31 May 2011. Check out the trailer:




Who Doesn't Love a Giveaway?

If you love YA lit, then you have to check out this blog and their amazing 500 followers giveaway. They've also got some great reviews up, so go ahead--check it out!


Saturday Musings

Book Expo America was great as always. Next year, I will definitely make it for all three days and bloggercon.  For now, I have a lovely stack  of books to tackle.  It's a thing of beauty really.  And I still have a "stack" of unread books on my Kindle to get through.

It would appear time to divide and conquer. A schedule will be made. Apologies will be issued in advance to family members I will be ignoring as I try to sneak in a few pages at the family cook outs this Memorial Day weekend.

This is the life of a bibliovore. 

Coming Soon . . .


With my trip to BEA11 just one day away, I'm sure I’ll be adding a few dozen titles to this list. For now, though, these are the books I'm reading and will be reviewing in the coming days . . .
 
Wither











 
 
 
 

Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing (2011) 



















Harlequin Teen (2011)













 







Delacorte Books for Young Readers (2010)



Look, a contest :)

I love books and I love discovering new authors, I even love discovering authors who are just new to me. Someone recently suggested I begin reading Lauren DeStefano's Wither. I was hooked immediately and can't wait to continue the series. I'll be posting a review of Wither soon, in the meantime, click the link above for a chance to win an ARC of Wither and its follow-up Fever.

Elizabeth Scott's Living Dead Girl

Living Dead Girl *Kindle Edition
Simon Pulse, 2009

"Once upon a time, I was a little girl who disappeared. Once upon a time, my name was not Alice. Once upon a time, I didn't know how lucky I was. When Alice was ten, Ray took her away from her family, her friends -- her life. She learned to give up all power, to endure all pain. She waited for the nightmare to be over. Now Alice is fifteen and Ray still has her, but he speaks more and more of her death. He does not know it is what she longs for. She does not know he has something more terrifying than death in mind for her. This is Alice's story. It is one you have never heard, and one you will never, ever forget."  from Amazon.com


The novel is told from the point of view of a 15 year old girl who is living (if it can be called that) with Ray, the man who kidnapped her when she was in fourth grade. The first two chapters are told using second person narration, drawing the readers into Alice’s thoughts. Through a mix of sparse narration and quick chapters, Scott creates a tense and dangerous mood.  Readers will feel as though they are Alice, trapped in a tiny apartment, subjected to emotional and physical abuse, feeling lost and helpless. By no means is this a feel-good story, but it is a deeply haunting story and one that will stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page.

My heart broke for Alice every time she came in contact with someone who could have helped her, and those who should have helped her. I thought to myself, “How many times have I walked by someone like Alice, someone feeling lost and invisible?” The easy way Ray convinces the people he interacts with that he is a nice guy is frightening, and now I find myself looking at everyone I pass wondering what lies behind their smiles and greetings. I don’t know if this is a good thing or not, but I am definitely more aware of the people around me.

The details of the novel are graphic, but do not feel exploitative or voyeuristic—instead, they help readers feel Alice’s pain. Some have criticized Ms. Scott for including such details, but how else can one tell such a story without including the reality of what is happening? Nothing in the novel is sugar coated or feels forced, there is no sudden and improbable heroic escape; on the contrary, this is a cautionary tale for readers.

This is the first of Elizabeth Scott’s novels I’ve read and I cannot wait to read more. I was immediately drawn in by her prose and hooked from the first page—I highly recommend this book!

Room

By Emma Donoghue
Little, Brown, & Company 2010
*Kindle edition

I wanted to like this book. I really tried to like this book.  In the end, though, I am left with few good things to say about the book.

I first noticed this novel when it started appearing in best seller lists and then started gaining praise in the blogosphere, especially on Goodreads. Then, people began asking me if I had read it; and, when I responded in the negative, they proceeded to rave about it, using phrases like, “deeply disturbing”, “amazing”, “moving”, and “powerful”.   “Wow”, I thought, “I need to read this.”

And so I did. I downloaded Emma Donoghue’s much lauded book to my Kindle on Tuesday, 17 May and read for about twenty minutes. The narrator’s voice (the one thing most people rave about when discussing this book) was grating and inauthentic. There were so many discrepancies in his five year old voice. The voice alternates between a partially literate 5 year old who refers to all nouns as proper nouns and an eloquent, articulate most decidedly NOT five year old voice.  The unnecessary capitalization was distracting and tedious to read. “Stick it out” said my friends—“the narration and capitalization will all make sense, the longer you read, the more it will grow on you.”

I concede that an adult writing in a child’s voice is a difficult undertaking, one few authors succeed in.  Mark Haddon is a notable exception to this rule. However, constant references to “silly penis” and “melted spoon” were not cute or endearing, they were just downright annoying.  Further, I don’t understand the narrator’s obsession with Left and Right—a five year old breastfeeding, really?  There was no need for this, as the characters were provided with food—it’s not as if this was his only option for survival.

On Wednesday, 18 May, I picked up the book again and this time, read about 60% of it. The voice did grow on me, in the same way a canker sore might grow on me. Beyond that, the plot itself was meandering and often unbelievable. Mid-way through the book, when readers finally see our main characters leave the room is one of the most unbelievable, sloppy plot contrivances I’ve ever seen.  After that, the book goes even further downhill.  Life outside the room is not much more exciting than life in the room. What does change outside is the relationship between mother and son. The mother, previously dependent upon her son to the point of obsessiveness (as evidenced by the breastfeeding) seems to resent her son and to want to be separated from him.

On Thursday, 19 May, I finished the book; and promptly wished for the time I spent reading it back.  Cursory research showed me that the plot had been based on several well-publicized cases involving kidnappings and abductions. This made me snort, as there is a line in the book indicating that those who profit on the tragedies of others are heartless.  Oh, the irony.

The book’s plot is drawn out in some spots, rushed in spots where it should not be. It is full of plot holes and bizarre inconsistencies. I wanted to like it, I really did—but I did not.  Not even a little bit.





Rockstar presents LA Noire


I'll confess openly to being a Rockstar fan girl--from GTA to Red Dead, I'm a sucker for the style and open-area gaming that made the company famous. I read about LA Noire, Rockstar's newest project in February 2010, when it was featured on the cover of Game Informer magazine. This was a massive undertaking for Rockstar and Team Bondi, with some revolutionary approaches to game design. Developers brought in live actors to film the game in the same way one would film a movie to, hopefully, create a more authentic experience for players. The result is cut scenes and in game interactions that feel much more real than usual interactions with CGI.

In fact, the ability to recreate facial features and nuances in body language is an integral feature of gameplay. As you control a rookie cop, fresh out of the war working his way up from walking the beat to detective, it is important to pay attention to "tells" in people's expressions and mannerisms. During investigations and interrogations, you will be offered opportunities to alter your conversations based on these attributes. A perp who refuses to make eye-contact may be lying; a woman who claims to not know her estranged husband's whereabouts who keeps wringing her hands may not be completely forthcoming; the Good Samaritan who keeps shifting his weight from foot to foot, may just be anxious to get back to work. The choices you make when interacting with the characters will impact your investigations in both positive and negative ways.

While the idea of having to make moral decisions that impact game play will be familiar for players of Fable, Dragon Age, Elder Scrolls, and other RPGs, it is a bold step for Rockstar--a company best known for games that offer rewards for running over prostitutes. Not that killing a few innocent pedestrians isn't an option in LA Noire (it is), but the game takes that familiar platform and expands it. Players still have the option to stick only to the main jobs or to wander around and find side jobs. Pedestrians still make snarky comments as they pass you by or you bump into them. The environment is beautiful, the details authentic, resulting in a transportive experience—from the comfort of your couch to the seedier side of 1940s Hollywood.

All in all, this is a highly enjoyable game, though I’m not sure how much replay value it has. No fear, there are already add-ons available with more surely on the horizon.

Book Review: Die For Me

 Die for Me

I started reading Amy Plum’s Die for Me with the thought in the back of my head that I would be reading a rehashed version of the Twilight series. That is to say, I was expecting mediocre YA supernatural romance.  I’m happy to say I could not have been more wrong. This story drew me in from the first page, I was caught up in the tragedy and romance between Kate and Vincent along with the grandeur and mystery of Paris. Parts of the book that made me (literally) laugh out loud, while others nearly brought me to tears.  The same could not be said for the Twilight saga. Ms. Plum is clearly on to something spectacular here.


First, the introduction of the revenants, mythological beings destined to give their lives in place of others, is a fresh escape from the vampires and werewolves currently saturating the market.  The struggles of the revenants, from watching people they’ve saved continue to make bad choices to coping with a monthly semi-death, fascinate me. What must it be like to live forever, to know that you’ve offered someone a second chance at life, only to see them squander it away?
The love story between Kate and Vincent is sweet and much more realistic than the typically “love at first sight” story line. Kate is torn between what she wants and what she knows will best for her. Kate is also no helpless waif, needing constantly to be saved by her knight in shining armor (or leather, in this case). I’ve always had an issue with YA stories that present girls with terrible role models who lose themselves in or define themselves by their beaus.

While the struggle between Kate and Georgia and the “big twist” were somewhat predictable, it was not enough to ruin the story for me. I loved getting to know all the characters, not a single character felt like a filler or throw away. I can’t wait to see what is in store for them next.
Finally, while this is the first of a series, the book could stand alone, a great accomplishment in itself. All to often series writers take the easy way out, stopping the book on too much of a cliffhanger, leaving nothing but loose ends. Ms. Plum ends this chapter of her character’s lives beautifully while managing to leave readers asking what the future holds.

It begins . . .

So, I did it. I finally started a blog. I've been talking about this for a while and it just seemed like the right time to do it. I've no idea where this will go. I plan on incorporating a lot of book and movie reviews with some current events and whatever else is in my head. In other words, the blog will be eclectic, like me.

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