bookspluslife

August 31, 2014

Book: A Painted House by John Grisham

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 12:27 am

A very unusual story from John Grisham. Not a lawyer in sight! No court cases, no legal aspects. But John shows that he can tell a simple story of a Southern US family with as much verve and panache as he can weave his lawyer stimagesories.

The story is that of the Chandlers: Luke, a young boy who is into baseball and who dreams of making it big in the game is the main character. His elder brother Ricky is away in an army posting and we learn later that he made a girl pregnant. There ia  dad and  mom with an interesting dynamic between them. Mom is not very happy to be in a farm struggling to make ends meet but the patriarch, Pappy who is the grandpa of Luke, exerts a huge influence and control over this joint family and so it is not easy to up the sticks and go.

Pappy the grandfather lives life farming cotton and gets Mexicans who come from across the border to help him. Without their help he is sunk. Also, he goes and collects them from a main square and if he goes too late, he will not get anyone. This year, he has got the help of the Spruills. Among them is a man called Hank who seems to be brutal

Tilly who lets Luke see her naked and takes him to peek at the delivery of the girl whom Rick had made pregnant. Cowboy, who gets beaten by Hank but whom Tilly has a crush on.

In a fair, Hank downs the man who challenges everyone for duel. Cruel, wicked dude.

Jimmy Dale the city cousin and his uppity wife Stacy. Afraid of snakes and made to sit in the pot in terror by Luke. A fun interlude about city folks and their oh so superior manners.

Storm hits the town. Then Luke discovers TV and his world opens up!

Hank, the troublemaker, is made to leave and Cowboy kills him on the bridge seen only by Luke. He is terrorized into keeping quiet, and then Tally runs away with Cowboy, not knowing that she is his brother’s murderer!

The house is being painted by Luke after hearing snide allusions about the state of the house from some other townsfolk. This becomes the metaphor for the story. The cotton fields get flooded and the Mexicans leave early, having nothing to pick.

Painting job is finished by Luke. The house painting nears completion.

Lovely little book, with none of the usual courtroom drama that Grisham is famous for, but nevertheless a very intimate and absorbing look of a family of farmers.

The final, agonizing decision to move to a big city with parents, leaving grandma and grandpa alone is well told, and the economic necessity of doing so also comes out well.

A new topic for John Grisham and I should say he has handled it well. I will give it a 7/10

– Krishna

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Movie: Deliver us from Evil (2014)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 12:01 am

imagesThis is a horror flick. The movie opens with a preamble where, in the time honoured tradition of Hollywood, a group of soldiers in a desert (Desert Storm? Iraq?) provoke an evil of unspeakable dimensions unwittingly. Somehow they bring the evil back to the US with them. In the cave they see some ancient symbolic inscriptions.

 

The movie moves to present day New York and to a cop called Sarchie (played by Eric Bana in a near impeccable New York accent) where he breaks up a domestic dispute and scares the daylights out of the abusive husband. The husband’s fingernails are bleeding, which nicely blends into the story later. His name is Jimmy.

 

They then attend to a case of a woman in a zoo, Jane,  who threw her own son into the lion’s pit. The lions were not there, so the boy survived but Sarchie and his partner Butler go in search of the woman and find her half crazed, digging with her hands into the ground (with dirty, bleeding fingernails).

 

When Sarchie sees a hooded figure in the now empty lion’s pit, he goes to investigate, only to be confronted by two lions that should not have been there. He barely escapes. He later discovers that the hooded figure opened the gate of the lion’s den and intrepidly walked right into their midst. The lions did not react at all. Later he also learns that the person who was painting the lion’s den was Santino (the same as the hooded figure).

 

By this time you are very absorbed into the movie. The story may stretch your credulity, but the narration is good.

 

The movie then goes down. Enter priest Mendoza, who spouts theories about human evil and supernatural evil. Of course Sarchie does not believe him. On top of that, Sarchie does not go to church anymore even though his wife and daughter are devout and go every Sunday.

 

He sees and hears things that no one hears and the priest says that it is because he has a heightened awareness of things supernatural. Yeah, right.

 

The ancient inscriptions turn up everywhere. In the abusive husband’s house, in the zoo where the hooded figure was seen painting it (in the video). Mendoza goes into his movie mode and says that it is a “portal to Hell”.

 

Now, there is a link between Jimmy, Jane’s husband, and Santino. They were the trio that ‘woke up the evil’.  Neat.

 

The movie ends with an exorcism scene that is mildly interesting in its portrayal and later, Sarchie, who did not believe in God is a full convert to a believer in the occult, and works with Mendoza, resigning from the police force.

 

A lot of cinematic nonsense but a good narrative flow. Let us say a 4/10

 

  • – Krishna

 

August 17, 2014

Book: The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 12:35 am

imagesThe offbeat movie a few years ago based on this book and with the same name made waves in the alternate circuit. I did not see the movie but was curious and so was happy to get a chance to read the book.

 

The story happens in the maritime province of Newfoundland, reminiscent of Maine in the US. The story also has a very unusual protagonist. He is Quoyle, and is very conscious of his (in his mind) ugly face and the large jaw. Diffident, always trying to place a hand to hide his hideous jaw, he fails in everything in US.  He was a newspaper man but could not do news for nuts. Then tries his hand in driving a taxi, working as a waiter etc. Then he decides to Newfoundland. Tries his hand in a nondescript paper in a small Canadian town.

 

A few surprises are hidden there. This book was written in 1993 and  talks about news of failed banks. In Canada? In 1993? Wasn’t that the glorious eighties when recession was supposed to have been “banished forever” by financial innovation?

 

He makes friends with Patrick and Marcelia, a black couple but they go away.

 

We learn slowly of his past life. We learn that he married disastrously, Petal Flower, a wild thing is married to him but never faithful. She openly insults him and then goes away, leaving two kids (you wonder if they are even his) for him to look after. She goes off after men, for months disappearing from the house. She comes when she likes, and asks him to leave her; he is stupidly loyal, hurting when she has the audacity to bring the latest flavour of the month home to have sex in the next room to his, when he is watching TV! You feel such a wave of sympathy for him and share in the feeling of helplessness.

 

 

She takes the kids he adores and apparently sells them for money and dies in a car crash on the way back.  The kids, Sunshine and Bunny were rescued just before they were to be implicated in a child porn scene. It is really heartrending.

 

This is all before he moved back to Newfoundland with his kids, and joins his spinster aunt, who takes them in.

 

Quoyle joins as a shipping news reported and bumbles along with his aunt and the kids. He buys a useless boat for too much money.

 

Poetic storytelling style draws you in. Interesting small port city stories, especially of the hunt for the newspaper editor to find a job in the face of repeated job losses and recessions. Quayle writes about a piece on Hitler’s boat (sold to another owner who visits Newfoundland) without consulting the editor, and that becomes a success.

 

Lovely description of the coastal life and lovely English combine to give you the experience of watching maritime small city life from a front row seat. Well written. If you like the novels of Roddy Doyle who tells life like it is in rural Ireland, this would appeal to you.

 

The story has incidents, not all rural life. A head pops up in a trunk and turns out to be that of the husband – one of the couple who owned the Hitler’s boat.

The body is found later.

 

The prose and the intimate descriptions of  life I a small town in  Newfoundland are the two main features that raise the level of the book to an interesting high.

 

Examples of descriptions that make you pause and think:  “Ice as colourless as a Sardiron’s plate… Sea like a silk cloth draped over a bunch of mice” Small sharp sentences.

 

Quayle almost drowns and is rescued. Then finds romance with Wavey.

 

Jack’s episode (not described in detail to avoid spoilers) provides the shocking twist and the final impetus to settle down for Quoyle.

 

I just loved reading this book – a very good story set in very believable backdrop of small seaside town in Newfoundland.

 

I will give it a 8/10

 

  • – Krishna

 

Movie: Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 12:06 am

imagesWhat a fabulous plot and what a beautiful execution! A very satisfying and expert presentation of a science fiction story.

Initially it does not seem like it would be a good story. The movie starts with a disaster story in the news of an alien invasion. The aliens are called Mimics, though you do not see them mimicking anything at all right till the end of the movie. Then there are tedious descriptions of France being the epicentre of battle and from England, the United Defence Forces from all countries is launching a final assault

Then the Mimics, when they come seem to ooze acid as blood and you go ‘Oh well, have we not seen this in the Alien Series?’

The movie drops some intriguing hints. The Mimics seem to be invincible and crushes human forces ruthlessly except for one lady called Rita (Emily Blunt), who seems to have a much bigger success than normal and is in Verdun, France. She is called the Angel of Verdun.

Then there is the unusual role for Tom Cruise. At least in the beginning. He comes as Major William Cage, who wants to just float around, not sullied by tedium of actual battle. He is a Major, for God’s sake!

When he meets General Brigham in London, his idea is that he will be in charge of PR and after the war, when the aliens have been vanquished, he would smoothly transition into a political career from his military one.

When Cage finds out that he is ordered into combat he tries to avoid it and threatens the General, getting himself arrested. He is bewildered, totally panicked, and is like a deer caught in headlights.

Cage is sent to combat under the command of Sergeant Farrell, who has been told, by General Brigham that Cage is a Private and a deserter, and also is fraudulently impersonating a General. He is taken into the battle in handcuffs. As they drop to the battle zone, the aircraft is hit and he almost missed the jump in panic.

He finds Mimics fully prepared against the so called surprise attack but is killed almost instantly, but not before blowing up on with a bomb and being covered in its blue acidic blood.

Now the movie gets fascinating. He wakes up in the same place as he woke up last time in handcuffs and sees that the whole scenario is played out. In the plane, he tries to scream to everyone that they are walking into a trap and that the plane will be hit, but everyone ignores him. He gets killed again in  a different way and wakes up again in the previous place the previous day. He dies repeatedly, slowly learning what to avoid and surviving longer and longer. But there seems to be no way to win, and he keeps getting killed. Why does he survive again to relive the same thing?

The explanation seems to be interesting.  The reason seems to do with the alien blood that drenched him. When he dies, the time shifts backwards and he starts again. In fact the Mimics have been also doing it for so long that they know all man’s plans once they experience it, shift back in time, and crush the strategy. This is why they have been invincible so far!

Rita once sees him being adept and realizes that he is in a time loop. She says ‘Find me and tell me about this when you wake up next time’ and they both get killed. When he wakes up again, he goes finds Rita and learns that she was in the same loop before. He also realizes that when her blood was transfused with new blood, she lost the ability to cycle.

She trains him to handle mimics over several lifetime cycles. It is really funny and fascinating at the same time.  They realize that this will end only when they find the super Mimic who is hiding somewhere and is linked to all Mimics in mind.

The movie has more interesting pieces where the vision that Cage received of the Super Mimic turns out to be a trap. Cage keeps killing himself when in danger of being captured so that he can start again. Finally they get a device that can track the Super Mimic if stuck into a soldier Mimic (called Alpha).  The Super Mimic is called Omega.

A lot of branches: in one “life” Cage decides the whole thing is pointless and walks out to spend time in a bar in London but learns that Mimics destroyed the forces and attacked London, killing him!

Before he can reach Omega, once he gets into an accident and before he can die, they infuse new blood into him. Now he does not have the power to go back and all Mimics are still alive!

To read this, it looks complicated but when seen in the story, it is brilliant. I agree that some of it is highly cinematic, but then that does not take away from the exciting venture that the movie carries you into and you do not see the passing of time at all.

Brilliant, and how a science fiction story should be told.

Let us give this one a 9/10

– – Krishna

August 8, 2014

Book: Breathless by Dean Koontz

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 12:16 am

imagesAnother review of a Dean Koontz book. Dean Koontz and a couple of others are probably the most reviewed authors in this location only because I personally have read more of their books than those by other authors. See here for reviews of other books by the same author.

As I have said before, Koontz can be unpredictable, with good books interspersed by mediocre efforts. This one belongs to the latter category.

Even in badly plotted books, his writing style is good and some elements and description of scientific or supernatural things are always good, which makes the disappointment at the end bigger. This book also has its moments where you are absorbed in the descriptions and the story fully.

This story starts very cute. A lot of characters are swiftly introduced.

Grady Adams walks with his dog “Merlin” when he sees some strange animals frolicking.

Camilla River and partner Donna Corbett are vets but do a lot of pro bono work due to kindness of their hearts.

Henry Rouvroy kills Jim Carlyle, his twin and intends to take his place, including with Nora, Jim’s wife. He shoots Jim in the stable. Kills Nora and settles down to enjoy life. Grady continues to be ‘visited’ by mysterious creatures in his home. Part of it is his paranoia. But weird things happen, explained from his point of view. Henry is puzzled and alarmed by the bodies missing suddenly and lights being on where he did not expect it at all.

Grady has the creatures visiting his house, which he names Riddle and Puzzle in his room and calls Camilla for consultation. Camilla arrives but is filled with  wonder when she sees them. They are nothing like anything she has ever seen.  The description of their eyes is absolutely fascinating and is vintage Koontz.

The government, predictably, wants to shut the whole thing down and silence everybody who knows anything about them. They capture Puzzle and Riddle and ill-treat Grady and Camilla in the bargain. This goes on for a while. This is the new pessimistic Koontz to the fore again, where he is gloomy about the evil government trying to cover up and browbeating innocent and honest citizens in the process.

To add to all the confusion, there are guys just floating about doing apparently nothing for most of the story. There is this kind man who wins fortunes in casino and gives it all away; there is this driven hobo Tom Biggerwho feels pulled by a higher power. Some of this ties up nicely at the end, for instance you know why Tom Bigger is in the story, even though it is a bit part and in my mind the intro is huge for that purpose. Also, there is this attorney, who asks a groundkeeper (mild mannered boyish man who is really a vicious killer) to rape and kill his inconvenient wife and also kill the child in the bargain; What are they doing in the story? Again, there is a very weak tie in at the end to justify all these parallel threads floating around but it is not a very strong tie, I am afraid.

And then Dean Koontz goes crazy again! Let us look at this. Darwin’s evolution theory has not been proved, claims the author.  Wait, what about the overwhelming evidence from fossils? Yes, Dean is clever enough to have thought of it. You can’t trust any of it because carbon dating is not precise. (What? All of it is untrustworthy? Yes! All of it.) Why? Because 2 billion years of time is not enough to have caused all this advanced evolution of these genes in human beings (wait, don’t laugh yet). But don’t conclude from this that Dean Koontz is propagating creationism. How can he be doing it, when the evidence quoted is the life of the universe from the Big Bang Theory?

By the way, evolutionists simply hate mathematicians because they keep saying that the time of the universe is enough to cause all this evolution. OK, Dean, do they offer any proof of their own? Or do they consider that from a primordial soup, we have seen protein like chains spontaneously evolve under lab conditions that kind of points to evolution? No, this seems to be the argument similar to “Elvis Presley still lives. Period”. Any evidence you give to the contrary is cooked up and is unbelievable.  Which is why I hate the fake science quoted in some of his books. (See our review of Odd Thomas books).  The story is fiction but the science underpinning it should be real, correct? If the science background is also fiction (in a non fantasy story like this), it undermines the entire credibility of the fictional accounts.

There is more. The “reality”, according to Koontz,is species come into existence spontaneously out of thin air. Of course, that theory is completely credible and is a lot easier to accept than Darwinian evolution, right?

Tom Bigger the vagabond, links up with a man trying to do good and thwarts the baby faced killer Rudy Neems trying to rape Jennifer, the wife.

The end is sort of crap. Highly confusing about Henry and why he even exists in the book. Also a crappy ending about what these creatures are, and where they came from.

 

A 3/10 would be fairly generous for this book.

 

– – Krishna

August 5, 2014

Movie: Godzilla (2014)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 11:29 pm

imagesAfter seeing this movie, I imagine this scene where the director and the producers have a discussion about how to make another installment of the Godzilla movie.

 

“I think we want to make a Godzilla movie”

 

“Hasn’t it been done? Twice? Once even as recently as 1998?”

 

“So? If Spiderman can be done a million times, why can’t Godzilla?”

 

“OK, but the last time in 1998 the movie had a fairly good story and in fact good special effects, but I don’t think it did that well in the box office. How do you expect that this will succeed?”

 

“This is where my genius comes in. We do everything the opposite of the previous movie. That way, since that movie failed, this movie has to succeed. Guaranteed!”

 

“Huh? Come again?”

 

“Look, I have this brilliant plan. In the other movie, they had actors who really wanted to do their part. In this movie, we are not going to fall into that trap. Let us get actors who look like hunks but are completely wooden and do not know what the hell is going on around them. This is difference number one”

 

“I am listening”

 

“We also – get this! – completely remove the story. We create Godzilla and two other monsters who are his mortal enemies. Parasites but the size of tall buildings. Their job is simply to keep chasing Godzilla wherever it goes. Godzilla, of course, has no plans. No one else has any plans to contain it or even fight it except to uselessly shoot at it. He wanders, they wander – all through the movie. Even there, we don’t plan to show the viewers anything at all until half the movie is over. This way we can ensure that this movie is the antithesis of the one that failed in 1998!”

 

“What crazy plot is this? Have you taken leave of your senses?” says one of the production unit crew and he is immediately evicted. The discussion proceeds.

 

“The rest of the non-story? We can make it up as we go. Let us go shoot”

 

They realize, after the movie started, that they have made a terrible mistake. Though they did a brilliant job of assembling wooden actors, they screwed up when it came to the part of Joe Brody, a dedicated scientist, and this guy, Bryan Cranston, seems to be – horrors – acting! What is worse, he seems to be brilliant at it. It runs totally counter to the strategy and the movie is in danger of failing! Post Breaking Bad, no one has the guts to fire Bryan. So they do the next best thing. They kill him off in scene five or so. That problem is now solved and they can get on with their original plan.

 

The Japanese scientist Ichiro is played by Ken Watanabe seems to have a perpetual expression of wanting to go urgently to the toilet but was prevented by the scientific duties and the need to deliver the dialogs.

 

There is a needless scene where Ford Brody, the wooden hero and the son of Joe Brody saves a boy who stupidly wanders into an empty train and he seems to show no emotion or sympathy to the boy while he “plays” with him to distract him and saves him.

 

There are two weird looking things with arms or legs or paws or something that looks like the modern curved athletic prosthetic legs which are Godzilla’s mortal enemies and they seem to go and want to mate – yes, one is a male and the other a female. In addition, they have to cross half the world from Japan to US to mate. Why? Because everything exciting happens in America. This, with Godzilla in hot pursuit, and he, like a jilted lover, interested in preventing their coming together.

 

They kind of show human like emotions when they fight and with comical appearances, that does not jell at all.

 

All in all, a wasted effort and in spite of their brilliant strategy, this movie also does not seem to have done well at the box office.

 

I cannot in all sincerity give it more than a 2/10

 

  • – Krishna

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