Wednesday, January 30, 2013

North of Nowhere (Book 7)

Title: North of Nowhere
Author: Steve Hamilton
First Published: 2003
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
Series: Alex McKnight (Book 4)

     The is the fourth book in the series and it does feel inferior in terms of plot, themes and styles. It is not bad but it isn't as good as the previous three.

     Alex becomes more isolated, enjoys sitting home reading crime books, keeps to himself more than he used to. He hardly goes to the bar and socialize with his friends. Jackie in particular is worried about him. He gives him some sort of and ultimatum, either he takes a vacation further north to really know what true loneliness is, or to join him in a game of poker with some other guys he's never met. Alex chooses the later.

     While playing poker at this rich despicable person house - that Alex never met - a group of armed robbers invade, they steal money, ransack the place and once again our hero find himself in the middle of everything, again!!!

     The plot is weak, events are predictable, and the novel fell short. The suspense wasn't there this time around but I think it is to be expected in a series. I hope this book is the weakest link and things will pick up from here on.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Haunting Wind (Book 6)

Title: The Haunting Wind
Author: Steve Hamilton
First Published: 2002
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
Series: Alex McKnight (Book 3)

     I'm having fun with the Alex McKnight series. My reading list for 2013 didn't include them, but hey, reading should be fun and sometimes unplanned.

     The Haunting Wind is the 3rd book in the series which keep getting better in my opinion. Partly because the characters big and small are growing on me. I do also like the funny and sarcastic inner dialogue of Alex. He keeps getting into troubles or maybe troubles have a way of finding him.

     In The Haunting Wind, his friend Randy suddenly appears. He has not seen him in more than 30 years. They knew each other while playing in the minor league for the Detroit Tigers. Randy got on his nerve constantly but he could never hate him, in fact Alex was and still is very fond of him. His old buddy comes to him with the most absurd request in Alex's opinion at least. He wants to find the girl that got away, THE ONE! so he can rekindle the old flame. It doesn't take much to persuade Alex. Randy has a charm about him that no one can really resist. Alex is a sap, the biggest sap on planet earth according to Jackie and will always be a sap.

     Things are not with they seem especially in Alex's life. Events take turn for the worse and as always, Alex finds himself fighting on many fronts by himself. It does seem evident or at least in the first 3 books of the series that generally law enforcement guys don't warm up to Alex right away. More than often he finds himself to be the accused. THE PRIME SUSPECT. I've also noticed that the writer, Hamilton, is not fond of your typical Hollywood happy endings. Many bad guys seem to get away with it. Life imitate art or is it art imitate life? I don't know!

     The series is very addictive, if you fall for Alex you can't help but continue the journey with him. I already started book 4.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Winter of the Wolf Moon (Book 5)

Title: Winter of the Wolf Moon
Author: Steve Hamilton
First Published: 2000
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
Series: Alex McKnight (Book 2)

     While I was reading Winter of the Wolf Moon I realized something, I’ve never had guilty pleasures when it comes to books. Unlike movies, the book has to be great or I’ll never read it or finish it. Every once in a while I’ll watch a popcorn movie; I’ll choose the silliest flicks, something I’ll watch once and may never recommend to friends. I do that because I get emotional watching movies and it takes a toll on me not only emotionally but psychologically as well. So watching a bad movie here and there seems to do the trick. Books are different, or so I thought. I never had guilty pleasure books but The Alex McKnight series written by Steve Hamilton might be the one.

     Why am I mentioning this? Even when writing this I can’t for the life of me remember the title of the novel. This never happened to me. Does this mean the book is bad? No, the book is very good. Would I recommend it to friends? Yes.

     The events remind me of 24 The TV Show. How can these events keep happening to the same person? Alex lives in a small town where nothing of significance should happen. He is a retired cop so naturally he shouldn’t be at the center of all these mysteries, it’s not like he is a detective and this is part of his job. But there he is, solving mysteries, fighting criminals and getting his ass kicked most of the time.

I’m very fond of Alex, I think he is the main reason I like the book and the reason I'll finish the series. He is balanced, he likes his routines, and he is faithful to his friends. He might not let people in easily but losing his partner and the events that followed that incident made him soft, he won't admit it even to himself but I find him sentimental.

     In the Winter of the Wolf Moon, a young girl goes to Alex asking him for help. She needs to lie low, and get out of town. Alex sense that she is terrified of something but she won’t say. Somehow he feels the urge to help her. He sets her up in one of his cabins and the next morning she is gone; possibly kidnapped. He suddenly finds himself in the middle of events that involved a ruthless drug dealer from Russia, a gang of young cokeheads, and DEA agents.

     Many of the characters from the original book return. His once nemesis Prudell is now his friend/partner. Maven, the town sheriff is growing to like Alex a little bit but he is still a hard-ass old man. Vinnie, his Indian neighbor plays a more prominent role in this book since the girl that Alex was trying to help comes from his tribe.

     The book is light, not too violent or graphic as most of the crime thriller books these days. It’s an interesting read and I recommend it.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Week 02: Favorite User Review

Week 2 favorite review goes to Bitter Tea and Mystery.

This a link to the review The End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov. I love the review. The first novel of the Foundation Series is going to be on my 2013 TBR list. Thanks Tracy.

Peter Pan (Book 4)

Title: Peter Pan
Author: J.M. Barrie
First Published: 1904
Genre: Adventure, Classics, Children Book    

     It is very rare that I pick books on a whim. I almost always go by recommendations of friends, reading groups, or I check best sellers and classics. This one was on my Books2Movies Club @ goodreads for January/February.

     Peter Pan is a boy who refuses to grow up and wants to be a child forever. He lives with a bunch of other kids in Neverland and the only thing missing is a mother. He convinced Wendy to come along to live with them, to be their mom and she agreed. Her two brothers, Michael and John tag along. On Neverland they encounter pirates, mermaids, fairies and blah blah blah.

     I love children books, and I wanted so much to like this one but I HATED IT. Peter is an obnoxious, cocky, devilish brat. I hated his guts so much that I was rooting for Captain Hook during their fight. I applaud myself for being able to finish the book. I deleted the eBook from my library immediately after I finished it.

P.S. I didn’t take part in the voting process for Jan/Feb. Next time I’ll make sure to vote if only to prevent such atrocity from happening again.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Lincoln (2012)

Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones

     The movie deals with last days of Abraham Lincoln life. The 16th president is winning the war and he has two choices. To continue the bloody war that took countless of innocent lives and pass his 13th amendment to abolish slavery forever or to sit down with the south representatives, end the war for good but slaves will still be slaves. He faced moral dilemmas, oppositions from both parties but he believed in equalities and freedom. He had to compromise, to get his hands dirty and from the movie you find out that the slavery issues was fought not only on the front lines of the war but in Washington as well. I guess politics was a dirty game and will remain a dirty game and no one played it as well as Lincoln.

     The movie is a project that took Spielberg more than a decade to get right. And he got it right. I went to see the movie because everyone is talking about it and not because I was looking forward to it. I thought the movie will be boring, a history lesson of some sorts and boy was I wrong. It’s an entertaining piece of cinema, superbly acted by Daniel Day Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones and many others.
Lincoln is the perfect movie. I gave myself few days before writing this to let things sink in and I really can’t find fundamental flaws. Since I know virtually nothing about the civil war, it made me hungry for more so I bought Ken Burns: The Civil War which came highly recommended.

I don’t know if the movie will be as successful overseas, many will deem it too American I guess. It’s a great film. Period.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Cold Day In Paradise (Book 3)

Title: A Cold Day in Paradise
Author: Steve Hamilton
First Published: 1998
Genre: Mystery, Thriller

     Alex McKnight is an ex-cop. He’s been shot in the line of duty 14 years ago and he took a disability retirement soon after. He moved back from Detroit to his hometown Paradise. He works now as Private Investigator for small town, good hearted lawyer. He likes his job well enough but the trauma still lingers, he is still terrified of guns and blood. He keeps to himself, lives in a small cabin in the wood that he built with his father when he was a boy, plays poker with guys and everything seems to fall into place for him. But the good days won’t last. A case from the past now haunts his quite life and he’s desperately trying to solve it.

     The setting of novel is your typical small town. Paradise is a cold, desolate place in the north of the country just on the border of Canada. The events of the novel take place within few days. This is one of the aspects that I liked about the book. It’s a first-person narrative, so Alex is at the center of the story and he is in every page. The other characters in the novel are one dimensional, they’ve got nothing special going on but then again this is a story about Alex. The novel was written in a very direct and simple language. It reads like your typical mystery/thriller. There are no distinguishable qualities in the phrasing and the events are a little bit predictable.

     A Cold Day in Paradise is the first novel in a series of 8 novels. Am I going to read the rest of them? Sure. I enjoyed it, it was good enough first novel to make you want to read the rest of the books.
I also liked that the book was 300 pages. I read it in two days.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Dorian Gray (2009)

Dorian Gray
Directed by: Oliver Parker
Starring: Ben Barnes, Colin Firth, Rebecca Hall

Dorian Gray is loosely based on the Novel. The soul of the book is there but it's not a faithful adaptations. While I liked Ben Barnes performance as Dorian, his character lacked the intensity, volatility of Dorian in the book. Colin Firth who played Lord Henry was great as always. I liked the movie well enough to recommend it and will look for the 1945 black & white version.


My Review of the Book

The Picture of Dorian Gray (Book 2)

Title: The Picture of Dorian Gray
Author: Oscar Wilde
First Published: 1890
Genre: Classics, Horror, Fantasy

     When I picked up The Picture of Dorian Gray I had no preconceptions, in fact I knew nothing of the book. My sister and many recommended the book and it was time. Boy was I surprised. It is not your typical Victorian novel. The main character Dorian Gray, is a beautiful young man who have everyone under his spell. Everyone seems to admire his looks, they want to be around him, they want to befriend him. After he was painted by Basil, a well known painter, it suddenly struck him that the charm of his beauty will fade, and while he will grow old and wrinkled, the picture will stand the test of time and will always remind him of what he had. He doesn't look at the painting as a great work of art, he in fact hates it.
     His new friend Lord Henry, an older gentleman has a great deal of effects of young Dorian. Dorian tries to emulate Henry world of views and in the process becomes corrupted, vain, shallow and cruel. The book at times seems like a study of a human soul and personal values. Oscar Wilde was a poet, a highly educated man, studied psychology and was in interested in philosophy. It is very evident in his writings. His phrasings are absolutely stunning. You could simply quote any lines of the book.

When the book came out in the lat 19th century it was not met with high regards. critics called it nauseous, unclean, effeminate and homoerotic. Oscar Wilde had to rewrite many of his chapters, add few more and tone down some elements in his subsequent editions.

The novel was way a head of its time


Monday, January 7, 2013

2013 Book to Movie Challenge

Since my blog is primarily about books and movies, then what's better than doing a challenge that combines both.
I found this challenge by accident. You read a book then you watch it's movie. I did that quite a lot in the past, and generally the books were better that their screen adaptations.

There are 4 levels to this challenge:

  • Movie Fan - read 3 books and watch their movies
  • Movie Devotee - read 6 books and watch their movies
  • Movie Lover - read 9 books and watch their movies
  • Movie Aficionado - read 12 books and watch their movies
I'll be attempting the Movie Aficionado since I watch a lot of movies. I can't wait to start.

1. The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) My Thoughts on The Book, Dorian Gray (2009) My Thoughts on The Movie.

Django Unchained (2012)

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leondardo DiCaprio

     Django Unchained is set in 19th century just two years before the civil war. A German bounty hunter/dentist, Schultz, rescues Django from slavery and then enlists him in the search for the notorious Brittle Brothers. In return, Schultz will grant him his freedom and help him find his wife who was sold years back.

     The film is directed by the immensely talented Quentin Tarantino. It is uniquely his. The movie is gore, violent, has many unexpected turns of events and sometimes funny. Like many of his film the writing takes center stage. The dialogue is amusing, every major characters were given time to develop. The use of music is like no movie you’ve seen. 
During the course of the movie, you’ll hear country music, opera, Spanish songs, Beethoven, and yes RAP music as well.

     The film is not for everyone. Many will deem it too violent, too offensive and I agree. But then again, I love revenge stories. They are the best. Quentin put a movie out every 3-4 years or so. I find myself waiting for them impatiently and I’m never disappointed. 


Week 01: Favorite User Review

Week 1 favorite review goes to Create With Joy.

This a link to the review Art As Therapy – Inspiration, Innovation, And Ideas by Diane Fausek-Steinbach. I have to say the I enjoyed what was said about the book, moreover I am intrigued by the subject matter that you could work on your personal issues and struggle using art. I'll definitely check the book out.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
Dir: Peter Jackson

I watched The Hobbit last night and I have to say I have mixed emotions about it. Being a huge fan of the Middle-Earth universe and Peter Jackson craft, I had more hope for it to succeed than expectations to dazzle. The movie critics specially the top Critics from haven’t been kind to the film giving it 42%. The fans on the other hand seemed to love it.
The film is based on the The Hobbit which is a fairly small book. How they managed to stretch it into three films is beyond me. Considering this, the pace of the movie is not as slow as I was led to believe. Gandalf says “out of the frying pan and into the fire” and it does feel like that in away with the continuous spectacular action scenes.
On other places, like Gollum Cave, it does feel stretched out too much. The dialogue is long, the game they played is a bit idiotic and it slowed down the movie considerably. The sense of urgency is gone. The actors were great. Most of the dwarves are indistinguishable and you don’t connect with most of them actually. Bilbo Baggins played by Martin Freeman is mediocre. It’s the worst thing about the film actually. I enjoyed him a lot in Sherlock but in The Hobbit he seemed out of place, out of pace, and out of sync with everything around him.
The experience is still spectacular. Middle-Earth is still raw, beautiful and beyond reach. I am still going to watch the movie many, many times I’m sure. It’ll end up as one of my holiday movies and I know that I’ll grow to love it more and not mind its flaws.


Friday, January 4, 2013

52 Books in 52 Weeks

Reading 52 Books in 52 Weeks is a huge undertaking for couple of reason:
1. It's a new year resolution for me and I hardly ever keep my year resolutions.
2. I read 2 books a month at most. Doubling that amount is going to be tough.

But I have faith that I would break the chains of broken promises and actually finish something for a change.
My wife got me Galaxy Note Tab so all my new purchases will be in the form of ebooks. My faith also is strengthen by the fact that I already finished my first book of the year and I'm starting another one tomorrow.

I hope by joining your ranks that I'll stay motivated, committed cause I actually love reading.

52 Books in 52 Weeks

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (Book 1)

Title: The Shadows of the Wind
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafón
First Published: 2001
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

Let me start by saying that I loved the book.

I’ve been on roll for the past few months. One great book after another and I wish it doesn’t stop. The story took me to a place and time while reading. I was quite transported to Spain. Not only spiritually, but the imagined trip to the narrow streets of Barcelona felt very real. Sometimes I would go away from the pages wondering the streets of the city. I sat in the café. I visited Sempere’s old bookshop, and Clara’s apartment. 

After finishing a book, I usually sit with myself with a cup of coffee trying decipher what I read, looking for hidden meanings, life lessons not morals, I never look for those really. And still can’t make up my mind. The book is about a quest, solving a mystery, it talks about books and above all it is about love. These are among my favorite things. The story felt very personal. I identified with it, I honestly for a moment believed that Carlos Zafon wrote it specifically for me. Sometimes the narratives are light but the horror of the civil war, the miserable lonely lives that everyone is living and the cruelty of time and bad people take you back to the reality of the situation and the urgency of the quest.

Daniel is a sensible young man. I quite like him. His determination is what I liked most about him. It did cost him and others a great deal of grief but a mystery is only there to be solved. The author kept pointing the similarity between Daniel and Julian and it might be true that both took similar paths in life, both loved wholeheartedly, but I still can’t see him doing what Julian had to do. I can’t picture him as a killer, or any criminal of sort. He might not play by the roles laid by others, he might get too passionate but he remains sensible and I imagined him having a gentle soul. Another momentous figure in the book is Fumero. I hated Fumero because I feared him. He reminds of someone who used to torment me to death as a child. Other characters in the book played their parts however small or unimportant. Some more than others were fully formed. I felt others should have been given more to grow like Bea for example. She was nowhere to be found, and suddenly she is Daniel love interest and I felt that sometimes the story shifted from uncovering the mystery to Daniel wanting to be with her and keep her safe. Fermin on the other hand, I didn’t care about him much. He is supposed to be wise, a comic relief maybe, but he annoyed me more than anything else. I felt sorry for him when he was telling his story to Daniel but not enough to make him less intolerable.

Before writing this, I just found out that there is prequel called The Angel's Game. I would definitely pick it up, and put it in my TBR list for 2013 and I hope it’s as good as The Shadow of the Wind.

For the mystery/thriller/historical fiction enthusiasts out there this book is highly recommend. For everyone else it’s still a good read. It might not be a great literature but it’s a damn good book nonetheless .


A Year of Change

I'm hoping this is the Year.
The year that things will come together for me.
I'm working on many projects at the same time and hoping I won't get overwhelmed in the process.

My top things to do this year.
1. Find a job that I actually like.
2. Lose weight.
3. Learn French.
4. Read 52 books in 2013.

of course I'll have to come up with a sound plan for each project.
This week will be time to do that. To think hard about how and come up with the good tools to help me achieve my goals.

I wish everyone a great year