Spider-Man: Far from Home reviewed

The second instalment of the new Spidey saga was in its second week when my friend and I checked it out at Burwood yesterday. Far from Home had great hype, with sky-high reviews and audience numbers across the board. I did not catch Homecoming in the cinemas, as I was getting ready for the snow trip. I watched it a little later instead. Missing the latter was a shame since I believe it was a much more polished film than this one. The first film was a coming of age tale with Peter Parker (Tom Holland) only just discovering his great power and responsibility. This one was nowhere near as well-proportioned as Spider-Man 2 (2004), which my pal deems the best one overall. Brace yourself for a spoiler-free Spidey review.

Banal

Don’t get me wrong, this instalment is a good blockbuster that has its moments. However, things have become a bit redundant and predictable, something to be expected since this is the seventh Spidey film overall. In particular, saving his friends and loved ones against evil demons is banal. The piece does introduce a new baddie, Mysterio, one of the few novel concepts in an increasingly ageing franchise. With his use of illusions and drones, the latter is more Matrix than Marvel opponent. He uses his savviness in recruiting a bunch of outcasts to his fold, vowing to nab Parker and friends once and for all. He has the element of surprise.  

New Set

Finding a new set for Spidey was a boon. As seen in the trailer, Peter and his classmates head to Europe, where Parker seeks to win Mary Jane’s affections. Peter’s attempts repeatedly get sidetracked or shot down, which keeps us rapt till the end. Europe provides some dainty shots, from the London Bridge to a Dutch tulip field and a fair in Prague. As a side note, Venice wasn’t portrayed very well. Spidey has evolved from merely your friendly neighbourhood Spiderman who fights villains in Gotham. My bud was reminded of his recent stop at London as we took in the Bridge. Before our viewing, he told me that he found the title ironic. Tom Holland is from the UK, which means he’s actually coming home.

Spidey doubts

Doubt remains a key component in this one, as in the past. While being groomed to save the world, Peter keeps questioning himself, keeps asking whether he is good enough. As his boss, Nick Fury, gives him his orders, Parker struggles to balance his teenage dreams with his Spidey aims. Like in all prior editions, he has to choose: MJ or saving the day; love or the cause. Zendaya plays MJ well, and as my friend noted, is about the same age as Holland. They make a cute couple. He likewise said that Holland is his ideal Spidey, since he could pass off as a teenager. Parker’s life in this edition is something we have all come to know. The nerdy adolescent who couldn’t give MJ his pendant or speak out to his classmates, but who ends up donning his Spidey suit and swings across buildings. As usual, he gets the unstinting loyalty of his friends throughout, something that greatly aids his fight. Will he win her heart? More importantly, can he do this without revealing his alter ego?

Fusion

Spidey is obviously an action flick, but I argue that it has elements of dramedy. While not as drama-heavy as Avengers: Endgame, Far from Home has spurts of theatrics. In general, though, the film was light-hearted like other Marvel pictures. There are also mid- and end-credit scenes that are worth a look. The film’s plot may be cliché but one that proceeds from Endgame and the blip event, something that has curious consequences the world over. These changes are apparent even in Parker’s class, which becomes a microcosm. Jake Gyllenhaal is also solid as Mysterio. Speaking of which, my friend thought it reminded him of his other performance: Prince of Persia. We had seen that movie together. When asked if he’ll see the next Spidey sequel, he said he will. I didn’t feel a similar pull. Personally, they’ve ridden this horse as far as they could. 

Rating: 3.7/5

Posted in movies, reviews, Travel | Leave a comment

DNF Shelf

Camus

Every once in a while, we come across books that are too good for us. Perhaps they are too dense or too descriptive or just too darn ambitious. Regardless, we are better off leaving them. In basketball parlance, these no-shows are called DNP- CD (did not play – coach’s decision). In the readers’ world, these unwanted books are annexed to the veritable DNF shelf. Did Not Finish. This year, my book pool has stretched. With that comes my fair share of bad reads. The following is a list of books that didn’t tickle my fancy.

The Plague (Camus). A literary classic written by a renegade French-Algerian philosopher, this had all the inklings of a must-read. Though he left us rather soon, Camus was one of the youngest recipients of the Nobel Prize for Literature. The language awed many people and moved me to get my hands on a copy. Alas, the hoopla was misdirected. After twenty pages, I can’t see the forest for the trees. After forty, I knew that I was just forcing myself to continue. I thought that the plot and writing would get better, but I was mistaken. Camus’s job title was a giveaway. He finds the reason in everything. I decided that I couldn’t stick around for a bit, as I was taking an unnecessary exercise.

For Whom the Bells Toll (Hemingway). This was my first Hemingway and it was not a good intro. His prose has demi-god status among writers, his works legendary. His maximalist style immediately bothered me. Imagine a paragraph spread across two pages. I guess you could say that we started on the wrong foot, but I quit after thirty pages. Some said it’s best to start with his stories before progressing to novellas and finally, novels. I guess I should’ve gotten the memo. In fairness, the novel had a rather cool plot set during the Spanish civil war. However, this backfires as the translation from Spanish leads to many awkward phrasings.

A Clockwork Orange (Burgess). An instant classic when it was released in the sixties, Orange became a media sensation with its depiction of teen violence and hedonism. It gained even more notoriety after being adapted into a Kubrick film. The most defining thing about the book, apart from the unabashed devilry, was the language used. Burgess being a linguist, the text is peppered with words and phrases that have been given new meaning. The author christens this register of words as the Nadsat. Some say it takes a period of adjustment to grasp the new patois, but that job was beyond me. Though the adaptation was sad to watch, I liked it much better than the text.  

Note: I won’t name-drop living authors on this list.

Many moons ago, I saw the movie with my friend and it was worth it. So, I expected a lot when I grabbed a copy of the 2013 novel which formed the basis of the picture. I did some research and the book was well-loved. Once I started perusing the text, my enthusiasm was quickly doused. The writing reminded me of his next novel, released late last year. No offence, but from my perspective, there was hardly anything beauteous in it. It was hard to read and employed a lot of internal monologues and description, way too much in my opinion. Given that it was 600 pages, I decided to move on.

I borrowed this book by a contemporary Australian writer. She had grand ambitions and charted her journey through the Outback in search of country. There was some hype surrounding this output, so I anticipated a fairly straightforward read. Contrary to her glowing reviews, I disliked it to the point that I dropped it and stopped chipping away. It was nice of her to celebrate her culture and find common ground among Aussies. It just so happened that her valiant efforts failed to strike a chord with me.

Honourable mention: As I shared before, I almost gave up on The Beekeeper of Aleppo. However, upon trying a second time I realised that it wasn’t so bad. I ended up finishing said novel and sparing it of a potential relegation to the DNF. While many people would allege that these books are classics and bestsellers, we are all unique. In the end, to paraphrase a quote, two of us will never ever read the same book.

Posted in Books, Literary, reviews | Leave a comment

Toy Story 4 reviewed

In 1995, Pixar’s Toy Story took Hollywood by storm. With an affable cast, ground-breaking CGI, and fresh plot lines, the film was a pioneer in many respects. My friend told me that Toy Story amazed him, since this offered a marked departure from the norm of hand-drawn animation. Fast forward fifteen years later and who could forget the heart-warming third instalment? There was barely a dry eye in the theatre when the curtains fell. Yesterday, my pal and I saw the much-hyped Toy Story 4. This was the second weekend of release, but the production still commanded a huge audience. After all, this represents the first Toy Story production in nine years. No wonder, it topped the domestic box office, taking in over $100 million. Strong word of mouth also contributed to this ringing success, having received near-universal acclaim.

Loyal

This edition follows Woody as he goes on an arduous road trip. His new kid, Bonnie, is bound for kindergarten where she has trouble blending in from the start. The banning of toys in class only serves to make Bonnie lonelier. During orientation, she crafts a new friend out of rudimentary materials and names him ‘Forky’. Despite his appearance, she immediately becomes beholden with her new toy. Woody sees this right away and his loyalty is astounding. He always seeks to make Bonnie happy, despite Forky’s absolute lack of care towards the latter. Forky is always trying to escape, leaving Woody exhausted in his numberless attempts to rescue the former. He knows that his kid would keep looking for Forky, and he wants nothing less than to make her smile. When he presents Forky to the group, he tells them that Bonnie ‘literally MADE a friend’.  

Road trip

The movie becomes a road trip with Woody and friends attempting to find missing buddies and reconnecting with long lost chums. They make a backstory of the old character Bo Peep and how she got away. I reckon that this was a clever use of plot device. Bo Peep shows us that toys are not invincible and age just as humans do. A lot has changed in the seven years since Bo Peep was gone. However, she was able to make new friends and stayed positive. Though she has relocated, she has never forgotten Woody, Jessie, or Buzz.

New faces

There are new faces who breathe new life into the franchise. Ducky (played by maverick filmmaker Jordan Peele) and Bunny, who crosses paths with Buzz, are good for some comic relief. The aforementioned Forky might not be super-smart but his indecisiveness and lack of humanity make him a joy to watch. There’s also Duke Caboom, ‘a Canadian daredevil toy’. He gets introduced in a bar scene. How they ended up in a bar is something that eludes both me and my friend. Nick claims that it could be a place for discarded toys. I was surprised to find out that Keanu Reeves portrayed Duke; I forgot that he was in this picture.

Exception

A worn doll named Gabby Gabby is the exception. Unappreciated, she finds as much information about Woody’s group as possible. Forky becomes the unwitting pawn. She covets what Woody has, but how far will she go? She moves heaven and earth to get what she wants, even employing a cat and a few cronies. Once she gets this, will she be satisfied? I highly doubt that. She might realise an emptiness that she never anticipated. Like all feel-good movies though, she must stand by to meet her match. Knowing the Toy Story trend, she might just will.  

Not much farther    

The film altogether was funny and visually stunning. Indeed, the remarkable landscaping gave my friend pause. The director, Josh Cooley, also gave us an unconstrained ending, an apex that keeps you guessing. I told Nick that I still thought the third one was better. ‘It was funnier’, he said. Still, this version wasn’t much farther behind its predecessor, and was clearly the best June release of the year. Delicioso.

Rating: 4.6/5 

Posted in movies, reviews | Leave a comment

Bumblebee reviewed

This week I had two post ideas in my gulliver: Atheism and Me OR Winter V Summer. The first one (based on my discourses with an opinionated God hater) could be too heated and complex to be condensed into a standard WordPress draft; the second has been dealt with in a previous post. That leaves Bumblebee. I intended to see the picture at the cinemas but missed my chances. No doubt, the film was on top of my wish list; I ended up seeing it on disc. Meanwhile, I loved Hailey Steinfeld’s performance in Edge of Seventeen. This film also had John Cena and the guy from Love, Simon: Jorge Lendeborg.

Nostalgic

Bumblebee, set in 1987 and with a real 80s feel, is a reboot of the Transformers saga. Michael Bay is still on board as a producer while Travis Knight directs. Being part of the action-heavy franchise, there are moments that cater to what fans have expected. This means extra-terrestrial wars, man v man, and man v machine. For the most part, the film is a gripping coming of age study. Charlie (Steinfeld) and her humanity moved my friend, who was lucky to see it in the cinema. Throughout the movie, she is understanding, caring, and compassionate towards Bumblebee, who the Autobots sent to Earth in their war against the Decepticons. Bumblebee is really B-152, a highly intelligent and loquacious robot from another planet, someone who could mimic vehicles and take their form. In this case, he transforms into a rundown Volkswagen Beetle. Throughout the picture though, his voice is silenced. He is the image of balance through his friendship with Charlie and his never-ending battle with the enemy. At both times he is like family with also being a gallant soldier.

On the run

However, through most of the action, Bumblebee is a fugitive. He has been implicated and is on the run. The U.S. military is against him, and his friends are caught in the middle. He is the embodiment of a true friend, fighting not only for his fellow warriors but also for his earthlings. He is also incredibly resilient, never losing his spirit in spite of animosity. We could learn a thing or two from Bumblebee. Regardless, I was quite shocked when I learned that Dylan O’Brien played the title character. What a performance though.

Friendships

Memo (Jorge) had such great chemistry with Charlie. They were funny, likeable, cute, and were lovely to watch. Like Bumblebee, Jorge is a peerless friend, someone who is amazingly loyal and trustworthy. He would follow you to the end, even if your reasons were dubious at best. When Charlie seeks to ignore her foes, Memo takes up her fight. From pursuing Charlie’s enemies, it becomes one hell of a thrill ride. After evading a state trooper, the stage is set for an epic final encounter.

Decepticons

Cena said early on that the Decepticons couldn’t be trusted. It’s in their name: they deceive. The movie could teach us a few pointers about that. As they say in Filipino, ‘walang manloloko kung walang magpapaloko’. Just because they come from another galaxy doesn’t mean they’re telling the truth. In fact, they’ve had oodles of time to evolve far beyond cutting-edge US satellites and armoury.

Perfecting Charlie

Just with Edge, I loved Hailey’s portrayal. From an insecure kid who can’t get past the death of her dad to a car-loving desperado to a friend par excellence, she grows a lot throughout the feature. She is touchy about her dad’s things, knocking back Bee as he browsed her father’s vinyl catalogue. At the same time, she does everything in her power to keep Bee a secret, spending virtually all her waking hours with the robot. She also eschews diving as this reminds her so much of her dad, a fear she would go to overcome later on. Though she wanted nothing more than her own car for her eighteenth birthday, she finds in Bee not just her first set of wheels, but her best friend. Regardless, apart from being eye candy, she owned the role.

The best

What’s not to love about it: a hardworking cast, a retro feel, good v evil (again), old school soundtrack, a beaten-down Beetle, a burgeoning love story, and the battle for Earth. Personally, it ticks a lot of my boxes. This is the fifth film in the series. Though it is the lowest grossing entry, this is also very highly rated (not to mention a lot more watchable). Many had even gone so far as calling it the best in the franchise. Fantastico!    

Rating: 4.45/5

Posted in movies, reviews | Leave a comment

NBA Finals Wrap

On Friday, the final game of the 2019 NBA season saw the Toronto Raptors edging the Warriors to win their first title. This was a fairy tale result twenty-four years in the making. In truth, theirs was a championship that defied the odds, a team that got swept in last year’s playoffs. During the course of the long grind, they retooled, adding slotman Mark Gasol from Memphis. This was in addition to their offseason moves, where they traded for two starters: long-range sniper Danny Green and many-time All-Star Kawhi Leonard. In the process, they had to ship out homegrown star DeMar Derozan, but the dude never got them to the last dance. The NBA is a business, and you often have to make tough decisions for the greater good. 

The Bounces of the game

The regular season ended with the Raptors having the second seed in the East. In like manner, they also had the second-best record in the entire league, behind only the Milwaukee Bucks. This guaranteed them homecourt advantage should they progress all the way. In the first round, they lost Game 1 to the inspired Magic, a trend that would continue for most of the postseason. In all their East series, they trailed against their opponents. Down 0-1 contra the Magic, they swept the next four to face the spirited Sixers. That was a tough seven game standoff that played more like a chess match. In a must-win Game 7, the score was tied with seconds left when The Klaw hoisted a jumper while fading out of bounds. The ball hit the rim four times before falling through. Game Over!

Against the wall

In the East Finals, they had their backs against the wall. Contending with the Greek Freak, they faced an 0-2 deficit. At times, it seemed like Kawhi was the only consistent gamer. His workload against the Bucks was Herculean, that his missing strings of games during the season seemed logical. Even the commentators were debating on the right time for him to sit. They were able to gut it out and won the next four, booking a spot in the Finals against the reigning champs. 

Banged-up

While the Raptors performed admirably during the showdown, they were up against a banged-up Warriors fold. These Dubs have been here for the last four years; they were tired. In Game 5 versus the Rockets, Kevin Durant went down with a scary calf injury. They had to wing it in the first four tilts. With Klay Thompson also missing Game 3, they faced an uphill battle. You’ve probably heard by now that Durant returned prematurely for Game 5 and ended up walking in crutches. Buoyed by their superstar, they escaped that contest with a one-point win. With Klay going down again on Friday, they were out of options and crumbled. Raptors win, 4-2.

The Klaw

Much has been said about The Klaw’s brilliance over these playoffs. He had been a light in the Raptors’ darkest moments, pulling them out of the brink. His defence has always been elite, but his development as an offensive weapon was like beholding a master at work. Early in his career, he had been a slasher/post player who used his upper body strength to overpower defenders in the post. Over the years, he honed his midrange game, before moulding his three-point shot. He has been very dependable from beyond the arc, and his complete game was on full display throughout this postseason. No doubt he carried the Raptors on his back. 

Coach Nick’s wiliness

We have heard of Kawhi’s greatness, but of Coach Nick’s wiliness we have not…until today. He outsmarted Coach of the Year Mike Budenholzer, frustrating Giannis and forcing him to take ill-advised three-balls. In the finals, he was undaunted in employing a box and one defence against Steph Curry, a tactic most often used in high school and college ball but rarely seen in the pros. His mission: to shoot down the Dubs’ lone offensive weapon during the absences of Klay and KD. Nurse notably went with backup Fred VanVleet to start the second halves instead of the bigger Green. The former did a marvellous job on Steph. He is a rookie head coach, getting the gig last summer after the front office fired Dwayne Casey. Add rookie chip coach to the mix, joining the likes of Pat Riley and more recently, Steve Kerr. He had some balls to emerge victorious at all three road games at Oracle, one of the toughest places to win. In the last game ever at that ageing stadium, he engineered a game plan that shut the door on any Warriors’ sliver of light. However, this comes with an asterisk: they played against a hobbled Warriors dynasty.

Predictable

The Dubs were out of sync. As mentioned, they were missing two All-Stars and were in the Finals for a fifth consecutive time. The extended grind took their toll across the entire roster. While Kawhi was overused during this postseason run, imagine multiplying that effort times five. To confound the Raptors, they employed the occasional zone defence. In Game 6, they were able to contain their opponents for three successive trips down the floor, only for VanVleet to hit an ice-cold three. The Dubs’ attack became predictable, almost always relying on a Curry pick-and-roll or isolation. Their half-court offensive sets became a barrage of threes, only this time they weren’t falling. They tried to wring Iggy and Draymond for points, but both were in way over their heads.  

O Canada!

In the end, one cannot remove what the dinosaurs brought to the fight. They came with a lot of grit and they took the task seriously. They were not content with stealing a game or two; even with two or three victories, the locker room was a famously sombre place. At the grandest stage, everyone chipped in. Kyle Lowry was a lovely second banana, not only burying threes, but also running the show. Mark Gasol was the best centre on the hardwood, outworking Kevon Looney and Andrew Bogut for pivotal scores and boards. As per above, VanVleet made life more difficult for Curry. Serge Ibaka came alive during the homestretch. In six games, the Raptors were no doubt the more consistent team. They fought for every loose ball, were more aggressive, more balanced offensively, and were the hungrier defensive squad. The Klaw may have run off with the MVP, but this was without question a team effort. As they now are the first non-American quintet to win the Larry O’Brien trophy, they did not only have the weight of the big city on their shoulders, but also the entire country. Boy, did they deliver.     

Posted in culture and politics, Travel | Leave a comment

Long Weekend (again)

We are in the midst of another long weekend. Tomorrow is the Queen’s Birthday, and this is celebrated as a day off across this state (New South Wales). Temperatures have steadied after freezing conditions last week. The chilly weather has inspired an early start to the ski season, with a dumping of snow unseen at this time of the year since 2000. The Snowys is the place to be right now, to traverse the freeze with your skis, poles and toboggans. Aside from contending with the steep chair lifts, you must be mindful of your snowplows. On another note, the mid-year sales are in full swing, and I was able to do some shopping on the eve of the extended break.

What to read

My book for this weekend is The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri. I’ve had this novel with me for weeks now. I initially found the excessive description daunting and gave up in favour of Baldacci’s The Last Mile. I was deep into the latter when I decided to scan Beekeeper again. This time, I found out that it wasn’t so bad. While there was lots of flowery prose, the plight of refugees and their stories are worth the slog. Beekeeper is well reviewed and highly rated, with some even praising it as ‘beautifully written’. While I wouldn’t go that far, it is certainly an eye opener. I also read that overwhelming demand made this book ran out of print, so maybe I was too quick to judge.  

What to watch

There are a few sporting events unfolding at the moment. The French Open is at its final stages, with Aussie Ash Barty taking the women’s crown. The week was full of Barty’s giant-killing, culminating in a daring comeback against unseeded American teen Anisimova. The Queenslander was hardly troubled in the decider, taking the first set 6-1 before securing the second, 6-3. She becomes the first Aussie to win in Paris since Margaret Court in the 70s. Hard to believe, but only three years ago she was out playing club cricket; now she’s won her maiden Grand Slam. ‘King of Clay’ Rafa Nadal and Austrian Dominic Thiem will contest the men’s championship, a rematch of last year’s finale. Rafa handed Federer in the semis his worst defeat at a slam in eleven years, while Thiem outclassed Djokovic in a rain-interrupted match that went the distance.

Meanwhile, the FIFA Women’s World Cup is underway, also in France. Prolific goal scorer, Sam Kerr, will captain our side as we aim to withstand the group stages, survive and advance. There has been some negative press about the coaching change, especially so close to the Cup. As they say, ‘The proof of the pudding is in the eating.’ The Matildas’ performance will be the burden of proof. This marks the eight sequence of the quadrennial juggernaut, where twenty-four teams vie for women soccer’s ultimate honour. While the action is riveting, the schedule is the only problem. Play unfolds at unholy hours, and you wouldn’t want to be staying up until four am. If you prefer something more tolerable, there’s rugby league, which airs at a more convenient timeslot.   

What to chow

The warmer weather is a good and welcome change. While the nights remain chilled, the mornings are more palatable. So, what will we package with these temperatures? Right now, eating soups and spicy food would definitely be an evening thing. With daytime temps at 22 degrees, feasting on laksas and chicken broth would be silly. Therefore, stick to the staples for the day, and level up with some soup and chilli at night. Since this is winter, avoid ice cold drinks and yoghurt; instead, opt for lighter beverages such as tea. All in all, since temps hover around the twenties, warm is better than cold. When in doubt, take warm.

Final word

I was planning to include what to wear but find this unnecessary given that one, I am posting this mid-weekend and two, this would be simplistic. If you’re in Sydney, don’t forget to check out Vivid. This fusion of lights, ideas and music makes the city come alive at night. This year, it’s bigger and brighter than ever before, with more venues and events added. Meanwhile, the weather is mild; let’s make the most of the sun. This time next week, it’ll be back to those winter woollies.   

Posted in culture and politics, Travel | Leave a comment

Autumnal reader

denva

Six weeks have passed since my last inventory, and now fall twenty nineteen is history. Since my last list, I have normed almost five reads. I started off with Connelly’s finest and I’m now chipping away at my first Baldacci. In between, I breezed past Mitch Albom’s latest, fought with The Subtle Art, and The Rosie Project absolutely gripped me. Here is the reader in full:

 

  1. The Poet (Connelly). My fifth Connelly read of the year, many have lauded this as his best ever output. A killer opening line with well-made characters, the suspense keeps you guessing till the end. A Denver reporter investigates a series of double murders that shocks Middle America. When the darkness hits close to home, Jack McEvoy is drawn into a web of deceit and a psychopath on the loose. He does his best to take advantage of this story, and chaperones the FBI for an exclusive scoop. Things may not play out the way he wanted, and he soon realises that he could be next for dinner.

Beautifully written, and a murder mystery par excellence, Connelly’s novel continues to resonate twenty years later. The book is one of Connelly’s first forays outside of Harry Bosch. In doing so, he has created a landscape on par with Bosch, if not better. He has likewise sculpted one of crime fiction’s more memorable heroes.

 Rating: 5/5

 

  1. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck (Mark Manson). What can I say? Millions of other readers have various opinions about this one. Women don’t get it, while male readers adore it. Some say it’s a Zen rip-off, with the author taking from various trees and appropriating them to suit his purposes. Others see the coarse language as a front for empty talk. I say it’s in the middle of those two, at times an enjoyable read while being hard to follow at other instances. Manson starts his sections with stories – both personal and external ones. I love those accounts, from the Buddha to his rebellious teens, from the Fifth Beatle to William James (the Father of Modern Psychology). However, after starting his chapters with these lovely stories, Manson goes on full-on self-help mode and that’s where we start getting this dense prose. In short, I absolutely adore half of the book but I guess true-blue self-help material is not my cup of tea.

Rating: 3.9/5

 

 

  1. The Next Person You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom). The long-overdue sequel to The First Five People You Meet in Heaven, this was one of the easiest reads I’ve had in a while. Someone had said that she read it all in a day. I managed to finish in about four days, but I could definitely have completed even sooner. Here we are introduced to Annie, who suffers a tragedy after what was the happiest day of her life. She gets to meet her five people, some strangers, other more familiar. She gleans her mother’s love, the same person she fought with while she was growing up. When she was a girl, a misfortune happened that had long-lasting consequences. She blocked out what happened that day in the fair, but grasps this secret in heaven, where she meets Eddie, the man who saved her.

It is never too late to change, to know the truth, and to care for a loved one. Parts of the book were cheesy. I liked the use of the changing sky in Five People but I thought this was a bit like Photoshopping the background ala Incredible Hulk. The constant change in the heavenly sky was rather unnecessary AND distracting. However, most of the book was very sound and robust and made for an engrossing read. Albom’s writing is divine; I wish all books were this readable.

Rating: 5/5

 

  1. The Rosie Project (Graeme Simsion). His latest novel, The Rosie Result, was getting some love, so I decided on perusing the first leg of the tripod. I gathered that it was highly rated, and with good reason. Don Tiller is a genetics professor in Melbourne whose structured life is only supplanted by his lack of a love life. His unromantic life is in stark contrast to that of Gene, his best friend, who has an open relationship and takes full advantage of this arrangement. After several disastrous dates, he decides on writing a questionnaire, a key component of the Wife Project.

Soon, he meets Rosie, an independent, tardy, smoking, drinking ‘barmaid’ who, on the surface, is everything that Don dislikes. However, Rosie’s search for her missing father intrigues him, and soon they are mixing cocktails and flying to the Big Apple, all in the hope of finding Dad. Don’s well-planned routine is soon turned upside down, although he couldn’t remember a more enjoyable time than the present. Don learns that he cannot subsist alone, and that he can meet his perfect match but that won’t make him happy. Chapters are relatively short, with breaks among them. This book elicited a stream of emotions; Don’s uncanny point of view inspired a few laughs. While the author’s perspective of Asperger’s offended some ‘purists’, I thought Simsion handled this the right way. A million and a half readers couldn’t get it wrong.

Rating: 4.8/5

 

  1. The Last Mile (Baldacci). This marks my first venture onto Baldacci-land. He has a resemblance to Grisham, not just physically but also in his fast-paced, action-packed writing style. Like the latter, he was also an erstwhile attorney. In addition, his work is always well-received. This 2017 thriller is the second salvo in the Amos Decker series, which concerns a man who has hyperthymesia. Simply put, Decker has the gift of remembering everything, and sees angles beyond the scope of an average mind. Decker helps the Bureau when things get personal. He is drawn to a case with uncanny similarities to those of his own. More importantly, the accused is a former football player like him. The book’s title comes from the colloquialism among death row inmates of the walk between their cells and their last farewell. Full of suspense and with a powerful cast, this one is turning out to be a real page-turner. Call me a Baldacci convert.

Rating: 4.6/5

 

Six weeks, five books, and five different authors. I examined four novels and one self-help book. Even in the thick of my skimming, I’m still discovering new names. Happy reading!

 

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Posted in Books, reviews | Leave a comment