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Archive for October, 2008

This movie is totally deserving of all the accolades it has received. The three main players are Llewellyn Moss (Josh Brolin), the unlikely hero, who stumbles across a drug deal gone bad, and on impulse takes a briefcase full of money, which he finds at the scene. He then has to go on the run, because he knows that someone will want that money back. Javier Bardem plays Anton Chigurh. He won an Oscar for this role, and it was well deserved. Chigurh is the hit man on the trail of Moss and the money. He is a chilling character, always dangerously calm, even when wreaking havoc or extreme violence, and he is completely without conscience or morals. Every moment that he is on screen crackles with tension. Sheriff Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) is the man who hopes to find Moss before Chigurh does, because he knows that if Chigurh finds Moss first, Moss will die. Bell is a good and wise man, but is jaded because he has seen so much destruction and violence in his life, firstly as a WWII soldier, and then in his job as Sheriff.

Dialogue is kept to a minimum, and this successfully ratchets up the feeling of tension for the viewer. Moss and Chigurh are both clever and resourceful, and there is a real battle of wits, in which the viewer is never quite sure who is likely to win (except I did know the ending, as I had already read the book).  The characterisation is fantastic all around, as the quality of the acting is never less than excellent.

I have heard criticism of this movie for it’s downbeat ending. Personally however, I felt that the ending fitted the mood of the film completely. Splendid acting all round, and some beautiful camera work with a story that will definitely hold your attention – well worth a watch.

Year of release: 2007

Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Writers: Cormac McCarthy (book), Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Main cast: Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones, Kelly MacDonald

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Click here for my review of the novel.

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This is a fabulous and utterly compelling debut novel, set in Mississippi in the 1940s, a time when white people and black people were not friends, and did not socialise together.  It is a novel about hatred and intolerance, about anger, about family and about love.

Laura McAllan is not happy when her husband Henry decides to move them from their comfortable life in the city to a remote cotton farm in the Mississipi Delta.  She misses her home comforts, and struggles with the harsh and sparse lifestyle (she names the farm ‘Mudbound because that is precisely what it is when the rain falls and makes the bridge to town unpassable).  What she hates most of all is that they have to share their home with Henry’s hateful father, ‘Pappy’.

Into their home comes Henry’s charismatic younger brother Jamie, who is more sensitive to Laura’s unhappiness than her own husband, but having recently got back from fighting in World War II, Jamie is fighting his own demons.

Ronsel Jackson is the eldest son of the black family who work on Henry’s farm.  He too, has been fighting in the war, but in the South in the 1940s, there is no hero’s welcome for a young black man.  Jamie and Ronsel become friends, but in such a heated and claustrophobic atmosphere as they are living in, such a friendship can only lead to tragedy.

I was gripped by this book from the very first page.  There was a sense of impending doom all through it, and the final denouement was shocking.  The book disturbed me in many ways, especially in the way that the racism displayed is just accepted as normal, by white and black alike.  The book is told from the viewpoints of several of the characters, and the author successfully gave each character their own distinct personality.  Some of the characters were hateful and some were admirable – but all were very human, coping with human flaws and idiosyncrasies, while trying to make their way in the world.

Beautiful and moving, gorgeous writing, brimming with atmosphere, this book is highly, highly recommended.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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Erotic fiction is not a genre I usually go for.  But this book is hugely enjoyable and good fun.

Maybelle de Maitenon has always believed that she must never fall in love or give her heart to anybody.  The grand-daughter of a famous French courtesan (and having to live with the reputation which that fact brings with it), she has grown up believing that to fall in love would mean giving up her independence and opening herself up to misery.  But then she meets Edmund Worthington, Duke of Rutherford, a man whose own family’s reputation has been dragged down in recent years.  The attraction between Maybelle and Edmund is instant, but while she simply wants a fling, things end up getting far more complicated than she had intended.  Maybelle’s grandmother has opened a school of gallantry – where she teaches men how to pleasure their partners.  But when her grandmother is taken ill, Maybelle finds herself having to reluctantly take over the teaching at the school.  Edmund enrols at the school, and things get rather steamy!

There are several funny moments in this book, and certainly plenty of very steamy moments!  Edmund and Maybelle are both very likable characters, but also both very human and fallible.  I found myself getting frustrated at their behaviour, while at the same time understanding exactly how and why they behaved in certain ways.

It’s not a ‘deep’ book; there is no profound message here.  But there is plenty of fun and laughter to be had, and it is certainly a great read (and occasionally made me get a bit hot under the collar)!  I am hoping that this is not the last we will see from Delilah Marvelle, and if she writes any more books, I will certainly be reading them.

I would definitely recommend this one!

(I would like to thank the author for sending me this book to review. Delilah Marvelle’s website can be found here.)

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How well do any of us really know the people we surround ourselves with?  Sandra Reid is a Police Officer returning to work after the tragic death of her husband. Although a gentle start would have suited Sandra better, she finds herself landed right in the middle of a gruesome case, about someone with murderous intentions who is targeting women with a secret in their past.  Sandra finds herself getting drawn further and further into a case, where the person they are after always seems to be one step ahead.  As Sandra’s own family suddenly find themselves in danger, Sandra and her boss Jeff seem to come up against one dead end after another. Matters are not helped by several people who have good reasons to want to hide their own parts in past events, but sometimes you just can’t keep the truth hidden forever.

I really enjoyed this thriller.  It rattles along at a fair old pace, and there are plenty of twists and turns – several of which I did not see coming – and I never could have guessed the twist at the end!  There are several threads to the story, and throughout the book, we see them drawing together, and learn how they are intertwined.  I did need to concentrate on the story – the whole direction of the story can change in just a few pages and a lack of concentration could really cause confusion – but that is not a complaint and it did not spoil it at all for me.

There are perhaps rather too many characters, and one (or possibly two) of the lesser storylines could have been cut out, and the story ‘tightened up’ a little, but this was only a small niggle.

For those of a queasy nature, it’s worth mentioning that there are a few very descriptive gruesome moments!

If you like psychological thrillers, or good crime stories, I would recommend this book. I look forward to more from this author.

(I’d like to thank the author for sending me this book to review.)

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This book is described as a satiric urban fantasy, which is pretty accurate!  It’s also very original and a whole lot of fun.

The novels starts on the 30th birthday of everyman Michael Whyte, an American living in Paris, who is not sure how he has found himself there, and is doing a job which is never fully explained (either to Michael or the reader).

Longing for a bit of excitement in his life, Michael soon learns that you should be careful what you wish for.  On what he thought was going to be just another ordinary, forgettable birthday, Michael receives a tuxedo from an unknown benefactor, and an invitation to a party at his eccentric (to say the least) neighbours’ apartment.

Michael soon finds himself on a quest which takes him through a Paris which will be completely unfamiliar to anyone who has ever visited the city.  His task is to find the very first French franc coin.  Along his journey, he is aided by a deaf mute, an friendly epistomologist and a beautiful but enigmatic French lady.  He find himself involved in ten day long feasts, pursued by a crazy concierge, meeting flatulent statues and talking sculptures, and facing danger almost wherever he turns.  Michael also has a running inner monologue (voiced by several facets of his personality), which is very amusing.

Michael was a great character – the sort of man one could be friends with, and his bewilderment at the situations he finds himself in is all too believable!

If you don’t like fantasy, I would not recommend this book.  But if it’s a genre that you enjoy, I would strongly recommend it.  I laughed out loud on several occasions, and will definitely look out for further works by this author (this is his debut novel, but hopefully it won’t be long until he writes another).

The only thing that I found a little bit of a let down was the downbeat ending, which did not seem to resonate with the tone of the rest of the book.  However, all in all this was a very very good read.  I’d love to see a sequel!

(I’d like to thank BCF Reviews for sending me this book to review.  BCF Reviews blog can be found here.  James Earle McCracken’s website can be found here.)

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This is a cool little movie.  I was predisposed to liking it I guess, because it stars the utterly luscious and swoonsome Benicio Del Toro, a man upon whom I can happily feast my eyes!

However, to reduce Del Toro to mere eye candy would be to do him an injustice.  He is a terrific and charismatic actor, and he is super in this film.  The other main star is Tommy Lee Jones – another man who can make a film worth watching just by being in it.  They both bring their characters to life, and make them easy to believe and invest in.

The premise of the movie is that Aaron Hallam (Del Toro), A decorated US Special Forces Operative, has gone on a murderous rampage, seemingly without motive, and Lieutenant Bonham (Jones) is the man reluctantly brought out of retirement to hunt this killer down.  Bonham is the man who trained Hallam and turned him into the killing machine that he now is, and probably has a better idea of his mindset than anyone.  However, Hallam is also able to correctly anticipate Bonham’s methods.

The chase takes place through the woods and through a city, and there are many great action scenes in this film.  It is a pretty straightforward thriller, although Hallam’s state of mind is never fully explained (is he mad, or is he bad)?  And what are the reasons for his rampage?

Two great stars elevate this from good to great!

Year of release: 2003

Director: William Friedkin

Writers: David Griffiths, Peter Griffiths, Art Monterastelli

Main cast: Benicio Del Toro, Tommy Lee Jones, Connie Nielsen

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Martin Reed is one of life’s losers, and has always been the victim of bullies, the worst of which is probably his own mother, who he still lives with. He works at Southern Toilet Supply and is resigned to the fact that he will probably have an uneventful and unexceptional life. Until one of his co-workers is found murdered. Martin quickly becomes the main suspect, and his refusal to provide an alibi does not help him at all. Events seem to take on a life of their own, and Martin finds himself getting deeper and deeper into trouble.

Even the reader does not really know until the end whether Martin is guilty or not – and I’m not going to spoil the surprise for you!

As a fan of Karin Slaughter’s ‘Grant County’ series, I was excited by the prospect of this book. However, while it is not a bad read, it is disappointing in comparison to that series. For fans of the Grant County series, it is worth noting that this book is entirely different in tone.

I felt it very difficult to empathise or sympathise with Martin or Anther, who are the main two characters in the book. I also found the other characters quite unbelievable, and Martin’s mother was horrible (although she was intended to be).

The whole sequence of events just seemed a little too convenient, as though the author had the end in mind very early on, and fitted the storyline around it. It should be noted however that this is a very short book, and so events did move quicker than you perhaps would have expected them to.  There is a twist at the end, but it didn’t particularly shock me, and there was a gaping plot hole in the final denounement.

If all this sounds very critical, it is not meant to. While the book is underwhelming, it is a reasonable enough way to pass a couple of hours. I actually listened to it on audiobook, which may have contributed to the reasons why I didn’t enjoy it as much as I might have. Unfortunately, the narrator, Walter Lewis, had a voice which grated on me, and I didn’t like the accents he used when speaking the parts of the various characters.

So all in all, not dreadful, but not one to seek out.

I’d like to thank NewBooksMag for sending me this book to review. NewBooksMag’s website can be found here.  Karin Slaughter’s website can be found here.)

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What a lovely book this is.  The main character is Claude Reynaud, a French dressmaker and designer, who lives in Senlis, about 30 miles outside Paris.  Claude is a man born years too late – he has not embraced modern design methods, or refuses to use computers or other modern conveniences in his work.  However, his attention to detail and his ability to intuit exactly what will suit his clients means that he is incredibly sought after dressmakers.

Claude is not a passionate man – indeed his passion seems restricted purely to his work, and to his four adored nephews.  However, he is unprepared for the day that his latest client, Valentine de Verlay arrives in his salon, for almost immediately, he knows that he will love this woman.  There is only one problem – he has to design and make Valentine’s wedding dress.

Suddenly the serious and mild manner Claude finds his own life – and that of Valentine’s – unravelling at the seams….

The writing in this book is beautifully descriptive and luscious.  Claude is a believable and sympathetic character, and while I found myself occasionally becoming angry with Valentine, I could really feel why Claude would love her.

I am a cynic when it comes to romantic books, and often deliberately avoid them. This book however, is unashamedly romantic, but it is seductive and immensely readable, although I would add that while not it would probably appeal more to a female audience.  Claude may not be a typical hero type, but he is certainly a character who the reader can admire and root for.

One final note – the cover of this book is lovely!  The picture here does not do it justice.

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