Whether it's believing he's the subject of a reality TV show like The Truman Show or joining the school band to get invited to a big Halloween bash, GWhether it's believing he's the subject of a reality TV show like The Truman Show or joining the school band to get invited to a big Halloween bash, Greg Hefley's trials and tribulations never end. That's good news to this reader, who despite being too old to be in the targeted demographic for the Wimpy Kid novels continues to enjoy them.
Listening to the audio version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Double Down, I chuckled and laughed out loud multiple times as Greg continues to grow up. Whether's it's conspiring to win a jar full of candy in his school's annual balloon launch or using the Internet to convince his parents that he's actually learning to play the French Horn, Greg's antics never failed to amuse. And despite not having the benefit of the cartoon illustration in the printed version, I found the novel and its narration creating some hilarious moments in my head as I traveled to and from work.
I also discovered that I've missed a couple of releases in the series and any now eager to go back and catch up on what I've missed....more
Carter Briggs knows about the power of the written word. Not only can he entertain and touch his three best friends with his stories and jokes but a sCarter Briggs knows about the power of the written word. Not only can he entertain and touch his three best friends with his stories and jokes but a simple text message to them could have been a factor in the auto collision that took their lives.
Wracked with guilt and hurting from the loss of the fellow members of the Sauce Crew, Carver faces the difficult task of trying to move forward with his life. It doesn't help that the twin sister of his one his friends and a high-powered judge and father to another friend hold Carver responsible for the death of his friends. And both want to see Carver "pay" for his actions.
Jeff Zetner's Goodbye Days chronicles Carver's journey to come to terms with the death of his friends and the impact it has not only on him but those around him. Carter's witty, self-aware narration is honest, authentic and, at times, utterly raw. Zetner ably captures the conflicting emotions Carver experiences, including several panic attacks that send Carver looking for help beyond what his family and friends can offer.
Goodbye Days gets its title from the grandmother of one of Carver's best friends. The two decide to celebrate the life of his friend with a day full of the things his friend loved doing and would have wanted to do if he'd known it was his last. As Carver spends a goodbye day with some members of each family of the former Sauce Crew, he learns a bit more about his friends and himself.
There were moments in the novel that I had a smile on my face, followed quickly by a lump in my throat as events unfold for Carver. Too many novels targeted for young adults try to include teen angst for the sake of teen angst. Carver's angst and journey is as real and authentic as any I've read in a long while and this book is richer for it.
Zetner says that Goodbye Days is a love-letter to Nashville and it shows throughout the book. Filled with multiple local landmarks, part of the fun of this novel is imaging Carver and his cast of characters inhabiting those places. I may even be on the look-out for Carver working at one of my favorites used bookstores in the future.
Goodbye Days is one of those books that transcends the section of the bookstore or library where it will be shelved. It may be placed in the "young adult" section, but this is a book that you should seek out and read, regardless of age. This novel was an unexpected surprise and Carver's voice and story is one that has lingered with me long after I turned the final page.
This one gets my highest recommendation. Put it at the top of your to-be-read pile immediately.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received an ARC of this novel as part of the Amazon Vine program . ...more
Most of the time, yes. But there are those exceptions to the rule where a movie can be better than theThe book is always better than the movie, right?
Most of the time, yes. But there are those exceptions to the rule where a movie can be better than the source material.
Such is the case with Mario Puzo's The Godfather. The overall plot of the novel is similar to the classic, epic movie. I'll even admit that reading the novel helped clarify the identity and role of certain minor characters with the Corleone organization. But this is still one of those cases where the screen version comes out as vastly superior to the original printed version.
I'd even argue that if not for the screen version, The Godfather might have gone out of print a long time ago.
If you've seen the first two movies, you pretty much know what to expect here. (And if you haven't seen the first two movies, you really should cross them off your "movie bucket list" ASAP!) What fascinates me most is that Puzo helped craft the screenplay for the films and looking at what he included for the screen and what he left on the "cutting room floor." The novel develops some of the minor characters in the movies a bit more, from Johnny Fontaine to the woman Sonny is seen having an afternoon interlude with at his sister's wedding. Looking at the path Puzo puts Fontaine and Lucy (Sonny's mistress) on, I can see what Hollywood decided to only pay them lip-service on the silver screen.
In the case of Fontaine, it's the story of the rise, fall and rise again of his star in Hollywood and the impact it has on his personal life. It's interesting but no where nearly as compelling as the story of what's happening in the mafia power struggle taking place in and around the Corleone family. As for Sonny and his mistress, this plotline shows that it's not only science-fiction authors who can struggle to craft a sex scene on the printed page. Turns out that Sonny is particularly well-endowed and that Lucy has an itch only Sonny can scratch. Later, after his death, she's "cured" by a doctor using cosmetic surgery.
The novel also explores a bit more about Michael's girlfriend, Kay. There are some minor differences in the novel and the movie with Puzo giving us a bit more time to see Kay's family's objections to her romance with and marriage to Michael. We also leave her in a slightly different place than the movie does.
Puzo's novel is the basis for what is considered one of the best movies ever made. If you're curious about the source material for the movie (and parts of the sequel), this one is worth reading. And while it's not Forrest Gump or Planet of the Apes where the movie only borrows a few nuggets from the source material and gives you a vastly superior final product, this is one of those cases where the movies are simply better. ...more
As the winter semester begins at Opportunity High School, most of the student body is assembled in the auditorium for the principle's welcome back mesAs the winter semester begins at Opportunity High School, most of the student body is assembled in the auditorium for the principle's welcome back message. There are a few exceptions to this from the track team preparing to defend their state title winning streak and the two guys trying to break into the principle's office to get a look at their permanent records.
A few minutes after ten, the doors to the auditorium are bolted shut and the first shots ring out. Former student Tyler has something to say and he's going to say it to everyone gathered at the business end of several guns and multiple rounds of ammo.
For the next hour, This Is Where It Ends puts readers in and around Opportunity High School, watching events unfold through the eyes of multiple narrators who all ask the same question, "How did this happen here?" As the story unfolds, we find out just what drove Tyler to plan and carry out the attack on his classmates, teachers, and administration as well as feeling the desperation of those in and around the school as they struggle to survive Tyler's attack.
The opening pages of This Is Where It Ends channel the confusion and terror of a high school shooting incident. But it's once Tyler settles in and begins to demand that the student body listen to him now that the novel slowly begins to lose its focus. As the possible step stones to this event are slowly uncovered, Tyler more like a comic book villain while the characters around him spend a lot of time wondering if they could have contributed to or stopped this attack somehow. Included in the narration are Tyler's ex-girlfriend, his sister and the girl he sexually assaulted on prom night. And while these characters offer different insights into who Tyler who then and is now, it never quite gels into something more. There's also a great deal of teenage angst thrown in along the way that feels a bit out of place at times in the story that's unfolding.
The novel also isn't helped because it feels like it's working too hard to make the adults appear as useless and ineffectual as possible. As the shootings begin, the track team is outside training for the upcoming season. The track coach is less effective at finding a way to address the situation and calm the fears of his team than one of his students (who happens to be Ty's ex-girlfriend and is a member of the ROTC). I'm not asking that the adults be superheroes that can somehow magically stop the rampage that Ty goes on, but it would be nice to feel as if one or two of them was somehow portrayed as having a bit more sense....more
The runaway success of "Gone Girl" has created a new sub-genre in the mystery/thriller section. It seems like every other book that comes out these daThe runaway success of "Gone Girl" has created a new sub-genre in the mystery/thriller section. It seems like every other book that comes out these days cover blurb touts it as being in the "same vein as 'Gone Girl.'"
And while there have been a few books that have come close to capturing the page-turning intensity of Gillian Flynn, there have been more than a few that felt like pale imitations of the original.
For the first third of "Distress Signals," it feels like Catherine Ryan Howard has tapped into the same vein Flynn did with "Gone Girl." Only to see it all fall apart the more Adam Dunne digs into the disappearance of his fiance, Sarah.
An aspiring screenwriter, Adam is on the verge of finally finding the professional success that has so long eluded him. His long-time girlfriend Sarah has supported him emotionally and financially to this point, even going so far as to not allow him to give into the obvious temptation to make a work-trip a bit of a holiday for them, persuading him to stay him and focus on his rewriting. So it is that a week later Adam is blindsided when Sarah doesn't return and he can't track her down. As Adam tries to get assistance, only to find the police unwilling to look deeper into the matter and her family deciding that Sarah has dropped off the radar and they're unwilling to continue looking for her.
For the first third of the novel, Howard does a masterful job of creating a sense of desperation and paranoia as Adam begins to question everything he knew about his relationship with Sarah. Was she really unhappy with his apparent refusal to "grow up" and stop pursuing his dream of being a screen writer? And did she really connect with a handsome stranger who she met up with on her business trip?
It's one Adam begins to dig deeper into these questions and find some answers (many involving maritime law and cruise ships) that things really being to lose focus quickly. Adam's not exactly the saint he thinks he is, but the true nature of what's going on with Sarah makes less and less sense the more he (and we) learn about her plan.
It turns out the promise of the first hundred or so pages is spoiled by an ending that requires too huge a suspension of disbelief to fulfill.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received an ARC of this novel as part of the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review. ...more