Kristin Hannah – Night Road

Kristin Hannah – Night Road

If I stuck to my reading patterns, then Kristin Hannah would be a novelist I would be totally unfamiliar with; being more of a crime/military fantasy reader myself. But then, what’s the point of reading if you stick to well-established patterns, right? Also unavoidable is the fact that Night Road was staring at me from the top among my Goodreads recommendations. Of course, I had to get to it sooner or later.

Night Road begins with a girl, Lexi Baill, an orphaned teenager adopted by her aunt Eva and taken to her place on Pine Island, where Eva lived in a trailer park. Lexi joins the high school and on the very first day, makes friends with Mia Farraday, who is more or less a social outcast in her class. Outwardly, Mia and Lexi couldn’t have been more different; Mia came from a prestigious and wealthy family, and had a loving mother in Jude Farraday, and mischievous and incredibly popular twin brother in Zach. Lexi on the other hand, grew up in seven different families which came forward to adopt her, only to be pulled out of them by her drug addict of a mother who spent most of her time in prison. However, both had similar mentalities, both of them loved reading, and most importantly to Mia, Lexi was the only one who didn’t care if she would be shunned by others for befriending Mia.

When Jude Farraday catches wind of this, she is at first both happy and worried for Mia; something similar had happened before when another girl became friends with Mia, but the girl only used Mia to get close to her brother Zach. But over time, Jude’s worries are alleviated and she comes to treat Lexi as one of the family. Later on, things get more complicated between Mia and Lexi, but the issues get resolved. But one incident that occurs, changes their lives forever; hearts are left broken, never to heal, hopes crushed to the ground, you know the drill. How can they all come out of this and begin to hope for the future again, with renewed life?

Don’t put her in the dark…

At first I thought Night Road would be a cheesy romance novel and was regretting buying the book on an impulse[considering there are many other books on my recommendations list I don’t give a second glance to], but all my doubts were put to rest within 20 minutes of my starting the book. Kristin Hannah writes brilliantly, there is not a shred of doubt about it; the writing flows smoothly, without any disjointedness even when she is switching perspectives from Lexi to Jude to Zach. The story is not very complicated, but her writing makes all the difference in the world. Character development is spot-on; especially with Jude Farraday, and the relationship between her and Miles, her husband. The events and the dialogue really get you emotional, and some of us might need to keep a tissue box in reach; it gets that touching. I must iterate, Night Road has been a real emotional rollercoaster ride for me.

If you are a fan of emotionally draining books and tear-jerkers, just go for Night Road without another thought. I’m not someone who generally reads that kind of books, but Night Road makes me want to change it, even if just for a little while.

RATING : 9.8/10

 

 

William Landay – Defending Jacob

William Landay – Defending Jacob

For quite some time, I really wanted to read a good court-room thriller. After seeing Defending Jacob on my Goodreads recommendations, I decided to give it a try. And am I glad I did…

Andy Barber is a respected and well-admired assistant district attorney, and one of the best prosecutors in his county. He leads a peaceful life with his wife, Laurie, and his teenage son Jacob. However, this existence is shattered by the murder of a young boy in the neighborhood. And the prime suspect of this murder is Jacob. Andy, being a father, of course believes completely in Jacob’s innocence, despite the emergence of some damning new evidence, which rocks the family boat and strains the relationship between Andy and Laurie to near-breaking point.. As if this was not enough, Andy has been withholding a secret for more than twenty years, something he hasn’t disclosed to even his wife. How far will Andy go to protect his son?

The plot is pretty solid, with minimal loopholes and plotholes and whatever other holes there may be in a novel; if there were any, I didn’t notice them at the very least. At the outset, the concept is simple, but the plot-progression adds layers of complexity that jsut cannot be ignored. The character development by William Landay was so good it approaches near-perfection. It’s painfully heartbreaking how Laurie changes over the course of the book from an optimist to a wreck; the case takes a toll on Andy too in more ways than one can imagine. Defending Jacob reminds me of A Simple Plan by Scott Smith, in the best way possible.

Just pick up this book, and I’ll guarantee you will not be able to put it down until you get to the end. It’s hard to believe Defending Jacob is only William Landay’s third novel. Okay, let’s stop the posturing; just buy this book already! Doubly so if you are a fan of court-room thrillers like me.

RATING : 9.6/10

To The Moon

To The Moon

Ever since I started twitch streaming, I’ve been on the lookout for some awesome indie games because let’s face it; my laptop is nowhere near good enough to play the latest games, let alone run a livestream on the side. During this search, I came across To The Moon, a 2D exploration game(sort of) made by Freebird games.

To The Moon puts us in the shoes of Dr. Neil Watts, one of the duo who go to visit Johnny Wyles, a dying man with a wish to go to the moon. The wish is made even more inexplicable by the fact that even Johnny doesn’t know why he wants to go there, in the first place. However, that wasn’t something that Neil and his partner, Dr. Eva Rosalene, should worry about. As employees of Sigmund Corp., their job is to fulfill Johnny’s dying wish by implanting memories into his mind using some revolutionary technology. So no matter how weird they found Johnny’s situation, it wasn’t something they had to overly worry about; just accomplish whatever they came to this rural settlement for, then leave the man to die in peace. And on to the next job.

But when Eva and Neil go into Johnny’s memories and cause some alterations to push him towards becoming an astronaut, they find out that no matter how much they tried, their attempts ended in failure. And amongst all this was his deceased wife, River Wyles, who had an eccentric habit of making paper rabbits during the later stages of her life. What was the relationship dynamic between River and Johnny, really?  And what is with that lighthouse? Most importantly, why were they facing these unanticipated difficulties in altering Johnny’s memories? Telling you more would only end up spoiling the story for you guys, so just play it and find out for yourself.

                                             If you don’t make this too hard, then of course…

The plot of To The Moon is rock-solid, I must say. The way it progresses from the present to Johnny’s memories over his life time was done really well, and some events threaten to bring tears to your eyes. However the gameplay itself is uninspiring, to say the least. We just go around collecting a certain number of interactable objects, then find a memento, solve a small puzzle and use the memento to get further into Johnny’s past life. Not so great gameplay-wise. However, this mechanic works well in establishing how certain objects have left an indelible impression on Johnny. The soundtrack is amazing though, I must say. A game like this needs an appropriate soundtrack to set the mood of the player, and To The Moon, I’m glad to say, has done the job well. And wait, I almost forgot to say this : the dialogue is awesome. The banter between Neil and Eva often will make you laugh out loud, and serves to establish not only their personalities, but also their camaraderie.

So, do I recommend To The Moon? Hell yes I do, especially if you’re a fan of indie games and story-driven games. Just go for it already!

RATING : 9/10

PROS :
– great story
– awesome soundtrack
– main characters’ conversations are so funny

CONS :
– gameplay itself is uninteresting

Nocturnal Animals [2016]

Nocturnal Animals [2016]

I finished watching Nocturnal Animals about an hour ago. And I must confess, it was a mind-screw type of film in some aspects. Best thing about it, is I’ve always liked such films. Also, I’m a sucker for Jake Gyllenhaal’s films; they always have the element of the psychological in them. Does this film by Tom Ford match up to those other films I like?

Susan Morrow is an insomniac; can’t sleep at night even if she put her heart and soul into it unless sleeping pills are also popped in concert with that glass of water she’s just had. But Susan’s problems are not just confined to insomnia, her personal and professional life[she’s an art gallery owner] both have started feeling really dull and unsatisfactory to her. But things start changing when she receives a manuscript of a novel her ex-husband had been working on for some time. The name of the novel? Nocturnal Animals. As she starts reading the novel, she is drawn deeper and deeper into the story, to the point where she is so immersed that something happening in the outside world would startle her back to life.

This is how the movie starts off. Once Susan begins reading the novel, a new phase of the film begins; the film now keeps switching between Susan and the happenings in the novel she’s reading. In the novel, Tony Hastings is out with his wife Laura and their daughter India for a camping trip out in Western Texas. But during the night, an altercation between the holidaying family and a group of delinquents turns unsavory, and quickly the situation turns horribly wrong. So basically, on the one hand the viewer sees Susan leading her mundane life with the regular staff meetings and discussions and such; on the other hand a thriller is playing out with Tony trying his best to keep his family safe.

                                                            This guy is freakin’ intense…

The plot is pretty much on point here, and the way the two arcs are handled deserves special praise; nowhere does it feel like either one of them is dragging. Also the reminiscences Susan has about her past life, are also well melded into the storytelling. Also, the eerie atmosphere of the novel when contrasted with Susan’s elaborate living conditions, makes for some sudden but great transitions between the novel and real life. Acting deserves special mention in this film; my man Jake Gyllenhaal does it again, as he has done so so many times. His double act as the novelist ex-husband Edward Sheffield and the terrified  family man Tony Hastings makes for a great watch. So is Isla Fisher’s Laura, Tony’s wife in the novel. But my personal favorite in this film was Amy Adams, who played the insomnia-ridden Susan. She is amazing in every which way throughout the film. By the way, watch out for Aaron Taylor-Johnson too, he’s the X-factor for this movie. He’s the most psychopathic character I’ve seen since Jake’s Nightcrawler, I think.

So, what do I say? If you are a fan of psychological thrillers, then you’ll definitely love this film. Although I must say, Nocturnal Animals seems like a film which will lead to polarizing opinions from the viewers. Let me know how you felt about the film.

RATING : 8.8/10

PROS :
– plot progression is neat
– smooth transitions
– great acting all over
– mind-screw

CONS :
– not for everyone

The Founder [2017]

The Founder [2017]

After watching bs[in my opinion, at least] like Passengers and xXx : The Return of Xander Cage, this film released, and the fact that it had something, nay, a lot, to do with McDonald’s attracted us all to the film. So, how does the film perform?

The Founder, first up, is based on the real-life story of how Ray Kroc came to acquire McDonald’s, and his history with the McDonald brothers, who were the founders. The story begins with Ray Kroc, who was then a travelling salesman, trying to sell milkshake makers and failing hard. He has a supportive wife Ethel and has saved up enough money to live a reasonably comfortable life, but Ray is not one to settle for small pleasures; he wants to achieve great success in life.

One day, Ray gets an unusually large order[6 milkshake makers] from a far-off diner. This is pleasantly surprising for Ray, considering he struggles to sell even one a day, and even that after much haggling. When he visits the diner, he’s in for more surprises. He is impressed, to say the least, with the fast service, good quality of food and the family-oriented atmosphere there; something that was sorely missing in all the other diners he’d been to. This was Ray Kroc’s first brush with McDonald’s. He takes so much of an interest in the McDonald’s diner after checking out the premises, that he signs on the dotted line to work under the McDonald brothers as someone who would expand the diner, without a second thought to any of the conditions and stipulations on the contract. I don’t want to reveal any more of the story for fear it might spoil the sense of discovery one feels when they watch or read something for the first time.

Image result for the founder

The plot is nothing short of brilliant; the adaptation of this real-life events to screen is fluid, and not a thing is amiss.Of course, there might be some creative liberties taken by the makers, but the plot progression of the film itself is spot-on. At no point does the film feel like it’s slowing down or such. The 1950s setting has also been recreated really well. As far as acting is concerned, Michael Keaton playing the lead role of Ray Kroc, is on point and is easily the best part of the film, with Nic Offerman[as Dick McDonald] and John Carroll Lynch[as Mac McDonald] playing strong supporting roles in the film. Laura Dern as Ethel, Ray’s wife, does well too, however her role is too short to make a significant impact.

This is the best film I’ve seen since the mind-screw that was The Chaser. So, as you’d expect. I strongly recommend The Founder to anyone who likes movies based on historic events or real-life incidents.

RATING : 9.5/10

PROS :
– solid acting, especially from Michael Keaton
– amazing plot
– good pacing

PASSENGERS [2016]

PASSENGERS [2016]

I watched this film about a week ago with my friends in 3D, so let’s talk about it now. So, is this Chris Pratt-Jennifer Lawrence starrer any good?

The movie starts off with a contingent of about 5,000 people in stasis, going off to a new planet named Homestead II in a starship named Avalon; a journey which lasts for 120 years. Along the journey, Avalon collides with a large asteroid that happens to be in its path. The resulting impact fries some important conections in one of the passengers’ hibernation pods. As a result, Jim Preston, a mechanical engineer, wakes up from his stasis, and gets out into the huge starship. As he wanders around, he makes contact with just the ship’s bartender Arthur, who is really an android.

Of course, he is surprised to discover that he is the only one awake in this journey, and finds out after asking some questions that the journey is still 89 years from completion. This really puts him in a binder, as for all he knows, he’s just going to die in the ship, alone for ever. After trying every thing he could to get into stasis again and failing, he is pushed to the brink of suicide. But then, he notices the beautiful Aurora Lane in one of the hibernation pods, and grows to like her more and more after reading her writings. Now, a new quandary strikes him; does he bring Aurora out of stasis for some company and love, or does he let her be?

This is how the film begins, and revealing any more might spoil the story, such as it is. Because even though the concept looks good on paper, it isn’t all that great on screen, because of the events that keep transpiring. It is really slow, and I found myself dropping off on multiple occasions. It actually felt sort of like the space version of Titanic to me at a certain point, and not in a good way. Nothing much happens for a substantial period of time in the film, which really sucks because the acting is pretty solid. Chris Pratt as the unfortunate Jim Preston is brilliant in most every way. Jennifer Lawrence as Aurora Lane looks great and does well in her role as the writer, and so does Michael Sheen as the android bartender Arthur. Laurence Fishburne has a cameo role[sort of] towards the later part of the film, and he does great as well. The CGI is undoubtedly one of the strengths of Passengers. The starship Avalon has been amazingly well-rendered, and the infinite space looks nothing short of gorgeous from the interiors of the ship.

Overall, I myself wouldn’t really recommend this film to you unless you are a true-blue fan of the lead actors.

RATING : 6.3/10

PROS :
– CGI is great
– solid acting

CONS :
– weak story
– way too many unnecessary events prolonging the film
– ending isn’t all that satisfying

 

GINTAMA [SEASON 6]

GINTAMA [SEASON 6]

The sixth season of this long-running show of hilarity : that is what we’ll be reviewing in this post. Or is it? Read on to find out more.

The anime begins with Gintoki taking off away from his Odd Jobs mates Shinpachi and Kagura, and returns with a hangover. But seems like he’s had a bit too much of drink this time round, because he’s greeted by his two friends as a customer to Odd Jobs, rather than its head. And the  even bigger surprise is that the head is not Gintoki, but Kintoki, a naturally straight-haired guy, with golden hair to boot, to contrast with Gintoki’s silver. And so we know now that the show we’re watching is actually Kintama. Too bad for you, suckers! Anyway, this is how the new season starts off, with Gintoki put in quite a spot, and no one recognizing him for what he is.

                                                  Whoops, this is from a new show Mantama…

The new season is only 13 episodes long, which sucks for all Gintama fans, but whatever is there, is awesome indeed. This time around Gintama has three story arcs and one standalone episode making up the contents. But contrary to the usual, this season all the arcs are much more serious in tone than before. But not to worry; where there is Gintoki&Co., there is always an enormous potential for hilarious, out-of-the-world screw-ups, whether metaphorical or literal. And also, one of the arcs does give us some more insight about Shinpachi and Otae’s past lives.

And now for my mandatory recommendation to readers of this post to watch Gintama, as I’ve been doing since I’ve started watching the goddamn show. Watch it already!

RATING : 9.3/10

PROS :
– some backstory on Shinpachi and Otae
– more serious story arcs

CONS :
– only 13 episodes, damn…