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Posts Tagged ‘drama’

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The Blurb:

One simple mouth swab is all it takes.

A quick DNA test to find your perfect partner – the one you’re genetically made for.

A decade after scientists discover everyone has a gene they share with just one other person, millions have taken the test, desperate to find true love.

Now, five more people meet their Match. But even soul mates have secrets. And some are more shocking – and deadlier – than others…

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My thoughts: 

Well…I loved the premise of this book. Slightly dystopian, slightly sci-fi (not heavy sci-fi, so don’t be put off if that is not a genre you like), and fairly believable, I thought there was so much potential. The book follows five people – Mandy, Christopher, Jade, Nick and Ellie – who all find their match. The stories are all completely separate and are told in alternative chapters. The chapters themselves are short and choppy, and almost all of them seemed to end on a cliffhanger of sorts, which had the effect of making me want to read on and find out what happened. Unfortunately this did get a bit tired after a while, and some of the events and dialogue felt like it was out of a wildly melodramatic soap opera. What started out as almost a feasible situation soon turned into the ‘that would never happen’ category. But STILL, I found it compelling enough to read on.

I didn’t think many of the characters were particularly likeable – although Jade was the most sympathetic of the lot. There’s no doubt that John Marrs can think of a good twist, but there were just so many of them. Some of them I certainly didn’t predict though, and that it always a good thing.

For all that irked me, I did want to read the book and never actually got bored – more a case of eye rolling a lot!!

I would probably give something else by this author a try, as I think the initial idea was an excellent one. But one final note – there were so many spelling and grammar mistakes in this book that I can’t help hoping that he has better editors for his future work!

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Year of first publication: 2016

Genre: Sci-fi, dystopian fiction, drama

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A sci-fi film you can enjoy even if you don’t like sci-fi. Three men (Don Ameche, Wilford Bromley, Hume Cronyn) from a group of elderly people who live in a retirement home use the swimming pool in the empty house next door. When a couple (Brian Dennehy and Tahnee Welch) rent the place, they agree to let the men continue to use the pool as long as they don’t disturb the mysterious cocoons that the couple store there. The pool has a rejuvenating effect on the three men.

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Year of release: 1985

Director: Ron Howard

Writers: David Saperstein, Tom Benedek

Main cast: Don Ameche, Wilford Brimley, Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, Brian Dennehy, Tahnee Welch, Steve Guttenberg

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Genre: Sci-Fi, Comedy, Drama

Highlights: The older cast members were the heart and soul of this film

Lowlights: Got a bit too sci-fi-y for me towards the end

Overall: Definitely worth a watch on a chilled out Sunday afternoon

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Year of first publication: 1996

Genre: Family drama

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Overview

When Beth Cappadora takes her three children to Chicago for her school reunion, every parent’s worst nightmare comes true as middle child – three year old Ben – goes missing. For nine years Beth and her husband Pat live in limbo, never knowing what happened to their son, or if he is still alive somewhere. Their older son Vincent is in severe danger of going off the rails completely. And then one day, a youngster knocks on her door and Beth is convinced that this is the missing Ben (no spoilers here; this is in the blurb on the back).

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My Thoughts

I remember watching the film that was based on this book many years ago. It stuck with me a lot, and I wanted to read the book for ages. Unfortunately I would have to say that this is a rare case of the film being better than the book. The premise itself was so interesting if also somewhat morbid; how does a family carry on when a child is missing? It’s not a spoiler to say that in the second half of the book the family and the reader does get to find out what happened, and the focus shifts from the mystery of what happened to Ben, to how everyone deals with the fallout.

The problem for me was not in the storyline itself; it was the fact that it just seemed to go on and on and on, and there was so much in there that didn’t really seem to add anything  – some heavy editing could have made such a difference.

I never really warmed to Beth, but it’s worth bearing in mind that we never really know her prior to her son disappearing, and that event affects her so much that she becomes remote and detached from her whole family – so what is an understandable reaction is actually what makes her difficult to like. Pat was marginally more likeable, but my favourite character was Vincent. After the initial story of the disappearance which is told in the third person, but largely from Beth’s point of view, Vincent himself is the focus of other chapters, and we see how Ben’s disappearance and the consequent family dynamic has affected him.

If you like family drama and drawn out storylines, maybe give this one a whirl. I’ll be honest and say that the last 150 or so pages did drag a bit for me and I was glad to finally finish, but even so, the storyline itself was enough to make me consider reading something else by this author.

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Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) is a recently divorced, borderline alcoholic, ghostwriter of a series of young adult books. When she gets an email from an old flame, announcing the birth of his and his wife’s first baby, she gets it into her head that she and the old flame, Buddy (Patrick Wilson) are meant to be together, and goes back to the small town she left years ago in an attempt to win him back.

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Year of release: 2011

Director: Jason Reitman

Writer: Diablo Cody

Main cast: Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson, Patton Oswalt, Elizabeth Reaser

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Genre: Drama

Highlights: Excellent acting all round from Theron, Wilson and Oswalt

Lowlights: None really (except this is usually marketed as a comedy, which I would not agree with)

Overall: I really enjoyed this, although it was certainly not the comedy I was expecting. Theron is wonderful as Mavis – an unlikeable, thoughtless and sometimes downright spiteful woman with nothing going for her except her good looks. She looks down on people in the small town she came from, failing to realise that they are actually more fulfilled and happy than she can dream of. Despite this, her attempts to seduce the unwitting Buddy do elicit some sympathy because they are so transparent and pathetic (I cringed!) Wilson is also great as Buddy – the character is understated and so is his performance. Massive kudos to Patton Oswalt as Matt, Mavis’s old classmate. She doesn’t remember him at first, because she always ran with the cool crowd, while he was bullied to such an extent that one beating left him permanently disabled – it is in fact this incident which prompts her to realise who he is when she sees his walking stick – “the hate crime guy” as she calls him, and recalls that he “got to have a lot of time off school” as a result. These two very different people somehow forge a genuine friendship which is the real heart of the film. Overall, I would recommend this movie.

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Alison, Jeff and their 15 year old daughter Katherine, have a happy and charmed life. They have money, security and genuinely love each other. Katherine is a school lacrosse star, an excellent student, and a popular girl. She is also the absolute centre of her mother’s universe – so that universe feels torn apart when one day a man knocks at their door and tells Alison that Katherine is the biological daughter of him and his deceased wife – it turns out that there was a mix up at the hospital, and that Alison and Jeff are the biological parents of his daughter Olivia. Even worse, Katherine may have inherited the gene that caused the cancer which killed his wife.

The family are thrust into a nightmare as Katherine comes to terms with new siblings, a new history, and worst of all trying to decide whether to take the test which will determine whether she has the dangerous gene.

I wanted to read this book for two reasons – first I thought the premise sounded really interesting. Second, I had read another book by Adele Parks many years ago, and had really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, The Stranger In My Home turned out to be a bit of a let down.

I listened to the novel as an audiobook, read by Rachel Atkins. Overall her narration was good, but there were a lot of whispered parts which made it difficult to hear, and I had to go back a little on quite a few occasions to listen again. (Now, admittedly I listen to my audiobooks when I’m out running, so there is traffic and other outside noises around, but I doubt that I am particularly unusual in listening to a book outside.)

The main reason I couldn’t really enjoy the book was the main character. Alison is the narrator for the most part – there is the occasional flashback to her early life, which is an attempt to explain her devotion to her daughter…I say devotion, but it’s actually more like an obsession. Of course mothers love their children more than it is possible to express, but my goodness this was one obsessed mother. And she never missed an opportunity! By the end of the book I was quite sick of hearing Katherine’s name.

The other problem was that after the initial shock, the book slowed down to a snail’s pace and for ages nothing really happened except teenagers being moody and Alison obsessing about her daughter. In the last part of the book, there is a sudden plot twist, which unfortunately struck me as preposterous, but nonetheless did come as a complete surprise. But for me it was much too little and way too late.

I didn’t hate this book enough to give up on it, but for some reason I feel able to listen to audiobooks even while finding them less than enjoyable. And despite my more scathing than I intended review, it wasn’t awful. it was just far from what it could have been and basically underwhelming.

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Action ‘dramedy’ starring Bruce Willis as retired CIA Agent Frank Moses, Mary Louise Parker as his romantic interest, and Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman and John Malkovich (who basically steals the entire film) as his former colleagues who team up with him to unearth a conspiracy that goes to the highest echelons of power.

Lots of fun, lots of action and a completely unbelievable storyline make for an entertaining couple of hours. Bruce Willis plays his usual macho hero role, but almost parodying himself. Morgan Freeman – as great as you would expect although possibly underused. Helen Mirren and Mary Louise Parker are both excellent, but the real star of the show is John Malkovich.

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Year of release: 2010

Director: Robert Schwenkte

Writers: Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber, Warren Ellis (graphic novel) Cully Hamner (graphic novel)

Main cast: Bruce Willis, Mary Louise Parker, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman

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In 2004, during a weekend away for her father Sean’s 50th birthday celebrations, three year old Coco Jackson disappears – apparently taken from the house where she slept with her twin sister Ruby and other children in the middle of the night. A huge media campaign follows but Coco is never found.

Twelve years later, following the sudden death of Sean Jackson, the truth about what really happened on that weekend is slowly revealed as his family and friends prepare for his funeral.

I really enjoyed this book a lot. Psychological thrillers are a favourite genre of mine but they can also be a real let-down when they venture into the realms of the ridiculous. However, this book seemed actually plausible and I think that may have been due to the writing. And, sadly, possibly also due to the fact that there have been some high profile disappearances of children over the years. Alex Marwood is a journalist and I can’t help wondering if this case was at least inspired by one particularly famous child disappearance.

There is a dual storyline – the first part set in 2004 and told from the point of view of various characters. The truth of what happened is drip-fed bit by bit. The second part is set in 2016 and is narrated by Mila, one of Sean’s daughters from his first of four marriages. As Mila reconnects with Ruby, the twin sister of Coco, she revisits her own past and deals with her feelings about her father and the fragile ties that can bind a family together.

In any event, it’s an absorbing read. Sean Jackson is a deeply unlikeable, narcissistic and selfish character and indeed most of the adult characters in this story are the same. Pity the children who had the misfortune to be part of their families. Speaking of those children though, I did love Mila and enjoyed her character development. I also adored Ruby, who was entirely believable as both a typical teenager and a young girl who had had to live with survivor’s guilt her whole life.

As mentioned earlier, I did think that the final twist was pretty predictable, but there were still a few surprises along the way, and the writing was great and kept me reading on and on.

Overall I would highly recommend this book, and will definitely look out for more by Alex Marwood.

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