One for the Money movie thoughts

(what follows isn’t any official type of review of the movie, but more a mish-mash of my thoughts as they relate to both the movie and the books.)

I probably wouldn’t have gone to see this in the theatre, but Groupon ran a deal last week for tickets for $6. Since I knew I had a 4-day weekend (because of all the recent travel) this weekend, I decided to buy a $6 ticket and take myself to see it. I went today and I’m sure you can imagine the theatre wasn’t too busy, but I was surprised that there were still at least 20 other people in the theatre with me on a Monday afternoon.

Before I get into talking about the movie, I have to say a few things about the trailers before the movie. First, the DisneyNature trailer for Chimpanzee made me absolutely sniffly. This looks like a movie Brianna might like, because she adores these animal movies. Second, watching the trailer for the new Nicholas Sparks’ movie The Lucky One, I had a few thoughts: primarily that there’s no way in hell I’ll watch it because we all know how EVERY Sparks’ movie/book ends (someone dies). Apparently, Sparks has something against people being happy for more than temporarily. But I couldn’t help but ogle the lead actor in the movie, because they show him in a pretty sexual light in this trailer, and there’s a lot of sexy times hinted at. And then. And then they put up the actors’ names and I realized…I was ogling Zac Efron. Zac Efron, people. Isn’t he like twelve? I officially feel like a dirty old woman.

Two more trailers caught my attention. Hunger Games, a book I did read and while I thought it was good, I didn’t LOVE it and never felt compelled to read the other two in the trilogy. But the trailer was actually pretty amazing. I think I might like to see that movie (probably not in the theatre, but all the same, the fact that I might want to see a movie of a book I just liked impressed me). The last trailer was for Cabin in the Woods. A horror/thriller type movie that normally might not be my thing, but the trailer showcased some kind of awesome tongue-in-cheek snark. And the movie is produced by Joss Whedon who kind of excels at tongue-in-cheek snark so maybe his brand of awesome is imprinted on the movie. I’ll look for it to rent.

Now, on to One for the Money. I went into it a bit skeptical. I should note that I don’t consider myself a FAN of the books, though I’ve read the whole series twice. I can still remember the summer, at least 12 years ago, that I discovered the series. I think only 6 were out. I was on a vacation with my ex-husband (well, he was my husband then), in a cabin on the shores of Lake Michigan. He spent his whole time fishing on a boat in Lake Michigan, and I get horrible (horrible) water sickness, so I spent my vacation on the beach. Reading Janet Evanovich (frankly, reading on a beach is my perfect vacation). I’d checked out books 1-5 in hardcover from the library, and carted them (and a suitcase of other books) on vacation with me. Yes, I love having a digital library of books to cart with me now. Much lighter!  I tore through the first five and didn’t have the sixth, but knew it had been released. We were staying near small town Sturgeon Bay in Wisconsin, and I looked in both the small local bookstore and the Walmart. Neither had Book Six because the series (and Evanovich) hadn’t quite hit it big yet (there’s a lesson here about the longtail of series, books and publishing). But oh man, they were the perfect beach reads. I continued to faithfully buy each book every June when it released for probably 6 years and then I got a bit weary and jaded. Nothing ever changed, no one ever grew, Stephanie never chose between Morelli and Ranger (I believe Evanovich has since done an interview where she said she never intends for Stephanie to choose. Yes, never. How…depressing).

Anyway. Last year I did a back-to-back re-read of the JD Robb In Death series and I thought it would be interesting to then do a back-to-back reread of the Stephanie Plum series, and see how the two compared in terms of character growth, story ARC, plot, etc over the course of extended series. Though there’s twice as many In Death books as there are Plum books. So I’ve read most of the Plum books twice, with the exception of the most recent, which I haven’t read (with the exception of the Amazon reviewes, which are quite scathing). So I went into the movie with more than a conversant knowledge of the books and characters, but no rabid love, and some rather mixed-bag emotions on the books overall.

That said, what I didn’t really go into the movie with was strong feelings about the actors/actresses chosen for the roles. I know a lot of people went apeshit WTF when Katherine Heigl was cast as Stephanie Plum (which makes sense to me since she freakin’ produced the movie) but I don’t watch Grey’s Anatomy and I don’t recall any other movie I’ve ever seen her in (I’m not much of a TV or movie watcher. I like books) so I didn’t have any negative OMG NOOOO connotations associated with her. Likewise the rest of the casting. I think the strongest emotion I had was of Debbie Reynolds cast as Grandma Mazur. I picture Grandma Mazur as super old, super tiny and kind of decrepit and wrinkly. Debbie Reynolds is just a bit too…robust for me to really buy into her as Grandma Mazur. Both when I saw she’d been cast and now that I’ve seen the movie.

What I liked about the casting: I love love loved the casting of Connie and Vinnie. The actress and actor chosen for these roles were absolutely perfect. I wish they’d have been in the movie even more, though their appearances were about commiserate with their appearance in the book. Ditto Lula. The actress who played her pulled her off very well. It’s really a shame Lula’s role isn’t a major one until later books. I also liked John Leguizamo cast as Benito Ramirez’s scummy “manager” Jimmy Alpha. But honestly, has Leguizamo ever not been good in a role?

But what about the main characters? I actually thought Heigl did a pretty decent Stephanie Plum, with one small exception. She came across as quite charming (though a bit skinnier than I’ve always pictured Stephanie, as I’ve always thought of her as having a bit of a muffin top, possibly) and spunky. I did think Stephanie in the movie came across as even more too stupid to live than Stephanie in the books, but I think this had more to do with the translation of her idiocy to the big screen, rather than Heigl’s acting. Honestly, I think Heigl did a much better job with the role than all of the hystrionics suggested she would. I’ll get to the small exception in a bit…

Morelli and Ranger. I was…meh on the casting. I mean, I think both guys are hot, though maybe the actor who played Ranger, Daniel Sunjata has lips that are bit too full and made him look a little more feminine than I think of RangerBut I’m not honestly sure who the actor is that would personify the Ranger in my head. The actor who played Morelli, Jason O’Mara, wasn’t quite…Italian? Dark-haired/dark-eyed? enough for my mental picture, but he was plenty hot. My problem with the movie here comes with the fact that both of these characters came off as not at all charming. Not even a little. They instead come across, both of them, as arrogant and at times a bit alpha-holish (TM @jane_l). I didn’t feel warm and fuzzy about either character, really, in a hero-type role. And here’s where my small exception of Heigl’s portrayal of Stephanie Plum comes in–she had absolutely no sexual chemistry or sexual tension with either actor. None. Not a bit. Nothing. And if you’ve read the first few books in this series, you’ll know that one thing Evanovich, despite any quibbles I might have with the books, does well is the sexual tension between Stephanie and Morelli and Stephanie and Ranger. Evanovich leads you to really imagine the sizzle and steam between these characters and none of that was translated on screen. And I think that’s the movie’s main downfall: there’s no chemistry.

The other thing I noticed didn’t translate as well to the screen was the undertones of humor that are one of the keystones of Evanovich’s writing. I purposely stayed cognizant of whether people were laughing during the movie and the answer was…not so much. There were only 3 main points were the audience really laughed, and one of those was when Grandma Mazur shot the turkey (a scene in the book that nearly had me peeing my pants but on screen only garnered a few seconds of laughter). But I guess I’m not really that surprised, as humor can be difficult to translate from one medium to another.

Overall, the movie was a fun diversion. I think it’s interesting to note that in both One for the Money the book and the movie, we do see character growth in Stephanie. While she remains somewhat idiotic and too stupid too live, she does carry her gun…and learn how to shoot it. When I re-read the books back-t0-back last year, what stood out most starkly to me in that reading was that Stephanie actually regresses from book one to book two…as in she unlearns skills (like shooting a gun) and general self-defense that she shows in book one (and in the movie). So in the movie, we do get the satisfaction, especially at the action climax of the movie, but also in other scenes, of seeing Stephanie do things that show her growth/learning. In the series, for some reason the author seems determined to make Stephanie Plum progressively dumber and I don’t see movie audiences being appreciative of this (if future movies ever get the chance to be made) so this might be a case where we often see books and movies parting ways and being different in script than manuscript.

Do I regret spending a few hours in the theatre watching it? Not at all. I’ve seen movies where I bemoan the time I’ll never get back. With this movie, I was glad for a few hours away from the computer, to keep me from doing work-type things on my day off. I enjoyed the movie enough to be diverted for a few hours. However, I will say that I’m glad I only paid $6 for it, rather than full movie prices. $6 was the perfect price as an excuse to sit in the theatre and inhale buttered-popcorn calories. A

Would I recommend it? Um…gah. The answer isn’t yes, it’s not no. I guess if I were rating it, I’d give it a 5 of 10 (which somehow sounds nicer than 2.5 out of 5, doesn’t it?) Incidentally, this is the same rating it gets on IMDB and I think “in the middle” is a good rating for this. I can’t say how people who have absolutely no association with the books will feel about it. If you’re an extreme fan of the books, yes, by all means, you should definitely go see it. If you’re a casual fan of the books, wait for video. If you hate Katherine Heigl, well, you probably won’t enjoy it no matter how you feel about the books. As I said earlier, I think she did a pretty good job pulling off Stephanie Plum.

All in all, this is not, by far, the worst book-to-movie translation I’ve ever seen and I’d actually like to see a second movie made, if only to see if they can improve on the sexual chemistry, move Morelli and Ranger to the roles of charming, likeable hero material, and to see Lula, Connie and Vinnie get more screen time. They were just that well cast.

Haven’t read the book? Buy it at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

 

Thursday reads: Steampunk!

First, I finished up A Matter of Magic by Patricia Wrede, which I mentioned here last week. In this case, finishing up means reading book 2, since it was actually a two-book omnibus. I enjoyed book one but I liked book two even more. Though the storylines are all nicely tied up, I liked the characters so much I looked to see if the author had ever written more books in that world, but sadly she had not. Recommended.

Next I read a few samples, and emailed with Jane and Sarah, to see what might catch my attention. One of the samples I read was Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld. I liked the sample but I couldn’t bring myself to pay $8.99 for it. I’ve put it on my “maybe if the price comes down” list.

I also read the sample of Almost to Die For: A Vampire Princess Novel by Tate Hallaway but it fell in the same category as Leviathan. I liked the sample, but not well enough to pay $8.99 for it.

So I moved on to looking at my existing books because, seriously? I have a load of them. I realized that Amazon had auto-delivered Katherine Allred’s second Alien Affairs book, Close Contact: An Alien Affairs Novel, Book 2, back in June (I’d pre-ordered it) and I should read it. But first I decided to re-read Close Encounters. I read Close Encounters last year when it released and thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m a futuristic romance fan and I thought the worldbuilding in Close Encounters was superb, as was the development of both the romantic relationship and the heroine (who is really the main focus of the book). I liked it just as well in re-read, and was quite satisfied when I “closed” the book (I read digitally so it’s not quite the same as closing the book). Close Encounters is recommended.

Unfortunately, I didn’t like Close Contact: An Alien Affairs Novel, Book 2 nearly as well, and it’s not a book I’d reread. I didn’t dislike it, but I was actively aware of its flaws as I was reading. I found this heroine (also the focus of the book) less easy to warm up to and not as likeable. In fact, I found her a bit silly. Because of that silliness, there were areas of the book that felt overdramatic to me, and I never bought into the romantic relationship as much as I did in the first book. Overall, if I’d picked up Close Contact first, I probably would not have moved on to another book, because while it was fine, it didn’t ring my bells. However, since I have seen what the author can do in Close Encounters, I’ll be looking forward to a third book in this world (which continues to be very well drawn, despite my reservations about this particular book).

In the interest of continuing to read books I have, I decided to move on to Nalini Singh and Meljean Brook. First, I read both of their offerings in Burning Up. I’m a long, longtime fan of Nalini’s work, so I wasn’t surprised to love her novella, Whispers of Sin, in this book. But Meljean’s novella–Here There Be Monsters–is an introduction to her upcoming steampunk, The Iron Duke, and oh my Lord, I loved this novella so much. So much that I was really, incredibly thankful I have Iron Duke because I didn’t want to leave that world. Love. I admit that I didn’t read the other two novellas in this book, but I think it’s worth it just for these two novellas.

So, currently reading? The Iron Duke I’m just over halfway through it. It was hard to work today because I wanted to be reading. Actually, I want to be reading now so it was hard to take the time to write this post. So far, I’m loving it. Meljean Brook is a master at steampunk. This world is…incredible. I want to read faster to find out what happens, but slow down because there’s not another book in the world to read! Final report next week but right now? So recommended!

YA reading

I haven’t been doing much reading this past month. Well, not entire books anyway. I’ve been reading a lot of Kindle samples on my iPhone. Love those samples. I always read before bed, but recently I’ve been using that time to read the samples instead of entire books. During my vacation, I had pictures of sitting by the pool and reading one of the many books I’d purchased previously. That didn’t happen. I didn’t read much during my vacation. Maybe a little at night, as I finished up my re-read of the Patricia Briggs Mercedes Thompson series. I didn’t do any reading at all during RWA, or the week after my return (with the exception of the aforementioned sample chapters).

So this week, I became determined that I needed to just start reading again and stop with the reading-based anhedonia (look, my psych roots are showing when I use big words like that 😉 ) so read some more samples (I’m serious, that’s what I did!) and I bought two books based on those samples. Despite the fact that I have a number of unread-purchased books I should be reading. But I won’t disclose that number and you won’t ask. In fact, we’ll pretend I own NO unread books, shall we? Thank you.

First I read Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception by Maggie Stiefvater. (there are some spoilers in this paragraph so you may not want to read it) I thought the sample was pretty good, and it got glowing–GLOWING–reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads, so it seemed like a safe bet. Um, yeah, I decided during the reading of this book that I’m broken. I didn’t really love it. I thought it was just middle of the road okay. I skimmed some parts in the middle, I felt like parts of the story were underdeveloped and I didn’t even like the heroine’s love interest a little bit and felt no empathy for him. I would have been okay if he’d died, it might have made the book more interesting.  Do you ever have one of those moments during a book where you realize you’re not really enjoying it but you push on, because many, many other people clearly enjoyed it and so there must be some big pay-off at the end that makes the book suddenly magical? That was me during the Lament. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it was a bad book, because I don’t think it was. I’m saying it was a book that didn’t work for me, I didn’t love it and I won’t be picking up the sequel. There are books like that out there for everyone, I suspect. In this author’s case, I’m pretty sure she’ll do just fine without my business because there are people out there who really think her work is wonderful, and I’m glad.

Next, I bought A Matter of Magic by Patricia Wrede. A Matter of Magic is actually an omnibus re-release of two books: Mairelon the Magician and The Magician’s Ward. I’m only a third of the way into The Magician’s Ward, but I quite enjoyed Mairelon the Magician. It’s a YA alternate-history fantasy set in Regency England. In this case, magic is a huge part of the culture of England, and magician’s not a secret at all but living as part of society. In fact, if you’re a magician, you can be part of Society (capital S) even if you’ve come from the gutters.

Mairelon the Magician is a book that doesn’t take itself, or the story, seriously. There are a number of secondary characters to keep track of, but they add to the book’s plot/conflict. The conflict and plot themselves are not complicated, but they’re well-paced, with no extra “filler” and nothing to slow it down, which kept me turning the pages. And though the story doesn’t take itself seriously, and it is a magic-filled fantasy, it makes itself entirely believable, as if this alternate history just could have happened.

I enjoyed both the primary characters (Kim and Mairelon) as well as the robust cast of secondary characters, and I was glad to have the second book to start reading immediately. It’s by no means the best fantasy or alternate history I’ve ever read, but it’s good entertainment, well-paced and fun. And I haven’t felt the urge to skim, haven’t been bored or felt dissatisfied. Since I’ve been in a reading slump, I call that a win!

January reread challenge

Okay, I admit it, I didn’t know I was going to join this challenge. But I like to reread, and I do quite a bit of it for some reason (I think it gives my brain a break) so when I saw Nath’s monthly reread challenge, which just happens to be today, and I was wondering about blog content anyhow, I knew it was fate.

I actually reread a couple books this month: Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn, Devil’s Bride and A Rake’s Vow both by Stephanie Laurens.

However, since I only reread Kitty and the Midnight Hour because I decided I wanted to see if I liked it better the second time (I didn’t really) and to read the books that followed in the series, I won’t talk about it here. Except to say that all this time I remember liking but not loving the book, and when I went back to read my “review”, it looks like I said I liked it more than I remember. And it’s not that I didn’t like the book, just that I felt kind of “meh” about it (and increasingly so about subsequent books). Enough meh that it took me three years to decide to read follow up books.

So, Devil’s Bride is one of those books that I can turn to for an enjoyable comfort read. While I was rereading it this past week, I was actually trying to figure out exactly what it is about the book that I like so well, and I finally decided it’s because I love a hero in pursuit story. I think it’s odd, but many of my favorite rereads (Stephanie Laurens, Catherine Coulter, Julie Garwood, Johanna Lindsey) are all historical. The reason that’s odd is because, if you look at my current reads, very, very few are historical. I don’t edit a lot of historicals either (though I do like them, but I only have a couple of authors who write them, including Gia Dawn and Lynne Connolly). Historical romance used to be one of my favorite genres, but that was probably over ten years ago and sometimes I wonder if I read so many of them because they were what’s available. Like, if paranormals and urban fantasy had been more prevalent then, would I have been reading less historicals?

But regardless, I return at least once a year to Devil’s Bride and I always enjoy it. I particularly like the first chapters of the book, the setup, where they meet for the first time, and she comes to realize who he is. Perhaps it’s politically incorrect of me, but I enjoy his bossy, domineering ways. And hello, the descriptions of him are positively delicious!

For me, the book is an easy read, always entertaining with both the main character interactions, the story, love story, secondary plot and secondary characters.

I enjoy the setup for future books with other Cynster relations, and though I haven’t read all the books in the Cynster series, I have read quite a few. I’ve moved on to rereading A Rake’s Vow , Vane’s story, and will probably read a few more in the series. I will tell you one odd thing about my rereading of this series, though: I never reread Richard (Scandal’s Bride ) story. I’ve never cared for it so I always skip it.

Anyhow, if you’ve somehow never read these books (Erin) and you’re looking for a historical romance read, I suggest trying out Stephanie Laurens and starting with Devil’s Bride.

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TBR: Black Magic Woman by Justin Guistainis

The first TBR challenge of 2009! This year Keishon is doing monthly categories for the challenges, but I chose to do an open format because it’s so hard for me to read for pleasure sometimes, I don’t feel I can also force myself to be in the mood. Which is a shame since this month was category romance and I have plenty of those TBR!

Black Magic Woman (Quincy Morris Supernatural Investigation) is a book I’ve had on my TBR pile for awhile. I picked it up because I’m always interested in trying something different, new authors in the UF category. I finally decided to read it for this challenge because I’d been seeing a lot of positive reviews around the web for the second book, Evil Ways (Quincey Morris, Book 2) and, duh, I can’t read out of order.

The blurb: Occult investigator Quincey Morris and his “consultant”, white witch Libby Chastain, are hired to free a family from a deadly curse that appears to date back to the Salem witch trials. Fraught with danger, the trail finds them stalking the mysterious occult underworlds of Boston, San Francisco, New Orleans and New York, searching out the root of the curse. After surviving a series of terrifying attempts on their lives, the two find themselves drawn inexorably towards Salem itself – the very heart of darkness.

My thoughts: The book has a great opening, it’s extremely catchy. I love a book that plops me down in the middle of action and then lets me catch up without trying to dump a bunch of backstory or character internal narrative on me. I think getting to know the character through internal narrative can get…old. And kind of trite. But I digress. So we’ve established how the book starts out. This is different from a more typical urban fantasy in that it’s 1) not in first and 2) told in multiple POV from a variety of characters. That doesn’t work for all books but it works in this one. I love seeing scenes from a variety of characters.

I did feel like this somewhat prevented me from really feeling attached to Quincey, the protaganist, because I spent a lot of time with other characters. But at the same time I was attached enough to root for him. Just not attached enough to cry for him (not that there was one of those moments in this book, it’s just an example of the distance created by multiple POV, which is fine for this book).

The story itself is interesting and moves forward at a good clip, keeping the reader interested, though I did find the climax of the story a bit abrupt. However, I liked this book and will definitely read the next one. Now, if only they’d put them in ebook!

TBR Day: The Final Empire, Mistborn Book 1

51F5GMVQP7L._SS500_ First, let me start by saying that this cover drives me nuts. I can’t seem to remember that Mistborn is the series name, not the book name, because the series name is so huge and the title is so teeny weeny. I’m sure this must have been a marketing decision to get the series name locked in readers’ heads, so they could go into a store or online and type in Mistborn, and get all the books in the series, but still. Did the title have to be THAT tiny?

I’ve had The Final Empire on my TBR shelves for probably 9 months, at least. I’ve been wanting to read something by Brandon Sanderson for quite some time, especially after it was announced that he would be writing the final book in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, which I’ve been a fan of for years.

But still, the book languished on my shelves until Nicole did a great review of it and spoke of it kind of glowingly, pushing me to read it for this month’s TBR challenge. Sadly, my feelings for it weren’t quite as glowing as Nicole’s.

I did enjoy the book, but I found it really easy to put down and go do something else. The world building and set up of the world and story are quite dense, which I sometimes appreciate and don’t appreciate. In this case, I thought the book had some slowww pacing issues in spots but if you were to ask me what I would have cut, I’d have to go back and take a second look because I don’t have clue one. My other small quibble would be that the “romance” aspect was a bit…lame to me, and I could have lived without it because it was poorly developed and so, not too believable. Unfortunately, to buy into certain actions and developments in the book, I needed to buy into the romance and I didn’t. It seemed superficial and I think part of that was because I only knew (and liked) one half of the people in the relationship.

So you’re probably wondering what I did like about the book? In truth, the world building was quite thorough and complex, and several of the characters had wonderful character development, which I really appreciate in a book. Though I found the pacing slow, the story itself was still interesting and well-written, and the secondary characters along with the settings gave the story even more depth that I enjoyed. I also appreciated the twists that were thrown in the book as well as the ultimate resolution for this particular story (which is the first in a trilogy, from my understanding).

As you can see, I had mixed feelings about the book, but I think an author who can make me think this closely about what I did and didn’t like, and who drew me forward despite my perceived problems with it, did his job. I will be reading the second book, Well of Ascension, and actually have it on my Kindle now, though I don’t feel ready to start it right away. Actually, I’m probably going to try Elantris first because I’ve also heard great things about it (proving twice in one review that word of mouth recommendations work on me!).

Do I recommend The Final Empire? Hm. I think I do, if you’re a fan of fantasy with a minor romance subplot (minor though it does have bearing on some events in the book) and deep world building, along with a cast of secondary characters.

ETA: I just read in an email newsletter that Brandon Sanderson will be at RT in Orlando in 2009. (as will Piers Anthony). Interesting!

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