I took a break from everything at the end of December so missed my usual update so this month I’m covering both December and January.
Netflix’s The Christmas Chronicles isn’t a bad little film, designed for the ‘feel-good’ factor and the elves made me think of Gremlins. I think it’s a bad title, though, as it in no way represents the story — not important, but I thought it’s obvious no one could come up with something better. It’s a platform for Kurt Russell to show how much fun he’s having, but good because of that. Liked the end which I won’t give away.
A relaxing evening turned into a wrenching one when we watched A Monster Calls, a film that puts your heart through a wringer. Excellent viewing material for anyone who argues that fiction has nothing to do with reality; failing to appreciate fiction reflects the truth, is the way many question the world, learn how to confront difficult times, and explore the profundity of existence and relationships. If you think you’re in for a fun time with this one, you’d be mistaken, but it’s a heartfelt one dealing with issues both children and adults must face.
A Quiet Place has had mixed reviews, but I liked the idea and quite enjoyed it. I had wondered whether a film where the characters had to, for the most part, keep silent would play out but thought it well executed with no lags, and plenty of tension. My only criticism was the order in which the people were walking done to create a major subtext to the story, but which lacked realism. In reality, I would have set a parent at the head and at the back, though it wouldn’t have worked for the story’s purpose.
Revisited horror with A Cabin in the Woods, by Tim Lebbon. This is one occasion where I have to recommend sticking to watching the film. There’s nothing wrong with this novelisation, but it adds nothing to the experience. I expected more depth but some of the character’s internal perspectives didn’t quite seem to gel with what I already had in mind, and maybe that’s the problem — had I read this before seeing the film I might feel differently so I feel a little guilty only liking this rather than loving it. To anyone who loves the film, I’d recommend the visual companion. The story itself (both book and film) is hard to categorise. Either people will see more to the story or they won’t. On the surface it seems to be a twist on a B-movie gore-fest (though not as gory as most) with undertones of Evil Dead, but at heart it’s asking questions about the essence of the horror genre, why it draws interest, how far would we push to survive, and at what price. Not everyone will pick up on or agree with the underlying intent of the story and that’s why it will always have mixed reviews.
Mortal Engines, Philip Reeve
Dark in places for a YA offering. Though I’ve not seen the film, I read the book first. Love the concept and most of the characters. If anything, the book feels underwritten as if there’s much more story to tell, but maybe so it became a quartet. A magnificent exercise in world-building, though I imagine the city of London is much more immense in the novel than what I’ve seen on the screen in trailers. I can understand the allure of the book to a filmmaker like Peter Jackson. I may well read the rest in time.
I also started reading Dickens at Christmas though I may not read it all/finish it this season. The animated Jim Carrey version is so close to the original story of A Christmas Carol I kept hearing the character’s voice. Also felt the story is essentially scaring rich people into considering the plight of the less fortunate, but it’s a seasonal classic and a warmhearted read.
Dragonlance, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
Taken with the story and characters in the first book, but the writing seems a little dated perhaps to the omnipresent head-hopping as much as the word choice, but then I’m used to more high fantasy. However, this is suited to a more varied age range.
Teacher, Teacher! Jack Sheffield
Not normally my kind of book, but I intend to read this series. Told perhaps with a little artistic license (it’s not possible for the narrator to know what others are thinking) this makes for a novel that feels part storytelling and part memoir. As sad at times as it is humorous in others. I want to say this is a pleasant read, though I don’t think it does the book justice. For those who like books a little biographical in nature, perhaps, this has a much warmer tone of fiction.
Wolf Winter, Cecilia Ekback
A Swedish mystery set in 1717. This was a surprising read, skilfully accomplished. This is a book more suited to adults, although the protagonist seems to be Frederika, a young girl which is surprising as the general rule for fiction is the age of the main character determines the reading age. I loved the historical atmosphere, the remoteness and added complications of the environment. There were enough twists and possibilities to keep the reader guessing, with the setting as much a character as any of the people.
I worked hard to complete a rough draft of a commissioned work and edited it. I had edits for a partial re-release (two parts old/one new combining three shorter works into a novel) — Ruff Trouble released early January — and a draft of a short story unexpectedly arrived in my in-box with an instant turnaround.