Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Night Film

This book has gotten so much buzz this summer!

I love me a good psychological thriller, so was eager to get at NIGHT FILM. I got a free sample of the book on my Nook Simple Touch, but decided to buy a hardcover copy as there are a lot of graphics interspersed throughout the book, which made reading it on the Simple Touch seem not as inviting.


So the story. Ashley Cordova is found dead. She is the daughter of Stanislas Cordova, director of films so disturbing, most of them can only be viewed in secret, underground locations. Because Cordova's films are so violent and disturbing, and his own life fraught with secrecy and mystery, Scott McGrath, investigative reporter and also a fan of Cordova's films, thinks that there must be something more to Ashley's death than suicide, as was first reported in the media.

As McGrath begins his investigation, he meets two people who may be able to help him. Nora, a barely post-teen waif who is also intrigued by Cordova, and Hopper, a drug dealer who just might know more about Ashley than he lets on.

Their exploration takes them to meet former players in Cordova's films, a former wife, the mental hospital where Ashley spent some time, secret online message boards, and perhaps even to Cordova's huge estate, The Peak, where he has lived and filmed all of his movies, all of which are shrouded in secrecy. What really happened to Ashley?

I was eager to find out. However, I got a little distracted and frustrated from the story by all the italics Pessl used.

Do you remember the movie TOOTSIE with Dustin Hoffman? In it, he plays Michael Dorsey, a frustrated actor. Dorsey teaches an acting class and in it, he told his students to put their own emphasis on words as they read a scene. They might emphasize the word but or and, even though the scriptwriter might have wanted the emphasis on another word.

I thought of this as I was reading NIGHT FILM. I think readers are like actors in this way. Reading a book gives me the opportunity to emphasize what I want to. All the italicized words in this book made me feel as though the emphasis was decided for me, and I didn't like it. Here is a random sampling:

"There was only a busy signal. I tried the number every hour for the next six hours. It remained busy."

"The chime dinged over the loudspeakers for the second time."

"There was a strict dress code - which the person who'd answered my post had failed to mention. The men were in suits and ties. Hopper and I were certainly going to stick out - not to mention the fact that I had chalky rings of saltwater on my pants."

"Six o'clock came and went. There was no word from her. Soon it was seven. Eight. I called her cellphone. No answer. I went to her house and rang the bell."

The italicized words felt random and unnecessary.

Back to the story.

I did want to find out how Ashley died and more about the mystery surrounding Cordova and his films. Pessl created a vivid atmosphere of a secretive film personality and fan world. I liked how she included newspaper articles, photos, interviews, and internet message boards in the story.

While the ending was satisfying to me, there were some plot twists that seemed a bit overdone. Maybe kind of like the italics.

Thanks for reading the blog! Clicking on the book cover will take you to Amazon's web page for NIGHT FILM. Purchasing through this link helps support the blog. Please feel free to comment on the blog itself, or check out our facebook page, NOT The New York Times Book Review. Happy reading!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Summer Reading...

It hardly seems possible that summer is almost over, even though the calendar says it's September. Kids are back to school and things are starting to look and feel fall-ish outside. In addition, there has been a lot of change for me in the last few months, ending my employment at the bookstore and starting a brand new job. Books have been keeping me is what I've been reading...

THE POSSIBILITY DOGS by Susannah Charles
Charleson's second book, chronicling her exploration of working with rescue dogs to see if they can become service dogs. Filled with portraits of amazing dogs and their handlers as well as her own journey with Jake Piper (the dog on the cover!), this is a wonderful book. (see the full blog post here:

UNDER THE DOME (audio) by Stephen King
My new job is a bit further away from home than my last one, so I've been exploring audiobooks for my commute. Listening to UNDER THE DOME was fun. Stephen King is so good at developing many story threads and keeping the reader interested in all of the characters. I didn't totally love the ending (i.e. the why of the dome), but did love listening to the townspeople of Chester's Mill struggle with living - and dying - Under the Dome.

WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE? Maria Semple (audio)
Another audiobook for my drives to and from work. I'd picked up this book several times when I worked at the bookstore and almost bought it. It didn't totally grab me, though, so I didn't. Bee, a precocious teenager, tells most of the story, starting with her presenting one wish to her parents - for the family to take a trip to Antarctica! Bernadette is Bee's mother, who isn't quite sure she can handle a trek to far off southern lands. Kathleen Wilhoite reads the audio version and does a great job. Enjoyable!

LITTLE WITCH by Anna Elizabeth Bennett
I'd loved this book as a child and recently tried to find a copy. It was a delight to discover that a 60th Anniversary edition of this book was being released! I, of course, ordered one. Alas, in rereading it I discovered that this book didn't quite hold up for me. I'd read it many times as a child and remember thoroughly loving it then. Is this one of those books that should have remained wonderful in my memory? Perhaps.

This was stunning. A father tells a tale to his children before bed one night. The next day he gives up one of his children through economic necessity. What happens to that child? What happens to the child that was kept? What happens to the father? Beautifully written and evocative.

Heller wrote the deliciously evil WHAT WAS SHE THINKING? NOTES ON A SCANDAL. This, another by her, chronicles a family in post 9/11 New York. I didn't like it nearly as well, but did enjoy the clever dialogue and well-rounded portrayals of members of the Litvinoff family.

Recently read and reviewed on this blog (, I enjoyed this more than I thought I would.

Sedaris is back with more insightful and humorous essays about life. My Sedaris faves are WHEN YOU ARE ENGULFED IN FLAMES and ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY, but I always love reading a new addition to the Sedaris canon.

Ruth (main character Ruth) is a frustrated writer living in British Columbia. Washing up on shore comes some things from Japan. Alternating between Ruth's narration and the Japanese teenager, owner of the things that washed up on shore, this is original and well-done.

I may have read this too quickly. A short novel, this is one to be savoured. There is magic here.

WONDER by R.J. Palacio
August is a child with a severe cranial deformities. He's just a regular kid on the inside. His struggles are mostly dealing with others who encounter his outside and are less than kind. Even though this is billed as a "children's book", I enjoyed reading Auggie's story. Absolutely worth reading.

SAHARA by Michael Palin (audio)
I love Michael Palin and have since Monty Python. After Python, Palin moved into travel and writing and filming travelogues of his journeys. Listening to Palin read about his travels was delicious, though I found that I missed having photos or visuals of his journey with this audio version.

Along the lines of THE PARIS WIFE and THE AVIATOR'S WIFE, this chronicles the life of Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald. I greatly appreciate just the title of this book in that it is not defining Zelda's life solely by her relationship to her famous husband. (I have feelings about this! See this blog post: Zelda had quite a life, and I enjoyed reading this novel about her.

NIGHT FILM by Marisha Pessl
There will be a longer blog post about this book. I don't want to say too much, as I'm not quite finished with it. But the book starts out that Ashley Cordova, daughter of Stanislas Cordova, director of deeply disturbing films, is dead. Pessl builds tension and intrigue as Scott McGrath investigates Ashley's death. Was it suicide? Or something more sinister?

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee (audio, read by Sissy Spacek)
I read (and loved) TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD years ago. This audio version, read by Sissy Spacek, had been recommended to me many times by co-workers and bookstore customers. Listening to it I can see why. Spacek's voice is a perfect complement to this amazing novel.


What have you been reading this summer? Feel free to post here or on our facebook page, NOT The New York Times Book Review! Clicking on the book covers will take you to Amazon's web page for each book. Purchasing through these links helps support the blog. Thanks for stopping by!