Tag Archives: Books

Back to Jurassic Park

A few weeks ago, one of my buddies had mentioned that he’d read Jurassic Park for the first time recently, and he was surprised at the number of differences between the book and the movie. I haven’t read the book since 1993 (around the time the movie came out), so it was a bit fuzzy. At this point I’ve seen the movie quite a few times, so it has kind of become “canon” in my memory. 

Last week, I was going through a slow purge of my existing books and stumbled across my paperback copies of both Jurassic Park and the Lost World. Inspired by my discussion with my friend, I decided to re-read both books. 

Here are some of the differences that I thought were interesting and/or was disappointed they left out of the movie. 

(Needless to say – uh, spoilers – for both the book and the movie. C’mon people you’ve had at least 20+ years to see the movie and/or read the book) 

1. The movie flips the ages and a couple of the personality traits of the kids. Lex is the older and the computer nerd, and Tim is the younger one and the dinosaur expert. In the book, Tim is still the dinosaur expert, but he’s the computer nerd and the oldest. Lex is the youngest and really doesn’t do much in the book (outside of petting and naming the dinosaurs they encounter. I prefer the movie switch, since it gives both kids something to do (Although I still cringe every time I hear “It’s a Unix system.” from that scene in the movie). The book also mentions the kids’ parents are divorcing, but it’s left out of the movie.

2. My favorite – and I chuckled at this as I read it – was that Alan Grant “loves kids” in the book. I didn’t mind that they made him uncomfortable around kids in the movie because it gave his character a chance to grow through the film, but it was a funny thing to read that line in the book.

3. The T-Rex is a much bigger antagonist in the book. All of the content about Grant and the kids taking a raft into the lagoon / river in the book are not in the movie. I’d completely forgotten about this, so I was disappointed (again) that they weren’t in the film. A couple of them – the scene where they learn the T-Rex can swim, and the waterfall scene where the raft is about to go over the falls to where the T-Rex is waiting below – would have been amazing on film.

4. I was happily surprised that a lot of the great lines from the movie came directly from the book.

5. The aviary and the opening scenes are left out of the book, but they are used in the other films. The opening scene of Jurassic Park becomes the opening scene for the Lost World movie. The aviary shows up in Jurassic Park III (you know, the one where you root for the dinosaurs to eat Tea Leoni’s character)

6. The main subplot of the book that’s completely left out of the movie is the concern about the dinosaurs getting off (and possibly already have gotten off) the island. It’s another point about “life finds a way” that the movie picks up when they discover that the dinosaurs are breeding, but the other, much greater concern, of dinosaurs getting off the island is left out. In fact, while the book describes the island being bombed to eradicate all life, the movie leaves the island intact, In fact, the end of the movies shows pterodactyls flying along side the helicopter as the survivors leave the island, and nobody is the least bit concerned. 

7. Speaking of survivors, the book makes it pretty clear that both Hammond and Malcolm die on the island. Both survive in the movie. The Lost World book has to quickly explain how Malcolm is now alive since he’s the main character in the story (turns out he was only “mostly” dead). 

Both the movie and the book are excellent, and it’d be worth your time to go and enjoy both again. Read the book first, then re-watch the movie.

For me, I’m moving on to reading the Lost World. 

2013 Reading List

At the beginning of the year, I wanted to set a goal for myself to read more books. Since I’m working at a job that has a long commute, that goal has been made much easier since I listen to audiobooks to keep my sanity while sitting in DFW traffic.

Anyway, I wanted to share my list and I may add some comments about some of the books. If you see something that you might be interested in, just ask and I’ll tell you what I thought of the book.

2013 books read (so far) – in no particular order

Audiobooks

1) Callis Rose by Mark Tufo

  • Great book!

2) Life of Pi by Yann Martel

3) The Lost Stars: Tarnished Knight by Jack Campbell

4) Daughter of the Sword: A Novel of the Fated Blades by Steve Bein

5) Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

  • Interesting twist on a world with people with super-powers. 

6) Spartan Gold by Clive Cussler

  • If you wanted a “popcorn-movie” book to read, this would be a good one. 

7) The Disciple by Stephen Coonts

  • Very interesting fictional story involving Iran.

8)  Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey
9)  Lycan Fallout: Rise of the Werewolf by Mark Tufo
10 )Killing Floor by Lee Child
11) Greywalker: Book 1 by Kat Richardson
12) City of Bones The Mortal Instruments, Book 1 by Cassandra Clare

  • Meh. Some interesting ideas about the supernatural world, but not much else.

13) The Cobweb by Neal Stephenson, J. Frederick George
14) Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines

  • Super heroes in a zombie apocalypse. ‘nuff said.

15) 14 by Peter Clines

  • Hard to describe this book, but it was a quick and enjoyable read.
  • It has a very Stephen King-like feel to it, because it basically takes a collection of normal people and puts them into a very unusual situation.

16) The Cartel by Ashley & Jaquavis

17) Suspect by Robert Crais
18) Leviathan Wakes by James S A Corey

  • Great “hard sci-fi” story. I’m looking forward to picking up the sequels.

19) As the Crow Dies: A Jason Crow West Texas Mystery, Book 1 by Ken Casper
20) Among Others by Jo Walton
21) Blowback, A Retrieval Artist Novel by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
22) Clockwork Angels by Kevin J. Anderson
23) The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling

  • Ugh. 
  • It’s not that she doesn’t tell a good story, it’s just that I didn’t care about the story or the characters. 

24) The Racketeer by John Grisham

  • Meh. It’s a good read in one sense, but I hated the small-town lawyer goes to jail for a few years and is now some sort of master criminal plot. 

25) The Bat: A Harry Hole Thriller, Book 1 by Jo Nesbo
26) The Wind Through the Keyhole: The Dark Tower by Stephen King

  • Great story for fans of the Dark Tower, but not sure anyone else would enjoy it.

27) The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

  • Another interesting teenage book with a couple of new ideas about magic.
  • Awkward ending, but still pretty good.

28) Paper Towns by John Green

  • Teenage angst story. Quick and good read. 

29) The Keeper of Lost Causes: Department Q, Book 1 by Jussi Adler-Olsen
30) The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells

31) Redshirts by John Scalzi

  • Hilarious! – read by Wil Wheaton

32) 11-22-63 by Stephen King

  • More fantasy than horror, but a great story. King puts a lot of detail into the world of the late 50s and early 60s. Great detail about Dallas as well.

33) Under the Dome by Stephen King (re-read)

  • One of King’s best!

Novels

34) Twelve Years a Slave – Enhanced Edition by Solomon Northup and Dr. Sue Eakin

  • This is the source material for the movie of the same name. This book is Northup’s original account of his experience as a free African-American who was kidnapped in 1841 and sold into slavery for 12 years before being found and returned home to New York.
  • It also contains footnotes to Dr. Sue Eakin’s incredibly thorough research documenting the actual people, places and events that take place in the book. 
  • If you see the movie, then I’d recommend reading the book. There are a lot of details the movie didn’t cover that are in the book.

35) Near Death: Book 1 of the Near Death Series by Richard C Hale
36) Twittering from the Circus of the Dead by Joe Hill
37) Death Sight: A Will Castleton Novel by David Bain
38) Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
39) Divergent by Veronica Roth
40) NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
41) The Fixer: A Lawson Vampire Novel 1 by Jon F. Merz
42) World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks
43) Horns: A Novel by Joe Hill

44) A Storm of Swords: A Song of Fire and Ice, Book Three by George R. R. Martin (re-read)

45) Blood Skies (Book 1) by Steven Montano

46) Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins (re-read) 

 

Graphic Novels

47) Locke & Key Vol 1: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez
48) Flashpoint by Geoff Johns
49) How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You by the Oatmeal
50) Batwoman Vol 1:Hydrology (The New 52) by J.H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman and Amy Reeder

51) Superman: Earth One by J. Michael Straczynski & Shane Davis

  • Part of the New 52, I think. A new twist on Superman that fun to read. Superman is  a hard character to deal with, I think. 
52) Batman: Earth One by Gary Frank & Geoff Johns

53) Hawkeye, Vol 1: My Life as a Weapon by Mark Fraction, David Aja and Javier Pulido  

  •  I’ve never read much on Hawkeye and thought he was a strange choice to include in the Avengers. After reading this graphic novel, I was much more intrigued by the character and will probably pick up the next volumes of the comic.

Paper Towns – An Angsty Teen Story Reminiscent of John Hughes

Somehow, I’ve learned well after the fact, I’ve managed to pick up a couple of audiobooks that are considered “teenage” books. I haven’t written a review yet about the other one (Among Others), but this one, Paper Towns, was pretty good.

If you’re a child of the 80s, you’ll fondly (or maybe not so much) remember the teen movies by John Hughes: Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Some Kind of Wonderful. All of these movies revolved around high school and dealt with the various stereotypes and cliques in school and breaking outside those circles.

John Green’s Paper Towns reminds me of those movies. It’s a quick and entertaining read that captures the same teenage angst that those movies did even though the subject matter of a runaway teen may be a bit darker than those movies ever were. 

The story opens by introducing us to two childhood friends: Quentin Jacobsen and Margo Roth Spiegelman. They live across the street from another in Orlando and spent a lot of time together. At nine, they go to the park and stumble across the corpse of a man who has committed suicide. We see how the discovery affects both characters: Quentin is freaked out; Margo is fascinated by it. She becomes something of a young detective and learns more about the person, which she then shares with “Q” later.

The story jumps ahead to their senior year of high school, just weeks away from prom and graduation. Quentin and Margo have had little to do with one another over the years. Quentin ends up with more of the nerdy band geek crowd, while Margo has become popular. She’s more than just popular by the “in” crowd. Everyone has heard of or encountered her, and Margo Roth Spiegelman has become almost a legendary persona. 

One night Margo suddenly shows up at his window. She needs a partner-in-crime to assist her as she goes on a one-night spree of nasty pranks to get back at her so-called friends and her now ex-boyfriend, who Margo had just learned was cheating on her with one of her best friends. 

Quentin hesitates, but he goes along anyway. The all-night adventure re-ignites their friendship as well as Quentin’s crush on Margo. 

Exhausted, Quentin goes to school the next day and suffers through it, hoping that Margo will be there and hopeful that everything between them has changed. Margo doesn’t show up for school. 

He eventually learns that Margo has run away. It’s not the first time that she’s done it, though. Margo always leaves clues to her family about where she has gone, and she always returns a few days later.

This time, however, Margo doesn’t come back. After a few days, her parents file a report, and Quentin has to face questions from both Margo’s parents and the police. 

As the police look through her room, they pull down Margo’s window shade. Quentin discovers that Margo has put a Woodie Guthrie poster on the back of her shade, facing his window. Quentin believes this is a clue she has intentionally left for him to find. 

This kicks off Quentin’s quest to find Margo. He follows a number of clues with his best friends, Ben and Radar, to the point where it becomes an obsession. Quentin even wonders at one point if Margo has committed suicide and intended Quentin to find her body, just like they found the body of the man when they were kids. 

In his quest, Quentin realizes how little he really knows Margo. In fact, he learns that almost no one really knows her. Margo has created a persona, a “paper girl” that everyone sees, but she’s kept her true self concealed. While everyone else is focused on prom, finals and graduation, Quentin struggles to understand the “real” Margo, hoping that by understanding her, he’ll find her. The quest also forces Quentin to push himself well outside of his comfort zones: lying to his parents, skipping classes, etc. 

Just before graduation, Quentin finally comes across a clue that he’s certain that will lead them to Margo, and that she’s alive. He skips graduation and makes a last second cross-country road trip with his best friends and one of Margo’s friends – who has joined the group in their search. 

The story focuses on Quentin and Margo. While we learn about Quentin’s friends, Ben and Radar, and Lacey, one of Margo’s popular friends, they’re really not much more than stereotypical characters (Radar – the computer geek; Ben, the funny sidekick, and Lacey – the hot and otherwise unobtainable popular girl).

We never really learn enough about Margo to understand why she turned out the way she did, which to me weakened her character. As much as Margo complains about being a “paper-girl” living in a “paper-town” and the desire to escape where she can be “real.” the character has made every effort to keep everyone in her life at arm’s length. She seems to want someone to know the “real” her, but she prevents anyone from getting close.

Green does a good job of keeping the story pretty light-hearted, even when it seems like that Margo may be dead, or at least, gone for good. For most of the other characters and even the other kids at school, life quickly moves on. 

The only major complaint I had about the story besides understanding a bit more about Margo would have been to cut a chunk out of the middle. There’s a part to the story where the main character spends a little too much time not seeing the next clue even though the author has pointed it out to the reader.

I would have also liked to read/heard an epilogue, where the author tells us (via Quentin) where everyone ended up 10 years later. It’s not a deal breaker though.

It’s still a very entertaining story as these high school seniors deal with their last weeks in school and how much things will change in just a few months. It’s about enjoying time with friends, but also understanding that those friends will be moving in different directions and that you have to let them go.

Paper Towns is probably the closest book I’ve read that captures that same spirit of teenage angst that John Hughes did so brilliantly in his movies. 

 

Review: The Raven Boys

Even though the target audience is young adult, Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys is an entertaining supernatural story that captures all of the teen angst you’d expect, but is still engaging for readers of all ages.

The story centers around Blue Sargent, a 16-year girl from a small town in Virginia. She’s part of a family of local psychics, but unlike her family, she’s not a psychic. Instead, she’s more of a psychic “energizer bunny” that boosts the abilities of the others.

Instead of feeling shunned by her “freakish” family, Blue embraces her difference and really doesn’t care about what other people think of her. Blue stays away from boys because they were trouble, and she especially avoids the boys from Aglionby Academy, “because they were bastards.” Aglionby is a nearby prep school for the privileged, and the boys who go there are called “raven boys” after the school’s mascot. We see her distaste for these rich boys early on in the story. While working as a waitress (one of her part-time jobs) at the local pizza joint, one of the boys offers to pay for her time just to so she’ll talk to one of his buddies.

During an annual ritual at a cemetery where Blue and one of her family watch the spirits of the future dead, Blue sees a spirit for the first time. She’s able to converse with the spirit, and learns his name is Gansey. While still trying to understand why she saw the spirit, things get crazier as she learns days later that Gansey has made an appointment for a session with her psychic family. Blue discovers than Gansey is the same boy who approached her at the restaurant, and his buddies are part of the that group.

She discovers that there’s more to Gansey and his prep-school buddies. They’re on a quest to find a mythological sleeping king and believe that ley lines (lines of concentrated mystic energy) are the key to finding him. Supposedly, whoever awakens the king will be granted a great favor. Despite warnings to stay away from the boys, Blue joins in on the quest and she’s quickly accepted as part of the group.

The boys themselves are a bit of a mismatched group with very different backgrounds, but all are drawn into Gansey’s quest to find the king. The reader is drawn in as well as we learn more about the family backgrounds of Blue and the boys, more about the quest, and Gansey’s obsession with finding the king. Although each is helping Gansey with his quest, they are all on their own quest to understand who they are and their place in the world.

The supernatural aspect of the story revolves around spirits, psychic visions, rituals, and ley lines and is designed to be very vague and intangible. There are no vampires or werewolves in this story which is also a nice change of pace.

There’s also not a lot of romance, either. Blue does find herself attracted to a couple of the boys in the group, it doesn’t become a central part of the story – which, after reading the whiny characters from the Twilight books, is a welcome change.

Despite having some nice effects involving one of the magical locations they eventually find, the deliberate fuzziness of what is happening, magically speaking, gets in the way of the story – especially at the climax. You’ll read through the climax and the aftermath and still be left wondering what exactly happened.

The other unfortunate aspect involves the antagonist. The reader learns and suspects who the antagonist is early on in the story, but he really doesn’t do anything to elevate the stakes for Gansey, Blue and others until very late. In fact, one of the pivotal scenes in the book the antagonist’s arrival is purely coincidental. I wish the antagonist had been more active in elevating the stakes – or at least put pressure on the others that someone is taking an active interest in their quest. That way, once the main characters learn of his identity, the stakes would be even higher.

Outside of that, I found the story to be very enjoyable. After reading the Twilight series years ago, it’s a nice relief to find a young-adult series with a strong-minded female lead character as well as Gansey and his cohorts. Despite the vagueness of the supernatural aspects of the story, I’m looking forward to picking up the next story in the series to see what happens next.

The Hunger Games – Pretty Good

The Hunger Games is a faithful adaptation of the book, and despite the comparisons to the Twilight series, the main characters are teenagers, and there’s are hints of teen romance, this movie has plenty of action (and thankfully, no sparking vampires) to keep audiences enthralled for the almost-too-quick two hour length of the film.

If you haven’t read the books, the story is pretty straightforward. In the “future,” the country Panem (a country where the current countries of North America once existed), is divided into twelve districts. After a rebellion was crushed by the Capitol, the Capitol, now in complete control of the districts, declared that each year, all districts would select one boy and one girl aged 12-18 to participate in a competition. The competition would be a televised fight to the death, and the winner would return to his or her district showered with riches and crowed winner of the Hunger Games.

The main character, Katniss Everdeen, volunteers to participate in the games when her younger sister is selected. From there, she is rushed into a completely different world. We see in the opening moments that the citizens of District 12 live in poverty, and it’s not until we see Katniss board the train to the Capitol that we see there’s a drastic contrast between her livelihood and the absolute rich decadence that residents of the Capitol enjoy.

The movie stays pretty close to the book here, sending the tributes to the Capitol where they are primped and put on display for the entire country. They are provided some training, and then they are placed into the arena for the games. You might be reminded of the movie The Running Man, and you wouldn’t be wrong. There are a some similarities between the two movies when it comes to the game.

It seems that the movie is in almost too much of a rush to get to the games. The characters are quickly gathered, allowed to say goodbyes, get to the Capitol, rush through training to get into the arena. It seems like because this section is rushed that some of the nuances of strategy of playing the games are lost.

The action in the game itself flows very quickly. The movie does a great job of conveying the extraordinary aspects of the arena, how much control the “game master” has over it, and how much detail is captured and televised to audiences. One of the more heart-wrenching scenes in the book is done incredibly well.

There is a decent amount of action in the movie, and the pace seems to be pretty good. I thought they didn’t go too over-the-top with the gore factor. Remember, these are teenagers killing teenagers in a fight to the death, so the PG-13 rating is warranted.

We learn that part of the strategy for the the tributes from district 12, Katniss and Peeta, is to play the role of “star-crossed lovers.” The goal is to get audiences interested in the fates of the pair, so that “sponsors” can be found. Sponsors, we learn, can send help in the middle of the games when the players are in desperate need of aid to continue playing.

But, the movie skips over much of this development between the two characters. I think a lot of this was in part to avoid the “cheesiness” of the Twilight movies, but I think the director missed the point. The “romance” scenes here help develop the relationship between the two characters and the audience (both the actual audience and the “games” audience). Knowing that playing the “romance factor” up is a game strategy, the book leaves the readers wondering how much is Katniss “pretending” or how much does she really have feelings for Peeta. Because we don’t know who is sincere or who is just putting on a good show, the cheesiness of the romance in this story works.

Without that buildup, though, the later scenes in the movie feel awkward and forced. In fact, once the Hunger Games are over, the movie quickly wraps things up, ignoring some of the fallout of the ending. It still leaves the movie open for sequels, which, considering the Hunger Games is a trilogy of books and considering Hollywood’s general lack of originality, will almost certainly be made.

I suspect that many will not approve of Jennifer Lawrence’s performance as Katniss, but I think she did an excellent job staying true to the character. Lawrence is tough when she needs to be, but she can be gentile and nurturing as well. The male leads are mostly forgettable, but Woody Harrelson does a great job of playing their drunken mentor, Haymitch. In fact, I think he’s given a couple of extra scenes that were not in the book, which helps expand on the overall barbaric absurdity of the games. Also, you may not recognize him without his trademark shades, but rocker Lenny Kravitz has a small role in the film as Katniss’ lead stylist, Cinna.

Even without the lack of romance, the movie is a very good adaption of the novel. Unfortunately, as much as the director stayed true to the story, some of the more subtle tones of the book were lost. It seems like there was a concern to distance this movie from the Twilight franchise, and there wasn’t enough faith in the material in the book to accomplish that. However, I think they could have spent a little more time, especially at the end to expand on what happened after the conclusion of the games, and to build up the relationship between Katniss and Peeta. Without these, the movie still succeeds as an action/drama of a bit of a different nature, and I have no doubt we’ll be seeing more of Katniss Everdeen in the inevitable sequels.