I just completed Sara Gruen's At the Water's Edge. Actually, I listened to the audiobook, which was performed masterfully. I was very impressed with the story and the storytelling.
The book has over 1,000 reviews and an average of 4 stars on Amazon. WTF! This is a 5 star book. But maybe I'm easily impressed.
At Water's Edge is about a young woman, Maddie, who's life is among the wealthy socialites in the 1940s Philly high society. Her husband Ellis and his friend Hank, both declared medically unfit for military service, go to Scotland to try to capture footage of the Loch Ness monster.
The trip to Scotland reveals their marriage for what it is as it unravels. In the meantime, she falls in love with Angus Grant, the landlord of the inn they're staying in. There is a happy ending so as you can imagine, lovebirds get together and the situation works out.
I'm interested in notions of romance in literature versus real life, so I was thinking about the romantic interest in this book. He is introduced as a commoner, bearded gruffy man, who runs the inn. We come to discover a few things about him. He is considerate. He's an expert hunter who supplements the diet of the needy in town with secret gifts of game, i.e., people wake up to find fresh meat on their doorstep and they know it's him. He was an elite military soldier who was gutted in combat but killed his assailant with his helmet while his intestines were hanging out. He was a loving husband whose wife gave birth to their stillborn daughter and in distress on hearing that Angus was missing, drowned herself in the Loch. He is super strong, fearless, but super gentle and kind. And then a big reveal is that even though he lives like a commoner, it turns out tht he's a lord or something like that and the "big house"/estate in town is his by inheritance.
In short, this guy is a dream.
Now, I was curious about the other men in the story and began to think about them. In a romance story, where the girl gets the perfect guy, how are the other males presented? I don't read romance books often so I don't know. But in this case it was clear that no one, not even one male could be written in a way that threatened the main love interest.
Absent of love triangle issues, is this normal? That other male characters serve as foils to highlight the glories of the lead male? But in this case, few, if any of the males, had any redeeming qualities. It certainly makes for a great read because you are rooting for Maddie big time.
Love my mindless movies, so this was up my alley.
The first Guardians of the Galaxy was something I watched when I had downtime and just wanted to see stuff blow up. But I was pleasantly surprised. It had a good story, good acting, very good humor, and of course, the 70-80s nostalgia. To be honest, I wasn't seeing how they could replicate the uniqueness of the first movie now that the cat was out of the bag. So what did I think of this second installment? I enjoyed it. The humor was there. The characters were great (baby root deserves an Oscar). The storyline was decent, if a little weak. But by far, the most poignant aspect of the film were all the family dynamics.
So let's list 'em
The plot was that Star-Lord's Father, Ego, finds him. Ego is a celestial, i.e., god/immortal being. Turns out that the reunion is not quite what it seems, as Ego wants to turn Star-Lord into a co-domineering force and re-image the universe. So now the Guardians have to fight the god and work out all the family issues at the same time.
The dynamic and intensity that carried the movie was between Gamora and Nebula. All the bad guys in the movie are comical to some degree except for Nebula. She carries real malevolence that you can feel. You don't want to run into her in an alley. She has hatred toward her father Thanos and holds her sister, Gamora, responsible for all Thanos did to her. And all through the film, you're waiting for this dynamic to play out.
The other satisfying relationship was that of Yondou and Peter Quill. Here we find that the bad guy sacrificed a life of honor to save Peter. Even though he'd presented his actions as done out of purely selfish motives. As a smuggler, he realizes that Ego means to kill Peter and he thus never delivers him. At the end he gets his redemption and Peter gets to reconcile with, not just with his mentor, but his true "dad."
As a creator of content, I found the film fascinating in that, they had a thin storyline, but they exploited the humor and relationship tensions to great effect and that was enough to make it a fun watch. This film was an aggregate of all the correct buttons. It's amazing to see the application of a formula and watch it work. Humans are predictable. If you find the right formula, you'll get a predictable response from us.
Here's an interview I did with Nix Whitikker.
"If any of your books was to be made into a film...."
A poignant scene in The Chronicles of Riddick (one of the most awesomest films ever) has to do with the forced conversion of the people on Helion Prime. This is the scene (an extended scene with footage not seen in the film).
"We all began as something else." The Purifier says. Those words always stuck with me because it sounds like this is the human story of religion and culture. We all began as something else. So, is the statement an argument in favor of conservatism or progressivism? Should we fight to conserve and thus resist the command to shed the past so easily, or should we be willing to accept that our anchor is in the future and what we were is not what we are destined to be?
I love the fact that the Purifier answers this later in the film. Here's my blog on his atonement.
I'm excited to announce that the first two books in the Children of Clay series are now available on pre-order wherever ebooks are sold