Sunday, September 27, 2015

Close Your Eyes by Michael Robotham Book Review

Close Your Eyes (Joseph O’Loughlin, #8)


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Michael Robotham is one of the top thriller writers in Australia and he's appreciated all around the world, even by the likes of Stephen King.

I was lucky enough to interview him a few years ago when he released Say You're Sorry, a book that you just cannot put down once you read the first page. He's a lovely guy and very entertaining to listen to if you ever get a chance to hear him speak.

I don't normally go to writers' talks, but on Sept 10 2013, Michael was talking at a local library, so I grabbed the book crazy neighbor and off we went. Michael was brilliant. And guess what? He walks in & recognizes me from my reviews & the interview from the year before, walks straight up to me & gives me a kiss & a hug. He gets 5/5 for being a great guy.

In the interview we did a few years ago, Michael mentioned his wife wouldn't allow him to finish writing about his criminal psychologist Joseph O’Loughlin until he had resolved O'Loughlin's relationship with his estranged wife. In this, his eighth novel with his unusual protagonist, he finally does bring their relationship to a surprising resolution. You'll have to read to the very end, though, to discover what it is.

In between you will read a very strong thriller  in Close Your Eyes, with a mystery that I doubt you'll solve until the author wants you to know. If you enjoy thrillers that keep you guessing right until the end, but with strong characters who feel like real people, then Close Your Eyes is the book for you. Even if you haven't read Michael's previous O'Loughlin novels, you will still enjoy this. However, why don't you treat yourself and start at the beginning. You'll lose a lot of sleep and your fingers will be burning as you turn pages, but that will be a good thing.

Here's a link to the interview: http://www.susanmaywriter.com/2015/09... I've moved it over to my current website from its previous home, which I don't update anymore.

The book was given to me by Hachette Australia in exchange for an honest review.



Saturday, September 26, 2015

Interview with Michael Robotham

Having just read another great book by Michael Robotham Close Your Eyes, I thought I'd bring an interview I did with Michael over to this website from my old site An Adventure in Reading. He's one of Australia's finest thriller writers and I loved interviewing him.

My review of  Close Your Eyes by Michael Robotham

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Delving into Dark Minds
An interview with best-selling thriller author 
Michael Robotham


His readers want him to write faster and he wants them to read more slowly. In order to churn out a book a year, the international best-selling thriller author Michael Robotham is working sweat-shop hours.
Back in 2004 whilst writing his first novel, The Suspect, his day would start at nine in the morning with an hour for lunch, before working through till five and back in the evening and working again until eleven. Eight years later with seven more books gracing the best-seller lists and a resume that includes twice winning the Australian Ned Kelly Award, short-listings in UK Crime Writers Association Steel Dagger, ITV3 Thriller Awards, the South Africa's Boeke Prize and listings on “International Book of the Month”, making it the top recommendation to 28 million book club members in fifteen countries, you would think by now he could relax and enjoy the success. 
“I’m still working long hours, which is a legacy of doing a book a year,” he admits. With his books selling in the millions and translated into twenty-two languages and published in more than 50 countries, Robotham finds that the success has brought even greater demands on his time, “answering correspondence, doing interviews, maintaining websites and touring.” 
During this interview he was between his North American and Canadian tours to promote his latest thriller, Say You’re Sorry, a dark, psychological crime story featuring psychologist Joseph O’Loughlin. 
In the fourth O’Loughlin novel (The Suspect, Shatter, Bleed for Me) he returns to consult on the brutal murder of a husband and wife in a farmhouse in the small UK town of Bingham. Co-incidentally it had been the home of teenager Tash McBain, who along with her friend Piper had gone missing three years prior—neither girl was ever found.
“The seed of the idea for the story was sown ten years ago,” explains Robotham, “when two girls disappeared from the small village of Soham in Cambridgeshire. There is a very poignant photograph of them wearing matching Manchester United shirts, which was taken only hours before they went missing.” 
            
“Holly and Jessica were best friends and they died at the hands of a school caretaker called Ian Huntley. In the weeks before their bodies were found, the entire nation clung to hope and hung on every scrap of information. There were prayer vigils and messages of support and makeshift monuments of flowers. It was as though these girls didn’t just belong to their families, they belonged to everyone.” 
            Robotham wanted to explore the idea of public and private grief behind tragic stories that capture the public imagination and trigger what psychologists have termed ‘mourning sickness’ but wrap it inside a mystery of the ultimate fate of the girls. “O’Loughlin has such a wonderful sense of humanity and humour,” he says. “He can lead readers into dark places and confidently bring them back again.”   
Despite Joe O’Loughlin’s popularity with readers he won’t always feature in upcoming novels. When he first appeared in The Suspect it was never Robotham’s intention to write a series. “I wanted to do stand-alones. At my publisher’s insistence, I compromised and created a cast of characters who appear in the books. I only went back to Joe as the narrator when I came up with the idea for Shatter. It is such a pure psychological thriller that it needed someone like Joe to tell the story. Joe came back in Bleed for Me because my wife insisted I sort out his personal life. I didn’t manage that—so maybe Joe will keep appearing occasionally. He won’t be the star of twenty novels but may appear as a minor character now and then. When readers see him happy, they may never see him again.”
Robotham was initially excited to tour his new book in mid-August when it first launched in Australia. “Finally I could leave my ‘pit of despair’ basement office and talk to some real people. I could meet passionate readers and catch up with other authors.”
But after two months of touring in Australia, the UK and North America, he admits he is “pretty exhausted”. He laments, “It’s a perversity of the process that I’m deep into a new novel which is the focus of my energy and excitement. So my mind is in two places. I’m also a long way from my family and missing them desperately.”
Home is Sydney's northern beaches with his wife, Vivien, and three daughters. Since Say You’re Sorry’s dual narrative is also that of one of the teenage kidnap victims it begs the question of the emotional toll of writing every parent’s nightmare.
 “Every parent has those moments when they lose sight of their child in a supermarket or on a busy street and for thirty seconds they feel sheer terror. Or they sit at home on a stormy night, looking at the clock. Someone they love is late home and not answering their cell phone. That’s when the darkness creeps into our thoughts. As Goya said, ‘The sleep of reason produces monsters’.”
This is the fear Robotham admits that he taps into when he writes. “All my nightmares revolve around my daughters. Perhaps I’m subconsciously trying to allay my worst fears, by writing about them. Do I scare myself?  Sometimes.” 
In Shatter, one of the characters did get under the author’s skin. “One of the dual narrators is a man who terrorises women by breaking their spirit and their minds. Entering his skin and looking at the world through his eyes was particularly horrible. I remember coming upstairs and having scalding hot showers and curling up in bed trying to get his voice out of my head.”
So why despite this does he continue to enter these dark minds with the added pressure of producing a book a year to keep fans and Publishers happy? Robotham’s answer: “Stephen King was once asked, ‘Why do you write such dark and twisted stories?’ and he replied, ‘What makes you think I have a choice?’
To read the review of SAY YOU'RE SORRY CLICK HERE.
Visit Michael Robotham's official Website for more information about this author.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Movie Stuff 17th September 2015


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Sicario  ✪✪✪✪✪  (Opens 24th September)
My thoughts
   From the first minutes of Sicario until the last, you will feel as though you are on a wild chase. You don’t know where you’re going, you don’t know what will happen, and you won’t even realize you’ve barely breathed until the credits come up. Close to the best film I’ve seen all year, if it’s not nominated multiple times in the awards season, then I’ll eat my reviewer’s hat.
   Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and Benicio Del Toro arguably give the best performances of their careers, and that’s saying something with these actors. It reminds me of the edge-of-the-seat last thirty minutes of Argo except with Sicario it’s the entire two hours.
   Kate Macer (Emilby Blunt) is an idealistic FBI agent enlisted by a mysterious government task force as a consultant on a daring mission to halt the escalating war against drugs on the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Arrogant and dismissive Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) repeatedly tells Kate to ‘watch and learn’ as she is dragged into one dangerous situation after another without a clue as to what is really going on. Shadowy and aloof Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) accompanies the team, while Kate grows increasingly concerned as to who he is and why he is with them. She begins to suspect nothing is what she is being told. The body count grows as the team head into Mexico, participating in illegal activities of which Kate doesn’t approve. Who are these agents, what are they really doing, and how far will they go to fight the drug lords?
   The answer is revealed in the last minutes of the film, and the audience is left wondering who are the good guys and who are the bad. The only the thing you will know for sure is you will have just experienced one of the finest dramas in years. 5 stars.

Film Blurb
In the lawless border area stretching between the U.S. and Mexico, an idealistic FBI agent [Emily Blunt] is enlisted by an elite government task force official [Josh Brolin] to aid in the escalating war against drugs. Led by an enigmatic consultant with a questionable past [Benicio Del Toro], the team sets out on a clandestine journey forcing Kate to question everything that she believes in order to survive. (C) Lionsgate

Everest  ✪✪✪✪½   (opens 17th September))
My Thoughts
Why? Why? Why? That’s what you’ll be thinking throughout this true story of an ill-fated climb of Everest, which left eight climbers dead. It’s an all star cast with Emily Watson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, Jason Clarke, Keira Knightley who are all great, some mastering a kiwi accent brilliantly. The special effects, too, will make you feel as though you’re right there on the hellish mountain with them.
 This true story is taken from several autobiographies written by those who survived the expedition You might have heard in the news in 1996 about the NZ climber who called home and spoke to his pregnant wife while trapped on the peak, both knowing this was the last time they would speak. Again, I ask as I watched this scene: why?
Film Blurb
  2 Guns helmer Baltasar Kormakur directs Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, Jason Clarke, and John Hawkes in this adventure docudrama set in 1996, when a number of simultaneous expeditions up Mount Everest resulted in the deaths of eight climbers. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

Pixels  ✪✪✪ (opens 17th September)
My Thoughts
Poor Adam Sandler, all the critics hate his films. My family for some reason doesn’t. While they’re never on my best picture of the year list, his films are usually light, family fare. This film is harmless enough and kind of cute. The reviewers keep pointing out that Sandler keeps playing a man-child, when he’s a long way from being his Happy Madison bumbling teenager. Well to me that’s probably better than some of the gross-out, bad taste, how-far-can-we-take-this comedies Hollywood is churning out these days. Fans of the eighties and nineties video games will get a kick out of Pixels. Kids might find it fun, too, although some of the jokes will go over their heads.

Film Blurb
  As kids in the 1980s, Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler), Will Cooper (Kevin James), Ludlow Lamonsoff (Josh Gad), and Eddie "The Fire Blaster" Plant (Peter Dinklage) saved the world thousands of times - at 25 cents a game in the video arcades. Now, they're going to have to do it for real. In Pixels, when intergalactic aliens discover video feeds of classic arcade games and misinterpret them as a declaration of war, they attack the Earth, using the video games as the models for their assaults -- and now-U.S. President Cooper must call on his old-school arcade friends to save the world from being destroyed by PAC-MAN, Donkey Kong, Galaga, Centipede, and Space Invaders. Joining them is Lt. Col. Violet Van Patten (Michelle Monaghan), a specialist supplying the arcaders with unique weapons to fight the aliens.(C) Sony

Oddball  ✪✪✪✪½  (Opens 17th September LUNA cinemas)
My thoughts
A most delightful, beautiful Australian film all the family will enjoy. If you love dogs and wildlife you will love this film with it’s gorgeous lead dog and cute little penguins. It has big Hollywood bucks production values, meaning it looks good on screen and a well paced script. Sara Snook (Predestination), Shane Jacobs (Kenny), along with a gorgeous, young Coco Jack Gillies, and a very well trained Maremma dog bring this true story to life.
It was delightful hearing all the kids in the cinema laughing at the fun bits throughout. As we left the cinema, so many children could be overheard excitedly saying how much they loved the film. Even my tough-critic teenagers enjoyed it, and that is saying something. Could this be another Red Dog and Paper Planes for the film industry? I certainly hope so. Oddball deserves it.

Film Blurb
The story of Allan "Swampy" Marsh and his Maremma dog Oddball. Swampy convinced local authorities to allow Oddball to protect a colony of Little Penguins on Middle Island from wild cats and dogs. Oddball succeeds in his campaign and becomes a front runner for Maremma dogs being used to protect other endangered Australian wildlife.


SPECIAL EVENTS
Forces of Destiny
Date: Monday 21st September
Time:  6:30pm
Location: Cinema Paradiso Details and Booking

   Join us for a special Q&A screening with producer Maggie Miles, at Windsor Cinema 21st of September 6.30PM at Cinema Paradiso hosted by Annie Murtagh-Monks,  FTI Director, Skills & Engagement.
   From veteran Australian filmmaker Paul Cox (Innocence, Molokai) comes his most autobiographical film, drawn from his own personal battle with cancer.
   David Wenham stars as Robert, a renowned sculptor diagnosed with cancer of the liver. While reeling from this news he meets Maya (Shahana Goswami), an Indian marine biologist who comes from a different world, a different reality. Robert’s passion for Maya intensifies as he confronts the agony and ecstasy of finding the love that has evaded him his entire life, just as his body is about to be taken from him. Yet new hope comes when he’s placed on the transplant waiting list. Filmed in Melbourne and India, FORCE OF DESTINY is another screen gem from this Australian stalwart.
"A moving and compassionate exploration of the human condition. One of Paul Cox’s most personal and emotional films. David Wenham gives an exceptional performance." – David Stratton

The Room
Date: Sunday 20th September  
Time:  7:00pm
Location: Luna Leederville

   Throw your spoons! The Room is back on the Big Screen at Luna Cinemas  Leederville.  The evenings will be hosted by our resident  Room gurus  who will guide you through a really strange, bizarre & unique cinematic experience! Viewer guides and plastics spoons provided.
   Bring your friends and plastic spoons and join us once again as Wiseau returns to the big screen for another sensational night of this of the cult phenomena that’s so bad it’s good! The Room is basically a love triangle set in a San Francisco apartment building. But it’s filled with sub-plots that go nowhere, dodgy green-screen skylines, lots of un-sexy sex scenes and acting that wouldn't pass muster on a soft-focus soapie. The Room has garnered a massive world-wide cult following (especially in Perth!) leaving audiences stunned and laughing and is beloved by comic actors such as Kristen Bell, Paul Rudd and Alec Baldwin.

How to Change the World
Date: Limited season September 17-30
Time:  10:45am & 6.30pm
Location: Cinema Paradiso Details and Booking
2 screenings at Luna on SX Sat 19 and Sun 20 September.4.00pm

   Jerry Rothwell (Deep Water) returns with his self-described "hippie heist movie" chronicling the fledgling days of Greenpeace – from its beginnings in the early 70s, as a group of friends sail a boat into the maelstrom of a nuclear test zone in Alaska.
   Seamlessly melding extraordinary, never-before-seen, mint-condition 16mm footage from the archives and personal collections of seminal figures How to Change the World presents a resounding, character-rich rendering of how a disparate group of hippies ascends to such a formidable status as an iconic activist movement. It all comes super-charged with a tour-de-force score that includes Pink Floyd, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Brigitte Bardot and Canned Heat.

   A moving call to action that captures the crusade, which led to the creation of Greenpeace, Sea Shepherd and the Green political movement. Contains graphic footage that may offend.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Film Stuff 10th September 2015

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Maze Runner The Scorch Trials  ✪✪✪ (opens 10th September))
My Thoughts
   I’m becoming confused with these young adult film book adaptations. They’re all broken up into a series, so end on cliffhangers and continue for multiple films. Fine with TV shows because you can come back the next week and remember what happened, but when you wait a year between films, well, it might be my age, but I just forget who is who and what is what. Then throw in the fact that between The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Maze Runner they’re all set in Dystopian worlds that look similar and I’m lost.
   My twelve-year-old is confused, too. He sees too many films. In the first minutes of this, he leaned over to me and said, “Mum, that’s the guy from Maze Runner.”
   “That’s what we’re watching, love.”
   “Oh, I thought you said it was The Scorch Trials.”
   So funny, right?
   Anyway, this one has some good moments, but dies in the third act, when it should be ramping up. So many same-same battles and chase scenes happening that it seemed rather unoriginal compared to the first film, which was fascinating and mysterious. This one has some rather fast zombie creatures, too, so Walking Dead fans will enjoy.
   It wasn’t too much of a trial to sit through, but, certainly, I would say it didn’t pass with flying colors, either. However, it may be the script is staying true to the book and so the fans might be happy. Felt a tad tired.

Film Blurb
  In this next chapter of the epic "Maze Runner" saga, Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) and his fellow Gladers face their greatest challenge yet: searching for clues about the mysterious and powerful organization known as WCKD. Their journey takes them to the Scorch, a desolate landscape filled with unimaginable obstacles. Teaming up with resistance fighters, the Gladers take on WCKD's vastly superior forces and uncover its shocking plans for them all. (C) Fox

People Places Things  ✪✪✪✪ (opens 10th September—Luna cinemas)
My Thoughts
   What a delightful film. Just shows that when you have a smart script, there are still engaging stories to be told about romance, broken families, and everything in between. The trailer makes it appear to be a film kids could come along and enjoy. In fact, my fifteen-year-old asked to come, so a few of his and my thirteen-year-olds friends came. Color me embarrassed as its definitely not for kids. There’s some adult themes and references in it.
   The enjoyable part of this film is the charm of New Zealand-born comic Jemaine Clement with his native New Zealand accent playing against the Americans and their sensibilities. You might have seen him recently in the vampire comedy What We Do In The Shadows playing Vladislav. He’s doing very well for himself with parts in Despicable Me, Muppets Most Wanted, and a few other films. I can see him landing some much bigger roles after this. He’s refreshing and very talented.
   Great date night film. Just leave the kiddies at home.

Film Blurb
  Will Henry is a graphic novelist and a professor in NYC. At his adorable twin girls' fifth birthday party, Will's life is turned upside down when he walks in on the mother of his children, and longtime girlfriend, Charlie, with their friend Gary. One year later, Will is still alone and trying to put his life back together. He finds unexpected challenges when his talented student Kat tries to set Will up with her accomplished mother Diane. In this thoughtful comedy, Will is forced to navigate the unknown landscape of single fatherhood and dating in New York City, while remaining an inspiration for his students and coming to terms with himself both as a father as an artist.

The Wolfpack  ½  (Opens 10th September LUNA cinemas)
My thoughts
   I didn’t see this film at the preview, but I watched the screener (which is industry speak for a vimeo link, so reviewers can watch at their leisure). Perhaps it loses something off the big screen, but I found this barely watchable. The camera handling is shaky. Why? And, yes, it is kind of weird that these poor kids were never let outside much to integrate into society, but where is the story? Where is something for us to learn from the experience? Where are the interviews with a psychologist or the people who helped these kids once their abuse came to the authorities’ attention?
   All we get are these poor kids re-enacting scenes from their favorite films, which is the only way they get to live some kind of life, and old video of them when they were kids.
Director Crystal Moselle spent five years documenting the Angulo brothers’ lives, and I think herein lays the problem. Too much footage and a director too close to her subjects. I would wait until it’s on TV and then catch it if you really feel the need. I don’t think it is deserving of your hard-earned movie dollar.

Film Blurb
"Not since Grey Gardens has a film invited us into such a strange, barely-functioning home ... altogether fascinating. Five stars." – The Guardian
   Locked away from society in an apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the Angulo brothers learn about the outside world through the films that they watch. Nicknamed the Wolfpack, the brothers spend their childhood re-enacting their favourite films (Pulp Fiction, The Dark Knight and The Fighter) using elaborate homemade props and costumes. With no friends and living on welfare, they feed their curiosity, creativity, and imagination with film, which allows them to escape from their feelings of isolation and loneliness. Everything changes when one of the brothers escapes (weariing a Michael Meyers mask for protection), and the power dynamics in the house are transformed. The Wolfpack must learn how to integrate into society without disbanding the brotherhood
   Director Crystal Moselle spent five years documenting the life of the Angulo brothers, including their first forays into the outside world, creating a unique coming-of-age documentary. Both a fly-on-the-wall record of a bizarre sociological phenomenon and a fascinating insight into the nature of creativity and control, The Wolfpack is a riveting experience. SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL GRAND JURY PRIZE WINNER

SPECIAL EVENTS
Forces of Destiny
Date: Monday14th September Windsor Cinema
      & Monday 21st September Cinema Paradiso
Time:  6:30pm
Location: Cinema Paradiso & Windsor Cinema Details and Booking

   Join us for a special Q&A screening with producer Maggie Miles, 14 September 6.30PM at Windsor Cinema hosted by Ros Walker and with director Paul Cox, 21st of September 6.30PM at Cinema Paradiso hosted by Annie Murtagh-Monks,  FTI Director, Skills & Engagement.
   From veteran Australian filmmaker Paul Cox (Innocence, Molokai) comes his most autobiographical film, drawn from his own personal battle with cancer.
   David Wenham stars as Robert, a renowned sculptor diagnosed with cancer of the liver. While reeling from this news he meets Maya (Shahana Goswami), an Indian marine biologist who comes from a different world, a different reality. Robert’s passion for Maya intensifies as he confronts the agony and ecstasy of finding the love that has evaded him his entire life, just as his body is about to be taken from him. Yet new hope comes when he’s placed on the transplant waiting list. Filmed in Melbourne and India, FORCE OF DESTINY is another screen gem from this Australian stalwart.
"A moving and compassionate exploration of the human condition. One of Paul Cox’s most personal and emotional films. David Wenham gives an exceptional performance." – David Stratton

Love Live! The School Idol Movie.
Date: Sunday 12th September
Time:  4:00 pm
Location: Luna Leederville Details and Booking
 
*Free poster per ticket purchased. Limited autographed  boards (whilst stocks last) courtesy of Madman and prizes  from Tokyo Underground  and Yobe Chibicon Convention prize for Best Dressed Cosplay! 

   When their school was at risk of shutting down, nine students came together in order to save their school. How could they save it? By becoming school idols! And thus the legend of μ's ("Muse") began! Now, three of the members are graduating. What will happen to the group? With the clock ticking on their school idol life, the girls decide to hold one last, great concert. But first they’ll need more publicity… In order to spread the appeal of school idols, the girls travel to America! Will they go out with a bang or a sizzle? Will they find the true meaning of school idols? And will they learn the answer to this question… “whose sake do you sing for?”
   The Love Live Movie was the #1 film at the Japanese box office for three weeks in a row, beating Mad Max: Fury Road and Tomorrowland!This is movie follow-up to the popular two-season long anime. The latest u’s CD topped the weekly charts in Japan and  achieved  Gold status whilst  the free IOS/Android rhythm game  released in Japanese in 2013 and in English in 2014. reached over 2,000,000 players for the English version alone

The Met Opera: The Merry Widow Encore
Date: Sunday 12th & 13th September
Time:  1:00 pm Luna Leederville  11:25 am Luna SX
Location: Luna Leederville Luna SX Details and Booking

The great Renée Fleming stars as the beguiling woman who captivates all Paris in Lehár’s enchanting operetta, seen in a new staging by Broadway virtuoso director and choreographer Susan Stroman (The Producers, Oklahoma!, Contact). Stroman and her design team of Julian Crouch (Satyagraha, The Enchanted Island) and costume designer William Ivey Long (Cinderella, Grey Gardens, Hairspray) have created an art-nouveau setting that climaxes with singing and dancing grisettes at the legendary Maxim’s. Nathan Gunn co-stars as Danilo and Kelli O’Hara is Valencienne. Sir Andrew Davis conducts. Original screened: 2015