I, like you, have pretty much sworn off M. Night Shyamalan films. It wasn’t so much that his films were technically bad. In fact, some of his tracking shots and use of jump cuts are some of the most jarring uses in modern cinema. His story lines, on the other hand, are often so unbelievably ridiculous, building towards a crescendo of some big reveal that ultimately almost always underwhelms. This is why I was so reluctant to watch The Visit, despite its intriguing trailer. I’m not always the biggest fan of films that star kids, but I’m glad I made an exception and sat down to watch Shyamalan’s latest.
In today’s post-modern age, especially with such a fickle viewing audience, making a ‘scary movie’ is no easy feat. Why, Shyamalan’s own track record demonstrates that fear is subjective yet still very reliant upon staid genre conventions that are guaranteed to make the audience squirm. In today’s horror/thriller film world, conventions are being subverted and fused. A mash-up of scary films past to make one modern movie is not that unusual. In The Visit, Shyamalan eschews almost all of these current trends and tendencies to make a truly thrilling film. Despite its footage-style type of storytelling, everything else in the film is wholly original and crisp, which for me, exceeded the little expectations I had.
A published author of thrillers and mysteries, The Crystal Mountain is author J. Gregory Smith’s first piece written for young adults. It’s clear that Smith understand the technical styles and mechanisms required to drive a plot forward for the Young Adult crowd as there is no page in The Crystal Mountain that does not engage the reader.
The novel itself is not completely different in the landscape that comprises young adult fiction. It is impossible to tell a completely original tale written for the young adult demographic as familiarity is a key driver for these type of book buyers. However, Smith does manage to inject new life into the fantastic and supernatural, evoking just the right amount of comic book action and extra-terrestrial allure, making The Crystal Mountain more than your average teen best seller.
Always having been a believer in the powers of positive thinking, I was very happy to receive a book review request for the succinct and concise Practical Positive Psychology by J. Kaye. Void of the often fluffy and unnecessary overly verbose writings that comprise a lot of today’s psychology books, Kaye’s Positive Psychology provides an exercise book of sorts for the reader who wants to harness their positive thoughts in hopes of achieving something tangible that is desirable.
Neatly packed into a mere 6 key points that effectively summarize the books accessible ideas and practices, Positive Psychology is a riveting and easily applicable work that can be utilized by anyone. Kaye’s clear language helps the reader to focus and guide their thoughts, clarifying their own true motivations all along the way, to help understand what their true intentions are and why they crave what they want.
For those of you who are frequent readers of Reading Other People, you know of our preferences to read innovative and refreshing takes on life instead of the staid conventions that tend to comprise the pop culture canon. Alan A. Winter’s incredibly entertaining “Island Bluffs”, there is a new welcome addition to the subversion genre movement, and we are ecstatic about it. John Grisham or Dan Brown this is not. And that’s a good thing.
At a compact 455 pages, Island Bluffs is so much more than your average thriller or mystery. Instead of exploiting the typical modes and formulas that comprise these genres, author Alan A. Winter instead opts to dissect what defines the human condition. Carly Mason and Gabe Berg, a power couple indeed, are trying to have a baby to no success. Hopeful but not unrealistic, the two learn of a scientist who may just be the resource to help them have a baby. However, this scientist is not without his own set of motives. Carly must agree to have twins, but they both won’t end up being hers. One will be biologically hers, and the other, well, let’s call it a surrogate.
Cary and Gabe must upend life as they know it and move to Island Bluffs, the isolated and Stephen King-esque town where the doctor lives. With Gabe’s rebellious 16-year-old daughter in tow, the family tries to start a new life, and a new life, but soon discover that the picturesque town is not all that it seems. Cue the thriller/mystery/horror.
Instead of falling into the traps of telling the type of story that has been told a thousand times before where it is only locations and names that are the only things that seems to change, Winter presents a refreshing and tantalizing tale on life in all of its darkness and light. Winter deftly touches upon each character’s motivation and relates that to a much bigger entity. He questions what really is right and wrong, and if there really are such clear-cut differences between the two. We zoomed through Island Bluffs in just a few days, and it has certainly earned its place on the Reading Other People mammoth bookshelf of the good ones.