Calling this a “review” might be overstating the case a little bit, I dunno. Think of it more as a public service announcement for those of you who are authors who do book signings:
Pick this book up, and read it, (it’s only about 130 pages, so it won’t take terribly long) and internalize its teachings. The meat of the book is right there in the title, so there’s not a whole lot of need to go into details about what the book covers; just be aware that Adam is really good at this sort of thing and the advice in the book is spot-on.
Necessary disclosures: I got to see an early ARC and provided a blurb for the back cover and the Amazon description, and even before then I’d been stealing ideas from Adam since my first show at InConJunction several years ago. That said, he rejected my first blurb– which is fine, as I suspected he was going to, and provided him with the one he actually used a few minutes later. That said, since this is my blog, and not his book, here’s the first blurb I tried to get him to use:
“This book gives you all the advantages of Adam Dreece’s knowledge and experience without the mess and effort of hunting him down and consuming his brain and living soul. Highly recommended.” —Luther M. Siler, author of THE BENEVOLENCE ARCHIVES
Can’t imagine why he didn’t use it.
Anyway, if you’re an author, this will be money well spent. And you can even write it off on your taxes! So everybody wins.
A fascinating thing happened a few weeks ago, where within a couple of days I got emails from two different publishers offering me a free book in return for a review on this site. I’ve had individual authors send me ARCs a couple of times, but those were always in “Hey, who wants an ARC?” types of situations where I jumped in and happily claimed a book.
At any rate, they were hoping my review of Lee Maguire’s Closer Than You Think would hit the site on May 8th or 9th, and … uh … yeah, it’s the 11th, so I’m not doing a great job just yet in fulfilling my end of the bargain. Life has been doing an admirable job of getting in the way of my blogging lately, if you haven’t noticed.
Closer Than You Think is about Bryce Davison, a psychologist, who lives in central Pennsylvania with his basset hound, who he shares custody of with his estranged, not-quite-ex-yet wife. Lee Maguire, by the way, is a psychologist who lives in central Pennsylvania with his presumably not estranged wife and a basset hound. Davison’s life is more or less falling apart around him as the book opens; he’s trying to make things work with his wife but it’s not going well, he’s moved out and into his own place, and … oh, someone is stalking him. Someone who clearly is able to get into his apartment whenever they want, and is fond of doing things like drenching his pillow in floral perfume, leaving creepy notes about, hacking into his email, and stabbing his bathrobe to death, a scene that is actually quite a bit freakier than it sounds when I describe it that way.
I gotta be honest; I wasn’t a huge fan of the book. There’s a serviceable storyline in here, and Maguire knows how to pace a thriller– there are 91 chapters in this book’s 306 pages, which encourages binge-reading because finishing just one more chapter is always an easily achieved goal. But … well, look at the cover. See how the words “A BROKEN MINDS” at the bottom don’t look like they’re quite centered, and are kinda spaced funny, and maybe you’re not the type of person to notice and be bothered by that but I absolutely am? The whole book was kinda like that. Nothing terrible, just a lot of little stuff that kept cropping up and kicking me out of my reading. Occasional typos. Dialogue that is definitely consistent but is maybe rotated fifteen degrees or so from how people actually talk. A book that is set in 2019 (or, if it isn’t, never makes that clear) but whose main character takes a paragraph to log into his computer every single time he checks his email — something that happens a lot — and doesn’t really seem to understand how his phone works, and I’m not sure whether that’s supposed to be something about the character or if it reflects something about the author.
It’s not bad, mind you. There are things about the book I like. There’s real tension here, and a twisty-turniness(*) to the plot that I like, and I have to admit I didn’t see the way it ends coming, which I’m going to choose to interpret as a good thing. It’s kind of the Platonic ideal of the three-stars-out-of-five book; if you’re really into thrillers maybe bump that up a point.
(I sigh deeply, as I realize that this review isn’t super likely to get me sent any more free books. I like free books!)
Do y’all ever wonder if Beyoncé’s marketing people, like, hate her guts? Her last six albums or whatever have been released with no fanfare and no warning and everybody notices and spends lots of money and they end up topping the charts anyway. Is this always the plan, do you think, or does she have terrible conversations with the marketing team where the team produces a carefully thought-out multi-level marketing and release plan and Bey just goes “Oh, that? I got bored so it came out this morning. It’s #1 on iTunes. But you guys are great, really.”
I probably say this every time I talk about her: I consider myself a pretty big fan of Beyoncé as a person and a musician and a businesswoman and just as a general cultural icon and I’ve nonetheless never been hugely into her music. Here’s the thing, though: I really liked Everything is Love, the album she released last summer (again, out of nowhere) with Jay-Z, and Homecoming, her latest nearly-two-hours-long CD of her 2018 headlining Coachella show is fucking amazing. There are something like forty tracks included; she tends to bounce from song to song pretty rapidly and rarely if ever performs an entire song from start to finish. I thought at first this was going to be annoying but it works– it might help that I honestly don’t know the majority of the songs all that well, so the fact that she’s basically just singing the best parts is all good.
Also all good: the what appears to be an entire fucking marching band complete with a drumline and step team that backs her up for most of the show. There is a documentary included along with the music that I haven’t gotten around to watching yet (and I may not, to be completely honest) but the sonic effect of these guys is really cool and unique. The recording quality for the show is top-notch, as should probably be expected.
So: adjustment to my Current Theory of Beyoncé: her last two releases have been fantastic and I can’t wait for her next one. I’d tell you to go check it out, but statistically you probably already have.
This is going to be a non-spoiler review (I’m only directly discussing stuff revealed in the trailers) because I did manage to see this early, even if it was only the night before general release. Honestly, the movie did catch me by surprise a couple of times and I feel like I want everyone going in to have the same chance at that that I had.
Also, continuing with the Facebook blustering: do not expect me to call the superhero “Shazam” at any point in this review. The movie is named Shazam! The wizard is named Shazam. The superhero is named Captain Marvel, and I don’t give a damn what DC or Warner Brothers’ legal departments have to say about that. If having two superheroes named Captain Marvel confuses you in a world where three superheroes are played by blond white men named Chris, I can’t help you.
I also have bad news for you about who the real “Captain Marvel” actually is.
So. Yeah. Go see it. Go see it go see it GO SEE IT GO SEE IT GO SEE IT RIGHT NOW. This is exactly– exactly— the movie that I wanted to see, and you should go see it right now.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, standard disclaimers; I get enthusiastic. But I’m having a really hard time right now imagining how a movie about this Captain Marvel could have been any better than this one was, and I’m starting to have some hope that at least some corners of the people involved in making movies for DC have a clue about what they’re doing. They’ve now produced two great movies (Wonder Woman and Shazam!) and one (Aquaman) that … well, wasn’t actually good really but was awfully enthusiastic and fun. Okay, the rest of them have all been some flavor of hot garbage, but … progress, right?
Here’s the thing: You can’t do grimdark Captain Marvel. You just can’t. It doesn’t work unless, like in Kingdom Come, the point is that absolutely everything has been corrupted and fucked up. Captain Marvel’s childlike innocence and faith are at the core of the character, and while they’ve wisely made Billy Batson a bit older than usual for this movie they still get what he’s supposed to be. Much like Wonder Woman, this movie actually understands the character they’re making a movie about(*), and it remembers the very fucking important fact that Captain Marvel is supposed to be a Goddamned superhero and superheroes are supposed to save people.
And they kept Zach Snyder and his cancerous-ass direction as far away from this movie as they could, and they did it a hundred percent right, and they very much should be rewarded for it. I want this movie to make a lot of money, and I want the people responsible for DC’s movies to learn from it, dammit. There is no trace of the Murderverse in this movie. It’s wonderful.
The acting in the film is across-the-board phenomenal, particularly the two leads and the kid who plays Freddy Freeman, and if the movie has a flaw it’s that Freddy almost seems like he’d make a better Captain Marvel than Billy Batson does. He’s the heart of the film, though, and while Captain Marvel is an inherently cheesy superhero (one of his nicknames is literally The Big Red Cheese, y’all) the movie dips into the cheesiness without ever being overwhelmed by it. The action is well-shot, the effects are phenomenal, and– rather unexpectedly– the bad guy and his minions are scary as hell, to the point where I’d caution against taking anyone under 10 to see this without previewing it first. It’s PG-13 for a reason. Is it weird that a movie about a kid superhero can’t be seen by kids? Maybe a little, but again: they aged Billy up a little bit and the movie is a bit more mature than one with an 11- or 12-year old Billy Batson might be. This movie isn’t PG-13 because they say “shit” a few times, even though they do. The movie is PG-13 because Dr. Sivana is too scary for a PG villain.
If you are the type to be irritated by Superhero Physics, where a bus can fall off a bridge and be caught by a man standing underneath the bridge and no one in the bus is harmed because the superhero caught the bus … well, remember that Captain Marvel’s powers are literally magical and maybe be prepared to have to roll with that. Because there is a lot of Superhero Physics in this movie. He’s magic. You’ll be OK.
So, yeah: we’re seeing a great trend recently, with Into the Spider-Verse and now Shazam!, where studios that aren’t Marvel are finally starting to figure out how to make superhero movies that aren’t crap. This is what we’ve been telling them we want, guys. Reward good behavior, and go see this one.
(*) Jason Momoa’s Arthur Curry is not remotely the Arthur Curry from the comic books, but frankly Aquaman himself has always been treated as such a flat character that it barely even registers. I’ve been reading comics since I was nine and I couldn’t tell you how Aquaman might react to a situation differently from any random human selected from the side of the road other than a vague commitment to environmentalism. I can’t tell you how a movie that “gets” Aquaman might look different from one that doesn’t. I can for damn sure do that for most of the rest of DC’s heroes, and they’ve fallen down repeatedly on this front.
I never saw Aquaman in theaters. Not for any particular reason; I don’t hate the movie version of the character the way I do Angry Rodent Ninja or the Murder Alien. We just didn’t prioritize it the way we would have a Marvel movie, and then it was out of theaters and we had to rent it on iTunes. I realized very quickly that there was only going to be one way for me to watch it. I am hoping that making this into a blog post does not take sixteen hours and make me crazy.
That took a really long time, so I hope you all enjoyed it.