Michael Cavacini

An award-winning arts and culture blog.

Archive for the tag “literature”

I’m Attending ThrillerFest!

ThrillerFestThis July I’m attending my first ThrillerFest, and I can’t wait! What is ThrillerFest, you ask? According to the website, it’s “a four-day celebration of thriller books, the authors who write them, and the fans who read them.” This year’s event features an endless list of bestselling authors, including Anne Rice, Michael Connelly, R.L. Stine, Lee Child, and, Andrew Gross, just to name a few.

The conference is broken into different parts. The first day-and-a-half is CraftFest, which is essentially a writing school featuring top authors, agents and editors. These individuals lead educational panels and workshops about almost any topic a writer could be interested in when it comes to writing fiction. Whether you’re looking to learn about blogging as a novelist or what point of view you should write from, CraftFest has you covered. Since I’m working on a novel of my own, I’m looking forward to soaking up all sorts of good information during CraftFest.

Starting Thursday afternoon (July 11), AgentFest begins, which is best described as speed dating for agents and authors looking for representation. While my novel is nowhere near being finished, I still look forward to observing these interactions and speaking with a few agents and authors about their experiences during this event.

Thursday night, once AgentFest has come to a close, the ThrillerFest opening reception takes place. Then the following two days (July 12 and 13) are filled with panels from bestselling authors about a variety of interesting subjects. Last year some of the topics covered included:

  • Writing Opposite Sex Characters
  • Is Indie Publishing For You?
  • How Do You Build A Thriller Brand?
  • What Makes Them Scream?
  • Is It Really That Hard To Be Funny?

I’ll also be attending the first-ever FanFest on Friday, July 12. It’s a two-hour portion of the conference where fans can drink and chat with a roomful of bestselling authors. I look forward to speaking with many authors whom I’ll be meeting for the first time, including Andrew Gross, who I recently interviewed for my blog.

ThrillerFest is bound to be a terrific experience that will yield fascinating stories, photos and advice. Stay tuned to my blog for extensive coverage of the event. It’s going to be something special.

The Da Vinci Code: 10 Years Later

The Da Vinci Code10 years ago Dan Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code, took the world by storm. When it came out, I remember passing by numerous book stores and seeing it prominently displayed as a bestseller for months. Then people I knew started reading it, including my Dad. Once he was done, I read it and thought it was pretty good, but not mind blowing. When the film came out, I went with my Dad and his friends and felt the same way: It was good, but not great.

The Novel

Now that 10 years have passed, I decided to revisit Dan Brown’s most popular book, which went on to sell more than 80 million copies. During these past 10 years, I’ve read hundreds of books, so I was afraid I would think even less of The Da Vinci Code. To my surprise, I enjoyed the book even more than I did the first time. To be fair, I listened to the audiobook version instead of reading the free e-book I downloaded. I opted for the audiobook for two reasons: I love audiobooks and it’s a much faster way to consume books – especially when you work two jobs and go to school, like I do. As an added bonus, the audiobook featured an interview with the screenwriter, Akiva Goldsman, who was tasked with adapting the novel to film, as well as a 2005 Dan Brown speech at the University of New Hampshire. Both special features were interesting and insightful.

All in all, it was an excellent book that magnificently blended fact and fiction. If you’re not one of the millions who has already read it, I highly recommend you check it out right away. It’ll keep you turning pages late into the night wondering what’s going to happen next.

The Film

I also decided to revisit the film, which came out in 2006, and I’m glad I did. I watched the extended version and it was beautifully done. While it wasn’t a line-for-line or scene-for-scene reenactment of the book, Ron Howard did a wonderful job of bringing the novel to life through film. The cast was excellent across the board, especially Sir Ian McKellan as Leigh Teabing. The score by Hanz Zimmer was well done and suited the movie perfectly. Overall, it was a thrilling experience that kept my attention from start to finish.

If you’ve read the book, you’ll notice that certain changes were made in the film, but, in my opinion, some of them helped move the plot along at a faster pace while staying true to the story in the novel. But don’t take my word for it, check out the film, for free, below.

Book Review – Lucid Intervals by Stuart Woods

Lucid IntervalsStuart Woods is one of my favorite fiction writers. I’ve read many of his Stone Barrington and Holly Barker books, as well as a handful of his standalone novels. Most recently I read Lucid Intervals, a Stone Barrington novel, and it was very good. Unlike other thriller writers, Woods’ books don’t move at a break-neck pace. The chapters are longer and the convolution is kept to a minimum. This book highlights an area in which Woods excels: character development. His ability to craft memorable characters throughout this series of books is marvelous. Whether it’s Stone’s many – and I mean many – sexual encounters or Herbie Fisher’s moronically endearing personality, I found myself looking forward to all the encounters between the key and tertiary characters in the novel. The plot was fascinating and the conclusion was satisfying. While it didn’t feature all the twists and turns of Harlan Coben novel, that’s not the way Stuart Woods writes. If you’re a fan of the series or looking to try a different author in the mystery and thriller genre, you can’t go wrong with Lucid Intervals. It’s a compelling story that is well worth your time.

Official Synopsis 

It seems like just another quiet night at Elaine’s. Stone Barrington and his former cop partner Dino are enjoying their drinks when in walks former client and all-around sad sack Herbie Fisher… with a briefcase full of cash and in need of a lawyer.

But while he’s trying to fend off Herbie, Stone is propositioned by another potential client, this one a bit more welcome. A beautiful MI6 agent, Felicity Devonshire has a missing persons case she needs solved—and she knows from experience how very useful Stone can be.

Stone’s investigation takes him into the posh world of embassy soirees and titled privilege, where high society meets government intrigue. And when trouble follows him from his luxurious Manhattan brownstone to his tranquil summer home in Maine, Stone has to decide what to do with the explosive information he’s uncovered.

When I Met Harlan Coben

Me & HarlanI recently met one of my favorite thriller writers for the second time: Harlan Coben. With more than 50 million books in print and his last five consecutive novels debuting at the top of The New York Times Bestseller list, Coben is one of the most successful and skillful authors. He rose to fame with Tell No One, which was turned into an award-winning foreign film, and Coben is also well known for his popular Myron Bolitar novels. If you enjoy thrillers or mysteries in any capacity, I urge you to pick up one of his books. They’re tremendous.

But back to the book signing. So there I was at Barnes & Noble with my girlfriend, eagerly awaiting the arrival of Harlan Coben. I was telling her about his sense of humor and how he doesn’t read from his books during these events. My goal was to make sure she understood this was not going to be a boring book signing. Having read three of his books prior to going, I had a feeling she would leave with a greater appreciation of the man and his work.

Book DisplayWhen Harlan was introduced, I cringed as the book seller butchered Myron Bolitar’s name calling the fictional character Byron Molitar. It’s a strange name, no doubt about it. But either she or the person who typed up the sheet she read off of mercilessly destroyed Myron’s name. Who’s to blame? The world may never know.

Upon his arrival, Coben was met with a wave of applause and he shared the good news that Hugh Jackman is set to appear in the film adaptation of his new novel Six Years. Considering the book just came out, I though it was a heck of an accomplishment. Coben went on to say, “Working with Hollywood is like being separated by a barbed-wire fence. I throw the books over and they throw the money over. Then we both run in opposite directions. Until I’m at the movie premiere, I won’t believe it’s real.”

Q&AOne of the most interesting pieces of information to come out of the evening was Coben’s criteria for what makes a good writer. “You need to have three things: inspiration, perspiration and desperation.” By this he meant, first and foremost a writer needs an idea to write about, following by a strong work ethic. Moreover, Coben feels that writers like himself are fearful of “having to work a real job” if their writing fails. This is where the desperation comes in. “I’m not fit to do anything other than write,” Coben said as fits of laughter echoed through the room.

I had the opportunity to ask Coben a question during the Q&A portion of the event, and he graciously answered. It was about his thoughts on audiobooks, and he went on to tell us about his experience narrating one of his own books. “The producer in the studio told me to slow down and that I didn’t understand the characters. I wrote the characters,” Coben said with a chuckle. He also spent a great deal of time with fans signing books, answering questions, listening to their stories and posing for photos. There’s a reason why I go see Harlan Coben when he’s nearby. Not only is he a great author, he’s a great person. Similar to Lisa Scottoline, he’s genuine. If Coben comes to your neck of the woods, make it a point to attend. You’ll enjoy yourself.

Lisa Scottoline – What Makes A Good Thriller

Lisa ScottolineAs many of you know, I met the terrific writer Lisa Scottoline last year. Below is a fascinating video of her walking through a book store talking about what makes a good thriller.

Book Review – The Silver Linings Playbook

The Silver Linings PlaybookI just finished listening to the audiobook version of The Silver Linings Playbook, and it was excellent. As always, I wanted to read the novel before seeing the movie, and I’m glad I did. From what I’ve heard, the movie changed several key elements of the book. What made this book so enjoyable was the terrific character development and wonderfully absurd dialogue. This novel is tragic, romantic and psychotic, all at once. And the Philadelphia Eagles, Kenny G and Southern New Jersey are all integral parts of the story. It’s unlike any book I’ve ever read, and it’s one I won’t soon forget.

Here’s an excerpt from the audiobook:

Ray Bradbury On Writing

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Having recently read Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 for the first time, I thought I’d share the following clip of him talking about the persistence and inspiration that goes into writing.

Book Review: Now You See Her

James Patterson is arguably America’s most popular author. He’s sold 260 million books worldwide and holds the record for most hardcover fiction titles to appear on The New York Times Bestseller list: 76. Needless to say, he’s everywhere – even my shore house.

During my trip to Ocean City last week, I found a copy of Now You See Her in the living room. This title caught my eye last summer when it was first released, so I was determined to finish it before coming back to Philadelphia. Like many of Patterson’s books, it was a gripping adventure filled with unpredictable twists and turns.

Here’s the book’s official description from James Patterson’s website:

The perfect life
A successful lawyer and loving mother, Nina Bloom would do anything to protect the life she’s built in New York–including lying to everyone, even her daughter, about her past. But when an innocent man is framed for murder, she knows that she can’t let him pay for the real killer’s crimes.

The perfect lie
Nina’s secret life began 18 years ago. She had looks to die for, a handsome police-officer husband, and a carefree life in Key West. When she learned she was pregnant with their first child, her happiness was almost overwhelming. But Nina’s world is shattered when she unearths a terrible secret that causes her to run for her life and change her identity.

The perfect way to die
Now, years later, Nina risks everything she’s earned to return to Florida and confront the murderous evil she fled. In a story of wrenching suspense, James Patterson gives us his most head-spinning, action-filled story yet–a Hitchcock-like blend of unquenchable drama and pleasure.

Similar to his previous works, Now You See Her started off with a bang and didn’t let go until the last page. It moved at a break-neck pace and featured over-the-top action. Moreover, the characters were believable and the villains’ dialogue was delicious. While Patterson’s prose would never be confused with Stephen King’s, if you suspend your disbelief and give Now You See Her a shot, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Below is an interview with James Patterson about Now You See Her:

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