Tagged: book reviews

Review of The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead (A Bloodline Novel)

Fiery Heart

The most fitting way to describe this book is by telling the truth. It is both good and bad.

You may be wondering how I ever stumbled upon Richelle Mead’s The Fiery Heart. The answer: one semester of translating Hebrew and Greek. I mentioned to a friend that over the break I just wanted to read something easy and preferably out of the norm for my tastes. I was thinking sci-fi or fantasy. I thought that that conversation bore no fruit, so I drove to the bookstore where I picked up Octavia Butler’s supposedly sci-fi story Kindredchosen literally by its cover. Sci-fi written by a black woman, who knew? (Review coming soon).

Kindred

Anyhow, the next morning I found Mrs. Read’s vampire tale on my windshield and decided to follow the rabbit. Like I said, it’s good and bad. The following sentences should demonstrate what I mean.

There was just her and the feel of her lips, the exquisite way they managed to be soft and fierce at the same time.

I admit that one caught my attention. It is on page three, and it caught my attention because while I was in college, I took an ethics class. (Oh the fondness of that memory.) There was a lady in the class who had some very odd tendencies, and one friend and I identified these tendencies and exploited them. We were classically behaving as “little shits.” In short, while we ate lunch before class, we would decide which of her tendencies we would adopt and then impose them on the classroom discussions at will. One of our innocent classmate’s tendencies was to answer in opposites. You can imagine the fun we had as we concluded any ethical analysis with, “I guess, what I’m trying to say is, I think it’s both right and wrong.” And the best part was that the woman would resoundingly answer, “That’s how I feel!”

Back to blood boilers and dhampirs (thought I’m still not sure exactly what those are). As I read Mrs. Mead’s novel, I kept noticing this tendency to invoke contradictions in the name of good writing. I didn’t start keeping track until about half-way through the book, but here are a string of them. They occurred about every forty-ish pages.

Her long, dark hair spilled over her shoulders, and there was a fire in her brown eyes that was both dangerous (wait for it) and alluring.

And another.

Even through my jeans, that touch was provocative and made me think of all the times he’d run his hands over my legs. It was agonizing…(drumroll please) and exquisite.

Another.

Time stopped having meaning. It seemed like both an eternity and (How short? Please, I can’t wait a moment longer!) a heartbeat before I was cognizant of my surroundings again.

More bluntly.

This isn’t the same as you running off to a witch’s tea party! This is life and (Let me guess…) death. (YES! I was right.)

Last one, for effect. The speaker is talking to the human girl who is dating the vampire boy.

And that’s the thing, I think…the real reason I’m not that weirded out by you two. It goes against all sound logic, but somehow, you two together…it (Anyone else’s head feel warm?) just (Oh boy. I’m not feeling so good anymore. Bathroom please.) works. (Hurrrl. Now, retract tongue.)

Besides these juxtapositions of contradictory and ultimately inconsequential platitudes, the book contains two hundred plus pages of foreplay and a disappointing sex scene, prescription drug use, illicit drug use, and a whole host of other unsavory behaviors (all by eighteen year old’s) which in and of themselves certainly need no help being normalized into our degrading civilization. Oh, and there was a lot of mouth’s crushing together. Considering the nature of vampire teeth, that seems dangerous. And life-giving.

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It’s Just Us, Daddy, Written by Pete Deakon and Illustrated by Kaelyn Williams Now Available On Kindle. Buy it!

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That is Patently Untrue–A Review of Matt Damon’s Opening Claim in The Martian Trailer

“Every human being has a basic instinct to help each other out…this instinct is found in every culture without exception.”

From his dissection of the card player’s hands in Rounders, to his dissertation on clubbing baby seals in Good Will Hunting, to his explanation that he knows which vehicle in the parking lot is most likely to have a gun in it in Bourne Identity and more, in just about all of his films Mr. Damon has proven he can memorize and deliver long, dry, and yet convincing speeches that seem like they might trip up other acting professionals. And that’s fine and dandy. I like those movies and I like his characters in those movies. But I don’t know if anyone likes to hear what he has to say after he clocks out, and it seems like the two are beginning to merge. Recently, he’s starred in films that sacrifice entertainment value in favor of agendas, films like the one about fracking. Soooo dramatic. And they’re probably filled with science. Again, whatever.

A year or so ago a couple handed me the book The Martian because they knew I had applied to be an emigrant to Mars. I read it and reviewed it here. This book is now a major motion picture. And all of this is very interesting to me and probably every other independent author, as its author published the book by his own self years before it got picked up by a major publisher and now Hollywood. It looks like Mr. Weir self-published it in 2011, three years before the big boys picked it up in 2014. So it seems that five years after self-publishing a quality book any one of us could watch A-listers act out our story on the big screen. That’s neat. Anyhow, back to the point. The book has nothing to do with making a statement about “every culture” of humans. Anyone that disagrees with this is flat out wrong and I would argue hasn’t read the book. And yet somehow (I picture a lot of whining and temper tantrums and threats to walk out of the room) Matt Damon opens the preview to what looks like a fantastic new space movie with this bogus notion that every culture has a basic instinct to help each other out. I can buy every human does on an individual level. There’s books about that. But the simple fact is there are plenty of cultures who don’t rescue people who find themselves stranded on Mars or mountain tops or the side of the highway. What’s worse is there are plenty of cultures who actively believe in kidnapping people for money or political statements. These cultures are generally those not labeled The West.

I buy and promote the truth that if we’re talking about the level of the soul, then we’re all just people making our way through this world and will more times than not help each other when able. But it is not true that in groups (cultures) we’re all the same and without quantifiable, measurable differences that can be labeled “better” or “worse”–no matter how hard we wish for it.

Quick Note

With a full-time job again, I don’t have time to work, come up with fiction blog posts, and write fiction books. That said, I recently received what I would call the divine inspiration I have been waiting for regarding my next book, so until it is complete, the only posts you’ll likely see will be book/movie reviews or “daughter project” ones. But the new book is going to be great.

One thing I have learned from my two short novels that I hope to put to practice with the new book is that while I was thinking, “Let them test the waters”, the truth is I prefer to settle into a long book if I’m going to read a book at all, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. Whereas my books are similar to a movie’s two-hour run-time, a book differs from a movie in that it is something I want to build a relationship with. So this next book is going to be long. And that makes me smile. And it’s going to have violence and sex just the way you want it. And that should make you smile. Suckers!

Review of The Message Of The Cross, by Derek Tidball

When I read a book or watch a movie I am on the look out for the one thing upon which the book or film is centered. Sometimes this one thing can be an entire scene, but more often than not, I find that it is one line. As an illustration, I would argue that the entire movie Monster’s Ball was built to make Halle Berry’s guttural “I want you to make me feel good. Can you make me feel good?” confession as powerful as it was.

Which brings me to this book I received from a pastor’s personal stash. It’s all about both the symbolism and (possible) reality of Jesus of Nazareth’s crucifixion. The author, Tidball, is a pastor and the book certainly carries his preaching voice throughout. This is mostly annoying. On the whole, there are all sorts of quasi-theological points and what have you, but unless you’re a Christian looking to invest some time acquiring answers to some very particular questions, I don’t think this book has much value–save one point.

With an emphasis on an “everyone is on their own journey” attitude, one thing that keeps me very interested in Christianity is its prophetic aspect. I wrote earlier about discovering the money-changer showdown prior to the arrest and crucifixion was at the temple, the same one that was destroyed as Jesus seems to have prophesied, the same one whose site is still being fought over today in the middle east.

Likewise, Tidball’s single scene or line in The Cross is found in Genesis 22:6. He calls to our attention that during the infamous Old Testament scene where Abraham unquestioningly follows god’s command to sacrifice his first and only son, the Bible has it that Abraham places the wood for the burnt offering on his son Isaac’s back for him to carry up the mountain. Boom!

Or crickets.

Remember that we’re talking about stories here. Remember also that words are not things, but the way we attempt to describe things.

So you’re telling me that the one true god’s chosen people–meant to be a beacon of hope for the world–out of whom some say the savior of the world was birthed had as their founding father and exemplar a man who obeyed this god’s command to sacrifice his son up to the point of the down-stroke of the knife; you’re telling me that the son walked with wood on his back at some point during the event? And then, thousands of years after this story had taken root, you’re telling me that a man who claimed to be the savior of the world carried wood on his back as he willfully submitted to his own sacrificial execution? In my book, that’s a pretty powerful and difficult to deny theme, a theme that might actively contribute to the claim that one story reigns as the greatest story ever told.

Unfortunately, in my own life of late I can admit that the Christian god has been at the least hiding, at the most absent in certain tribulations. And yet Isaac carried wood on his back long before Rome invented crucifixion or a father god sacrificed his own son.

I don’t know what to do with information like this, but I will say that I find it to be the most pleasant and empowering thing to think on, so I will continue to do so.

Buy It Today! It’s Just Us, Daddy, by Pete Deakon and Illustrated by Kaelyn Williams is on sale now

You read that correctly. The long awaited illustrated children’s book is finally for sale on Amazon. Buy it by clicking here. Or here. Or here. You can also click here.

I plan on giving it to Glenn of Glenn Hates Books at the end of next week. Please don’t let his review (as awesome as it will be) be the first/only one posted.
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Review of Birdman, starring Batman

I wanted to be really edgy with this review of Keaton’s Best Picture-winning Birdman and use “circle-jerk” in the opening sentence. Then something told me that I might not be the first wannabe movie critic to use this adolescently pejorative gimmick to describe this film. Googling “birdman circle-jerk”, I confirmed my suspicions. Oh well. As another similarly themed saying goes, if you wait, you masturbate.

My new co-workers are one of the least movie-watching crowds I’ve ever labored alongside. There are moments, you can imagine, when this circumstance causes me to question my love of movies. I’ll ask myself, “Have I been wasting my time?” and “Is there more to life?” However, as time goes on, the moments shorten and the doubts disappear.

After watching Birdman, though, ironically my questioning clamored to deafening levels.

Forget that a movie about a movie star won best picture. The only question that ran through my head for the duration was whether or not an expertly made film depicting the ups and downs experienced by the people behind the stage and screen has any inherent metaphorical value for me. Put another way, “Are celebrity’s problems really the same as my problems, only amplified by fame and fortune?” Or yet another, “Does every human being live on a ledge from which they jump, sometimes falling, sometimes flying?” To all these questions I answer, “No.” I say, just like with the quickly-fading-from-view 50 Shades phenomenon, the difficulty with this movie is remembering that I don’t have to let these people frame the discussion. Despite every effort on all our parts to turn celebrities into gods, they are not gods. But remembering this is admittedly challenging because they are rich. And that means they must know something I don’t, right?

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Prelude to this review’s conclusion: Today I can’t recall what BDSM stands for. And while right now I feel like I may be able to identify with the major motif of Birdman, even admiring all of its on-point updates to the reigning annal of contemporary social history Forrest Gump, I know that tomorrow I will look forward to the new Mad Max. 

Conclusion: As always Hollywood, less talk, more work.

Who Loves His Daughter More? Arnold vs. Liam, A Joint Review of Maggie and Taken

“Good will overcome. Trust in that.”

Lord Locksley is right yet again.

I hated Liam Neeson’s blockbuster Taken. Hated it. I hated it despite finding myself in a pool of people who loved it, people who adored it, people who worshiped it. It came out while I was still serving and both the men and women serving beside me couldn’t get enough of it. They also couldn’t keep their enthusiasm to themselves. A happy soul would volunteer they watched it on a long flight, and at least one listener would perk up with, “You saw Taken? What’d you think of it? Awesome, right? I loved it.”

I instinctively hated Taken because it is too easy. Is there any thing Neeson can’t do? No. He’s the most highly skilled and trained operative the world has ever seen. And he’s a dad. Then his virgin daughter gets kidnapped. Yes, I said virgin. His daughter is a virgin, and the whole movie rests on this one simple fact. Like a Fifty Shades of Grey for men, Taken is nothing more than fantasy of the basest kind. What wouldn’t a father with Neeson’s skills do to get his virgin daughter back? American macho men itch for a predicament like this, for a hero to cheer on, for a scenario that they can dream about happening to them. Wouldn’t it be nice if perfect, beautiful, innocent girls were being harmed? Then we could go torture and kill some people without losing sleep at night. Give me a break. Don’t believe my little theory? Ask yourself if you would’ve enjoyed the movie if the daughter had a reputation of being sexually active? Ask yourself how you would’ve felt if when given the horse for her birthday, the daughter had responded, “Aww, you shouldn’t have. I appreciate the effort, but I wanted something ‘hung like a horse’, not an actual horse.”

Yeah, yeah. I get it. I’m alone in my criticism. What else is new? I’m alone, but never without hope. For a long time I’ve waited for someone–anyone–to tell a good father-daughter story. You can imagine my excitement when, yesterday, I stumbled upon Arnold’s newest flick Maggie.

The premise? Zombies. The location? Rural Kansas. The conflict? Arnold’s late teenage daughter is infected with the dealio that turns people into zombies. But Arnold promised her mom, before she died (the mom, not the daughter) that he’d keep her (the daughter) safe.

That’s a remarkable story. The kiddo is going to become a flesh-eating zombie, and you have to kill it or it will kill you. What do you do? What will audiences cheer for? Who wins? Is it believable?

In this simple story, Arnold, the man who single-handedly inspired me and countless millions of others to exercise, essentially standing chest kicks Liam and his Taken nonsense 300-style into the pit. In effect, Arnold says, “You think traipsing around the globe killing people over your virgin daughter is love? Ha. You don’t know what love is, buddy.”

Kansans know what love is though. And I’d like to take a moment to personally thank Arnold for demonstrating this. “Thank you.”

Even before MaggieMan of Steel did Kansans right with an amazing, old t-shirted (seriously, how do they make a t-shirt look so perfectly old?) Kevin Costner and his confident-yet-never-certain wisdom that goes against seemingly common sense which molded Clark into, well, Superman. Yahoo for Kansas.

You know that I grew up in Kansas. Kansas, which is beside Missouri–the Show Me state–must be the place then where I picked up my anti-authority, anti-utilitarianism attitude. The same attitude that Arnold and the other Kansans have in Maggie. The attitude that says, “So what if the government has mandated that infected folks have to be quarantined until they’re killed, so what if I might not be able to do what needs to be done before it’s too late and consequently the larger group is put at even more risk. So what? Who are you to tell me what to do? I only have one daughter, and I made a promise to her dead mother. There is more going on here than you and your rules.”

In the end, of course, Arnold kicks Liam’s ass. The movie is fantastic. There is actually another father-daughter sub-plot that takes the cake, but you have to see it to believe it. No spoilers here. If you secretly or overtly laughed at Taken, watch Maggie.

Review of Maid In Manhattan, Err, Jupiter Ascending by The Wachowskis

“What are you trying to tell me? That I can dodge bullets?”

“No, Neo. I’m trying to tell you that when you’re ready, you won’t have to.”

Seemingly new, fresh, sleek, palatable, and a ton of fun, The Matrix might be the second most pivotal movie in my movie-watching career. (Easy, TC, I said second most.) Two and Three aren’t bad either if you can get over yourself. It’s difficult to comprehend that the same two minds that created that trilogy unleashed Jupiter Ascending on us.

So groundbreaking were those three films that it’s troublesome to attempt to recall what popular opinion held regarding Keanu Reeves before Neo. He was laughable in an unforgettable kind of way in Bill and Ted’s. Eighteen movies later takes us to The Devil’s Advocate, (his last role before Neo) which is very watchable. I guess where I’m going is I heard once that Forrest Gump was cast as the lead astronaut in Apollo 13 precisely because the team behind that film knew that they needed an actor whom, once stranded in space, moviegoers would unanimously desire to bring back to Earth.

My question to the Wachowskis is, “What the heck?” Channing Tatum? Is there any moviegoer who wants to credit a victory on any level, much less the cosmic level, to Magic Mike?

I matter. Think of me. I, just for myself, purchased at least eight theater tickets for the Matrix films. I owned the VHS of the first one and then still went ahead and later bought the collector’s edition DVDs of the entire trilogy in the neat holographic packaging. I have also raved about V for Vendetta countless times. Are you telling me that you think I ever want to see Channing Tatum in a movie? Let some lesser filmmakers get him to blossom. You two are too good to be guessing.

Lastly, I feel like I was lied to. And that makes me sad. We all know that movie trailers are supposed to entice us to see a movie by telling us a compelling story that isn’t what the actual movie is really about. But nowhere, NOWHERE, in the trailers did your team indicate that Mila Kunis’ character was an immigrant housemaid before she got caught up in the whole “your majesty” bit. What are we doing here? Teaching impoverished little girls that aren’t in the theater with me to never stop dreaming? The reason I feel lied to is that you spent all that effort on the film and yet left the one reason no adult man would pay to see the movie out of the preview. Tisk Tisk.

Neo, awesome. Trinity, even awesomer. V and Evie, amazing. Jupiter? Trust is broken. But don’t worry. I’m easy. You can make it up to me next time. Just please, make it up to me.