BOOK: The Lighthouse Keeper (2017)

The Lighthouse Keeper Year: 2017 Author: Cynthia Ellingsen Length: 380 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** I’d love to call this book “cute,” but I’m afraid Kip would toss me into Lake Michigan. That being said, part of me now wants to go out, get a nautical compass tattoo on my arm and buy a dilapidated lighthouse to restore. I don’t usually read “romance” novels. Of course, I'm not sure I could even consider this book in that genre since it had so many other aspects to it, but I almost immediately fell in love with the characters and the setting. The story came to life in my head, even to the point where I started mentally casting the movie (probably Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Evans, and Reese Witherspoon for starters). While the main premise that started the plot seemed a little unbelievable (why would this insurance company have a lien on a house that isn’t insured by them?), the story has a ton...
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BOOK: The Wind-up Bird Chronicle (1994)

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle Year: 1994 Author: Haruki Murakami Length: 1,572 minutes / 26.2 hours A coworker of mine suggested this book to me a few months back. The title sounded interesting, so I put it on my Overdrive wish list and waited for it to become available. Both he and I have a somewhat thorough understanding of Japanese culture, so once I got into this book, I found myself imagining it as an anime. Of course, because The Wind-up Bird Chronicle was originally written in Japanese, there are plenty of cultural idiosyncrasies that might be hard to understand from a different cultural viewpoint. At times, the content is a bit weird, the sex awkward, and the violence strangely surgical. What was quite refreshing with the narrative in The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, was its timelessness. Written in the early 1990’s and set in the mid-1980’s, only a few technological items (i.e. a land line, an early computer, etc.) haven’t held up well over time. Everything else...
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MOVIE: Power Rangers (2017)

Power Rangers Year: 2017 Rating: PG-13 Length: 124 minutes / 2.06 hours In one of the many gritty reboots of a nostalgic 1990’s franchise, I didn’t have much expectation for Power Rangers (2017). The original show was pretty campy, with a tried-and-true plot structure that didn’t change much from episode to episode. In fact, I probably couldn’t tell you the specific plot of any of the episodes. They’d usually follow this format: the main villain would go about trying to obtain some goal via their minions/henchmen, the Power Rangers would morph and fight the minions/henchmen, the minions/henchmen would grow large and start destroying everything, the Power Rangers would call their Zords out to battle, and (finally) the Zords would combine into the Megazord and the foe would be vanquished. While Power Rangers did follow some of the structure of the television show format, it also managed to create characters with some depth and background to them. From a disgraced football star to an autistic teen...
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BOOK: 7th Son – Descent (2006)

7th Son: Descent Year: 2006 Author: J.C. Hutchins Length: 368 pages I managed to find this book on a table full of free books at a convention some time ago and tucked it away in my “to read” pile. Now that I’ve finished most of the Goodreads giveaways I have received, I decided to give it a read. With nothing other than the title (which doesn’t tell me much) and the cover (which gives a little more information), I honestly didn’t know what to expect from this book. Since it was on a table of free books, I didn’t have much expectation for it, but boy did it ever deliver! With a fantastically engaging idea and a blisteringly fast execution, 7th Son: Descent pulled me in from the get-go and wouldn’t let go. Action! Espionage! Science! Without ever becoming too mired in the details (but providing enough to have the plot make sense), this book successfully made a story about cloning that wasn’t trite or...
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BOOK: The Da Vinci Code (2003)

The Da Vinci Code Year: 2003 Author: Dan Brown Length: 454 pages What a difference three years makes! Even though it contains all the same tropes and motifs that Angels and Demons did, The Da Vinci Code eliminates the fluff and focuses on the strengths of these individual pieces to create an enthralling adventure through Christian history. I will admit that I first read this book because I was curious about the controversy that surrounded it. While Dan Brown is a fantastic storyteller, and many of his connections and links to Christianity made sense, I still maintain that, at its core, The Da Vinci Code is just well-written fiction. This time around, Robert Langdon is much better suited for the task of finding the “Holy Grail” instead of being a glorified Roman tour guide. His expertise in symbology certainly helped to drive the plot forward, even if it sometimes was in a misleading direction for the sake of a twist. I did appreciate how, even...
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MOVIE: Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Ghost in the Shell Year: 2017 Rating: PG-13 Length: 107 minutes / 1.78 hours Having only seen the original Ghost in the Shell (1995) film (and its 2008 remake), and not having read the manga on which it was based, most of my comparisons of the 2017 live-action adaptation are from the anime film adaptations that came before it. For its time, the original Ghost in the Shell movie was revolutionary. Along with similarly violent anime films like Akira (1988), Ghost in the Shell showed the world that animation wasn’t just for kids. The adult and more psychological aspects of these films are what helped set them apart as some of the groundbreaking films in the anime genre. Regarding the live-action remake, I think it honestly took too long to get here. The concepts of cybernetically enhanced humans are surprisingly close to realized technology today. Given that these ideas seemed quite futuristic in the early 1990’s, the fact that they are plausible within the next...
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BOOK: The Tracker (2017)

The Tracker Year: 2017 Author: Chad Zunker Length: 336 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** As I mentioned in my review of Hard Road, I’m starting to find myself genuinely enjoying the thriller genre. The pace is almost frenetic, the action is exciting, and the stakes are always high. The first book in the Sam Callahan series, The Tracker is all of these tropes and clichés, but it also has much more. While most thrillers have protagonists who are older and have plenty of life (and tactical) experience, The Tracker decides to go much younger with the main character. Granted, this choice works because Sam Callahan has already lived a lifetime out on the streets and managed to escape its clutches and now considers himself better in spite of it. Even though I appreciated the depth of the main character, part of me felt ripped away from the action each time the book went into “flashback mode.” Sometimes these sections would cover many...
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BOOK: Angels and Demons (2000)

Angels and Demons Year: 2000 Author: Dan Brown Length: 416 minutes / 6.93 hours While Angels and Demons is not nearly as popular as its sequel, the famous (if not infamous) The Da Vinci Code, the elements which led to its successor’s success are certainly all contained within this first book in the Robert Langdon series. Of course, just because you have the materials to build a nice house doesn’t mean that it magically becomes a mansion. Despite containing many of the elements that made The Da Vinci Code so good, Angels and Demons feels a little underdeveloped in quite a few areas. First, the protagonist, Robert Langdon, is supposed to feel like an “Indiana Jones”-type character, but with a specialty like symbology as his background, I just can’t buy the action-hero transformation of this everyday academic. Add to this the almost repetitive nature of his “discoveries” wherein he makes an assessment, then goes to the location of the assessment only to find that he...
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MOVIE: Split (2016)

Split Year: 2016 Rating: PG-13 Length: 117 minutes / 1.95 hours For many years, M. Night Shyamalan’s directing career has been in continual decline. Many people, myself included, felt his groundbreaking work with The Sixth Sense (1999) was the peak of what he had to offer. Sure, Unbreakable (2000) and Signs (2002) were good movies that had their moments, but from that point onward, the films he made just got worse and worse. Although I have not seen it, 2015’s The Visit seemed to be a return to form for Shyamalan, indicating that his directing was no longer washed up. In Split (2017), we see that Shyamalan has been able to recapture the magic that made his previous films so memorable. The first thing I noticed in Split was the cinematography. The camera lets the audience see just enough to let them know that something is amiss, often preparing the viewer for an occasional jump scare. Secondly, James McAvoy’s performance was impeccable. Taking on the...
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BOOK: Julia Dream (2017)

Julia Dream Year: 2017 Author: Fabia Scali-Warner Length: 280 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM THE AUTHOR*** When I received a request to review Julia Dream, the author told me I might like it because I enjoyed Ender’s Game. This book is no Ender’s Game. While the eponymous character of Julia Dream is a teenager conscripted into military service, much like the titular Ender from Ender’s Game, that’s essentially where the similarities end. Ender endured persecution and harsh realities and learned to work them into a strategic advantage over an alien species. Julia seemed to be picked at random to defend an empire, then promoted with no other reason than she survived easily survivable situations. Part of why I genuinely loved Ender’s Game was because the immersive narrative built upon itself, adding interesting characters who added to a well-rounded cast of compatriots. This is part of why I did not enjoy Julia Dream. As I read, I didn't engage with the main character, who was robotic and...
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