BOOK: A Natural (2017)

A Natural Year: 2017 Author: Ross Raisin Length: 386 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** This book was, without a doubt, the gayest book I’ve ever read. Usually, I don’t read books with LGBTQ+ themes, but the cover and title led me to believe it was about soccer (or, in this case, football). I am not against books with these themes, per se, as long as the characters are likable and relatable. It’s just I would hope that Random House isn’t merely publishing books with these themes to get “automatic” sales from people who want to support the LGBTQ+ movement. Unfortunately, based on the weakness of the story in A Natural, I suspect this was the only reason a large publisher released it. For a book I thought was about football, actual instances of the sport being played collectively comprises perhaps 1% of the entire book. That’s roughly 3.86 pages of football in a book about football players. If you’re looking for tension and...
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BOOK: Kidnapped (1886)

Kidnapped Year: 1886 Author: Robert Louis Stevenson Length: 158 minutes / 2.63 hours Another one of those “short adventures” that I have finally gotten around to reading, Kidnapped doesn’t suffer from some of the attributes that I found irritating about Captains Courageous. Sure, some of my qualms with Captains Courageous came from the audiobook itself but Kidnapped managed to have an easy-to-understand narrator as well as some sound effects and music that added to the experience of the book. As for the book itself, Kidnapped is pretty basic despite its title being only a small fraction of its plot. Even despite its short length, a lot happens in Kidnapped. Aside from the obvious kidnapping, many events transpired because of it, including escaping and returning home. Of course, partly because of the short length of the book, the action moves at a pretty quick pace that was sometimes difficult to follow (which may also be an artifact of the time when it was written). The language...
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MOVIE: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Year: 2016 Rating: PG-13 Length: 133 minutes / 2.22 hours As someone who never fully immersed themselves in the Harry Potter fandom, this spin-off wasn't high on my "to watch" list. Sure, I liked the movies well enough for the continual narrative they provided (still haven't gotten to the books yet), and I understand that this parallel universe full of magic is a unique idea that hasn't been explored in this fashion, but this just seems like a tag-along to capitalize on a successful franchise. That's not to say that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) isn't good, it's just that it does require a bit of background knowledge in order to fully "get it." Partly because seeing wizardry and magic in the modern era might still seem odd, this throwback to the past is only made better by placing it in the United States. Both of these settings differ from the main Harry Potter franchise enough...
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BOOK: Boys vs. Men – The Definition of a Man (2017)

Boys vs. Men – The Definition of a Man Year: 2017 Author: Noah N. Johnson Length: 122 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** Now, more than ever, society needs a good, hard look at what it means to be a man. For years and decades, absentee fathers have created generations of males who turn to less-reputable sources for their male role models. When I won this book as a Goodreads Giveaway, I was hopeful that it could be a resource I could recommend to “boys” who need to grow up into “men,” regardless of their age. Unfortunately, while this book addresses some of the fundamental issues of manhood, it doesn’t go nearly deep enough to hit the problems endemic with full-grown boys who should act like men. In defense of the author, this seems to be his first book, made evident by the very casual style of writing and a lack of understanding when it comes to interior formatting (all the pages were...
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BOOK: On Writing (2000)

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft Year: 2000 Author: Stephen King Length: 480 minutes / 8.0 hours While I don't usually read horror books, the only ones that I have read were written by Stephen King. Consequently, when I found that he had written a book about writing, it struck me as an opportunity to get into the head of a prolific and successful writer. As a writer of novels myself, I am always looking for ways to improve my writing. I have come a long way in eight years, and King's little book here merely confirms that I'm doing the right things that a writer should do to help their craft. Written as a half-memoir, On Writing is a personal look into the upbringing and life of Stephen King, which then helps inform what and how he writes. Suddenly, you start to understand why he writes the things he does. Intermingled amidst these moments of becoming the writer he is today, King sprinkles in abundant gems...
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MOVIE: Despicable Me 3 (2017)

Despicable Me 3 Year: 2017 Rating: PG Length: 90 minutes / 1.50 hours Sometimes I wonder how this franchise became so popular. Perhaps this perception is due to the oversaturation of the annoying little “Minions” that seem to pervade every corner of social media. And yet, when I go to see a movie like this, I am soon reminded that there are relatable and underappreciated storylines and plot points contained within this silliness. I have rarely seen a better “adoption” storyline than the one presented in Despicable Me (2010). Of course, Despicable Me 2 (2013) took the natural next step and provided a “single dad looking for a wife” storyline that also is rarely seen in animation. With Despicable Me 3 (2017), the franchise transitions more into a series of vignettes better suited for a television show than a feature-length film. It was a little hard to tell which storyline was the main one for the film, even if they were all intertwined in some...
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BOOK: Plane (2017)

Plane Year: 2017 Author: William Hrdina Length: 148 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** Two things help to create a good story: little to no suspension of disbelief, and realistic characters. The more a writer has to justify what they’re doing in the world they’ve written, either through scientific or historical inaccuracies, the harder it is for the reader to accept the story they’ve been given. Similarly, if the characters are only flat stereotypes or caricatures that act in pre-defined ways based on these broad brushstrokes, the reader can’t take the story seriously. Unfortunately, Plane fails on both of these elements. If anything, its short, novella length is its redemption since the reader doesn’t have to invest much into reading it. Let’s start with the suspension of disbelief. First off, I doubt a college student would be allowed to fill in for a professor at an international conference, let alone one where the student would be speaking on behalf of the professor. That...
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BOOK: The Killing Floor (1997)

The Killing Floor Year: 1997 Author: Lee Child Length: 1,067 minutes / 17.78 hours The first book in the Jack Reacher series is certainly a thriller, through-and-through. I certainly can understand its appeal, especially for male readers, since it has plenty of violence and sex while also exhibiting a number of action sequences. Consequently, it felt somewhat “pulpy” in that it was entertainment for entertainment’s sake. Sure, it’s a fun thrill-ride, but certain elements didn’t invest me in the characters. Jack Reacher himself is probably the majority of this issue, as he’s a drifter with little-to-no connections to anything or anyone, merely acting as a conduit to make action/killing happen. As for the core mystery of The Killing Floor, it was a fascinating premise and had a slow unraveling to keep me intrigued along the way. This was undoubtedly the strength of the book since it was a unique and intriguing twist on a pretty common crime. With a small cast of characters, the plot...
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MOVIE: The Dark Tower (2017)

The Dark Tower Year: 2017 Rating: PG-13 Length: 93 minutes / 1.55 hours Like many “best-selling” books and book series made into movies, I don’t have the time to sit down and read them all before their film adaptations are released. The Dark Tower (2017) is no different. In fact, I was only made aware of the Dark Tower series shortly before the movie was announced. Therefore, unlike the diehard fans of the series, I had no expectations for the film other than the understanding that there would be some interesting fantasy/sci-fi elements presented on the big screen. Unfortunately, at a measly 93 minutes of runtime, The Dark Tower felt a little . . . light. Sure, all the essential elements of the story were there: the gunslinger protagonist (Idris Elba), the magical “Man in Black” antagonist (Matthew McConaughey), and the conflict of good vs. evil. And yet, so much of the plot seemed glossed over that the entire movie felt like a trailer for...
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BOOK: Stop Licking That (2017)

Stop Licking That Year: 2017 Author: Karin Mitchell Length: 270 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM THE AUTHOR*** As someone who does not have kids yet, I’ve read plenty about what to expect in the transition to parenthood. Stop Licking That takes the no-nonsense approach with a slightly humorous spin to let new parents know that it’s going to be a messy process for the first couple of years. While each of the chapters covers some topic about raising kids (especially two young boys), the stories tied to these sections end up being some of the same kinds of stories you’d hear from any other parent of young boys. If anything, Stop Licking That merely confirms that we shouldn’t take parenthood too seriously. As I received an Advanced Reader Copy for my review, I will assume that the handful of minor proofreading errors have been fixed. I also hope the gutter margins were increased, so the words don’t get lost in the crease between pages. I...
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