BOOK: If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? (2017)

If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? Year: 2017 Author: Alan Alda Length: 213 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** While miscommunication might be the source of conflict for romantic comedies, it’s a much more significant problem in the real world. If people aren’t able to efficiently and accurately communicate with their fellow man, then we all have room for improvement. Scientists and doctors are often the worst offenders, even though their ideas need to be communicated to the world for the advancement of society. Alan Alda has spent years trying to figure out why people are unable to communicate, and he has also figured out what we can do to improve this situation. As a scientist and writer, I feel many of his insights have merit. I grew up watching Alan Alda on Scientific American Frontiers, so I know how often he has interacted with scientists. His conclusions that we can all become better communicators through empathy and...
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BOOK: The Carpet People (1971)

The Carpet People Year: 1971 Author: Terry Pratchett Length: 335 minutes / 5.58 hours Having now read one of Terry Pratchett's books, I thought it might be interesting to go back and read his very first work. Many authors don't manage to become famous with their very first book, and I think Terry Pratchett is no exception here. The Carpet People is an amusing book with his standard British charm, but I think it never goes far enough in its exploration of the idea. After all, I was expecting this book to be more along the lines of The Borrowers instead of just a straight-up fantasy with a few references to the fact that these creatures lived in the carpet. Part of the problem I seemed to have with this book was the incessant need for fantasy books to create new names for objects and creatures that already (mostly) exist. If you took away the carpet setting, I think this book could be practically indistinguishable from...
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MOVIE: Call Me by Your Name (2017)

Call Me by Your Name Year: 2017 Rating: R Length: 132 minutes / 2.20 hours Call Me by Your Name (2017) is the latest in a string of LGBTQ+ films nominated for Best Picture. Each year, we seem to see one of these LGBTQ+ films nominated for the highest award, but this year there’s a much more fundamental problem with it. Around the time the definition of marriage was changed by the U.S. Government, many opponents warned of a slippery slope that would lead to acceptance of lifestyles that are currently illegal. Call Me by Your Name is proof that we have proceeded down this slope. I understand that the themes of “first love” are what draw people to this film, and I’d be OK with that if the theme never entered sexual territory. As it is, this movie glamorizes sexual relations with a minor. This is statutory rape, which is illegal. Even if the parties involved were heterosexual, this would still be wrong. Unfortunately, I think it’s...
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BOOK: The Silent Invader (2017)

The Silent Invader Year: 2017 Author: R.B. Thurman Length: 353 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** I don’t think I’ve ever read a book like this. In this case, that’s not a good thing. As a self-published author, I know how exciting it is to see my writing in print. Being able to hold a physical copy of my work in my hands feels good, but only if I know the content inside is worthy of the printed page. After struggling through The Silent Invader, I’m honestly wondering if I’m the first person, including the author, to read it all the way through (the only other rating so far is from the author, and he’s obviously biased). So much of the use of present tense, repeated word usage, passive voice sentences, and preposition-ended sentences just sound awkward and could easily be fixed if the author were to read this book out loud. Unfortunately, the grammatical errors that plague this book aren’t the only problem...
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BOOK: Ganymede (2011)

Ganymede Year: 2011 Author: Cherie Priest Length: 729 minutes / 12.15 hours Now that I’ve read the first three books in the Clockwork Century series, any hope I had of some cohesive narrative is essentially gone. While following a new character for each book helps to provide a different setting of the steampunk alternate universe, when I know these characters won’t matter outside their own books, I kind of stop caring about them. Even previous heroines are relegated to cameo and minor character status as the persistent series of somewhat pointless events drags on. And don’t even get me started on the zombies, which are a distraction to any actual story in my opinion. I think the main problem I have with these books is the fact that things happen without much lead-up or foreshadowing. Sure, there are some fascinating factors involved with making a submarine work in the Civil War era, but the resulting battle and conclusion went exactly as I expected them to. This isn’t...
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MOVIE: Lady Bird (2017)

Lady Bird Year: 2017 Rating: R Length: 94 minutes / 1.56 hours It’s weird to think that 2003 was 15 years ago. As someone who graduated high school in 2004, Lady Bird (2017) hit me right in the nostalgia. While there have been plenty of coming-of-age films over the years, Lady Bird simplifies the experience to a quick-paced trot through the senior year of high school for the titular character (portrayed to great effect by Saoirse Ronan). All the trappings of the coming-of-age story are there, including experimentation with drugs, sex, and alcohol, but done in a way that is still innocent and child-like. In the end, Lady Bird is about independence and defining who we are as individuals. What really hits home in the narrative of this film is the things we do to make ourselves stand out. From declaring that our name is different from the one our parents gave us to choosing which friends we spend our time with, we inevitably realize that we’re seeking approval and acceptance...
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BOOK: The Enigma Strain (2014)

The Enigma Strain Year: 2014 Author: Nick Thacker Length: 271 pages The basic formula for a thriller is as follows: one loner, one love-interest, and lots of running. The Enigma Strain is your cookie-cutter thriller, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The premise is somewhat entertaining, if not downright ridiculous and unrealistic. The pacing is certainly fast enough to keep the characters moving and racing against the clock of destruction (at times even literally). In the end, there were no surprises as the day is saved and the loner opens up enough to attract the love interest. The fact that the ending was predictable just meant that it delivered on the thriller formula. One of the weaknesses of The Enigma Strain is the sense of space and time. There was plenty of driving around to different locations, which made them seem like they were quite close together. However, the love-interest kept talking about flying, which made me wonder how far away these places were. If...
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BOOK: Dreadnought (2010)

Dreadnought Year: 2010 Author: Cherie Priest Length: 803 minutes / 13.38 hours For the most part, the book series I have read progress the story from one book to another. I get that there are some series with the same character in different predicaments for each book, but jumping from one character to another in each different book is an interesting tactic. Of course, I’m somewhat guilty of this, as The Fluxion Trilogy focuses on different characters for each book. As far as I can tell, The Clockwork Century series also does this, even if the connections between the characters are flimsy at best. Even so, the plot seemed to take a step backward from Boneshaker to Dreadnought. One of my qualms with Boneshaker was that there wasn’t a lot of world-building that established what this alternate-reality Seattle was like in the scheme of the broader United States. Dreadnought solves this problem by giving the main character an opportunity to travel across the country, thus establishing some of the world-building in the process. In fact, there...
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MOVIE: Coco (2017)

Coco Year: 2017 Rating: PG Length: 105 minutes / 1.75 hours In the never-ending string of incredible visuals brought to life by Pixar, Coco (2017) continues this trend into the afterlife. At this point, I’m convinced Pixar could just go ahead and shoot live video and put their animated characters in the scene and I’d still think the whole thing was animated. The interplay of color, light, and shadow really come out in this celebration of Mexican culture. All spectacular visuals aside, Pixar again delivers on an emotional impact that left me crying, as always. When it comes to new ideas, Pixar certainly still knows how to create a visually-compelling story. While Coco has a lot going for it, there are a few weaknesses, some of which are my own opinion based on my likes and dislikes. I know the film mostly targets children (and older children at that), but the plot was just a smidge too predictable. Sure, it was enjoyable to see my...
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BOOK: Fifty Plastic Bottles and the Shoeshine Box (2018)

Fifty Plastic Bottles and the Shoeshine Box Year: 2018 Author: Maédeiva Myre Length: 230 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM THE AUTHOR*** When the author contacted me about reviewing this book, he compared it to The Kite Runner. Having now read this book, I think Fifty Plastic Bottles and the Shoeshine Box can stand on its own without the comparison. Sure, both focus on the events of childhoods in the Pakistan/India area, but the one scene that both seem to share (the rape) seems completely unnecessary in Fifty Plastic Bottles and the Shoeshine Box. This was my only practical qualm with the book. As it is, the author has crafted a well-thought-out narrative that covers plenty of meaningful topics and themes. Except for the violence perhaps being a little too intense in places, I could see myself reading this to elementary-age children to help them understand a culture different from their own. Not only does the author show the differences between varying levels of poverty, but he does so in...
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