BOOK: Hearts in Atlantis (1999)

Hearts in Atlantis Year: 1999 Author: Stephen King Length: 1,210 minutes / 20.17 hours When I started Hearts in Atlantis, all I knew about it was that it was written by Stephen King and there was a movie of the same name that was likely based on it. As I began to read, I found myself enthralled by the coming-of-age story that presented itself. I had no idea it connected to the Dark Tower series, but that detail was almost ancillary, a neat little connection into a bigger picture. Having made it half-way through the book, I wanted to follow the main character’s development into adulthood but, then the story suddenly stopped. Instead of following a story that had engaged me, the focus shifted to a completely different character, only loosely tied to the events in the first half of the book via one of the characters, who was now in college. Almost in a fractal fashion, this story was half as long as the first, with each...
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MOVIE: Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi

Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi Year: 2017 Rating: PG-13 Length: 152 minutes / 2.53 hours After the success of Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015), director Rian Johnson had to strike a fine balance in the following sequel, Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017). Since The Force Awakens was essentially a flashy, rehash of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977), The Last Jedi needed to separate itself from the predictable path already laid out in Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980). Unfortunately, the formula employed in Empire Strikes Back has become so integral to sequels that deviating from it could prove to be disastrous. While I’m curious where Episode IX will go from here, I hope it builds upon what Johnson has done here. The tensions of war helped drive the characters into interesting moments of growth, defiance, and desperation, but much of the story was well wrapped up by the time the credits rolled. The real balance of this film came from paying homage...
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BOOK: Dawn of the Dreadfuls (2010)

Dawn of the Dreadfuls Year: 2010 Author: Steve Hockensmith Length: 287 pages As I’ve mentioned before in my review of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I understand the concept of combining this classic piece of romantic literature with its complete obverse; it just felt like it was almost held back from its full potential by adhering to (most of) the original manuscript. With the prequel to this book, Dawn of the Dreadfuls manages to examine the ridiculous nature of this mashup in a way that’s so tongue-in-cheek that the tongue has practically ruptured the cheek entirely. That is, this prequel doesn’t take itself nearly as seriously as the original Jane Austen adaptation did. Even if the non-Pride and Prejudice and Zombies characters were mostly cartoonish in their representation of stereotypes and tropes, they were fun to read as they provided a delightful offset to the canonical characters of the Bennet family. Also, instead of trying to find some boring section of text wherein to insert...
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BOOK: The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (2001)

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents Year: 2001 Author: Terry Pratchett Length: 395 minutes / 6.58 hours For many years, I have heard of Terry Pratchett, but have never read any of his work. This came to light in 2015, when Pratchett died, and many fans of his work came forward to express their condolences. At that point, I hadn’t considered reading any of his work, but the outpouring of love for the recently deceased author made me reconsider. Consequently, I added some Pratchett books to my “to read” list and eventually chose The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents for my first foray into the written world of Terry Pratchett. I certainly picked well, as it won the Carnegie Medal in the year it was written. I was a little worried that I would be lost coming into the Discworld series at anywhere other than the beginning, but since this book was written for children, it made it simple to ease into the...
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MOVIE: Loving Vincent (2017)

Loving Vincent Year: 2017 Rating: PG-13 Length: 94 minutes / 1.57 hours Animation has become somewhat easier since the days when every frame was drawn out by hand. This change has been mostly due to the use of computers to simplify the animation process. And yet, there are still those who want to embrace the painstaking process of manual animation, mostly for the artistic merit that it gives the film. Usually, this is done in short form, like the stop-motion film, Fresh Guacamole (2012) by PES, or the paint-on-glass animated short, The Old Man and the Sea (1999). Both of these short films were nominated for the Animated Short Oscar, with the latter winning the prize. With Loving Vincent (2017), we now have a feature-length (albeit at a short 94 minutes) animated feature that took the time to recreate the aesthetic of Van Gough’s paintings via a plentitude of hand-painted oil paintings that comprised the individual frames of the film. If awards are given for artistic merit alone, Loving Vincent deserves to win...
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BOOK: Artemis (2017)

Artemis Year: 2017 Author: Andy Weir Length: 539 minutes / 8.98 hours After reading Weir’s breakout work, The Martian, I looked forward to his next novel, Artemis, with rapt anticipation. The scientist in me appreciated how Weir made a realistic setting with realistic science an approachable and entertaining endeavor. The writer in me liked how he kept the tension throughout the plot of The Martian at a consistent level. Consequently, I had high hopes for Artemis and wondered if he could outdo himself (or at least match his previous success) considering how highly regarded The Martian ended up being for him. Between the two books, Weir seems to have created a style that consists of three elements: accurate science, event-driven plot, and a racially diverse cast of characters. In Artemis, we now find ourselves on the moon, where a colony has been created and sustained for a few decades. Weir conveys the science involved with such a feat naturally and realistically. The exploration of this science...
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MOVIE: Spider-Man – Homecoming (2017)

Spider-Man: Homecoming Year: 2017 Rating: PG-13 Length: 133 minutes / 2.22 hours Of all the superheroes in their respective comic universes, the one I grew up with was Spider-Man. I watched the animated 1990’s television show, and I loved when this relatable superhero made his way to the big screen in Spider-Man (2002). I was even more pleased when Spider-Man 2 (2004) set the tone for future superhero franchises. The first film is the origin film so the second film can dispense with the best villain and not spend all its time in exposition. Unfortunately, I ended up being disappointed by the third entry in this original Spider-Man trilogy, which was a rare miss in my book. Fast forward to 2012, when Spider-Man was rebooted with Andrew Garfield in the title role. Having to sit through the origin story again, but with a different, green-colored villain as the antagonist seemed like it wasn’t exploring anything new. Around the same time, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was...
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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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