BOOK: Universe: Awakening (2017)

Universe: Awakening Year: 2017 Author: D. Ellis Overttun Length: 317 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM THE AUTHOR*** The idiom of “don’t judge a book by its cover” does not apply to Universe: Awakening. With a blurry and indistinct image that has a few colored boxes and basic sans-serif fonts slapped on top, it’s no wonder that the content inside is practically pointless. Furthermore, while there was an “awakening” in a flashback, and the book takes place in the universe, I suppose the title means something . . . not that it’s apparent to the reader. In fact, as this is the first book in the “Terra Nova” series, I can say those two words describe it adequately. “Terra” translates to “dirt,” which describes the clunky “tell instead of show” style of exposition (imagine reading someone doing Google searches for endless amounts of pages). “Nova” translates to “not going,” which describes the overall plot (every single scene had no point, and there was no urgency...
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BOOK: Welcome to the Monkey House (1968)

Welcome to the Monkey House Year: 1968 Author: Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Length: 686 minutes / 11.43 hours Much like short story anthologies by a single author (see Neil Gaiman’s Smoke and Mirrors and Ray Bradbury’s The Golden Apples of the Sun), Welcome to the Monkey House is both quintessentially a collection of Kurt Vonnegut’s biting wit and satire as well as an exploration of other genres not often associated with Vonnegut’s style. Fans of Vonnegut will likely have already read some of these short stories (like “EPICAC” and “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow”), but some of the other stories might have been missed and for a good reason. Overall, Welcome to the Monkey House is a fantastic set of stories, but a few of them fail to have the impact to make them memorable. Granted, these stories are few and far between, and help to break up the well-written social commentaries presented in “Harrison Bergeron” and the titular “Welcome to the Monkey House.” Vonnegut’s ability to show the slippery slope of such...
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BOOK: The Kite Runner (2003)

The Kite Runner Year: 2003 Author: Khaled Hosseini Length: 324 pages In an odd twist, I haven’t actually seen the movie this book was based on before I started reading it. Sure, I was aware The Kite Runner was a notable book, but I knew little about it other than the peripheral knowledge that comes from seeing an occasional movie trailer. About five years ago, I found this book for cheap at a bookstore and decided to pick it up on a whim. Now that I’ve finally read it, I’m glad I bought it those many years ago. Unquestionably, it deserved the notoriety it received, as it is a well-written and engaging story. I’ll admit that there is much I don’t know about the specifics of Afghanistan and Islam. This book certainly opened my eyes to a lot of things I had suspected, but could never confirm. First of all: men are awful. I’m a man myself, but I’m ashamed that so much of human misery is...
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BOOK: The Screwtape Letters (1942)

The Screwtape Letters Year: 1942 Author: C.S. Lewis Length: 216 minutes / 3.60 hours Perhaps the first documented fictional exploration of spiritual warfare, The Screwtape Letters is an expertly crafted examination of what the enemy of our souls is plotting. The reader is given insight into one side of a correspondence between two demons of differing influence and rank, thus providing a “behind the scenes” look at what the enemy is plotting and what they consider to be a victory for them. At moments, it can be difficult to follow along since the context of Screwtape’s “enemy” is really the “good” side of the spiritual battle. Either way, C.S. Lewis has crafted a brilliant satire about how little humans understand of their spiritual lives. While I wouldn’t necessarily ascribe The Screwtape Letters to pure theology, there are plenty of eye-opening and thought-provoking statements in Screwtape’s letters to his nephew. From the demons’ acknowledgment that pleasure is of God’s design but overindulgence in pleasure is in their realm to the...
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BOOK: Napoleon’s Glass (2017)

Napoleon’s Glass Year: 2017 Author: Gillian Ingall Length: 308 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM THE PUBLISHER*** While I received this book from the same publisher as Cale Dixon and the Moguk Murders and The Women of Cho: Heart and Seoul, I wasn't expecting anything good. However, I can attest that the author’s note at the beginning about how many people helped her edit this piece of historical fiction merely shows that the book could have just as easily been self-published. Sure, there are still a smattering of proofreading errors, and the punctuation seemed to be consistently lacking or against the American style I’m used to (It should be double quotes for all dialogue, in my opinion), but the story itself is quite solid. Put in the framework of a series of letters from a French noblewoman, Napoleon’s Glass puts a personal spin on the events of the downfall of Napoleon’s empire at the hands of the Russians, as well as other European turmoil that happened afterward. Despite some episodes being...
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BOOK: The Scorch Trials (2010)

The Scorch Trials Year: 2010 Author: James Dashner Length: 623 minutes / 10.38 hours As I read The Maze Runner, I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that the story was meant for a video game instead of a novel. The Scorch Trials merely confirms my suspicions. I mean, who in their right mind would acronym their organization with WICKED? While the first book in this series had a pretty straightforward goal (escape the maze), the sequel made no sense whatsoever. OK, these kids escaped the maze, but then what? The idea of traveling to the “safe haven” seemed to come so late in the plot that it almost felt like an afterthought. Concerning the characters, the main ones are still there, but so many of the ancillary minor characters are so forgettable as to be practically useless. Brenda was added into the mix merely to elicit a “love triangle” between the two love interests of the first book, but it just felt forced . . . like everything...
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BOOK: The Women of Cho – Heart and Seoul (2016)

The Women of Cho: Heart and Seoul Year: 2016 Author: David C. Dagley Length: 294 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM THE PUBLISHER*** Did you know that this book was the sequel to Cale Dixon and the Moguk Murders? Of course not. Once again, Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Co. (SBPRA) has put out another sub par book that has numerous mistakes that should have been caught by a legitimate publisher. Almost all of the same qualms I had with Cale Dixon and the Moguk Murders are back, but now there’s a host of new problems. From the unreadable cover containing a collection of fonts and almost random images to the constant peppering of basic homophone errors in the text itself, The Women of Cho: Heart and Seoul is merely a cash-grab by a publishing company that does nothing but release unpolished manuscripts. I actually started reading this book before its predecessor, mainly because the individual who contacted me from SBPRA said that it had little...
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BOOK: The Maze Runner (2009)

The Maze Runner Year: 2009 Author: James Dashner Length: 650 minutes / 10.83 hours Partly due to the success of The Hunger Games, the Young Adult genre swerved into the survival/sci-fi/dystopian genres that also allowed The Maze Runner to have a ready and willing audience. With this being the case, I’d almost say The Maze Runner has more utopian sensibilities since the narrative encourages teamwork for survival, instead of a “winner take all” emphasis presented in The Hunger Games that valued selfish ambitions over communistic altruism. Plus, if you put 50 teenage boys in a box with no adult supervision, I think the logical conclusion would be more along the lines of Lord of the Flies instead of solving a deadly maze. While the premise was interesting and allowed for a constant and steady pacing of inciting events, I felt there was not enough explanation in this first part of the trilogy, with very few questions being answered by the end and a lot of hand-waving to push the characters forward to a conclusion....
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BOOK: Cale Dixon and the Moguk Murders (2009)

Cale Dixon and the Moguk Murders Year: 2009 Author: David C. Dagley Length: 336 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM THE PUBLISHER*** Books like this one are what give independent writers a bad name. Furthermore, books like this should give independent authors pause before becoming contractually tied to a publisher. I found this book (and its “sequel”) to be so bad that I looked into the publisher a little bit. It turns out, Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Co. (SBPRA) (also known as Author Marketing Ideas (AMI)) is a big-time scam, and I hope any authors who are reading this review will keep as far away from them as possible. If a reputable publisher released this book, it wouldn’t have been nearly as unpolished as this book is. While I’m sure the author thought his story was terrific, I hope he asks for his money back. Part of the role of a publisher, aside from distribution, is to get a book ready for a broad audience. With...
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BOOK: Flashforward (1999)

Flashforward Year: 1999 Author: Robert J. Sawyer Length: 628 minutes / 10.47 hours As time marches on, predictions of the future made in the past are tested against reality. In 1984, we didn't have George Orwell's dystopian government. In 2001, we didn't have Arthur C. Clarke's interplanetary travel. Sure, these authors did have a few interesting ideas that did come true, eventually. Still, they were writing well before the events in their books would come to pass. Robert J. Sawyer's Flashforward did not have that luxury. Written in 1999, Sawyer only imagines a future set a decade in the future. For those keeping track at home, Flashforward takes place in 2009, with a vision of a future 21 years ahead of that. Since 2009 has come and gone, there were a few things Sawyer got right, but many he could not have predicted. The crux of this story is similar to that explored by Machine of Death: everyone in the world gets a glimpse of their future...
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