BOOK: The Zero (2006)

The Zero Year: 2006 Author: Jess Walter Length: 640 minutes / 10.67 hours I'll be honest and say that I had no idea what this book was about before I started listening to it. Once I got into it, I could clearly see how the title and cover image related to the story at hand. It's interesting to think that a mere five years after the terrorist attacks on September 11th, a book like this could be written. Of course, there is plenty of highly descriptive language that helps to cement the story to the reality of the tragedy. That being said, there are many situations in the plot that feel quite cynical, if not downright dark in their humor. Perhaps it's this mixture of the absurd and the tragic that gives The Zero its interest. I did find the memory gaps experienced by the main character to be an interesting literary device, especially in their transitions. For the main character to have a series of...
Read More

BOOK: Smoke and Mirrors (2012)

Smoke and Mirrors Year: 2012 Author: Neil Gaiman Length: 636 minutes / 10.6 hours As someone who has to read many short story submissions for the anthology my writing group puts together each year, I can appreciate a well-written short story. I have not read much of Neil Gaiman, but in his collection of anthology short stories, Smoke and Mirrors, I was able to see what kinds of stories a professional writer writes for an anthology. While quite a few stories were interesting, not all of them were necessarily in genres I typically read. Then again, I consider erotica and stories submitted to Hustler as pornography, which is why I do not read these kinds of short stories. Furthermore, it is a little more uncomfortable listening to erotica, as was the case with this audiobook. Fortunately, Gilbert Gottfried did not read it, but it still is uncomfortable to hear it nonetheless. Sure, the concepts in these short stories were somewhat interesting, but the sex ruined...
Read More

BOOK: Opaque (2016)

Opaque Year: 2016 Author: Calix Leigh-Reign Length: 254 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** While I eventually liked this book, it took a little getting used to. When you start a story with a deplorable main character, it makes you not want to continue reading. Honestly, I think the plot probably could have started closer to the halfway part, and reveal everything important after the fact or merely hint at it. You know, via a “show don’t tell” method. There’s a lot of “telling” in the first half of this book. Despite this, there is plenty of excellent character development in the second half to redeem the first half. What strikes me odd about this book is its classification as “Young Adult.” I usually consider early teens to be this genre's demographic, given the main characters are generally in that age range. Considering the graphic violence, excessive swearing, and questionable sexual content in the first section of this book, I wouldn’t let teenagers read...
Read More

BOOK: The Crossing (2015)

The Crossing Year: 2015 Author: Michael Connelly Length: 564 minutes / 9.4 hours Having already blasted through the rest of the Mickey Haller series, I finally arrived at a book that didn't center around the defense lawyer. Instead, The Crossing follows Harry Bosch, Haller's half-brother (which we learned back in The Brass Verdict). I realize that Mickey Haller is merely a spin-off series from the main Harry Bosch series, so it was interesting to finally enter the main storyline of Connelly's longest-running character. Now I see that he writes Bosch books in third-person, as compared to Haller's first-person, which was why I was confused when the POVs switched in one of the previous books featuring both of them. Coming into this series at the twentieth book was a little jarring to me, but not entirely disorienting. There were plenty of references to previous books I had not read; but by the sounds of them, these predecessors were certainly exciting. What probably helped with my transition...
Read More

MOVIE: Lion (2016)

Lion Year: 2016 Rating: PG-13 Length: 118 minutes / 1.97 hours Of this year's Best Picture Nominees, Lion (2016) is certainly one of the more . . . artistic ones. Heck, the title of the film wasn't clear until directly before the credits. In part due to the subject matter and the culture in which it takes place, this film can be hard to watch at times. The audience has to come to grips with the poverty and difficult living conditions present in India not only 25 years ago, but today as well. Perhaps it's my need to watch movies that help me to escape from these realities, but it was challenging to be shown such a stark view of another country's reality. While I understand that the larger, overarching message of the film is to bring to light the social issue of lost children in India, the more inspiring subplot had to do with adoption. Many couples have a lot of different reasons for...
Read More

BOOK: The Starchild Compact (2014)

The Starchild Compact Year: 2014 Author: Robert G. Williscroft Length: 396 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** With the popularity of The Martian bringing hard science into the realm of science fiction, there has been a bit of a resurgence of including accurate science in near-term speculative fiction. On the one hand, the book must remain readable to a wide audience, so the science shouldn't bog down too much of the exposition. On the other hand, if some of the science is not explained, it can leave less scientifically educated readers in the dark about why certain aspects of the plot are the way they are. The Starchild Compact manages to succeed at balancing these two elements while also introducing some strictly non-scientific plot development. First, let me address the science presented in this book. Knowing enough about general relativity and current space travel technologies, Williscroft certainly knows his stuff. The challenges and hurdles to travel to the gas giants of our solar system, as well...
Read More

MOVIE: Doctor Strange (2016)

Doctor Strange Year: 2016 Rating: PG-13 Length: 115 minutes / 1.92 hours See if you can guess this movie: goatee'd egomaniac finds himself in a life-changing situation in a foreign land that makes him question everything he's ever stood for and become a superhero in the process. If you guessed Iron Man (2008), you'd certainly be close. No, this familiar plot is none other than the visually extreme Doctor Strange. I understand Marvel has a bigger plot in mind when they do these lesser-known heroes; but lately, it almost seems like they're just phoning it in. Doctor Strange merely feels like filler to get to Thor: Ragnarok (2017) and Avengers: Infinity War (2018). I will give Marvel this much: they do know how to cast a film. Benedict Cumberbatch does a superb job at portraying the eponymous Dr. Strange, fused with enough gravitas and humor to make watching him a joy. And while many will question Tilda Swinton's role as The Ancient One, especially considering...
Read More

BOOK: The Reversal (2010)

The Reversal Year: 2010 Author: Michael Connelly Length: 693 minutes / 11.55 hours After two novels of Mickey Haller defending guilty scumbags, Michael Connelly changes it up with The Reversal. Not only does the title refer to the reversal of a 24-year old conviction, but also to the main character’s swap over to the prosecution. While there seems to have been a book between this one and The Brass Verdict, I have a feeling it was mostly about Harry Bosch, since the hinted details in this book give me a good idea of what happened and it didn’t change the last reference point of Mickey Haller. Now that these two main characters were tied together in this case, one of the issues I had with this book was how often it switched between first and third person POVs. Perhaps I was too used to the story being told from Mickey Haller’s perspective and there was so much that happened outside of his direct involvement that...
Read More

BOOK: The Brass Verdict (2008)

The Brass Verdict Year: 2008 Author: Michael Connelly Length: 681 minutes / 11.35 hours Another book, another trial for the Lincoln Lawyer. While I appreciated the stand-alone nature of this book, I also liked that knowledge of the events in the first book of this sub-series helped to provide context for the challenges Mickey Haller now faces. The main case of this novel was pretty predictable, especially if you read into the insinuation of the title. I would have liked a little more attention on the side-case surrounding the death of Haller’s lawyer colleague. It seemed to be more of a Harry Bosch story, though, so I can understand why the focus was on Haller’s case. Once again, Michael Connelly creates an easily readable series of events that unfold in the courtroom. Some twists at the end were exciting developments but were definitely easily guessed if the reader was paying attention. There’s almost a guilty pleasure in following Haller along as he embeds that reasonable doubt...
Read More

BOOK: Esper Files 2 – Sky Cult (2017)

Esper Files 2: Sky Cult Year: 2017 Author: Egan Brass Length: 187 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM THE PUBLISHER*** It has been said before that there are no original thoughts. The way to appear original is dependent upon how well you can hide your sources. One of my qualms with the Esper Files series from the beginning has been that it feels very derivative. Right from the get-go, I felt the series was essentially just an X-Men clone set in the steampunk genre. While this was an interesting concept, too much of it was pulled from the popular franchise, making it a bit distracting. In the sequel, Esper Files 2: Sky Cult, a few more references were worked in to help make the characters and story feel a bit more original. I picked up tones of anime like Fairy Tail and One Piece in this story, but I also picked up another blatantly obvious reference: Deadpool. Sure, I get it, he’s a fun character to...
Read More