BOOK: How Then Shall We Live? (2015)

How Then Shall We Live? Year: 2015 Author: Stephanie Rodda Length: 146 pages The book with a question that’s practically answered from page one is as close as one could ever come to an “apocalyptic utopia” story. As a Christian, I understand the power of what God can do, but I also understand that some things come with His timing. In this book, each time a challenge arises, God seems to step in immediately and solve it, which really detracts from any thematic tension that could be present. Nothing really ever gets to the point where there’s an unbearable hardship because then it would seem like God isn’t instantly answering the characters’ prayers. Then there’s the characters. While I understand from reading the “study questions” at the end that these are based somewhat on real people, I found the characters in this book to be flat, cookie-cutter versions of ideal Christians. They didn’t feel human to me at all. I’d expect people in their situation...
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BOOK: Half Share (2007)

Half Share Year: 2007 Author: Nathan Lowell Length: 252 pages Well . . . that escalated quickly. In the previous book of the Golden Age of the Solar Clipper series, I found the plot to be engaging and well-paced, despite the naïveté of the main protagonist. Ishmael Wong seemed to be a bit lacking in his romantic knowledge, sometimes oblivious of obvious euphemisms. For a kid of only 18 who really only spent time with his mother, I can understand how he might not know these things. It was the one thing I found a little unbelievable in Quarter Share, but boy did Half Share make up for it. Some of the plot felt a little formulaic and procedural by this point in the saga, which was good in the sense that it continued the realism and engagement of its predecessor. However, this also meant that there wasn’t as much progression of the sub-plots and minor characters like there was in Quarter Share. This book...
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MOVIE: Suicide Squad (2016)

Suicide Squad Year: 2016 Rating: PG-13 Length: 123 minutes / 2.05 hours Perhaps the most controversial film of this summer, Suicide Squad (2016) tells a story that is necessary to highlight the eventual superhero team of the Justice League (2017). While I am aware of the real-life drama surrounding the film, including Jared Leto's method acting, director David Ayer's uncouth comments, and the fandom's revulsion of its negative critical reception, I will try and give an unbiased review here. After all, sometimes the greatest art can stand apart from the artists who create it. Decades from now, most will have forgotten the controversy, resorting to Wikipedia for a reminder. In the realm of superhero films, the motif has always been a dichotomy of extremes. Good vs. evil. In reality, things aren't nearly as clear-cut as this. Sure, there are those who do wrong and those who do right, but each side will have their own motivations. What Suicide Squad does is break down the stereotype of the...
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MOVIE: 42 (2013)

42 Year: 2013 Rating: PG-13 Length: 128 minutes / 2.13 hours In today's charged racial climate, it seems that we haven't come that far from the 1940's. All the barriers that have been broken to allow equal opportunities to everyone don't seem to matter if the heart of the people has not been changed. Needless to say, several films have been made in the last few years which have highlighted the racial struggles of the pioneers in their respective professions. Initially, I was skeptical that 42 (2013) would devolve into your standard "fight against racism" story, but the expert camerawork, peppy pacing, and superb casting really made this movie for me. Having played baseball myself up through my senior year in high school, the appeal of a story about the game is what initially piqued my interest. The fact that this is a story about one of the most recognizable names in baseball was merely icing on the cake. There have been a number of...
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BOOK: Lightning Rider (2013)

Lightning Rider Year: 2013 Author: Jen Greyson Length: 314 pages I’m not really sure how this book got into my Kindle collection. I think it might have been from a time that I saw someone on Facebook post about a free e-book and I just downloaded it because the title seemed interesting. Now that I’m getting around to reading these books, I’m finding them to be a little outside the norm for what I like to read. That’s not to say I’m against reading anything in the “New Adult” or “Urban Fantasy” genres, it’s just that I wouldn’t choose them first if I had a selection in front of me. Of course, I can see that the popularity of strong and independent female heroines in the YA and NA genres have definitely spawned a number of authors who want to capitalize on this trend, and this book is no different. That being said, most of my qualms with this book lie with the characters....
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MOVIE: Paint Your Wagon (1969)

Paint Your Wagon Year: 1969 Rating: PG-13 Length: 166 minutes / 2.77 hours My first exposure to the musical western that is Paint Your Wagon (1969) was from the 9th season clip show of The Simpsons entitled "All Singing, All Dancing." In the episode, Bart and Homer are looking forward to a shoot-'em-up western with Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin. Instead, they are shocked to find that the film is actually a musical. While the actual film itself did not contain any of the bits from The Simpsons, part of me wished it did . . . or at least an explanation as to why the title is Paint Your Wagon. Needless to say, I knew going into this film that it was going to be a musical, and I was prepared for that. One does wonder if the musical hides topics and themes that aren't really that appropriate in a non-musical setting. I'm not sure this film was comedic enough to have polygamy, greed,...
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BOOK: Live Right and Find Happiness (2015)

Live Right and Find Happiness (Although Beer is Much Faster) Year: 2015 Author: Dave Barry Length: 240 pages I grew up on the humor writings of Dave Barry. Each week I'd take his humor column to school and read it to my friends during my lunch break, laughing at his comedic style and funny topics. Consequently, I found myself enthralled by his books, each one leaving me in stitches due to his observational humor of the weird world around us (or at least around Miami, Florida). I was saddened when he decided to retire from writing these weekly humor columns. As such, each time he releases a new book full of his writings (mainly essays now), I usually pick it up out of habit. While I can usually blow through one of Dave Barry's books in a couple hours, I'm finding that I'm not nearly as amused as I used to be. It could be that I've grown up a bit and no longer find...
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MOVIE: Superman Returns (2006)

Superman Returns Year: 2006 Rating: PG-13 Length: 154 minutes / 2.57 hours Technically the fifth in the Superman franchise that started in the late 1970's, Superman Returns feels a bit like the black sheep of the bunch. There's a sense that it's just tacked on to try and capitalize on some of the popularity of superhero films, in part because of the director's previous successes with other superheroes. Part of me thinks that Bryan Singer should have directed the third X-Men film instead of this movie; since he clearly knew what he was doing with that Marvel property. But what really gets me about this film is the way it "plays to the audience." If you ask diehard fans of two of the most iconic fandoms what their absolute least favorite film is in their canon, you'll get some telling answers. For Star Wars fans, it's Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999) and for Star Trek fans, it's Into Darkness (2013). But why do they hate...
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MOVIE: Finding Dory (2016)

Finding Dory Year: 2016 Rating: PG Length: 97 minutes / 1.62 hours As is the case with the rest of Hollywood right now, Pixar is cashing in on the nostalgia factor of their previous films. Just like Monsters University (2013) before it, Finding Dory (2016) brings together the same team of voice actors who brought their respective originals to life more than a decade ago. And while this sequel was more akin to the likes of Toy Story 2 (1999), the amount of time between the two films really gives Pixar the chance to show off how much the power of computers has advanced in that time. Unfortunately, while the visual style has been drastically updated, the plot has not. In its purest essence, Finding Dory is just like Finding Nemo (2003): a fish separated from its parent tries to find their way back home while the parent does everything in their power to find their child. I would have liked a bit more originality from...
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