MOVIE: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Guardians of the Galaxy Year: 2014 Rating: PG-13 Length: 121 minutes / 2.02 hours It is comforting to know that the Marvel Cinematic Universe includes the universe. While most films in this ever-expanding movie multiverse take place on Earth, a few like Thor (2011) and Doctor Strange (2016) explore different realms but still tie back to Earth. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) is different in that, almost immediately, Earth is left far behind in favor of alien worlds filled with fantastical creatures. Consequently, this film feels more like a sci-fi movie than a comic book flick. Considering how stagnant the superhero formula has become, this is a good thing. With almost no earthly constraints on it, Guardians of the Galaxy is practically indescribable, probably because it has everything. Comedy. Action. A talking raccoon. With a reasonably well-paced plot, this film excels in developing its diverse cast. These main characters each have their unique traits and little quirks that almost immediately made them amusing and endearing....
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BOOK: A Horse Walks into a Bar (2014)

A Horse Walks into a Bar Year: 2014 Author: David Grossman Length: 350 minutes / 5.83 hours Somewhere along the line, I saw that this book won the Man Booker International Prize this year and put it on my “to read” list on Overdrive. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, other than perhaps a little bit of comedy, considering the title is a basic setup for a joke’s punchline. In that sense, the book delivered on that premise by being about a stand-up comedian in a nightclub giving his routine to the audience. I did not expect, however, the deeper subtext about the character and his relation to the narrator. It’s in this subtext where we find the meat of this story. It has often been said that “Sometimes all you can do is laugh to keep yourself from crying.” A Horse Walks into a Bar epitomizes this statement by blending serious subjects like cancer, death, and the Holocaust with a smattering of jokes, physical comedy,...
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BOOK: The Accidental Superpower (2014)

The Accidental Superpower Year: 2014 Author: Peter Zeihan Length: 739 minutes / 12.32 hours I can’t remember when or why I added this book to my “to-read” list on Overdrive, but I’m certainly glad I did. While it’s a little dated from a 2017 perspective, The Accidental Superpower is an incredibly insightful book that helps to peel back the onion of global politics and economics to reveal the underlying factors that are, and have been, shaping the world into what it is today. As a bonus, after reading this book, I have a better understanding of how countries and societies develop from a geographical and economic standpoint and can use these insights to aid in the world-building for a few of my upcoming novel series. Right from the get-go, The Accidental Superpower opened my eyes to the obvious: geography determines economy. Mountains separate areas almost as well as oceans do, but the best economies are the ones that can move their goods about in the...
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MOVIE: John Wick (2014)

John Wick Year: 2014 Rating: R Length: 101 minutes / 1.68 hours I’ll be honest and say that I initially thought this film was just another action movie. Of all the action movies that come out these days, there wasn’t much that intrigued me enough to spend the time with this particular one. However, after some of my friends were raving about it and I saw a few YouTube videos describing why it was so great, I decided to give John Wick (2014) a chance. To say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. This film was not just another action movie. In fact, it was quite exemplary in its breaking of traditional action movie tropes. The most noticeable difference this movie has compared to other action films is its camerawork. Ever since The Bourne Identity (2001) changed the action movie genre, the cameras have been quite shaky, and the action is, therefore (increasingly) hard to follow. Not so with John Wick. The smooth and...
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BOOK: Nobel Peace Prize (2014)

Nobel Peace Prize Year: 2014 Author: D. Otter Length: 267 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM THE AUTHOR*** In a book about a random person potentially winning the Nobel Peace Prize, there’s remarkably little about the effects of this life-changing award on his life. The author even goes so far as to include this statement in the synopsis, “If ultimately the book fails to satisfy, failure to satisfy may be its motif, in which case it does satisfy in an unsatisfactory sort of way.” And what an unsatisfactory book it is. I’ll forgive the random missing spaces, which are probably an artifact of the e-book conversion process, but I will not excuse the run-on sentences inside run-on paragraphs comprising run-on chapters. I don’t know why the author chose to write this book in a fiction context (subtitling it “a political fantasy”). Considering the majority of the book is comprised of long-winded, unfocused rambling rants, if the author wanted to provide a true political fantasy to the...
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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...
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BOOK: Frosted Blood (2014)

Frosted Blood Year: 2014 Author: Larry Pellitteri Length: 334 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** Three things really grabbed me with this book right from the start. First, the cover was pretty interesting, and it went well with the second item: the title. Finally, the premise given on the back of the book made me think this would be an entertaining read. Unfortunately, while these things would normally deliver, this time they did not. Despite having a few interesting concepts and ideas interspersed throughout, the execution of the plot of this book was somewhat . . . lacking. What really bothered me about this book was the plethora of plot holes present. While the story moves at a pretty good pace, often I feel it is done as a “stream of consciousness” writing style that just sweeps the inconsistencies underneath the rug and just keeps going. There were also quite a few points where, since I knew what it would take to do...
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BOOK: Owner’s Share (2014)

Owner’s Share Year: 2014 Author: Nathan Lowell Length: 574 pages Well, here we are. The end of the Golden Age of the Solar Clipper series has been quite the interesting journey, essentially tagging on to the events that happened in the previous book, Captain's Share. While this was the logical final step for Ishmael Wang, I appreciated that some of the loose ends that had been introduced throughout the series were finally resolved. I also appreciated that the characters weren’t all idyllic or idiotic, thus providing a balance of the likable and unlikeable characters instead of heavily including one side of the spectrum or the other. In terms of plot, Nathan Lowell has spun together a great yarn here with a lot of “what could go wrong next?” scenarios. Even if these events didn’t feel like they carried much in terms of consequences, due to these inevitabilities never coming to pass, they were usually impediments to Wang’s goals. The one twist near the end of...
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BOOK: The Martian (2014)

The Martian Year: 2014 Author: Andy Weir Length: 387 pages What a world we live in! It's exciting to see a self-published book receive such attention, eventually becoming a New York Times bestseller! Truly, if a writer is talented enough with a good enough story, they can make it in this over-saturated market. And while some of my love for this book comes from my hopes of eventually being "discovered" as a self-published author, most of it comes from my love of scientific realism in fiction. Truly, this is more of a challenge than world-building in a fantasy genre, because in order for it to be believable, it must obey the laws of physics. But let's get down to brass tacks here. There is no doubt that Andy Weir did his homework on this book. In fact, some sections almost read like the output section of a very complicated spreadsheet (which I certainly appreciate, on a personal level). Even with the technical detail to keep...
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BOOK: Echo of the Boom (2014)

Echo of the Boom Year: 2014 Author: Maxwell Neely-Cohen Length: 478 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** From the title of this book, I would have expected it to be about the aftermath of an apocalypse-inducing event. If anything Echo of the Boom is a misnomer and the book should be titled Prelude of the Boom. The cover also doesn’t give much into what it’s about, other than the four different points of view which are followed throughout the narrative. While I did eventually like the book, it took too long to get there (some of the occasional typos didn’t help me get into it either). With the characters’ motivations unclear from the start, it becomes obvious about 150 pages in that nothing is really going to happen in this book. Instead of having any driving force propelling the characters forward, it’s more accurate to describe this book as a nearly 500 page rap battle. Each character has their own track, living their...
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