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: Dark Matter (2016)

Dark Matter Year: 2016 Author: Blake Crouch Length: 608 minutes / 10.13 hours It seems to me that the multiverse is a popular topic in fiction today. Sure, there have been plenty of stories about parallel universes and the fractal branching of our decisions, but for some reason, there’s been an uptick in the number of these stories lately. Perhaps these stories are trying to find a better universe in which to live, or perhaps they’re trying to show us that the world we have could be much worse. Either way, Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter nails the multiverse plot by exploring all the different connotations of the ability to travel between parallel universes. Presented in a traditional, three-act narrative, Dark Matter thrusts its protagonist into another version of his reality, ripping him away from his idyllic life. Using quantum physics as a form of magical hand-waving, the narrative then turns to the main character’s relentless search for his original universe. While the result of this exploration fits nicely...
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MOVIE: Split (2016)

Split Year: 2016 Rating: PG-13 Length: 117 minutes / 1.95 hours For many years, M. Night Shyamalan’s directing career has been in continual decline. Many people, myself included, felt his groundbreaking work with The Sixth Sense (1999) was the peak of what he had to offer. Sure, Unbreakable (2000) and Signs (2002) were good movies that had their moments, but from that point onward, the films he made just got worse and worse. Although I have not seen it, 2015’s The Visit seemed to be a return to form for Shyamalan, indicating that his directing was no longer washed up. In Split (2017), we see that Shyamalan has been able to recapture the magic that made his previous films so memorable. The first thing I noticed in Split was the cinematography. The camera lets the audience see just enough to let them know that something is amiss, often preparing the viewer for an occasional jump scare. Secondly, James McAvoy’s performance was impeccable. Taking on the...
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BOOK: To the Sky Kingdom (2016)

To the Sky Kingdom Year: 2016 Author: Tang Qi Length: 460 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** Many barriers prevent a smooth transition of an artistic from one language into another. In more visual mediums, like film and graphic novels, the language barrier is less of an issue because there are other cues the viewer is observing to help them make sense of what is going on. These visual cues are unfortunately absent from a written work, and thus the translated words are the only way the reader can interact with the original work. Add to this language barrier the vastly disparate cultures of the Chinese and the English (be it any of the English-speaking cultures), and you can start to understand why I did not finish reading To the Sky Kingdom. Over the years, I have developed a fairly thorough understanding of Japanese culture; but even though China is geographically close to Japan, their cultures are quite different. Consequently, I had trouble...
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BOOK: Stiletto (2016)

Stiletto Year: 2016 Author: Daniel O'Malley Length: 1,392 minutes / 23.20 hours I’ll be the first to admit that I like sequels. Or, more accurately, well-done sequels. While the first book in a series can be great by itself, it carries the burden of exposition and world-building. A good sequel gives a light refresher of the important points and gets right into the action. I would certainly consider Stiletto to be a well-done sequel to the first book in the Checquy Files series, The Rook. Not only does it expand upon the central conflict in the first book, but it throws in the twist of the warring factions of the Checquy and the Grafters coming together to form a truce. In making enemies into teammates, Daniel O'Malley shows the differences between them are almost superficial. The chess-based supernatural soldiers of the Checquy almost have the same strength of powers that the genetically and surgically enhanced members of the Grafters do. Since the whole plot usually...
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BOOK: The Captain’s Kid (2016)

The Captain's Kid Year: 2016 Author: Liz Coley Length: 352 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** With today's Young Adult genre overtaken by books not appropriate for young adults, it's refreshing to read a book that not only has content for teenagers but realistic teenage characters as well. These are the characters dealing with their first foray into independence and finding their identity separate from that of their parents. Each of these individuals has their strengths and weaknesses, and it's in recognition of these assets and liabilities that they start to realize their true potential in life. The fact that the setting takes place in outer space is simply to keep the reader engaged with the plot. Regarding the science behind the plot, the author seems to have done her research. At a cursory glance, all the elements that come together to create the main thrust of the plot all make sense, and all add to each other to make a believable situation. From microgravity...
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BOOK: Tier One (2016)

Tier One Year: 2016 Author: Brian Andrews & Jeffrey Wilson Length: 402 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** While violence, action, and excitement fill stories involving tactical military operations, one element of these stories that adds realism can also alienate unknowledgeable readers: jargon. I am fortunate to know enough of the terms and acronyms from my day job, but if a story like this needs an acronym and definitions list in the back, I can see it being difficult to get into for the casual reader. They might be able to push through it and make assumptions on what’s happening, but following the discussions helps the reader to understand the level of importance for each action. Of course, in this post-9/11 world, Islam has now taken the role of stereotypical “bad guy” that used to be held by the Nazis. I’m almost surprised by how many antagonists are Muslim in the books I read. From apocalyptic stories like Dark Ages: 2020 to science fiction novels...
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MOVIE: Moonlight (2016)

Moonlight Year: 2016 Rating: R Length: 111 minutes / 1.85 hours Based on the surprise win of Best Picture at this year’s Oscars, I had high expectations for Moonlight (2016). There were some fantastic, motivational, and inspirational films in the running for this award, including the “follow your dreams” story of La La Land (2016), the “communication is key” story of Arrival (2016), and the “overcoming adversity” story of Hidden Figures (2016). So, what did Moonlight have to offer? In my opinion, not much; but maybe that was because I’m a straight white (you could argue, privileged) male and there was little to relate to in this film. Sure, the cinematography was impressive at times, but there wasn’t any story that I felt was impactful enough to warrant its award. I will give credit to Mahershala Ali, as his performance was certainly deserving of the Best Supporting Actor Oscar. So, what lessons does Moonlight give us? Do we need to find good mentors in life?...
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BOOK: The Ares Weapon (2016)

The Ares Weapon Year: 2016 Author: D.M. Pruden Length: 268 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** The sci-fi genre is interesting in that it has almost limitless possibilities, but the physics of our universe usually constrains the stories, so they are at least somewhat believable. As a result, and in part due to our past and current space-travel capabilities, the genre has become rather stale. Unfortunately, this is also because a few franchises dominate the landscape and any work that seems similar to it are deemed derivative. Consequently, I have read a number of almost interchangeable sci-fi stories, and The Ares Weapon is just one of them. While the occasional proofreading or formatting error is distracting in this story, much of my qualms lie with the characters’ decisions and motivations. Instead of making sense, the decisions sometimes seem to merely exist only to move the plot along to a pre-determined path the author wanted to take. Similarly, the motivations don’t seem to make...
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MOVIE: Fences (2016)

Fences Year: 2016 Rating: PG-13 Length: 139 minutes / 2.32 hours Before going into this film, I knew it was based on a play of the same name. Of course, even if I didn't know this, I could have told you it was based on a play. Perhaps that's what kept bugging me throughout this movie: it was clearly a play. I could see in my mind's eye how it would look on the stage, which wasn't helped by the actors' cadence and almost continual monologues. If I wanted to see this as a play, I'd see it as a play; I watch a movie to get a more well-rounded experience. So, aside from this film being an almost direct adaptation of the play it's based on, the next thing that caught my attention was how many tropes were contained in the plot. Honestly, with topics like mental health, marital infidelity, inter-generational conflict, and death, the plot didn't seem that original to me at all....
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