Friday, December 19, 2014

Review: Song of Simon

Song of SimonSong of Simon by C.A. Sanders
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you're a fan of high fantasy, then raise my score by one star. But, given that I can't even finish reading the second Lord of the Rings book, it's safe to say that I'm not a fan of the genre. In fact, I hate it. Which says a lot for C.A. Sanders' book, Song of Simon, because I did finish it. So, uh, take that, Tolkein! :) But I do have an issue with the protagonist, and it's a major one. I didn't like him. And I mean, like, throughout the entire book. I never found him likeable and was never truly interested in his storyline. He does have growth, though, so I will give the author credit for that.

Another issue I had with the book is the tone. As a writer friend of mine told me, it's like Harry Potter in the beginning and it turns into Game of Thrones, which is absolutely the case. The violence in this book is so vividly described, that you feel like you're actually right there on the battlefield. I'm most certainly not saying that's a bad thing, but it kind of throws off whatever tone this book is trying to go for. In the end, it left me a little lost.

All the same, if you like high fantasy, you'll love Song of Simon. Personally, I don't love high fantasy, hence my "it's just okay" score.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Why King James Putting His Arm Around Kate Middleton Deepens My Love For America

(Image taken from: dimemag.com)

It's 2014, and a Basketball player from the Cleveland Cavaliers is more important than a member of the Royal Family. Or at least, said Basketball player thinks he is. This last part is important, because LeBron James, who is arguably the most famous player in the NBA, recently draped his arm around Kate Middleton and took a picture, because hey, they're not so different. In fact, they're pretty much equals.

What's beautiful about this last statement, and why this photo faux pas deepens my love for America, is that it's actually true. In relation to the rest of the world, a self-made star Basketball player like LeBron James (oh, I'm sorry, King James) truly is of the same level of royalty as Kate Middleton.

Let me explain.

In America, being rich and, more importantly, being famous, equals royalty. People will bend over backwards for you and you're pretty much above the law no matter where you are in the world. You're a Czar. You're a King. You're the Pope. A DWI means nothing but a bad mugshot, and if you want to kill somebody, go ahead. It will probably make you even more of a star (See: OJ Simpson, who's notoriety has extended his shelf life much longer than if he'd just been a football player/actor). In America, you can EARN your royalty, rather than just be born or marry into it. And this photo is evidence of that. As shallow as we are to worship actors and athletes over teachers and doctors, it does say a lot when a Basketball player wouldn't even question putting his arm around the Duchess of Cambridge. Because really, what's royalty in England worth, which has centuries of traditions, when you have Nike endorsements and McDonald's commercials?



What's even MORE beautiful about all this is that it wasn't intentional. LeBron James truly didn't feel like he was doing anything wrong by putting his arm around her. That's sort of like if some famous Cricket player from India came over here and put his arm around the President. Or, hell, if some famous Cricket player from India came over here and put his arm around LeBron as if they were best friends. And that's just it. LeBron honestly didn't see a problem with this, and there isn't one. LeBron is, most likely, more well-known that Kate Middleton will ever be, and that's just fine. Entertainment trumps "tradition".

And that's why I love America. Some might call it ignorance, and some might call it an inflated ego. But I just call it swag. I love you America. You've got swag.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Review: The Exorcist

The ExorcistThe Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well, I guess I can now put The Exorcist on my list of movies that are much better than the book (It's right up there with Fight Club, The Shining, and A Clockwork Orange, two of which were directed by Stanley Kubrick). It's not that The Exorcist is bad, per se, as there were a few moments that really got under my skin. But it just can't compete with the movie. That music, that face, that voice. Just everything about the movie trumps this book by a mile.

And I think lot of that can be attributed to the lackluster side-story. The Detective Kinderman sections felt like they made up half the book, and they weren't even that interesting (I don't even remember the character in the film to be honest). And while the book is a relatively quick read, I felt that there were sections that moved much faster than others. Again, anything with Kinderman felt slow, while all the stuff that dealt with the possession moved at a rapid pace. If you're deciding on reading the book, I'd say to just watch the movie instead. It's superior in every way.

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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Review: The Dark Knight Returns

Batman: The Dark Knight ReturnsBatman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The Dark Knight Returns is TERRIBLE. I don't understand why people still talk about it to this day. I understand its significance and importance in relation to what Batman is like today, but outside of the context of Batman, why do people STILL like it? I've heard people put it up there with The Watchmen, and let me just say this--It is nowhere NEAR as good as The Watchmen. The Watchmen is actually like literature. It had something to say. But this, well, it has nothing to say. Batman is old and he's in a society that feels they don't need vigilantes anymore, until they do. And then Batman comes back, does some stuff, gets a new Robin, rides a horse, fights Superman, the end. Honestly, that's the whole story, and it meanders all over the place.

Frank Miller, author of Sin City and a whole bunch of other crummy comics, was not and is still not a very good writer. I'm not saying he's not a good comic book writer, because he suits his purpose. But he's no Neil Gaiman. He's no Alan Moore. Hell, he's not even Sam Keith, who penned the brilliant comic, The Maxx, back in the early 90s. What Frank Miller did was change the whole vision of Batman, which is to be commended, sure, but not to be applauded to the extent that The Dark Knight Returns is considered one of the greatest graphic novels of all time. It's not even close. To cite one of the lines of this terribly boring book, The Dark Knight Returns is "balls nasty." And not in a good way, like it's used in this book, but in a bad way, like balls actually being nasty. Especially if they're not cleaned.

I know you've heard a lot about this book, but it's not justified. It sucks. Plain and simple. Read something else instead.

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Friday, November 28, 2014

Review: The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter

The Heart is a Lonely HunterThe Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I almost gave The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter a four star rating instead of five since the description on the back totally misrepresents the story I just finished reading, which really pisses me off. Why would they push the book the way they did on this vintage version that I picked up? It doesn't make any sense. Even the photo on the cover (my cover is different from the one presented here) doesn't truly represent this staggering work. It's strange. While reading the book, I kept turning it over and re-reading the back to see when the "loss of innocence" would occur, or why they say that Mick Kelly, who is important in the overall narrative, would be called the main character, as this is a book where every character is important. It's just really poor marketing on the publisher's part, and I don't get it. Why?

But, moving on.

The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter is a masterpiece as it clearly represents a collage of loneliness. Every character suffers from it, and in a sense, you get the feeling that whole world suffers from it as the characters represented here are about as diverse as you can get. You get the educated black doctor who was born too early since the things he wants out of life are outside of his reach for another 20 years. You have the loner Communist who doesn't entirely know what he wants, but he avidly thinks he needs to get it and soon. You have the aforementioned, Mick Kelly, a 13 year old girl who has music in her heart and dreams of the future, but lives in abject poverty and searching for something more. And then, you have arguably the most complex character, Biff, who is most likely a homosexual, but not really sure or even desiring to confirm it in himself. They are all tied together by a deaf mute named Mr. Singer, who is also most likely gay, but also just as lonely, if not even lonelier, than the rest of the cast. His one true love, a fellow deaf man who may or may not even understand his only friend, is the glue that keeps Mr. Singer together. Every last character is essential to telling this story, which is one of the most depressing and beautiful I've ever read. There is hope at the end, but you wonder if it's justifiable hope. In the end, who's to say?

The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter is a rich, complex, layered novel and one that I will never forget. Its stature as a novel has only risen over the years, and for good reason. It's a true masterpiece.

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In the Eyes of the Law (New Short Story)

(Image taken from: www.crunchwear.com)

Here's a short story I had published recently. It might be offensive to some, and even I question its content now after seeing and hearing recent events (I wrote it last August in the heat of the Michael Brown incident), but a published story is a published story. You can find it here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Review: Main Street

Main StreetMain Street by Sinclair Lewis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Main Street is the kind of novel you can't just read today like it was written yesterday. You have to look at it from the lens of the time period. I'd call it a zeitgeist novel, but it represents a very specific time (the early 1900s), making it feel dated in a sense. But it's still good all the same. Sinclair Lewis could do no wrong.

The story concerns a woman named Carol Kennicott who is trapped in the wrong time and the wrong location. I don't mean that in a sci-fi sense, but rather that she's a woman with great ambitions caught in a town that doesn't want to do anything but stay the same. This affects Carol greatly as she deeply wants to do something with her life. But after getting married and having a baby, those ambitions get squashed every chance she gets as the denizens of Gopher Prairie don't want change. They want things the way they are. Carol ends up feeling smothered.

Why this book can't be seen as anything more than a time capsule is because you can tell that Sinclair Lewis had his eyes toward the future. But he couldn't see far enough to make the novel more damning toward the residents of Gopher Prairie. You get a sense that Carol is sometimes silly and not committed to her plight to change Main Street, and we don't so much as sympathize with her as we merely shrug our shoulders at the idea that she was just born too early. Her day would soon come in only a few decades.

That said, the book is still funny and a joy to read, even if it meanders a bit. If you like Sinclair Lewis, I'd say give it a go. It was that first novel that really put him on the map.

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