Monday, June 30, 2014

Review: Miss Peregrine's House for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, #1)Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There is a point in Ransom Riggs' book, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, where I honestly said to myself, "This is just as good as Harry Potter". But a few scenes later sullied by genuine enthusiasm. Even so, this first book in what is meant to be a trilogy has enough magic and wonder to spare. What makes this book unique, besides the old-timey pictures that are sprinkled throughout the book, is the way the story is told. Many have called it cinematic in quality, and I agree. I can already see the glossy movie that will eventually be spawned from this book now that it's gaining in popularity. But the characters are endearing, too. I liked every last one of them.

The story concerns a teenager who's been having terrifying dreams after a traumatic incident occurs. He winds up in a sleepy town in Wales where he stumbles upon Miss Peregrine's house, which is full of all kinds of wonder and mystery. It is here where he eventually meets the "peculiar children" in question, and they're almost like a cross between circus attractions and the X-Men. The result is a fun blend.

That said, there are parts in this book that are rather slow. And after the magnificent first 50 pages, it rarely reaches the excitement that was achieved there. But all in all, it's a great book, and I'm looking forward to reading the sequel. It's definitely one to look for and read if you like YA and time travel stories with a bit of an edge and personality.

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Review: Angels In America

Angels in AmericaAngels in America by Mike Nichols
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I don't get it. Maybe if I actually saw the play I could get a better sense of what the hell was going on, but from what I read, it seemed like a lot of retreading of the same territory over and over again. I'm gay. I have AIDS. I didn't know you were gay. We're hallucinating. Angels.

From the brief bit I saw of the HBO mini-movie, it all seemed pretty fantastic in the sense of production. But unlike other plays I've read where you can get a true sense of character and structure just by reading it, Angels in America is all over the place. Much like August Strindberg's, A Dream Play, it's the kind of play that I think you HAVE to see performed to get a true sense of what's actually going on.

So as a play, I'm sure it's wonderful, but as a story on the page, it sucks. I hated it.

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Adding All These Characters to Batman v. Superman Is Bad For the Future of DC, Not Good

(Image taken from:

Just recently, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice became Batman v Superman v Wonder Woman v Cyborg v Aquaman, and possibly v The Flash v Green Lantern (Because, seriously, how can you introduce Aquaman and not introduce The Flash and Green Lantern?). Now, while many comic book fans, including yours truly, think that Wonder Woman and the rest of the gang who aren’t Batman or Superman will probably show up in some post-credits scene, let’s just think about this for a moment. Is all this news about characters who will undoubtedly show up in the Justice League movie good for Batman v. Superman, or bad? If you ask me, it’s bad. In fact, it’s very bad, and I don’t see anything positive about it at all. It’s all leading up to one gargantuan mess, and we, the audience, are going to suffer for it.

First, there’s the possibility that these characters are actually not just in the post-credits scene and are actually instrumental to the story. If that’s the case, then many people will be looking for them in the movie and will be grossly disappointed that all this hype has been built up for these characters and they aren’t even going to be in the main film. Now, if characters like Wonder Woman and Cyborg were never mentioned ahead of time, very much like how S.H.I.E.L.D. and other groups and characters were never mentioned prior to a Marvel movie’s release and were instead just Easter eggs, then they would be a pleasant surprise at the end. This would totally ramp up anticipation for their characters in future films. But as it stands, when we find out way, way, way in advance that Gal Godot is not only set to play Wonder Woman, but that she will actually be in Batman v. Superman, then you have unnecessary anticipation levels. If Wonder Woman is not in the movie and is only in a post credits scene, many Wonder Woman fans will be disappointed, and deservedly so. Why mention her if she’s not going to be kicking butt in the main film? Why all the press?

Then, you have the issue that DC and Warner Bros. are just plain desperate to catch up to Marvel by adding all these Justice League characters, because honestly, introducing Aquaman and Cyborg in a movie called Batman v. Superman just reeks of desperation. For a long time, there was always the question of whether there would even be a Justice League movie. And now, not only is there going to be one, but the characters in it are going to be introduced in the most slapdash way possible. Say what you will about Green Lantern or Aquaman, but these are names that a majority of the public already knows in some shape or form. That said, their backgrounds aren’t as familiar as say, Batman or Superman’s, and you can’t just have a movie where you throw in The Flash or Wonder Woman, and expect people unfamiliar with their histories to fully get a sense of who they are. It’s really not fair and for several reasons.

One reason it’s not fair is because fans of these characters aren’t getting a fair deal. Someone like Green Lantern got the short end of the stick last time and most certainly won’t get much time to shine if he’s sharing the spotlight with Batman and Superman. Another reason it’s not fair is because movie goers who want to truly understand these characters really won’t get to. For most people, Aquaman is a joke as TV shows like Entourage have perpetuated the idea that he’s lame. But just because he’s now being played by Jason Mamoa, that doesn’t mean audience members will suddenly change their opinion on the character. They will mostly just be confused if he’s this tough guy and not much is explained about why he’s not like the wuss people have always thought he was, which will be what happens when he’s introduced with around four or five other characters. And thirdly, it’s not fair to the characters themselves to just throw them in a blender like this. If anything, a character like Cyborg needs his own movie, and a good one, to be truly accepted as anything but some weird, mechanical black dude a lot of people have never even seen or heard of before outside of the comic book community. The last thing he needs is to show up in some post-credits scene scowling. That would be really dumb.

Honestly, it feels like with announcing all these newcomers to Batman v. Superman, Warner Bros feels that they aren’t strong enough to star in a movie of their own. We already see that with the last Green Lantern movie, but just look at what Marvel did. The first Incredible Hulk was seen to be a failure. So Marvel revamped the character and made a new movie. This was all prior to The Avengers, by the way. But Warner Bros. is going ass backwards with this. They are going to introduce characters who aren’t as popular as Batman or Superman in their movie. Is it really enough to have Aquaman slam down his trident in a post-credit scene for us to get a sense of who Aquaman really is? I definitely don’t think so.

And that’s why introducing characters in this way, with new updates every few months, is a bad way for DC to move forward. Sure, it will keep people thinking about the film and its possibilities until it comes out on May 6th, 2016 (The same day as Captain America 3). But if they blow this and introduce all these characters in a poor way, it’s going to blow up in their faces and really set DC back several years. Unless the execution is absolutely perfect (And with Zack Snyder at the helm, I’m not positive it will be), this could be a huge mistake. Here’s hoping it isn’t, but things aren’t looking good.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Review: The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two FatesThe Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think I like the idea of The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates, better than the actual story itself. It may be because one of the Wes Moore's (The one who wrote the book), doesn't have that interesting a story to tell. Now, I know, I know, this isn't the kind of memoir where you're really supposed to be interested or engaged all the time. This isn't Ozzy Osbourne's autobiography. It's not meant to shock or surprise you. It's meant to prove a point about a societal issue, and it does a pretty good job of that. The point has been made.

The story itself concerns two Wes Moore's, both of them born around the same Baltimore area, and both of them having wildly different futures--one of them ends up in jail for life, and the other ends up writing a book and hobnobbing with important people in the White House. The question here is, why? Well, Wes Moore doesn't exactly spell it out for you, but he shows that through certain key decisions in both their lives, they ultimately determined their own fate, with the tragedy (as he puts it), being that either one of them could have had their fate reversed. I'm not entirely sure I agree with that notion given what's presented here, but I do think he plays his cards right by not telling you why he thinks the different outcome occurs, which was a good move.

But again, the book is mostly interesting when we read about "The other Wes Moore", the one who didn't write the book. His story, while sad, is engaging. This is a good read if you're looking to better understand urban environments and what it does to the youth. I recommend it.

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Review: The Reformed Vampire Support Group

The Reformed Vampire Support GroupThe Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've been reading a lot of YA lately because I'm trying to understand the genre better, and great books like The Reformed Vampire Support Group make them more palatable to me. I must say, I truly enjoyed this.

I'll be honest with you, though. It took me a while to buy into the world set up here. I, like many people, am sick and tired of vampire stories, and this book takes a while to really get you to like the characters. But once you do, you really do, and Catherine Jinks does an excellent job of separating her vampires from others (These vampires are actually very sick most of the time, and are definitely self-aware). I especially like the voice of the story. Even though it's from a teenage girl who is actually in her 60s because of the effects of becoming a vampire, it really works. And what follows is an adventure that doesn't really seem like an adventure until the last 100 pages or so, since a lot of the book is spent getting you involved with the problem at hand.

In the end, though, I really liked this book. I would recommend it to anybody who is trying to get a better sense of the "voice" of YA. It's helped me immensely.

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All Hail the 90s: 10 Marvel Cabinets That Ruled the Arcades [Complex Magazine article]

This might be my very last article for Complex Magazine, as I've surely pissed off my editor to the nth degree when it comes to finding images, so I hope you enjoy it. You can find the article here.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Review: Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer (Necromancer, #1)Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lish McBride does something quite remarkable in her debut novel, Hold Me Closer, Necromancer-She creates a fully realized world that contains both magic and adventure and doesn't bog it down with boring, world-building details. Instead, she writes a seamless story about a former fry cook with unbelievable necromancing powers. The book has a whole bunch of twists and turns, as well as some witty writing that never feels cloying or overbearing. And at 342 pages, I finished it in only two days. I was really invested in the characters, like Sam, Ramon, and even the antagonist, Douglas, who is one intimidating bad dude. Similar to Harry Potter, the magic FEELS real, as the world constructed around this story is tight and easy to follow. I'm looking forward to reading the follow-up, Necromancing the Stone. I can't wait!

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