Reader Problems Book Tag

Thursday 21 November 2019

1. You have 20,000 books on your TBR. How in the world do you decide what to read next?

I'll tell you what I do! It's just like when you're at home and hungry but you don't have anything to eat. You keep walking to the fridge, opening it, staring, sighing, then closing the door and walking away. But in the case of what to read next, I just browse my shelves until something jumps out at me.

Truth be told, I usually have a book I want to read. But Anne and I do so many reading challenges that I usually have a book I should read on top of a book I really want to read.

2. You’re halfway through a book and you’re just not loving it. Do you quit or are you committed?

It depends. How long is the book? I was recently reading a book called Shallow Graves that I wasn't feeling, but it was less than 250 pages so I sucked it up and kept reading. If it had been a longer book though, that would be different.

If I needed it for a reading challenge prompt, I may keep reading unless I can find a better sounding book for the same prompt. Otherwise I'd drop it faster than lubed up bowling ball.

3. The end of the year is coming and you’re so close, but so far away on your Goodreads reading challenge. Do you try to catch up and how?

I'm actually 10 books over my Goodreads reading challenge! So yay for me! I had a goal of 60 and I'm on 71 now. Next year I'll do 120, but count graphic novels and manga as well. So hopefully I'll do 60 graphic novels and 60 regular books.

4. The covers of a series you love do. not. match. How do you cope?

I try not to look at it and try my best to hide my shame. I'm a fan of The Expanse series and with book 4 the design on the spine changed a bit and it drives me effing batty. My Jo Nesbo books don't match either. So instead I focus on my Dresden Files books or my Terry Brooks books which do match.

5. Every one and their mother loves a book you really don’t like. Who do you bond with over shared feelings?

Almost all of my friends are readers so there's bound to be someone who agrees with me. I thought I could count on Anne to hate Every Heart A Doorway with me, but she ended up liking it, though she could at least see why I hated it. For the most part we agree on things and if not her, then I'll find a reader friend who hates it as well.

6. You’re reading a book and you are about to start crying in public. How do you deal?

I just cry. I don't have anything to prove to anyone. What's the worst that would happen? Someone makes fun of me? Oh no! Some mouth breathing troglodyte is laughing at the person who's in touch with their feelings. Shame.

7. A sequel of a book you loved just came out, but you’ve forgotten a lot from the prior novel. Will you re-read the book? Skip the sequel? Try to find a synopsis on Goodreads? Cry in frustration?!?!?!?

To quote younger Millenials than myself... THIS! I'm a fan of Brent Week's Lightbringer series and the latest book just came out and it's been about two years since The Blood Mirror hit the shelves and now I forgot where we were. I know the basics, like where Gavin is, what Kip is doing, but The White? Karis, the others? I forgot. Lucky for me, Brent Weeks breaks down each book in the series with a synopsis of what happens. For authors who don't do that, I search for and read a write up of the plot

8. You do not want anyone. ANYONE. borrowing your books. How do you politely tell people nope when they ask?

I usually don’t have a problem with it. But there are a couple rare books I own that I would never loan out. Like my first edition hardcover of The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks. So if someone asked to borrow that I’d be torn between saying “hell no” or “oh hell no.”

9. Reading ADD. You’ve picked up and put down 5 books in the last month. How do you get over your reading slump?

I pick up something I know I like. I’d pick up Storm Front book 1 of the Dresden Files series. Or I’d pick up a kids book like something from A Series of Unfortunate Events or The Spiderwick Chronicles. I’d maybe even pick up a manga. Anything just to read and complete something. That usually gets me out of my slump.

10. There are so many new books coming out that you’re dying to read! How many do you actually buy?

Almost none unless there something super special about it. I rarely buy books new these days after my wife and I discovered library book sales. I did buy two books recently, The Poppy War by   and Space Opera by Catherine Valente. I haven’t read those yet and I still haven’t heard the end of it.

11. After you’ve bought the new books you can’t wait to get to, how long do they sit on your shelf before you get to them?

It really depends. First and foremost, do they work for any reading challenge prompt? If so, it may be the next book I read. If it doesn’t work for a prompt it may take a good long while for me to pick it up as I prioritize finishing reading challenges to my own reading desires. As I mentioned above, I purchased two books a couple months ago and still haven’t gotten around to reading them even though I’m excited for both. Also, as previously mentioned, the next book in the Lightbringer series came out and I haven’t purchased it yet as I know it would have just sat around on my shelf.  I may not do the Popsugar reading challenge next year, and if I don’t, then I can read whatever I want!

They Both Die At The End by Adam Silvera | Book Review

Wednesday 20 November 2019

I had high hopes for this book. My wife enjoyed it and the two hosts from one of my favorite podcasts (We’re Doing Fine with Robbie and Lisa) both enjoyed it. I trust the tastes of all of those people so I figured there’s little risk in giving it a listen as I was in the market for a new audio book. So what did I think? Here’s my review for They Both Die In The End by Adam Silvera.

The title is very straight forward. It's about two kids who find out they’re going to die. There’s a service called Death Cast that calls people shortly after midnight and lets them know that they’re going to die. That way people can be prepared and spend their last day however they wish. Death Cast doesn’t know how or at what time, just the day. Mateo and Rufus don’t know each other. But they will after they both get the call and find each other using an app called Last Friend, an app for people who don’t have anyone to spend their last day with.

The title says they both die but they could still survive. However, for a story like this, it doesn’t matter. The journey is what counts more. It’s like any show or movie about the Titanic. You know it’s going to sink, but that’s not why you watch it. The main character could be like Jack and die or like Rose and survive on a piece of wood big enough for two. But either way you don’t sit down to Titanic thinking it’s going to have a happy ending.

I’m going to be honest. I spent half the book disliking the characters. Mataeo was a wuss. I would have been more understanding if it was revealed he had some sort of mental issue, but no explanation was given besides him being a wussy homebody who was scared of the world. Rufus sounded like someone who got a copy of “how to talk ghetto” for Christmas and was practicing as much as he could. Everything was “mad.” The sun was mad bright, the food was mad tasty, and the music was mad loud. Not just that, but he started out very one bland note.

I found myself liking the characters more as the story progressed. They were changing and it was for the better. Mateo was less of a scaredy cat and Rufus was developing more and his . In the first half of the book I just enjoyed the story and the setup while in the second half I grew to like the characters as well.

I’ve read quite a few reviews for this book and one of the biggest complaints I read was about instalove. I want to assure you that there is no instalove. In my opinion, instalove is what happens in cheesy romance books or Twilight when Bella sees Edward for the first time and she’s eternally, irrevocably, and haphazardly in love just from the sight of the creepy old vampire.

This was a cute book. A typical YA drama/romance. It wasn’t bad at all but I’ve also read better. Adam Silvera had a really good idea with this book that never fully got fleshed out. Mateo and Rufus get nice and complete stories but other parts of the book, like the world it is set in and how things work, are never explained.They Both Die In The End has many pros and very few cons so I whole heartedly recommend this book to anyone who’s a fan of YA drama and romance.

I still have quite a few question. How does death cast know how is going to die? Why are the doomed called deckers? Some people are killed because they get the call and then do something stupid. So is the call that killed them? Would they still have died if they didn’t get the call even though the fact that they got the call is what made them take a certain action that caused their death?

If that last question was a bit confusing, allow me to explain in a non-spolier example. Let’s say I get called by death cast. I find out I’m going to die today. Because I get that call, I decide to do something I never would have done otherwise. I go skydiving. While skydiving my parachute fails and I fall to my death. But I never would have been skydiving if I never got the call. So would I have died anyway? Is death unavoidable?

Those questions aside, I still liked this and would recommend it to any fan of YA. If you're not a read of the genre, then I might stray away from this book. Otherwise, give it a go.

They Both Die At The End gets a 7.5 out of 11

The Best Movie Scores

Tuesday 19 November 2019

A lot of my non-review blogs are usually ideas from my wife. She’s been a blogger longer than I have and is much better at it so she comes up with ideas that don’t revolve around me having to rely on reviews. One of her ideas, and the one I’m embracing today, is sharing some of my favorite songs from movies. I do plan on talking about both musical scores and more popular music put on soundtracks. 

Before we continue, I just want to share with you my distinction between musical scores and soundtrack songs. For my personal definition, a musical score is any classical song written for the movie to be used as an accompaniment to any scene. A very popular example is the Imperial March from Star Wars. That’s the song usually attributed to Darth Vader. A song for the soundtrack will be any song you’d also hear on the radio (non-classical station of course). As an example both Logan Lucky and Kingsman: The Golden Circle used Country Road by John Denver.Country Road. That, of course, was a song before the movies ever came out.

So without further ado, let me share with you three of my favorite scores from movies. 

Star Trek: First Contact - Main Theme composed by Michael Giacchino

 Not just any of the Star Trek themes. While I do love them all and will eventually talk about them in other posts, for this first one I want to focus The Next Generation film from 1996. There are a couple reasons for this. The first is that I believe that the main theme from First Contact merges very well with the theme from the show. If you listen to the beginning of the song it starts the same way the TV show intro does and then triumphantly changes into the new theme expressing how the show lead to the movies. The other reason I picked this song to talk about first is that First Contact is my favorite Star Trek film. The 2009 reboot and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home are close seconds and thirds, but First Contact did a better job of capturing the magic and spirit of the show.

Flight from the Man of Steel soundtrack by Hanz Zimmer.

Hanz Zimmer is the best thing to happen to movie scores since John Williams. If you look through a list of movies he’s scored you’re bound to find one of your favorites. The best thing about Flight is that it’s exciting without feeling like cheesy trailer music. It does start out slow but it’s triumphant, it’s moving, it makes me feel brave. It’s the perfect embodiment of Superman. Man of Steel wasn’t well received as a movie and I get that. I happen to love it because it does a wonderful job of capturing the spirit and the magic, of the boy from Krypton who was raised to be the best humanity has to offer. Damn, that’s a good line. Don’t be surprised if I write a blog defending Man of Steel and I use that same line.The song is 4 minutes and 13 seconds and it starts out slow and easy like Clark's youth then at the 1:28 mark it starts to pick up

Princess Mononoke - Journey To The West by Joe Hisaishi

Another movie from the 90s and one of my favorites of all time. Whenever I think of moving classical scores I think of Joe Hisaishi’s work on Princess Mononoke. Even though I love the film, I think the epic score helped solidify its place on the top of my list. There are three times this moving song is featured in the film, but it’s use as an accompaniment for a travel montage for Ashitaka and Yakul (his steed) as he leaves his village and I think it's the best use of the song. The theme captures the wonder of the film and the heart behind the story.

There you have it. The first three songs in what I hope will be an ongoing series. Do you have any favorites? Share them and I'll bring them up in the next installment. 

November Library Hop | Book and Blu-ray Haul

Sunday 17 November 2019

A few years ago my wife and I discovered that our local library has a room where they sell books people donated. It wasn't long after that discovery that we also discovered that libraries having books for sale was just a thing. So every few months or so we go on a library hop where we pick an area and make our rounds, buying up all the books we want. Seeing as the books are normally .50 cents for a paper back and 1 dollar for a hardback, this is why we have more books than we could possibly read but also, still have money for living. So what did this latest hop around the Santa Cruz County libraries bring? Here's the results.

The Movies

Movies are rare in library sales. Blu-ray's are almost unheard of. If I do see them they're usually ex-library copies that that some augmented cover to have the library's name on it and the info on the back is so cramped that it's unreadable. Sometimes though I do luck out and this was one of those trips.


This is a film from 2015 starring Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain), Rachel McAdams (Mean Girls), Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland), Naomie Harris (Skyfall) and rapper 50 Cent. The premise is familiar for those who like movies about boxers or fighters. A champion must fight not only in the ring but in his personal life as he fights to get his daughter and back revive his career.

Brawl In Cell Block 99

This stars Vince Vaughn (Wedding Crashers), Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter), and Don Johnson (Miami Vice). In this, Vince Vaughn plays Bradley, a former boxer turned drug mule after his life starts to fall apart. This life of crime lands him in jail where he's forced to commit horrid acts of violence just to stay alive.

The Books

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

If you've never seen a Playaway, it's an audiobook but all you need is a pair of headphones and a battery. I can understand why people would get these out of the library, but I don't see the point of purchasing them... unless I can get one for 2 bucks. This book is about Will Grayson and how he meets Will Grayson. These two Wills have two totally different lives that intertwine into one book.

The Xanth Series bu Piers Anthony

The Xanth Series is by legendary fantasy author Piers Anthony (aka Piers Xanthony) and it's 42 books long. I have never read this series but I know I wanted to give it a try. When I saw the 4th, 6th, 7th, and 8th book on sale for 50 cents each. I bought them even though the only other book I have from the series is the first book A Spell for Chameleon. The world of Xanth is an enchanted magical land that has served as the setting for a series of books that started back in 1977. You can tell by the titles of these books that Anthony has fun with them. Maybe not so much with Centaur Aisle or Dragon on a Pedestal, but Night Mare and Crewel Lye: A Caustic Yarn. Are quite punny.

The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente

Author Catherynne M Valente is one of those authors I haven't read yet, but I'm pretty sure I'll end up loving. I already own her book Space Opera, so when I saw this, I jumped at it. This is a book of short stories revolving around six female superheroes and the girlfriends of superheroes. This was written in response to females in comic book stories that have been "refrigerated." In reference to Alexandra DeWitt, girlfriend of Green Lantern Kyle Rayner who was murdered and stuffed in a refrigerator.

Deception Point by Dan Brown

Remember when Dan Brown was popular? Remember when he wrote The Da Vinci Code, then people read Angels & Demons and realized it was a better book? This was the book he wrote before The Da Vinci Code right before he exploded and fizzled out. Okay, I'm sorry. That's rude. He still has his fans. But he had exploded to national fame where people outside of the book community knew his name. Well this book is about NASA finding a rare object buried deep in the Arctic ice. Intelligence analyst Rachel Sexton and academic Michael Tolland are sent to investigate but what they find my be more than they ever thought.

That was the last of my library sale haul. Have you read any of these? I'd love to know your thoughts on any of the titles I picked up. I'd love to know either way. If I should pick them up right now or if I should toss them faster than a greased up bullet.

Terminator: Dark Fate | Movie Review

Thursday 14 November 2019

Let’s talk about movies that never stood a chance. Let’s talk about the Ghostbusters reboot from 2016, let’s talk about the new Star Wars trilogy, let’s talk about Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. What do those movies have in common? They’re all reboots or continuations of movies from the 80s. They’re movies a lot of us hold dear from our childhood. The Terminator series falls right into that trap. Terminator 2: Judgement Day was the last movie in the series that most fans liked. It’s now an iconic film. T2 came out in 1991 and it wasn’t until 12 years later that a sequel came out. It was a sequel that set the series in a downward spiral that it never quite recovered from.

Director Tim Miller (Deadpool) decided to take a stab at the series along with a group of writers including James Cameron (Titanic, Avatar) and David S Goyer (Dark City, The Dark Knight). Arnold Schwarzenegger  and Linda Hamilton came back to reprise their roles and it would be their first time together again since T2 back in ‘91.  So how did they do? Here’s my review.

Let’s be honest, Terminator: Dark Fate was never going to do well. There’s too much bad air around the series. Public opinion went down after the third installment. Terminator: Genisys flopped so hard that the proposed trilogy was tossed in the trash faster than a poopy diaper.

The story for this installment was formulaic but enjoyable. I could see where things were going from the very beginning but I didn’t mind because the journey was fun. It didn’t take long for the story to get headed, which was good because if it had a slower burn it could have wound up being boring. Though it was fast paced, it didn’t feel like the story was being ignored for the sake of action.

The acting was solid. Good for a blockbuster film. Arnold, as always, played a great Terminator. It was good to see Linda Hamilton again and she put on quite a performance. Where Arnold’s Terminator had the usual one note, Hamilton’s Sara Connor had more nuanced emotion behind a layer of ice.

As for the newcomers, Natalia Reyes (Birds of Passage) as Dani (this movie’s Terminator target) had a good arc of growth from a deer in the headlights to a woman with fiery resolve. Mackenzie Davis(Halt and Catch Fire) as Grace, the augmented human sent back to protect Dani, was a pleasant surprise as it introduced another character with a wider emotional pallet than Schwarzenegger’s Terminator.

Now it’s time to talk about the most important factor of a Terminator movie. The Terminator. This time we have Gabriel Luna (Agents of Shield) playing a never-before-seen killing machine that can split into two and seems even harder to kill than the T-1000. The most pressing question is “how good was he as an unstoppable killing machine?” He was exceptional.

This movie could go one of two ways. This could be it. It could be the new ending. Much like Halloween (2018) did, it reset the movie’s cannon. So this could be the final movie with the new cannon being Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, and now Terminator: Dark Fate. Or this could start a new set of movies. Terminator: Dark Fate hasn’t been faring very well in theaters or with critics so the possibility of a new series is slim, but not impossible.

I think the biggest problem people have when going into movies like this is they don’t have realistic expectations. You should go into this expecting a fun action film. That’s it. Should you expect it to live up to the original two? No. Should you expect a heart stopping cinematic experience? No. Should you just expect a fun action film with a familiar characters, story, and world? Yes. This movie is enjoyable as long as you can enjoy a simple action film.

Terminator: Dark Fate gets an 8 out of 11

What If It's Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera | Book Review

Wednesday 13 November 2019

I became a Becky Albertalli fan after reading Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda. It’s now one of my favorite books of all time. They Both Die In The End Adam Silvera has been on my TBR list for a little under a year now and I just started listening to it. So a book written by both of them sounds like a sure fire win, right? Here’s my review:

What If It's Us has a simple but cute premise. Sixteen-year-old Arthur is in New York for the summer. He’s originally from Georgia but has an internship with his mother’s law firm. One day he’s off on a coffee run and he meets Ben, a handsome young man who is on his way to the post office to mail a box filled with his ex-boyfriend’s belongings. The two hit it off but before they can exchange any information, even their names, they get separated by a sudden flash mob. Can Arthur and Ben find each other again? If they do, was their chemistry a sign? Or just a flash in the pan? And if they do really hit it off, what happens when the summer ends and Arthur has to go back home?

If you couldn’t tell by the premise, this is a YA romance novel. That alone may scare some people off. My review of this book may do little to ease your mind if you’re one of those people. Trust me. I did enjoy this book. It was enjoyable and cute. But I cringed more than if Wolverine did his claws on a chalkboard.

Arthur and Ben were very realistic teenagers, for better and worse. I think part of what made me cringe so much was my memory of being their age and being like both of them. I had to remind myself multiple times during the book that the two main characters may be teenagers, but they’re still kids. There are quite a few times where both characters made stupid decisions and made a big deal out of nothing. I think that’s part of what made them realistic. I too remember having fights with friends over embarrassingly dumb stuff and thinking my life was over because some trivial thing happened. Both Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera’s strengths are their characters. They feel like real people. If one day it was revealed that all of their books were based off real people, I wouldn’t be surprised. 

While this book is technically a YA romance, I think that YA slice-of-life is a much better genre. I know, slice-of-life is not technically a genre, but I think it fits so well that I’m going with it anyway. Anime gets a slice-of-life genre, why can’t American stuff too? What do I mean by slice-of-life? This story feels like we’re peeping in on someone’s everyday life. That this could actually happen. That nothing too extraordinary happens that would require a suspension of disbelief. The type of story that you could sum up with one word. Quaint. 

At the end of the day this book was enjoyable. It was a cute story about young love and issues that modern kids would face. The characters are realistic, the story is realistic, and I found myself rooting for true love to win the day. If you’re looking for a nice romance, or even a good LGBT book, then this could be for you.

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera gets an 8 out of 11

I wouldn’t be able to consider this review complete without giving a few spoiler free examples of the cringiness from this book. Arthur feels like a stereotypical drama kid. He’s obsessed with the Broadway play Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen and can’t even comprehend why anyone wouldn’t also be a fan. He gushes over it so much I can just see him tweeting "Hamilton is life." Ben is writing a story called The Wicked Wizard War where he’s the main character and he puts all of his friends and family members in the book and it sounds like bad fan fiction. Also, Ben is in summer school and is so embarrassed! Can you imagine something as embarrassing as summer school? Yes. Yes I can imagine a lot of things more embarrassing as summer school. Out of context some of these things may not seem like big deals, but in context, when the characters were treating these like big deals, I was dying.

The Happy List Book Tag

Tuesday 12 November 2019

Anne and I love to do these book tag posts and we try to post them on the same day, unless I get forgetful and don't post mine. This one is based on things that make you... wait for it... HAPPY! Yay for being happy!

1. A book you can always go back to and feel happy

Storm Front by Jim Butcher. This is always going to be my answer for any favorite book related questions. I'm a huge mark for Dresden. I love the world, I love the characters, I love the stories. I love how Dresden and his powers grow as the ante for each story grows and grows. Storm Front is the book I can always turn back to. I may like other Dresden books more, but Storm Front is where it all started.

2. Your standoms (your number one joy filled fandom or fandoms)

I don't really have one. Fandoms annoy me. I can be considered a Potterhead. I can be considered a Whovian. I used to be a huge weeb. There are a lot of fandoms I can be a part of, but I don' really partake. I think it just reminds me too much of my awkward nerd years and I get second hand embarrassment.

3. Type of book cover you’ll always pick up in a bookstore

The standard fantasy book cover will always grab my attention. The old kind too. Terry Brooks, Mercedes Lackey, Piers Anthony. Stuff like that. Classic fantasy. A group of people, usually a human or two, a dwarf or elf, some other creature that may be unique to that book. Maybe a treasure chest, sword, dragon, or something else capturing their attention. I may not read that much classic fantasy anymore but there will always be a soft spot in my heart for it.

4. A book trope that you love

I could say the rag tag group that's supposed to fight the big evil in a fantasy book, but I feel that that answer harkens back too much to my last answer so instead I'll say: The rag tag crew of a starship. See? Same answer but different setting. I win.

5. An anticipated release that makes you happy when you think about it

I was told I can't use Dresden as an answer again so this one was harder that I anticipated. The book that I'm excited for, the one that makes me happy, doesn't even have a release date yet. It's the third book in the Sixth World series by Rebecca Roanhorse. I picked up the first book on a whim. I needed a new audio book to listen to at work and Trail of Lightening just happened to be the sale book that day. That God I did because I found one of my new favorite authors. When book two Storm of Locusts came out, I got it right away and listened to it over two days. I can't wait for book three.

6. An author whose full canon of books you love

Seriously? I can't use Jim Butcher (author of the Dresden Files) as my answer? Fine. I was going to say Becky Chambers, author of The Wayfarers series but I didn't think I could honestly count her as she's only written four books that I've only read two of. So I'm going with Brandon Sanderson. I may not have read all of his books, but I read enough that I can say that I'm familiar with his voice and enjoy it a lot. I've read his books for adults, his YA books, and his middle grade books and I've enjoyed them all.

7. Your coziest go-to reading snack/drink

The snack has to be something that won't make my fingers all greasy. It can't be chocolate because I don't want to get chocolate on my book. Anything cheesy is out. Just ask Anne about how Darkest Minds and Cheetos mix. I got it. One of my favorite snacks is Chex Mix. If you go with the original flavor there's not a lot of dust or flavoring to transfer from your fingers to the pages. Napkins would be wise but not necessary.

The drink could be anything. You don't have to be as careful with stains from drinks as you do snacks. And it also depends what mood I'm in. Whiskey? Beer? Something non-alcoholic like soda, juice, tea, or water? It really depends.

8. A book you’ve shared with with family or friends

This answer has to be Storm Front even though I'm trying not to double up on answers. Anne and I go to a lot of library book sales and whenever I see a copy of Storm Front for cheap I always pick it up just in case I meet someone who likes fantasy or urban fantasy and has never read it.

9. A fellow booktuber or book blogger whose content always brings you joy

Can I use my wife's blog as an answer?

10. Name something about the content you create that you love

It makes me happy when I come up with a clever play on words. I also love it when a book or movie review just flows like warm butter and I don't have to keep pausing, deleting, rewriting, deleting again, then getting frustrated and watching Smash Ultimate tournaments on YouTube.

I don't have many readers. I know this. But it makes me happy that at least a couple people read my content. So thank you, if you're one of them.

Kings Or Pawns by J.J. Sherwood | Book Review

Monday 11 November 2019

A while back I read a book that I absolutely loved, but for some reason I never wrote a review. How can I claim to love a book if I don’t do my best, as a book blogger to share it with the tens of people who read my new blog? Kings or Pawns is a book by J. J. Sherwood and was released way back in 2015. It’s part of a series called The Steps of Power and it is a must read for any fan of the fantasy genre. Here’s my review.

Let’s start, as we always do, with the premise. This is, in my oh so humble opinion, a mix between high fantasy and political intrigue. The political intrigue is where this book shines but it also does a military drama quite well too. The story follows Prince, soon to be King, Hairem who has just ascended to the throne of Elvorium after the death of his father. Jikun is the beloved general who is fighting a campaign against Saebellus, the great enemy of Elvorium. Hairem must fight his political enemies, those who don’t want him in power, while Jikun must fight his own battle against an enemy always seems to be one step ahead.

For some reason I have a harder time writing reviews for books I love but I can write about books I didn’t like with the ease of cutting butter with a lightsaber. I believe it’s because when I don’t like a book, I can pick out exactly why. It’s usually one or two things that don’t quite work that kept me from enjoying the story. When it comes to books I love, like Kings or Pawns, I have a harder time narrowing it down because, well, I liked it all.

What stood out to me the most about this story was how quickly I cared about Hairem and Jikun. How each point of view was unique and I I always saw their side of things. I felt like if they were real people I would get along with Hairem and have a healthy respect for Jikun. They were real people to me.Both Hairem and JIkun had their voice and you could feel it in their individual scenes. The supporting cast was just as good. They were fully realized. They never felt like a passing thought.

The world the book is set in is well thought out and vast. With it comes the promise of a plethora of stories. Much like the Shannara series by Terry Brooks, when this first story ends, Sherwood could start a brand new story in a land we already know and love. Personally I want a prequel series set during the True Blood Schism (read the book and you'll agree with me).

What impressed me most about JJ Sherwood’s writing was that she had this Aaron Sorkin-esque ability to make politics interesting. Discussions between the new king and the elected officials could become tense and intriguing at a moments notice. It felt less like C-Span and more like The West Wing, but with Elves. 

The good news about starting this series now is that book two, Heroes and Thieves, is already out so when you finish Kings or Pawns and need more Steps of Power in your life, you can jump right into the next book. I really enjoyed Kings or Pawns and I know you will too. 

Kings or Pawns by JJ Sherwood gets a 11 out of 11

The Laundromat | Movie Review

Sunday 10 November 2019

   I remember this already hyped Netflix original movie hitting theaters for a limited run before being available for all to stream. It had an all star cast and it's based off the events leading up to the Panama Papers, a recent event in our political history that... not much came of. Did the movie deliver more than the actual event? Here's my review.

     Let's start with the premise and those involved in the film. A woman's husband dies in a tour boat accident and she finds that getting a payout from the insurance company will be harder than getting the blood out of the carpet from that elevator scene in The Shining. She starts investigating and finds that it all ties back to a pair of Panama City lawyers who are taking advantage of quite a few lax financial laws.

     This was directed by Steven Soderbergh who brought us movies like Logan Lucky, The Informant and Erin Brockovich. It was based off a book by investigative journalist Jake Bernstein and adapted for the screen by Scott Z. Burns who wrote films like The Bourne Ultimatum, Contagion, and The Informant. It stars Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas, James Cromwell, Robert Patrick, Melissa Rauch, Jeffrey Wright, David Schwimmer, and Sharon Stone.

     Look at that cast and crew! What's not to love? A lot, as it turns out. This should have been a hit. This should have been the next great film that everyone talked about. Meryl Streep or Gary Oldman alone are enough to garner my interest in a film. But The Laundromat's pedigree is outstanding. Too bad it doesn't deliver.

     The Laundromat was too washed out. It used too much starch, making it too stiff. They forgot the fabric softener. Can I use any other laundry jokes? Maybe. But I'll stop, for now. The plot was so broken that it felt like a jigsaw puzzle put together during an earthquake. It started out fine, making you think that we'd be following Meryl Streep in her investigation while having Oldman and Bandersas cut in every once in a while to teach us lessons about how this scummy financial stuff works in a way reminiscent of The Big Short, which is what I think Soderbergh wanted you to think. But halfway though the movie switches course and follow a new character played by Nonso Anozie  (Cinderella), Then after him a story following Matthias Schoenaerts (The Danish Girl).

      As I was watching the movie I wondered what affect Anozie and Schoenaerts stories would have on the movie as a whole. The answer is: nothing. All they do is provide examples of the crimes committed by the two main lawyers and their shell companies. These two stories could have been told in one scene of exposition but instead they were a distraction. The goal was to distract us from the fact that Meryl Streep's character now doesn't matter.  I get it. I get the fact that the main story were the crimes committed by the lawyers from Panama. But we're introduced to Streep and her story, then halfway through it's abandoned and we're force fed two other stories that ultimately don't matter.

    This was a sloppy movie. It had no focus. It tried hard to be The Big Short and the only thing it could replicate was the star power of the main cast. The Big Short was a great movie while The Laundromat felt like a much better script went through the wash and then someone pieced together the remains and tried to make it work.

     There was so much promise here. There was so much potential that was wasted on a poorly thought out, poorly paced, and poorly written movie. I watched this on Netflix for free and I still want my money back.

The Laundromat gets a 3.5 out of 11.

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks | Book Review

Saturday 9 November 2019

     So Tom Hanks wrote a book? Tom Freakin’ Hanks? The guy who saved Private Ryan and survived Apollo 13? Yes. Yes he did. He may be an accomplished Academy Award winning actor, but he dabbles in the written word as well! But can he write as well as he acts? Here’s my review.

     Thomas Jeffrey Hanks loves typewriters. I’ve known this since his interview on The Nerdist podcast. They managed to rope in such a big star by sending him the gift of an antique typewriter as a bribe, which he loved.  Why am I mentioning this? Because Uncommon Type is a book of short stories with typewriters as a common theme, though they main not be a crucial element to each story. This book has 17 short stories that all fall in the general fiction genre. One story highlights Hank’s interest in WWII and another highlights his interest in space, which I think captures how diverse this book is.

  Just like most short story collections, this one runs the gamut of enjoyability. I liked some stories a lot more than others. Some characters were relateable and enjoyable while others felt a little over-the-top or try hard. Some of my favorite stories were Steve Wong Is Perfect, Christmas Eve 1953, and The Past Is Important To Us. Others like Our Town Today with Hank Fiset, Three Exhausting Weeks, and Who's Who . The good news is that I liked most of the stories. I switched between the physical book and audio book and certain stories did better with different media. My interest in the book waxed and waned as I read and listened. Some stories got me pumped and wanting to read more while some left me cold.

     Would I recommend this book? It depends. Are you a fan of short stories? Is general fiction your jam? If you said yes to either of those last two questions, sure, give this a try. If you said no to either one of those questions then don’t. In that case the most you could do is buy it as a book to place on your coffee table as a conversation starter. “Tom Hanks wrote a book?” your friend may say.  “Yes. Yes he did.” You’d answer. “Do you want to borrow it?”

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks gets a 7 out of 11

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