Category Archives: Review

Here, I review a piece of media (book, movie, series, etc.)

Recommended Reads for Pride Month

With how big my yearly reading goals on Goodreads, I will occasionally do particular theme or topic for an entire month.  For instance, in March, most of the books I might read may involve Ireland in some way, since St. Patrick’s Day is on the seventeenth.  Or for May, a number of the books I read could involve mental health for Mental Health Awareness Month or I’ll read Star Wars novels because May is essentially Star Wars Month.  Not all books in a month will fit into a theme, nor will I do a theme every month of the year.  It’s just a way for me to find new books that I will enjoy and/or learn from.

This year, for the month of June, I have decided to read books with LGBTQ+ related in honor of Pride Month.  I’ve read a few books over the years with LGBTQ+ characters over the years, whether they be main or side characters, and I have a few I plan for this month, which I may do a recommendation blog at the end of the month.  Today, however, I thought I would discuss some books that I have read in case you are looking for something to read this month.

Apologies now if it seems like my recommendations mostly involve lesbian/bi women.  It was purely unintentional since I picked these up because they either sounded interesting or were part of a series I was reading (and enjoying).  My current reads and what I plan to read this month will be a bit more diversified.  

The Avatar Kyoshi Duology by F.C. Yee

Avatar the Last Airbender is one of my favorite animated series.  I’m not the only one to say that, I am sure, but it is a good series.  The themes, animation, story, and characters are all things that made it such a beloved show.  Characters like Zuko, Iroh, Toph, Azula, Aang, and Katara are just some of the characters that people have grown to love.  It got a sequel in the Legend of Korra and several comic tie ins.  The Rise of Kyoshi and The Shadow of Kyoshi are two books that are also included and focuses on one of the most popular Avatars, Kyoshi. 

Kyoshi became a pretty popular Avatar most likely for her stark contrast to Aang, the titular Avatar.  Aang was traditionally shown as being nonviolent and diplomatic (as much as any twelve year old in his potion can be) with a moral compass that could make certain decisions, like killing Ozai, difficult.  Kyoshi, meanwhile, had a moral compass and some level of diplomacy, but was willing to do what needed to be done.  With Chin the Conqueror, for example, she didn’t care if he died the day she separated Kyoshi island from the mainland.  It wasn’t really her intent, but she wasn’t opposed to it either since it got rid of a corrupt ruler.  

The Kyoshi duology by F.C. Yee goes over Kyoshi’s early years and finding out what it means to be the Avatar.  When her friend gets confused to be the next Avatar after the unexpected and sudden death of Kuruk, the revelation that it was actually Kyoshi is a secret and unexpected one.  During the books she will go through a series of trials and tribulations while trying to escape the people chasing her.  She even joins a gang that her airbending mother used to be affiliated with, who would be the beginning for Ba Sing Se’s, Dai Li.  This is also explains why Kyoshi used the two fans.  

As she makes allies and enemies, one person who stays by her, Rengi, a firebender who’s mother gets caught up in the conflict and eventual love interest for Kyoshi.  Meanwhile, her friend, who had gotten confused for her, becomes more of a threat than Kyoshi would have hoped for.

The Rise of Kyoshi and The Shadow of Kyoshi are books I would recommend if you like fantasy, are a fan of Avatar the Last Airbender, and/or are looking for a good YA book.  They build on an Avatar who viewers knew a bit about through her appearances.  And while a tough protagonist, these books humanize Kyoshi and let her have moments of reflection and emotion.  There is also a forward by Avatar co-creator Michael Dante DiMartino.

F.C. Yee did a great job bringing Kyoshi to life and has a novel on Yangchen, the Airbending Avatar before Aang, coming out in July of 2022.

Poison Ivy: Thorns by Kody Keplinger

I’ve read a few of these YA what if styled graphic novels.  The one I really enjoyed include Lost Carnival, a Dick Grayson story taking place during his circus days, Shadow of the Batgirl, a Cassandra Cain (Batgirl/Shadow Bat/Orphan) story, Oracle Code, a Barbara Gordon story taking place after she was paralyzed by the Joker, and this one. 

There are some good ones out there, like Shadow of the Batgirl, and some bad, like Gotham High.

I would say that Poison Ivy Thorns is one of the better of these YA what if comics, if not average depending on who you ask.  And similar to the other YA graphic novels in this line, this does take place with the cast being teenagers.  Which isn’t a problem per say, merely a common theme with these graphic novels regardless of it’s about an established character like Ivy or a new character like Tai Pham from the Green Lantern: Legacy story.  Regardless, Poison Ivy: Thorns is an interesting retelling of Pamela Isley’s story with a eerie mystery that hits close to home for our protagonist.

Pamela is a social outcast at school, who enjoys working with plants in the school’s greenhouse and is an avid environmentalist.  Her mother has been sick for as long as Pamela can remember, but for those who don’t know, it would seem as though her mother is out of the picture.  When she’s not at school, dealing with the day to day life of a teen, she’s at home with her father who performs a series of tests and experiments on Pamela.  She has a hard time trusting people, men especially, so she usually keeps to herself.

After an incident at the park, she meets Alice Oh, who she starts to open up to.  And as the two grow closer platonically and eventually romantically, the truth about Pamela’s mother starts coming to light.  And while Pamela is hesitant for change, she realizing how problematic her father’s treatment of her and the situation with her mother.  As Pamela’s life seems to be changing around her, there is more to Pamela than she may have even realized. 

 If you like Poison Ivy, you might like this.  I know I did as someone who enjoys Ivy from time to time.  The art is really neat to.  It has a neat almost sketchy line-art and though the color palate may appear simple, it really suits the style they were going for.  The art also kind of reminds me of something Tim Burton-esque with maybe a pinch of anime and/or art from Greek mythos.

The Witches of Thistle Grove Series by Lana Harper

The second book of this trilogy, From Bad to Cursed, came out on the 17th of May of this year.  Meanwhile, the third book, Back in a Spell, is expected to be released in January of 2023.  I’m currently making my way through it now (I own both books) and thought now would be as good of a time as any to recommend the series.  That way, if any of you wanted to give it a try, you could get started before the third book is released.

So far, each book will focus on a different witch from Thistle Grove.  In Payback is a Witch, our lead, Emmy Harlow returns to Thistle Grove after several years of self-exile.  While her magic isn’t as strong as it used to be due to her time away, Emmy finds herself pulled into a competition against her ex, Gareth.  Teaming up with her friend Linden and the dark magic expert Talia, both of who were involved with Gareth around the dame time and want some good old fashion revenge, the trio works together to come out on top.  Along the way, Emmy finds herself drawn to Talia, and not just in a magical sort of way.  The two end up spending time together and developing feelings for each other.

While both Emmy and Talia could be considered bisexual, since they dated Gareth before getting together, I’ve noticed a number of reviewers on Goodreads have this tagged under the Lesbian sub-tag in the LGBT shelf/tag.  Of course, I’m not trying to imply that the characters aren’t lesbians, who maybe dated a guy before realizing they preferred women, just that they could be interpreted as bisexual to some people.  Personally, I interpret them as lesbians, and I am assuming that was Lana Harper’s intent.

Payback is a Witch is a spellcasting romance that is charming and enjoyable.  The only critique I would have is how some of the dialogue comes off.  The deliver of some the more sassy/cursing phrases seemed a little weird.  Not always, because in some instances I enjoyed it, but other times, it felt a little weird.  Either way, it doesn’t hinder the overall enjoyment I had with the book.  Also note, this is an adult romance.  And while not happening every chapter, there are at least three “spicier” scenes in it.

I just started on From Bad to Cursed recently, so my thoughts on it aren’t set in stone yet.  That said, I think I will enjoy this installment.  When it starts off with such a fun opener about how you have to think outside of the box sometimes when summoning demons, I think that says something about what to expect.

From Bad to Cursed will focus on Isidora Avramov, a thrill chasing demon summoner.  She dreams of one day leaving Thistle Grove to pursue an indie fashion designing career.  However, when trouble brews the Beltane festival, resulting in the injuring of one of the Thorn family members, the Avarmov’s rival family.

Fun Fact: The Beltane Festival is a Gaelic/Celtic celebration 

Because the Avramov family and Thorn family are rivals, suspicions fall on Isidora’s family.  To save her family’s name, Isidora works alongside Rowan Thorn to get to the bottom of it.  Along the way, Isidora will realize just how little she knows about Rowan, and a relationship will start to grow more with each day.  

That’s how this book can be summarized.  Or at least my summarization of the synopsis provided.  Since I am only starting the book, I can’t exactly say what their relationship will be like.  And from what I’ve seen on Goodreads, there are a few people who have tagged the book with the LGBT sub-tag.  And given how Emmy and Talia from the first book were apart of the LGBTQ+, I’m assuming that Isidora and Rowan’s relationship will fall under the LGBTQ+ as well.  And since I’m just starting and don’t know what Isidora will learn about him, what Rowan’s sexuality is has yet to be seen.  While I can’t confirm, I am speculating that Rowan might be a trans man.  I can’t confirm yet, but given how this series does have LGBTQ+ mains in the first and third book, I don’t think it’s a stretch to make that speculation.  Whatever is revealed, this is looking to be as fun of a book as Payback is a Witch, and I have a feeling I will enjoy it.

Readers may have to wait until 2023 for the third and final book, Back in a Spell, but I think it’ll be worth it.  What do know about it, outside of it’s title is that the lead will be a woman named Nineve “Nina” Blackmoore, who was left at the alter by her fiancée.  Once back on the dating market, she meets with Morty Gutierrez, a nonbinary individual who owns a business called The Shamrock Cauldron.  They get off to an awkward start that turns rocky when Morty (He/Him according to the synopsis), but finds out Nina’s last name.  Nina’s family, it turns out, is trying to acquire Morty’s company.  Then one day, Morty starts exhibiting magical powers alongside Nina, and it’s up to Nina to figure out what’s going on, how to help herself and Morty as well as navigating their growing romance. 

The Pearl Sister by Lucinda Riley

One series I have found myself enjoying is Lucinda Riley’s Seven Sister series.  It is about six sisters adopted from all over the world.  Each one is named after one star in the Seven Sisters constellation, hence the series’ name.  When Pa Salt dies, he leaves each daughter with a letter, a name, and a set of coordinates to where he found them.  As well as the eventual location of the seventh sister that they never found.  The reason for this was to give each sister a chance to find out where they came from, if they were interested.  The Pearl Sister is the fourth book and focuses on CeCe (Celaeno).

In it, CeCe has left Star (Asterope), who was searching into her own heritage, in order to find out more about her own.  Her investigation brings her to Australia, where she finds out more about Kitty McBride, the person Pa Salt had left for her to learn about.  Part of the story, which is a common style with this  series, does focus on Kitty’s story from Kitty’s perspective.  As CeCe learns more about Kitty and her Aboriginal roots, she finds her creativity returning and meets new people.  This includes Chrissie, an Australian who helps her in her journey.  Though officially confirmed in a later book, CeCe and Chrissie do end up together.  CeCe was curious about her sexuality with Chrissie being who she thinks she might have feelings for.

With that in mind, she would be questioning at first and a lesbian when she does end up with Chrissie.  It’s been a while since I read The Pearl Sister, so I don’t recall CeCe having relationships with anyone other than Chrissie, so I can’t say she is bisexual.

The Pearl Sister might not be one of my favorites in the series (my favorites being The Seven Sisters and Moon Sister), but it is a good read in my opinion. You don’t have to read the entire story to understand this book, since each story focuses on one sister and the only times the others are referenced are sparsely used and you don’t need to read every book to know that Pa Salt died.  However, reading the rest won’t hurt either, and if you are interested, I would say go for it. 

The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage

Let me just start of that the LGBTQ+ context is more so implied.  This book was written in 1967 by a gay man, who I believe was closeted at the time.  Fun Fact: Thomas Savage may have had a relationship with Tomie dePaola, a children’s author who wrote books like Strega Nora and The Art Lesson.  The Power of the Dog is listed as a western, which isn’t my usual genre, but after seeing the Netflix adaptation, I checked it out and really enjoyed it.  

Going into this book, the only disclaimer I feel is necessary is that Phil Burbank is a bit of a sexist and racist towards Native Americans.  As well as terms used that may be considered problematic today.  This book does take place in the 1920’s, so while I won’t say there isn’t problematic elements, it’s a timepiece where that kind of thing was normalized more.  Phili is also the character that is implied as being gay given how he talks about his friend Bronco Henry and how he grows to like Peter Gordon, his sixteen year old step-nephew.  People like to speculate if Peter Gordon was gay and/or ace, and that he might have had autism, but it’s never fully stated.  

 

I would consider this a western where details and their implications/nuances are well written and interesting.  That might be why I enjoy it when compared to other westerns.  The movie has a similar air, but with more ambiance/quiet moments.  It’s also a book on how people are not always what they seem.  This is especially true with Phil and Peter.

The story itself is pretty straight forward.  After the death (suicide) of Rose Gordon’s husband, she remarries George Burbank, one of two brothers who owns a ranch.  She and her son, Peter, are tormented by Phil, George’s brother.  The torment is mostly directed to Rose, but Peter does make snide remarks towards Peter.  Peter Gordon is a quiet, sickly young man who’s dream is to become a doctor one day.

After returning to the ranch for the summer, Peter is living in the guest bedroom.  And after several less then stellar run ins with Phil, something seems to change.  Phil offers to teach Peter how to ride a horse and show him how 

to tie a rope, the one Phil is working on Phil plans to finish before Peter goes back to school.  

Initially this could be seen as Phil trying to isolate Rose, much like she had with Phil when she married George.  However, that seems to be less of the case as readers get closer to the end.  Readers also find out that Peter will do whatever it takes to keep his mother safe, especially with how his father died.  Even if he doesn’t seem physically imposing.

Though the LGBTQ+ context is more subtextual in nature, it is something that can be inferred upon.  Of course, since this was written in the 60’s, Thomas Savage probably couldn’t have been as forward with that message as much as he might have liked.   With that in mind, the author was a gay man.  So even if it doesn’t have a straightforward gay character, it was written by a gay author.

As someone who doesn’t like westerns, I would recommend this book and it’s Netflix movie adaptation.

Conclusion

These are a few books I would recommend if you are looking for LGBTQ+ centered reads.  I should have a few more at the end of the month when I do a blog on LGBTQ+ books I’ve read this June.  Books that I might have forgotten had LGBTQ+ aspects didn’t make it onto the list since… well I couldn’t remember which books those were.  I also didn’t include the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs.  While it does have a one or two gay background/minor characters, I honestly prefer the other series in that universe, Alpha and Omega, from a story perspective.  

Regardless, I hope I was able to help find a book for you to check out.  And if you have any suggestions for me and/or would like to mention an LGBTQ+ book that you enjoyed, feel free to include it in the comments below. 


Star Wars: The Phantom Menace: A Review

In honor of Kenobi’s release and May being dubbed Star Wars Month, I wanted to do a review of the movies. Starting off with the first chronologically, but fourth released, The Phantom Menace. While not the most popular of the Prequel Trilogy, heck, not even the most popular in the franchise, The Phantom Menace is one movie that can be looked back on with either fondness and/or a keen eye for constructive criticism.

Funnily enough, this is my second favorite of the Prequel Trilogy. It’s a bit of a guilty pleasure these days, as I can see how it is a flawed movie, but there was enough for me to enjoy it a bit more than the next installment (more on that movie later). But considering I was only six when The Phantom Menace came out, I am a bit nostalgic for the Prequel Trilogy.

The Phantom Flaws

Starting off with the flaws feels like a perfect start. Because out of the three prequel movies, this one probably has the most. In my experience I was able to narrow it down to a few factors: the effects, some of the designs, dialogue, and the political aspects of it.

Starting off with the more visually glaring aspect, are the designs for some of the characters. Now, some viewers will mention how certain characters and races, mainly the Neimoidians, Watto, and Jar Jar and the Gungans.

Six year old me didn’t know that these characters were racial caricatures. Even less so with Watto or the Neimoidians. It wasn’t until years later, and the rise of the internet, that I found out that they were. Whether not it was intentional, I could not tell you. I’m not defending it either way, I just haven’t found anything outright confirming if Lucasfilm and George Lucas made an intentional choice with it at this time. If there was one positive to come from the backlash it’s that Watto only had a brief appearance in Attack of the Clones while the Toydarian species, the Niemoidians, and the Gungans weren’t as prevalent, save for a few episodes of The Clone Wars and having very little screen time in the following Prequel movies. Though in the case of the Gungans, Jar Jar’s lack of screen time could have also been due to him missing the mark as the comic relief in The Phantom Menace.

Politics have been a part of Star Wars in some fashion. Whether it be in the form of the Rebellion vs the Empire or the governing system of certain planets. That said, the political aspect of Star Wars, at least in the original trilogy, wasn’t a huge focal point. It existed, but the focus was more on the fight between good and evil, battles in space, and the mysticism of the Force.

One of the bigger criticisms of The Phantom Menace, and by extent the prequel trilogy, is the attentiveness to the political side. It does feel a bit boring at times admittedly. Because while the political side could help build and diversify the planets (ex. Tatooine having a more Hutt dominated practically lawless state, not Republic abiding system, Ewoks having a more tribe based system with a chief, and Lothal having an Empire supporting leaders) in theory, the execution comes off as dull and prolonged. While a story doesn’t need constant action to keep intrigue, and political aspects not being inherently bad, there is a fine line between engaging and boring. The Phantom Menace falls into the latter as a lot of the communication and debate comes off as dull. Much like the previously mentioned characters, the political aspect is a bit more sparse, allowing it to have moments where it’s important and the not as engaging side being discussed in a conversation or two.

Speaking of dialogue, it is hit or miss. I’m not blaming the actors, some of the delivery does fall flat. A few examples can include how Anakin calls Padme an angel or how he says he’s a person and his name is Anakin. I don’t mean to jab at Jake Lloyd, as he was only ten years old, but those are examples of awkward dialogue.

And it’s not just a few lines from Anakin that seem to feel awkward. Jar Jar, who was supposed to be the comic relief of the movie, doesn’t have a lot of dialogue or actions that made me laugh. Granted, he does have less humor based dialogue, but I don’t recall his humored lines sticking. Not even when I was younger. For example, the ‘yousa point well seen’ quote when Obi Wan mentions what’ll happen to them if Jar Jar doesn’t take them to the Gungan city. While it is meant to be funny, I don’t think I so much as chuckled at it.

This is probably the least bothersome flaw, mostly because of the year it was released. With CGI being in its infancy when The Phantom Menace came out, it was going to age in some way. Whether something aged good or bad depends.

In the case of The Phantom Menace, while the practical effects work really well with some of the special effects, it has shown its age. On the one hand, while the more alien characters look passible enough, considering how far CGI has come, they aren’t as refined as some (though given what some of the special editions did, quite a bit of the CGI there doesn’t blend well). Things like the Trade Federation ships might be another point of how the CGI were a bit lack luster. All in all, the CGI hasn’t aged all that well.

In conclusion, it’s easy to see why this is considered one of the worst Star Wars films. And despite it being a guilty pleasure of mine, I do see its flaws. How certain characters look is questionable to say the least and the CGI has shown its age. The politics, while having the potential to have an air of intrigue, felt prolonged and dull. And certain dialogue didn’t stick the landing. With my flaws and critiques laid out, allow me to get into what I think this movie did well.

The Positive Menace

If there are a few things I can give The Phantom Menace credit for, it’s for casting, music, Darth Maul, and action. All of these are areas that, for the most part were well done. And these are reasons I enjoy it. One a little more than the rest.

When it comes to casting, there was a lot of good choices in this movie. Liam Neeson as Qui Gon, Natalie Portman as Padmé, Kiera Knightly as Padme’s decoy Sabé, and Samuel L Jackson, though maybe not his best, would become a staple in the series. We also have the return of Frank Oz as R2D2 and Yoda, Anthony Daniels as C3PO, and Ian McDiarmid as Palpatine/Sidious.

And while characters like young Anakin, the Gungans, and Jar Jar may be considered weak, I can appreciate that the actors did the best they could with the dialogue they were given. Basically, separating the dialogue and writing of the weaker characters, I would say that the actors themselves were fine.

That said, Ewan McGregor was (and is) one of the best casting choices out of the returning actors. The Prequel Trilogy is as much Anakin’s story as it is Obi Wan’s, and as such, we get to see how both of these characters grow. Ewan is one of the overarching positives that the Prequel Trilogy has. SO much so that Ewan will be returning to reprise the role in the Disney+ Obi Wan Kenobi mini series.

If there is one character that The Phantom Menace is praised for, it’s Darth Maul. For an antagonist who had very few scenes and only three lines of dialogue, he became one of the prequel trilogy’s popular characters. He looked cool, sounded cool, and had a double bladed lightsaber. As well as his fight with Qui Gon and Obi Wan being one of the best scenes in the movie.

People wanted more of him, his short screen time being a possible critique. As a result, he did get several books and comics as well as being brought back from the dead in the 2008 Clone Wars animated series. And when Disney acquired Star Wars, he got a few more comics and appearances in Rebels and Solo in their canon (with the books and comics released prior to the acquisition being labeled as Legends). For a character who only had minutes of screen time, he would become one of the most refined and developed characters from the Prequel Era.

The action in the movie is one of, if not it’s best, feature. It doesn’t have a lot, but that’s okay. It didn’t feel overly congested with action.

But that’s not to say that a little more action wouldn’t have made it better. Had it toned down the political aspect and added a little more action, there could have been a bit more of a balance. What we got though, was well choreographed and paced well.

And of course where there’s Star Wars, there is John Williams. As always, his score is something wonderfully crafted.

Each setting and scene had just the right tone and it all fit into the story. Going back to the Maul fight and the climax, Duel of the Fates was this movies Imperial March. While Imperial March is the most iconic piece from Star Wars, barring maybe the title theme and Binary Sunset, Duel of the Fates is no less iconic. So much so that it makes a subtle return in one particular seen in Rebels’ season 2 finale and in some ways could be seen as Maul’s theme. Just like Imperial March is with Darth Vader.

So despite the faults of The Phantom Menace, there are some good aspects in the movie. Aspects that could have needed more time or worked out well with the spectacles provided. One other positive this movie has, that I feel I should mention, is the pod racing scene. It was a spectacle in its own right and spawned an N64 racing game.

Conclusion

I would probably give this movie a five out of ten. It may be my guilty pleasure and what created my favorite Sith (Maul), but it does have a lot of flaws thanks to age and certain decisions made. Nostalgia can only go so far after all. However, I do think it’s enjoyable in its own right. If not as a good movie, than as a guilty pleasure or an it’s so bad it’s good kind of way.

What are your thoughts on The Phantom Menace? Did you enjoy it or would you consider it a bottom tier Star Wars film? Guilty pleasure and/or meme creator, perhaps? What are things you think this movie did right? And what do you think it could have done better?

When Genres Compel Me: Five Books I Enjoyed From Genres I Don’t Normally Read

Has you ever read a book in a genre you don’t normally read that you found yourself enjoying? With so many genres out there, no one is going to like all of them. And sometimes, the genres we do enjoy may shift over the years.

Personally, I tend to enjoy fantasy, historical fiction, and general fiction with the occasional science fiction and nonfiction read. Fantasy has been a staple for me, having read and watched it since childhood. Historical fiction is a genre that I read when I find an interesting synopsis, though I typically will avoid World War 2 since I was never really a fan of the older WWII movies as a kid. Fiction, in my opinion, is a simple one that can’t go too wrong.

Genres I typically don’t read because they never really catch my eye include, westerns, romance, mystery/thriller, the aforementioned World War 2 historical fiction, and horror. All of these are good genres I’m sure, just not my cup of tea. And if you enjoy them, that’s great. Just because I don’t enjoy it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.

With that said, I’d be remiss if I said I haven’t found at least one book in a genre I don’t particularly fancy. In fact, I have found a few books from genres I don’t normally read that I actually enjoyed.

The Power of the Dog

By Thomas Savage

Western

This is probably one of the most recent examples of a book that I found interest in from a genre I don’t normally read. Westerns have never really been my thing. I think I can pinpoint that to me not really liking John Wayne movies as a kid. I can understand why people like westerns (and John Wayne movies), but I do believe that my disinterest in John Wayne movies, at least in part, resulted in a disinterest in westerns as a whole.

However, a few months ago, while browsing social media, a person I follow was kind of discussing the Netflix adaptation of Thomas Savage’s The Power of the Dog. In it, she was inquiring about a particular scene, specifically a scene towards the end of the movie, and how much one of the characters might have known about the situation. It got me curious and I am thankful that she didn’t spoil it for me in the comments.

So I checked it out. The movie first and then the book. And let me just say, I really enjoyed it. It’s not a typical western, a.k.a. what you might picture when you hear western. Rather, a western that explored things like appearances not always being as they seem, the cruelty of one man, and the implications of being a closeted gay man in the 1920’s.

It’s a book that I can enjoy as I really appreciated how the author broke down the characters and how you shouldn’t judge people based on what you see. I would recommend giving it a read and/or a watch, though I know it might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

The Star and the Shamrock Series

By Jean Grainger

World War 2

Here’s my World War 2 series. Much like westerns, I think I was never really a big fan of them because of John Wayne movies, and war movies in general not being my favorite in general. The history of wars is important, no doubt about it. However, when it comes to historical fiction, books centering around war don’t typically catch my interest.

The reason I picked this one up was because it sounded interesting and I have a bit of a soft spot for books involving Ireland, Irish culture, Irish history, and so on. When Liesl and Erich Bannon, the children of a Jewish German woman, are sent to live with family via one of the last Kindertransport, they must learn to get used to their new lives. Elizabeth, their aunt, does whatever she can to keep them safe. Though it’s not as peaceful as they would have hoped. Meanwhile, their mother stays behind trying to do what she can to survive.

As the series progresses, we get to see how the family grows. How they may one be reunited with their mother. As well as what Liesl and Eric’s lives are like years after the war ends.

The series is a bit of a quick read with there only being four books and roughly two hundred to two hundred and sixty or so pages per book. While it might not be as action packed as some World War 2 centered books, this is a series that is a nice read.

Sherlock Holmes

By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Mystery

Mysteries, fiction, and romance seem to be the big three when it comes to sections. Especially at libraries, which I can confirm given I work at two. While fantasy and science fiction may be lumped together (not always, but I’ve seen it). If I had to rank fiction, mystery and romance in which I would be most likely to read, it would probably be fiction than mystery than romance. I can say that I’ve tried more mysteries than I have romances, but even so, it’s not a genre that I actively enjoy. Finding the right mystery is part of the problem. The overabundance of James Patterson releases is another.

Sherlock Holmes seems to be the one I am drawn to the most. After checking out the third season of BBC’s Sherlock (yes, I watched it out of order, but it couldn’t be helped), I got hooked. So I ended up checking out the all in one book as well as some of the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes DVDs (which I would recommend) and enjoyed every bit of it. I also plan to add the complete collection to my leather bound classics collection because I’d rather have the whole series together instead of the individual volumes (Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, The Return of Sherlock Holmes, His Last Bow, and The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes).

I may not read a lot of mysteries but this is one I would go back and read. Sherlock Holmes is a classic and I would recommend it.

Atlas of the Heart

Brené Brown

Self-Help

Nonfiction is a genre that I’ll occasionally read. Typically about animals, biographies/autobiographies, psychology and mental health, entertainment, and writing. Self-Help books aren’t normally on my radar for no other reason than none appealing to me. Along came Brené Brown’s book “Atlas of the Heart” and after reading the synopsis, I was curious.

It’s a book that I personally enjoyed. It’s set up in a way that didn’t seem condescending or overly positive and provides insight from the author. I enjoyed how it breaks down several emotions and seeing the author’s perspective on them. I ended up purchasing the book after finding it in a shop while at the airport since it was a book that I wanted to ad to my collection.

It’s a book that I personally enjoyed. It’s set up in a way that didn’t seem condescending or overly positive and provides insight from the author. I enjoyed how it breaks down several emotions and seeing the author’s perspective on them. I ended up purchasing the book after finding it in a shop while at the airport since it was a book that I wanted to ad to my collection.

Dracula

By Bram Stoker

Horror

This might be cheating a little since I haven’t started Dracula yet, but it is on my To Read list and I own the leather bound edition. However, I wouldn’t say horror is a genre I really read. Not because I don’t enjoy horror, but because I’d rather watch horror instead of reading horror.

I will admit I was that kid who hated horror as a kid because I never liked “scary” movies. Chucky freaked me out and I don’t recall liking Jurassic Park or Jaws for how gruesome they were. Though looking back, they aren’t that gruesome on a technical level, but kid me perceived it as such.

Since then, I’ve grown to enjoy horror and will watch the occasional horror flick as they play on tv or through streaming services. Especially around Halloween. So the enjoyment of horror isn’t lost on me.

But watching it is different than reading it. And I feel the essence of horror is different between reading it and watching it. Watching it gives viewers a spectacle. The ambiance and tone gives off a chilling and unexpected experience. Reading it, I feel, lends itself to chilling and more detailed descriptions and scares. However, that difference could be how I am perceiving it at the moment.

As for why Dracula, I guess it just sounds appealing. It’s a classic and one that I feel like I would really enjoy reading. And since I enjoy the occasional gothic classic (Hunchback of Notre Dame and Phantom of the Opera), Dracula feels similar in style.

Conclusion

While these five genres are not genres I usually read, they are genres I have found at least one book that I enjoy. Are there any books that interest you from genres that you don’t usually read? Are there any you would recommend?

The Power of the Dog (2021 Movie): A Review

Believe it or not, I am not one for Westerns as a genre. A big reason probably has to do with me not being a fan of a lot of John Wayne movies, and most of his were either Westerns or War movies, the latter being another genre that I never really had an interest in. And while my exceptions for war films include Imitation Game, I never really had that one exception for western, aside from Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, which I feel is just as much of a horse movie as it is a western.

Then along came a video that popped up on one of my socials talking about a scene, specifically one of the last scenes, in the Netflix adaptation of The Power of the Dog with the least amount of spoilers possible. It got me a bit curious, and when I asked about it, thankfully, they kept it spoiler free and recommended I check the movie out. So, after about two weeks of getting motivated to, and getting the book it was based on, I finally sat down and watched it. I recently finished reading the book, which I may review in the future, but today, I thought I would discuss my thoughts on the movie.

With that in mind…

Spoilers Ahead!

I’ll try to keep spoilers to a minimum, but it goes without saying that spoilers are bound to occur.

Story

The story itself is certainly a curious one. It takes place in 1920’s Montana, two brothers work on a ranch, Phil, a crass and somewhat feared cowboy who deep down has a more complex and surprising nature, and George, the kinder and more soft spoken of the two. George marries Rose Gordon, a widow, who’s husband died by his own hand. Rose is tormented by Phil throughout the story, who doesn’t seem too fond of her or her son. Peter, Rose’s son, is a young man studying to become a surgeon. He is protective of his mother, feeling it is his duty to keep her safe after the death of his father. To others, he appears gentle, fragile, and feminine (by 1920’s standards), however, like Peter, he is not all that he appears to be, having an inner strength, confidence, and intellect that no one would expect.

The story focuses on these four characters, the ranch, a hill that, depending on ones point of view, looks like just hills or a barking dog, and what one sees vs what is really there.

The story might not be for everyone, though it does have good qualities. While some people may find it as slow, simple, and/or straightforward, others might see it as intriguing, I’d argue the characters, and how they are characterized are something worthwhile. It doesn’t need a lot of action to get it’s point across. The slow burn type movie that really utilizes this technique really well.

As someone who doesn’t normally watch westerns, this was one that caught my attention because of the story it was telling. Yes, at times it feels straightforward and slow, but given the small details throughout the film as well as the characters, there is a story about appearances not always being met. Secrets that wouldn’t be expected based on perceptions at the time and how seemingly unimposing people can hide inner strength and manipulation.

Nuance

Nuance is something that has significance in this movie. Details that have more meaning than one might think. For instance, what Peter does with the rabbits he finds in the movie. Body language, like how Peter caries himself when walking passed Phil and his men to check on some birds. He ignores the less than friendly reactions, holding himself with a sense of unfazed confidence.

Quiet moments, like the scene in the barn during the climax, says something despite very little being said. Dialogue has importance as well. Like when Phil and Peter are talking about Peter’s father. How he died, how Peter feels it is his duty to protect his mother, and how Peter’s father told him to be kinder. That he was “too strong”. And while Phil would scoff at the notion, it does foreshadow what’s to come.

Things like this is what I enjoyed in the movie. While I may not always need a movie that makes the viewer think, when done well and in a

Casting/Characterization

What really makes this movie stands out is the casting. Even if viewers don’t like how the story is presented, the characters are something worth enjoying. The main four characters are casted and acted perfectly. Kirsten Dunst plays the role of Rose Gordon, a widower who was living with her own demons (Phil, grief, and growing alcoholism) really well. Jesse Plemons really played off of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Phil as George Burbank. And I think the background characters were pretty well too.

However, if there were two performances I was really drawn to, it was Benedict Cumberbatch as Phil Burbank and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Peter Gordon. Not only because of some of the underlining subtext between the characters, but because of how the actors portrayed them. Both characters can be seen as different sides to the same coin, and viewers can get that feel from the actors.

While the story focuses on the main four characters, these two have a lot of focus, and the dynamic is really intricate and interesting. Phil appears masculine and intimidating, deep down, there’s actually an intelligent and a softer side to him. Peter, meanwhile, appears introverted and feminine (by 1920’s standards), yet, he has an inner strength and is more cunning than he seems.

Benedict Cumberbatch pulls off the abrasiveness of Phil’s character really well. Watching a bit of the behind the scenes, it’s noted how Jane Campion really wanted him to embrace the character, which he did well.

While one could argue that he feels out of place, I’d argue that he plays a range of character types. So things like westerns and portraying a character who is more crass or confrontational weren’t impossible. Because while Benedict Cumberbatch is known for intellectual roles like Sherlock Holmes and Alan Turing, as well as Dr. Strange, he’s also done other types of roles.

For instance, he’s portrayed menacing and sly persona as Smaug and Khan. He’s played more comical characters like Rory in Fortysomething. Roles in animated features like the Penguins of Madagascar and The Grinch. As well as several stage performances. So Benedict Cumberbatch was bound to break onto the western scene eventually.

Then there’s Kodi Smit-McPhee. What I really enjoyed with his performance is how he portrays Peter. Peter throughout the movie, is seen as someone who isn’t all that imposing or strong, which he is belittled for. Especially by Phil.

It isn’t until later in the film that viewers get to see that Peter has an inner strength and the mind of someone who can do things that most wouldn’t expect. That this seemingly weak character has a deeper strength and cleverness to him alongside his intellect and kind heartedness.

Considering the character being described as particularly introverted, slim, sickly around the time of his birth as the book mentions, and not appearing particularly masculine/macho, I feel like Kodi Smit-McPhee also brings a physical accuracy to the role. Considering how the character is described in the book, I feel that Kodi was able to pull off the physical ingenuous impression that was required for the role. And as far as the characterization of someone who’s introverted, appearing emotionally detected, and unthreatening, yet intellectually crafty and caring, I don’t think I could picture someone else in the role. It goes without saying that, much like Benedict Cumberbatch, Kodi is not a type cast actor while still pulling off a role like this really well.

Overall, the movie has a great cast of characters and actors. Each bring their own personal touch to their roles and have great performances. Whether viewers like Phil Burbank, Peter Gordon, or any of the others will depend on their preference, but each character has their own story.

1920’s and The Company of Men: Phil, Peter, and Bronco Henry

This is the one thing that can draw in a number of discussions. Especially in regards to Phil and Peter. I may do a post breaking down my thoughts on it as well as a post discussing Peter Gordon specifically. That said, I did want to touch on this considering it does have a significant point.

It starts with Phil and his stated admiration for Bronco Henry, a man who taught Phil everything he needed to know to get where he’s at (riding, rope tying, etc.). With how much he talks about Bronco, it’s easy to see how much Phil respected the man. Yet, it isn’t until later that viewers would get to see the true depth of said admiration.

As the movie goes on, viewers come to realize that Phil, with all his admiration towards and fond memories of Bronco Henry, that he was a closeted gay man. Given the time period this takes place in, Phil’s relationship with Bronco Henry would be scrutinized more than it would be today. So keeping up the façade of not being gay most likely contributed to why he comes off as hostilely as he does (or toxic masculinity as it has also been described). Or at least partially. And in keeping up with this façade, that could help explain why he was so demeaning towards Peter at first. While that might not excuse all of his actions, forcing that part of himself to stay secret, probably didn’t help.

As for Peter, while his motives would become more apparent and dealt with the vitriol alongside his mother, he left an impression on Phil. It isn’t until Peter finds Phil in the woods that things seem to take a shift. Phil seems to want to start over with Peter, claiming they “got off on the wrong foot.” While this could also be seen as a way to bother Rose, things tend to shift a bit the longer the two are together.

Phil does mention Bronco Henry, at one point even stating that Peter was a late rider much like Bronco Henry was. And when Phil finds out about his father, he seems sympathetic, only really disbelieving his father’s statement on him being ‘too strong’. While the book may go more in depth about the death of Peter’s father, the sympathy was apparent in both.

However, I think if there’s one scene that really shows off how both characters shifted, it was in the climax when Phil finds out that Rose sold the hides he was going to burn. Both the book and the movie have details that make this scene impactful. From body language to dialogue to the details described in the book, the moment Peter offers to give Phil the raw hide he found, how Phil reacted was one of gratitude and a form of sentiment.

Whether it be one-sided or not, this interaction has symbolism. This moment and the conclusion told viewers what it needed to.

The Ending

Whether viewers see the ending as justified and what Peter’s motive was could be debated, I do think that the ending was a great way to conclude it. Whether viewers think Phil was the true villain and deserved his fate or if Peter was the true villain or was justified, it was a suitable conclusion. This was a story that didn’t need a happy ending to be good.

Conclusion

All and all, I would certainly recommend this movie. I know it might not be for everyone, but the subtle details, cast, and story was interesting. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

Storm Sister: A Review

Since I have reviewed the first book in Lucinda Riley’s Seven Sisters series, I thought it was time I jumped into reviewing the second book, Storm Sister. This one is one that was in the middle for me. I enjoyed it, but there were elements I was critical of.

The Notion of Finding (Blood) Relatives being Problematic

I know I have already brought up this point in my review for Seven Sisters, but in the event you have not read it (in which I will have this in each review going forward), I will reiterate this here. That being a criticism that some readers may find. Essentially, it has to do with the fact that it has these adopted sisters, who spent their entire lives together, going out and looking into their blood family. It may come off as unnecessary as well as it may seem disingenuous for adopted siblings, and by extent adopted families, in general to do so. While I do see where that critique comes from, and wouldn’t dismiss it, I doubt that was the author’s intent. Having read all but the last book (which as of this post is unreleased), I personally never got that feeling. I could be wrong, which I am willing to accept, but I just didn’t read into it that way.

The Review

In this story, we get to learn more about Ally (Alcyone), the second eldest sister. After losing her fiancé, Theo, in a storm while sailing and the death of Pa Salt, to say she was in a bad place emotionally sounds accurate. She was also the only sister to see Pa Salt’s ship when he was buried at sea.

Ally’s story brings her to Norway in an attempt to learn more about Anna Landvik, a renowned singer. As she does, Ally learns more about her self and her family, and wonders about the missing seventh sister. She also discovers that, despite being dead, Theo left her with one last gift. Along the way she will encounter Tom and Felix, who she may or may not have a connection with (I’m not spoiling).

Positives

I would say that Ally’s story was a nice one to read. Getting to know Ally and how she’s different from Maia is great, as well as helping to make each sister feel different. I thought it was also neat to learn that Ally was nearby when Pa Salt was being buried at sea. Since it was something she and Pa Salt bonded over, it does give her some background into the relationship they had. And though maybe not as developed as it could have been, the connection she and her captain turned fiancé was built well enough despite her fiancé’s short time in the story

Anna’s story was pretty good as well. Having a character who had an affinity for music was a neat step away from the art studies that Izabelle went for.

Negatives

My main grip is with an element in Anna’s story. To me, Anna’s story felt kind of similar to Izabelle’s. Not in the sense of the set up (1st person for the present day character and 3rd for the person in the past), but because of Anna’s love life. While I do love the musical approach with Anna’s story, how she approached her love and marriage felt oddly similar to Izabelle’s in execution, where she had an affair with another man. It might not be that big of a deal for some readers, but it was what I had issue with.

Conclusion

I would give this story a seven point five out of ten. I thought it was a well written story with main characters that were well explored, and the Norwegian setting was a nice touch. However, the slight familiarity in Izabelle and Anna’s love life is what I feel made it suffer a little a bit. Regardless, I would certainly recommend this book whether you’ve read any of the others or not.

Uncanny X-Men The Draco: Review

In my journey to read Nightcrawler focused arcs, I decided to read this kicker of a story. Going into this, I knew that this is a bit of a controversial/hated title and got the writer blackballed by Marvel and DC. I wasn’t sure when I would get to this, but since I got a copy via my library, now is as good a time as any.

Why Read it?

Some of you may be wondering, “if you already knew who Azazel was and how hated this story is, why read it?” Well, my curious reader, I actually have a few reasons for checking this out. Some of which are directed at how bad this story is perceived, and one seemingly reasonable rational.

The main reason I decided to jump into this, is for Nightcrawler himself. You see, when I get into a series (tv shows, movies, etc.) or conglomerates like DC and Marvel, I will typically latch onto/be drawn to a certain character or characters. For example with DC, it was Nightwing and later Red Robin (Tim Drake). For Marvel, and by extent X-Men, it’s Nightcrawler a.k.a. Kurt Wagner. As such, when I get interested in a character, I will want to read stories focusing on them, be it a solo series or in a team. So I was going to check this out eventually anyways.

Now, for the poorly received perspective, I kind of narrowed it down to three main reasons. They are reasons that I felt anyone could or would have when read something that’s considered bad. And for each reason, I will use an example of a poorly received X-Men movie as a comparison for uniformity’s sake.

Firstly, I wanted to read it to see how bad it is. While whether something is good or bad can be subjective at times, this seems to be a title that is almost unanimously hated. Especially with media (comics, video game, shows, etc.). I haven’t seen a lot of people, if any, defend this arc, and I don’t think I blame them. Think of it like X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Someone might decide to it despite being told it was so bad (e.g. *insert comment about Deadpool*).

Secondly, to see if all the hate is really justified. Criticism is all fine and dandy, but sometimes, you may get a piece of media that maybe unjustly hated. Outside of Marvel, I would say it’s the 2009’s Watchmen. Was it a perfect adaptation? No, but I feel it did do a lot right. For Marvel, I’ll go with Dark Phoenix in this case. I have yet to see it myself (I’ll get to it since I am binging the X-Men movies), but from what I’ve heard, it’s one of those movies that certainly got a good amount of hate. Something it, and the previous Dark Phoenix movie (The Last Stand), have in common. This would probably be an example of a movie being justifiably criticized.

Lastly, it could be a case of a story being hated when it first came out, but maybe not as much today. Either because it’s bad in a dated sense (or what have you) or maybe it wasn’t as bad as you remembered, maybe being good for the time (but maybe not by today’s standards). Let’s go with The Last Stand in this case. Like Dark Phoenix, The Last Stand is considered the worst of it’s franchise. Both were also about Jean Grey and the Dark Phoenix entity. And both were a sort of conclusion to their own timeline/universe (TLS for the first three movies, TDP for First Class onward). Which one is the worst will depend on who you talk to, but while looking around at reviews and the like, it seems like The Last Stand is the least hated of the two. Maybe still bad, but between it’s release and now, it seems more people prefer it over Dark Phoenix (excluding how The Last Stand may have done Scott dirty). It may still be the worst of the trilogy, but it’s also had time for the hate to settle, though not completely wane.

My Review

With that little thought process out of the way, onto my review. What can I say that hasn’t already been said? Honestly not too much.

I have to agree that this is a pretty badly executed story. I may still be new to the X-Men comic, but I know a faulty story when I see it. For instance, Heroes in Crisis being another poorly received comic I’ve read. And much like Heroes in Crisis, I feel like it had a good idea conceptually, but a terrible execution.

I feel like the idea of introducing Nightcrawler’s father wasn’t a bad concept. (Disclaimer: at one point Mystique and Destiny were planned to be his parents, with Mystique acting as the father via shapeshifting. But due to it not being appropriate for the time, it didn’t end up happening). However, it’s reasonable for people to dislike how they handled it. Be it for what Azazel does for Kurt’s character, how the story handled it, or Chuck Austen’s shaky writing.

I’ll try not to dwell too long on the whole Azazel being his father, but it is a talking point. I know it wasn’t well received based on it giving the mob credence for wanting to destroy the “demon” (Kurt) because now he pretty much is one, or at least the mutant equivalent of one (like how Angel is the mutant equivalent of… well an angel). I’ve also seen the argument on how having Destiny and Mystique being his parents like originally planned would have been preferable (which is reasonable and would be more accepted today compared to the 80’s and 90’s).

For me, I like Azazel as his father, which may be an unpopular opinion. That said, I do respect why he’s a disliked character in some circles. However, with him being such a conflicting character, you may be wondering why I like him. Which is fair. Usually when a character is disliked be it for poor writing (Euron Grayjoy), a character readers are supposed to dislike (Joffrey Baratheon), what have you, it may seem odd when someone does.

The reason I like him is for some of the reasons he’s hated as well as a few other reasons. I think Nightcrawler being a “demon” (or the mutant equivalent) still makes him a great example of not judging someone based on their appearance. Just with an added layer of one not expecting a “demon” to be kind hearted and morally outstanding.

I also feel like it gives an added layer of irony to him. He was already being a “demon” Catholic and this kind of cements that.

Side Note: I feel like, had he been introduced by someone other than Chuck Austen, Azazel would have been better received and developed.

There’s also the fact I’m getting into X-Men comics now as opposed to years ago. So my perception may be different. I know it is a big deal for some (in a negative way) and that’s fine. I just view Azazel as a character a little differently.

My itty bitty positive aside (I can and will go further, jut not here), The Draco was a mess. The art is bad. I compare it to Dexter Soy (one of my favorite artists) but instead of being charming, its a terrible version of it.

While I give it the benefit of having a good concept, it’s the execution is bad. I haven’t read Chuck Austen’s other works, but I don’t think any of it could/would be worse than this.

Having read some reviews on it, I can agree that characters can feel odd/out of character (Mystique for me). I’ve also read a post discussing how it crossed the line of harmless fanservice into gross territory. Specifically with Kurt, why he unnecessarily ogled at by a character, and how it was unnecessary for him to be various degrees of exposed. I agree with the user. Fanservice in and of itself isn’t inherently bad, but there is that fine line between harmless fun and grossly unwarranted.

In Conclusion

Do I think The Draco was worth a read? Yes. Is it good? No. Did it age well? Not at all. Was anything good about it? Conceptually, something was there, just poorly executed, and me liking Azazel as a concept and character.

If you asked for a recommended read, be it of an X-Men title or Nightcrawler story, I wouldn’t recommend it. I would suggest reading it for the sake of a Nightcrawler story, but with the caveat that it is one of the most controversial X-Men stories. And while I like Azazel, I feel like he was done better in First Class (the movie) and Amazing X-Men (2013). Sure, he was unceremoniously killed in Days of Future Past in the former’s case (how one kills an immortal like Azazel is questioned by some people) and the latter lead to Kurt getting booted out of heaven for losing his soul because of Azazel, but Azazel was handled better when not in the hands of Chuck Austen.

Transformers Dark of the Moon: Review

The third movie in the Michael Bay universe and the last one I saw in theaters. This is a movie that I do not see a lot of criticism thrown towards. It still has its fair share, but unlike its predecessor and The Last Knight, this is one that most people may not be as heavily critical of. In fact, it is probably one of the most well received of the Bayformers movies.

The Review

The third movie in the Michael Bay universe and the last one I saw in theaters. This is a movie that I do not see a lot of criticism thrown towards. It still has its fair share, but unlike its predecessor and The Last Knight, this is one that most people may not be as heavily critical of. In fact, it is probably one of the most well received of the Bayformers movies alongside the first movie.

Positive: Music and the Cybertronians

Obligatory feedback for the music and how the Cybertronians look. I could be in the minority with the design in some cases, but I do enjoy how the Autobots and Decepticons look in these movies. The Autobots and Decepticons that return are pretty much stayed consistent in the first three movies. Sentinel Prime looks pretty good, as does Shockwave.

The only Autobot I may have a slight issue with may be Que. Supposedly, he was supposed to be the movie’s Wheeljack. And if you’re not familiar with Wheeljack, think of him as a bot built like Ironhide (a fighter) with an inventor’s brain. They got the intellect, but not the look or fighting prowess. Other than that, the designs are pretty solid.

As is the music. The soundtrack feels like the previous two movies. Not in a generic way, but in an “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” way. And of course, Steve Jablonsky does great with the score.

Negative: It Feeling too Long/Like it Drags

In my Revenge of the Fallen review, I mentioned how I felt the movie went by pretty quick. I didn’t count that as a positive or negative since I didn’t think it needed to. And to be blunt, RotF being quick may be a benefit for me since it is a worse movie.

Unfortunately, I am including this as a negative here because it feels like it drags. While this may vary from person to person, a movie that drags is less likely to be enjoyed. Dark of the Moon is certainly a better movie than it’s predecessor, but I did have a few moments through out the movie that felt dull and slow.

This is coming from someone who can enjoy the theatrical and extended editions of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. This isn’t meant to be a flex, so much as a comparison, but these are films that run anywhere between two and a half hours to three and a half-four hours depending on the edition. And I could watch either version of these films without feeling like it drags.

Maybe the film is too long, or just feels that way. Which is weird when you consider the Transformers movies average around two and a half hours more or less. And Revenge of the Fallen, which is only four minutes shorter, goes by a whole lot faster for me. It could be that there was too much filler. I’m sure they could have cut out some of the job hunting or the something without feeling like we lose much.

Either way, this movie has moments where it drags. And while it may not hurt the overall movie for me, I could see how it could bore others.

Positive: The Story

While Revenge of the Fallen had a good concept, I’d argue Dark of the Moon had the better execution. It introduced Sentinel Prime, a Prime who predated Optimus. There’s also a plot about fusing the Earth with Cybertron and betrayal. There’s also Sam, who is trying to move on with his life.

We then find out that Sentinel is not all that he cracks up to be, and that he shouldn’t have been as easily trusted. So when it’s revealed that he is working with the Decepticons, it’s a bit of a surprise. It may not be an Earth shattering reveal, but it is one that I think worked. We are then treated to a large scale battle that tries to prevent the end of the world (for the humans) and a final battle with Optimus, Megatron and Sentinel.

The only thing in the story I may critique is with Dylan (Patrick Dempsey’s character) and some scenes. I kind of get why they had Dylan working with the Decpticons, but I can’t say I really cared for his motivations. Some of the scenes at Sam’s work also felt weird and unnecessary. Like the scene with Sam and Jerry (Ken Jeong’s character) could have been done so much differently. And Optimus’ whole flying shtick could have been ironed out a bit more. Also, I feel like Ironhide could have been kept alive.

Negative: Charlotte Mearing

I can’t complain to much about a number of the newer characters, nor can I complain about Wheelie and Brain since they are not on screen enough for me to find them annoying. Charlotte Mearing, on the other hand, I do find pretty annoying. She feels like a mix of Simmons in the first half-two thirds of the first movie and Theodore Galloway from Revenge of the Fallen: She’s strict and insists on doing things her way, blatantly ignoring anyone who has experience with the Autobots. Nothing against Francis McDormand, but the character was not likeable.

And maybe that is how the character is supposed to be. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to like her, and by not liking her, I am getting the direction they were going with. In that case, I would say, “I see what you did there”. But as it stands, I do not like the character.

Neutral: Carly

Now, with Carly, I wouldn’t say she was a bad character, nor would I say that Rosie Huntington-Whitely was terrible in the movie, I just couldn’t get latched onto Carly. As much as I did enjoy Mikaela, I do understand why she was replaced (whether or not it was in good faith, is debatable). But even so, I would have preferred if Mikaela returned in the movie. It’s water under the bridge now, and again, I wouldn’t fault Megan Fox for not returning, it is more of a preference thing at the end of the day.

Now the Transformers movies did take elements from the G1 series, like the make up of the Main Autobots and the Witwicky’s being an homage to the G1 Witewicky’s (Sparkplug (father) and Spike (son) Witwicky), it did do it’s own thing as far as other characters. And I kind of appreciate that in a weird way. Like the call backs are nice, but it didn’t rely heavily on them. With that in mind, I don’t feel like we necessarily needed Carly, who I believe gets her name from Spike’s wife in the 1980’s show. I feel like they could have gone with a new character.

That said, I feel a bit conflicted saying so. On the one hand, I appreciate the homage, even if not everyone gets it, but on the other, Mikaela felt more complex. Because while Carly was able to get Sam a job, Mikaela felt more proactive in the previous movies. She wasn’t entirely a damsel in distress and knew enough about vehicles and such to feel like she could fit in with the other characters.

I won’t deny that this may be more of a personal preference, but it’s mine. However, between Charlotte Mearing and Carly, I do like Carly more. This is also a change that I am fine with nowadays, but do remember not being too fond of it when I first learned of it (though I did not know the whole story at the time). As superfluous as it may sound including it, I am.

Positive: Wrapping up the Witwicky Story

Dark of the Moon would be the movie to conclude the Witwicky story. And I think this was a good place to end it. Because, while the Transformers movies would go on, I think I can speak for everyone when I say we were done with Sam Witwicky’s character. Keeping him around may have felt draining and I don’t think taking the route they did in G1 (which introduced Spike and Carly’s son Daniel), would have helped.

Dark of the Moon would be the movie to conclude the Witwicky story. And I think this was a good place to end it. Because, while the Transformers movies would go on, I think I can speak for everyone when I say we were done with Sam Witwicky’s character. Keeping him around may have felt draining and I don’t think taking the route they did in G1 (which introduced Spike and Carly’s son Daniel), would have helped.

Conclusion

Overall, I would give this movie a 7 out of 10, much like the first. Despite it feeling like it drags at times, this was one of the better movies in the series. It had a solid plot, some good designs, and concluded the Witwicky Trilogy in a good way.

Seven Sisters: A Review

As the old saying goes, Never Judge a Book by It’s Cover. Covers have a way of drawing people in, and while that may not always mean the book is good, it was what got me into Lucinda Riley’s Seven Sisters series.

Working at a library, I get to see what comes through on a pretty regular basis. A few years ago, someone had returned the large type copy of Moon Sister, the fifth book in the series. I picked it up, not knowing it was the fifth book at the time and was curious. So when I found out that Moon Sister was the fifth book in the series, I decided to give the whole series a try. While some people may argue that you can read them separately (in theory) since each story is about a different sister, I do feel it’s best enjoyed reading it in order. Plus, one book may reference back to a previous one, so reading the entire series certainly doesn’t hurt.

And that’s what I did. I mostly stuck with the large type versions when I could. Because while my sight doesn’t need larger print, I had a preference for reading it in Large Type. The only acceptations were with Shadow Sister (Book 3) since my library did not have a large type copy, Sun Sister (Book 6) since I checked it out when it first came out, and The Missing Sister (Book 7), which I purchased around it’s release date.

Series Synopsis

After the sudden death of Pa Salt, six sisters are reunited. All of them were adopted and each sister is named after a part of the Seven Sisters constellation, with the seventh remaining unfound. Each sister is given some information into their past, including a name and a location.

The Notion of Finding (Blood) Relatives being Problematic

Before I hop into the review, I would like to address. That criticism is one that I have seen with this series as a whole. Essentially, it has to do with the fact that it has these adopted sisters, who spent their entire lives together, going out and looking into their blood family. It may come off as unnecessary as well as it may seem disingenuous for adopted siblings, and by extent adopted families, in general to do so. While I do see where that critique comes from, and wouldn’t dismiss it, I doubt that was the author’s intent. Having read all but the last book (which as of this post is unreleased), I personally never got that feeling. I could be wrong, which I am willing to accept, but I just didn’t read into it that way.

Personally, I saw it as each character looking into where they came from while still being very close to the adopted family they grew up and bonded with. They already knew they were all adopted, with each sister comes from a different race and ethnicity, and loved their family through and through. I read it as each character looking into their family, based on the individual (who for the most part is deceased with living relatives) that Pa Salt wrote down for each sister.

The Review

In The Seven Sisters, our focus is on Maia, the eldest. She is a known translator and is the closest with Aly (Alycone). Her search brings her to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which leads her to finding an elderly lady living in the home Pa Salt gave Maia coordinates to. Along the way, Maia meets up Floriano, a man she has been translating a book for, and they both try to find out more about Izabela. During this time, Maia finds out more about her heritage, family, and love.

Positives

Overall, I feel like this book was a great way to set up what we would expect from the series going forward. It introduces the revelation of Pa Salt’s death, introduces the siblings, and sets up the journey each will be going on when they decide to look into their family history. It also introduces the set up of getting a look into the lives of the person each sister is looking into.

With how it’s split, I do feel like the change in point of view (first for the sister and third for the person they’re researching) is a good set up. While it might always not have to do that when dealing with this kind of set up, it doesn’t hurt the book. I think it is a creative way to separate the two characters.

Out of all the sisters, Maia is certainly one of my favorites. She didn’t seem overly spoiled and was curious. She also seemed to have a close bond with Pa Salt, which given that she is the eldest, it would make sense that she felt particularly closer to him than some of the others.

Izabela’s story was also a pretty interesting read. I enjoyed how she wanted to find love and learn. However, due to her family’s social status, she found it hard to find love that didn’t feel arranged. I also like how her story tied to the house and the elderly lady that lived in it.

Negatives

One critique I do see with these stories is how the dialogue doesn’t always feel good or how the sisters interact with each other. While I personally see where they are coming from, I would say that it was less of an issue for me when reading it. That’s not to say it couldn’t use work, just that other things bothered me more.

While I do get why the elderly lady doesn’t want to be bothered with Maia’s inquiry, I do feel like she was a little harsh/stubborn. It does work itself out eventually, but this was a character who wasn’t that likeable initially when I first read it.

And I can kind of agree with the critique with how Izabela treats the man she married. Because while I know she loved the gentleman who was working on Christ the Redeemer, but I do feel like they could have handled the husband and the constructor situation a little differently. Because, again, while I get the reason for it, it does feel a bit unfair for Izabela’s husband, who genuinely loved her.

Conclusion

Overall, I would give The Seven Sisters an eight out of ten. I enjoyed the concept and some of the characters, but there were areas that I feel it could have done better. This book is one of my favorites, with the Moon Sister being the other. So if you’re looking to check out something a little different, I would recommend giving it a try.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: Review

Here we have one of, if not the most, critically panned Michael Bay Transformers movies. Alongside The Last Knight, Revenge of the Fallen is considered one of the worst of the franchise. Not that everyone was thrilled with the series to begin with, but this is a movie that is considered bottom tier. Released in 2009, two years after the first installment of the franchise, Revenge of the Fallen certainly turned a few heads.

I would have to agree, which I will get into in a moment. I feel like I may have seen this movie in theaters, but I can’t recall, so I cannot say what my initial impression was. I remember seeing Dark of the Moon in theaters, which is why I think I did, but I’m currently drawing a blank.

The Review

While I have a slight nostalgic attachment to this film, I can certainly admit that I am not as sentimental/nostalgic for this movie as I am for the 2007 movie. I am certainly more critical of this movie, and have a lot more issues with this movie, that I am less likely to excuse. And while this may not be the case for everyone, for me, this movie does feel like it goes faster. That’s neither a positive or a negative, but sometimes movies feel like they will either drag or go by really fast.

Negative: Risqué Humor/Content

If you’ve read my review for the 2007 movie, you may recall one of my critiques was how some of the humor didn’t hit because I felt like it was a bit raunchy/risqué. However, I feel like it was a little tamer there than it was here.

Once again, considering that Transformers is a series meant for a younger audience, and can be enjoyed by all ages, these jokes and cues felt like it was dialed to eleven. And not in a good way.

I don’t care if this is a PG-13 movie. Not all PG-13 movies need to be raunchy or risqué. And this is still a movie that parents would bring their kids to, just like they would for the similarly rated Avengers movies. As such, these kind of jokes could be deemed as immature and/or inappropriate for kids.

Whether it be Simmons’ comment about Demolisher’s underside, the whole scene with Alice, or Wheelie’s whole thing with Mikaela when Jetfire was introduced, this movie made some questionable choices in the humor department. While humor is certainly subjective, this is a critique that people will commonly have with this movie.

Positive: Cybertronians and Music

I’m lumping these two together since I don’t feel like there is enough for me to add for either. Because unlike the previous movie review, where I felt it was justified to have them separate, I don’t think they need to be here. The Transformers still look good here. The effects used to create them are solid. Of course Michael Bay’s signature explosion flair is there, but if we’re talking strictly about the Cybertronians, they’re good.

The music is also good. Steve Jablonsky’s score still works great here. As does the vocal tracks. I have no complaints about the music.

Negative: The Plot Device that is the Matrix of Leadership

Something that feels out of place is the whole search for the Matrix of Leadership. They spend a good chunk of the movie trying to find it so they can revive Optimus. And while I do get the reason behind it, I can’t help but think that them searching for it feels like a bad plot device. A cliché macguffin that the heroes and villains both want for their own reasons. One to save the world and revive Optimus. The other, to destroy the world.

Also from a lore perspective, it feels problematic. If you are not familiar with the Matrix of Leadership, you may think that it was just a plot device/macguffin to keep the movie going. However, that isn’t entirely the case. Originally, the Matrix of Leadership was an artifact given to Primes/Autobot Leaders and was what turned the humble Orion Pax into Optimus Prime. It’s said to contain remnants of Primus, the original Cybertronian.

And while it can be removed from one Autobot and passed down to another, it should not have been the case here. It feels like it was something Optimus should have already and maybe have it a) passed to another Autobot (presumably Bumblebee) or b) It stuck with him. That way, if the Decepticons still wanted it and the Autobots wanted to revive Optimus, at least they’d have it to do so while evading the Decepticons.

Granted, the Matrix of Leadership may still be considered a bit of a macguffin/plot device in the other Transformers media, which I won’t argue. It is kind of a strange artifact and its uses could be seen as such.

Positive: The Concept

While maybe not executed well, I’d say the concept for the story was good. The idea of a Fallen Prime seeking out vengeance against Optimus and the Autobots sounds like a cool concept. The revival of Megatron was also a solid concept (granted it wasn’t the Galavtron treatment like we would get later on, but still) and killing Optimus similarly to how he was killed in the 1986 animated movie was a neat touch.

All of these would make for a good story. The drama of losing Optimus, the panic that there is a vengeful Prime out there, and the chaos of reviving Megatron thrown into the mix would make for a solid movie. Certainly a solid sequel. I may dock points for the execution, but a good concept was there. But compared to the movie, I feel like it’s not as much of one given how it’s only ever used when it involves Optimus and death (as well as when he gets it as Orion Pax).

Negative: New Characters (Mudflap, Skids, Wheelie, and Leo)

I considered doing a Neutral point for characters, but since I had a lot of critiques for the newer characters introduced, I chose not to. I enjoyed Mikaela and, while I didn’t quite like the Devastator joke he made, I did enjoy Simmons’ eccentric humor. He was funny, had good moments, and John Turturro is just a joy in these movies (I may be in a minority saying that, but Simmons is one of the few human characters I enjoyed in the series). I also thought that Jetfire was a neat addition and it was interesting to see how they worked Soundwave and Ravage, with Frank Welker returning to voice the former.

That’s about all I wanted to say about the more positive characters (Sam’s neutral to me, at least in this movie, and I never really cared much for his parents). The next few characters are not so lucky.

Skids and Mudflap are a duo notoriously criticized, and I can’t say without merit. It has been stated that they are offensive racial stereotypes. While they certainly are, they also are just down right annoying. Nothing they bring to the table is anything of value. They weren’t entertaining, nor were they necessary.

The same could be said for Wheelie. He wasn’t really amusing. He tries to get an All Spark sliver, provides some exposition, and is a little too attached to Mikaela. Viewers only have to deal with him for like two movies. And while he may have seemed “tamer” in Dark of the Moon, I can’t say he got any better on a personal level in my opinion.

And then there’s Leo. Much like the previous three characters, he did not feel necessary to the plot. He just acted dramatic (for humor’s sake I would assume) and made as the comic relief character. Leo feels like a stereotypical conspiracy theorist mixed with a comic relief character. While I am not implying that all comic relief characters are terrible, how they are written/executed can make them that way. And I feel like that was Leo’s problem.

Conclusion

I would give this movie a 5.5 out of 10. I did enjoy the music and the effects from this movie. It had some good action and the concept was there and had potential. However, the humor, offensive and/or annoying characters and the use of the Matrix of Leadership really drag this movie down.

Batman/Fortnite: Zero Point Review

This was a book suggested to me by a friend. While looking for a book to review, this was one that sounded pretty interesting. Admittedly, I am not the most savvy or invested in Fortnite. It is a game that I never really got acquainted with, nor had much interest in. However, Batman/Fortnite: Zero Point is certainly a curious idea.

This may be a smaller review, given that this is only a six issue event, but I found a few things to discuss. Expect some minor spoilers, but not many.

Review

I certainly wouldn’t expect his kind of a crossover. While Batman certainly could fit into Fortnite as a skin or what have you makes sense, I wouldn’t think that the two franchises would work as a comic crossover. Sure, DC certainly has a lot of weird universes and crossovers (for instance Doomsday Clock, Flashpoint, and Dark Metal), but if you asked me if I thought they’d actually do a Batman/Fortnite crossover, I wouldn’t expect it.

That said, it is an interesting and pretty fun read. I may not be much of a Fortnite player, but I thought it was neat to see how they approached it: a wormhole opening up and Batman, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, and Deathstroke all found themselves pulled into the world of Fortnite. No one remembers who they are or knows where they are. Every twenty two minutes the time is reset and everything they did prior to it is wiped from their memories.

As Batman tries to figure out what’s going on, and encountering Catwoman (again), he tries to get familiar with the world. And once they figure out the first puzzle, they find themselves trying to figure out the next.

With it being only six issues, I feel like it had enough time to do what it wanted to. It didn’t feel too rushed or like it needed longer. I don’t think it would suffer if it was an issue or two longer, but keeping it at six worked.

Overall, I would give this a 7.5 out of 10. It had some great art and a fun concept that I feel people may be able to enjoy. And while maybe not something on the scale of The Killing Joke or Death in the Family, it certainly was an amusing look into a crossover with two well known franchises.