In the House In the Dark Of the Woods by Laird Hunt – A Book Review

When browsing the “new” section at my local library, the cover to In the House In the Dark Of the Woods demanded my attention. Admittedly, I’ve never head of the book nor it’s author–Laird Hunt. Anyway, I read the inside cover, which sounded very interesting, and decided to take a chance on it.

In the House In the Dark Of the Woods is a brief, strange, even confounding read. It takes place during colonial times and features a woman who gets lost while walking in the untamed woods. She wants to return home to her young son and overbearing husband, but simply can’t find her way. She eventually meets a series of women, all of whom seem both helpful and dangerous. They also each wield a dark, supernatural aura–for though they each claim to want to assist the woman in finding her way, they never quite agree on what exactly “way” means.

Hunt brings you a book incredibly detailed in some facets, yet frustratingly vague in others. Like being lost in the woods, the reader stumbles around in this book quite a bit as though searching for a clearing. However, nothing is particularly clear with In the House In the Dark Of the Woods. 

Due to its brevity, I found In the House In the Dark Of the Woods an interesting,  fun read. It certainly kept me alert as I endeavored to make sense of it all. Hunt is a talented writer who executes some beautifully constructed passages. His descriptions are consistently easy to imagine, and the dialogue he provides is unique to each character. The plot, however, is not quite so discernible, but I suspect that’s the point.

In the House In the Dark Of the Woods is certainly worth your time if you’re interested in a fast, unusual read that feels “literary” but smothers itself in the arcane.

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Are you in need of a new epic series? Try Dr. Nekros, a trilogy described as Moonlighting meets The X-FilesKindle: https://amzn.to/2JUqte2 or NOOK: http://bit.ly/2JTFXm1

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Foe by Iain Reid – A Book Review

I found Foe at the Normal Public Library as I wondered the new books section. The title initially caught my attention, plus the fact that it’s pretty thin. I read the inside of the jacket and was sold.

This book absolutely riveted me. I read it in three days, which, for me, is very fast. I really don’t want to tell you too much about the book for fear of spoiling it. However, I will say that it is sparsely written, quickly paced, and a real page-turner.

I thought I had this book figured out about half way through it, but Reid introduces so many possibilities, I couldn’t be sure I was right until the very end. And even though I had it right, Reid managed to throw in an unexpected twist that I didn’t see coming.

If you’re looking for a fast, captivating read with a plot that will enthrall you, I recommend Foe by Iain Reid.

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Are you in need of a new epic series? Try Dr. Nekros, a trilogy that I like to describe as Moonlighting meets The X-FilesKindle: https://amzn.to/2JUqte2 or NOOK: http://bit.ly/2JTFXm1

Titans: The Complete First Season – A Review

Have you heard that DC Comics started its own streaming service with original content? It’s true. Their debut show, Titans, has concluded its first season and is now available on DVD and BluRay. (Special thanks to the Normal Public Library for purchasing it after my request to do so.)

I have to tell you, I felt very excited to see this series. I had no idea what the quality of the story would be, the ability of the actors, or the caliber of the production due to the infancy of DC Universe.com. I’ve got good news. Generally speaking, I give Titans high marks for all three.

Before I explore these aspects, though, I want to make it clear that this version of Titans is not for children. Yes, it has Robin, Beast Boy, Raven, and Starfire, but these are not the iterations of the cartoon series. This is a violent depiction laden with profane language.

With that being said, though the series is very uneven, I enjoyed it. I say it’s uneven because sometimes it’s a horror show, sometimes it’s an action show, sometime’s it’s a science fiction show, and sometimes it’s a drama. It never quite figured out how to be all of those things at once.

However, the production value is very high. I couldn’t believe just how good everything looked. The only moment in the eleven shows that looked “fake” was whenever Beast Boy became a tiger. They tried their best with the CGI tiger, but it never quite looked right. Otherwise, it all looked great. Robin’s costume, Starfire’s powers, the sets, the locations, the stunt work–it all impressed.

I thought the overall story had some issues as well. For the most part, it totally engaged me. Unfortunately, near the end of the season, Raven’s father and mother become a focal point and the show lost a bit of steam there. Up until that point, though, I thought the show made a lot of really smart choices with how it slowly revealed details about each character. There are major differences between what we know about the Titans and what this show chooses to do with them, but their essence essentially remains true to their source material.

For me, the standout story line actually centered on Hawk and Dove. I found them to be the most capable actors with the most captivating arc. I also liked them the best, which is ironic because I’ve always found Hawk and Dove to be uninteresting during my forty years of comic book reading.

I also thought Anna Diop was incredibly charismatic. I won’t argue against the fact that they deviate from established Starfire lore quite a bit, but I feel they really made this character work perfectly for the show’s general tone. Another standout includes Curran Walters, who plays Jason Todd, the second Robin. Walters’ accurately captures Todd’s cockiness and charisma, his spirit and darkness. I loved it when Dick Grayson and Jason Todd shared the scene together, and I love that Titans was brave enough to go that deeply into the Batman canon.

There were two things that did not work for me at all, though. The first is the decision they made regarding Raven’s father. If you know the character at all, you understand that he is the demon Trigon. Trigon is a giant, red, muscular, multi-eyed monster. Titans took the easy way out with him, and it totally deflated the series’ ending as a result. Furthermore, though Batman’s shadow hung over the entire season, the final episode really made it all about Batman. I thought this was a serious misstep after having worked so hard to establish Dick Grayson as a fully realized character disconnected from Batman. Everyone and everything took a backseat to Batman in what should have been an episode that pulled out all the stops for the main players. We can’t be expected to take these characters seriously if the show itself would rather be focusing on Batman.

Nonetheless, I had a great time with Titans. It is extremely violent, bloody, and profane, but it’s also brave, bold, and stylish. I’ve already seen some teasers for season two and I’m very excited. It appears that Superboy, Aqualad, Ravager, and Jericho will be appearing as well. If Titans can simply settle on a consistent tone, it’s got everything it needs to be a hit.

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Are you in need of a new epic series? Try Dr. Nekros, a trilogy that I like to describe as Moonlighting meets The X-FilesKindle: https://amzn.to/2JUqte2 or NOOK: http://bit.ly/2JTFXm1

This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone – A Book Review

I saw this book in the “new” section at my local library and fell in love with the cover. Quite honestly, that’s the main reason I picked it up. Well, that, and the fact that it’s very short. I figured it was worth the risk because the premise sounded interesting and it wouldn’t be much of a time investment.

Unfortunately, I did not follow the vast majority of this story. The concept is that two rivals from two different entities have fallen in love with each other after exchanging letters. One entity is cybernetic in nature, the other is organic. Both entities are attempting to win a war by altering time and space throughout history. Sounds captivating, right?

I’m afraid this is a case in which the narrative style did not complement the plot very well. The authors chose to largely convey the story through the actual letters of the two rivals. The letters are enigmatic and verbose. Consequently, it proved very difficult to piecemeal the actual story, which made reading it quite a labor.

I’m sure some will love this book because of its unconventional style. Others will appreciate the diction and structure. It simply wasn’t for me.

However, I do feel that it has one of the best covers that I’ve ever seen.

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Are you in need of a new epic series? Try Dr. Nekros, a trilogy that I like to describe as Moonlighting meets The X-FilesKindle: https://amzn.to/2X3S7vO or NOOK: http://bit.ly/2JTFXm1

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw – A Movie Review

I have a terrible confession to make: I’ve never seen a single Fast & Furious movie. Not one. They just didn’t really seem like my thing. Also, I’m not a big Vin Diesel guy.

With that being said, you might be wondering what attracted me to Hobbs & Shaw, which is a spin-off of the Fast and Furious franchise. Honestly, it was the director–David Leitch.

Leitch is a former stuntman turned director with a lot of work in between those two things. I’ve read and heard interviews detailing his work ethic, his love of action, and his appreciation of buddy comedies. Combining him with the always-entertaining Rock, as well as the very physical Jason Statham seemed like the kind of summer action movie that I would like to see. Furthermore, Idris Elba and Vanessa Kirby are legitimate actors capable of serious range. The trailers looked action-packed, funny, and well-shot. I considered this a can’t-miss good time at the movies. Seriously, as my friends and I walked into the theater, I felt authentically excited about Hobbs & Shaw.

After about an hour of this thing, I’d had enough. Unfortunately, I looked at my watch and realized that I still had roughly seventy four minutes to endure. It didn’t get any better. In fact, it got actively worse.

There is no story. Not really. The plot is something that could be dropped into any movie, any time, in any era. The dialogue is just one cliche after another. No one says one original line in this entire movie. It drove me nuts.

The Rock and Jason Statham were funny at first, but then the jokes wore very thin and I realized that these guys actually don’t have any chemistry between them. I believe Dwayne Johnson can be a very good actor with the right supporting cast and the right director. He apparently had neither with Hobbs & Shaw. Furthermore, this movie convinced me that I will never see another Jason Statham film again. Nothing against him (especially if he’s reading this), but his brand just isn’t for me. He has one tone of voice, three facial expressions, and a type of action that gets very old very quickly.

My gosh, even Idris Elba stunk in this one. He, too, fell victim to terrible writing and poor directing.

Consequently, the alpha-male testosterone of Hobbs & Shaw bore me from the start. Everyone is the toughest. Everyone glares off to the side. Everyone walks with a strut. Everyone makes crude jokes. Everyone can’t be told anything by anyone. Almost two and a half hours of this nonsense proved too much.

It’s not even a great action movie. It’s had good action, yes, but not great action. Mission Impossible: Fallout is a great action movie. Hobbs & Shaw didn’t even come close to Fallout and seemed intent on borrowing shots you’ve already seen in other movies. I literally groaned when they blatantly swiped a scene from Captain America: Winter Solider.

And poor Vanessa Kirby. She deserves so much better.

I’m afraid I can’t recommend Hobbs & Shaw unless you just really love Jason Statham or Dwyane Johnson. It’s basically those two men running around a lot and making lewd jokes.

However, I will say this: there are a few cameos in this film that were fantastic. I won’t spoil it for you, but these scenes alone prove that The Rock does indeed shine when sharing the screen with the right person. Johnson can be funny, but he needs to play off of people who are even more funny. He literally cannot have Jason Statham as his straight man or you end up with … Hobbs & Shaw.

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Are you in need of a new epic series? Try Dr. Nekros, a trilogy that I like to describe as Moonlighting meets The X-FilesKindle: https://amzn.to/2X3S7vO or NOOK: http://bit.ly/2JTFXm1

The Parade by Dave Eggers – A Book Review

A friend recommended The Parade to me. I initially hesitated because Dave Eggers is always a little hit or miss, but when I saw the length of the book, which is very short, I decided it was worth a shot.

I flew through this book. Not only is it very short, it’s also written in a direct, straight-forward fashion. I believe Eggers wrote The Parade in such a way because it mirrors both the primary plot of the novella as well as the main character’s personality.

The Parade is about a nameless man hired by a nameless company in a nameless land razed by civil war to asphalt a road. The corporation has already dropped off the machine that will lay the asphalt. The nameless man, nicknamed the Clock, must simply pilot it and connect the two halves of the small country. The man wastes no time, does not interact with locals, and is concerned only about meeting his deadline. He’s completed over sixty such tasks without fail.

The same cannot be said for his partner. The Clock’s partner, who he simply calls Nine, is to drive an ATV ahead and make sure the road is clear of obstructions, people, or anything else that could cause the machine to stop. Nine’s job is to mitigate any potential issues.

Unfortunately, this is Nine’s first job with the company, and he is not at all interested in following policies or procedures. He is the opposite of the Clock–also known as Four–in every way.

Four is informed that the leader of the tiny country wants to execute a parade the moment the road is finished. It will begin in the capital city and head into the part of the nation that previously did not accept his authority. Four is told it will be a celebratory display of unity and peace.

As you can imagine, complications arise. Nine gets himself into all kinds of trouble, the kind of trouble Four cannot ignore. Does Four complete the road on time? Will the parade run as expected? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

The Parade seems interested in exploring three different ideas.

The first idea is about what happens when one is so focused on completing a task that no attention is paid to one’s surroundings? It is ethical to show up, do a job, and then leave without giving any consideration to the effect of one’s labor on people, government, or the land?

On the other hand, The Parade also delves into the repercussions of perhaps becoming too involved. Is it responsible to show up and immerse oneself into a situation without fully understanding the nuances? Even if trying to help, should one investigate the consequences of even the smallest kindness?

Finally, The Parade is gravely intent on analyzing bias. Four trusts no one in this novella. Nine trusts everyone. Four believes only in his work goals. Nine lives life without thinking of the future at all. Both come to regret their ideologies. However, by the end of the novel, we realize that we, the readers, are just as guilty as both Four and Nine. We understand that we too have made several errors in what we did and did not choose to trust throughout the book.

The Parade is a brief, potent read. I’ll admit that the ending is something of a shock to the system, but it’s also what forces our minds to detour and scout new territory. I’m certain the ending is not for everyone, but, because the book is so quick, so well written, and so thought-provoking, I definitely recommend you give it a try.

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Are you in need of a new epic series? Try Dr. Nekros, a trilogy that I like to describe as Moonlighting meets The X-FilesKindle: https://amzn.to/2X3S7vO or NOOK: http://bit.ly/2JTFXm1

Once Upon a Time In Hollywood – A (Spoiler-Free) Movie Review

Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio proved the biggest draw for me in regards to Once Upon a Time In Hollywood. I can’t remember ever seeing them on screen together even though they are two of Hollywood’s biggest names. I generally like what Quentin Tarantino does with these two men as well, so I figured this movie would be right up my alley.

I honestly didn’t know much about Once Upon a Time In Hollywood going in. Like you, I heard it involved DiCaprio playing an actor with Brad Pitt playing his stunt double. I also saw from the trailers that Margot Robbie played Sharon Tate and that Charles Manson’s cult would be a factor as well.

Now that I’ve seen it, I really don’t want to tell you any more than that. Even the slightest bit of revelation could ruin the whole experience for you, so I’m going to abstain.

I will say this, though. Both Pitt and DiCaprio are fantastic. I love their performances, I love their chemistry, and I love their characters. Margot Robbie didn’t get quite as much screen time as I expected, but she portrays Sharon Tate as the lovely, kind, charismatic person, which, by most accounts, seems true to reality.

The story is sprawling even if, at times, plodding. My friend and I joked that Tarantino could have gotten the running time down to ninety minutes if he cut out all of the driving scenes! However, the truth is, by story’s end, every single moment of the movie is worth it. I feel that this could be Tarantino’s strongest story yet. The plot is strong, the pacing is appropriate, the dialogue is perfect, the characterization is rich, and the climax is astonishing.

Furthermore, I think this is also among Tarantino’s strongest directing efforts. This movie takes place in 1969, and it looks like 1969. It feels like 1969. It sounds like 1969. I felt like I stepped into a time machine. Once I realized just how authentic everything appeared, I started looking for anachronisms. I didn’t see one. Not one, which is amazing. That attention to detail made the movie a blast.

Also, for the most part, this is not a violent movie, nor is it an explicit one. By Tarantino standards, I found it rather tame, even funny at times. Of course, as you would expect, there is some violence at the end, but other than that, there’s not that much blood or language.

About that ending–I promise, no spoilers–I found it deeply moving. It touched me in a way I hadn’t expected.

If you are a Tarantino fan, I would consider this a must view. If you love Brad Pitt and/or Leonardo DiCaprio, this could be their best work yet. If you simply feel like hopping into a time machine and reliving the 1960s, this will be a thrill ride for you as well. In other words, I believe Once Upon a Time In Hollywood has something for everyone.

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Are you in need of a new epic series? Try Dr. Nekros, a trilogy that I like to describe as Moonlighting meets The X-FilesKindle: https://amzn.to/2X3S7vO or NOOK: http://bit.ly/2JTFXm1