by Brian on April 29th, 2013
Everyone has been in love, is in love or wants love. It’s universal. Young love is white-hot. Rainbow Rowell has captured its intensity in “Eleanor & Park,” an insightful and honest tale of two people who genuinely need each other.
Park is half-Korean and tries to fly under the radar in his own world of music and comics. Eleanor, with her wild red hair, is new in school, wears weird clothes and comes from a broken family. The two characters–and the reader–fall in love over the course of a school-year in 1986. Like any romance, there are complications, but they’re blips. The real problem is Eleanor’s alcoholic, time-bomb of a step-father. Eleanor and Park make the most of the time that they have–but there’s never enough time when you’re young.
If I haven’t convinced you, John Green loved it and recommended it during his Reddit AMA. I honestly don’t think I’ve cared about a fictional relationship as much as I did in “Eleanor & Park.” I recommend this book to everyone–young, old, everything in-between–who has been in love, is in love or wants love.
by Brian on April 8th, 2013
“If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.” That quote from Stephen Hawking is at the beginning of “The 5th Wave,” an incredible new Young Adult Science Fiction book by Rick Yancey. The quote is appropriate, because in Yancey’s book most of humanity has been wiped out by a hostile extraterrestrial force. At first, when the alien mothership first appears in the sky, people are hopeful. After four waves of attacks–An EMP blast, epic tsunamis, a plague that kills 9 out of 10 and alien sleeper agents–it’s clear that the aliens want our planet and aren’t going to share it.
Cassie Sullivan, a sarcastic and determined teenager, has survived the first four waves, but now isolates herself in anticipation of the unknown 5th wave. Cassie fills in the blanks of the past, describing how the world and her family were torn apart. It’s vivid and heartbreaking. The 4th wave–alien agents that look human, that Cassie refers to as “Silencers”–have made her extremely paranoid. So, when she meets another survivor, Evan, she has serious issues trusting him. She needs his help, even if she won’t admit it, to rescue Sammy, her brother, who has abducted during the 4th wave. Cassie made a promise to Sammy that she would get back to him. It’s that promise that drives most of the book.
“The 5th Wave” is exciting, mysterious and hard to put down. All of the characters are well-written and distinct. I believe and hope that this is will be the next big thing in YA lit, because it is awesome. I recommend it to fans of “The Hunger Games,” Sci-Fi books, YA books and good books in general. You can watch a brief book trailer here or read a preview here.
by Brian on February 27th, 2013
Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Blood rocked my world, and I meant to write a review for it. I didn’t, but now Vol. 2: Guts is out. I had never read a Woman Woman comic before Vol. 1. Nothing against the character. It’s just that none of her adventures ever appealed to me. Writer Brian Azzarello and artist Cliff Chiang have reimagined the title as a dark fantasy tale instead of superhero comic, and it works really well.
The story revolves around Wonder Woman protecting a woman who is pregnant with the child of Zeus. Hera, Zeus’ wife, is pissed, and wants the mother and child dead. Meanwhile, Zeus has disappeared, and Apollo is scheming to fill the power vacuum. Princess Diana’s own backstory is explored as well. The supporting cast is fleshed out with smartly designed Greek gods by Chiang.
Out of DC’s New 52 relaunch, only Scott Snyder’s Batman is better. I highly recommend it to comic book fans, but I also think that it could hook non-comic readers too.
by Brian on February 10th, 2013
I love true crime. “The Imposter,” a documentary by Bart Layton, is a true crime story that’s hard to believe. It’s about the disappearance of Nicholas Barclay, a 13-year-old boy from San Antonio, in 1994. He’s found alive in Spain three and a half years later. His sister jumps on a plane to bring him home, but is this boy really Nicholas?
We, the audience, know that it’s not Nicholas. The man impersonating him looks vaguely like Nicholas, but how are the boy’s family members being fooled? There’s a palpable tension as to why the family doesn’t notice that there’s now a stranger living in their home. Soon a private investigator takes interest and this hard to swallow story takes a chilling turn… I recommend “The Imposter” to anyone who enjoys true crime or a good documentary.
by Brian on January 23rd, 2013
Every so often, there’s a book that makes me stay up reading despite the fact that I’m very tired. Every Day, by David Levithan, was one of those books. It’s a young adult novel about A, who wakes up each morning in a different body living a different life. A’s life has always been this way and it (A considers itself genderless) has always tried to not screw up the host’s life that day. That is until it spends a day in Justin’s body and falls in love with his girlfriend, Rhiannon. After that fateful meeting, A uses its host bodies to try and get back to her. They start a relationship, but the problems of A’s existence eventually catch up with them.
For some reason, my mind focuses on the bad things about this book–it gets a bit preachy, Rhiannon is underdeveloped and the ending is kind of creepy. But I still really liked it. Maybe it’s the concept itself that I like so much. I also really sympathized with A, because it couldn’t have any lasting relationships. So, I wanted it all to work out between A and Rhiannon. Anyway, I recommend Every Day to anyone who thinks the basic concept sounds interesting.
by Brian on January 3rd, 2013
I’m a huge geek and comic book fan, but I’ve never gone to a comic book convention, let alone the granddaddy of them all: The San Diego Comic-Con. That’s why I was excited to watch “Comic-Con: Episode IV – A Fan’s Hope,” a documentary by Morgan Spurlock about the famous nerd gathering. Spurlock follows the story of seven attendees of the 2010 SDCC while intercutting interviews with the upper-echelon of geek-culture such as Joss Whedon, Kevin Smith and Stan “The Man” Lee.
A few of the con-goers come off more obnoxious than endearing (I’m thinking specifically of Anthony, the toy collector), but the overall theme of belonging and the passion that each individual displays is tremendously and unexpectedly affecting. I would recommend this documentary to both die-hard con-survivors and to those with only a casual interest.
by Brian on November 26th, 2012
I’m going to be honest with you, I was initially drawn to “Safety Not Guaranteed” due to the involvement of the lovely Aubrey Plaza (from my favorite show, Parks & Rec). I was rewarded with an off-beat, heartfelt indie that won me over despite its misfire of an ending.
The movie follows Darius (Plaza), an intern at a Seattle magazine, who is disinterested and disconnected with her life. Darius and two other co-workers see a potential story in an odd classified ad from someone who claims to have traveled through time and is looking for a partner to embark on another trip. They discover that the ad was placed by an intense, but likable, supermarket clerk named Kenneth (played by Mark Duplass).
Darius finds a kindred spirit in Kenneth and soon befriends him. She’s unsure of his claims, just as the audience is, but you just can’t help but be disarmed by how earnest he is. Like I said earlier, I wasn’t a fan of the ending (and a quick check on Rotten Tomatoes tells me that it was divisive), but the overall charm of the movie makes it worth watching.
by Brian on July 27th, 2012
Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey–pen name of authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck–really scratched the itch I was having for an epic, sci-fi adventure. I described it has hard sci-fi to someone while I was reading it, but the authors call it “working man sci-fi” in an interview in the back of the book. What they mean is that the focus of the book is on the characters and not the science. I like that.
In the novel, humans have colonized Mars, the Moon, and space stations built into asteroids collectively referred to as the Belt. There are two main point-of-view characters: Jim Holden, XO of an ice miner, and Detective Miller, a cop on the space station Ceres. Holden and his crew answer the call of ship a in need only to find out that it’s a trap. His ship is destroyed, but he survives in a smaller vessel. The encounter leaves Holden with information that could start a war between Mars and the Belt. Meanwhile, Miller is looking for a girl, and his search gets him mixed up with Holden.
Leviathan Wakes has great characters, smart action and an intriguing plot. There’s also an ongoing debate about whether the open exchange of information is a good or a bad thing, which I thought added a lot to the novel. One thing I didn’t like, though, were the horror elements that are introduced about 3/4 of the way into the story (ask me about it if you’re curious). One final thing: The novel has a Firefly vibe going for it. If that doesn’t get you interested, then I don’t know what will.
by Brian on May 8th, 2012
In September 2011, DC Comics relaunched their entire line of comics with new #1s. They called them “The New 52.” The title that I was the most excited about was “Batman,” written by Scott Snyder and drawn by Greg Capullo. Fast forward to now, and the first collections of the relaunch are hitting the shelf.
Batman Vol. 1 begins with an unexpected and kinetic team-up between Batman and the Joker as they battle their way out of Arkham Asylum. It only gets better from there. Bruce Wayne fends off an attack from an assassin, dubbed the Talon, and discovers that it was sent by a mysterious group that has silently controlled Gotham for generations–Court of Owls. The Court’s existence, which Bruce has doubted his entire life, shakes him to his core and makes him question how well he knows the city that he has been trying to protect.
Snyder is a better writer than comic fans deserve. He makes the story accessible while effortlessly blending new elements into the Bat-mythology. His writing is clever and natural, and he nails Batman’s voice. Capullo blew me away too. I only knew him as a “Spawn” artist before (I know, gross), but he has already shaken that negative association in my mind. His art is gritty and detailed, and he is perfectly suited for the horror elements that creep into the story.
This is easily the best Batman comic that is currently being published, but it also makes a strong opening argument that it’s going to be the best Batman run ever.
by Brian on April 2nd, 2012
Full disclosure: I have not read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo nor have I seen the Swedish language film. This either makes me the best person to review the 2011 remake or the worst. So what made me want to watch the remake after I had passed up the book and the original film? Director David Fincher. He’s the mastermind behind such films as “Seven,” “Fight Club” and “The Social Network.” I’m a huge fan of his movies, and I even enjoyed the ones that others considered duds like “The Game,” “Panic Room” and “Zodiac.” “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is definitely in his wheelhouse.
For the three people who have not consumed the story: Disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist (played by Daniel Craig) is hired by Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), an aging industrialist, to figure out who killed his niece 40 years earlier. Everyone in Vanger’s eccentric family, including a handful of Nazis, is a suspect. Lisbeth Salander is the titular “Girl,” a gifted hacker who helps Blomkvist piece together the mystery. Salander is played (inhabited is a better word) by Rooney Mara whose regular girl-next-door look is subverted into the pierced, alt icon. Mara is 100% devoted to the role, and she owns the movie because of it.
Fincher’s take is bleak and beautiful with atmosphere to spare. Every shot is purposeful and builds tension. The movie looks, for the lack of a better word, expensive. Which also might be a bit of a problem, because the movie didn’t perform quite up to expectations. So, Fincher led sequels are up in the air. In the meantime, I’m going to devour the books, which is something I obviously should’ve done a long time ago.