Monday’s Movies: Catching Up

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Thanks to my local library, I’m catching up on some movies I missed while they were in theaters.  Here are some (hopefully) short thoughts on some of what I’ve seen lately.

Terminator: Genisys

tgOne of the hallmarks of the Matt Smith era of Doctor Who was a heavy reliance on the implications and mechanics of time travel.   So it’s interesting to see Smith join the Terminator franchise in an entry that has a heavy reliance on the implications and mechanics of time travel.

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Review: Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Pretty GirlsFor the first half of Pretty Girls, Karin Slaughter teases us with details of the lives of sisters Claire and Lydia. Their family was torn apart twenty years ago when their sister vanished under mysterious circumstances from the University of Georgia and now a recent, similar girl’s disappearance unearths some old memories, feelings and resentments.

Both sisters hold pieces of the story — and it’s not until Claire’s husband is killed in a random act of robbery on an Atlanta alley that the two get back together and begin to see that things weren’t necessarily what they seem in their family, then or now.

It’s once we reach the the mid-point of the novel and the threads start unraveling that Slaughter’s Pretty Girls takes a big left turn and slowly begins to leave credibility in the rear view mirror. I found myself rolling my eyes on multiple occasions as Slaughter reveals the secrets held not only by Claire’s husband but by members of her own family in connection with the kidnappings. Instead of being shocking, these revelations made me think, “Oh really? You must be kidding” on multiple occasions.

With cover blurbs by some of the better suspense writers in the business today, I was expecting a lot more from Pretty Girls. And for the first half of the book, it delivers on the promise of those blurbs. It’s just the ending that left me feeling a bit let down by the entire experience. This was the first novel I’ve read from Slaughter in some time and while the first half had me eager to dive into her back catalog, the last half of the story made me a bit wary.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Resolutions

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The start of a new year is a time to look back and ahead. This week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the Broke and the Bookish) asks us to look at our resolutions for 2016.

  1.  Get ready for the arrival of my daughter — We’re expecting a baby girl in April and she’ll be here before we know it!
  2. Maintain my weight loss from last year — I fulfilled one of my resolutions by losing weight last year.  I’m healthier, thinner and have slowly been upgraded my wardrobe to my new, smaller size.  Key word now is maintaining.
  3. Clear off the DVR — Between a couple of series I need to catch up on and a movies, I need to make a dent in my viewing.  Either that or just admit I can’t watch everything and erase them.
  4. Whittle down the TBR pile — I think this one shows up every year.  Between the library, NetGalley and our local used book store, it’s easy to have the pile grow.  I hope to get my physical and e-book pile down a bit this year.
  5. Read Brandson Sanderson’s Words of Radiance series — I’ve got volumes one and two on my shelf, just waiting to be read.  And a lot of people I know and share similar taste in books with have enjoyed them.  So this is the year I’m going to finally try and take the plunge and read them!
  6. Re-watch Star Trek — It’s the 50th anniversary and I’d like to re-watch the original (and still the best) Star Trek.   It’s only 79 episodes so it shouldn’t prove too daunting.  I also hope to finish up my Enterprise re-watch (which is down to three or four episodes!)

 

 

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Top Ten Tuesday: Anticipated Releases

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Today’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the Broke and the Bookish) asks what books are we most looking forward to in the first half of 2016.

  1.  The Thorn of Emberlain by Scott Lynch
  2. Peace Talks by Jim Butcher
  3. Better Get to Livin’ by Sally Kilpatrick
  4. Morning Star by Pierce Brown
  5. A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
  6. Staked by Kevin Hearne
  7. Gentleman Joel and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold
  8. Skinny Dipping With Murder by Auralee Wallace
  9. Confusius Jane by Katie Lynch
  10. Quantum Night by Robert J. Sawyer

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Review: Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke

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As part of the 2016 Sci-Fi Experience and getting in early for Vintage Sci-Fi month, I thought I’d offer up some thoughts on Arthur C. Clarke’s classic genre novel Childhood’s End.

I read this one a decade ago as part of a vintage genre campaign, but large chunks of it had slipped my memory. So when SyFy’s new mini-series showed up on the DVR, I decided to re-visit the original material before I started watching the new adaptation.

So, here we go….

Childhood's EndOne of my big complaints about the current state of science-fiction and fantasy is the overwhelming need to make EVERY single concept into a trilogy or on-going series.

Which is what makes going back to the classics of the genre such a pleasure.

Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End is one of the most economic genre novels ever published. But I’d argue that the novel packs more ideas and punch into its two hundred pages than some on-going series have packed into their thousand plus (and counting) pages.

In many ways, Clarke created the mythology of the alien invasion. The Overlords arrive in ships that hover over the greatest cities on Earth, saying that they are here to help humanity. The Overlords put an end to petty conflicts and help point humanity toward a better tomorrow — but there could be a price to it all. They refuse to allow human beings to see them as they really are for the first fifty years of their overseeing our world. Instead, a single human is chosen as the intermediary for humans and Overlords. Continue reading

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Movie Review: Star Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens

star-wars-force-awakens-official-poster.jpgThe latest entry in the Star Wars universe is subtitled The Force Awakens.  But it could also easily have the subtitle Where’s Luke?

The driving force of the film is the search for Luke Skywalker.  Between the end of Return of the Jedi and the start of Force Awakens, Luke has gone missing, retreating from the galaxy.  Now with the new First Order trying to fill the void left by the Empire, the galaxy needs Luke and the light side of the force more than ever before.

J.J. Abram’s The Force Awakens walks a fine line between nostalgia and giving us new elements in a “galaxy far, far away.”  If you’ve seen the trailers or heard any of the casting news, you know that certain members of the original trilogy are back and that others cast a giant shadow over events unfolding.

Each of the original cast members slips easily back into their familiar and iconic roles and the script does each of them justice — even though it’s Han Solo and Chewie who get the most screen time of our original crew.  It’s an interesting contrast to the 1999’s The Phantom Menace where it felt like we were having familiar characters introduced simply to include them in the narrative rather than the characters serving an actual purpose in the story.

But it’s the new cast that works well also.  It’s a rag-tag group of orphans brought together to form a type of family.  From the best pilot the new rebellion has in Poe Dameron to stormtrooper gone rogue Finn to salvage collector Rey.   In many ways, it feels like the script for Awakens is trying to build its own, new version of Han/Luke/Leia.  And, for the most part, it succeeds.  Daisy Ridley as Rey is the highlight of the new good guys.  Scenes when she and new bad guy Kylo Ren square off are among the highlights of the film.

The script finds a nice balance point between homages to the past and tips of the hat to the original trilogy while still standing on its own to set things in motion for the next trilogy of films we’ll get over the next couple of years.

From this point forward, it’s difficult to talk much about the movie without giving away SPOILERS.  I’m going to put in a MORE jump here so if you don’t want to know, you won’t accidentally get spoiled.    Continue reading

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Reviews: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything, Everything

Madeline lives a fairly contained life. She’s home schooled, rarely ventures beyond the the walls of her house and has little contact with the outside world beyond her mother and her nurse, Carla.

Madeline has a very rare condition that makes her extremely susceptible to any kind of germ. Her immune system can’t fight them and so Madeline has to live inside her sterile, clean home, experiencing the outside world only by looking out the window and the books she reads (all brand new and properly sterilized, of course!)

She’s perfectly content in her world until one day a new boy moves in next door and Madeline has become intrigued by him and his family. Suddenly, her world seems a bit smaller and Madeline is willing to do and risk whatever it takes to get to know this boy and possibly fall in love with him. Continue reading

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