Sunday, November 10, 2013

TV Show Review: Sleepy Hollow

My rating: 4/5

From Amazon: "A modern-day supernatural thriller based on The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow. It follows Ichabod Crane as he partners with Sleepy Hollow's local female sheriff to solve the mysteries of a town ravaged by the battle between good and evil."

Basically: If you're a fan of Supernatural and/or The X-Files, you'll probably love this show.  The acting is great, the stories are (usually) great, and it's got enough camp and self-awareness (and honest-to-God history lessons) that it's fun and super engaging while having a great level of suspense. Everything seems well thought-out and elaborate without being hard to follow, and I love the conspiracy bits and gradual revelation of the background (a la X-Files).

So far the scenes between Abby (the policewoman) and her sister haven't been great, but I'm hoping those will get better with time. They're not terrible, I just don't quite get the chemistry between them and don't quite understand the sister's character yet.

Regardless, there aren't many shows we're excited to watch each week anymore, but this is definitely one of them.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Book Review: Scowler by Daniel Kraus

My rating: 4.5/5

From Amazon: "Imagine your father is a monster. Would that mean there are monsters inside you, too? Nineteen-year-old Ry Burke, his mother, and little sister scrape by for a living on their dying family farm. Ry wishes for anything to distract him from the grim memories of his father's physical and emotional abuse. Then a meteorite falls from the sky, bringing with it not only a fragment from another world but also the arrival of a ruthless man intent on destroying the entire family. Soon Ry is forced to defend himself by resurrecting a trio of imaginary childhood protectors: kindly Mr. Furrington, wise Jesus, and the bloodthirsty Scowler."

Much like Kraus' other book that I read two years ago, Rotters, Scowler is extremely well-written both in description and story and is themed around some seriously messed-up daddy issues. Also similar to Rotters is the constant, weird expectancy that something supernatural is about to happen, when in fact it all remains solidly based in Kraus' made-up reality... which is very, very crazy, but with a distinct lack of magic.

The setting of this book is beautiful and one I've never experienced, in a book or anything else: part farm-life, part '80s horror movie (minus the camp), and part psychological thriller. It works perfectly. I would absolutely love to see this made into a movie, especially the interactions between real characters and imaginary friends. I think my only complaint is that Ry's sister, Sarah, never quite seems like a real, complete person, even though she's a pretty important character. A couple of other characters weren't, in my opinion, fleshed-out enough either, but they didn't have as big of roles as Sarah. She still isn't an entirely badly-done character though, so my complaint is minor.

The book gets very dark, for a good portion of the book, and a little gory in spots. But if you're squeamish, you could probably skim over those parts and keep going. Otherwise I'd recommend the book for high school and older.

Book Review: Countdown City (The Last Policeman Series) by Ben H. Winters

My rating: 4.25/5

From Amazon: "Now Detective Hank Palace returns in Countdown City, the second volume of the Last Policeman trilogy. There are just 77 days before a deadly asteroid collides with Earth, and Detective Palace is out of a job. With the Concord police force operating under the auspices of the U.S. Justice Department, Hank's days of solving crimes are over... until a woman from his past begs for help finding her missing husband.

"Brett Cavatone disappeared without a trace—an easy feat in a world with no phones, no cars, and no way to tell whether someone’s gone 'bucket list' or just gone. With society falling to shambles, Hank pieces together what few clues he can, on a search that leads him from a college-campus-turned-anarchist-encampment to a crumbling coastal landscape where anti-immigrant militia fend off 'impact zone' refugees.

"Countdown City presents another fascinating mystery set on brink of an apocalypse--and once again, Hank Palace confronts questions way beyond 'whodunit.' What do we as human beings owe to one another? And what does it mean to be civilized when civilization is collapsing all around you?"

I loved book #1, and this did not disappoint as a sequel. It didn't feel as urgent as #1, but it didn't particularly need to be; the urgency from the first book carried over to the second, which probably says a lot for the author's world-building. (And his/Palace's insight into the human condition and the description thereof... faaaantastic.)  It also didn't feel quite as dark as the first book, but I took that to be purposeful. The people who are left are mostly deciding to hang in there until the bitter end, rather than just hanging themselves. Maybe those who have stuck around have a little more hope.

But that's not to say there isn't plenty of death and despair, and things are definitely getting worse. There are sad moments, but at least I was already privy to Palace's childhood at this point and didn't cry at any revelations. His promise to his sister is very sweet, but not tear-worthy, and that's fine.

I wish we'd seen more of the outside world though. Even though Palace travels to several locations, and it makes sense that he really can't travel very far at this point with the general infrastructure of everything having fallen apart, I still felt stuck in a microcosm while reading, even though the entire world is falling into chaos. And maybe that's the point; Palace, and everyone else, probably feels that way too, cut off from the world at large compared to the recently-ended, hyper-information age. I still hope though that in book #3 we get to see more of what's happening to at least other regions of the country, if not the world. If only for curiosity's sake.

Overall, great book, probably good for high school and older.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Movie Review: Ender's Game

My rating: 4/5

From Amazon: "In the near future, a hostile alien race has attacked Earth. If not for the legendary heroics of International Fleet Commander Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley), all would have been lost. In preparation for the next attack, the highly esteemed Colonel Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford) and the International Military are training the best and brightest young children to find the future Mazer. Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), a shy, but strategically brilliant boy is pulled out of his school to join the elite"

I appreciated how well this movie followed the book. The acting was awesome, especially by Asa Butterfield; he was absolutely perfect for the role of Ender and I'm honestly excited to see what roles he plays in future movies. However, the only role in the movie I didn't entirely appreciate was Petra. The actor playing her was perfectly fine, but for some reason they decided to hint at her being a love interest for Ender almost every time they interacted, when in the book she was nothing more than a sister-like friend. For goodness sakes, she's a tough-as-nails child soldier and she appears on Ender's communicator near the end of the movie in an almost-seductive pose in her pj's with her braided hair pulled over her shoulder. Why??

Other than that though, I think I loved every character. I wish there had been more of Valentine and Peter and their political takeover back home, but I understand how that would be hard to put into a movie, especially one that's already almost 2 hours long. Overall, great movie, would recommend to any sci-fi fan.