Your Name

Published Post author

Poster for the movie "Your Name."

Your Name.

20161 h 46 min
Overview

High schoolers Mitsuha and Taki are complete strangers living separate lives. But one night, they suddenly switch places. Mitsuha wakes up in Taki’s body, and he in hers. This bizarre occurrence continues to happen randomly, and the two must adjust their lives around each other.

Metadata
Director Makoto Shinkai
Runtime 1 h 46 min
Release Date 26 August 2016
Details
Movie Media Cinema
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Masterpiece

Your Name is a stunning film that ranks with the works of companies like Disney and Studio Ghibli. To say that it is a love story would be like saying Saving Private Ryan is “just a war movie”. It is a coming of age story about how people grow and our experiences shape who we are, even as we get older and the memories of those experiences begin to fade. The film shows the raw power contained within human emotions and how that power can overcome the passing of time. Your Name has the ability to captivate any audience, leaving you gripping the edge of your seat.

A summary of the movie might make it the story seem basic, yet it is anything but that. The movie is not action packed but the empathy you feel for the characters will keep your heart pounding. It is the relationship between the two main characters that drives the film but that branches out into so much more. There are very real stakes for both characters and the people around them. The story begins with what could be anything from a mysterious accident to an unexplained act of fate. Your Name plays itself out well with a mix of romance, comedy, drama, and more.

Many anime films, and anime in general, are defined by fantasy elements. The otherworldly creatures in Spirited Away, the titular Castle in the Sky, and so on and so forth. Most of the time these are grandiose, powerful elements that directly shape the story. While there is a fantasy element in Your Name, it is the story’s catalyst rather than its driving force. It is subtle enough that the story feels very close to reality. This is not something that could actually happen, but events such as these can occur. Life can end beautifully or tragically, with any mix of emotions along the way.

Saying that Your Name is one of the greatest films to date is no exaggeration. Not just one of the greatest anime films or family films, but one of the greatest films overall. From the storytelling itself to the characters, musical score, and artwork, Your Name is pieced together perfectly. The emotions here are real and viewers will not be sure how the film will end. It may be a family film, but the ending you expect may not play out like you would imagine. Your Name is truly nothing short of magnificent.

April 30, 2017

The Far Empty

Published Post author

The Far Empty Book Cover The Far Empty
J. Todd Scott
Mystery
G.P Putnam's Sons
June 9, 2016
Paperback
432

In this gritty crime debut set in the stark Texas borderlands, an unearthed skeleton will throw a small town into violent turmoil.

Seventeen-year-old Caleb Ross is adrift in the wake of the sudden disappearance of his mother more than a year ago, and is struggling to find his way out of the small Texas border town of Murfee. Chris Cherry is a newly minted sheriff’s deputy, a high school football hero who has reluctantly returned to his hometown. When skeletal remains are discovered in the surrounding badlands, the two are inexorably drawn together as their efforts to uncover Murfee’s darkest secrets lead them to the same terrifying suspect: Caleb’s father and Chris’s boss, the charismatic and feared Sheriff Standford “Judge” Ross. Dark, elegiac, and violent, The Far Empty is a modern Western, a story of loss and escape set along the sharp edge of the Texas border. Told by a longtime federal agent who knows the region, it’s a debut novel you won’t soon forget.

 

The Far Empty came into my possession thanks to a Goodreads giveaway.

The summary for The Far Empty describes the story as “a modern Western”, a pinpoint summary of the novel. Author J. Todd Scott’s descriptions paint a vivid imagery of the desolate Texas landscape. In west Texas near the border it is not exactly a peaceful area as the border is ripe with people coming into the US, both individuals seeking a better life in America as well as members of the cartels. Scott’s experience as a DEA agent shows throughout the whole novel and makes the story seem much more real.

There are a fair number of characters in the book and each chapter jumps between their perspectives. You have the tough-as-nails sheriff, his distant son, deputies that range from honorable to psychotic, and townsfolk who find themselves wrapped up in the dark secrets hiding underneath this seemingly pleasant little Texas town. The (fictional) town of Murphey is your stereotypical Texas town. Where the bulk of the town taxes are spent on high school football and the quarterbacks are living legends. The Varsity Blues syndrome at its finest. But beneath all of that there is conspiracy and danger.

This story starts out as a fairly standard mystery story. An unidentified body is found by a deputy and there is more to it than a normal John Doe. Is it an illegal immigrant who did not survive a trip across the border? Does it have something to do with the cartels? Could it be someone else entirely, and how exactly did they get there? The story is not paced perfectly but moves along steadily enough to keep audiences entertained. The shootouts and other action scenes are brief but intense following build-ups of drama.

The characters range pretty far across the board. Some of them are more developed than others; honestly, at one point I forgot that Caleb (the sheriff’s son) existed because there had not been a chapter from his perspective in so long and he had not done too much in the story up to that point. The big climax at the end of the story was also a bit predictable. It is what you would typically expect from this type of story and was foreshadowed pretty heavily. Even so, The Far Empty was a fantastic first book for J. Todd Scott and I look for to his future works.

April 23, 2017

Transformers: Retribution

Published Post author

Transformers: Retribution Book Cover Transformers: Retribution
Transformers
David J. Williams, Mark Williams
Sci-fi
Del Rey
January 28, 2014
Paperback
400

For decades, Transformers fans across the globe have marveled at the mighty clashes of Megatron and Optimus Prime, and speculated about their arrival on planet Earth. Now, in Transformers: Retribution, the prequel to the Transformers animated series, the epic odyssey of these two great warriors is finally revealed as Autobots and Decepticons battle one another . . . and the most diabolic foe they’ve ever encountered.

Aboard the Ark, Optimus Prime leads his Autobots through deep space, searching for the AllSpark so vital to their home planet, Cybertron. Megatron’s not far behind, and his Decepticons are itching for war. But a mysterious planet conceals an enemy far more cunning and powerful: the Quintessons. Masters of tyranny, technology, and twisted double crosses, the Quintessons are out to enslave both Autobots and Decepticons. Their deadly bag of tricks includes fiendish trials and a secret link all the way back to Cybertron, where Shockwave is wreaking havoc with supercomputer Vector Sigma. In the coming conflagration, Star Seekers, Wreckers, Alpha Trion, and Sharkticons all have their parts to play. For none can dodge the Quintesson juggernaut of evil, and none will escape the cataclysmic life-and-death battles that will catapult Autobots and Decepticons to Earth.

 

This review will contain some spoilers for the previous two books, Transformers: Exodus and Transformers: Exiles, as well as the related Transformers Prime television show and the video games War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron.

Transformers: Retribution brings a new author to this trilogy of books with David J. Williams and Mark Williams picking up where Alex Irvine left off. And it shows, it certainly shows. Retribution is a significant improvement over the last two installments, with clearer details and more attention paid to continuity. Despite that, having to continue the story from the mess that was Exodus and Exiles does prevent this story from doing as much as it could have stand-alone.

Picking up where Exiles left off, the Decepticons are in pursuit of the Autobots with the space pirates the Star Seekers after them both. The Star Seekers are one big issue with this book, as their story is left unresolved and they never popped up further down the continuity line in Prime. One other major issue with characters is the sudden appearance of the Aerialbots, a group of flying Autobots, on the Ark. The last book repeatedly showed Silverbolt as the only flying Autobot onboard, which constantly left the Autobots at a disadvantage against the flying Decepticon Seekers throughout the story. No explanation is given as to what the Aerialbots were busy with during Exiles.

All things considered, the transition from Irvine to the Williams went pretty smoothly. We were given lots of details that were nowhere to be found in the last two books, such as more descriptive action sequences and actual physical descriptions of the characters that Irvine never bothered with. Ultimately, having to clean up after Irvine was just too much for one book to do. If the Williams had more page space they probably could have done it, but even by the end of Retribution there is still a lot of time where who knows what happened between here and the start of Transformers Prime.

For die-hard Transformers fans, this book is recommended. While it is not the best, it is still part of the Aligned continuity family. Important bits of the lore that could still be relevant, as the Aligned universe is still being added to, are introduced here. Not to mention all the nods to the original Generation 1 series. But for general sci-fi fans or the casually interested, this trilogy can probably be skipped. Just play War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron instead.

April 16, 2017

Transformers: Exiles

Published Post author

Transformers: Exiles Book Cover Transformers: Exiles
Transformers
Alex Irvine
Sci-fi
Del Rey
October 4, 2011
Paperback
384

The epic battles between Optimus Prime and Megatron have long thrilled Transformers fans. But these two giants weren’t always great leaders and bitter foes. This new novel continues the electrifying saga that started with Transformers: Exodus, unveiling the origins of the conflict—the explosive events that unfolded before Optimus and Megatron arrived Earthside, forever altering the destiny of their kind.

Once allies, Optimus and Megatron are now enemies in a civil war. To prevent Cybertron from falling into Megatron’s hands, Optimus jettisons the planet’s heart, the AllSpark, into space, then sets out to find it with Megatron hot on his heels. Optimus is determined to defeat Megatron, bring the AllSpark home, and restore Cybertron to its former glory.

But a saboteur lurks aboard Optimus’s spaceship, and ahead lie lost colonies, some of them hostile. Optimus needs help of the highest caliber, but from whom? Heroes such as Solus, Nexus, and Vector Prime are just names from make-believe stories of long ago. Or are they? Maybe it’s time for Optimus Prime to find out. Maybe it’s the only chance he has to vanquish mighty Megatron.

 

This review will contain spoilers regarding the previous book, Transformers: Exodus, as well as the related Transformers Prime television show.

Transformers: Exiles picks up shortly after the end of Exodus, with the Autobots onboard the Ark on the run from the Decepticon warship, the Nemesis. Planet Cybertron has more or less gone into a coma after millions of years of war, forcing the still battling factions to take to the stars. Exiles was supposed to cover the same story as the video games War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron, but author Alex Irvine pretty much rewrote the story in his own image instead. If you have played those games and not read Exodus, you may be a little lost picking up Exiles.

As a series, Transformers is no stranger to continuity errors and a gratuitous amount of retconning. Like the previous book, Exiles feels rushed. We have the Autobots and Decepticons flying across the galaxy discovering lost civilizations who are involved in battles and other conflicts of their own in a single book. It makes planet-wide conflicts feel like small skirmishes.

The book also goes into the history of the original Transformers, the Thirteen Primes, and their artifacts. But this is, to a degree, a moot point. Over the course of the book Optimus finds pieces of an artifact that seems to be the Star Saber, the sword used by the leader of the Thirteen. But anyone who watched Transformers Prime knows that will not be the case, because the Star Saber shows up there. Characterization is not very good either (also like in Exodus). Characters are given practically no physical description and most of them are stereotypical. Autobots act heroic while Decepticons act like maniacs, except for major characters like Megatron and Optimus. It makes most of the dialogue seem very plain.

Following suit from Exodus, there are several errors in the book as well. At one point, Optimus mentions ejecting the AllSpark from Cybertron so Megatron could not infect it with Dark Energon. But back in Exodus, Optimus ejected it before Megatron had any Dark Energon. At another point, a spaceship magically appears out of nowhere after a flying Transformer had transported the characters previously. Overall this books rates the same as Exodus, which is not really a good thing. Exiles tries to do too much too fast and needs some editing, but does add a few important bits to the lore of the series. For a genuinely good Transformers read, stick to the comics.

April 9, 2017

Transformers: Exodus

Published Post author

Transformers: Exodus Book Cover Transformers: Exodus
Transformers
Alex Irvine
Sci-fi
Del Rey
June 22, 2010
Paperback
288

For twenty-five years the colossal battle between Megatron and Optimus Prime has captivated Transformers fans around the world. Yet the full story of the conflict between the two most famous Transformers—everything that happened before Optimus and Megatron arrived on planet Earth—has always been a mystery . . . until now. Here, for the first time told in its entirety, is the thrilling saga of Optimus and Megatron before they were enemies, before they even knew each other.

“Freedom is every Cybertronian’s right!” After Megatron utters these immortal words, the caste-bound planet of Cybertron is rocked to its foundations. Megatron, an undefeated gladiator thug, gives voice to the unspoken longings of the oppressed masses—and opens the mind of an insignificant data clerk to possibilities previously unthinkable.
Long before becoming the honorable Optimus Prime, Orion Pax is a mere office underling, an unlikely candidate to answer an outlaw’s call to revolution. But Orion is determined to meet this defiant enemy of all that Cybertron stands for, no matter what he has to do, or how many laws he has to break.

What happens between Orion Pax and Megatron forever changes the destiny of all Transformers. This gripping, action-packed novel reveals all the loyalties and treacheries, trust and betrayals, deadly violence and shining ideals, as well as the pivotal roles played by other characters, including Starscream, Sentinel Prime, Omega Supreme, and one of the thirteen original Primes, the last link to Cybertron’s glorious Golden Age.

Discover how meek disciple Orion Pax becomes the fearless leader Optimus Prime; follow the tantalizing clues about the lost Matrix of Leadership and the lore surrounding it; find out why the two allies fighting a corrupt regime suddenly turn on each other, and what triggers their epic war. Transformers: Exodus provides everything fans ever wanted to know about one of the fiercest rivalries of all time.

 

Transformers: Exodus novel takes place in the same continuity as the television show Transformers Prime and the video games War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron. The following review makes a bit more sense for readers familiar with those things.

Part of the Aligned continuity family, Transformers: Exodus covers the same events as the War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron video games. Or at least proclaims to. Many details both small and large were changed for this story, from the way certain events happened to the origins of characters and outcomes of major events. For the “official history” of the Transformers civil war, it was certainly lacking.

Exodus starts out at an earlier point in time than War for Cybertron, showing Megatron’s gradual rise to power and the time he and Optimus spent as allies rather than enemies. Transformers is a multi-verse with various continuity families, but Exodus is specifically designed to meld with Transformers Prime and related materials. Yet, it does not. There are scores of differences between Exodus and War for Cybertron, such as the point of Starscream’s defection to the Autobots and the creation of Megatron’s warship.

Along with the differences, the book is also loaded with errors. For example, at one point Optimus seems to teleport between two cities on different parts of the planet, twice, within a span of six pages during a single conversation. The major outlying issue with everything that happens once the war gets started is that War for Cybertron and Fall of Cyberton told this same story but did it better. This war is supposed to have lasted for millions of years but Exodus does not leave that impression on readers. Bad descriptions do not stop at events either; virtually none of the characters are physically described so hopefully you already know what they all look like.

It would be a stretch to say that the book is all bad, but it is hard to see much good in it. This was as bad for Transformers books as Michael Bay was for the movies. With Transformers Prime being considered the high point of the television show by many fans, it kind of stinks that this serves as its official prequel. Exodus works fine as an outline but should not have been a standalone novel. Far too much of this story was cut out in a franchise that has had 25+ years to build itself up.

April 2, 2017

Power Rangers (2017)

Published Post author

Poster for the movie "Power Rangers"

Power Rangers

Together we are more

20172 h 04 min
Overview

Saban's Power Rangers follows five ordinary teens who must become something extraordinary when they learn that their small town of Angel Grove — and the world — is on the verge of being obliterated by an alien threat. Chosen by destiny, our heroes quickly discover they are the only ones who can save the planet. But to do so, they will have to overcome their real-life issues and before it’s too late, band together as the Power Rangers.

Metadata
Director Dean Israelite
Runtime 2 h 04 min
Release Date 23 March 2017
Details
Movie Media Cinema
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Good

Power Rangers was exactly what I was hoping it would be. Is this an A-list film that will win a bunch of awards? No. Will the critics like it? Also no; the demographic that is “critics” was not the target audience. This movie was designed to appeal younger teens today and adults who watched the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. In that, the movie excelled. The characters were (mostly) pretty good and there was a ton of action for the younger audiences. For older viewers, the movie has a ton of throwbacks and references to the TV show.

Since it is PG-13, this rendition of Power Rangers is darker and edgier than the original. The Rangers fit the “teenagers with attitude” description much better than their original counterparts. These are the troubled kids who are not really bad people but they are all going through hardship in some form or another that causes them to lash out. From family problems to cyber-bullying, each of them has issues. The actors and actresses portraying the Rangers did a pretty good job for young actors as well. The pacing for their character development was done very well; the movie did not feel fast but it certainly did not drag on either.

The action sequences do not really start to kick off until the last 1/3 of the movie or so. Rita was a pretty standard movie villain but it was great to see her backstory expanded. Zordon also got a more detailed backstory, which was also a nice touch. When the action did finally get going, it felt like the Rangers did not get enough screen time morphed. They end up hopping in the Zords shortly after morphing. While in them, the Rangers helmets open up to give the actors more facetime. Understandable, but seeing the Rangers doing more fighting as Rangers than pilots would have been nice.

This movie does not do anything spectacular but it is a great popcorn film. You are not trying to wrap your head around any great ideas; you can just sit there and chillax. If you do pop in to see this, stay for the mid-credits scene. Saban Entertainment has said they plan on doing about six of these and that scene hints at the next film. If these movies can go all the way through the original storyline of the show (up to the end of Power Rangers In Space) that would be fantastic, but we will see if they can get that far.

March 26, 2017

How Not to Kill Your Baby

Published Post author

How Not to Kill Your Baby Book Cover How Not to Kill Your Baby
Jacob Sager Weinstein
Humor
Andrews McMeel Publishing
March 20, 2012
Paperback
136

Have you ever read a parenting book that left you feeling inadequate and/or terrified? In other words, have you ever read any parenting book whatsoever? If so, you need How Not To Kill Your Baby, a hilarious parody of every fear-mongering, crazy-making pregnancy and parenting manual you've ever cringed over.

Just consider the following advice:

"As you know if you have ever seen someone give birth in a movie or television show, all newborns emerge with adorable round faces, pudgy limbs, and twinkling eyes. If, by contrast, the nurse hands you a tiny, squawling creature with the face of an old man and skin covered in goo, hand it back immediately. There has clearly been some sort of mixup with a nearby ward for senile midgets."

"It's essential that you keep careful track of your baby's every bodily function. That way, when she is president of the United States and a paranoid-minded conspiracy movement springs up denying her eligibility for the position, you will have documentary proof that she did, in fact, poop on U.S. soil at 8:23AM on February 23."

"When choosing a nursery school, make sure to visit first, and ask the teachers about their educational philosophies. Then ask about their criminal records. If they insist they have none, you may need to keep asking, perhaps while shining a bright light in their face. Also, take their fingerprints, then follow them home from a discreet distance and go through their trash. Oh, and don't forget to thank them for their dedication to helping the young!"

"It is easy to adjust your parenting techniques as your children grow: simply do and say the exact same things, but raise your voice by one decibel for every year of your child's age.

How Not To Kill Your Baby is printed on child-safe, 100% piranha-free paper, and bound without the use of exploding staples. You'll get no such promise from What To Expect When You're Expecting.

How Not To Kill Your Baby is the book for you... unless you're some kind of baby-hating creep who wants to parent all wrong.

 

How Not to Kill Your Baby seemed like the perfect gift when my mother and step-father adopted a few months back. Granted they had already used me and two other siblings as practice babies, but extra prep never hurts. Admittingly, I could not help flipping through the book before putting a bow on it. In a nutshell, this book exemplifies how basically everything could easily kill your baby. Only key protective steps, like cocooning your baby in a permanent layer of bubble wrap, can keep them safe. Do not let the world mentally scar your little one because that is your job as a parent.

On a more serious note, this book is a satire. While it is a hilarious read, do not expect actual advice. A lot of the 1 or 2 star reviews for this book seem to be from people who missed a key part of the book called “comedy”. This “comedy” may be a strange and unknown concept to said people, who were sadly born without a funny bone. Or maybe their funny bone was broken by parents who failed to read this book and it did not heal properly, forever robbing them of the gift of genuine laughter. A truly sad thought.

Back to a cheerier note, this book is a belly tickler. It is a short read at only 136 pages and that does include pictures. This is something that can be read in under an hour but that just makes it a great coffee table book. Where else can you find precious advice about the horrifically terrifying act of raising a baby? Kids are tiny bundles of learning experiences. Does little Johnny know if he skins his knee it could get infected and require an amputation? Of course not! Kids will basically try to commit suicide on a daily basis out of sheer ignorance.

If you have friends on insist on those non-comical “serious” parenting books, slip this in there too. To slip back into seriousness, raising a child is a legitimately scary prospect. Getting a few laughs mixed into there can dissolve some of the nervousness of soon-to-be parents. Raising kids is a difficult process that there is no concrete formula for. And no one book could possibly cover it all. But as kids are little bundles of joy, it is important that a parent remembers to laugh. And this book will have you doing just that.

March 19, 2017

The Eye of Nefertiti

Published Post author

The Eye of Nefertiti: A Pharaoh's Cat Novel Book Cover The Eye of Nefertiti: A Pharaoh's Cat Novel
Pharaoh's Cat
Maria Luisa Lang
Fantasy
Maria Luisa Lang
November 29, 2016
Paperback
208

The Eye of Nefertiti is both a stand-alone novel and a sequel to The Pharaoh’s Cat. The time-traveling ancient Egyptian feline with human powers returns together with his beloved Pharaoh and his close friends, the High Priest of Amun-Ra and Elena, an Egyptologist’s daughter.

The cat is quick-witted, wise-cracking narrator as well as free-spirited, ever-curious protagonist, and the story he tells is an exotic, imaginative, spell-binding tragicomedy. The cat travels from present-day New York City to England, both ancient and modern, then to ancient Egypt, where he confronts a horrible demon and experiences a sublime emotion. Once back in England, he descends into a psychological abyss so deep only the Pharaoh can save him.

The Eye of Nefertiti interweaves feline and human, past and present, natural and supernatural. It contains numerous surprises, twists and turns, intriguing characters, both human and animal, fascinating revelations about ancient Egyptian history and culture, and an ingenious application of the Tarot and an Italian opera.

Maria Luisa Lang was born in Rome, Italy, and lives in New York City. She has a degree in art history and is an amateur Egyptologist. The Eye of Nefertiti is her second novel. Her first novel, The Pharaoh’s Cat, is also available on Amazon in paperback and in a Kindle edition.

 

The Eye of Nefertiti and its prequel, The Pharaoh’s Cat, were both provided to me freely by the author in exchange for honest reviews.

Picking up not long after the end of The Pharaoh’s Cat, Wrappa-Hamen’s adventures continue in The Eye of Nefertiti. This sequel was designed as a standalone book; the first book is summed up in the first chapter, so you do not have to read The Pharaoh’s Cat first. Still, reading the first book is recommended so you know the characters for this one. Like the first book, this is an adventure story featuring a time traveling talking cat with a penchant for trouble.

Wrappa-Hamen largely retains his character from the first book, being a snarky kitty who inadvertently (and advertently) causes mischief. He makes such a great character because it is what a sentient cat would probably really behave like. Wrappa-Hamen shows loyalty and love to his friends and family but is also a glutton who likes to take naps and avoid hard work. Alongside those continuing traits, Wrappa-Hamen does continue to learn and grow throughout the book. Other recurring characters get less focus and do not develop quite as much. On the flipside, we are also introduced to some nifty new characters as well.

Whereas The Pharaoh’s Cat felt a little lacking in detail, The Eye of Nefertiti was better paced. Wrappa-Hamen’s adventure went along at just the right pace this time around. It felt more like the characters were walking through the events at a nice pace rather than running through them. Like the first book, knowing a little bit about ancient Egypt helps. Nothing textbook heavy, just what you would expect to find in a basic book on the subject like knowing the major deities.

Despite being a walking (on two legs), talking cat, Wrappa-Hamen does seem to be capable of things that seem physically impossible. At one point, he mentions changing his own litter box. This seems like it would be very, very difficult considering he has no thumbs. But since he is magic, maybe this is cartoon logic where characters can just pick things up without the proper appendages (think VeggieTales). Beyond that one little tidbit, the book was an overall upgrade from The Pharaoh’s Cat. Maria Luisa Lang took what she accomplished with the first book and built it up into bigger and better things for The Eye of Nefertiti. Overall, this was a very fun book that I was happy to read and I do plan to keep my eye open for the next one.

March 12, 2017

The Pharaoh’s Cat

Published Post author

The Pharaoh's Cat Book Cover The Pharaoh's Cat
Pharaoh's Cat
Maria Luisa Lang
Fantasy
Maria Luisa Lang
May 16, 2015
Paperback
182

The Pharaoh’s Cat, a tragicomic fantasy narrated in the present tense by the cat himself, tells of a free-spirited, wise-cracking stray in ancient Egypt who suddenly acquires human powers and immediately captivates the young Pharaoh, making him laugh for the first time since his parents’ death.

The cat becomes the Pharaoh’s constant companion and, at the royal palace and on a tour of Egypt, participates in the festivities, developing an insatiable appetite for good food, wine, and gossip. Gradually, he renews the Pharaoh’s ability to enjoy life and inspires him to become a stronger leader. The bond of selfless love they share will change Egypt’s destiny.

The cat has a good friend in the High Priest of the god Amun-Ra and seeks his help in solving the mystery of his human powers and the supernatural manifestations that plague him. He has a mortal enemy in the Vizier—the second most powerful man in Egypt--who hates him for his close relationship with the Pharaoh. The Vizier’s persecution of the cat ultimately results in his fleeing with the High Priest to present-day New York City, where they find an ally in an Egyptologist’s daughter.

Maria Luisa Lang was born in Rome and lives in New York City. She has a degree in art history and is an amateur Egyptologist. The Pharaoh's Cat is her first novel. The Eye of Nefertiti, both a sequel to The Pharaoh’s Cat and a stand-alone novel, is also available on Amazon in paperback and in a Kindle edition.

 

The Pharaoh’s Cat and its sequel, the Eye of Nefertiti, were sent to me complementary by the author for a pair of honest reviews.

This book is a fun little story about a talking cat in ancient Egypt and his best friend the Pharaoh. The historical references are not too detailed so anyone could follow that aspect of the book easily enough. Most of the references do with Egyptian mythology but stick to its more well-known areas. I knew the references thanks to Rick Riordan’s The Kane Chronicles so it is nothing too complex.

Wrappa-Hamen, the talking cat protagonist, is pretty much what I would expect if cats could really talk. He has a good heart, but tends to unintentionally cause trouble as he constantly tries to get food and avoid doing things he considers too much work. He also intentionally causes his fair share of trouble as well. The key good guys are the Pharaoh and the High Priest. While the Pharaoh is Wrappa-Hamen’s beloved companion, the High Priest is more of a friend and advisor. And of course, there is the evil Vizier. Forever following the unwritten rule that Vizier’s must be evil in stories such as these.

One thing I did not like about the book is that it felt too short. That is not to say the story needed more content overall. It felt like The Pharaoh’s Cat did not have enough meat on its bones. Things are not quite fast paced enough to feel rushed, but with more details added in the book could have been another 100 pages and it would have been fine. Some of the magical phenomenon are accepted quickly by the “normal” characters and certain events are more summarized than explained.

It is nice to see a fantasy book where the presence of magic is not overdone. Beyond Wrappa-Hamen being able to walk and talk, the presence of magic is subtle. Not every fantasy book needs wizards casting Magic Missile at the darkness; a small touch of magic here and there is still enough to give the story what it needs. Ultimately it was the short length of the book that made me decide on 3 stars instead of 4, but I like to think of The Pharaoh’s Cat as more of a 3.5 (if only the rating system would allow that). It was exciting enough to make me look forward to the sequel, which I will be reviewing next.

March 5, 2017

Split

Published Post author

Poster for the movie "Split"

Split

Kevin has 23 distinct personalities. The 24th is about to be unleashed.

20171 h 57 min
Overview

Though Kevin has evidenced 23 personalities to his trusted psychiatrist, Dr. Fletcher, there remains one still submerged who is set to materialize and dominate all the others. Compelled to abduct three teenage girls led by the willful, observant Casey, Kevin reaches a war for survival among all of those contained within him—as well as everyone around him—as the walls between his compartments shatter apart.

Metadata
Runtime 1 h 57 min
Release Date 19 January 2017
Details
Movie Media Cinema
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Very good

Split has finally ended the near 18-year rut that was M. Night Shyamalan’s filmography. While not quite on the same level as The Sixth Sense, it is by far one of Shyamalan’s best films. His previous film, The Visit, was not bad but certainly was not on the level of Signs and Unbreakable like Split. The psychology behind both the antagonists and main protagonist largely shapes the film. James McAvoy’s spot on acting of Dissociative Identity Disorder particularly nails it with him swapping between innocent and sociopathic roles throughout the movie.

It is very hard to review this film without spoilers, but it is fair to say this goes beyond a typical abduction story. A villain with multiple personalities provides a unique mix between a group of kidnappers vs. a single deranged individual. This on top of the fact that not all of McAvoy’s personalities are malicious make his inner struggle a constant factor in his victim’s struggle against him/them. The three girls, however, have very little personality. Two of them are just kind of there while the main one, the weird kid in school, actually does stuff.

While this film is labeled as “horror”, it is really more of a drama thriller. There is certainly a fear aspect to the film, what with the kidnapping and all, the film does not contain jump scares and other horror movie tropes. Split is more of about psychology and the question of what does it mean to be human. And how our experiences in life shapes who and what we are. That being said, the film has come under backlash for its portrayal of someone with a mental illness. If you are part of the group who treats being offended like the Olympics, this may not be the film for you. For those who do not have this issue, the film is quite enjoyable.

Shyamalan does manage to work on of his trademarked twists into this film, but surprisingly it is not at a crucial plot-turning point. This made a huge impact on the movie. Shyamalan has become known for each of his films having a twist. Going into a movie knowing there will be a twist by and large diminishes the twist. That omission from his usual work made Split flow smoother for a much more enjoyable film. The “twist” in this movie is more of an Easter Egg and sets Split up to have a potential sequel. Bottom line, keep up the good work Mr. Shyamalan!

February 26, 2017