One Among Us

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One Among Us Book Cover One Among Us
Paige Dearth
December 12, 2014

Kidnapped and forced into human sex trafficking, Maggie has only one way out.

Eleven-year-old Maggie Clarke is an average suburban girl known for her intelligence and beauty. Suddenly, her life’s path is tragically altered when Maggie is ripped from her family and thrust into the horrific underworld of human sex trafficking. In captivity, Maggie watches over a young boy, who gives her a reason to live. Robbed of her innocence and freedom, Maggie does whatever it takes to survive.

With the help of Detective Rae Harker, the Clarkes’ frantically search for their daughter. Haunted by his own demons, Detective Harker vows to find Maggie—dead or alive. Meanwhile on the vile streets of Philadelphia, a strange man approaches Maggie with a dangerous proposition, and she risks everything to break free of the network of unsavory characters that control her. Not even she can know how far she will go to get even with the people who ruined her life.

Raw, edgy, and intense, One Among Us ultimately offers hope through Maggie, who grows stronger and more resourceful through her experiences. You’ll be on the edge of your seat, rooting for Maggie as she fights for her life.

**WARNING**18+ Readers Only. Graphic content and subject matter.


One Among Us was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

This is a book that could have gone a lot of different ways. The subject matter is very, very dark; about as dark as it comes. Human trafficking is a subject that everyone needs to talk about, but no one wants to discuss. There was a delicate balance here of how descriptive the text can be vs. should be. Some people will love One Among Us for that and others will criticize the book for it. In its own way, this leaves some aspects of the book open to interpretation.

How you interpret One Among Us will largely depend on if you view it as a work of fiction or as something more real. Paige Dearth seems to have intended to readers to fall into the second category. The book is nowhere near as graphic as it could have been, which makes general audiences more likely to read it. From a fictional standpoint, there were some things the story could have done better. For the large page number, each chapter is very short (I do not think any exceeded 10 pages). Some of these lead right into each other while others skips days, weeks, or months ahead. Time skips are necessary since the story takes place over a near-decade, but the short chapters make characterization hard. Few characters are present for the whole book and the less seen ones all seemed two-dimensional. The stereotypical drug addict, pimp, detective, etc.

From a more real-world point of view, these decisions are understandable. Horrible things happen to a lot of people in One Among Us, but “crap happens” is not the intended message. It is true that many parts of this book are unrealistic. Are some of the characters a bit flat? Yes. Do we really need to see that the drug hustler/pimp has a little good in him? No, not really. Some people do lack morality to varying degrees. Life does often get worse before it gets better and sometimes it just gets worse. Parts of the book do feel a bit forced as we seem to mainly see Maggie’s life when big events are happening. A few “normal” bits might have made those big moments feel more dramatic and helped with further characterization, but again I do not believe that was Paige Dearth’s main point in writing this.

Personally, I found it hard to put this book down and ignored other hobbies to squeeze in extra reading time. The key thing to remember while read this is: This actually happens. Somewhere, right now, even here in the United States and other first world countries, this is happening to someone. Many someones. One Among Us is not a perfect work of fiction, but Paige Dearth is not trying to create a perfect work of fiction. She is trying to get that message out to more people so that real children and young adults like Maggie can be helped. The bottom line of this book can be summed up in one word: hope. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for Paige Dearth’s other novels in the future to see if she addresses similar subject matters just as well as she did this one.

January 7, 2018

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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Poster for the movie "Star Wars: The Last Jedi"

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The Saga Continues

20172 h 32 min

Rey develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker, who is unsettled by the strength of her powers. Meanwhile, the Resistance prepares to do battle with the First Order.

Director Rian Johnson
Runtime 2 h 32 min
Release Date 13 December 2017
Movie Media Cinema
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Very good

Star Wars: The Last Jedi has received a lot of analysis in the short time since its release. Some have loved it, some have hated it, and a fair number are somewhere in-between. I put myself in the third category, though leaning more towards the “love it” side of things. For all the haters out there, let me say this right off the bat: Yes, the film did have issues. It was not a perfect cinematic masterpiece. But it was nowhere close to having the issues of the prequels. Everything you can complain about in The Last Jedi had an equivalent, yet dumber, scene in the prequels (comparisons will not be made in this review for the sake of avoiding spoilers).

Considering how much The Force Awakens mimicked A New Hope, many people expected The Last Jedi to be reminiscent of The Empire Strikes Back. While there are reused thematic elements, The Last Jedi is not a soft reboot like the previous film. You probably could successfully argue the point that it is, but that is not how it struck me.

The Last Jedi seemed to focus a lot more on character development than plot. As far as plot progression goes, there really is not too much here. But the character development is fantastic. You can feel the new generation of actors getting these roles set up for the next film. The Force Awakens told us who these people are. The Last Jedi shows us who they are going to be. Episode IX will likely take that to its conclusion as destiny is a fairly prevalent theme in Star Wars.

There does not really seem to be a general public consensus on what this film should be, or have been. Long-time fans of the old Expanded Universe (novels, comics, video games, etc.) want to see more of those elements implemented. Some people want more of the same from the original movies. Others do not seem to know what they want and are somehow still upset. But it feels like this film set out what it was meant to do; ushering out the older, Lucas-era concepts to bring us to the new age of Disney. Star Wars has never been this grand, perfect thing people seem to envision. Parts of the old Expanded Universe sucked and needed to go. The films have used newer, unknown actors. The plot tends to be full of holes. The Force is mysterious and largely unexplained (or at least works best that way; damn you midichlorians!). At the end of the day, these are campy sci-fi family films. Enjoy it for what it is, not what you think it should be.

December 31, 2017

Canto Bight

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Star Wars: Canto Bight Book Cover Star Wars: Canto Bight
Star Wars
Saladin Ahmed, Rae Carson, Mira Grant, John Jackson Miller
Del Rey Books
December 5, 2017

Soon to be seen in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, welcome to the casino city of Canto Bight. A place where exotic aliens, captivating creatures, and other would-be high rollers are willing to risk everything to make their fortunes. Set across one fateful evening, these four interconnected stories explore the deception and danger of the lavish casino city

- An honest salesman meets a career criminal as a dream vacation turns into the worst nightmare imaginable, in a story by Saladin Ahmed.

- Dreams and schemes collide when a deal over a priceless bottle of wine becomes a struggle for survival, as told by Mira Grant.

- Old habits die hard when a servant is forced into a mad struggle for power among Canto Bight's elite, in a tale by Rae Carson

- A deadbeat gambler has one last chance to turn his luck around; all he has to do is survive one wild night, as told by John Jackson Miller.

In Canto Bight, one is free to revel in excess, untouched from the problems of a galaxy once again descending into chaos and war. Dreams can become reality, but the stakes have never been higher--for there is a darkness obscured by all the glamour and luxury.


Viva las Canto Bight! No, that is basically all this book is. Canto Bight seems to just be Star Wars Vegas. Great works of art these stories are not. Each one just seems to be about some general characters, who will never be impactful in the series again, in a big casino city type setting. If you removed the sci-fi bits from the book, this could have been a Las Vegas, Reno, etc. story.

Rules of the Game, the first story, follows a schmuck and a not so nice man. The schmuck repeatedly states he has worked at his job for over a century. So, this guy is at least 100 years into his adulthood. Apparently, wisdom does not come with age for his species; it is a miracle he survived the story. Despite that, everything just works out and there is a happy ending because…reasons?

Wine in the Dreams had some of the more interesting characters in the book. The protagonist was clever, and the twin sisters were cunning while the villain was ruthless. Not stereotypically so and that made their characterizations work. The issue is more the premise. This whole battle of wits is over…drumroll…a bottle of wine. Granted wine snobs can be kind of crazy, but usually not life and death crazy. Nor does brewing wine seem important when a WAR is brewing.

Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing was the best of Canto Bight’s four stories because it felt like it actually mattered. A man’s daughter gets taken by the mob, but they underestimate him, and he goes after her. So, Liam Neeson this alien masseuse/former badass manages to raise a little hell and all turns out well. As just a story, this one was good. But like the rest of the book it is still a one-shot thing that does not contribute to the rest of the franchise as a whole.

The Ride was also fairly entertaining, #2 in Canto Bight. The lesson of the day here is: Whenever you gamble, my friend, eventually you lose. Except when you do not, because sometimes luck can straight up outdo The Force. Also, all the stories are intertwined kind of but not really or something like that…being #2 in a book overall rated 2 stars really is not saying much. Maybe Canto Bight (the city) will at least play an important role in The Last Jedi.

December 24, 2017

From A Certain Point of View

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From A Certain Point of View Book Cover From A Certain Point of View
Star Wars
Short Story
Del Rey
October 3, 2017

Experience Star Wars: A New Hope from a whole new point of view.

On May 25, 1977, the world was introduced to Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, C-3PO, R2-D2, Chewbacca, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Vader, and a galaxy full of possibilities. In honor of the 40th anniversary, more than 40 contributors lend their vision to this retelling of Star Wars. Each of the 40 short stories reimagines a moment from the original film, but through the eyes of a supporting character. From a Certain Point of View features contributions by best-selling authors, trendsetting artists, and treasured voices from the literary history of Star Wars:

Gary Whitta bridges the gap from Rogue One to A New Hope through the eyes of Captain Antilles.
Aunt Beru finds her voice in an intimate character study by Meg Cabot.
Nnedi Okorofor brings dignity and depth to a most unlikely character: the monster in the trash compactor.
Pablo Hidalgo provides a chilling glimpse inside the mind of Grand Moff Tarkin.
Pierce Brown chronicles Biggs Darklighter's final flight during the Rebellion's harrowing attack on the Death Star.
Wil Wheaton spins a poignant tale of the rebels left behind on Yavin.
Plus 34 more hilarious, heartbreaking, and astonishing tales from Ben Acker, Renée Ahdieh, Tom Angleberger, Ben Blacker, Jeffrey Brown, Rae Carson, Adam Christopher, Zoraida Córdova, Delilah S. Dawson, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Paul Dini, Ian Doescher, Ashley Eckstein, Matt Fraction, Alexander Freed, Jason Fry, Kieron Gillen, Christie Golden, Claudia Gray, E. K. Johnston, Paul S. Kemp, Mur Lafferty, Ken Liu, Griffin McElroy, John Jackson Miller, Daniel José Older, Mallory Ortberg, Beth Revis, Madeleine Roux, Greg Rucka, Gary D. Schmidt, Cavan Scott, Charles Soule, Sabaa Tahir, Elizabeth Wein, Glen Weldon, Chuck Wendig

Narrated by a full cast, including:

Jonathan Davis
Ashley Eckstein
Janina Gavankar
Jon Hamm
Neil Patrick Harris
January LaVoy
Saskia Maarleveld
Carol Monda
Daniel José Older
Marc Thompson
All participating authors have generously forgone any compensation for their stories. Instead, their proceeds will be donated to First Book - a leading nonprofit that provides new books, learning materials, and other essentials to educators and organizations serving children in need. To further celebrate the launch of this book and both companies' longstanding relationships with First Book, Penguin Random House has donated $100,000 to First Book, and Disney/Lucasfilm has donated 100,000 children's books - valued at $1 million - to support First Book and their mission of providing equal access to quality education. Over the past 16 years, Disney and Penguin Random House combined have donated more than 88 million books to First Book.


From A Certain Point of View is a bit difficult to review, as is any short story collection. To that end, the stories will each get a mini-review with a compiled score.

Raymus by Gary Whitta (5/5 stars)

Picking up immediately where Rogue One ends and going into the start of A New Hope, this story is crucial to the overall plot of Star Wars.

The Bucket by Christie Golden (4/5 stars)

Focusing on the stormtrooper who stuns Princess Leia, this is a reminder that Imperials are people, not just faceless drones.

The Sith of Datawork by Ken Liu (5/5 stars)

This follows an Imperial desk worker who is great at getting things done despite the Empire’s bureaucracy. Using these skills, he helps cover for his colleague, the gunner who decided not to shoot down the escape pod with R2D2 and C3PO in it. This one is hilarious as they shift the blame onto someone else because you know the poor sap who must report this failure to Vader is probably going to get Force Choked.

Stories in the Sand by Griffin McElroy (2/5 stars)

The story of the Jawa who captures R2D2. Not terribly interesting, but it shows just how much of a close call that was for our favorite astromech droid.

Reirin by Sabaa Tahir (2/5 stars)

This story shows a Tusken Raider (Sand People) with dreams of spaceflight. Not important in the grand scheme of things but the story is well written.

The Red One by Rae Carson (5/5 stars)

Featuring the red astromech almost purchased instead of R2D2, this story delves into how droids are people too, with hopes and dreams and the ability to be heroes.

Rites by Jon Jackson Miller (3/5 stars)

Another Tusken Raider story, this one features the Sand People who attack and knock out Luke. It delves into the culture of Sand People, which is nice to see in the new Disney continuity.

Master and Apprentice by Claudia Grey (5/5 stars)

Featuring a character who was not actually in A New Hope but it crucial to Star Wars, this story also expands Obi-Wan’s character development.

Beru Whitesun Lars by Meg Cabot (5/5 stars)

Told by Luke’s Aunt Beru after she becomes one with the Force, we gain a rare bit of insight from one of the people who raised the future Jedi Knight.

The Luckless Rodian by Renée Ahdieh (2/5 stars)

Greedo is a jerk, then Han shoots him. ‘Nuff said.

Not for Nothing by Mur Lafferty (4/5 stars)

Explains how the cantina band went from being galactic stars to playing in the middle of a hive of scum and villainy. Overall these are good characters and their story was legitimately interesting.

We Don’t Serve Their Kind Here by Chuck Wendig (4/5 stars)

The bartender in Mos Eisley’s cantina provides a good link to the prequels, with his life during the Clone Wars explaining his misdemeanor and personality.

The Kloo Horn Caper by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Matt Fraction (2/5 stars)

This one really felt all over the place and it was one of the longest stories in the book. The writing was good, the content not so much.

Added Muscle by Paul Dini (1/5 stars)

Boba Fett is featured here, and this story felt like it hurt his character. His inner monologue feels much more in line with young, cocky, arrogant Boba from the Clone Wars tv series than the near-silent, cool bounty hunter of the original films.

You Owe Me a Ride by Zoraida Córdova (4/5 stars)

While not important to the overall plot of A New Hope, the Tonnika Sisters are sassy and entertaining, making for a fun story.

The Secrets of Long Snoot by Delilah S. Dawson (3/5 stars)

A little reminder of how people, particularly aliens, are frequently tricked and screwed over by the Empire. This story makes you feel bad for a character who is technically a bad guy.

Born in the Storm by Daniel José Older (3/5 stars)

Even stormtroopers can think their job sucks and dream of just saying “screw it” to ride off into the sunset.

Laina by Wil Wheaton (4/5 stars)

Featuring the Rebel soldier standing in the tower on Yavin 4, he knows he is doing the right thing and that his family will be safe on Alderaan. Oh…

Fully Operational by Beth Revis (5/5 stars)

General Tagge is the smart person who points out, “Hey, the Rebels could be a threat since they stole the plans to the Death Star.”

An Incident Report by Mallory Ortbert (5/5 stars)

The Imperial officer Force Choked by Vader in the Death Star meeting room writes a formal complaint about the incident and comes to the realization that the Dark Lord of the Sith is more terrifying that the Death Star itself.

Change of Heart by Elizabeth Wein (5/5 stars)

Another story showing that Imperial stormtroopers are not just faceless drones, as one trooper witnesses the terror the Empire will inflict on even its own citizens.

Eclipse by Madeleine Roux (5/5 stars)

The final moments of Bail and Breha Organa, as they try to determine Leia’s fate in the final moments before Alderaan is destroyed.

Verge of Greatness by Pablo Hidalgo (5/5 stars)

Featuring both Director Krennic and Grand Moff Tarkin, both characters are portrayed perfectly as their thoughts dwell on each other and the faults that will lead to their respective downfalls.

Far Too Remote by Jeffrey Brown (5/5 stars)

A 1-panel comic featuring the Imperials looking for the Rebel Base on Dantooine. In a word: hilarious.

The Trigger by Kieron Gillen (5/5 stars)

Features Doctor Aphra from the Darth Vader and Doctor Aphra comic books. As a big fan favorite character invented in the Disney canon, this one was just a treat.

Of MSE-6 and Men by Glen Weldon (2/5 stars)

This is about the little droid Chewbacca growls at in the hall on the Death Star. This is one of the longer stories and basically boils down to “if Imperial officers weren’t idiots, the Death Star might not have blown up”.

Bump by Ben Acker & Ben Blacker (3/5 stars)

Same as the last story; if officers were not idiots, something something.

End of Watch by Adam Christopher (3/5 stars)

This story features the Imperials on the other end of the comm when Han, Luke, and Chewie rescue Leia from the detention center. More Imperial bureaucracy featuring a slice of life for the men and women of the Empire.

The Baptist by Nnedi Okorafor (1/5 stars)

This story literally and figuratively features garbage.

Time of Death by Cavan Scott (5/5 stars)

Obi-Wan Kenobi in his final moments, featuring the mental battle he waged with himself even as he clashed lightsabers with Vader. Also provides a much-needed explanation as to why the lightsaber fight was so tame compared to all the backflips and stuff in the prequels.

There is Another by Gary D. Schmidt (4/5 stars)

Featuring another character not actually in A New Hope, Yoda, this sets some of the groundwork for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

Palpatine by Ian Doescher (1/5 stars)

A poem by Emperor Palpatine. Please note I never have and probably never will understand poetry, so my rating of this one is pretty biased.

Sparks by Paul S. Kemp (4/5 stars)

The first of several stories featuring Rebel pilots during The Battle of Yavin. Note for all of these that 30 starfighters went up and only 3 came back. Dex was one of the Y-Wing pilots who made the first run down the Death Star trench.

Duty Roster by Jason Fry (4/5 stars)

During the Battle of Yavin, the Rebel Alliance had more available pilots than starfighters. This story features one of the ones left behind.

Desert Son by Pierce Brown (4/5 stars)

Featuring Luke’s friend Biggs from Tatooine, this story is a shining example of the many rebels who sacrificed themselves for the greater good against the Empire.

Grounded by Greg Rucka (5/5 stars)

Every team needs a leader and even those leaders report to someone. When you are at a certain level in the chain of command, every loss in battle can hurt you personally.

Contingency Plan by Alexander Freed (5/5 stars)

This story did a lot for Mon Mothma’s character, namely explaining why she was not present at the Battle of Yavin. It also left me with a lot of mixed feelings about her as a person.

The Angle by Charles Soule (4/5 stars)

Yet another tale of a character who was not actually in A New Hope, this time Lando Calrissian. Not really in line with the other stories but it sets him up a bit for The Empire Strikes Back.

By Whatever Sun by E.K. Johnson & Ashley Eckstein (3/5 stars)

Another character pops up from the new Expanded Universe, Ahsoka’s friend Miara from the book Ahsoka. This story lends a bit of realism to the end scene of A New Hope.

Whills by Tom Angleberger (5/5 stars)

Hilarious and my new head-canon for George Lucas’ thought process.

December 17, 2017

Leia, Princess of Alderaan

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Star Wars: Leia: Princess of Alderaan Book Cover Star Wars: Leia: Princess of Alderaan
Star Wars
Claudia Grey
Disney Lucasfilm Press
September 1, 2017

The never-before-told story of how young Leia Organa comes to join the rebellion against the evil Empire, from best-selling author Claudia Gray.


Leia, Princess of Alderaan seemed a bit iffy at first. Despite being part of the “Journey to The Last Jedi” it is a prequel to the original films. Precisely, this book seems to take place around the same time as the start of Star Wars: Rebels. Author Claudia Grey has delivered nothing but gold for Star Wars so far and that continues here. Readers saw in Bloodline that she can write middle-aged Leia well and she did an equal job with young Leia. For multiple reasons, exploring Leia’s history in full is a crucial component to the Star Wars universe.

We have already seen differences in Leia in the new Disney Star Wars compared to the old Expanded Universe. The old novels had her serving as a leading figure in the New Republic after the fall of the Empire. As constant warfare grew, she eventually gave up politics and became a Jedi Knight. While she did still marry Han Solo, they had three children in the old continuity (all of whom arguably played a much more important role in the later stories than Leia herself). There are some similarities to the new Disney era, such as Leia quitting politics to go fight. However, she is a character that could and has been improved by being reinvented a little.

Princess of Alderaan largely deals with how Leia first became involved with the Rebel Alliance. Leia is just as spunky and headstrong as Carrie Fisher originally portrayed her. While still inexperienced, being only 16 years old, Leia is a remarkably intelligent young woman. Claudia Grey touches on all of these traits, writing the character as well as George Lucas originally did. Along with Leia herself, Claudia Grey does just as good of a job with other iconic characters such as Leia’s father Bail Organa and Grand Moff Tarkin.

This is very much Leia’s coming of age story, showing the point where she begins to become a hero. Being a Young Adult novel does make it a bit lighter in tone than other Star Wars books. Nonetheless, we do see tensions and the characters are put in real danger both physically and politically. In the beginning the Rebel Alliance was walking on a tightrope; one slip-up and the Empire would have crushed them. Like Rogue One, the story ends with a message of hope even though readers already know the fate of Alderaan.

December 10, 2017


Published Post author

Star Wars: Phasma Book Cover Star Wars: Phasma
Star Wars
Delilah S. Dawson
Del Rey
September 1, 2017

Discover Captain Phasma’s mysterious history in this “Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi” novel.

One of the most cunning and merciless officers of the First Order, Captain Phasma commands the favor of her superiors, the respect of her peers, and the terror of her enemies. But for all her renown, Phasma remains as virtually unknown as the impassive expression on her gleaming chrome helmet. Now, an adversary is bent on unearthing her mysterious origins—and exposing a secret she guards as zealously and ruthlessly as she serves her masters.


Phasma (the character) was one of the more lackluster bits of The Force Awakens. The promotional material all made her look really cool, but the film itself did not really see her doing much. First, we see her leading the assault at the start of the film. Then nothing for most of the movie. Suddenly towards the end, she (who is supposed to be a badass mind you) is taken hostage by an ex-janitor and forced to lower Starkiller Base’s shields. We did not even get to see Gwendoline Christie; Phasma has her helmet on the whole film. So, this book was really a good opportunity to flesh out Phasma’s character.

This book really did not do a lot to flesh out Phasma’s character. The hope was that she would be a lot like Boba Fett. In the original Star Wars movies, Boba Fett did not do much. He tracks down Han and Leia and then gets killed by a blind guy. But he looked really cool, so the old Expanded Universe turned him into a badass. Phasma, unfortunately, did not get the same treatment in her own story.

Overall, Phasma is just not that interesting of a character. She is a hardcore survivalist who will do whatever it takes, truly caring for only herself. And…that is kind of it. If anything, Phasma herself was the least interesting character in the novel. Everyone else seems to have intricate motivations whereas hers is a generic “stay alive and be powerful”. She has no morality and just that one simple rule: survive. The book could have been half as long as it is and the same message would have still gotten across. With her character being so simple the book does not even feel like it is really about Phasma.

Despite the end result being lackluster, the book is well written. Delilah Dawson knew what she was doing but it seemed like there were too many limits put down by Disney. Despite this book being part of “Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi”, it did not seem to have anything to do with the new movie. It even takes place before The Force Awakens, not after it. If you want a summary of Phasma’s character, you are better off reading the Phasma comic books. They actually do take place after Episode VII, get the same message across about Phasma’s character, and take a lot less time to read.

December 3, 2017

The Wraith

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Poster for the movie "The Wraith"

The Wraith

He's not from around here...

19861 h 33 min

Packard Walsh and his motorized gang control and terrorize an Arizona desert town where they force drivers to drag-race so they can 'win' their vehicles. After Walsh beats the decent teenager Jamie Hankins to death after finding him with his girlfriend, a mysterious power creates Jake Kesey, an extremely cool motor-biker who has a car which is invincible. Jake befriends Jamie's girlfriend Keri Johnson, takes Jamie's sweet brother Bill under his wing and manages what Sheriff Loomis couldn't; eliminate Packard's criminal gang the hard way...

Director Mike Marvin
Runtime 1 h 33 min
Release Date 21 November 1986
Movie Media DVD
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Not bad

The Wraith came onto my radar a few weeks ago when I was in the mood for an 80’s movie. I called my dad (an 80’s trivia guru) and asked for a recommendation. He said “The Wraith” so here we are. If what you are looking for is a 1980’s b-movie, this film excels. It was not something that was trying to win any awards but is just an overall fun film. The Wraith is a good popcorn movie for those times when you want to sit and watch something without really paying attention.

Most of the acting in the film is pretty campy but it feels intentional. A lot of the actors in here are capable of bigger and better things, as their careers have shown. Young Charlie Sheen is a main character here and honestly, it took me half the film to recognize him. Partially because of how young he is, but mostly because this is the soberest I have ever seen him. Nick Cassavetes (director of films such as The Notebook) also stars in here; The Wraith was actually his first film. The leading lady of this title is Sherilyn Fenn, well known for the cult TV series Twin Peaks. These actors all have real talent, but the writing is still very 80’s b-movie. Good guys are extremely good while the bad guys seem to look up to Biff from Back to the Future as a personal hero.

For what The Wraith is, the film’s action sequences are pretty good. There is a lot of racing involved and real cars were used in lieu of close-ups of Hot Wheels. Nor is the film plagued by effects where a car hits a pebble and somehow explodes 150’ into the air. The movie really screams 1980’s too, from the soundtrack to the costume designs to the photography. Is The Wraith on par with 80’s classics like The Terminator or The Goonies? Of course not. Is it Charlie Sheen’s best work? Obviously no, everyone knows that is Hot Shots. But if you want a movie that kicks ass and chews bubblegum then that’s…well, that’s actually They Live, another fantastic 80’s movie. But the point is, The Wraith is a good flick for just kicking back and chilling one evening.

November 26, 2017

Overlord, Vol. 5: The Men of the Kingdom Part I

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Overlord, Vol. 5: The Men of the Kingdom Part I Book Cover Overlord, Vol. 5: The Men of the Kingdom Part I
Kugane Maruyama
Yen On
September 19, 2017 (English); December 28, 2013 (Japanese)

In the kingdom of Re-Estize, a sinister organization known as the Eight Fingers holds sway of the criminal underworld. Ainzs orders Sebas to infiltrate the capital to gather intel on this shadowy group sucking the marrow from the kingdom's bones. At the same time, a young soldier named Climb struggles to hone his skills to better serve the "Golden Princess" while the once great warrior Brian returns home a broken man... Against the backdrop of an ancient city fraying at its edges, three men will challenge the corruption of the vicious Eight Fingers!


This review will contain some spoilers for the previous Overlord light novels.

The Men in the Kingdom Part 1 is a bit tricky to review since it is only half a story. By and large, this book feels more like it is just getting things ready for the next one. While it is true that nothing too crazy happens, there are some other key points to the novel. Aside from the set-up for Part II, this story does a lot for world building and character development in Overlord.

It has been clearly established that Ainz and his minions are all-powerful compared to the other inhabitants of this world. If their goal was simply to raze everything to the ground they could do so, easily. But Ainz works on the assumption that there are powers that could threaten them in this world. To that end he attempts to gather information and that sets up our world-building. This novel focuses on Sebas and Solution gathering information in the capital city of the nearest country. Their actions allow us readers to see what everyday life is like in this world for human civilians.

World-building and character development are a bit linked here, with a few regular human characters introduced. We meet the princess of the kingdom, her loyal bodyguard, one of the few groups of the highest-ranking adventurers, and revisit Brain (the warrior who fought Shalltear in volume 3). For the main characters, this book focuses on Sebas. Seeing each of Ainz’s top people get their own story is fantastic; many other series would just turn at least some of them into background characters. Sebas himself is also interesting because he is one of the inherently good denizens of Nazarick. He will follow his orders, but will also try to do the honorable thing within the boundaries of those orders.

Overall this book was enjoyable, but again it is only half of a story. The stopping point for this novel did feel pretty good. There is a little bit of a cliffhanger to tease audiences, but it is done in a fun way. Given how much this book felt like set-up, Men in the Kingdom Part II will probably be action packed. That is not to say it is not interesting to see the characters maneuver through politics as well as battlefields. And there is a bit of fighting in this book, just nothing over the top. But Men in the Kingdom Part I definitely gives the sense that there is a greater battle to come.

November 19, 2017


Published Post author

Forbidden Book Cover Forbidden
Feather Stone
Romance Under Fire
December 1, 2016

Gunfire echoes within the walls of a Middle East police compound. Screams of terror are brutally silenced. Police captain Hashim Sharif captures one survivor. Soon Eliza MacKay will wish she had died with her companions.

The vile act of terrorism is covered-up. Sharif becomes the reluctant keeper of his city's bloody secret - and the witness, MacKay. His corrupt superiors have a gun rammed against his skull. Disloyalty to the mayor will be rewarded with being buried alive.

Whatever the cost, his government’s honor must be restored. Secretly, Sharif hunts forensic evidence. Who is responsible for the murder of fifteen American volunteers? And, why did MacKay lie about her identity? He can’t trust her. Her mental illness is going to get both of them killed.

When he receives orders to dispose of MacKay, his Muslim faith is tested. Murder an innocent in cold blood? He will suffer Allah's eternal wrath.

CIA Agent Hutchinson has the lying Sharif in his cross hairs. Sharif dodges the agent’s traps almost as easily as the hitman on his tail. When Sharif discovers the shocking truth, he loses all hope of survival.

What is worth dying for? Perhaps it’s not bringing a madman to justice. Could it be saving the life of a woman who kick-started his numb heart? On the knife edge of risk, Sharif plots an act most forbidden and fatal.


Forbidden was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Forbidden is one of those novels that does not really fit into any one category. It has elements of thriller, romance, mystery, crime, drama, and politics but none of those really fit on their own. That largely contributes to what makes the book feel so real; there are slices from various aspects of life. Another big factor was having this in the near-future (30 years from now) without being too crazy. The technology we see if pretty much the same as today, no flying cars or anything like that.

The future world we see is really only different in a political sense. Most of the Middle East has combined into a republic, which serves as the setting for the novel. This does not mean everything is all well and good; the catalyst for the story is a terrorist attack. Some individuals do not like the new government and lash out similarly to real terrorist groups like ISIS. While they spend more time as a background element, politics are crucial to the story. Throughout Forbidden, it becomes apparent how one event can start a chain that could potentially destabilize an entire region.

Characterization is also key for a story like Forbidden and the two main characters here were great. Captain Sharif, our main male character, is a good man in a bad situation. He loves his country and respects law and order. Sharif is a faithful man who becomes uncertain when his orders clash against his morality. He knows he is damned in life if he does not follow the orders and damned in death if he commits these sins. It is a difficult situation and showcases what happens when a good man goes to war.

Eliza is our leading lady and makes for a fantastic half of the protagonist duo. She is a strong woman but has been through immeasurable grief that broke her. While she did manage to put herself back together the cracks are still there, and this new tragedy tests her. She spends most of Forbidden scared but also brave. Eliza is smart and has a powerful survival instinct, but she is also emotional and afraid. The scars left by her PTSD are a large part of her character and make her very real.

Overall, Forbidden strikes me as a 3.5 out of 5. We will round that up to 4 because a flat 3 seems too low to do it justice. If you are looking for a suspenseful book with flair of action and a splash of romance, Forbidden is a good choice.

November 12, 2017

Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad

Published Post author

Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad Book Cover Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad
Star Wars
Christie Golden
Del Rey
July 25, 2017

The Rebellion may have heroes like Jyn Erso and Luke Skywalker. But the Empire has Inferno Squad.

After the humiliating theft of the Death Star plans and the resulting destruction of the battle station, the Empire is on the defensive. In response to this stunning defeat, the Imperial Navy has authorized the formation of an elite team of soldiers, known as Inferno Squad. Their mission: infiltrate and eliminate the remnants of Saw Gerrera’s Partisans. Following the death of their leader, the Partisans have carried on his extremist legacy, determined to thwart the Empire—no matter what the cost. Now, Inferno Squad must prove their status as the best of the best and take down the Partisans from within. But as the danger intensifies and the threat of discovery grows, how far will Inferno Squad go to ensure the safety of the Empire?


Inferno Squad serves as the prequel to the video game Star Wars Battlefront II, focusing on Imperial special forces soldiers. This novel fills the same role that Twilight Company did for the previous Battlefront game but has a few differences. The first Battlefront did not have a story mode so the characters were mostly generic Rebel soldiers. Battlefront II will have a plot, spanning from Return of the Jedi to The Force Awakens. Inferno Squad is the precursor to that game, taking place in-between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. As such, the characters can be developed a bit further but only to a degree.

The members of Inferno Squad are shown in their first mission, christening the new Imperial black ops team. In the new Disney canon, the villain books have all been pretty good. Lords of the Sith, Tarkin, and Thrawn all did an excellent job of highlighting characters. But these characters had advantages the members of Inferno Squad do not. Tarkin, Thrawn, Vader, and Palpatine were all prominent characters in the old canon, cementing many of their character traits. Inferno Squad is a brand-new group of characters who must remain very Imperial over the course of the novel.

Sympathizing with the bad guys is hard. The aforementioned villains are all interesting for their own reasons. Palpatine is irredeemably evil, Vader has a tragic backstory, Tarkin equivalates ruthless with stability, and Thrawn is a tactical genius. The Inferno Squad members do genuinely believe in the Empire but more by their upbringing than due to personal qualities. Christie Golden could not do too much with them when they still need to be rigid Imperials for Battlefront II. It did help that the rebels they were fighting were more terrorists than heroes but they are still bland.

Other villains work because they are leaders who do not really care about morality. The members of Inferno Squad somehow convince themselves that genocide can be for the greater good, eating into Imperial propaganda. While Inferno Squad does not seem necessary to Star Wars fans overall, it will likely make Battlefront II more enjoyable (like the effect Catalyst had for viewers of Rogue One). It seemed odd for a book connected to shooter game like Battlefront to be about an undercover spy mission. Prioritizing characterization over action scenes is not necessarily bad but it just did not seem to fit with the game. For non-hardcore Star Wars or Battlefront fans, Inferno Squad can probably be skipped.

November 5, 2017