Category Archives: Novels

The Marvels Review

I first found out about Brian Selznick from, like a lot of people, The Invention of Hugo Cabret. That was one of the most creative books I’ve ever read in that it has pencil images that tell a story combined with traditional novel writing. It was also an excellent story. He followed it up with Wonderstruck that was not as good as Hugo but was still interesting. His most recent book in that style is The Marvels and it doesn’t live up to the previous two books.

Joseph Jervis has run away from his boarding school to stay with his uncle Albert Nightingale in London during Christmas. It’s here that Joseph discovers The Marvels, a family of stage actors who started in 1766 but it all ended in the early 1900s. Now Joseph thinks these were his ancestors and is trying to find out the truth from his uncle.

The thing that made the previous two books great was that Selznick knew what the perfect balance of drawings and writing was. Here, we get almost four hundred pages of drawing and then nothing but text for two hundred pages and then fifty pages of drawings. Yes, I admit that this was done deliberately as explained by the ending, but it kills the pacing of the book.

Not to mention that Joseph isn’t really that interesting of a character, nor is his story. Hugo had a kid trying to not get arrested and Wonderstruck had a kid finding his dad my going to the Museum of Natural History. This is just boring.

The Marvels themselves are an interesting family as is their story, Joseph’s just doesn’t cut it. In fact, all the characters here aren’t that interesting. It’s a shame since Selznick does have talent.

The drawings are still amazing, so that’s something. Selznick has the talent to use drawings to tell a compelling story that doesn’t need words to describe what’s going on. I may go so far as to say that Selznick is a better story teller using art than with words.

I’d still read any further Selznick books. I do enjoy his imagination and artwork. It’s just that this book was a letdown when compared to Hugo and Wonderstruck.



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The War of the Worlds (book) Review

Ah, The War of the Worlds. This is the defining invasion from Mars novel that sparked a whole bunch of them in the forties fifties. Since it is the first, it must be the best, right?

For those of you who have never heard of this book, it’s a Londoner’s account of an invasion by aliens from Mars and its aftermath. That’s pretty much it. The story is basically the narrator going from one place to the next while the Martians decimate everything.

This style of writing is why there has been a ton of adaptations for screen, TV, comics and radio. It’s just non-stop carnage and then the narrator hiding from the aliens. That’s why it’s not that great of a book. Yes, it is influential in that it spawned an entire genre and was one of the reasons why space travel exists, but it’s more along the lines of popcorn summer blockbuster movie.

While there has been some debate about the philosophical meanings in the book, it all boils down to the strong will destroy the weak. This may have been scary and shocking for people back in 1898, today we’ve already seen a ton of these types of stories. Hell, the movie Mars Attacks makes fun of this idea. We as a people have stopped being scared of Martians attack that we’re making fun of it.

That’s not to say the book is crap, oh no. It’s well written and an interesting read. Wells does a fine job of putting us into the head of the narrator and we do feel whatever emotion he’s going through. When he’s scared we feel it. When he’s pining for his wife, we feel that too. This all gets buried in a plot that, to modern readers, is something that’s been done to death.

Does that mean that nobody should read The War of the Worlds? Of course not. The impact it’s had is too high to dismiss it as something that should be forgotten from a bygone era. Just don’t expect to be blown away by it.

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1984 Review

Yes, I am aware that 1984 is the go to book now because of recent events in the US, but I just want to make it clear that this review is for entertainment purposes only. This review will NOT contain any political talk or any of my political views. Everything written here will be about the book, George Orwell and Orwell’s views only. I would never put y political views in my reviews because I know better. Also, any comments that do not pertain to the discussion to the book or attacks on anyone will be deleted. I don’t want this to be a political discussion that will get out of hand. With that…

1984 is considered to be George Orwell’s magnum opus with some even saying Animal Farm is. For those who don’t know, 1984 is about Winston Smith who lives in what used to be London, England but now called Airstrip One in a mega country called Oceania ruled by a man named Big Brother. In this new world, there is only one government called Ingsoc that watches over everything people. Basically, a totalitarian state. Winston, a lower level party member, is having doubts about his government which is a crime called “thought crime.” His life changes when he meets the beautiful Julia who only strengthens his hatred for the government.

As a book, for the most part, the writing keeps the reader interested and the world is well developed. Winston is an interesting character and Orwell does a fine job of showing how scary this world is. There are TVS called telescreens that basically allow Ingsoc to see and listen to your every move and there’s the fear of being taken away as a thought criminal.

Orwell makes these characters interesting is how he shows how each character can be a potential thought criminal, even Syme who is fanatical about Newspeak (the official language of Ingsoc.) It creates tension in that Winston can be taken away and killed at any minute.

The big negative of this book is when Winston gets ahold of Goldstein’s book (Goldstein is basically the bad enemy and the leader of an underground rebellion.) While, yes, it does go into more detail about the world, it comes across as a massive info dump written in the dryest, most boring language you can think of. It’s a huge tonal shift that takes the reader out of the story and will make some people skim or quit outright (I quit the first time I read it.)

Now the hard part: Why has this book lasted so long? Simple, Orwell made it abundantly clear here, in Animal Farm and all of his writings that he hated communism. He also lived in a time where the threat of communism taking over was a real threat and he feared for humanity’s future. In the afterword of the Signet Classic edition of 1984 by Erich Fromm, one of Orwell’s fears was that people will basically become like mindless robots and just do what the government tells them to do.

Basically, this is a political doomsday essay written in the form of a novel. The difference here is that Orwell knows how to write a story and make an entertaining one. He also doesn’t become preachy like some stories of this kind do.

Sp. should you read 1984? Yes, but not just to quote from it but also read it as any other literature. Yes, it has a massive downer ending, but once you think about it that’s the point.

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Let’s Talk About Winnie the Pooh

Ah, Winnie the Pooh. That lovable silly bear who loves honey so much he even got caught in a tree filled with honey. Don’t forget his friends Piglet, Kanga, Roo, Tigger, Rabbit, Owl, Eeyore and Christopher Robin. All owned by Disney and their many movies about them. What many people don’t know is that, like a lot of things, these stories were originally in book form written by A. A. Milne with art by Ernes H. Shepard. It’s a good thing these stores have been rereleased in The Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie the Pooh.

Thing is, only the first two parts are Winnie the Pooh. The other two are poems where a handful has characters that look like Winnie the Pooh characters but are not named.

For those who don’t know what Winnie the Pooh is, what rock have you been hiding under? Basically,  it’s a bunch of stories about the stuffed animals of a boy named Christopher Robin and one of them is a yellow bear named Winnie the Pooh who isn’t that bright and loves honey. This is the imagination of a six-year-old.

Now, the reason why these stories have lasted so long is because we’ve all had favorite toys as little kids and came up with little adventures with them. These stories are pretty much that. Yes, they were written at a different time and most kids won’t be able to identify most of the stuff here, but overall they will find themselves in Christopher Robin.

Then there are the poems. The only word to say about them is cute. There’s one where Christopher Robin is just hopping. It’s a kid talking about hopping. Just imagine any six-year-old saying this poem and you’ll see how brilliant it is.

For adults, this is one of those examples where you’ll think you were a kid again. Come on, read any of these stories/poems and tell me you weren’t six years old again. That’s another reason why adults will enjoy Winnie the Pooh (besides “aw, how cute.”) Adults, please, talk to your kids about what you just read with them. You’ll be surprised with what they have to say you may even learn something from then.

Yes, I just advocated bonding with your kids by reading. I don’t have kids, nor am I a teacher. I just think bonding over kids books is a great idea and will help with imagination and emotional growth. I’m no expert, so take what I said with a grain of salt. It worked for me, anyway, but everyone’s different.

So, Winnie the Pooh will be with us for a long time because of how it resonates with everyone. Get the book, get the movies from Disney and just enjoy them with the family.

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The Haunted House Review

Charlies Dickens is famous for writing books about 19th-century poor people dealing with the 19th-century way of life. The last thing you’d expect from him is horror. A Christmas Carol had ghosts, but they weren’t scary (except the Ghost of ChrostmasFuture.) If you’re in the right bookstore at the right time you’ll find A Haunted House and think, “hey, something scary from Dickens. And it takes place during Christmas!” Alas, there is nothing scary here.

The setting is interesting enough: a man rents out a supposedly haunted house and invites a group of people to spend Christmas Eve there. The next day each person recounts the spirit they encountered during the night. Too bad the stories are just each spirit’s life and how they died. The deaths aren’t scary; they’re more somber than anything else.

This is also not really a novel but a collection of stories by different authors that Dickens collected in the Christmas issue of his journal All the Year Round. This is more than enough reason to read the introductions to these old books.

The quality of these stories, like any other short story anthology, depend on what you take out of them. I personally wasn’t really interested in any of the stories. Now, that doesn’t mean that this book has any merit. This book is an early example of a short story collection that has a story within it. While today these are a dime a dozen, this was pretty groundbreaking stuff back in the 19th-Century. It may not be widely read or even known even to literary scholars, but you have to admire what something like this did to create for future writers.

On the other hand, these stories are dry as all hell. Yes, they are tragic and show a tragic side to humanity, but the writing makes it slog to read and many modern readers will just quit. This isn’t something you read for fun, this is something you read to do research and write thesis papers on.

With that in mind, this will not replace A Christmas Carol nor will it come close to its success. It’s an interesting piece of literary history, but not so much something you’d read willfully unless you were suckered in by its title.

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Spooksville: The Secret Path Review.

It’s my favorite time of year: Halloween! I don’t care that some Halloween traditions are corny, I like them. One of them is diving into horror anything. This time, I found a book series called Spooksville by Christopher Pike and after reading the first book The Secret Path it’s not that bad.

Adam has just moved to the small town of Springville-or Spooksville as it’s more commonly known as because of all the scary stuff that happens. He meets two of the town’s kids: Sally, who has a massive crush on him and Watch who’s called that because he wears four watches. Watch decides to drapAdam and Sally on an adventure to the find The Secret Path, but that then leads them to some scary events.

First off, I will admit that this book series is the typical young adult horror book series. It’s a basic storyline with some basic situations. The reason this one stands out is characterization. All three main leads are likable and their personalities don’t come off as forced (except Sally. She’s a bit too quirky.)

Yes, a spooky town has been overdone (Eerie Indiana, anyone? What do you mean you’ve never heard of it? Look it up) but the first book does make this town out to be a little different. There’s a lot to be explored here and the next few books do sound like they will expand on it.

Will I continue this series? Yes, because this is like Goosebumps but with the same characters. I’m not expecting much from this series, but it does have promise. It’s not a phenomenon like Goosebumps is even with a TV series, but it’s still worth what some people call “light reading” or something quick to read for Halloween.

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Review

It’s been nine years since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was published and every Potter fan has grown up. Not to mention Warner Bros. has been trying to find its next cash cow for years and hasn’t found one. Well, rejoice Potter fans because another Harry Potter book has been published called Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. And it’s a play instead of a novel.

Now, that is one thing I keep hearing people complain about this. The thing is, every media outlet has said that it’s the script to the play that opened the same day the book came out. This should not come as a shock. Also, plays are super easy to read, especially if they’re modern plays. This isn’t Shakespeare or a Greek play. Also, it’s the first Harry Potter play in nine years.

Anyway, onto the plot. Nineteen years after Deathly Hallows, our heroes have kids who are going off to Hogwarts. Albus, Harry and Ginny’s second son, is having daddy issues in that everyone expects him to be at the same level as his dad. Not to mention he’s best buds with Scorpius Malfoy and was sorted into Slytherin. So he and Scorpius decided to steal a time turner and go back in time to change the future.

Obviously, there are a lot of paradoxes in this story and none of them are good. Yes, it’s one of those stories. Cliche though it may be, it’s actually quite interesting. Yes, most of the story is focused on the kids, but remember Harry’s story has been told. Hell, look at another series that did the same thing: Naruto. They are now coming out with stories about Naruto’s son Boruto and the fans like it.

Admittedly, there are some sour notes to the story. One of the major ones is Draco Malfoy being pretty damn out of character. He’s WAY too nice to Harry even if his son is in trouble. Him also trying not to be his dad is another thing that doesn’t make sense. He did everything to follow in his dad’s footsteps in the first seven books.

Then there’s the power of love. I’ll leave it at that.

Another downside is the main villain. This character has a cliche backstory and isn’t all that interesting. Yes, this character does have some new interesting powers, but on a whole was pretty weak.

Of course, novel writing and playwriting are two different things. John Tiffany and Jack Thorne are both stage veterans and the script itself is well directed even if some of the stuff can only be done with a Broadway budget. It’s one of those plays that are easy to pick up and do any kind reading, even if it is a drunken dramatic one.

“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” may be a play, but the story is good enough for a Harry Potter story and it does make you want to see the play. It’s too bad that as of the publication of this review you can only see it in England at the Palace Theatre in London. Just hope it does well to come over to the US or, if you’re an actor, try to get your company to do your own production.



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Diary of a Haunting Review

I love horror. I may be as big of a horror fan as many people, but I do like it. the problem I found is that horror works best as a visual medium. It’s rare to find a good, scary horror story and usually, these are in the form of short stories or novellas. Stephen King gets away with writing 600-page horror stories because he apparently found the secret to it. One of the most recent examples I found is Diary of a Haunting by M. Verano. Once again, I found this while browsing the library and the cover is what caught my eye.

Paige, her mom and brother Logan has moved into an old house in Idaho from LA. Of course, she hates her new house. Main reason is because of all the flies and spiders the house has. Soon after moving, Logan starts acting weird and there are times when electronics in the house start to not work properly. Not to mention there is a buzzing noise in Logan’s room. Paige thinks that the house may be haunted, but there is plenty of people saying otherwise.

One word perfectly describes this book: dull. Absolutely nothing scary happens. It’s just spiders, flies, cell phones not working and Logan having seizures and acting weird. There is no ghost, there’s nothing scary about the house except it has a morgue once upon a time and Logan is acting weird. There is NO suspense to this book whatsoever.

The writing style is supposed to be a diary since this book is called Diary of a Haunting. It reads more like a regular first person narrative than just a bunch of journal entries. I hate using this example, but the best place to see what a good journal entry story looks like is Diary of Anne Frank. Yes, I’m aware that was a real diary, but it’s the best reference.

Let’s not forget the ending. Rushed doesn’t even begin to describe it. Hell, it’s even predictable. There are clues all over that point to how this book would end.

This book is 310 pages. None of them are scary. The only scary bits are the black and white photos this book has to make it seem like it’s “based on real life.” It just goes to show you that you can’t judge a book by its cover. That image does not happen in the book. The book would’ve been much better if that happened. Skip this book.

Expect a review of the new Harry Potter book next time.

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Good Omens Review

I know I’ve been away for far longer than I should, but I’ve not been well and had classes to attend. Now I’m back with a review of a book that I pushed to the side years ago like a dummy: Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. When I first read it years ago I didn’t get it. After re-reading and finishing it, I have a new found respect for it.

Heaven and Hell are preparing for the end of the world because The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch says the world will end on a specific date. Problem is, the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley rather like Earth, thank you very much, but they have work to do. One of them is getting the Anti-Christ born and finding him. They messed that up and don’t know where he is. Now everyone is trying to gather in the spot where the prophecy says just because it’s a prophecy.

This is the first time where the end of the world is made fun of and both Pratchett and Gaiman do a fine job. The humor is that dry British humor that makes you want a spot of tea afterward. Most of it, however, isn’t laugh out loud funny, but there some that are few and far between. That doesn’t mean it’s not funny, it’s just not that particular kind of funny.

The idea of an angel and devil living on Earth and liking it is funny. It’s funnier that they work together and only have a friendly jab at each other once in awhile. There should be more of this kind of situation.

Don’t worry about not knowing who wrote what part. Each writer has their own unique style and it’s easy to tell who wrote what. Each part is equally as good as the other and they have some great chemistry with each other.

Everything isn’t perfect, though. For one, most of the book is just set to the ending. We do learn about each character, but some like the witchfinders and Anathema aren’t all that well fleshed out. They aren’t even all that important to the finale.

In all, I should’ve given this book a much better chance. Some some criticisms, this is an excellent book by two great authors that’ll we’ll never see work together again. Give it a shot.




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The Fall of Arthur Review

J. R.R Tolkien is considered to be one of the greatest fantasy writers ever.. Of course, like many people, I found out about him when the first Lord of the Rings movie came out. I did read The Hobbit and liked it. The first Lord of the Rings book, well, didn’t like. Mind you this was twelve years ago so I may go back to it. I did decide to read the epic poem Tolkien wrote called The Fall of Arthur recently and it was awesome.

For those who don’t know, Tolkien was a professor at Oxford university and a lot o his works are based on classic literature (The Lord of the Rings has a lot biblical and British mythology in it.) He always wanted to add a story to the Arthurian myth. He started it and, sadly, never finished it. It’s a shame really because he was on to something with the story. The story is basically Arthur and his knights fighting Mordred to get Guinevere back. It’s a nice little story that perfectly fits with the Arthurian myth.

Since this is an epic poem, we need to look at it as a poem. One thing that I’ll give Tolkien credit is that he knows how to write poems and songs. Some people may not like that it is written in “old English” (it’s actually Modern English or “Shakespearian English.” Old English actually looks a lot like German.) This was actually a smart move on Tolkien’s part in that it looks a lot like what any Medieval poet would write. It also flows nicely and even sounds nice when you read it out loud.

It’s a shame that only fifty pages of it exist. I would’ve loved to see this story complete because I want to know what happens next. Add this to the list of things that need to come back along with the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Library of Alexandria and the Legacy of Kain team.

J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Fall of Arthur is an excellent modern epic poem that will sadly never be completed. Even though I’m not a huge fan of Tolkien, this poem is something I must commend him for. It shows his excellent grasp of literature and poetry skills. I say to every literature professor, have your students read this as part of the Arthurian Legend curriculum. It’s about as important as Mallory’s Mort D’Arthur and White’s Once and Future King.

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