Here are some of the books and movies I’ve enjoyed over the last month. I’m leaving out Platoon and Good Morning Vietnam because I want to do an article sometime early next year covering all the classic Vietnam movies. I also watched Band of Brothers for the fourth time and won’t write a new review for it.
Spellbound (Grimnoir Chronicles #2) by Larry Correia
The second book in this series is just as good as the first. Rewriting history to include magical Actives and using them to explain events like WWI, the dustbowl of the Midwest, and the growth of government power under FDR is so much fun. Due to his first hand knowledge of guns, Correia is exact with his weapons. If you’re a gun nut, you’ll enjoy these books. Correia is also very conservative. It’s nice to read a book you don’t argue with the entire time. He never gets preachy—his books are, after all, action flicks—but he does make a jab here and there at FDR. They are fairly clean with limited language and over the top violence. These books aren’t without heart. I did tear up a few times as the Grimnoir struggled to keep their friends and family safe while battling enemies on every front. Correia’s good like that. This is a book I have on Audible and I highly recommend it because Corriea got the perfect reader for his book. If you’re looking for a good weekend read, check out the Grimnoirs.
Rated: PG-13 (Language and Violence)
Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
King offers up four unique, creepy, and down to earth stories in this book. They feature normal people in bad situations usually making them worse, though two of them aren’t without a semi-happy ending. The last one was my favorite. Based on the BTK killer, King explores what it would be like to find out after 30 years of marriage that you’re husband’s a serial killer. (Queue extra creepy music.) Thankfully, this was one of the stories with a happy ending, or at least as happy as King can get. Because he capture the simple habits of a long marriage so perfectly, the little things you know so well about each other, the special quirks, the chilling horror level ratcheted up quickly. If you like King you will enjoy this collection.
Rated: R (Language, Violence, Adult Situations, Rape, Serial Killers)
The City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments #1) by Cassandra Clare (Book and Movie)
Since I have switched to writing YA fantasy some of my YA friends have given me a few books to read in that genre. This might be a bad thing because neither the book, The City of Bones, nor the movie impressed me. When my husband and I finished the movie neither of us understood the overall plot. What was really going on? What world events swept this girl up? (I had this problem with Divergent for the first 2/3 of the movie, too.) At first, I enjoyed the book more than the movie because I felt like I had a better sense of what was going on. Then, I got bored and realized the movie was mashing things together because they were cutting out the long and pointless teen drama moments. The movie tried to fix the book. Sigh.
The writing style of the book was sub-par. Clare threw in large and odd words here and there like she closed her eyes and pointed at that section of the thesaurus with no sense of what worked in the voice of the story. Every time she did this, I got pulled out of the book. A reader should be able to tell by the context what the word means. In Clare’s case, I could not.
Ultimately, I only cared about one character in the whole book and found the story to be mostly uninteresting.
My main problems with this style of writing—normal human female drawn into supernatural world of hot men where she realizes she is beautiful and must beat said men away with a stick, oh and some plot going on over there, and of course the jerk is the guy who gets the girl—are I always feel on the outside of the world, and appealed to on my most basest level.
It wasn’t until the very end of the book, like the last chapter that I even felt connected to the world. Through this big thick volume, I felt like I had my nose pressed to a window and only got a truncated view of Clare’s fantasy world. When I read Harry Potter, Harry’s world was more real than mine. When you read Lord of the Rings, you are in Middle Earth. E. Nesbit, Neil Gaiman, Robin McKinley, Suzanne Collins, Larry Correia, Scott Lynch and so many other good fantasy writers want you in their world. That’s why you’re reading it. You’re not reading it to stand on the outside observing.
Driving the reader based solely on who is going to end up with who does not a good page turner make. I hate it when I realize the only reason I’m interested in a story is to see if these two people hook up. And even that wasn’t done well. I never really felt a strong connection between Clary and Jase. Their romance wasn’t memorable. Plus, it’s not that important to have a boyfriend when you’re 15. Clary had a tiny bit more personality than Belle in Twilight, but I never cared about her. I never cared about anyone other than Luke. (Side note, including a homosexual character made all the relationships questionable. Whenever two male characters were good friends, I never knew if they were friends or lovers. I enjoy some blurring of moral lines because life can have some very gray moments, but not smudging like this.)
Rated: PG-13 (Mostly because the worldview is one that needs lots of guiding. There are some YA sexual jokes, violence, and language. The love relationship is unrealistic and unhealthy. The lead male is a jerk through the entire story, yet she still falls for him. If you want to see magic, read Harry Potter. If you want confused brother/sister relationships watch the original Star Wars.)
Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
One would believe that this is a unique romantic comedy about a zombie who falls in love with a human girl based upon the preview for the movie. It’s not. I don’t even know if this is Young Adult. This book is beautifully written and filled with interesting tidbits to digest. It is a thinking book. Is it a commentary on a mid-life crises? Is it a rewrite of Romeo and Juliet? Is it a commentary on the pointless void the next generation faces due to their entitlement status? On this basis, I would say that this could be a great book to read with your Junior or Senior kids. It would need to be read and savored for its beauty and then picked apart for its philosophy. The joy of a well-written book is that you can do both. There were some moments I lost interest in the story and felt it dragged a bit. But since I read it at the same time I read City of Bones, it’s beauty was provided a stark contrast, so I never just gave up on it. Again, I was drawn right into the world, not forced to stand on the outside. While there was an important romantic relationship, the story was more than that. Their romance was the catalyst for the story not the only point.
Rated PG-13 (Violence, Language, Sexual Content: this book makes the common error of assuming Hate and Greed are sins but lust is not.)
Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends by William Guarnere, Edward Heffron, Robyn Post
I stumbled on this little treasure at Half-Price Bookstore and read it on Black Friday instead of going shopping. Anytime I watch Band of Brothers I tend to get a little obsessed. This is the third book I’ve read about Easy Company. There are also some interviews on YouTube that I’m working through. This book focuses on only two members of Easy Company: Wild Bill and Babe. They grew up only blocks from each other without ever meeting and served together in Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge where Wild Bill lost his leg. After the war was over Babe looked Wild Bill up and they’ve been best pals ever since, dying only months apart.
Because you get to see their lives from the beginning, you get a sense of why their generation was able to do what they did. They grew up hard and fast, but with strong families and close friends. Then they joined the unique training experiment of the 101st Airborne and . . . the rest is history.
Rated PG-13 (Young men at war, war)
Holding Communion Together by Tom Chantry and David Dykstra
After all the controversy, I was eager to read this book and see what all the hoopla was about. I came away from this book sad because sin tears us apart. As Chantry and Dykstra take us through the growth of Reformed Baptists in America in the last century, they also take us through the problems plaguing us even to this day. It is always helpful to get a historical perspective. It’s just not often that when I’m getting that perspective I know the people being talked about. That was just a bit surreal. So, my first reaction was sadness, sadness over the friendships destroyed, the churches torn apart, and the splits that fractured so many people. Continuing in the story, I was made aware of the need to pray for our leaders, pray they will be kept from the lies of the evil one, that they will stand under the pressures of other churches to bend and compromise, and pray that they will stand for truth. On a very personal level, I enjoyed reading about David Straub. He was very dear to me and I miss him even to today, though I was only a little girl when I knew him. God is good and I’m thankful for the work these men did. May it encourage us all in prayer and steadfastness.
Rated PG (Sinful men in a sinful world and church fracturing)
Alice in Wonderland
This movie is odd. In true Alice fashion, it’s odd. It would have helped if I had picked up earlier on that Alice was returning to Wonderland. For some reason I didn’t get that this was the continuing of the story not a remake of the story. There were several points where I just couldn’t follow what everyone was saying. But, the fight against the Queen of Hearts, the costuming, and setting were well done. Then the end just jumped on the feminist bandwagon and that was that. Of course, a woman who saves a kingdom would never settle for being a mother. What a waste of her life. She must go adventuring. Sigh. So overall, I’m glad that I watched it. The hatter was fun and so were the White Queen and all the little animals. It felt less frustrating than the original story, but I didn’t love it.
Rated: PG (Dragon fights, intense themes)
X-men: Days of Future Past
I’m not a big comic book fan. I enjoyed Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy a lot, but most of the rest of them seem to lack heart. I just never really connect with the characters. Their struggles never seem real. I did love the first X-men movie where I did connect with Rouge and Wolverine as the outcasts in this world welcomed into Xavier’s school. But, I haven’t kept up with the franchise. Recently, I watched Days of Future Past. Surprise! I was on the edge of my seat! I think most of this is due to the acting chops of James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, and Jennifer Lawrence. They bring the heart and soul to the story. I was also pleasantly surprised by the plot twist brought by Magneto. I kept thinking everything was going just too smoothly for Wolverine. Well played. I don’t think I’ll buy this movie, but I’ll borrow it again from my sister. Also, for any of you comic book geeks, based on how this movie ends does Wolverine not have titanium on his skeleton now?
Rated PG-13 (Mystique has blue skin, not clothes. Brief Nudity, action, violence, some Mutants get torn apart, adult themes.)
I’ll let everyone know what movies and books grace my stocking this year!