Category Archives for Reviews

Doctor Strange – MOVIE REVIEW

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Thanks to some extremely wonderful assistant instructors, I went home from the dojo early last night and got to eat dinner with my kids. We also sat together and watched Doctor Strange. My wife and I had seen it before in theaters, but the kids hadn’t. Strangely, I never actually left a review of the film. It seems a bit odd to do so this long after the film’s release. Yet I also felt it worth adding a few notes to the general consensus of the film.

Yes, the critics are generally right. Doctor Strange is, essentially, the first Iron Man film’s plot redressed. Doctor Stephen Strange is a rich, extremely intelligent, highly successful man. He’s also more than a bit of an asshole. Then, of course, the film takes him on his journey to finding real meaning, becoming a hero, etc.

Like many other films, the villain is not so much underwhelming (Dormamu is actually pretty cool) as underutilized. He’s just not in the film enough. This is also a fair criticism.

But the film still succeeds, and I think it’s due to three things.

First, the film is fun and generally well executed. As I’ve noted before, execution counts for far more than originality. A big part of this comes from the filmmakers willingness to fully embrace Steve Ditko’s 60s and 70s era trippy artwork. They turned modern CGI effects on that style and the result is amazing.

Second, the climax of the film is extremely well done. I’m talking about one effect in particular: when the sorcerers fight while Strange turns back time itself. I’ve read scenes like this in written fiction before. I’ve never seen anything like it in a visual medium. They executed it flawlessly, and the end result is super cool both visually and from a storytelling perspective.

Finally, the resolution is very clever. Strange manages to find the one weapon he can actually use against an infinite power. As a viewer, you get a sense that his solution would actually work – yet it’s also quite unconventional. Best of all, the script sets up the solution in a very clever bit of early, seemingly throw-away dialog.

On a side note, my children loved it. Even my four year old sat glued to his seat for almost the entire film. He rarely does that for live action movies – he didn’t even manage it for Homeward Bound, a film aimed at his demographic.

It’s not a perfect film, but it’s easily a four out of five stars.

Beauty and the Beast 2017 – MOVIE REVIEW

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On Friday evening, Morgon and I got a rare date night. We dropped the kids off, grabbed a quick bite to eat, and then dashed off to the theater to catch the new live action Beauty and the Beast.

Now, I should start by noting that the 1991 animated film is a favorite of both myself and my wife. We’ve seen it many, many times. It’s enough of a favorite that on our honeymoon at Disney World, we shelled out for our own wedding gift to ourselves – a numbered, limited edition painting depicting the title characters. Not a print, mind you – hand painted, and priced accordingly. It’s one of the centerpieces of our living room, and has been for nearly ten years. Our kids are huge fans, also. Indeed, they’ve watched the animated film at least four times this last weekend.

There’s a bit of a personal connection, you see. My wife is an introverted bookworm, noted for being rather odd. And it only takes one look at my hairy self to recognize the connection to the Beast. Morgon has awaited the new film with breathless anticipation. I, however, have been less enthused. I loved what they did with Cinderella. But the trailers haven’t moved me. Part of it is because they made a conscious choice with the first trailer to mimic the original animated trailer – shot for shot.

In one sense, it’s pretty cool. But the trailers in general have left me fearful that the film would hew too close to the original, failing to stand on its own legs. That first teaser didn’t help.

Thankfully, the film we actually got doesn’t suffer from that problem. To be sure, it hews very closely to the original. And for the first thirty minutes or so, I still feared that it wouldn’t find its own voice. But that mostly stemmed from the one major problem the film does have: an extremely weak female lead.

Emma Watson is not an untalented actress. She is also, however, simply not one of her generation’s great acting talents. Furthermore, her singing… well, it actually is rather untalented. Even I could hear the autotuning in effect, and I’m usually the guy missing it when everyone complains about it. Her voice just doesn’t live up to the rest of the cast’s.

As if that wasn’t enough, they made too many subtle changes to the character. Belle in the animated film is unfailingly kind – even when she has every reason not to be. It’s a deep part of her character. This Belle, however, is downright rude. She isn’t merely withdrawn and odd, she stands aloof over the village peasants. I find it hard to sympathize with her because she treats them so poorly. No wonder they dislike her.

But the biggest issue is her interactions with Gaston. Now, I love this version of Gaston. They toned down the cartoon buffoonery – especially early in the film. He’s a far more likable character. In fact, one can easily see why the entire village loves him. Yes, he’s still a bit of an oaf. He’s still a bit hung up on himself. But in this version, he’s portrayed as a man trying to gather up his courage. He is, after all, about to propose to the most beautiful girl in the village. Even his famous pub song is portrayed more as his friends trying to put him back together again. It works wonderfully.

Except for the fact that Belle is exceptionally rude to him, when this version of Gaston hasn’t quite earned it. Yes, perhaps, she’s right to actually turn him down. Certainly she’s within her rights to. But she doesn’t just turn him down, she beats him down, hard. Her reaction is over the top. The film relies on our recollection of the annoying Gaston from the animated film to make us dislike him. It’s a shame, because they improved his character arc in every way.

What’s most interesting is that this almost works in completely the opposite way as intended. It gives the character of Belle a bit of a character arc that’s missing in the animated film. Yet because of its accidental nature, it never quite seals the deal.

Still, everything else about this film is top notch. Have I mentioned Gaston yet? He steals the show. The Beast himself puts on a good act, too, however. Everything you’ve heard about La Fou’s gay character changes? It’s actually good. It’s funny. Riotously funny. The backstory of Belle’s parents is a nice touch, as are several other subtle additions: the perpetual winter surrounding the castle, the forgetful nature of the spell, Maurice’s imprisonment being due to theft rather than mere anger. The touches of period setting, costumes, and props added back in – such as Gaston’s crossbow becoming a pistol – are wonderful.

This could have been a five star film. It should have been a five star film. In the end, however, Emma Watson’s Belle hurts. The best I can give this film is four stars.

Rogue One – MOVIE REVIEW

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I couldn’t muster much excitement for Rogue One. I tried – I really wanted to. In my younger years, I was a massive Star Wars fan. I was known for it. I camped out overnight at the theater for The Phantom Menace. Heck, I was the fourth person in line at our local theater. I camped out again for both Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith – mainly because despite the disappointing films, the experience itself was an absolute blast.

But by the time The Force Awakens came out last year, I’d already lost much of my excitement. Everyone knows the prequels were disappointing films – I don’t need to go into detail on that here. And the initial trailers for TFA just didn’t do it for me. In fact, I maintain that the first TFA teaser wouldn’t have excited anybody if it hadn’t had Star Wars theme music to go with it. It was a bad trailer, period. The film itself left a decidedly mixed taste in my mouth.

On the other hand, I’d read a lot of opinions on Rogue One before I saw it – and even the doubters conceded that it was generally a decent film. So I went in with rather moderate expectations. With that context, the film managed to exceed those expectations. The other reviewers have it basically right – it’s a moderately good film, but far from perfect.

The good

Unlike The Force Awakens, this film has its own plot. In fact, this is probably the most unique plot in a Star Wars film since Empire. That gives the franchise a bit of much needed fresh air.

The characters are much better this time around. Jyn Erso is not the Mary Sue that Rey was, and that helps. The secondary characters are far better than they were in TFA. The reprogrammed military droid steals the show. He’s definitely the best character, but Donnie Yen’s Force monk pulled a close second. The rest of the misfit crew of rebels fleshes out the film nicely, however, and each character has a good moment to shine in the story.

The film absolutely nails the look and feel of A New Hope, and it’s really fun to return to that universe. That’s the one thing that both the prequels and TFA completely failed to deliver. Rogue One brings it.

But the film also borrows heavily (without directly using any characters) from the Extended Universe – especially the games. Cirsova has already gone into great depth about how much is borrowed from the Star Wars tabletop game:

In fact, it dawned on me when the blind Force Monk showed up: Rogue One is “Some Guy’s Star Wars d6 RPG Campaign: The Movie”, and I mean that in the best way possible.

He’s very correct. The film also heavily borrows from the Knights of the Old Republic video games (which themselves are based on the D6 tabletop game). This clearly intentional choice pays off, and the film benefits.

This felt more like a Star Wars film than TFA did, and that really helps.

Darth Vader is awesome. ‘Nuff said there.

The Bad

Jyn Erso is not a Mary Sue… but she’s one of the weaker parts of the film. Her character arc from hating the rebellion for bringing her nothing but pain to suddenly giving the inspiring speeches and being the only one who holds true… they didn’t sell it to me. Her motivation doesn’t feel quite strong enough. I went with it because the rest of the film was good, but it detracted from the film.

Still, Cassian the pilot saves her from a harsh fate as the weak link of the film. I liked his character. Still, he felt strongly underdeveloped – especially given how much screen time he has.

The biggest issue, however, is a core story issue. If this film existed in its own universe without the strong attachment to previously existing films, it wouldn’t satisfy me. It works – but it only works because of the context that A New Hope gives it. Don’t get me wrong – the plot would hold up fine. It just wouldn’t hold much interest or pack much punch. It relies heavily on prior work.

Now, in and of itself that doesn’t hurt the film – not for me, anyway. Empire wouldn’t work as a stand alone film, either. Worse, Empire kind of requires both A New Hope and Return of the Jedi for its satisfactory payoff. Rogue One only requires the former film.

However, the filmmakers compounded this issue with two wrong choices. I say “wrong” and not “bad” on purpose. I totally understand why they made the choice they did, and I understand their thinking. But at the end of the day, it turns out that they chose incorrectly.

First, the film barely uses any pre-existing Star Wars themes in the score. The composer sprinkled small touches throughout the film, but no more. The score we get doesn’t suck. And given how much of the Star Wars scores are character themes, the original scores shouldn’t have been over used. But they went too far. Especially the opening and closing music should have kept to the series theme.

Second, they’ve eliminated the opening crawl. The film simply jumps right into the story.

The filmmakers made these choices consciously, in an attempt to separate these “anthology” films from the “main” films of the series. I get that. In another context it might have been the right choice. But given how much this film relies on those “main” films, this turns out to have been the wrong choice. Rather, they should have gone the opposite direction and tied it into those films as concretely as they possibly could.

None of these issues brings the film down, however, and its still quite enjoyable. It’s easily the strongest film overall since the original trilogy. I give it four strong stars out of five.

AKA It Didn’t Quite Suck – TV REVIEW

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I spent the last of my holiday painting the bathroom. That turned out to be a complete waste of time – the color that looked good on a color swatch doesn’t look so good on the wall. Such is life. On the other hand, I did drag the laptop in there and finally finished watching Jessica Jones on NetFlix.

As I mentioned in my review of Luke Cage, the first few episodes of Jessica Jones left me feeling a bit empty. The show has solid production values and generally strong writing. Unfortunately, it also suffered from one major drawback: the main character, Jessica Jones herself.

Jessica Jones simply isn’t a sympathetic character. At one point about midway through the season, Luke Cage (who remains one of the best characters of the show) directly calls her out, telling her she’s a “piece of shit.” At that point in the show, I couldn’t disagree with him. Over the remainder of the season, the show finally did present some sympathetic elements of her character. But up to that episode, it really hadn’t – or, at least, it hadn’t made her sympathetic enough for a scene like that. She simply wasn’t very likable at all. And lest you wonder, she really had done something pretty terrible to Cage. She earned that.

What the show does have, however, is a truly compelling villain. David Tennant’s Kilgrave is truly one of the more interesting villains I’ve seen out of any film or TV Marvel property. His powers are interesting, and he uses them in interesting ways. His history with Jessica is interesting – and just morally gray enough to make you question her interpretation of events. Tennant owns the show whenever he’s before the camera. And his back story gave me true empathy for the character. He is most assuredly not justified in doing what he’s done. But you can understand why “Kevin” became “Kilgrave,” and sympathize with it.

But that only serves to underscore how sympathetic the main character isn’t. In fact, about halfway through the season I made a mental shift in how I watched the show. Instead of thinking of Jessica as the hero, I decided in my own head that I was watching a show about the tragedy of Kilgrave. Rather than focusing on Jessica, I focused on the story of a boy whose parents tried to save him – but who mucked it up horribly. He grew up, alone and aloof from the world – unable to interact honestly with anyone. His isolation slowly pushed him into madness. Then he fell honestly in love with a girl (for good reasons that I can’t give away without spoiling the show). But she rejected him utterly. Grief pushed him into madness, and he tried to pull the world down around him. Then she killed him.

Viewed that way, it’s a far better show. It’s truly Shakespearean in its depth. Unfortunately, that’s not actually quite the show we got. But it illustrates the underlying problem, and provides a strong rule of thumb for aspiring authors. Never make your villain more sympathetic than your hero.

In the end, I have to settle on three and a half stars out of five. Jessica is so unsympathetic that I might have given it two stars. But Tennant’s amazing turn as Kilgrave and strong supporting roles throughout the show bring it back up. In fact, they bring it up enough that if someone mildly edited the show and repackaged it as The Tragedy of Kilgrave, it could pretty easily become a five star show. Instead, we get a show that doesn’t quite suck… yet isn’t quite amazing, either. This is definitely the weakest of Marvel’s NetFlix offerings.

Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge – BOOK REVIEW

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Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge by Larry Correia and John Ringo

Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge by Larry Correia and John Ringo

I held off on buying Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge for quite some time. It came out back in August, just as I was settling into the homeward stretch on Post Traumatic Stress. So I made myself wait. I promised myself that I would read it when I finished my own novel, as a reward. When I finished the first draft a few weeks ago, I promptly bought myself a copy and devoured it.

For those who aren’t familiar, the book is set in the world of Larry Correia’s blockbuster Monster Hunter International series. The series mostly centers around Owen Zastava Pitt as he joins Monster Hunter International, a band of redneck libertarian mercenaries from south Alabama who hunt monsters. The series is pretty much exactly as awesome as that makes it sound.

Bestselling author John Ringo wrote this entry, however. After the editing job turned into a bit more than just editing, Mr. Correia became a co-author.

Fans of both Mr. Ringo and Mr. Correia will love this book. Unfortunately, I only really fit into one of those categories. I have not read much by Mr. Ringo before, but what I have read I have only moderately enjoyed. I did, however, enjoy this book quite a bit more than I have enjoyed Mr. Ringo’s other works.

The problem I tend to run into with Mr. Ringo’s works is that largeish portions of them come off as either lectures or preaching to the choir, depending upon your political inclinations. I’m not particularly fond of either. I understand quite well why this has brought Mr. Ringo a massive audience – I’m simply not a huge fan of it myself.

With that said, this book exhibits considerably less of that than other works of his that I’ve read. And what it does have comes off less as a direct lecture to the reader and more of just showing the main character’s personality. I found that much easier to stomach. Also, when Mr. Ringo isn’t lecturing to me the book is generally a heck of a lot of fun.

On the other hand… even though it’s assembled as a novel, the book reads more like a collection of short stories strung together than like a typical novel plot. I guess that fits with the “Memoirs” theme, but left me a bit unsatisfied.

All told, I’d give it three and a half stars – but existing fans of Mr. Ringo would probably add an extra star on top of that.

Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland – BOOK REVIEW

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"Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland" by L. Jagi Lamplighter

“Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland” by L. Jagi Lamplighter

L. Jagi Lamplighter‘s Rachel Griffin series is a fantastic modern fantasy series for young adult readers. I’ve already reviewed the first two entries here and here. The newest entry, Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland, is available today. As with the second book, I was fortunate enough to receive a free review copy – only this time I was even luckier because I got it in advance!

Like the first two entries, this book is fantastic for the Harry Potter fans in the audience. Mrs. Lamplighter does a wonderful job of capturing the feel of Ms. Rowling’s world without making it feel like it’s just a copy. Roanoke School resembles Hogwarts in feel, but it’s definitely a unique place of its own, and the characters are fresh and interesting, not just retreads of Harry and Friends. Rachel Griffin herself continues to be an excellent and interesting character. Somehow I have now read three books about this thirteen year old girl without once wanting to strangle her. I suppose it is a fantasy book, after all!

For those who haven’t been paying attention, I had this to say about its immediate predecessor:

I do have two complaints about this book, however. First, there is a pretty fair amount of talking rather than doing. It’s engaging talking, and it’s fun. It never gets dull. But at the end of the day it feels like not much actually happens… until all of a sudden there’s a giant confrontation at the end. The first book suffered a bit from “talking rather than doing” syndrome as well, but not to this degree. And that feeds into the second problem, which is closely related. This book is a “middle” book, and it kind of felt like it. It wasn’t anywhere near enough to destroy the book – I still found myself so enthralled that I finished it very quickly. But it is enough that I noticed it.

This book completely fixed both of those issues. Indeed, it went much the opposite direction. The book opens with a bang and it hardly stops to catch its breath. This is definitely the action-packed entry in the series. It’s a wild ride that’s over all too soon and leaves you wanting more.

There is one issue that I will log not so much as a complaint as a note. This book is about a thirteen year old girl, and its target audience is the Young Adult market – specifically, young girls. Parts of the book delve into Rachel’s feelings about relationships in a way that is probably pure crack to that target audience… but it’s not particularly appealing those of us, say, in the “mid 30s and male” demographic. It’s not a bad thing. Teenage girls will eat it up. Me? Not so much. Still, that’s what this book is aimed at, and it fulfilled its goal well.

Even with that, this was easily the best entry in the series to date. Highly recommended for Young Adults, especially girls, who like fantasy books. Highly recommended as well for adults who like fantasy and can enjoy the occasional Young Adult novel. Five out of five stars.

The Raven, The Elf, and Rachel – BOOK REVIEW

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"The Raven, the Elf, and Rachel" by L. Jagi Lamplighter

“The Raven, the Elf, and Rachel” by L. Jagi Lamplighter

August was a great month for me, but it was also pretty rough. So after DragonCon last week, I took a bit of time to just relax. Outside of my day job, which I can’t really shirk, I didn’t do much “real work.” That will catch up with me later. I still have a ton to do. But I did get to read a few good books.

Last week I left a review of Christopher Lansdown‘s Ordinary Superheroes. Today it’s The Raven, The Elf, and Rachel by L. Jagi Lamplighter (aka the Mrs. John C. Wright). Full disclosure: Mrs. Lamplighter sent me a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes. I had been prepared to buy it anyway, because I absolutely loved the first book in the series. Thankfully she caught me in time and saved me some money!

Like its predecessor, this book is a very fast and easy read. The language, as befits a young adult book, flows off the page easily and quickly – but it will still give younger readers enough new words to expand their vocabularies. It’s also immediately engaging, and the characters retain your attention throughout. In the first tale, Mrs. Lamplighter introduced us to the rarest of mythical fantasy creatures. Rachel is a believable thirteen year-old girl that doesn’t make you want to strangle her. That continues in this tale, and it’s the strongest part of the series. Rachel herself is immediately recognizable as a true-to-life young girl, and she’s extremely likable. All of her friends are fleshed out even further, and each of them continues to be an absolute joy to read about. The characters are easily the best part of this tale.

In a coincidental bout of timing, Morgon and I also watched the entire first season of Stranger Things last week. These two series shared something that I greatly enjoyed: both featured smart, interesting, and believable children doing heroic things – but heroic things that weren’t actually above their abilities to do as children. In our modern society of helicopter parenting and sheltered youth, it’s refreshing to see children let out of their shackles for a while to grow and thrive.

I do have two complaints about this book, however. First, there is a pretty fair amount of talking rather than doing. It’s engaging talking, and it’s fun. It never gets dull. But at the end of the day it feels like not much actually happens… until all of a sudden there’s a giant confrontation at the end. The first book suffered a bit from “talking rather than doing” syndrome as well, but not to this degree. And that feeds into the second problem, which is closely related. This book is a “middle” book, and it kind of felt like it. It wasn’t anywhere near enough to destroy the book – I still found myself so enthralled that I finished it very quickly. But it is enough that I noticed it.

Even so, the book was a lot of fun, with a little depth to it as well. I’d highly recommend it for any youth into fantasy stories, and most especially to young girls and Harry Potter fans. Adults will enjoy it, too, however. I don’t read a ton of young adult fiction these days, but this was a welcome bit of light fare. All told, this is a four out of five star book and I greatly look forward to finishing the series.

Ordinary Superheroes – BOOK REVIEW

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"Ordinary Superheroes" by Christopher Lansdown

“Ordinary Superheroes” by Christopher Lansdown

DragonCon 2016 was great. I got to spend the weekend with my good friend Dan Baker of Oxide Games. I met a few folks who were well worth meeting, including meeting Declan Finn in person. We enjoyed a few fantastic panels. I photographed some lovely cosplayers. And I finally had some time to catch up on a bit of reading.

In particular, I finally finished Christopher Lansdown‘s Ordinary Superheroes. I must apologize to Mr. Lansdown. He sent me a free review copy of this book quite some time ago. The delay in this review is through no fault of the book. It is merely because August was one of the busier months of my entire life. Merging two already-functioning businesses together is a lot of work.

Quite to the contrary, this is a pretty fun book. As the title and the cover might suggest, it’s a young adult book and should be approached as such. With that said, however, there’s a lot here for adults and parents to like. For one thing, this is a pretty clean book, which is not at all guaranteed in YA these days! As a parent, I’d have no objection to even pretty young children reading this. For another, there’s genuine humor in the superhero banter, much of which will actually leave young readers thinking. The characters are fun, and Mr. Lansdown fleshes them out well.

But the best part of this book is its villain: The Bureaucrat. Seriously, how can you not love that concept? The name alone makes me want to punch him in the face – and it’s rewarding when Mr. Macho, one of the book’s trio of protagonists, finally gets the chance to do so. What’s his beef? He hates living. Not his own life, but all living. Basically, he’s like any other small-b bureaucrat. He just has a lot of superpowers to go with that. I’ll refrain from spoilers here, but the ending isn’t quite what I expected. That’s a good thing. And I liked how the characters found their way into it smartly, thinking their way through.

My biggest complaint about the book is that it bogs down a bit in the middle. If you find this happening, like I did, then note that it’s worth pushing through to the finish. You won’t stay stuck in that bit for long. The short, quick nature of the book helps alleviate this quite a bit.

I give this book four out of five stars. Most adults will enjoy it. But if you’ve got a young teen who likes superheroes, this one is for them.

The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin – BOOK REVIEW

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"The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin" by L. Jagi Lamplighter

“The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin” by L. Jagi Lamplighter

I’ve put up a lot of book reviews this week. In Wednesday’s review of Gorilla Mindset I mentioned that it’s not so much that I’ve read a lot recently as that I’ve finished a lot all at once. The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin is the exception.

I started the book earlier this week and finished it very quickly. It was a very fast read for two reasons. First, it’s a young adult book. The language is simple, the story is not overly complex, and it’s an easy read. Second, the book is thoroughly engaging. Once I started it, I didn’t want to put it down.

I’m not a particular fan of young adult books. I have, of course, read my fair share of them – probably hundreds of them. I also graduated past them pretty quickly: I read Tolkien in the fourth grade and Asimov, Herbert, Clancy, and Crichton only a year or two later. Of course, I still devoured a ton of YA books at that age. But even then it wasn’t because I preferred the genre. I simply read whatever I could get my hands on out of sheer boredom.

My young adult reading since high school mostly consists of the Harry Potter series. So you can imagine that I didn’t particularly seek out this series. Furthermore, while I have been interested in reading Ms. Lamplighter’s works for some time, I’ve also eyed them with some trepidation. You see, I know her better as Mrs. John C. Wright, and her husband may well be my favorite still-living-and-writing author. To be fair, I would never expect any author to live up to that. How could they? Yet it still puts an unfair burden on Ms. Lamplighter.

Thankfully, I can report that this work is excellent. The setting and the world borrow very liberally from Harry Potter. If you’re a fan of J.K. Rowling’s, you will enjoy this book. And as you might expect from knowing that and seeing the cover, the book can be somewhat fairly described as “Harry Potter with a girl as the main character.” Some people will be interested in the book purely for that, and that’s fine. If that sounds great to you, skip the rest of my review and just go read the book. It won’t disappoint you.

But the great thing is that the book very quickly establishes itself as far more than that. Not that I’m implying that it’s better than Harry Potter – it isn’t, if I may risk offending Ms. Lamplighter, although it is definitely worthy of Harry Potter. But it’s definitely not just a Harry Potter ripoff that happens to be about a girl. The story involves something akin to our modern world, with a hidden world of magic thriving within it. The witches and wizards of this world send their children to magical boarding schools. Evil wizards attack one of these schools. Sound familiar?

The similarities pretty much end there, however. The story is radically different from any of Ms. Rowling’s. The characters are very different. A danger of writing about thirteen year old girls is that so many of them are just annoying. Rachel, on the other hand, is quite endearing. She’s earnest without being a brown noser, bright without becoming a know-it-all, and feisty without becoming obnoxious. Her friends are just as interesting. I particularly enjoyed Sigfried, the orphan who wants nothing more than to be a valiant knight, and Gaius, the man apart from the group. Yet all of the characters are fun and enjoyable.

I give the book four stars out of five for adults, but I’d give it five out of five if recommending it to a younger reader (which is, in fact, it’s target audience). My oldest son is not yet reading well enough for a book this complex, but in a few years he will be. When he reaches that point, this book will be on his reading list right next to the Narnia and Harry Potter books. If you loved either, but especially if you love the latter, you should take a look at this book.

Gorilla Mindset – BOOK REVIEW

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"Gorilla Mindset" by Mike Cernovich

“Gorilla Mindset” by Mike Cernovich

It may seem like I’ve done a lot of reading recently. In reality, I’ve just finished a lot of reading recently. I’ve had a lot of books (especially non-fiction) spinning all at once, and they’ve all kind of wrapped up.

Last week I finally finished reading Gorilla Mindset by Mike Cernovich. This is one that I’ve been reading since the beginning of the year. That’s pretty odd, because one of the great things about this book is how quick and easy of a read it is.

“Wait a sec,” you say. “How does that work?”

This book took me a long time to finish because I was too busy implementing it. Even before I was halfway done, I knew there were things in the book that I wanted – that I needed to do. For myself, I decided to focus on a few things at a time rather than trying to make every change all at once. I’ve had good results with that.

Let me get this out of the way: I detest self-help books. Most of them are completely full of shit and aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. Most of them give you advice that isn’t all that helpful. Which is fine, because most of them are written for people who don’t actually want to change. This book isn’t like that. Mr. Cernovich actually wants to help you. For the typical self-help reader, that will make this a book they don’t actually want. But for those looking to actually improve their lives, this is the rare self-help book that’s actually worth a damn.

In simple terms, this book is largely about how to actually accomplish more and get things done. Not only that, it gives good advice on getting better quality out of what you’re doing. That particular combination is powerful for becoming more successful at basically everything you do.

The frustrating thing about reading this book is how many of Mr. Cernovich’s suggestions are ways that I used to live my life. I’ve let many of them slip. I had good reason to. I had some specific life circumstances that I had to react to. But those circumstances are long over, and it’s well past time that I returned to my old mindsets. This book gave me the boot to the ass that I needed to do that. It also brought some excellent new ideas that have proven to be very helpful.

One other thing that’s truly great about this book is that it’s not wasting space on filler. A great many non-fiction books have a single great idea, cover that idea thoroughly in the first few chapters, and then spend the rest of the book repeating that same idea over and over and over. It’s the reason why I have shelves full of non-fiction books that I’ve never finished. Once I got the concept, the rest of the book just wasn’t worth reading. This book isn’t like that at all. Each chapter is actually covering something different. Each chapter covers the basic concept, gives some examples, and then gives a checklist and some “homework” at the end. A few of them also have some interviews with experts. That’s it – there’s no wasted filler.

As Mr. Cernovich himself points out, not every piece of advice in here is for everybody. There are a few things in the book that I don’t think will actually work very well with my own base personality. Take what works for you and apply it. As for the rest… see if you can apply the concept in another way. But if you can get through this entire book without finding two or three changes that will help your life in a major way, then congratulations on the amazing life you already lead. Keep living that life. For the rest of us, this book is a gold mine.

Gorilla Mindset gets five out of five stars. This book is an absolute must read.