Locke & Key (S1) | Beautiful & Creepy

Adapted from the supernatural horror graphic novels of the same name by Joe Hill (Horns) and Gabriel Rodriguez, Locke & Key is brought to the small screen by Netflix and stars Emilia Jones (Brimstone, High Rise), Connor Jessup (American Crime), Jackson Robert Scott (It, It Chapter 2), and Darby Stanchfield (Scandal, Mad Men).

Premise: Three siblings who move into their ancestral estate after their father’s gruesome murder discover their new home’s magical keys, which must be used in their stand against an evil creature who wants the keys and their powers.

Review: The beginning of the show is very suspenseful, and somewhat whimsical, but at the same time you can feel the darkness creeping in the edges. Then when that first piece of darkness comes it’s a bit jarring – I’m talking about the dad’s storyline. I love how it unfolds, the mystery is peeled layer after layer masterfully. And the effect that storyline has on each character involved is well written and portrayed.

The comedic aspects of the show is smartly sprinkled throughout the story and counterbalances what could have been a heavy depressing series. Speaking of heavy stuff, it was weird how everyone seems to revel in the Lockes’ trauma.

As for individual characters, Bode (Jackson Robert Scott), the youngest of the Locke’s kids is too old and too smart not to have blabled about Dodge – the scary well lady – and stressed on how dangerous she was. Kinsey (Emilia Jones) keeps putting herself in situations that would trigger traumatic memories, and her broey brother, Tyler (Jessup) is just acting stupid. The older two are too nonchalant about the keys or the lady when they hear about her. It’s all the more jarring when you know they’ve been through some serious stuff so they should have been on high alert the minute they found out about the keys or the “scary well lady.”

By the way I’m taking about my feelings towards the characters’ actions is a testament to the writing and the acting. Take kinsey for example, Jones, the actress, was so convincing has the shy introvert girl that the shift into a fearless version of herself is palpable. Tyler turns out to have more depth than the first episodes suggested. Stanchfield and Jackson Robert Scott are just damn good and make their characters

The cinematography is crisped and beautiful, it melds the grounded and whimsical aspects of the series very well. The directors they picked for the show complemented each other and subtlety sectioned the show in two hour chunks.

Locke & Key is very easy and pleasant to watch. It’s a fantasy thriller with a perfect amount of horror and drama.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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The Taking of Jake Livingston | Ryan Douglass

Published 13 July 2021

Jake Livingston is one of the only Black kids at St. Clair Prep, one of the others being his infinitely more popular older brother. It’s hard enough fitting in but to make matters worse and definitely more complicated, Jake can see the dead. In fact he sees the dead around him all the time. Most are harmless. Stuck in their death loops as they relive their deaths over and over again, they don’t interact often with people. But then Jake meets Sawyer. A troubled teen who shot and killed six kids at a local high school last year before taking his own life. Now a powerful, vengeful ghost, he has plans for his afterlife–plans that include Jake. Suddenly, everything Jake knows about ghosts and the rules to life itself go out the window as Sawyer begins haunting him and bodies turn up in his neighborhood. High school soon becomes a survival game–one Jake is not sure he’s going to win.

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How was it?

I meant to read a couple of chapters to decide if I was starting this book or another but just a few paragraphs in I was pulled in. This book has a solid plot but it’s emotionally charged and can be quite heavy. Yes there are gruesome murders in it that makes it spooky, but it’s the way it depicts these little cuts that hurt more in the long run that I gravitated toward.

This book dives into trauma and micro agressions but does it in a clever way. Because it’s not just Jake, the black queer kid, that is the target of this kind of death by a thousand cuts, Sawyer, our now powerful and vengeful ghost, was also a target. Both in their own way are somewhat victims of circumstances. In Sawyer’s case it’s not used as an excuse for what he did but showcases what lead him to it. As for Jake the author does a great job at telling what it’s like to surfer race based micro agressions on top of being gay in an unwelcoming environment.

The story is dark and has a lot of paranormal elements in it but it depicts the bullying, violence, and abuse well. I also enjoyed how the story showcased how some parents are more concerned about how bad a child with mental health problems make them look rather than helping the child get better. It’s a hard situating to see, it’s disgusting but feels all too real. In facts, the quotes “She checked on me at  heptfill only to harass my crisis counselor about when I could leave. Threw a fit when Tom said I’d have to decide that For myself.”, or “The trouble with my mother is that she’s too busy pretending problems don’t exist to ever really fixed them.” really got to me.

All the heavy stuff aside the story is visually interesting and I could see a live action version of this. The budding romance was also nice; I could see myself checking out another story about this black queer teen who sees dead people.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Taking of Jake Livingstone is available on The Book Depository, Amazon, Audible and other book retailers near you.

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September readings | Classics, Space Operas, Magic & Erotica

Title: Dune
Series: Dune #1
Author: Frank Herbert
Genre(s): Science Fiction, Fantasy, Space Opera, Adventure
Page count: 688 pages
Published: First published June 1965

My review | Book | Audiobook

Title: The End Zone
Series: Atlanta Lightening #2
Author: Riley Hart
Genre(s): Contemporary, Sports, Romance, MM
Page count: 306 pages
Published: 16 July 2021

My review (soon) | Book | Audiobook

Title: Black Moon
Series: Wolf Moon Rising #1
Author: Sam Burn
Genre(s): Paranormal Romance, Fantasy, Werewolves
Page count: 330 pages
Published: 22 April 2021

My review (soon) | Book | Audiobook

Title: A Veilled & Hallowed Eve
Series: Soulbound VII
Author: Hailey Turner
Genre(s): Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, MM
Page count: 485 pages
Published: 01 October 2021

My review | Book | Audiobook

Title: Homecoming
Author: Keegan Kennedy
Genre(s): Erotica, MM, Contemporary, BDSM
Page count: 188 pages
Published: 12 April 2013

My review (soon) | Book

Title: Foundation
Series: Foundation #1
Author: Isaac Asimov
Genre(s): Science-Fiction, Space Opera, Fantasy, Classics
Page count: 255 pages
Published: August 1951

My review | Book | Audiobook

Title: Ashfall Legacy
Author: Pittacus Lore
Genre(s): Science Fiction, Mystery, Young Adult, Fantasy
Page count: 432 pages
Published: 17 August 2021

My review | Book | Audiobook

Title: Ink & Sigil
Series: Ink & Sigil #1
Author: Kevin Hearne
Genre(s):
Page count:
Published:

My review (soon) | Book | Audiobook

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Ashfall Legacy | Pittacus Lore

Pittacus Lore finished telling the story of the Lorien Nine. Now, he’s back to recount an all-new adventure rooted in the real mysteries surrounding Roswell, New Mexico, that will enthrall fans of Jay Kristoff, Amie Kaufman, and Brandon Sanderson.

We have waited generations for you…

Syd Chambers knows that there’s life on other planets because he’s descended from it. His father was from a distant world called Denza, and has been missing—presumed dead—for years.

When Syd discovers a device his father left behind that shows not only that he’s alive, but where he is, Syd must set out on a mission of his own. But along the way, he discovers a deadly, unbearable secret that could destroy Denza, Earth, and the universe. 

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How was it?

I don’t know if I’m the only one who noticed this but when this book was announced, it was marketed as a spin-off or continuation of the Lorien Legacies. I read all of the Lorien books and really enjoyed them, so I very much expected this book to be linked to the previous series by Pittacus Lore, but it’s not, not really.

By the end of part one, I felt betrayed, like I had been duped. There was no way this book is related to the Lorien Legacies and there was a shroud over this book that had some effect on my enjoyment. However, *minor spoiler/* There’s a blink and you miss it mention of Mogadorians, well more like a suggestion of them, just enough of a description for fan to make that assumption. 😒 *\minor spoiler*

Beside that the story was interesting enough for me to go through it with ease, but I wasn’t very engrossed. In other words it was good enough to keep reading but just as easy to put down. This could have been a book that I’d forget to pick back up if another book had caught my eyes at the time.

The premise is a mash-up of many intellectual properties, you can tell where the inspiration was pulled from. There’s a bit of star wars, a kind of reverse superman – with no heat vision or flight so far, and a famous mythology mixed in toward the end. The mix kind of works for me but the execution is choppy.

However there are clever bits, like in the beginning when my expectations were subverted, or the thing that makes the lost people venerable – it’s a great commentary on that particular race. The characters are almost great but for some of them I barely remembered what they were, between the half-human half-alien ones, and humans born on Denza I got my wired crossed.  As for the different species of aliens featured here they were cool and interesting looking.

Ashfall Legacy is a nice set up for a series that has some potential, the world building and the reveals makes the bulk of what’s interesting about it.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

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Foundation | Isaac Asimov

Foundation (Foundation #1) by Isaac Asimov first published 1951

For twelve thousand years the Galactic Empire has ruled supreme. Now it is dying. But only Hari Seldon, creator of the revolutionary science of psychohistory, can see into the future — to a dark age of ignorance, barbarism, and warfare that will last thirty thousand years. To preserve knowledge and save mankind, Seldon gathers the best minds in the Empire — both scientists and scholars — and brings them to a bleak planet at the edge of the Galaxy to serve as a beacon of hope for a future generations. He calls his sanctuary the Foundation.

But soon the fledgling Foundation finds itself at the mercy of corrupt warlords rising in the wake of the receding Empire. Mankind’s last best hope is faced with an agonizing choice: submit to the barbarians and be overrun — or fight them and be destroyed. 

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How was it?

If you read this book, it might not be immediately apparent that it was first published in the 1950s. 70 years ago! that little fact blows my mind because except maybe for two things, one of which is the style the story is told, this book could have been written in recent years.

There are many interesting elements in this book, it’s a great story, clearly a space opera but the things that I gravitated toward are the political maneuverings, the clever back and forth between characters, and the use of religion as a tool of mass control. However the monotone way the story is written comes through the page even when you’re not using the audiobook. It’s kind of dry, like reading from a dictionary for the most parts. The characters have names and job titles but little else besides that, they are not very memorable. The most engaging aspect of the story are the themes and concepts that it’s about (Politics, religion, psychohistory, etc.). You pretty much have to read between the lines to draw something out of it.

It’s a broad, imaginative, and innovative book that must have blown people’s minds – and angered some others – in the 50s as I’m sure it still does today. Like Dune, which was published almost 15 years later, Foundation has lot of social and political commentary in it. In fact, the most obvious one is the creation and use of a religion as a mean to control people. This might anger some religious people but the dry tone of the book helps in presenting that idea as a possible powerful tool for control of the masses without really depicting religion itself as a complete fraud but kind of.

As mentioned earlier the other thing that might date this book in the 1950s – maybe it’s my prejudice of the era – but it’s a bit of a sausage fest. I only realized it when a lone female character appeared out of nowhere toward the end and she does nothing for the plot. Not saying that Asimov was misogynistic but it was startling once I realized it.

Foundation is far more interesting than the way it’s written would suggest, it’s one of these books that are worth trudging through for the ideas alone.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

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Cinderella (2021) | What If Ella was like Belle?

This modern interpretation of Charles Perrault’s classic fairytale by Kay Cannon is a comedy musical featuring well-known pop and rock hits, in addition to several original songs. Camila Cabello stars as the title character in her acting debut, alongside Nicholas Galitzine (The Craft: Legacy, Handsome Devil) as the prince, Billy Porter (Pose) as the fairy Godmother, Idina Menzel (Frozen) as the Stepmother, and Pierce Brosnan (A Long Way Down, The November Man) & Minnie Driver (About a Boy) as the king and queen.

Premise:  Ella is an ambitious young woman who has big dreams for her future that are thwarted by her patriarchal society. With the help of her Fab Godmother, she perseveres to make them come true.

Review: Going in I didn’t know this movie was a Jukebox Musical, which is not a problem for me since I loved Moulin Rouge, but it’s important to note that it is one because that helps a lot in the enjoyment of the movie. The song choices are great, they work well with the story, modernizing it just enough and making it fresh.

Even knowing this was a musical, I was still shocked at the talent involved. For one I recognized a lot of British comedians and actors, but I kind of expected just a few cast members to sing. Here most of them have a musical number or/and participate in one. There are also many clever little changed to the story that shift things a bit without them being a total reboot of the story and characters. In this version some characters have more to do while others were added to the story. For example, Menzel’s stepmother is more mean than straight up evil and her motivations make some sense, the king and queen have more to do, and changes have been made to the prince that matches with the ones made to Ella.
Ella has more agency, she’s driven, and not exactly waiting to be saved. She’s more like Belle than the classic Cinderella. I also like that Cinderella wasn’t supposed to be considered ugly, just unkempt, her stepsisters even acknowledges that she is beautiful at one point. I always found it weird in other versions that everyone seem to act like she’s ugly until she puts on sparkling dress.

The movie also has a lot of comedy in it, and the cast does a great job with it. Cabello being the least experienced here doesn’t embarrass herself in her performance, she does a good job. Porter as the fairy godmother fits in so well that it doesn’t distract from the movie at all. Music aside, the plot has a whole is what that fairytale would be like if it was written nowadays. it’s not perfect but it entertains.

Cinderella is a fun movie, with a nice song selection, and changes that brings a nice spin to the classic fairytale.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

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The Wheel of Time | Trailer

  • Writer: Robert Jordan (Novels), Rafe Judkins (Showrunner),
  • Directors: Uta Briesewitz, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Wayne Yip
  • Stars: Rosamund Pike, Josha Stradowski, Marcus Rutherford, Zoë Robins, Barney Harris, Madeleine Madden, Daniel Henney

The Wheel Of Time premieres on the 19 November 2021.

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