Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Uglies Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld (Book Review)

The Story: In a world where everyone is surgically turned into a Pretty at age sixteen, an Ugly girl is eagerly awaiting her transformation. She meets a friend who opposes this mandatory procedure, and learns that rebels exist, people who decide to keep the faces and bodies they were born with. Due to her interaction with this friend, she is given a horrifying choice by the government: betray her friend and infiltrate the rebels, or stay an Ugly forever.

My Thoughts: The world depicted in the first book, Uglies, and its sequels is well-crafted, and I’d like to see it in movie form due to the striking visuals that are essential to the story. Both Uglies and the second book, Pretties, are powerful depictions of the heroine learning how to think for herself in a world where everyone is expected to be similar to everyone else and to not care about anything except partying. She is shown making mistakes, sometimes big ones, but she never stops trying to discover what’s right and hold to it.

The third book, Specials, feels more chaotic than the first two, with the story sometimes getting too rushed, but other than that, there’s not much to complain about. The ending strongly affirms that the freedom to be clear-thinking individuals who can ask questions is necessary to keep society healthy. Some people may find the frequent slang used in the series to be annoying, but it didn’t bother me, since it wasn’t confusing and it made the world feel more real. Overall, the Uglies trilogy is an entertaining read that may be worth trying even for those who don’t usually like dystopian novels, since it is not as dark as The Hunger Games.

Content Overview: A small amount of foul language. Several mentions of being nude, but no descriptions of it. Occasional vague implications that unmarried characters are sleeping together. Mild violence.

For another example of a dystopian series that isn't overly dark, see my review of the Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Amazing Mr. X (Movie Review)

The Story: A suave spiritualist promises to help a woman contact her deceased husband’s spirit, but the woman’s fiance and little sister are suspicious of the man. Is the spiritualist what he claims to be, or a con man, or something even more sinister?

My Thoughts: While this little-known film is perhaps not slick enough to please some modern viewers, fans of older movies, especially those of the mystery, horror, and thriller variety, will find much to like. It particularly surprised me by containing unusually well-done characterizations, including the complex title character.

The ending feels a bit clumsy, but it is adequate enough that it doesn’t hurt the film much. This movie begs to be remade with better writing at the end and the benefit of modern special effects. The right filmmakers could capture the irrepressible charm this movie has and polish it into something truly special.

Content Overview: Mild violence and scariness.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

What Band Makes the Best Music Videos?

An image from Family Force 5's "Cray Button" music video.

I listen to a lot of music, and I also watch a lot of music videos. Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that one band has stood out by consistently making the most entertaining music videos: Family Force 5.

This is perhaps not a comprehensive observation. I don’t watch all music videos that are released. Even so, the fact that I come back to re-watch the videos of Family Force 5 more than those of any other band shows that they are least in the top tier of bands when it comes to their music videos.

As an introduction to the videos of Family Force 5, here are their top 5 most popular music videos on YouTube.

#1 Chainsaw

#2 Cray Button

#3 Zombie

#4 Wobble


What band do you think makes the best music videos?

Monday, August 1, 2016

Snakebite (Western Short Story)

My newest short story, "Snakebite," just came out in TRC magazine. It's a humorous western tale about a preacher who takes on a gang of outlaws by pretending to be a ghost.

You can read the story online here.

Let me know what you think!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Earl King (Free Audio Story)

The Untold Podcast has just released a high quality audio recording of my short story "Earl King." The story is about a young boy whose new friend gives him a magical jewel that can control his parents.

I greatly enjoyed getting to hear the story narrated with sound effects, and I hope you'll enjoy listening to it as well. You can listen to it for free here: The Untold Podcast - Episode 53 - Earl King

Monday, June 20, 2016

Don't Move

My newest published story, "Don't Move" is now out in Splickety magazine. "Don't Move" is about a camper who wakes up to find a rattlesnake has trapped him in his tent.

The issue of the magazine that "Don't Move" is in is available in print and as a digital copy from MagCloud, and is also available for Kindle.

Here's the neat cover of the issue:

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Joy of Otters

My newest article, "The Joy of Otters," was just published in TRC magazine. You can read it here.

This is my fourth article as a columnist for TRC. Since the magazine is quarterly, that means I've now been a columnist for one year. It's hard to believe that so much time has passed already.