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All reviews - Movies (2) - Books (3)

The Last Unicorn review

Posted : 5 years, 5 months ago on 16 March 2012 08:28 (A review of The Last Unicorn)

Everyone needs to read The Last Unicorn. I don't know if everyone will love it, but everyone needs to read it. If you are trying to decide whether or not to read this book, don't read my review. Just go out, get the book, and read it.
I will give you the quote that's on the front cover of my edition:

"The Last Unicorn is the best book I have ever read. You need to read it. If you've already read it, you need to read it again." -Patrick Rothfuss

My review is much less of a review and more of an ode to the love I have for this book. I am so sincere and certain in my love for The Last Unicorn that I will only be able to oversell it, and expectations will be higher than the actual novel* for anyone who reads it after. Just read it and decide what you think; I don't know if it's for everyone but everyone should read this book at least once, just try it, it isn't very hard or very long. Whatever you think of it, good or bad, it's worth reading. Just stop reading thsi review and go read it.

As for my thoughts...

I like a lot of books. I am eager to like everything I read, and I'll try to see the good in anything I read even if I really hated it. So I wonder now and then if I'm still capable of recognizing truly good books. Then a book like The Last Unicorn comes along, and I realize, oh yes, this is what a Good Book is.
Some books are the kind of good you can read through in two days and not want to put down. Some are the kind of good you want to last for 900 pages and have twelve books in the series. The Last Unicorn is, strangely, neither of those to me. It's that strange, elusive kind of good, when I can only read a chapter a night because that one chapter feels like a whole book in itself. It's the kind that is the exact perfect length, exact right amount of story, to tell exactly what it needs to. The only other book I've read in the same vein of amazing storytelling, where each page is a treasure of information and I savored every moment, is The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. You should go read that one as well.

Even the first pages of The Last Unicorn were enchanting. I have never read another book written so quaintly, in such an elegant, fairy-tale manner, and still be so rewarding and relevant. Peter S. Beagle is an excellent writer and also a master storyteller. It's something a lot of authors lack, for better or worse, these days.

Something I liked very much was that each and every character had this beautiful selfishness about them. They was probably the most complex and yet most simple motives of any characters I've ever read. And not always a bad kind of selfish: the selfishness of love, of trying to "find yourself," of just not knowing anyone but your own person for years and years. It felt very realistic.

I also liked how much the characters changed through the story. Everyone was so dynamic. I think the selfish motives, combined with a stark honesty about everything they thought and did, let us into their hearts and minds so thoroughly that it was easy (and, more importantly, believable) to see every change of mind and switch of sides they went through, however brief or permanent. As a person who tries to put my own heart into everything I read, I fell in love with every character because of that. I know most people are less hopelessly romantic than I am, so your mileage may vary. But I was hopelessly hooked.

Haggard himself was especially fascinating. I think he may be one of the most perfect villains, certainly one of my favorites. Here are the only spoilers I'll write in this review. They are quite mild and don't directly reveal anything, but if you haven't read the book you still shouldn't read further (and you should be reading it right now anyway, how dare you have read the review this far after my warning?). [Spoilers ahead]
Haggard's intentions and actions were selfish (see above) and awful, and many people suffered because of him. He seemed almost to want to wallow in his unhappiness and dreariness if it at all made his prize more worthwhile to him, which I am sure it did. And that made him a villain, but his motivations were so very pure. All he wanted was to feel, to have that moment of true and thorough joy. I cannot possibly deny that feeling to anyone, and so I sympathized with that old sad king by the sea, because imagine how awful a life without an ounce of happiness would be. What he did was more understandable, maybe even justifiable (though I am by no means excusing him) than the plight of any other villain I've yet read about. He could easily be the antihero of his own story.
[end spoilers]

Of course there are a great many other themes and conflicts in The Last Unicorn. Every encounter the main characters have has some sort of lesson to be taught or story to be told, and yet it is never a simple one. Often it shines a light on the true nature of humans and beauty, the worth and effects of immortality, love's hold on the heart and mind, and other things equally undecideable, and usually it is up for the reader to find the answers. The characters themselves are either in direct opposition to the others' ideas or change their stance on the subject, leaving much wide open for you to ponder.
It's a very pleasing and stimulating read, not just for children though they will still enjoy it. Not likely understand it all (or, understand it completely, depending on your views of the nature of children).

That all probably sounded silly and revoltingly poetic. All I know is that I needed to write it out somehow, transcribe my feelings about this book as romantic as they are, in the hope that someone might decide to read or re-read what is one of my favorite books of all time. So GO READ IT RIGHT NOW I don't care if you have to break in to your nearest book store and steal a copy (don't do that) just read it. If you haven't read it already, no cookie for you, I told you not to read this far. Make it up to me by reading The Last Unicorn.

(You might want to try watching the movie of The Last Unicorn as well. It's not Pixar quality animation but the voice acting is superb, the style is magical, and it preserves the heart of the novel in its (slightly simplified but still true) retelling. Actually, if you have seen the movie first I will daresay you will get the special enjoyment of reading the book in the voices of the animated characters, like I did, and it's quite rewarding.)



*I say "oversell" as if Peter S. Beagle's book isn't really as amazing or beautiful as I say, but if you are like me and are very willing to love these fairy tale stories and you can see beauty in near everything, you will surely like it as much as I did


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1 Dough 100 Cookies: Take 1 Basic Recipe and Make 100 Kinds of Cookies (Love Food) (1 = 100!) review

Posted : 5 years, 5 months ago on 16 March 2012 08:25 (A review of 1 Dough 100 Cookies: Take 1 Basic Recipe and Make 100 Kinds of Cookies (Love Food) (1 = 100!))

This is the perfect cookbook for me. There are 100 variations of the same cookie recipe, making 100 very different cookies. In my neverending quest of experimenting with new ingredients, methods, and recipes, this book is going to become my best friend in baking cookies. It's easy to add your own variations, make any changes you want to the recipe, or combine concepts. A great cookbook for beginners as well, as all the ingredients needed for the basic cookie dough are explained in the beginning of the book, and it's always easy to substitute something you don't have.

They are mostly simple recipes, they don't take long to make or bake. I am personally not a cookie eater so all of the cookie's I've baked with it have been taste-tested by my family, and so far they have enjoyed them.

My favorite section in the book is the "gooey" one, where they give recipes for the cookies that come out soft (and gooey if you used chocolate), and my favorite way to change up all the recipes in here is to just add chocolate chips to the mix.


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Mystic River review

Posted : 5 years, 5 months ago on 16 March 2012 08:20 (A review of Mystic River)

I really, really wanted to love this book. I think the problem was my expectations; I'm not used to reading rough n gritty books like this. Of course it was a marvelous story and very well written, the quality was great. I just can't bring myself to enjoy it.

My #1 reason for this is the bleak and dismal atmosphere of the whole novel. I can only take so much of "the world sucks, people suck, life sucks" before I felt like the characters where trying to prove just how crappy they personally had it. I don't buy into the philosophy that life just sucks and then you die anyway, and having everyone in the story go on about the lack of happiness they or everyone else was experiencing got exhausting really quickly. I can understand a cop being bleak, which is probably why I didn't mind Sean's character so much. His general woe felt reasonable, as cruel as that is to say.

Spoilers here:
Another thing that was a miss for me was, I was really hoping for a "good guy" besides Sean. Not necessarily a good ending, given the plot, but someone to reflect my feelings of hope as the story becomes simultaneously untangled and more chaotic. The further I read the more everyone felt like the enemy, and I was in that mood I get when watching the news about awful real life crimes that can't possibly end good. Of course this is a great accomplishment for the author, he wrote a story that felt pretty damn real to me, as far as my youthful, naive self can see. But it didn't give me much pleasure where I had expected it: the murder mystery felt hopeless and pointless even as clues and twists were unveiled. There was no excitement to move forward into the plot, only dread- frustration with the characters- a need to end my misery and get to the last page already.

I can truly see why Mystic River is so amazing, and despite my disenchantment with it I highly recommend it to fans of the genre and similar novels. It was a fascinating, raw, realistic look at some tough issues people have to deal with, obstacles you run into in life and the decisions people make and regret, and some they don't regret. A good warning against leading an empty life as well.

Final verdict: if Mystic River sounds like something you might like to read, go read it, it's great. If it sounds too dreary, depressing, moody, you're absolutely right, and you probably won't like it.


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The Dumbest Hour

Posted : 5 years, 7 months ago on 11 January 2012 07:07 (A review of The Darkest Hour)

Some spoilers here and there. The last part will have my final, spoiler-free verdict.

This movie wasn't TERRIBLE, but it wasn't GOOD either. It started out good, at least interesting, and exciting. The effects where pretty stellar and it had me thinking "Oh my god!" when people got killed by those cool alien badies.

But the quality declines pretty quickly after they set you up. The characters feel flat and uninteresting, for one, especially the jerkass Skylar. They also get very genre savy, making guesses as to how and why the creatures function that sound much too scientific for a bunch of kids out clubbing. Granted, two of those kids are apparently software designers or similar, but the almost complete lack of backstory makes it seem like they are all just random people in Russia who wouldn't know anything about electromagnetics.

After a while I began to question the sanity of our protagonists. There are two major incidents that bother me:

1) After learning that electric devices turn on when the invisible aliens get near they adorn themselves with lightbulbs. But then they decide to only go out in the night time, because it is too hard to tell if the aliens are near in the daylight. Wait now- you are surrounded by vehicles that have screeching alarms every time an alien is near. You are covered in lightbulbs which are not at all hard to see lit up even in the daylight, and you're in Moscow, a city filled with streetlights and billboards and neon signs, which are often on during the day anyway, and very visible. The creatures themselves behave exactly the same in the daytime and the night. Why would you hinder yourself traveling only at night? And this would be a minor issue if there wasn't a plot point later that hinges on them reaching a certain destination by a certain time and they pointedly waste valuable hours waiting until nightfall to get there.

2) (a few more spoilers in this one)
After finally getting to their destination, a submarine situated in the water of a nearby river, there is an explosion that causes their boat to capsize and everyone flies into the water. They swim to the surface and head for their destination, which is only about 200 feet away, but then Emile Hirsche realizes the main girl is gone. I assumed she drowned, but for some reason Emile's character thinks she's swam to shore far, far away from their goal and hidden out somewhere. Nevermind that they've been in the water for minutes at the most, giving her no time to get away without anyone noticing, but why would she head any direction besides the submarine anyway? But seconds later a flair is sent up from quite a ways from their location and after some ridiculous speeches by Emile (that don't really make any sense when you actually listen to them) they all take off to find her, adding another twenty minutes to the movie and probably bumping it up to the minimum amount of time to qualify for feature length.

Also, the aliens were cool until we got to see what they actually looked like. Then they were just disappointing, average aliens. The abstract spheres of light where much more impressive than their true forms, and it was a let down to see them, despite their interesting mode of transportation. Maybe I'm just tired of CGI alien takeover situations, but a more abstract antagonist would have been way neater and fresher than what they went with.


In closing: The Darkest Hour would make a good kid's movie. I don't remember how much cursing is in it, though they did star out the word "motherfucker" in the subtitles near the beginning, but otherwise it is not very entertaining to anyone who has seen many movies at all. It is almost entirely bloodless, no gore, not scary, the characters never hit any emotional depths, and there's a lot of pointless action and cool looking effects. Sounds like a good movie to transition kids 10-12 into more intense action and sci-fi movies without worrying about them being truly scared.

+points for so much actual Russian being spoken in Russia
+points for alien design (until the end)
-points (a lot of points) for being stupid for the sake of a longer movie and plot

Final verdict:
Wait until it's on DVD and rent it for family night.
4/10


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Worth watching!

Posted : 6 years, 6 months ago on 6 February 2011 08:47 (A review of Altered)

Altered wasn't a bad movie. I am a huge wimp when it comes to scary and violent films, so I can't say I really enjoyed it, but for a low-budget film it was still high quality.
It stands out from other awful horror flicks because of a few different things: 1) It's got backstory that is slowly revealed through the movie, thanks to decent writing, 2) it's got believable characters and relatively good acting, and 3) most of the gore and the aliens look incredibly and terrifyingly real. Again, I'm not an expert on the genre, so I don't have a lot of experience with alien gore, but it looked very convincing to me. At least, I saw through my fingers. Let's say it is definitely worth that "Entrails" tag someone gave it.
(Guys, if you want a movie to watch with your easily-scared girlfriends so they will curl up in your arms, this is definitely a good one!)

So if you usually like movies in this genre, I think you should give Altered a try. It isn't a masterpiece but it's worth the short 87 minutes to watch.


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