The Night Circus

By Erin Morgenstern 

Release Year: 2011

Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Romance

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 4.04

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

Goodreads

Coming into 2019 I had made a point to book many fantasy books on my reading list for the year, the result of me truly discovering the genre in 2016. Up until this year I’ve never really read very many books that are considered fantasy, at least none more advanced that the middle grade books I occasionally read while in elementary school. As a result I found myself on a quest for notable fantasy books to introduce me the genre the right way. I must say, The Night Circus did not disappoint. 

I was lucky enough to find a copy at a local indie store, that is sadly in the process of closing as I write this. I hadn’t intended to buy the book considering that I try not to buy physical books unless I’ve already read them and like them enough to read them again. Of course, I bought the book, and I don’t regret it one bit. 

The book has a very interesting concept and is subsequently enchanting in its presentation. I’ve never been a big fan of circuses, my only experience with them being Barnum and Bailey’s when I was an exceptionally young age (too young to really understand how horrible the shows were from an ethical stand-point). If such a circus as the one in the book existed I imagine many people would love circused so much more and they’d not only be much different but they’d still be around. 

Something that I really look at when reading fantasy books is the magic system (if one is present in some form). This plot of this story is very well centered around magic, which is described well throughout the book. The only thing is that the system seems to be very soft, which in upon itself is not a bad thing, but something I generally don’t prefer. The implementation of a soft magic system makes sense to an extent when it comes to this book considering there is an air of mystery surrounding magic within the plot. Nevertheless, there were times I felt it detracted from the story and even a little bit more explanation would have probably alleviated this issue. 

The book is overall well written with well-developed characters and vivid descriptions of their world. Regardless of this, there were still a few scenes that I found seemed ultimately unnecessary to the overarching plot. None of which were particularly severe, but notice enough for me to take note of them. Of course, as I writer I understand this sentiment is entirely subjective so I don’t hold this to hard against the book. 

I think the only thing I truly took issue with in this book was the romantic subplot. I realize that, especially in YA, a romantic subplot of some sort is very important, but at times I found the one included in this book not particular interesting. I was not invested in whether or not the characters got together in the end and I can definitely imagine the writer achieving a similar ending with a platonic relationship. 


Nevertheless, I enjoyed this book. I specifically remember thinking upon finishing it that I would keep it in case I have children so I can read it to them. Even if I don’t have children I’m probably going to reread it just for fun and to escape into the wondrous world of The Night Circus. Therefore I believe I have no choice to but give this book five stars, a rating reserved for the very special books that earn a place on book bookshelf.

Otherworld

By Jason Segel, Kirsten Miller

Release Year: 2017

Genre: YA Science-Fiction

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 3.66

The company says Otherworld is amazing — like nothing you’ve ever seen before. They say it’s addictive — that you’ll want to stay forever. They promise Otherworld will make all your dreams come true.

Simon thought Otherworld was a game. Turns out he knew nothing. Otherworld is the next phase of reality. It’s everything you’ve ever wanted.

And it’s about to change humanity forever.

Welcome to the Otherworld. No one could have seen it coming.

Oh goodness this book. 

Goodreads

First of all, I have to give this book credit, it is not what I expected. My first impression of it was that it would be sort of similar to Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, which just so happens to be one of my favourite books. This was enough to make me buy this book because I figured even if it wasn’t as good as Ready Player One I would hopefully find it enjoyable. Let me tell you now: I didn’t. 

The one good thing I remember about this book is that I was surprised by the direction it took with the story’s concept. Simply based off my first impression the plot was not what I expected it to be. Sadly, this fact didn’t save the book from being unpleasant to me. 

Firstly, I really did not like the main character. I didn’t like the secondary character. The only character I liked in this book was a background character that would eventually end up dead, and even their death wasn’t impactful to me. Additionally I found the motivations of both the antagonist and the protagonist to be either dumb, confusing, or some mixture of both. In the end it was the characters that forced me to give this book a low review.


My final rating for this book was two stars. And yeah, it may be one my shelf right now, but pretty much solely due to the fact that I found a signed copy for only three dollars at my local independent bookstore and I’m a fan of How I Met Your Mother.

I Am Mother (2019)

Directed by Grant Sputore

Written by Micheal Lloyd Green, Grant Sputore

Starring Clara Rugaard, Rose Byrne, Hilary Swank

Rated: TV-14

Run-time: 1h53m

Genre: Drama, Horror, Sci-fi 

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%

I watched the trailer for this film almost as soon as it came out, as I do with most films. The title and thumbnail did little to reveal the true nature of the film and I wasn’t particularly interested in it until I actually watched the whole video. The trailer does a good job of showing the viewer that this film definitely has a mysterious aspect to it. The only issue I might add is that it also manages to present the film as a classic AI-takes-over sort of film. The concept itself is not cliche, but at this point its becoming so due to the over-saturation of stories regarding the technopocalypse. As a result I’ve watched many movies that fall under this sub-genre but this film is a particularly interesting presentation of these concepts. 

This film shows expository information in a very interesting way that at face value it seems more simple and unimportant than most of it really as the true plot begins to unfold. Things such as time is measured in days, rather than years, this proves to be a key in what is intended the big reveal. This decision is ingenious because when you see that it’s been 13,867 days since the infamous “extinction event” you are not immediately aware of exactly how long that is because we’re used to being presented this information in the more understandable year-based timeframe.   

There are a lot of admirable aspects of this film. The acting is good, the visual storytelling is very good and the use of practical effects is present (which itself is amazing). Times like this I find myself a little disappointed that Netflix originals generally don’t include behind-the-scenes featurettes because God! I would love to see how they implemented the practical effects in the production to achieve such smooth yet still robotic movements. (From what I currently understand the character of “Mother” was an actor in a suit, but I’d still like to know the process of learning how to move in the suit and imitate mechanical movements in such a believable manner.) 

I also very much enjoyed the story this film is trying to tell. There is a level of moral greyness and ambiguity at times that makes the actions of the characters more unnerving. In the end, some details are left open, but not to the detriment of the film. In the end you leave with more questions that you started with, but in a good way. 

The only reason my ultimate score is 90% is because there are some questions that needed to be answered for certain parts of the story to make sense. Whether these parts are ultimately important to the final outcome is up for debate, but I feel the need for some sort of explanation.


This movie is available with your Netflix subscription!

I Am Not an Easy Man (Je ne suis pas un homme facile) (2018)

Directed by Eleonore Pourriat

Written by Ariane Fert, Eleonore Pourriat

Starring: Vincent Elbaz, Marie-Sophie Ferdane, Pierre Benezit

Rated: TV-MA

Run-Time: 1h 38m

Genre: French, Comedy

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%

I Am Not an Easy Man is a humor film with an obvious feminist agenda that manages to be more hilarious than preachy. Though at times the way this aspects of the story is presented is ridiculous, it manages to paint an interesting alternate universe where society is matriarchal. As a women, this sounds like a blessed idea, but the film does a good job of showing the importance for equality, that even in a truly matriarchal world has its own flaws. The characters are well written and the presentation of this world is done well, with both obvious and subtle differences. It does a very good job of raising topics of discussion; including topics of toxic masculinity to the effect of a gender dominated society. 

The only true downside I could find in the film is some of the cultural differences in the matriarchal society that were hard to believe and therefore brought me out of my suspension of belief. The film features a number of scenes with shirtless women, a parallel to how our society has no problem with partial nudity of men but think differently when it comes to women. This simple fact doesn’t bother me, but when a short scene included a shirtless women going on a jog my immediate thoughts were “God that must hurt!” Because, even in a society where it is totally okay for a women to be out shirtless its hard for me to believe someone would be content running while shirtless. For those who don’t have breasts, let me tell you, it is not comfortable to run without some sort of support. Scenes with similar minor grievances are littered throughout the film and while they do not detract from the basic storyline I am going to consider them a negative of this film because they still managed to pull me out of this world. Even in a good film, little things like this can affect the experience greatly. 


In the end I gave the film a higher rating that its rotten tomatoes score, a solid 90%. It a good film to watch and a great discussion starter. I would recommend this film to anyone with interests in women’s studies and even anthropology for that matter! This film can be found on Netflix!

White Stag

By Kara Barbieri

Release Year: 2019

Genre: Fantasy, New Adult

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 3.71

As the last child in a family of daughters, seventeen-year-old Janneke was raised to be the male heir. While her sisters were becoming wives and mothers, she was taught to hunt, track, and fight. On the day her village was burned to the ground, Janneke—as the only survivor—was taken captive by the malicious Lydian and eventually sent to work for his nephew Soren.

Janneke’s survival in the court of merciless monsters has come at the cost of her connection to the human world. And when the Goblin King’s death ignites an ancient hunt for the next king, Soren senses an opportunity for her to finally fully accept the ways of the brutal Permafrost. But every action he takes to bring her deeper into his world only shows him that a little humanity isn’t bad—especially when it comes to those you care about.

Through every battle they survive, Janneke’s loyalty to Soren deepens. After dangerous truths are revealed, Janneke must choose between holding on or letting go of her last connections to a world she no longer belongs to. She must make the right choice to save the only thing keeping both worlds from crumbling. (Goodreads)

Considering I am not super acquainted with fantasy it probably isn’t surprising that I found the concept of this book considerably unique and subsequently interesting. Adn though I must admit I don’t think the writing is the best, what it achieved is admirable. Aspects of the story aren’t outright told and action scenes are handled well and are easy to follow. 

Arguably, the poor writing can be excused due to the fact that this is the writer’s debut novel. And by no means is the writing horrible, it just shows that this writer still has some growth ahead of them and honestly don’t we all? My main problems with the story come from the characters and the fact that they often come off as two dimensional with very basic motivations. The romantic subplot comes off as undeniably forces and is unnecessary to the story. The romantic subplot could have been reduced to a platonic relationship and the dynamic between the characters would have remained largely unchanged.  
For a debut novel this book is surprising well-done. The author definitely has talent, though she definitely has room for growth (which makes me all the more excited for her future works. In the end I gave this book a primarily subjective rating heavily due to my relatively low expectations with not only book but the genre. In the end I was left with an appreciation for higher fantasy I did not prior have. Though I am curious how my opinion will change as I become more acquainted with similar storylines. My final rating is a solid 4.5 stars.  

Next

By Micheal Crichton

Release Year: 2008

Genre: Science Fiction, Techno-Thriller, Dystopian

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 3.49

Welcome to our genetic world.

Fast, furious, and out of control.

This is not the world of the future — it’s the world right now.

Is a loved one missing some body parts? Are blondes becoming extinct? Is everyone at your dinner table of the same species? Humans and chimpanzees differ in only 400 genes; is that why an adult human being resembles a chimp fetus? And should that worry us? There’s a new genetic cure for drug addiction — is it worse than the disease?

We live in a time of momentous scientific leaps; a time when it’s possible to sell our eggs and sperm online for thousands of dollars; test our spouses for genetic maladies and even frame someone for a genetic crime.

We live in a time when one fifth of all our genes are owned by someone else, and an unsuspecting person and his family can be pursued cross-country because they happen to have certain valuable genes within their chromosomes …

Devilishly clever, Next blends fact and fiction into a breathless tale of a new world where nothing is what it seems, and a set of new possibilities can open at every turn. Next challenges our sense of reality and notions of morality. Balancing the comic and bizarre with the genuinely frightening and disturbing, Next shatters our assumptions, and reveals shocking new choices where we least expect.

The future is closer than you think. Get used to it. (Goodreads)

As the last official book by the late Micheal Crichton Next has big shoes to fill; and does so well enough. Next boasts an interesting concept that is still relevant today and is well executed by its well-educated author. Its contents are not only smart but the way information is presented is smart as well. Most expositional information is presented through fake news reports which works well for this story’s concept. Additionally, the story is considerably realistic as well as plausible (though as time has passed some aspects have become less so due to changes in the law). This is definitely a book for fans of science fiction that poses a moral question, as well as those who are fascinated with genetics (considering a fair amount of the science in the book is considerably sound.)

The one aspect of this book that truly brought it down is excessive amount of subplots. Some are large and we follow it throughout the entirety of the book while others are relatively short. When it comes down to it, though some of them reinforce the intent of the story, many fall short and distract from the overarching plot as a whole.  Not only were the subplots excessive but so was the complexity of the scientific concepts presented. For the average reader the story may be hard to understand and may require multiple reads to fully comprehend. This only adds to the fact that the story itself is slow-moving. Though I cannot call this a bad book, I found this book ultimately unenjoyable. Having a pre-existing understanding of concepts discussed in said book was definitely advantageous, but did nothing to make the book move any faster than a snail-like pace. This book failed to live up to my expectations as is, at best, mediocre addition to Crichton’s bibliography. My final rating is a medial 3 stars.

Hush (2016)

Directed by Mike Flanagan

Written by Mike Flanagan, Kate Siegal

Starring: John Gallagher Jr., Kate Siegal, Michael Trucco

Rating: R

Run-Time: 1h22m

Genre: Horror, Thriller

Metacritic Score: 67%

This film has been in my suggestions on Netflix pretty much since it became available on there, and for whatever reason I never got around to watching it. It follows a storyline quite common in thrillers and, as a result, my first impression of it wasn’t the best. It’s a storyline that I actually enjoy, but as of late have been enjoying less because these films tend to be predictable. The characters aren’t always the smartest and the villain is sometimes so smart they barely come off as actual humans. 

To first address the predictability of this film, I must say that while it was at times quite predictable it was predictable in a good way. Now how can a film be predictable in a good way? For me it has to heavily to with the fact that, in the case of this film, the fact that I was able to predict the next moves of the characters didn’t detract from the event actually happening. Rather it added to the suspense of when will it happen. 

A surprising positive for the film was the production. I found that the film was shot well, and very easy to understand visually. The use of sound added to the general ambience of the story, making it more immersive and, for lack of a better word, stressful. 

The acting was better than I expected, especially from the antagonist played by John Gallagher Jr.. The few scenes in the beginning in which he is wearing a mask are a particularly good example of his acting ability, considering that even though most of his face was obscured by the mask it was still evident to the audience what was going on inside his head. They say true acting is having the ability to not only act the story out on the grand scale, but to be able to act with one’s eyes. This film is a good example of this. 


Ultimately I enjoyed the film. It actually had me at the edge of my seat, cursing under my breath in shock and practically bouncing in my seat in anticipation. Nowadays it’s hard to find a thriller that can evoke such a response, at least for me. Because of this I have no choice but to give this film the resoundingly high score of 90%. And I highly recommend you watch it if you are a fan of horror thrillers. This film is available on Netflix!