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January 31, 2014 / minusbar

Movie Reviews: I,Frankenstein, 47 Ronin, Europa Report

Mixed bag or jumbled mess, that is the question!

Sometimes you go into a movie with the full expectation of cheesiness. But that’s fine, I actually enjoy a sucky movie from time to time. They have a certain campy appeal that tickles my inner geek. Examples of this done right are films like Pacific Rim, or 300. If you honestly want to call them perfect, that’s fine, but I am sticking with the term “wonderfully flawed.” Anyway, occasionally the cheese-dometer gets pushed into overload and you end up eating a couple hours of your life for absolutely no reason. Never fear though, I’ve went ahead and scouted these craptastic films and will give you my verdict so that you can make an educated decision as to whether to explore them for yourselves.

47 Ronin

I’m a sucker for Keanu Reeves. He’s a terrible actor, but I just can’t help but enjoy his horrible awful action films, so when I saw all the fantasy and CGI goodness on this trailer, I had it pegged as yet another potential guilty pleasure.

Oh how I was so wrong!

This film is one that, to me, lacks any redeeming quality whatsoever. While the integrity of the original story is mainly left intact, the acting and overall plot is terribly and slow that I found myself bored for 95% of the film (with the other 5% being the epic Spiderman trailer before the movie). The CGI was pretty decent, and I was happy to see that Voldemort made an appearance as a monk…  But I implore you! Save your time. This film has as much watchability as the Teletubbies.

Film Rating: 0/5

3D Effects: 1/5

Verdict: If you absolutely must watch it, don’t waste your money for  3D or theaters.

I, Frankenstein

This was another high risk watch for me, but the small chance for a high upside convinced me to take a gander. Also, the original comic about a PI Frankenstein was interesting, if not short lived.

The world created by Kevin Grevioux is actually extremely interesting, setting demons from hell up against a holy order of holy gargoyles. Some of the special effects and action scenes make for some very good eye candy, and Frankenstein himself is brought to life as a bad-ass by Aaron Eckhart. So the film did a lot of things right.

However, some of the acting was definitely leaning towards the “meh” side of things. And our demons looked more like drooling dinosaurs than anything remotely close to scary. Not to mention some gaping plot holes and a few pacing issues. Like I said earlier, this post is about those mixed bag films. If you’re a big fan of the Underworld films or the Resident Evil film franchise, you may very well find another worthwhile entry into that movie group. It’s not quite as good as the aforementioned films, but it’s in the same vein.

Film Rating: 2.5/5

3D Effects: 3.5/5

Final Verdict: A good late night rental film. If you’re breaking the bank to see it in theaters, the 3D for this film was pretty decent.

Europa Report

I’ve heard praise absolutely shoveled onto this film. The cast was solid and I have a soft place of my heart for some Magnet and Magnolia film releases, so I deemed this to be a pretty low risk watch for me.

This movie felt a lot like a mix between The Sphere and Prometheus, only no budget. Incorporating classic suspense filming techniques, the film manages to keep you on edge well enough. The real fault for me was that the film seemed highly predictable to me, and I didn’t get the pay-off at the end with the resolution because of that. The film was shooting for smart sci-fi and fell just a bit short.

Overall, it’s worth watching (especially while it’s streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime right now) but just never crawls out of mediocrity.

Film Rating: 2.75/5

Final Verdict: I want to give this three stars, but I just can’t. There a lot of films that really enjoy and only rate at three stars. This one is not quite there. Don’t let my harsh rating system deter you too much though, as it was certainly not a bad film.


That’s all for today! I’ll try and find some better films for the next movie rating roundup. If for no other reason, my eyeballs are due some better watching.


Roger Bellini

January 30, 2014 / minusbar

Book Review: “Blood of Tyrants” by Naomi Novak

*This post has been sponsored and edited with Grammarly because typos make me [sic].

Book Review: “Blood of Tyrants” by Naomi Novak

Shipwrecked and cast ashore in Japan with no memory of Temeraire or his own experiences as an English aviator, Laurence finds himself tangled in deadly political intrigues that threaten not only his own life but England’s already precarious position in the Far East. Age-old enmities and suspicions have turned the entire region into a powder keg ready to erupt at the slightest spark—a spark that Laurence and Temeraire may unwittingly provide, leaving Britain faced with new enemies just when they most desperately need allies instead.

For to the west, another, wider conflagration looms. Napoleon has turned on his former ally, the emperor Alexander of Russia, and is even now leading the largest army the world has ever seen to add that country to his list of conquests. It is there, outside the gates of Moscow, that a reunited Laurence and Temeraire—along with some unexpected allies and old friends—will face their ultimate challenge . . . and learn whether or not there are stronger ties than memory.


Blood of Tyrants is actually the eighth book in the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik, which I have been following since I discovered it last year. If you aren’t familiar with her work I would encourage you to look into it (although for this book in particular I don’t think it absolutely necessary to have read the previous seven). Novik writes in a genre termed fantasy realism. Specific, right? It can be. This series, in particular, is set during the Napoleonic wars and is told from a British viewpoint. If you love history (or even just reading Jane Austen, since the writing style could be comparable) then it’s very possible that you will enjoy Novik’s writing.

I really love the dynamic that Novik writes between Laurence, an English aviator, and Temeraire, his dragon. They just work well together, and have since the very first book. Laurence is sensible, level-headed, and has an unfailing sense of duty. Temeraire…is the exact opposite. Older dragons may be wise, but since Temeraire is a relatively young dragon it’s nice to see his rashness exasperate Laurence constantly.

As I mentioned, the writing style is elaborate and sometimes formal. I’ve noted on several occasions while reading this series that Temeraire’s questioning of authority and the law (and basically everything else) helps cut through the fancy packaging for readers who may get frustrated with the implied threats and looming consequences that might not be apparent at first. That said, it can get a little dry sometimes. However, I don’t think that a little wordiness detracts at all from the story, and it fits right in with the time period.

I adore the whole fantasy realism thing. Novik writes as if dragons have been an established thing (and not just in England, but in the whole world) for ages. They aren’t anything out of the ordinary, but she still sticks rather closely to the historical happenings. Now, obviously it’s not exactly the same as what you can find in a history book. It is a fantastic look at what might have happened if everyone involved was able to utilize dragons for fighting.

After reading all of the other books, I can honestly say that this was one of my favorites in the series. Things really started off quickly, and they stayed that way throughout the book. I also enjoyed seeing more of China and their dragons. I do think it ended rather abruptly, but if the book had gone on for much longer it wouldn’t have been as effective. As you can see from the description, it began with Laurence losing his memory; this only served to show even more of his relationship with Temeraire. Overall I think it was a success.

This turned out to be more of a review of the entire series than originally intended, but if you would like to investigate Novik’s work for yourself you can start with the first one or just jump straight to Blood of Tyrants!


Molly Chenault

December 15, 2013 / minusbar

Book Review: Three (Legends of the Duskwalker) by Jay Posey

Book Review: “Three” by Jay Posey

The world has collapsed, and there are no heroes any more.

But when a lone gunman reluctantly accepts the mantel of protector to a young boy and his dying mother against the forces that pursue them, a hero may yet arise.

The description is sparse; I began this book with very little idea of what to expect. I gleaned from the wording (and the amazing cover) that it was probably a post-apocalyptic setting, but with as many varieties as I have come across, it didn’t really tell me anything. What was Three, by Jay Posey? I was definitely pleased by what I found!

The first thing that caught my attention about the book was the economy of words. Nothing was there that did not absolutely need to be there. The descriptions of the scenery and the interactions between characters were at the same time effective and frugal. I was never confused by what was happening–Posey was very good about making sure that the reader had enough information to figure out the necessary facts. It was refreshing, though, to read a book that didn’t rely on extensive descriptions of the landscape to make up its content.

The characters reflected the writing. While there were occasional glimpses into the inner workings of their minds, for the most part I had to look to their actions (and interactions with others) to see what they were really thinking. This was the most true for Three, the protagonist of the story. His motives were the hardest to determine. What, you say? You didn’t know what the main character was thinking? Isn’t that rule #36 on the list of things not to do when writing a novel? It could be, but personally I really like the way that Posey handled it. The reader knows practically nothing about any of the character’s pasts (until the very end, and even then it’s iffy). Three, Cass, and Wren are being chased, but it’s not clear by whom or why. Yet the unfolding development is exciting and a bit more unpredictable than other stories. I became very attached to the trio as the book progressed.

I think that the only thing I would say about Three is that…it could have been ten times longer!!!! There was plenty of information about what was happening in the present, but what about the background? There are the Weir–some sort of mechanical zombie-like creatures that lurk in the background as an ever-present danger. Where did they come from? Then, of course, there is the past of Three. A little is explained, but I would have no problem knowing more about this. If anything, these questions prove to me that the book was engaging and intriguing. I can’t wait for the sequel, which is already scheduled for sometime next year.

Check it out here!



December 9, 2013 / minusbar

Christmas is Coming: Santa Revealed!

UPDATE: Still no response from GRRM’s representation when we contacted them for questions concerning this revelation.


After much thought and research, I have come to a somewhat groundbreaking discovery: the identity of Santa Claus! Despite years of disbelief in this holiday figure, the connection has been made. While many of the commonly accepted details of this character have been proven to be myth, the man himself does in fact exist. It is my pleasure to unveil the findings of my research just in time for the Christmas season.

George R.R. Martin is Santa Claus!



He’s making a list, and checking it twice.

The first, and most noticeable, indication of his alias is in his physical appearance. Both men possess a rather, ahem, full figure and possess awesome beards. Their cheeks are plump and rosy, and both of them wear glasses. They also share a love of rather interesting hats. Does this all sound like I’m stretching? I thought so too at first, but after using advance scientific face morphing software, the truth became undeniable.


Killing you, no matter if you’re naughty or nice.

So as you can see, the physical appearance is irrefutable. But wait…is that GRRM writing in the second picture? Maybe, or it could be him…  CHECKING A LIST! This would make perfect sense as to why finishing ASOIAF has taken so long, as being Santa Claus and attending cons has to be rather demanding on ones time. I’m impressed, but having flying reindeers probably at least reduces the burden a bit.

Now you’re probably thinking something along the lines of, “But Santa wouldn’t kill all those Starks!” You’re right, the Santa we’ve been raised to believe in wouldn’t do those things. But who here has read the original Grimm stories? Stay with me on this tangent, as I have a point. The original stories aren’t always as nice as the over glorified tales the media spins us in hopes to sell presents and decorations. Perhaps the real Santa is a writer who likes to give us the gift of amazing characters and yank them away to watch us cry. Maybe all of his wintery cheer got frozen over, leaving a murderous white-walker in it’s stead. The clues are there, the case is cracked.

There’s only one thing left to do, wait and wonder when winter will finally come and we’ll all get the gift we really want….

If another Stark must go, please let it be her!

P.S. I’ve been very good.


Roger Bellini

December 8, 2013 / minusbar

Book Review: The Incrementalists by Steven Brust and Skyler White

Book Review: “The Incrementalists” by Steven Brust and Skyler White

The Incrementalists—a secret society of two hundred people with an unbroken lineage reaching back forty thousand years. They cheat death, share lives and memories, and communicate with one another across nations, races, and time. They have an epic history, an almost magical memory, and a very modest mission: to make the world better, just a little bit at a time. Their ongoing argument about how to do this is older than most of their individual memories.

Phil, whose personality has stayed stable through more incarnations than anyone else’s, has loved Celeste—and argued with her—for most of the last four hundred years. But now Celeste, recently dead, embittered, and very unstable, has changed the rules—not incrementally, and not for the better. Now the heart of the group must gather in Las Vegas to save the Incrementalists, and maybe the world.

I was initially very confused. Poker? Las Vegas? I don’t speak that language, and it got a bit technical with the terms in the first few pages. I’m so glad that I continued, though– it was very worth it! In fact, The Incrementalists, by Steven Brust and Skylar White, was one of the better books I’ve read this year.

There were two narrators for the entire novel: Phil and Ren, the two protagonists. Usually I’m a little reserved about more than one point of view, but the authors managed to seamlessly switch back and forth without missing a beat. It was doubly effective since both characters were just so darn real. Even though there was a whole bunch of craziness going on they were still down to earth and relatable. I especially liked that even though they were in love there were doubts about the whole situation, just as there would be in real life. No perfect story here! Yet, in a way, it was perfect, because it was realistic.

The setting, as I previously mentioned, was in Las Vegas. It was limited to a few locations within the city though, so even though there was poker involved the rest of the characteristics associated with the city were mostly absent. I think this was both a good and bad thing. On one hand, if done correctly, a little more of the flavor of Las Vegas could have enhanced the story. On the other…well, let’s just say it could have been a disaster. The point is moot anyway.

The plot reminded me of a time travel movie. Not in any specific way, but in that I was always a few steps behind. There were quite a few twists and turns that I was not expecting. This only added to the excitement! There were several parts that I could not have predicted.

Overall it was an awesome journey through an alternate version of reality that I would gladly revisit. If you’d like to check it out you can find it here!



December 6, 2013 / minusbar

Short Fiction Reviews: William Leisner, Ramsey Campbell, Diana L. Paxson

So this is my first of what will be many reviews of works of short fiction. I’ve long struggled with how to share my thoughts on an anthology as a whole, and I’ve finally come to the decision that I personally cannot. Instead, I’ve opted to review the stories individually. I’ll work my way through multiple books at the same time and periodically update on the blog with the recent reads reviews. Information on the anthology that the stories come from will be made available for your convenience, should you wish to explore any of them further.


Find my name by Ramsey Campbell (from Fearie Tales by Jo Fletcher Books, 2013) 

Edited by Stephen Jones, Illustration by Alan Lee

A bit about the anthology: Okay, so the Fearie Tales anthology focuses on retelling fables and classic folk legends and classics, describing them as ‘Grimm and Gruesome.’ Having some of my favorite authors involved, I decided to expand my reading genre a bit and pick this one up, despite knowing it’s geared a bit more on the horror spectrum than I usually review.

This story is a re-imagining of the Rumplestiltskin  fable in a modern setting. It’s more suspense than horror, and seemed to be most interested in giving you the heebie-jeebies for creepy weirdness than making you bite your nails or hide under a blanket. Nonetheless, I did find the macabre setting to be interesting. The villain of the story has a mocking, sort of tongue-in-cheek way of haunting that I found amusing. For a short story, I would have liked for the pacing to be a bit more upbeat, but I definitely see why it wasn’t; the slower delivered eerie grim mystery required the extra time to sink in and get under your skin.


The Year Without a Santa Claus by William Leisner (from ReDeus: Divine Tales by Crazy 8 Press, 2012) 


Edited by Robert Greenberger and Aaron Rosenberg, Cover by Anton Kokarev

A bit about the anthology: The premise for Redeus: Divine Tales is that all of the gods from every religion have come back to earth, literally all of them. Naturally, that could lead to more than a little bit of a problem for us humans. The premise for this one really intrigues me and I’m a big fan of mythology. While I’m not familiar with any of the authors by name, I’m looking forward to being introduced to some fresh voices.

The title of this story made it a perfect fit for a bit of holiday season reading, am I right? Okay, so this story really hammers the anthology theme home. The returned gods demand patronage try to assert themselves, and in a short period of time they change everything about our normal lives. This story has a lot of religious implications and also has a strong message about the resilience and will of people to resist oppression and servitude. It’s a good message and a fairly quick read. While it didn’t blow me out of the water, it was definitely a very competent story. The writer also gets some bonus points for using a lesser known god like Jiibayaabooz; because nothing says ‘worship me’ like a giant bunny!


The God-Sword by Diana L. Paxson (from Excalibur by Warner Books, 1995)


Edited by Richard Gilliam, Martin H. Greenberg, and Edward E. Kramer, Cover by Paul Youll

A bit about the anthology: Over 25 stories and poems about Excalibur, the mythical sword of Arthurian legend. If that’s not enough to intrigue you, well how about stories from Marion Zimmer Bradley, Charles de Lint, Diana Gabaldon, Mercedes Lackey and many more? There are a few other heavy hitters in here, but name dropping is tiresome. Suffice to say, this lineup is loaded. Due to some bargain shopping, this little gem fell into my hands. While I was too young to know about it and enjoy it in ’95, I am sure I’ll love it now.

Stories like this one are why I read short fiction. It’s impressive when an author is able to write such a complete story in so few words and pags. Diana somehow manages to balance the action, courage and overall spirit of an Arthurian legend. The story is very well paced, and the story was surprisingly very heatfelt, in no small part due to a bittersweet ending that feels so very right for the hard times. Another thing I really enjoyed about this story is how it read a lot like a historical fantasy, downplaying the fantastical elements for a very genuine authentic feel. The world is not devoid of magic, but it’s contained in realism.


Have an anthology or a short story you’d like to see me review? Here’s a link to my book review policy, which states the genres I read. For individual short stories, I do not require print editions: REVIEW POLICY!

I hope you all enjoy this new style of reviewing for short fiction. I’ve really enjoyed reading these first three stories, and I think breaking them up into individual stories instead of entire books will allow me to more accurately convey my opinions of the book content.


Roger Bellini

December 4, 2013 / minusbar

Book Review: The Goliath Stone (Yes, we do *occasionally* review Sci-fi)

Book Review: “The Goliath Stone” by Larry Niven and Matthew Joseph Harrington

Doctor Toby Glyer has effected miracle cures with the use of nanotechnology. But Glyer’s controversial nanites are more than just the latest technological advance, they are a new form of life—and they have more uses than just medical. Glyer’s nanites also have the potential to make everyone on Earth rich from the wealth of asteroids.

Twenty-five years ago, the Briareus mission took nanomachinery out to divert an Earth-crossing asteroid and bring it back to be mined, only to drop out of contact as soon as it reached its target. The project was shut down and the technology was forcibly suppressed.

Now, a much, much larger asteroid is on a collision course with Earth—and the Briareus nanites may be responsible. While the government scrambles to find a solution, Glyer knows that their only hope of avoiding Armageddon lies in the nanites themselves. On the run, Glyer must track down his old partner, William Connors, and find a way to make contact with their wayward children.

As every parent learns, when you produce a new thinking being, the plans it makes are not necessarily your plans. But with a two-hundred-gigaton asteroid that rivals the rock that felled the dinosaurs hurtling toward Earth, Glyer and Connors don’t have time to argue. Will Glyer’s nanites be Earth’s salvation or destruction?

I’m not a huge fan of hard core science fiction. I tend to get lost in the rambling scientific terms and my lack of a rocket science degree makes me feel like I’m missing out on half the story. However, The Goliath Stone (by Larry Niven and Matthew Joseph Harrington) was actually pretty enjoyable.

As far as the techno-babble went, it had both high and low points. I enjoyed the parts that were written from the nanites’ point of view. Those were just another (easily understandable) part of the story, and an interesting one as well. Who honestly doesn’t want to read about the evolution of a nanite colony in progressive order? As the book progressed, though, I found my eyes glazing over more than once as the conversations became more and more scientifically oriented. If you’re used to that sort of thing I’m sure it’s easy to follow. If you’re not, well… have to start somewhere, right?

I respected the characters in the book.  Part of the reason for this was because of the questionable motives some held, such as the personal crusade of William Conners to “fix” humanity. Tempting, but really, how well could that actually work? It provokes multitudes of questions to ponder. The conversations were lightning fast. Indeed, sometimes I found it necessary to re-read a passage to make sure I hadn’t missed anything (especially the literary references, given mostly by Conners).

The one thing I was truly let down over was the pacing. The book itself isn’t really that long– only 320 pages. So when the plot kept building with no resolution in sight as the pages dwindled I became concerned. The ending came abruptly, with a rather dull climax. It seemed that the entire book was a preface. I suppose you could call the final paragraph or so “inspiring”, but I really think it could have been developed more instead of adding more witty dialogue.

Overall, it was one of the more understandable science fiction books I’ve read. If you want to check it out then look here!




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