Scythe Review

Scythe Review

I’d give Scythe 4 gleanings out of 5.

This is a fun book filled with well-rounded characters, an engaging plot, and a very interesting world draped in religious overtones with hints of sci-fi. For me, this amounted to a curious mix of environment and feeling that the author, Neal Shusterman, pulls off well.

Scythe is set in a distant future but feels like its set in the near future in some ways. Countries are organized and named a bit differently, but they still feel familiar. America is called midmerica, for example, and you’d recognize many of the same things we do today, like pool parties. But there are bigger things that are quite a bit different from our world today. Civilization is more, well, “civilized.” There is no real crime, and, ironically, everyone has agreed to let the Scythes, modern-day grim reapers, stalk the world and “glean” people in order to keep the population totals under control. The book explores how people hold the honorable Scythes on a pedestal and the various human traits that surface in an environment with those dynamics. Very interesting stuff.

Technology has also evolved. The cloud *(Internet and data accessible from anywhere) has become the Thunderhead, a benevolent overseeing Skynet type that is in the background of the story until… it’s not.

Nanites have been made available to everyone to help them heal, or deal with the pain that would have been experienced in the “age of man.” Society can even leverage the nanites to shape or reshape their bodies to their liking.

This makes the whole notion of killing almost moot. If someone dies, they are “deadish,” and can be revived at a healing center. Only when someone is gleaned (or burned) are they truly gone, and beyond help.

In short, the plot revolves around two children that are selected to become Scythe apprentices, both under one single honorable Scythe—an unprecedented move. Their worlds are turned upside down as they come together only to get torn apart by warring factions and belief systems within the Scythe conclave.

What results is a fantastic adventure that easily held my attention, and drug me along for the wonderful ride.

 

 

The Crimes of Grindelwald Movie Review

The Crimes of Grindelwald Movie Review

 

I’d give Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald 3 wands out of 5

(It should probably be 2.5 wands, but out of respect for Ollivander and not wanting to break a wand in half…)

My son and I went to see Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald this weekend, and for the second time seeing a movie in The Fantastic Beasts series, I walked away feeling bewildered, and disappointed. Not just at the confusing plot lines, mind you, but at how a movie with such a great cast, and such a wonderfully rich world like Harry Potter’s can continue to execute on movies in this way.

Alas, I’m probably sounding too critical.

The cast was very good. Johnny Depp was fantastic, but not to overshadow the great performances by everyone else, really. The acting was great across the board, in my opinion, no issues there.

The material has a ton of potential. It’s the Harry Potter universe, after all. The back story on the world, and some of these characters has left fans wanting more for years. Grindelwald… the American version of Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic over here… young Dumbledore…Lot’s to work with. Perhaps that was the issue.

The problem was the movie was just okay, and for me, that was largely due to the plot. You have a story of Grindelwald, his escape, and his attempt to win over the magical world with his seductive charm. That seemed to be the main theme they tried to convey. That’s all well and good, I suppose, but the other plot lines were more interesting to me. They should have been explored more thoroughly, and explained better. I won’t go into them because they lead to spoilers, and this is a spoiler free review. Instead, we get a fake love triangle, a hint at Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s past relationship, and other, either meaningless, or under developed storylines that just muddy the plot that’s brought to the forefront.

All in all, I feel like the movie tried to do too much with the wrong stories, and didn’t dive deeply enough into the ones I wanted to know more about.  This resulted in my disappointment on two fronts. First, the plot feeling all over the place, and slightly confusing, and second, the plot being relative to something I didn’t care much about. Furthermore, all the twists in the movie were apparent to me, except the last one, which is a big one, and that one even fell flat because of how it was delivered. 

I’m sure I’ll buy the movie when it comes out because it’s a Harry Potter movie, and because I want to give it another chance. Of course, that’s what I said about the last one…sigh.

The Shadow’s Servant Podcast Appearance and Audiobook Update

The Shadow’s Servant Podcast Appearance and Audiobook Update

I hope your Thanksgiving was great, and that you got to spend time with your families. I’ve been pretty focused on launching The Shadow’s Servant in the last few months, and most recently, working with the narrator on the audiobook. So, I just wanted to get a couple of fun updates out there for you, especially since it’s been a while since I’ve posted one.


Podcast:
I recently joined the Reading with your Kids podcast to promote The Shadow Magic Series and to talk about writing in general, writing for kids, and a whole bunch of other things (we even got into horror and stuff like that). I was a bit nervous, but it was a good time and a great experience. You can give it a listen here. Tell me what you thought of the interview.

The Shadow’s Servant Audio Update:
The Shadow’s Servant audiobook production is finished! I’m actually done reviewing the narration, too, and the narrator, Steve Barnes, has the edits and is working on all the little nits I sent over for him to review. If all goes well, The Shadow’s Servant will be released on audio in the next week or two! I’m always so impressed with Steve’s narration, and this time was no exception. The audiobooks continue to be my favorite version of my work. 

The Shadow’s Servant Pre-order is Live

The Shadow’s Servant Pre-order is Live

This author’s favorite day is finally here! (I mean, this is the closest I’m getting to childbirth, right?) After a ton of work, and all kinds of snafus and the like, I’m delighted to announce that The Shadow’s Servant ebook is up for pre-order worldwide, and we have an official launch date of Sept 7th across all platforms!

Not only that, but I just sent the manuscript to the great Steve Barnes, the same narrator who did such an amazing job with The Magic Shop audiobook. He’s signed on to do The Shadow’s Servant as well, and I couldn’t be happier. He’s trying to get a little reading in before he starts production in September, as well.

Here are a couple quotes from two of The Shadow’s Servant’s Alpha Readers.

1) “It was super fun seeing Marcus survive so many challenges and try to uncover the truth that his family continued to hide over and over again. I found myself constantly trying to figure things out and being deceived by other character’s double-intentions.” —Wattpad Reader

2) “I haven’t read an actual book in a while and it reminded me of my love for reading. They really need to make a movie of this, as I read I could picture everything vividly.” —Amazon Reader

If you enjoyed The Magic Shop, I think The Shadow’s Servant will really blow you away.

If you know anyone that likes this kind of book, please spread the word. I need all of you fair readers to help this book see the kind of launch it deserves.

Happy reading!
Justin

Solo: A Star Wars Story Movie Review

Solo: A Star Wars Story Movie Review

Solo: A Star Wars Story

Directed by Ron Howard

I’d give Solo 3.5 parsecs out of 5 in this Kessel Run

Summary Summary

Perhaps I had high expectations of this movie. After all, I had really enjoyed the most recent run of Star Wars films: Rouge One, The Force Awakens, and The Last Jedi, even though that last one got seriously mixed reactions from fans (I still really enjoyed it – minus the Leia force moment).

So, I was excited to see Solo. As characters go, Han Solo has always been a fan. I was anxious to get more of his backstory, just like everyone else. At its core, Solo is a young love story, but it quickly turns into a story about friendship and the consequences of your decisions.

The movie starts off introducing us to a world where children are captured and used to plunder and steal for a local gang, of sorts. As long as the children do what they’re told, they have food and shelter, and they have somewhere they belong.

As one of these youth, Han is trying to find a way out. He wants to get away, and become a pilot. If he can steal for the gang, and skim enough off the top, he can save up to buy a ship, and get him and his girlfriend out of their situation, and off the planet for a fresh start at a new life.

Without spoiling the show–things go right until they go wrong. Han and his girlfriend get separated, and the rest of the movie is about him trying to find her again. They run into each other again, but under very different circumstances. They still love each other like they did in the past, but they have both changed, and done things that complicate the prospects in the present.

Overall, Solo is a good movie, and safe to take your kids to. You’ll enjoy it, I think, but it’s not the best of the most recent Star Wars movies.

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