MatthewSean Reviews

Book reviews, movie reviews, and other writing

Book Review – Foxglove Summer – Ben Aaronovitch — August 25, 2015

Book Review – Foxglove Summer – Ben Aaronovitch

Book Review – Foxglove Summer – Ben Aaronovitch

FoxgloveSummer

Facts:

  •    Book: Foxglove Summer
  •    Author: Ben Aaronovitch
  •    Genre: Fantasy
  •    Year of Release: 2014
  •    Read 326-page hardcover edition in July 2015.

Book Description:

In this fifth novel of the Rivers of London series, Peter Grant, constable and magic apprentice, is forced to leave his mentor and teacher, and the familiar surroundings of London, to go abroad to the countryside, after a double kidnapping case appears to be stranger than meets the eye.  As Grant looks into the situation in this new environment, he works with local police forces, and the interesting character Beverley Brook, to uncover just what has happened to these two young girls who have gone missing.  But outside of London, nothing is clear, and he does not have many places to turn too in order to get support of the magical variety.

Book Review:

This was another fun and enjoyable instalment in the ever-popular Rivers of London series.  Urban fantasy author Ben Aaronovitch does an amazing job at building elements of fantasy, mystery, drama, romance, and comedy into his novel, weaving these seamlessly throughout the story so that we have a multi-gentre story at the end of the day.  Aaronovitch knows how to create suspense, tension, and drama, and there are several areas of the book where the reader is on the edge of their seat, wondering what will happen next.  The author has also increased the amount of romance and intrigue in the novel, with scenes that help the novel break out of a traditional mould.

Another way the author creates a truly unique story is by eincorporating other themes and real life issues into this urban fantasy novel.  For example, the author tackling issues of racism head-on, and his ability to properly break down stereotypes of gay men in rural settings was handled successfully, and leads to a stronger and more enjoyable novel.

The one downside with this novel over previous books in the series is that some of our supporting characters who we have come to enjoy, mainly Nightingale, Molly, and Dr. Walid, were not present, because Peter Grant had been sent out to the countryside for this investigation.  Although they popped in at the beginning and throughout over phone conversations a couple of times, and although we had some other new minor characters in the novel, it was still a little sad not to have more character development with these characters who we have been growing very accustomed to and interested in.

Overall, this was a great novel, and a great expansion to the Rivers of London series.

Overall: 4 stars out of 5 stars.

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Movie Review – Jurassic World (2015) — August 10, 2015

Movie Review – Jurassic World (2015)

Movie Review – Jurassic World (2015)

jurassicworld

Movie Synopsis:

The long awaited fourth film in the Jurassic series is actually a direct sequel to the first film from 1993.  In Jurassic World, the Jurassic Park has come to fruition, with many guests coming to the island to see the amazing dinosaurs and other enjoyable exhibits and attractions that allow you to get up close and personal with real dinosaurs.  The park is carefully managed by a no-nonsense business woman named Claire.  However, when a series of disasters befalls the park, she turns to the casual and friendly Owen to help her get things under control, and also rescue her two nephews.

Movie Review:

I was certainly excited about this film going into it on opening weekend.  There had been much hype and anticipation about this film.

On the plus side, this film certainly met the mark when it came to strong action sequences, a sense of adventure, and excitement.  There was genuine suspense during several scenes, and the pacing of the film became very high octane as soon as problems (which we knew would happen!) began in the park.

Furthermore, the special effects that went with the action sequences were fantastic.  These dinosaurs looked fantastic, and sounded terrifying!  In addition, the score that went along with the film served the suspense and storyline well.

That being said, on the negative side, the storyline of this film fell flat.  In many ways it felt very repetitive to the storyline of the first Jurassic Park film, only it was not executed to the same degree as skill in this outing.  We again had a male and female protagonist with romantic chemistry.  We again had two young kids who didn’t always get along, and who got lost in the park.  We again had dangerous humans trying to use the dinosaurs for their own good.  These repetitive plot points felt somewhat recycled and it didn’t feel at all like a fresh and new storyline.

Furthermore, the characters of Owen and Claire, although performed admirably well by stars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, were written in such a way that they were very stereotypical of a brash man and a 21st century business woman with no heart.  The characters were not nuanced at all, and instead felt somewhat like black and white caricatures.

Although I wanted to enjoy the storyline from this film, I couldn’t see past the issues with the screenplay and the one dimensional characters.  I have to say that the original Jurassic Park still holds the prize as being the best all around film in this franchise.  That being said, as a fun summer action flick with dinosaurs, Jurassic World is definitely an enjoyable ride.

Overall: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars.

Movie Review – The Salt of the Earth (2014) —

Movie Review – The Salt of the Earth (2014)

Movie Review – The Salt of the Earth (2014)

salt

Movie Synopsis:

This powerful documentary centres on the photographic work of Sebastiao Salgado.  This world-renowned photographer has spent his life traveling to the most extreme situations and circumstances in the world, from horrible war zones to famine-stricken locations, photographing the most tragic elements of human existence.  Salgado’s work has been hailed as a means to document some of the most troubling situations of humankind in the 20th and 21st centuries. The film also looks at the life of Salgado, and how he reached a breaking point after seeing so much pain and destruction, and how he turned to another method, that of photographing the environment and working to restore rainforest in his native Brazil.

Movie Review:

This is truly a powerful documentary, not for the faint of heart.  The photos shown on screen were sometimes graphic, troubling, and disturbing.  But they are also so vitally important because they capture and document truth and reality of human suffering and the outcomes of war.  Salgado was not only a witness to some horrific scenes on this planet, but his photos are a way to bring attention to these problems and try to raise alarm bells for average citizens and individuals across Earth, so we can see the shocking reality and demand that it be stopped.

Salgado’s black and white images are haunting, and the directors of the film, which include Salgado’s son, do a great job of combining narrative with close ups of his photos on the screen, sometimes left on the screen for many seconds so that we can take time to reflect and consider.

Furthermore, Salgado’s work in his native Brazil opens and closes the documentary, bringing it nicely to full circle.  As an older individual, Salgado is now working on a project that recognizes the beauty of the environment, and is a worthy next step in his endeavours as a skilled photographer.  He is working at his Instituto Terra to help recover Brazilian rainforest and tackle problems of deforestation and erosion in his home country, and his comments in this new work are fascinating, and the video here is fantastic.

Although the documentary sometimes feels long, clocking in at 110 minutes, and is difficult to watch at times, it is important for us to understand and learn.  It is through work such as this which can help motivate leaders, and ourselves as individuals, to strive to improve the human condition worldwide.

Overall: 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Book Review – Quiet: The Power of Introverts – Susan Cain — August 9, 2015

Book Review – Quiet: The Power of Introverts – Susan Cain

Book Review – Quiet: The Power of Introverts – Susan Cain

quiet

Facts:

  •    Book: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
  •    Author: Susan Cain
  •    Genre: Non-Fiction
  •    Year of Release: 2012
  •    Read 276-page hardcover edition in July 2015.

Book Description:

This non-fiction book by lawyer, writer, and lecturer Susan Cain researches and describes the roughly 1/3 to 1/2 of the population that are introverts.  The book discusses the biological realities of introversion versus extroversion, and looks at the methods introverts use to think and act in their lives.  The book also looks at cultural and societal expectations, particularly around the western world’s current design that rewards extroversion over introversion.

Book Review:

This was a fascinating book looking at a concept many people have basic knowledge about, but have not necessarily thought about in detail before.  Cain does a great job looking at introversion and showcasing how introverts are vital in organizations, family structures, and societies.  At the same time, Cain is always respectful of the interplay between introverts and extroverts, and does a great job pointing out one method or way of thinking is not better than the other.

This book is best when focusing on individual stories, which are illuminating and teach us great lessons about what it means to be an introvert in a particular situation.  It often helps to break down assumptions many have about what it means to be an introvert.  The book also flourishes when talking about societal expectations of introverts and extroverts, and how that influences people.

The book also spends a great deal of time in the first half going through biology of introversion and extroversion. Well this is interesting, at times this becomes a little too scientific, when the book is more billed as a psychological and sociological work.  As well, the information on biology and genetics is sometimes a little too lengthy, perhaps at the expense of providing more information on the sociological and personal story side of the concepts and theories.  Some physical biology is appropriate, but at times the book focused a little too heavily on this material.

Overall, the book was informative and enjoyable, and reminds us of the importance introverts play in our world.

Overall: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars.