Sunday, January 27, 2013

Book Review: I Am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert

I am America (And So Can You!)I am America by Stephen Colbert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Stephen Colbert was able translate his humor from screen to the written page in fantastic fashion in I Am America (And So Can You!).  Although Colbert covers material that was featured on The Colbert Report, but does so in a fun and engaging way that one doesn't mind a bit of overlap with his TV show.  From youth to old age, school and religion to Hollywood and the Media, Colbert covers issues he thinks the most important for his viewers (and readers) to know his thoughts on in a way that you can not laugh out loud.  The best part of the book is at the end with the entire speech Colbert gave at the 2006 White House Correspondents' Dinner, the moment in which Colbert burst onto the national scene.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Book Review: The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

The Gathering Storm (Wheel of Time, #12; A Memory of Light, #1)The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Last Battle looms as seen in the shape of a "gathering storm."  The twelfth installment of Robert Jordan's epic The Wheel of Time series marked not only the beginning of Act Three, but of Brandon Sanderson's involvement to help finish the series after Jordan's untimely death in 2007.  The Gathering Storm is an appropriate title not only for the foreshadowing to the series' upcoming climatic battle nor the seemingly permanent overcast sky mentioned repeated throughout, but it describes the story arcs of the two main protagonists of the book: Rand al'Thor and Egwene al'Vere.  Rand and Egwene both face a massive conflict unique to each of them, for Rand it is an internal struggle of being the Dragon Reborn while for Egwene the problem is more external and political as she attempts to reunite the Aes Sedai.

Both Rand and Egwene's story arcs began in previous installments, but in The Gathering Storm their problems come to ahead as the world races towards the prophesied Last Battle.  In-between chapter focusing on Rand and Egwene from their own POV, are other important characters who add to primary story arcs: Nynaeve, Min, and Cadsuane for Rand; Gawyn and Siuan for Egwene.  Both Mat and Perrin do appear, but of the two only Mat's is given good detail while the reader is left wanting about what is happening with Perrin based on the visions of him from Rand's POV.

The only complaint about The Gathering Storm is my last point above, in which events for Mat and Perrin are frustratingly hinted at but left the reader wanting to know what's going on with them.  But considering that is the only complaint I have after a nearly 1100 page book, it speaks volumes about how well this book was written.  This of course brings up if there seems to be any difficulty with writing style of Brandon Sanderson compared to the earlier books in the series.  To this I have to say, "NO, at least I didn't see any."  I found The Gathering Storm a really easy read and enjoyable, building upon my experience with Knife of Dreams (the last complete book Jordan wrote).  Of the complaints I've seen about Sanderson word usage or how Mat seems different, I did not see it in this book.

Overall, The Gathering Storm is an excellent addition to The Wheel of Time series and an amazing way for Sanderson to start off his completing of this epic series.  I'm giving this book 5 stars only because I can't give 4 1/2 as I believe the tad frustrating visions of Mat and Perrin take a little away from this book.  Either way, The Gathering Storm reminds one of the quality of earlier in the series and is a must read for WoT fans.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Book Review: Renegade: The Making of a President by Richard Wolffe

Renegade: The Making of a PresidentRenegade: The Making of a President by Richard Wolffe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reading Richard Wolffe's Renegade in the context of the last four years, instead of less than a year after Barack Obama's 2008 victory, helps one realize how pragmatic the then junior of Illinois really was in his political thinking even as he challenged the establishment.  Throughout the book, Wolffe threads the narrative of the nearly two-year campaign with Obama's biography and life experiences to help give an informed view of Barack Obama and how he used those experiences to shape his campaign and political policies he used.  But this book wasn't a glorification nor idealization of Obama himself nor was to a glowing account about how perfect his entire campaign was, as Wolffe shows Obama angry and frustrated like anyone who was campaigning for President of the United States and highlighted the small and large mistakes members of the campaign made.

There were a few problems I had with the book, though both were how Wolffe decided to structure the material he presented and both played into one another.  The transitions between Obama's personal experiences that helped shape him with the campaign issue that brought about said experience were not always ideal, which occasional resulted in some rough reading.  Combined with this was that Wolffe would jump back and forth along the two-year timeline in which the campaign took place, though it was partly understandable as Wolffe wanted to give the whole narrative of the issue he was covering but then returning to earlier in the timeline with the next issue was a little jarring.

Given both the positives and negatives this is a book I would recommend for anyone who seriously wants to understand how Barack Obama came to his policy views and how he changed from the junior senator from Illinois to major party nominee to President of the United States.

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Sunday, January 6, 2013

Movie Review: Snow White and the Huntsman

3.0 out of 5 stars Just enough to entertain, but a lot of wasted potential
Overall Snow White and the Huntsman is an average film, with good and bad mixed throughout.

Obviously the good has to start with Charlize Theron's Evil Queen Ravenna, which of all the "main" characters has the best character development and story arc for the entire film. The makeup, special effects, and cinematography of the film are outstanding as seen in the aging of Ravenna throughout the film as well as the majority of the fight scenes throughout the film.

The bad has to start with both Snow White and the Huntsman, which turned out to be a waste of the acting talents of Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth. Both title characters were lacking in terms of their individual character development and frankly their relationship to one another, especially the romantic one emphasized after the poison apple. Going hand-in-hand with this underdevelopment is the all-over-the-place plot this film's plot has along unexplainable details (like the Dark Forest being evil that opposes Ravenna instead of being in league with her; the inclusion of James as another love interest that has a better romantic set up than with the Huntsman; the weird mixture of pagan and Christian elements that at first seem opposed than working together than totally forgotten; why Ravenna starts aging at the particular moment she does; and etc, etc, etc).

You might be asking why I began this review by calling this film average when I seem to have more bad than good. Well this film has just enough to keep one entertained from beginning to end, however there was so much wasted potential that was either just missed or mishandled that if you start thinking about it then the film becomes a drag. If I had been able to give this 2 1/2 stars I would have, but I couldn't go far enough to give this film 2 stars.