Predestined Existence


You never know where your life will take you within the world you know, or those you have yet to know. Kurt Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan depicts the far-flung life and experiences of one man.

Malachi Constant is an incredibly wealthy man who learns his life’s rough trajectory after meeting with another wealthy man, Winston Rumfoord, who periodically materializes on different planets with his dog and prophesied Constant’s life and its intertwining with that of Mrs. Rumfoord, Beatrice. Traveling from Earth to Mars, partaking in their army, and making his way to Jupiter’s moon Titan, Constant, also known as Unk after his Martian days, pieces together parts of his life after having had his mind repeatedly wiped while in the Martian forces.

In a relatively episodic manner that dislodges you just when you get into a comfortable rhythm and think you know what’s coming next, the unraveling of Constant’s life and the mysteries contained therein are portrayed as distinct entities of a more cohesive whole. Dabbling in matters political, financial, religious, and scientific, the narrative presents, oftentimes outlandish, thoughts and events to foster further contemplation. Using wry humor in situations and dialogue, there is a levity paired with the more solemn topics sprinkled throughout the text, providing a brief reprieve from weighty considerations.

Overall, I’d give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars.


Growing from Tragedy


The unexpected death of a loved one can upset your world and in The Truth About Tomorrow by Pamela Harju the death of three young adults’ parents shocks them into adulthood.

Kyle French survived the car crash that killed his parents, leaving him a bit battered and processing his emotions toward the entire situation. As his elder sister Cassie comes home to help manage the necessary arrangements, the dynamic between twenty year old Kyle and his newly eighteen year old sister is affected by the pseudo-mom presence of Cassie, who isn’t as closely attuned to their lives being five years older than Kyle and living in London. As each of the children deal with the grief of losing their parents and cope with their new situation, they gradually develop and grow into more fully realized adults from the new experiences the unfortunate accident afforded them.

Emotionally heavy, the narrative rather intricately explores how people, particularly young, headstrong people, deal with grieving and moving on from the untimely demise of a parent. The characters were well-realized and developed, with flaws that allowed them to learn and grow as people. Poignant moments were spread throughout the text as Kyle tried to go about his life as normal and realized how his parents were deeply involved in particular actions, such as Christmas shopping, which Kyle did with his father and allowed them to bond. I found it strange that the clairvoyant aspect to Kyle’s mother that was highlighted in the book’s synopsis wasn’t as significant to the narrative as its presence in the synopsis would indicate it would be, but instead added some fuel late in the game for evoking guilt and deeper contemplation of the accident.

Overall, I’d give it a 4 out of 5 stars.

Treading in Teenage Turbulence


Water offers those suspended in it momentary freedom from their problems. In Caterpillars Can’t Swim by Liane Shaw, two boys are unexpectedly brought together by  their respective relationships with the water.

When Ryan spots someone in a yellow skirt enter the river and not resurface, his swimming and lifesaving training kicks in. Leaving his wheelchair behind, he quickly jumps into the water to save the person, not realizing that it’s his classmate Jack until they’re both safe on shore. As Ryan reconciles what he saw with what he believes he should tell the police, he and Jack start spending more time together, forming a tenuous friendship that deepens when Jack confides in Ryan that he’s gay. During a trip to a local Comic Con, Ryan, his best friend and fellow swim team member Cody, and Jack gain a deeper understanding about one another than the stereotypes thrust upon them while seeing first hand that there’s more possible in life than what they experience in their hometown, leading them to test their boundaries in new ways.

Exploring differences in perceptions and attitudes of small town society through one character being gay and another being wheelchair bound, the narrative demonstrates various levels of acceptance in being who you are while still addressing and highlighting the stigma and pressure that exists from both peers and family. While the narrative does address some important issues, there’s a lack of substantial development to the characters and the situation the readers are exposed to that leaves it feeling a little stilted; throughout the text, Ryan comments on how things he did seemed like what he’s seen in movies, making it seem as if the text is aware of its clichéd nature, but it persisted in this vein with no attempt to divert itself to something different. Despite the story as a whole being fairly solid and providing a much needed awareness of the issues tackled, the ending was highly dramatic and too abrupt to have as a conclusion as too much was left unanswered.

Overall, I’d give it a 3 out of 5 stars.

Students of Seduction


Temptation can lead you to behave in a manner that is irrational, out of character, and tarnishes your reputation. Indecent by Corinne Sullivan follows one teacher-in-training’s struggle with a tantalizing and indecorous situation.

Imogene Abney has long been enamored by the world surrounding prep schools and when she is hired as a teaching apprentice at the all-boy’s prep school Vandenberg she finally has an opportunity to indulge her life-long fantasy. With little experience with boys herself, twenty-two year old Imogene quickly succumbs to the charming attention of a fourth year student Adam Kipling, known as Kip. As he pursues her and she returns his attention, a dangerous affair begins between them, escalating until the inevitable plummet from the high of attempting the forbidden that affects their futures in an unequal manner.

Well-written, this narrative captivates with the depiction of an illicit affair between a student and a young teacher and takes you along for the turbulent ride. Exploring issues of gender and class, the story demonstrates perspectives on relationships that develop between various people, as well as the views on victimhood associated with particular social combinations, which illustrates society’s thoughts on student/teacher relationships. While my attention was consumed by the affair and I appreciated the flawed characters presented in both Imogene and Kip, I was unsettled by many of Imogene’s actions and attitudes toward Kip; however, her behavior highlighted her own relative immaturity and inexperience, which, while no excuse, did further develop her pitiable character.

Overall, I’d give it a 4 out of 5 stars.

Blinded from Brutality


Sometimes you need a fresh start. In The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh, one remote Texas town allows certain criminals to start a new chapter in their lives while losing the memory of what they’ve done that permitted them to move there.

Caesura, Texas, known locally as The Blinds houses a small population of folks, far removed from any other outpost of civilization, with a new name, formulated from movie stars and vice presidents, and the problematic portion of their memories erased. After eight relatively quiet years, a quick succession of deaths occur: a suicide by gunshot and a gunshot-to-the-back-of-the-head murder. Sheriff Calvin Cooper has his work cut out for him to keep the citizens from becoming too riled up, while also obscuring his own secrets. As Cooper tries to keep his role in the escalating situation obscured from his deputy’s probing questions and search for answers, he’s also digging deeper into the truth behind The Blinds in order to save the only woman in town with a child and help them escape a deadly fate.

With an intriguing and unique premise and concept, the narrative unfolds with a moderately slow burn, mirroring the developing tension between townspeople, making for an enjoyable read. While providing information and glimpses behind the scenes at a reasonable pace to maintain some mystery behind the various actions taken, there were moments in the text where the momentum of the narrative dips significantly to offer some character exposition, which felt strange as the characters only have inklings of their pasts and readers are in the memory haze with the characters.

Overall, I’d give it a 4 out of 5 stars.

Diary of Delightful Diversion

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Video games may have a reputation, whether positive or negative, but they unarguably have an immense impact on our culture, not to mention our economy. Jonathan Hennessey and Jack McGowan explore and depict the history of video games, and the technological advancements that made them possible, in The Comic Book Story of Video Games: The Incredible History of the Electronic Gaming Revolution. 

Using the medium of a comic book to present the facts of what could have otherwise been a rather dry subject, especially with the glut of information presented, this book works to engage readers by placing the trajectory of video games in context with the aid of visual representations. The art was beautiful and helped to easily convey the points being made in each chapter, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the various familiar game characters sprinkled throughout the panels as the history of how they came to exist was explained. I found it interesting that at times an acronym would be used and the acronym would be explained later…as in pages later, which is a problem if you aren’t already familiar with the jargon of video games. Though this is primarily a chronological depiction of events, there is some jumping through time that happens in the book, particularly when it comes to specific people or inventions, which didn’t quite fit with the flow of the rest of the book.

Overall, I’d give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars.