Back in the early 2000s, Reese Witherspoon was the go-to girl-next-door. She was adorable sweetness wrapped in a fun, lovable piñata of joy. Her rise to fame was quick, beginning in the late nineties and culminating in 2001 with her breakout film, Legally Blonde. For several years more years, she starred in a number of fun, lightweight romantic comedies with a few dramatic parts thrown in for good measure. But as fame tends to do when actors grow older — and new rising starlets started to take roles she normally would have secured — Witherspoon fell off the blockbuster map for several years, occasionally appearing in mediocre Hollywood tripe or small indie films where she could show off her Oscar-worthy talents.
As she continued to become yesterday’s news in Hollywood’s eyes, many probably forgot how lovely she is when she’s allowed to blossom with the right material. Enter Nancy Meyers, who also found some great success in the early twenty-first century as a writer, director and producer with romantic dramedies. Now, with the help of her daughter, Hallie Meyers-Shyer, who wrote and directed Home Again, the two romantic stalwarts have teamed to bring together a fun, lighthearted romantic comedy that does everything it’s supposed to do while never taking itself too seriously. Read Full Review
Science fiction has always been a vehicle for giving a twist to other genres. Whether it’s fantasy, drama, comedy, action or horror, science fiction has elevated these genres into a different realm by infusing aliens, spaceships, advanced and future technology, and time travel into those basic genres. In other words, if you to remove the “science-fiction” element, you’d still have a story to tell. When you’ve developed strong, relateable characters, created an intriguing plot and written smooth prose that flow across the page like butter across popcorn, you become invested enough to forget you’ve been transported to a different world and accept the weird things that come along with it. With her book Transmuted, Robin Praytor does just that – transports you to a world beyond our galaxy but keeps makes it fun enough to keep it grounded in a bizarre alt-reality.
Labeled as a sci-fi mystery, Transmuted takes place in the year 2519 on Dark Landing, a space station built upon an asteroid in the Zeta Quadrant. Due to the ability to travel through the vastness of space via wormholes, it’s not clear where Zeta Quadrant is, but it’s an outpost for traders from every galaxy to hang. The chief security officer of Dark Landing is Drew Cutter, a somewhat disgruntled man who seems to be fed up with everything around him, but still does his job with fierce determination — and a laxness for those he knows get in trouble but aren’t harmful to anyone. He runs the show with all the decorum he can muster and keeps his team, including Mattie, Curtis and Doc, in check and up-to-date on everything happening under his watch.
One day, there’s a massive explosion inside one of the docking bays. Drew and his team are on it, but there are dozens of questions, the most important of which is who planted the bomb and why. At the same time, Drew meets a wayward vagrant who happens to be an attractive young lady in disguise. She claims to be Letty, the daughter of a very important person in the intergalactic community who owns the company that basically built the systems the universe uses across its outposts as well as the security teams that run them. Letty tells Drew she was sent her to Dark Landing because Drew was the only person her father said she could trust. Unable to reciprocate that trust, he locks her up until he discovers some news that requires her help in sorting out.
The relationship between Letty and Drew is strong from their first meeting to the last page. Robin sets up a brother/sister relationship that stems on incest but clearly isn’t, as their is a soft spark regardless of how both ignore and/or refuse to acknowledge it. I think Robin may go on a little too much and harp on a little too often, though, about how Drew finds Letty obsessively attractive. After the first ten times, it’s like, all right, we get it; he’s infatuated with her. At the same time, this bombardment of fixation shows just how invested he is in her and plays well toward the end of the book, even when it starts to speed up a little too much and begins to spray the book with ex machina after ex machina to wrap things up.
It comes after Drew and Letty figure out what’s happening, and have basically solved the mystery, one which I did find pretty compelling, yet not complete… it’s as if Robin sort of gave up on her own mystery in order to keep the book from getting too long. She sets up several things three quarters of the way through that are never developed the way they could have been, and by the end, these developments sort of just dissolve away due to reasons that come off a little too easy and superficial. T the same time, the speed of the the last few chapters kept me from getting super involved, wherein the emotions that should have been brought out in us as readers are subdued because the stakes don’t seem as high as they should.
However, because of the interactions of the characters and the way Robin has developed them throughout the book, this quickened pace can be in a way forgiven. I like how each of the relationships grows and evolves, bridging the events with the heart of the book, which is the mystery. Robin does a good job at pacing the reveal of the answers, sprinkling them about at just the right times and just the right moments to keep us interested in the mystery itself and what’s happening and why. Because of this, the book moves at a pretty quick clip and does exactly what science fiction should do— make you forget that hooker monks, nanobots, wormholes and lifeless alien armada’s are at the core of a mystery surrounded by plenty of fun, intense action.
My Grade: A
Robin got into writing as a way to distract herself from the barrage of deadlines and to-do lists of her corporate life creating training materials and drafting legal documents. These stories demanded to be written, and like any good writer, she headed the call. Born in Michigan, Robin now lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her patient (and long-suffering) husband, and is in the process of completing her second novel.
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If you are an independent author and would like your book reviewed, let me know in the comments section with a link to where I can purchase the book. If I find it intriguing, and it’s something I think I’d like, I will purchase a copy and add it to my reading list. I will be doing one independent book review per month, so not all requests will be accepted.
The one thing animation studios must do in order to give their characters life is create emotion within the eyes of those characters. It’s not easy to do; even some real-life actors are incapable of producing any type of energy within their facial features. But they say the eyes are the window to the soul, and if you aren’t able to capture that essence, audiences are unable to connect with the character because they feel fake. And giving them a strong voice doesn’t help if their eyes feel like glass, or the features in their face don’t allow for strong, true emotion. This is the main problem with Leap!, a new animated film distributed by The Weinstein Company — no matter how fun the movie may be, it grows bland because the characters all feel too plastic. Read Full Review
If they were to accurately title The Hitman’s Bodyguard, it would actually be called The Hitman and His Bodyguard. By making the title possessive, as they do, you would assume the focus of the film would be on bodyguard as opposed to the hitman, and though the bodyguard does have the stronger character arc, director Patrick Hughes tends to steer focus away from Ryan Reynolds’ Michael Bryce (aka the bodyguard) and onto Samuel L. Jackson’s Darius Kincaid (aka the hitman). It makes sense; Kincaid is the funner character, and this is a buddy action comedy reminiscent of eighties action comedies (a little Lethal Weapon meets Midnight Run), so by keeping the two characters equals in the title would have given a better sense of the film from the get-go. Read Full Review
When I started this writing journey, I was naive to the complexities of it all. I guess in it’s most basic state, writing is just me and the words on the screen or paper. It’s when I started sharing those words that things changed. Here are ten things I learned since I started (in no […]
I am part of the problem. What problem? The overabundance of sequels, prequels, retreads, reboots, spinoffs and the Hollywood assembly line. I wrote a speech for a class in college denouncing sequels and their brethren, claiming we should get rid of them all but confessing my own culpability in keeping them alive by continuing to feed the beast with the purchasing of tickets. I can hide under the guise of being a movie critic, but unlike professional critics, I don’t get paid to see every movie that’s released, which means every choice I make when it comes to movies is of my own volition. At the same time, you never know when you’ll find a real gem of a film. There are plenty of sequels that build on the original story, add to the lore and give a sense of closure in some areas — sequels that give us more than we thought we wanted. On the flip side, there are films like The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature, a sequel to a forgettable throw-away animated film that does nothing to enhance anything but the studio’s bottom line. Read Full Review
While I was reading Shakyra Dunn’s novelette, First Words: Final Lesson, I had no idea it was a prequel to a much larger world that has yet to be written. There is a small note in the book’s description that it sets the stage for a larger event, but it’s not as clear as it could be, so until I got to the very end and was given a taste of the actual first book in the forthcoming series (titled “The Final Lesson”), I was under the impression this was just the first book in a new series, when in actuality all it’s meant to do is showcase a few key pieces of information that should help in your enjoyment of the actual first book. With that said, the following review is on my initial read while under the impression that it was a complete novel that as opposed to a simple compendium setting up what’s to come. Read Full Review
Ever since Stephen King published Carrie in 1974, movie studios and producers have been clamoring to adapt his work to the big screen (the first remake of Carrie being in 1976), making King one of the most adapted authors of all time. But with this gluttony of films, it’s inevitable that there would be just as many duds as there are masterpieces. For every Carrie, Misery, Stand By Me, or Shawshank Redemption, there’s a Needful Things, Maximum Overdrive, Dreamcatcher and Thinner. Now, with two adaptations coming out in consecutive months (and two television series based on his work currently on the air), we’re getting to see that dichotomy unfold on a compressed timeline. Previews for the newest adaptation of It look incredible, so it’s only fitting that The Dark Tower fails to live up to King’s sprawling opus. Read Full Review
There’s a lot to like about Atomic Blonde: James McAvoy draws you in with every wry smirk; Charlize Theron is magnetic as ever; and the action sequences blow away the competition. One scene in particular that bridges the second act into the third is a remarkable cinematic achievement. Filmed in one fluid uncut shot that lasts for at least ten minutes, the scene gets almost everything right, from the pace to the effects, adding in some brutal stunts and realism for good measure. By the end of this crazy ballet, Lorraine Broughton (Theron) is bruised, bloody, but most importantly (and unlike any action movie has ever done to portray their hero), winded and exhausted. It’s a scene that’s worth the price of admission. Unfortunately, that’s all this movie has going for it. Read Full Review
Over the last couple of decades, Christopher Nolan has become one of the most unique directors in the industry. As aging stalwarts like Steven Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis, and Ron Howard have shown some creative fatigue, so-to-speak, Nolan’s river of inventiveness continues to flow through original stories heightened by ingenuity, incredible acting and mind-bending ideas that never fail to capture your imagination. Having Nolan’s name on a film all but guarantees quality — there’s a high level of excitement in seeing what’s next. So you can understand how much it pains me to say that with Dunkirk, Nolan’s new World War II drama, Nolan seems to have finally shown some cracks in his prolific armor. Read Full Review