Neanderthal Opens The Door To The Universe by: Preston Norton

Cliff “Neanderthal” Hubbard is not your typical high schooler. Neither is Happy Valley High School. Or his family. Standing tall at 6’6″ and weighing 250 pounds, Cliff finds it hard to be appreciated. Or loved. Lots of people tease him at school. He doesn’t have any friends, his family is broken, and he has enemies. Like Aaron Zimmerman.

Aaron Zimmerman is everything Cliff is not. He’s cool and the star quarterback. All the girls are out for him and he has a lot of friends. He’s got a decent family and he used to have a girlfriend. Cliff and Aaron are nothing alike; they’re on opposite sides of the fence, so it’s kind of impossible to be friends. Especially if Aaron’s friends flip Cliff off and be rude. But then the unthinkable happens.

Aaron has a near-death experience. (But I can’t tell you how.) And when he comes back, he’s changed. He claims that God appeared to him and told him Happy Valley sucks. Then Aaron says that God gave him a list to make Happy Valley suck less. And only Cliff can help him. Only Cliff. The opposite of Aaron. Thus begins the ups and downs of the adventure of completing the list. But of course, there are many downfalls and problems concerning and not concerning the list like Esther and the JT’s. And Shane. And Cliff’s abusive dad. But Cliff does get something he likes. Which I think was sweet.

This book was really nice and I laughed a lot. There are also sad parts in the book. So if you want to laugh and cry for a long period of time, this book is just for you! I loved this book so much that when I finished it, there was a 1 minute pause before I said, “This is my new favorite book for many reasons.” It gave me so much to think about and it made me feel better for some odd but awesome reason. I definitely recommend this book to everyone who is okay with a lot of cursing and a few kissing scenes. Other than that, the book is awesome! I rate this book a 12/10 because it’s just that good.

AJR: Neotheater Album Review

Cover of album Neotheater by AJR

AJR is an indie pop band whose claim to fame was their 2013 single “I’m Ready”. “The Click” came out in 2017 and now, two years and several critic beat downs later, their new album “Neotheater” is out. So, how do I feel about the album? Let’s review “Neotheater” by AJR.

Let’s start with saying I am not very fond of this band. The songs I heard from “The Click” were cliched and showcased some very poor lyrics.

Sadly, this album has the same issues I have with some songs off “The Click”.

Before I go any further, if you like AJR, that’s totally fine.

Now, a song by song review:

“Next Up Forever”: Repetitive and cringe-worthy. One of the many low points of the album. 2/10

“Birthday Party”: This song isn’t that bad. Its got a solid chorus and the lyrics aren’t aggressively nonsensical. 6/10

“100 Bad Days”: Nonsensical lyrics, horrendous chorus, mediocre singing, all with a little dollop of cringe on top. Bad Song Sundae! 2/10

”Don’t Throw Out My Legos”: A giant mess of weird noises and bad songwriting. 2/10

“Break My Face”: Bad lyrics and lots of cliches aspects. More of the same. 2/10

“Turning Out Part 2”: This song actually sounds pretty decent overall. 7/10

“The Entertainment’s Here”: Mediocre lyrics with decent singing. 5/10

”Karma”: This song sounds very whiny and fake deep. 2/10

”Beats”: Overused meaning with okay singing and beat. 4/10

“Wow, I’m Not Crazy”: Obnoxious and bland. 2/10

”Dear Winter”: A refreshing break from the overbloated pop this album is loaded with. 7/10

“Finale “Can’t Wait To See What You Do Next”: The album ends with a whimper here. 3/10

The lyrics here are just plain bad in my opinion, like the verse on “Don’t Throw Out My LEGOs” where the lead singer says “Don’t throw out my LEGO’s, what if I can’t let go?” To me, that sounds forced, like the trio slapped that on the chorus without a care in the world.

The album is also bland, showing nothing new for the indie pop genre. AJR doesn’t seem to get that overbloated and boring doesn’t equal good. I found myself wanting to stop listening frequently during my listening session due to just how boring it is.

It’s also worth mentioning the singing is just okay.

Verdict: AJR is personally one of my least favorite bands of all time, and this album proves it. 3/10

This is starwarsguy124, signing out.

Horror Story #5

Image of a ghost in a darkened hallway
Image by ariadne-a-mazed from Pixabay

Today I went to my friend’s house for a sleepover and a very odd thing occurred. After the devouring of cake and the violent tearing of presents it was almost ready for bed.

“Hey,” my friend Josie said, “Do you want to watch this horror movie called The Ring?”

I smiled, “Is that a romantic comedy?”

She laughed almost manically and replied, “Sure.”

Three minutes into the movie I knew that this was not a romantic comedy, and was on the edge of my sleeping bag the entire length of it. I sighed a breath of relief the instance the ending credits started to roll and that marked our bedtime.

Josie got up from her bed and turned off the lights. “Goodnight,” she said softly.

I replied the same and closed my eyes to rest until morning.

3:00 A.M…

I woke up quickly to the sound of a door creaking open slowly. As the doorway became more visible, I noticed an old woman standing there. In complete horror, I saw her glide over to Josie’s bed. She was floating just above the ground but low enough that her dark purple cloak would drag on the ground. She looked into the sleeping eyes of Josie and kissed her on the cheek. I stared at the old lady and quickly realized that it was her grandmother from the family photos. I closed my eyes in relief that I was probably imagining her floating. I opened my eyes to reveal the old lady was gone.

9:00 A.M…

“Hey, Cheryl, wake up,” she said.

As the image of Josie grew clearer, I could see tear drop flowing down her cheeks.

“What’s wrong?” I asked her politely.

“It’s my grandmother,” she said, “she died yesterday night in her home.”

I froze and my heart started beating rapidly.

“What time did she die,” I replied.

“I think around 2:59 in the morning.”

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate Dicamillo

Cover of Because of Winn Dixie

Opal Buloni and her preacher dad move to little ol’ Naomi, Florida from little ol’ Watley, Florida. Even though it’s a new place, ten-year-old Opal isn’t digging it. She misses her friends, her home, and her mother who left her when she was a little girl. Life is pretty rotten.

Enter Winn-Dixie, a mangy stray dog that Opal befriends as he ransacks a grocery store.The lovable mutt falls in love with Opal and the preacher, they fall in love with him, and voila! Opal’s summer suddenly takes a turn for the better.

Thanks to Winn-Dixie’s easygoing nature, he manages to introduce Opal to new friends in Naomi — the little old librarian, Miss Franny; the alleged witch, Gloria Dump, and the shy pet store worker, Otis. Opal spends each day swapping stories with these new friends, despite taunts from the neighborhood bully patrol.

As Opal’s brain gnaws on the stories, she learns that, like Bertie Botts Beans, what you see ain’t always what you get. She also aches for the loss of her mother, wishing she could have story time with her.

Things go on like this for a while, and then Opal and Gloria Dump plan a shindig. Opal invites everyone, including the bully patrol. Everything is going swimmingly until a storm comes and poof! freaks out Winn-Dixie, who is ridiculously afraid of thunderstorms. Poof again! Winn-Dixie disappears.

Opal and her dad search and search, coming up with nada. Then, as her dad tries to convince her to give up, Opal has a mother of a meltdown. Literally. It’s about her mother (you know, the whole “abandonment” thing). She and the preacher have a heart-to-heart. Opal realizes that her mom isn’t coming back, but she has a father who loves her, friends who love her, potential friends to love her, and she’ll be okay.

Plus, Winn-Dixie was hiding under the bed at the party the whole time. So Opal still has a mangy dog that loves her, too. But it’s not just that. She can love each and every one of them in return, for as long as they are in her life. It’s a happy, happy day in Opal’s world. Life lessons learned; warm fuzzies felt.

Aladdin Movie Review

Movie poster from Aladdin

This movie starts off on a boat, with four people.  A man starts singing and tells of Arabian Nights. This movie, especially the songs from the old movie, gave me chills. It was good. It was definitely different from the original movie, but I still think it was the same, if not better.

            As I said, it starts off on a boat, it then switches to Aladdin (Mena Massoud), who is in the market place. He meets Jasmine (Naomi Scott) and they go on an adventure. Jasmine has to eventually return to the castle, where Aladdin later meets her. After being captured and trapped in the Cave of Wonders, he finds the Genie (Will Smith). After they escape, and Aladdin wishes to become a prince, they make their grand entrance into the city of Agrabah.

            There is then a festival, where Aladdin tries, in vain, to talk to Jasmine, after a dance number, they all disband. Afterwards, Aladdin comes for a MAGIC CARPET RIDE (A WHOLE NEW WORLDDDDD, A NEW FANTASTIC POINT OF VIEW) They stare at each other. Yay!

            Then Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) comes in and figures out that Aladdin is a fake. He then proceeds to push him off a building. Once he manages to get out, meanwhile demolishing the second of his 3 wishes, he goes and puts a stop to Jafar’s plans in taking over the kingdom. Once they have stopped him, Aladdin leaves the palace, Jafar steals his lamp and gets the Genie.

            When Jafar has successfully become powerful and a sultan, he traps the Sultan, sends Jasmine for death, and Aladdin to a very cold area (the end of the Earth apparently). Jasmine then comes in and sings her new song. She defeats Jafar and traps him in a lamp instead. Aladdin then comes back, and all is good (I won’t spoil the end).

            I really enjoyed this movie overall.  It had much more of the Arabian type culture that the original animated movie somewhat lacked. It also included Jasmine being much more independent, even wanting to be sultan. They introduced some new songs, one of which is called “Speechless”, this song is sung by Jasmine and is about her not being quieted just because she was a female. It was quite inspirational and showed you can do what you want, no matter what you are (cheesy, I know, but it is true).

            I would definitely recommend going to see this movie, or if it is already out, go and watch it that way, or just…. whatever way you can. It was really good, I can confirm that.

                        I would rate this movie 4.5/5 stars.

The Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

Cover of The Tell Tale Heart

“The Tell-Tale Heart” is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe first published in 1843. It follows an unnamed narrator who insists on his sanity after murdering an old man with a “vulture eye”. The murder is carefully calculated, and the murderer hides the body by cutting it into pieces and hiding it under the floorboards. Ultimately the narrator’s guilt manifests itself in the hallucination that the man’s heart is still beating under the floorboards.

It is unclear what relationship, if any, the old man and his murderer share. It has been suggested that the old man is a father figure or, perhaps, that his vulture eye represents some sort of veiled secret. The ambiguity and lack of details about the two main characters stand in stark contrast to the specific plot details leading up to the murder.

The story overall displays the effects of guilt on a man and how it drove him into a mad man. This story is great if you are looking for a short interesting read on a short car ride.


Sun rising over grass with dew
Image by fancycrave1 from Pixabay

(This is four haikus in one poem.)

the wet sparkling dew

it is cold and clear and crisp

on the bright green grass

the sun starts to rise

up above the golden trees

a chilly breeze blows

the sky is silver

and mist floats above the ground

the world is so calm

so early in the morning

we venture into the woods

so early in the morning

The Thief Lord, by Cornelia Funke

Cover of The Thief Lord

From the books I have read that have been written by Cornelia Funke, The Thief Lord has set my standards of a good book pretty high. Since when could a merry-go-round change your age? Since when did an evil uncle and aunt make their nephews run away in the dead of night?

The book, which is based in the magical city of Venice, Italy, has its own secrets down every alley and up every staircase. Of course, any story is boring without any good characters and a plot so delightful, nobody would be able to put it down, so that is where Prosper and Boniface (Bo) come in with their gang including Hornet, Riccio, Scipio, also known as the Thief Lord, and Mosca. All are orphans, except Prosper and Bo. They are runaways from their evil Aunt Esther and Uncle Max Hartlieb.

Throughout their stay with the gang, they meet a detective who is hired to capture them who instead helps them, a secret that’s been kept from them for a long time, and recover a merry-go-round that turns time around. They have to keep friendship alive, trust one another, and face their fears all in one big adventure! Only then will they find a secret hidden within all the others.

Overall, this book was highly enjoyable. It was a great read, and I could not put down the book until the very last page. I don’t believe there was a part I did not like. Some parts of the book were sad and some were confusing. However, all the parts in the book were knitted well together which made for a terrific story in the magical world of Venice, Italy. I would definitely recommend it, especially for those who love reading about fantasy and magic. This was also about family and friendship all the way. Anyone who likes Harry Potter would find this enjoyable and Wings of Fire fans would like this book, too.

I rate this book a 9/10.

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by AVI

Cover of The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

With the words, “Not every thirteen-year-old girl is accused of murder, brought to trial, and found guilty”, Charlotte’s tale begins.  Charlotte swears to tell us the truth of her voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in 1832 in all its detail and, as a narrator, she does not disappoint.  Set in an age where propriety was the main concern, Charlotte is the lone female passenger on a ship bound for America.  To complicate matters further, the ship’s captain is losing his mind and his descent into madness is heightened in intensity by the plotting of his mutinous crew.

More than that, however, the story is about Charlotte herself.  She grows from the first pages of the book from a naive girl into a young woman who questions what she knows is not right.  There are few literary heroines today who demonstrate the same amount of self-awareness, candor, and moral compass that Charlotte does. She learns that, ultimately, your choices in life are what define you, not your circumstances.

This book is not so much made for teens as it is for younger kids like 5th or 6th grade. But the number of times I have read this book since 5th grade shows how it can attract any audience.

Wicked Saints, by Emily A. Duncan

Cover of Wicked Saints novel

Wicked Saints, written by Emily A. Duncan, is an action-packed fantasy filled with love and betrayal. It follows our main character Nadya, a cleric from Kalyazin who can speak to the gods, while she works to save her people. She meets Malachiasz, a blood mage from the rival kingdom Tranavia, who she works with to end the war. The book also follows Serefin, the crown prince, who is just trying to figure things out with his kingdom while trying not to die by the hands of his father. I would highly recommend this book so beware of spoilers down below.

The magic system in this book is refreshingly unique. Nadya herself has powers gifted to her by the gods and she speaks with them to get her power. The mysteries of her magic are explored throughout the book and it’s very intriguing. The Tranavians use a power called blood magic, which Nadya continuously calls heresy. They must use their blood to activate spells they draw into their spell books.

The plot of the book was similar to other young adult fantasy books: save the kingdom and end a war. What differs is that there is a clash in religion. While Nadya and her people believe in the gods and are very religious, the Tranavians seem to be atheists. The battle between the two opposing belief systems becomes a real conflict that can be shown in today’s society to some extent. It also leaves the reader in a peculiar position of not knowing which side to be on and wondering who they should really be rooting for.

The romance was very well done and heartbreaking. The rivalry between the two’s beliefs create the “forbidden romance” and adds to the confusion Nadya feels as she navigates her journey. The character development was amazing. Each had their own personality that was distinguishable from the others, which you don’t always find in young adult books. They all have internal struggles that could be relatable to some people. Serefin is the most relatable character and his personality is unlike others I’ve seen, which is refreshing and makes him a lovable character. The development for Nadya was smooth and believable, although the romance did move quickly at the beginning, so it could have used some more pages and adventures to flesh it out. Malachiasz was a confusing character towards the end of the book. As a perpetual liar, it was hard to distinguish what was real and what wasn’t, which could have been the author’s choice, but it left me a little frustrated.

The two of the side characters felt a little underdeveloped and sort of didn’t need to be there, so hopefully, Duncan gives them a chance to shine in future books. There was plenty of diversity in the book that didn’t feel forced, which will make it easier for all readers to feel connected to the book in some way.

The book is very dark and the characters have some morally grey areas that they have to cross when dealing with religion, so I would recommend this book to older teenagers if those topics bother you.

I would rate Wicked Saints 9/10 dragons for its unique story and heartbreaking romance.