Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Review: The Intelligent Investor

The Intelligent Investor The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Man, this book took a long time for me to finish! This happens every 4 years though; the US Presidential election cycle always consumes me no matter who is running.

Anyways, on to the book! So I decided to pick this one because I wanted something totally out of left-field, a thing completely out of my comfort zone, and it also came highly recommended on some random-website suggesting books that would improve one's self. I'm happy to report that I enjoyed it nonetheless.

In brief summary, The Intelligent Investor is about how to wisely invest in the stock market, written by a guy who survived The Great Depression and really learned a thing of two from the experience. Now, I'm not going to lie, about 25% of this book went too in-depth for me to absorb, but I caught that other 75% and I found it absolutely fascinating.

On the whole, this is one long book that can be summed as "the best path to wealth in investing is patience, diligence, and avoiding mistakes." Essentially, Graham makes a strong argument that the stock market is going up and down all the time with a general upward trend from now to the end of days, so all you have to do is invest across the board, sit quietly, and let the funds roll in. I'm simplifying, but that's the basic premise. According to Graham, the hardest part about being an investor is remembering you can't predict the future and that you should be investing, not gambling.

Sounds basic, right? And yet, The Intelligent Investor provides example after example after example of real life people in real life periods throughout history that made the gambler's error, and over the course of this book one begins to pick up the simple fact that common sense is not actually all that common. Oh, and interestingly enough, this book has quite the comical side, as the author throws around a fair bit of wit. Prepare to chuckle on occasion.

I'd highly recommend this book to anyone thinking about investing in the stock market, but I really can't think of any other reason to read this book. It's a highly specialized piece of reading material (not that I expected any less) but it absolutely owns its area of expertise. I swayed between 4 and 5 stars on this one, but I ended up going with the 4 because the book is a tad dated and can run a bit dry in the details (that 25% I mentioned earlier). A commentary section is needed after each chapter to clarify/clear up what has changed since Graham first wrote this book, and I enjoyed that commentary often times more than the actual chapter itself. For that reason, I went the 4-star route, since I'm not allowed to give 4.5 or anything in between. Still an amazing work though!

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Me Before You

I actually saw this movie about a week ago, but I've kind of been mulling around what to write in my review of it. After some light consideration, I've decided to give it the full 10/10.

And here's why.

So basically, this movie isn't my thing, and I fully knew that going into it. This is a romance movie about a charming young girl giving care to a handicapped rich yet disillusioned man. The themes lean strongly towards the sad-romance as opposed to comedy-romance, so I attempted to judge the movie from what it set out to do instead of whether or not I actually hung on the edge of my seat.

I'll just come out and say it that the main character, Lou Clark played by Emilia Clarke, absolutely 100% without-a-doubt MADE this movie work. Both from a writing perspective and acting perspective, Luo and Emilia are put front and center and made to carry the entire brunt of this movie's charm, and both nail it so well that they are fully responsible for the 10/10 rating I'm giving it.

The character Luo is ridiculously endearing. She's nothing but a gigantic ball of love, fun, and human emotion and empathy that one would have to literally hate life itself to not fall in love with her. This is a good thing as her opposite, Will Traynor, actually does hate his own life, so the task Luo has been set to do seems quite impossible to achieve for anyone but her. And Emilia Clarke! Damn, girl, like seriously. She was so good in this movie. She was given this role to play of this adorable human being that no one in their right mind could ever hate, and she freaking did it! My respect for her as an actress increased tenfold just watching her amazing work bringing this entire movie to life, and also the vast majority of the movie theater to tears.

Other great things about this movie is its ability to avoid making the cheesiness . . . well, cheesy. Luo/Emilia managed to make none of the cheesy parts cringe-worthy, and also the writing of the movie managed to avoid any terrible drops in logic or reason by any of the main or side characters. It's like all the terrible cliches that normally plague these types of movies decided to sit this one out in favor of just watching the romance between the two main characters unfold.

So yeah, 10/10, and it's well worth watching.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Dark Souls III: An Epic Conclusion

​So I'm a rabid fan of the Dark Souls games. There's no denying this fact, not from me or anyone else. I was hooked the moment I played Demons' Souls so long ago, bought a Playstation 3 ​specifically ​to play Dark Souls, pre-ordered Dark Souls II without a second thought, and ordered a steam-controller specifically to play Dark Souls III, which I pre-ordered as well and marked on my calendar the day it was coming out.

Basically, if you're looking for an unbiased source on this game's quality, you will not find it here. If you're wondering what a diehard fanboy thinks of this game, carry on.
Spoiler alert: I LOVE it. From the lore to the gameplay to the design, I'm as much in love with this game as I was with all the previous Souls games. I love the dark, gritty, decayed worlds of lost sanity that make it seem like your character is wandering through a masterwork art piece. I love the hidden lore that is difficult to pry apart and uncover, granting only glimpses into a deep pool of history, like we're some sort of Dark Age's knight glancing at the ruins of the Colosseum, wondering what beings could both create such wonders and yet not avoid their own demise. I love the brutal, relentless combat that makes you fight for every inch and punishes you mercilessly for stepping a fraction out of line. That adrenaline rush when you're invaded, that sense of accomplish when a boss is defeated, that ever so slow but sure grind out of the pit of hell you've been thrust into only to find the pit never ends as you've become one with the madness.
Essentially, Dark Souls III brings back all the best parts of the Dark Souls series and adds some flair of its own. Firstly, it's easier to invade in this game than in previous ones, and covenants aren't as binding as they once were. Players can switch freely between covenants and play for whichever team they want. DS3 also did a better job than DS2 in allowing players to level up their weapons and gear more freely, granting them more options on a single play-through. DS3 eliminated the Soul Memory concept from DS2, which has allowed for twinking to happen again, but it's not that bad in my opinion. I kind of embrace the challenge myself, and even look forward to making anti-twinks, so to speak. DS3 has also added the new feature of weapon arts, which is really a great concept that I've quickly fallen for.
But beyond that, it's pretty much the same game, and I'm so, so happy about that.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Review: The Black Company: The First Novel of 'The Chronicles of The Black Company'

The Black Company: The First Novel of 'The Chronicles of The Black Company' The Black Company: The First Novel of 'The Chronicles of The Black Company' by Glen Cook
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Black Company is a high, grim-dark fantasy that is almost but not quite in journal-entry form. It follows from the prospective of the company physician who tends to have more heart and soul than his comrades, and also an unhealthy dose of curiosity. I have to be honest. This book just wasn't written for me. I gave up about 2/3 of the way in because I just couldn't bring myself to care about what happened anymore. Let me try to explain in a way that hopefully won't dissuade you from giving this book a try.

What the Black Company does right: This book gets grim-dark well. Everything about this book feels gritty and harsh, and so morally grey that one can't tell the difference between good and bad to the point where it becomes simply "our side vs their side." This book also features some rather interesting god-like villains that are fascinating to watch and read about. Not to mention the plot. This book is straight up plot as you jump from event to event, leading down a long war of attrition being fought from within and without. It's almost "Game of Thrones light" if not for where it went wrong. Speaking of which . . .

What the Black Company got wrong (or at least for me): This book had zero finesse. I like lengthy descriptions, heavy world building, purple prose, and characters that are complex and draw me in. The Black Company pretty much falls flat on all of this as the story skips from event to event, hardly elaborating on anything in a style other than, "I went to the window. Outside I saw a mob. That's not good. I told Raven and we left." If that sort of thing doesn't bother you, than The Black Company is right up your alley but damn did it piss me off. This whole book was just a list of occurrences rather than an actual story in my opinion, and with that comes the inevitable problem I sometimes face: No character depth = no care about the characters. No care about the characters = no care about what happens to them.

And then I lose interest.

I still gave the book 2 stars because I'm certain there's a solid audience for this book out there somewhere. Not to mention I was enjoying myself for about the first half the book, so a 1 star just doesn't feel right. I should probably try Malazan.

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Review: The Forever War

The Forever War The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I hovered between 4 and 5 stars here, but I went with 5 because I really did find this book very interesting. Not gripping or particularly exciting, but certainly interesting and thought-provoking. Considering this was the goal of the book, to get you thinking, I decided to go with 5 stars.

So anyway, in case you didn't know, The Forever War is an allegory for the Vietnam War. Soldiers go to fight, come back to find a world changed forever, rinse and repeat. What I didn't expect but was pleasantly surprised to find is that this book features some incredibly hard science! And it uses that hard science not as world-building or "neat add-ins" but instead as true plot mechanics! For example, the entire reason the main character returns home from war to find the world forever changed is do to the time dilation of space travel. Like, really, so obvious and yet utterly genius! And that's just one example. I really do admire the author's erudition.

That said, there was some stumbling along the way. The main character doesn't have any real depth, and neither does anyone else for that matter. Everything was described in this sort of bland, passing way that didn't evoke much emotional response from me. As far as the story part goes, there wasn't much to hang my hat on. I read this book more as a nonfiction set in a fictional setting.

Which I think is actually the entire point of the novel. To read like a history book set in a scifi future, so hence the 5 stars. The Forever War nailed it.

And speaking of history, I think Egypt is calling me.

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Friday, April 8, 2016

Review: The Anatomical Shape of a Heart

The Anatomical Shape of a Heart The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm really not sure where to start with this review. I feel like there's so many points to hit on that I've re-written this intro 4-times. I think I'll just give up trying to organize the thoughts in my head and just jot them down in a disorderly fashion. My apologies.

This book, in short summary, is about two art-loving teenagers falling in love San Francisco. What sets this story apart from other romance novels (or at least those I've read thus far), is that the characters are capable of empathy and communication, and the main character isn't some girl with obvious mental instability who falls for a wolf in sheep's clothing. At first, this seems like a surefire winner, but unfortunately I was soon discover there are many more pitfalls for a book to fall into.

I feel like this novel really lacked any kind of conflict. The characters worked things out so easily, just by talking things through in a matter of a few lines, that any tension in the book was quickly dissolved. On one hand, it made the characters extremely likable, and in my opinion, real. On the other hand, it made for kind of a boring read. I really think this book could have been drastically improved by throwing in a few jerks to antagonize the main characters, a few people who couldn't be reasoned with and were just plain awful people. It kind of opened my eyes a bit, realizing that a true-to-life romance probably isn't that exciting from the outside looking in unless it has a few stumbles along the way.

That said, there were plenty of things I did like about this book. Besides the interesting characters, there was also realistic portrayals of sex, interesting dialogue and descriptions, multiple sub-plots, and actually a decent storytelling ability, so hence the 3 stars. I couldn't bring myself to give it 4 though, because truthfully, it felt like a 3-star read. I never got disgusted and threw the book away, yet I never got enthralled and just couldn't put it down.

Part of me thinks this is a fault of my tastes. I knew going into this that I've never really cared for romance. I prefer to read about things I just can't go out and do, like throw fireballs from my hands or ride a spaceship. If I want romance, I'll take my wife out to dinner and experience something real. Perhaps this book is actually just amazing, and but I'm just not it's target audience. I have yet to read a romance story I truly enjoy outside of fantasy book, which makes me wonder what it is I'm actually looking for here.

Overall, I think this book actually taught me a lot as a writer. A story can have a great setting, characters, etc etc etc, but without a solid plot of tension and intrigue, that story just isn't going to do too well.

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