Project Hail Mary

Rocky and Ryland by Laney

Quick question to ponder: What happens when our sun starts to dim? And that solar dimming is being caused by material, aptly named Astrophage, literally sucking the life out of it? And it’s happening at such a rate, Earth will find itself in an ice age and all the fun disaster that comes with it in less than two decades? What do we do? We can’t even get people to wear masks during a pandemic so this is a loaded question. But for the purposes of this post the answer is Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir.

Ryland Grace, a molecular biologist/junior high school teacher turned astronaut is our main protagonist. The story swaps from everything leading up to the launch of Project Hail Mary, to Grace’s experiences in a spacecraft charged with finding a solution to the impending disaster by traveling to a solar system unaffected by the Astrophage. Without giving anything else away, he makes amazing discoveries that make this into an adventure worth reading.

My recommendation is to listen to the audiobook. There is a lot of technical “stuff” that can seem overwhelming to understand if science fiction isn’t your thing. And even if it is your thing, voice actor Ray Porter does a great job narrating the confusing or mind numbing portions to help you grasp the science behind a decision made in Project Hail Mary.

I’d also say the reader should be prepared to understand that Ryland Grace is far from what any person could measure up to. He’s a genius, scientist, mechanic, teacher, linguist, and…everything else? His versatility allows the story move forward, but pushes the boundaries of what could be considered realistic. The things Ryland figures out would take a normal, even a genius human being, months or even years to figure out. That said, this was a fun book to get into.

One last thing: Ryland may be our hero, but the real star of the show is Rocky. I’ll say nothing more.

Rating: 4/5 Stars ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Dream Cast 🍿 🎥 :

Ryan Gosling is already attached to the movie for the role of Ryland Grace. I think he’s a great choice. I also thought Riz Ahmed would be a perfect.

Rocky: Ray Porter was a perfect Rocky

Eva Stratt: Tilda Swinton

Inspired by ‘A Million Things’ by Emily Spurr

I’ll be blunt. A Million Things by Emily Spurr will break your heart. But know the following: even as you lie on your kitchen floor shattered and ugly crying into a dish towel after reading this remarkable book, you will be better for it. We all need a reminder that we aren’t alone, even if we are lonely. To know that animals are just like any other family member worthy of respect and care, that parents can hurt and leave us, and that judging neighbors harshly can prevent us from forming the most meaningful of relationships.

I waited for this to come out on Audible because I was hesitant to read it, and knew I’d stop picking it up if I had a hard copy. I knew it would hit too close to home. Mentally ill mom. Check. Becoming an adult when you aren’t even a teenager yet. Check. Being left alone way too young. Check. Having your closest family member be a pet. Check. Based on those similarities alone, I didn’t think I could get through this given the heavy subject matter. But I found it was actually good for me to read something that shows the complicated upbringing of a girl, because I haven’t seen much of that or felt any connection with a female protagonist in this way. And y’all know I read a lot. We have so many coming of age stories about boys (Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies). And if the story Is about a girl, it’s always about how her heart is broken over a boy, or she has an eating disorder, or how she’s in love with her middle aged teacher. This here is no YA book. This was more like Room, where the perspective of a vulnerable but resilient child going through very adult trauma tells their story. We need more books like this, about children with imperfect parents, and how they survive the unimaginable. Know that this is a hard read, but a good one. Content warnings include suicide, hoarding, and mental illness, and child and animal physical injury.

Big spoiler: I clearly loved the book so I feel like I need to explain my rating. The reason I gave this four stars instead of five was because of the graphic part involving the description of Splinter’s injuries at the end. It actually made me feel a bit sick. It didn’t add anything to the story and was overkill. I didn’t think the same was true for the way Rae must cover up the smell of her mother’s corpse, as that served a purpose in showing the reader how she was trying to maintain appearances and save the only home she’d ever known.

Rating: 4/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Dream Cast: 🎥 🍿

Rae: McKenna Grace

Lettie: Dianne Weist

Mom: Isla Fisher

Oscar: Iain Armitage

Art inspired by ‘Under The Whispering Door’

The above are illustrations created by me based on TJ Klune’s latest novel Under The Whispering Door. Released on September 21, 2021.

Description of book:

When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead.

Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over.

But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life.

When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

By turns heartwarming and heartbreaking, this absorbing tale of grief and hope is told with TJ Klune’s signature warmth, humor, and extraordinary empathy.

Book review and art inspired by ‘This Bright Future: A Memoir’

Movie poster inspired by This Bright Future.
Made while I listened to the book.

I found this memoir after looking at the NYT Bestsellers list. I went into it not knowing who Bobby Hall aka Young Sinatra aka Bobby Tarantino aka Sir Robert was. But I had heard of Logic, who rapped on Sam Smith track I liked a few years back. I remember thinking “wow, he really elevated that song”. But that was it. As much as I was into hip hop and rap growing up in the Bronx, that doesn’t remain true today. I fell out of step with it because of all the auto-tuning that turned my stomach and hurt my ears. Before I moved out of the borough, the only radio station anyone listened to was Hot 97. Now that I don’t, it’s mostly classical, rock, and experimental. As for rap, I listen to the same people I did as a child: Biggie, Tupac, Dr. Dre, Snoop, The Fugees, Method Man, Salt n’ Pepa, Missy Elliot, Jay-Z, Nas, DMX (RIP), and Eminem. I don’t watch MTV, BET, or listen to the radio. Life changes you, and my patience for shows that were designed to bring down artists was depleted which meant I wasn’t hearing new music. Once I was in Bronx Science, my focus shifted. Not to say that happens to everyone who goes to nerd schools, but it did for me. I discovered other types of interests and music, and realized I loved classical because I could actually play it.

So, my reasons for not knowing Bobby Hall were because of me, not because he’s not talented, which he absolutely is. I legit thought he was a British rapper because he was on that Smith track. How wrong I was. He is the very definition of a red-blooded ‘Merican. Mixed race. From Maryland. Inspired by pop culture. Eats Taco Bell. Now that I’ve read his memoir and heard his music, I’m reminded of those rappers I loved so much that were able to spit a verse without all the garbage filtered in the track. What a breath of fresh air. Good music is good music, and he makes it.

I’ll be blunt. This Bright Future is a masterpiece. This will be made into a movie, no question. A modern coming of age story, it was like Catcher in the Rye with music, witches, sex, and a big splash of crack. At its core, this memoir is about a kind and overlooked soul who, through pure grit and determination, navigated to an existence where he is now safe, loved, and counted. Raised in poverty with a mentally ill, alcoholic, PCP-using white mother, an absent drug-addicted black father, and a system that failed him, This Bright Future is the quintessential success story of an outcast named Bobby Hall. What’s scary is that the childhood Hall had is not unique. Yes, the specific situations he was put in may be, but child abuse like this is prevalent. I’ve been that person whose had to carry a child away from their screaming drug addicted parents. I hate it. I see it a lot, and it’s awful and traumatic every time. What is special is that Bobby Hall didn’t become what raised him. Instead, he became Logic. There are kids living in horrific conditions they don’t realize are horrific, so they repeat the cycle. Despite the chaos and having the odds stacked against him, the same is not true for Hall, which can show a hopeless kid struggling today that they can do the same. Hard work, courage, perseverance, the kindness of others, and a good sense of humor helped Hall carve a path to what he was meant to do and be where he was meant to be. Because our boy can rap, write, create, and uplift. And how lucky we are to be able to live and see this. How tiring it is to see people born with a silver spoon just make it in the industry so they can have gold ones. So many people work hard and are never acknowledged for it, and it’s nice to see it happen for once to someone who came from humble beginnings.

As tragic as this memoir was, I would be lying if I didn’t say it was also hilarious. Especially the chapter about his mother’s religiosity. I was literally laughing out loud in public. Hall’s stories about his parents, siblings, acquaintances are all shared with a care and sensitivity that demonstrates how much he doesn’t want to hurt anyone by disclosing to us how much they hurt him. This is an inherently good person who has empathy even for those who don’t appreciate or deserve it. As a result of his upbringing and his ability to withstand so much abuse by having hope, and yes, a logical outlook, the dust settled and what emerged from the wreckage was PTSD and anxiety. You can’t blame him. So, if you struggle too, you will absolutely feel a connection to this story. And know that it’ll be okay.

Speaking of which, Hall points out several times that fans tell him how much they mean to him because they share commonalities. I now join that group by saying there were times I literally said out loud “Wtf, yes, I feel that”. Besides loving Kill Bill, our life circumstances were very similar. Examples: Not being accepted because you are mixed. Literally being asked “What are you?” is something I’ve put up with my whole life. “You aren’t black enough, you aren’t white enough, you aren’t spanish enough, how come you sound so white, how come you don’t sound like Rosie Perez, why are you so pale, why is your hair so frizzy? Do you date white or black men? Why?” Yeah. It’s so much fun.

On a personal note, I have a mentally ill black mother and a temperamental Puerto Rican father. My mother is literally crazy and is becoming a nun. Yeah. I’ve cut her off after a childhood of manipulation, degradation, neglect, and abuse. It’s been years since I’ve seen or spoken to her. How I long to have a mother I could just talk to. But like Bobby Hall, I don’t have that kind of family dynamic. And as hard it is for him to say that he doesn’t have a real family, I’m glad he did. Because people like us exist, and it hurts. And so we have to make our own families. I think the valuable lesson Hall tells is that when you become a parent it doesn’t come with a license that says you can abuse your child and expect your child to let you get away with it. To the people who say “but she’s your mother” to him, understand that cutting your own parent off is not easy, and there are reasons they don’t deserve to be in a survivor’s life. And you questioning that decision crosses a line and only makes it worse. We all know parenting is hard, even when you don’t struggle with illness and addiction. We don’t get to choose our parents, but we do get to choose boundaries so that we aren’t destroyed by them.

I liked how Hall also discussed the impact that social media has had on all of us, and how we connect and treat writers, artists, or just everyday people because we are given a virtual safety net. The internet helped make him, but it also made him a target. I was angry to hear about all the abuse he got from online trolls, how people laughed at his pain when he was physically ill, or spewed venom about him because of a VMA performance. I haven’t watched any of that MTV nonsense since Britney danced in a sheer suit on stage (which was awesome, you do you Britney). I don’t even know how long ago that was, but I do know that no awards show should lead to the type of vitriol artists experience, which means there’s an issue with the entertainment culture that only encourages it. And if you are guilty of such online abuse, you need to reconsider your words and think about the energy you’re wasting.

If you haven’t guessed it, I’m giving this five stars. I don’t think anything else I say could do this justice, so I’ll stop. Also, I don’t want to ruin anything for you because part of what’s so great about the book are the crazy stories you don’t see coming that knock you on your ass.

Dream Cast: 🎥

Bobby Hall: Bobby Hall. And if he doesn’t act, Jesse Williams.

Young Bobby Hall: Lonnie Chavis

Mom: Juliette Lewis

Dad: Jamie Foxx

MaryJo: Melissa McCarthy

Josh: Marcus Scribner

Britney: Phoebe Dynevor

Available on Audible

Rating: 5/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Review: American Predator- The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century

Right off the bat I want to say that this isn’t a true crime book about some serial killer from the 1970s that no one remembers. This happened within the last few years. A spree that went from 1996 to 2012 to be exact. Right under all our noses. And you could have been a victim. I could have been. This is a total mindf*ck. One of the smartest killers I’ve ever read about. Which says a lot considering I got a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice and interview violent felons for a living.

Israel Keyes hunted and hated humans. Former military, Keyes knew how to use weapons and his gigantic body to take an innocent person down. How often do we hear about a serial killer with no MO? Who just killed anyone, and did it for sport. It’s rare. Most serial killers have their targets or fetishes; Son of Sam killed young couples, Ed Kemper killed female college students, the Manson Family killed well-off people in the Hollywood Hills, etc. Keyes, born from holy roller parents and living in Alaska, was more like Richard Ramirez (aka Night Stalker) in that the only prerequisite for being a victim was that you breathed. Keyes murdered just to murder. He killed in Alaska, New Jersey, New York, Washington, Vermont. During the day and at night. Keyes tortured, raped, mutilated, and killed people-men and women- across the United States, and I bet you’ve never heard of him. Right?

If you haven’t heard of Keyes, don’t feel bad…there’s a good reason why. The author of this terrifying account, Maureen Callahan, had to go to court and battle with the feds for information that is usually readily available to investigative journalists. Not only is law enforcement tight lipped about the havoc this monster caused, Keyes himself refused to cooperate unless he was promised his name would be kept out of the news. Because he didn’t want his daughter or family to be traumatized. All of a sudden dude is caring and sentimental. And the feds agree to Keyes’ terms because he promised them he’d help them find the bodies of his victims. The problem here is you never bargain with the bad guy, especially one as calculating as Israel Keyes. Never give them that control. In the interrogations of Keyes that Callahan puts in this book, you can see how he’s toying with law enforcement and how they let him. And I can criticize their techniques because interrogating and interviewing criminals is what I do for a living. These officers were afraid of him. What a mess. He loved it.

So, instead of another documentary about how handsome Ted Bundy was (and btw, he wasn’t, give me a break) or how gross Jeffrey Dahmer’s eating habits were, the powers that be should focus on homicides perpetrated by monsters like Keyes. Like I said, Keyes’ crimes did not happen that long ago, and people like him need to be looked at because the nut used modern technology and the internet to map out his targets. He used the FBI’s own techniques to figure out a way to make it so crimes were either never investigated or discovered. This guy is all the way in remote Alaska with the bears and the eagles, and he’s using the internet to meticulously research towns in states (and counties) thousands of miles away. He knew of communities with little to no police force, every camera placement and angle in town so he could park or stand without being recorded or detected, every way in which he could use natural elements in whatever state he chose to his advantage. This man only got caught because he wanted to get caught. Period.

This is a well written page-turner. Callahan did her research, much to the chagrin of law enforcement. What Keyes did to his victims is downright chilling, shocking, and gruesome. I felt for these victims, and it hurts to know how much they suffered. Worse knowing there are some who will never be found.

If you are interested in true crime, this is a must-read. Prepare to be freaked out.

Rating: 4/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Inspired by the ‘Arc of the Scythe’ Series by Neal Shusterman

Who knew death could be so much fun? What a creative and unique world Neal Shusterman invented for us through his Arc of the Scythe series. I ate this post-mortality concept up. How did he do this? I’ve read a lot of dystopian literature, and I think this one might be my favorite. It gave me the same feeling that The Hunger Games did, in that I was transported into a world far from where we find ourselves now. This reminded me why books are magic. In a year where we are inside all the time because of a deadly pandemic, you will feel far from quarantined once you enter the world of the Scythedom.

The breakdown: What would happen if we became so technologically advanced that disease and death were eradicated? Where if we were hit by a car and rendered “deadish” we could be sent to a “revival station” and be brought back to life? Wanna look younger? That can happen, too. The one problem: How would we control the population? Shusterman gives us the answer with his creation of the “Scythedom”: a superior and respected group of people who kill others in order to prevent overpopulation.

At the center of this amazing series are two teenagers, Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch, who undergo training as apprentices to Honorable Scythe Faraday (I loved Faraday so hard). Each youth struggle with the “art of killing”, and eventually become extremely important to the future of not only the Scythedom, but to life on Earth as we know it.

Technology is also the star of the show. An advanced computer system known as the “Thunderhead” controls society. Who is preventing plane crashes, sinking ships, and terrorist attacks? The Thunderhead, that’s who. Yep, and it’s watching when you accidentally electrocute yourself and need to be brought to a revival station? The Thunderhead sends reinforcements to bring your fried ass back to life. The Thunderhead is a form of AI that does not make mistakes or have regrets, and serves the population in life, while the Scythedom serves us through permanent death. It operates separate and apart from the Scythedom. In the second and third books, we see how this AI tries to save humanity from itself after the Scythedom goes rogue. And how it’s inability to interfere with the Scythedom complicates matters. What a testament to show that even without disease and death from violence, the same things lead us to hurt one another: greed, power, jealousy, and groupthink.

I loved these characters, even the horrible ones. I also liked to imagine what life would be like if this were real. Would I be a Scythe? Hell no. Would I enjoy getting the 18 year old version of my ass back every few years? Hell yes.

As an aside, I loved the words and concepts Shusterman created. Examples: “Gleaning” (permanent killing), “MidMerica”, “Tonists”, “Revival Stations”. It goes on. The names he gave the Scythes, too. So much fun.

The Arc of the Scythe series is worth your time. Read (or listen) to all three books. If you choose to listen to the audiobooks, you won’t regret it: Greg Tremblay does a fantastic job bringing each character to life.

Dream Cast:

Scythe Faraday: Liam Neeson

Scythe Curie: Viola Davis

Citra aka Scythe Anastasia: Jenna Ortega

Rowan aka Scythe Lucifer: Alex Lawther

Scythe Goddard: Mads Mikkselson

Scythe Rand: Lucy Liu

Greyson Tolliver: Levi Miller

Jericho: Jade Hassouné

Monira: Selena Gomez

Thunderhead: Morgan Freeman

Review: ‘Bunny’ by Mona Award

My Oprah nope meme makes a return for another bad book. I haven’t used it in a while, so it was a good run.

Bunny by Mona Award tries too hard. I wanted to like this so bad. Story about an outcast graduate student who falls into the depths of a bitch cult? Count me in. Except this wasn’t close to good. Imagine, if you will, a pack of high pitched fake voiced Ivankas as the main antagonists along with a witches brew storyline featuring the ingredients of Heathers, Mean Girls, Pretty In Pink, Fight Club, American Psycho, She’s All That, Joker, Donnie Darko, and Bridesmaids. Except when you put all those things together it’s nothing more than an orgy of “whaaaaaatttt”, “get to the point” and, “is it over yet?”

My final thoughts on the matter can only be truly expressed with the following: