Top 100 Book Review: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter – Carson McCullers (1940)

“It was funny, too,how lonesome a person could be in a crowded house.” Mick.
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Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

It’s always the books about the human spirit that endure. There is no need to worry about setting or plot as the things people dealt with then are the same things we deal with now. It’s like when James Baldwin said “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.”

Carson McCuller wrote “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” at the age of 23. It was an immediate hit and was the first of many of her works to focus on loneliness and isolation. She herself was not in good health and would die at the age of 50 after living a life of strokes and health complications. It’s hard not to think that these personal, life experiences weren’t the catalyst for many of her novels.

This book checks off many of my personal-taste preferences: vignette chapters from each character’s perspective, the setting of a small town  in the rural south and a focus on characters and not necessarily plot. While this might not move the needle for other readers, there is plenty to love about the temporary world McCuller builds in small-town Georgia.

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Top 100 Book Review: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis (1950)

Still Magical, Even as Adult

“And so for a time it looked as if all the adventures were coming to and end; but that was not to be.”

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I was surprised to find this book on Time’s top 100 novels of all-time; it’s a children’s book. It is hard to disagree with it from a popularity standpoint, though, as kid’s throughout the world still read these book today. I was no exception back in Elementary school.

I hardly recalled anything about this book other than Edmund; his antics were too much for me as a kid and sent my moral compass haywire. So, I went into this book a little blind with no nostalgia. Would it still be interesting to me?

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Top 100 NES Review: #12 – Metroid (1986)

Brutal Exploration

Rating: smooth-starsmooth-star
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The NES is unique in gaming because it was the introduction to so many franchises: Mario, Final Fantasy, Zelda and Metroid. These franchises have now spawned several sequels and spin-offs and have appeared on every platform possible. Metroid is one of those seminal events in gaming where a new concept arose and technology was finally good enough to execute it.

My concern was that I had never played this game before, and returning to a game that was made in 1986 (which almost doesn’t seem possible) after playing all of the newer versions might just magnify the limitations of the original. I also thought of an article on Cracked : games used to be all about fun, unlike today, but truth is when you return to the them, you realize how frustrating they were.

Simply put, the original Metroid can be BRUTAL.

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Top 100 Album Review: #91 – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – Elton John (1973)

Rip-Roaring Rock, Start to Finish

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Rollingstone Magazine’s ranking: #91/100
My Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

I came of age in a post-album era. iTunes purchases were only .99 per song, and we picked apart an artist’s catalog like making our plates at a buffet.

I wonder what this has done to our musical palate: we don’t give ourselves time to give any songs a chance, never mind giving a whole album with a variety of lyrics and tunes an opportunity to impress us.

I only knew about Elton John via his greatest hits. But, that kind of leaves me with no idea of who Elton really was as an artist. I feel like it has been said that we get to know an artist through their “B-Side” (which is a reference to the other song that was sold with a single when it was a physical 45RPM vinyl disc), so I was blissfully unaware of anything beyond “Crocodile Rock” and such.

Elton John was born in 1947 and has had an illustrious career starting with his first album in 1969 (Empty Sky) culminating throughout the years to make him the 5th best selling artist of all-time, having 50 (FIFTY) top 40 hits and releasing 30 studio albums. So we know Elton can write a hit, and many of them, but how does his album work hold up?

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The Top 100 SNES Review: #28 – Soul Blazer (1992)

Two Modes, Fun Concept

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Sydlexia’s Ranking: #28/100
Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

Soul Blazer was a game that I knew absolutely nothing about, but I had heard much of it being from the heralded trifecta of Quintet, a Japanese video game company that created Act Raiser, Soul Blazer and Illusion of Gaia. Out of those game, Act Raiser was the only one I had played before, which was a cool mash-up of a city simulator and side-scroller fighter.

This game is no different as there are two different “modes” that you alternate between: 1) a dungeon crawler where you defeat enemies to release the souls of a town; 2) the town itself where the now freed residents help you with information/items to so you can get further in the dungeon. These two sections play off each other well as there was something satisfying about returning from a dungeon and seeing all the new things in town. Also, dying in any video game is typically frustrating, but having this mode to return to in-between dungeon bouts was refreshing.

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Top 100 Book Review: Go Tell It on the Mountain – James Baldwin (1953)

Electric Writing and Powerful Characters

“There are people in the world for whom “coming along” is a perpetual process, people who are destined never to arrive.”

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Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

Somehow as a senior in high school, they decided that it was a good idea to have school only every other day. I was taking community college classes at night, so they put all my other classes a on an “A” day, which left me with way too much free time. Outside of Madden ’06, Star Wars: Jedi Knight II, and creating  a 20×20 mural for the prom theme of a Midsummer Night’s dream, I did a lot of reading.

I’m not even sure how I found Go Tell It on the Mountain back then, but I remember it being a good read full of fiery language had a bizarre ending.

That opinion still stands.

James Baldwin was born in 1924 and grew up in Harlem with a preacher step-father. He ended up moving and living in Paris as he wanted to get away from american racism as well as homophobic culture. Go Tell It on the Mountain can be viewed as a semi-autobiography as the protagonist, John, grows up in Harlem himself in a religious household as Baldwin weaves themes of gender and sexuality into the story.

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Top 100 Album Review: #100 – In the Wee Small Hours – Frank Sinatra (1955)

Like the Concept, Not the Execution

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Rating: smooth-starsmooth-star

I’ve always been a fan of Frank Sinatra. One of the first albums I ever owned was “Classic Sinatra – His Great Performances from 1953 to 1960.” Those 20 songs encapsulate so much of what is great about Sinatra: timeless voice, great instrumental backing, classic songs.

During college, I worked at a local YMCA that played awful radio music and during the holidays the station changed to Christmas music only. We literally listened to nonstop, Christmas music for 30 days — you try and deadlift to “Do You Hear What I Hear.” (Gentle reminder that this was before mp3 players).

I took over as part-time DJ during my shift to avoid from losing it, and I would occasionally sneak in upbeat Sinatra songs to cater to the “Open to All” mission statement but quickly learned how sensitive people were to music selection.

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