Book Review: Everlost by Neal Shusterman

Everlost by Neal Shusterman is the first in the Skinjacker trilogy. The series is about a place called Everlost, which is where all children under the age of 18 go when they die and don't make it to where they are heading, being heaven or hell. Nick and Allie are the protagonists of the story and find themselves thrown into Everlost together after they knock each other off course on their way to the light after their families get into a car accident with each other. The two have to make sense of what happened to them and where they end up. They find that Everlost is very similar to the real world, but with some dangerous differences. They learn a lot by trial and error, like when they realize land that is still part of the living world works like quick sand and if they stand in one place for too long they will sink into the ground. Nick and Allie decide that they want to find out what happened to their families after the car accident and start to make the journey back home. On their trip they run into some other kids who live in Everlost and try to get some answers. They quickly learn that not many of the children in Everlost know much more than they do, until they meet Mary Hightower. Mary is one of the older children in Everlost who has been there for many years. She writes books about all you need to know about Everlost and views herself as a mother for all of the lost children. She takes in all of the children who find their way to her and makes sure they are taken care of. Mary is not the only well known person in Everlost who looks for lost children. A creature called the McGill is rumored to be a terrible monster who is feared by all. He is the last thing you would want to run into in Everlost. On their journey Nick and Allie have to face things that they never even knew existed and also come to terms with their new reality. This book is not only original, but also very captivating. Shusterman's interpretation of life after death is different from all other stories about what comes after death. Shusterman's characters are unique because they are all very young children who have been “alive” or existing for hundreds of years. They never grow up, but somehow even in the state they are in have a mysterious maturity about them. This novel is a quick and easy read, and I would recommend it to everyone.

The Maze Runner – Scorch Trials

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Phase two has begun and the Gladers are back in this fast-paced dystopian. The Scorch Trials, which is the sequel to the 2014 "The Maze Runner" and is the second novel in the trilogy by James Dashner, begins right where the first movie left off. When we last saw Thomas and the Gladers, they were fighting for survival in The Maze against the Grievers, mechanical beasts invented only by WCKD (WICKED in the book series). When they finally make it out of the Maze, they find everyone that formed WCKD is dead, or so they thought, and a new group coming to their aid. With the Gladers rescued, they realize that their new home is dangerous and the people in charge have plans of their own. With only one way out, they will have to fight for survival in The Scorch. With only little knowledge of the world outside the Maze, The Scorch only holds horrors and of course Cranks, the people who have caught the Flare and have no hope in escaping the deadly disease. When Thomas and his friends enter The Scorch, they must find shelter from the Cranks and try not to catch the Flare. Throughout this movie, sides will have to be chosen and friendships lost. To all those people who have read this bestselling series, I applaud you if you have chosen a side. This decision is a hard one because you have to decide if WCKD is truly helping or not. This movie adaption strays from the best-selling novel in the course of action that takes place during The Scorch, but still has the same purpose: to find an escape from the Flare. But one thing that continues to be prominent is the strong brotherhood that the Gladers have for each other. "The Scorch Trials" makes it a point to show that the bond of brotherhood is more important than just some romance as portrayed in "The Hunger Games" and "Divergent." Thomas is a young man that brings a new set of characteristics to the dystopian genre and is a fresh face compared to Katniss and Tris. The Scorch trials is "World War Z" meets "Stand by Me." This movie was stunning in graphics, and at times the Cranks will have you holding onto your arm chair. "The Scorch Trials" will leave you wanting more from the Gladers and to know what happens next in this dystopian trilogy. "The Maze Runner: The Death Cure" is set to hit theaters in February 2017.  

‘Unbreakable’ resolve to keep watching

Honestly, "The Unbreakable Kimmy Scmidt," produced by Tina Fey, is a lot better than I thought it would be. Two episodes into this Netflix original series and I have already laughed way more than I should have. Cast for the role of Kimmy Schmidt is Missouri-native Ellie Kemper, who is well known for her role as Kelly Hannon in the Emmy-nominated television series "The Office." As usual, the following will contain spoilers. Stop reading here if you haven’t yet gotten around to starting this series but still want to. You’ve been warned. For starters, what I find most interesting about the series is the premise. At first I thought it was going to be a weird documentary about the actor who plays Schmidt going around talking to people in New York and making friends as she goes. Thankfully, I was completely wrong. The show actually follows the 29-year-old Schmidt, who until recently spent her entire life since she was 12 in a fallout bunker with three other women, thinking the world had ended. In reality, she had unknowingly joined a cult and was being held against her will. As the first episode begins, the audience gets a peek at what everyday life was like for the four women, a.k.a. the Indian mole women, in the bunker. For the most part, they seemed content living a vaguely Amish lifestyle, never really questioning the man who is called Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (true story) about what has happened to the world above and why he is the only who can enter and exit the bunker freely. Soon after the women are liberated by a swat team and brought out into the world for the first time in years. Oddly enough, Schmidt is all sunshine and rainbows at this point. The group then makes their appearance on the “Today” show to share their story. Afterwards, Schmidt decides to take her chances and start a new life in Manhattan. Somehow, Schmidt is able to find a landlady willing to take her in and in doing so, she gains a sassy gay roommate named Titus whose dream is to perform on Broadway. At first, it looks like it isn’t going to work out between them, but Titus manages to develop a conscience by the end of the first episode. With no money (she managed to get $11,000 stolen in one night), Schmidt is in desperate need of a job. She manages to find one at the home of a rich Manhattan family as a nanny, after mistaking trophy-wife Jacqueline Voorhees for being captive in her own home during her face peel. The series has serious binge-watching potential. It is actually pretty funny given Schmidt’s backstory. She has the mentality of a teenager, and sometimes it’s like watching something you find on Nick at Nite. At the same time, she is technically a rape survivor. The show doesn’t actually take sexual violence as a serious part of the show, and it’s possible to watch without actually noticing that it’s there. At most, it is only referenced in subtle jokes about how she managed to make it through life without any worries. The way she manages to take everything in stride is actually pretty admirable. In the first episode, Titus tells Schmidt to go home to Indiana; he’s trying to protect her. “Protect me from what?” she said. “The worst thing that ever happened to me happened in my own front yard.” Empowering and funny, "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" gets 8.5/10.

Nostalgia Aside: Star Wars Battlefront II

A long time ago, one of the best selling games of the Star Wars franchise was released.  Recently, I was able to purchase it from for my PC; Star Wars Battlefront II. I was expecting something just to occupy my downtime (what little there is) and at least relive the experiences I had with this game, but I got more than I expected. So let's dive in and explore why this game is still amazing. Currently, Battlefront II is still the third highest selling Star Wars video game so far, only being out sold by its predecessor Star Wars: Battlefront and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Like the first Battlefront, this game is a first- and third-person shooter in which there are different classes of troopers to choose from. What set this game apart from the first game was the addition of space combat, which I will give more detail on later. I have to say that this game really did hold up well compared to today's standards of action or shooting games. I spent a few hours playing through the campaign called "Rise of the Empire," in which the player goes through events throughout the Clone Wars and the Galactic Civil War through the eyes of the Empire. While this is a departure for Star Wars in general to play as the villains, it was actually a big positive to me. Not because it's fun to be evil, but because it was refreshing to see this point of view and add its own storylines to better immerse the player and not just replay the same mission over and over again. The controls of the game are still responsive and easy to pick up for a novice player, or one that hasn't played the game in a few years, like me. There are still a couple functions in which the responses are slow - such as when trying to pilot a starship, it is difficult to turn sharply. There is also a delay in trying to throw grenades as a trooper, but it actually adds a little bit of a challenge in which the player has to compensate for to survive. I have a love/hate relationship with the space combat. The goal of these missions is to jump into the cockpit of a starship and either fly around shooting down enemy fighters, or to board the enemy ship and destroy its internal systems. I do enjoy the missions and being able to fly some of my favorite ships from the movies. However, my problems stem from a lack of real variety in the space missions. The game merely changes the position of the capital ships and the backgrounds of planets or deep space. Another drawback is the graphics. Even though normally we try to forgive the lack of great graphics, I was let down on the look of the capital ships. Star Wars: Battlefront II was a great sequel to the first installment of the series. Now that a new film is in the final phases of production, a new Battlefront will be released soon. So not only are Star Wars fans like me geeking over the fact that there is an Episode VII, but a new Battlefront will be on the next generation of game consoles.

Friends review

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"Friends" - the horse that keeps being beaten and refuses to die. But what makes this TV show everybody’s darling? As of Jan. 1, "Friends" is available to stream on Netflix. This makes "Friends," first released in 1994, one of the more dated TV shows Netflix offers, and still the excitement was great when the streaming service first announced its plans to add "Friends" to the program. "Friends" revolves around six friends in their mid-twenties who live in New York and are confronted with issues that come with growing up and taking responsibility. One reason for the show's popularity might be sheer nostalgia. Many people who are now in their 20s grew up with Chandler, Rachel, Joey, Monica, Phoebe and Ross and followed their (fictional) lives closely. We saw them become friends, get jobs, grow up, break up and make up, get married (and divorced) and become parents - no surprise people still have them in fond memory. Which brings me to my second point: there's always a generation that can relate to them. When I watched Friends as a kid, I envisioned myself living in a nice apartment in New York with a bunch of cool friends. But college taught me there is so much more to growing up. "So no one told you life was gonna be this way, Your job's a joke, you're broke, your love life's DOA..." When the "Friends" theme song becomes uncomfortably true, it is undeniable evidence that you have arrived in adulthood. Particularly Rachel is a character to which many college students can relate. In the first episode, she leaves her fiancé at the altar, moves in with her high school friend Monica, gets cut off from daddy's credit cards, needs to find a job and grow up. We all can share the feeling of leaving the nest for the first time and being responsible for ourselves - including grocery shopping, working a job we don't like and making sure we are somehow working on a successful future. But when life is especially tough, there is nothing more comforting that to watch other people's struggles. Yes, you forgot to hand in that essay and the guy you met at the bar yesterday doesn't text back - but hey, at least you aren't pregnant with your brother's triplets or have to move out of your apartment because you accidently burned it down with your left-on curling iron. Apart from its relatability and feel-good quality, "Friends" is really well-made. There is a timelessness to it many other TV shows from the 90s do not possess. Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Home Improvement are examples of 90s shows that simply do not pass the test of time. Besides the questionable 90s and early 00s fashion, the show's universal story lines and themes ensure its relevance. Witty dialogs, well-rounded characters and realistic yet funny and clever story lines are what make "Friends" one of the most popular TV shows even almost 21 years after it first aired.