Book review: “The Syrian Virgin” (2014)


The Syrian Virgin (The Syrian Virgin #1)The Syrian Virgin by Zack Love

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tackling sensitive, timely issues is daunting for any author. There is a certain kind of finesse required to openly discuss hot button topics that rarely transcends into the fictional narrative. However, it is not only imperative to the people that writers push the boundaries of the social and political climate, it is also necessary to do so in order to improve upon the human condition. This is the goal for any writer, but not all have such strength of technical skill and forethought to bring such a project to fruition.

Zack Love accomplishes this daunting task with his novel, “The Syrian Virgin.” By focusing on the treacherous path of his young protagonist, readers get to follow in the footsteps of a fascinating character that is not oft touched upon and experienced by western audiences. Bridging American culture with those abroad is imperative to the overall construct of “The Syrian Virgin.”

The protagonist, Anissa, and her family are caught in the midst of tragedy and war in the Middle East. She resides within the Christian minority of the region and is thrust into an emotional and physical journey to New York where she meets two sharply different men with assorted backstories of their own. The characters and setting are depicted realistically and readers get to see this growth from the first chapter, resulting in a quick-paced, engaged writing style.

Love’s novel does a superb job of rounding out a cast of believable villains and heroes by bait and switching readers between a deep sense of likability and outright persecution. I use “villains” and “heroes” loosely, because most of the characters reside in the gray, like all individuals do. It is not juxtaposed or contrarian in the slightest, because it hits on what it means to be human. We are all flawed creatures and it is expressed through desire, love, and hate. Zack paints a picture that other similarly calibered writer’s would find difficult finishing.

From a technical aspect, “A Syrian’s Virgin” is solidly constructed. Transitions and character growth are natural, while some of the contextual information is a bit hasty. Love’s strong suit is definitely in his character building. The cast is diverse, personality-wise, which keeps readers guessing and alters the dynamic of the tale on the fly with minimum jarring to the reader.

“The Syrian Virgin” is more than a worthwhile read— It is enlightening and sheds light on sensitive topics that others might not feel comfortable writing or reading about. As previously iterated, we need more novels of this stature. The concept of other cultures, a better future, sexual awakening, and personal discovery need to be written about. The world would be a better place for it.

I highly recommend picking up Zack Love’s “The Syrian Virgin,” because you won’t be disappointed by the words nestled betwixt its covers.

For more news and information concerning Zack Love’s work, his website can be viewed and perused by clicking here.

View all my reviews

Episode recap: Gotham S.1, Ep. 3 — The Balloonman


balloonmanGotham’s “The Balloonman” takes a much different tone than prior episodes—  You can almost see the visible growing pains as it flexes, to find its footing within the market of genres.  It is almost as-if the bloat of Gotham is weighing heavily upon the FOX’s executives’ and producers’ shoulders.  It is solidly placed, but they are still beginning to show signs of television fatigue.  That careful balance between cop show and comic book show still hasn’t been fleshed out properly by Gotham, but it stretches to get closer still with “The Balloonman.”

“The Balloonman” is the first episode to hit home on the episodic nature that Gotham needs to get into.  Like I’ve mentioned before, Gotham is struggling to appease comic book fans and television goers and—for granted—Batman is a force to reckoned with.  The iconic Caped Crusader has spawned countless successful media properties over the course of several decades and comic book-wise it continues to reach the top of the charts in terms of sales and accolades.  However, how do you make a series about Batman not be about Batman, and still keep fans coming back for more each and every week?  You make it a cop show centered-around the GCPD.

Gotham begins to hit its cop show stride with “The Balloonman.”  It begins to break away—albeit just for a moment—from the disjointed campiness of past installments, “The Balloonman” tries to shake its identity crisis by picking a formula and sticking to it.  Focusing on a criminal that is (you guessed it) attaching balloons to ‘legitimate’ criminals and sending them sky high to their deaths is more-interesting than past villains, merely because Jada Pinkett Smith’s overacted portrayal of Fish Mooney isn’t involved…anything without her is better.

However, even with the inclusion of a minor criminal that draw the attention of GCPD for just a moment is better than before, but it is still…well…Balloonman.  The episode tries to embrace a cop drama, but it is still executed rather poorly.  I praise the effort, but for Gotham to survive it needs to take a creative cue from similar supernatural cop dramas such as ABC’s ForeverForever takes a cliche premise, but back it up with a clever slant and an episodic quality that draws audience members for an hour-long, twisty and clever journey through the investigative process.

This is what Gotham needs to be.

The writing for “The Balloonman” is fairly straight-forward and there isn’t even an attempt at providing a feint or a ‘food for thought’ moment for the audience  The writing belittles fans in its simplicity, and if you are up to date on your actors and their respective appearances it will be quite easy for you to immediately spot the non sequitur…and thus the Balloonman.

Even though the writing is lackluster, I do appreciate the angle that they are trying to take, more-so than a superhero epic that is forced to exclude Batman due to the premise.  In my opinion, for Gotham to survive and be a multiple spanning series it desperately needs to become a ‘cop show.’  It needs to invest in providing in depth investigations with surprises and unusualness, all the while focusing on the character growth and camaraderie of Detective James Gordon and Harvey Bullock.

Unfortunately, at this juncture, television shows such as Arrow, The Flash, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are doing it better.  If you’re inclined to catch a superhero show to fill in the time between the films, check out the aforementioned shows, because Gotham isn’t cutting it…yet.

(SOURCE: Episode recap: Gotham S.1, Ep. 3 — The Balloonman)

Episode recap: The Flash S.1, Ep. 1 — The Pilot


The Flash - PilotI have never been so excited to watch the pilot of a television series.  And, to be fair I don’t usually get caught up easily in the hype of television.  Network marketing campaigns try to pander to universality, but even with this in mind I never have been so anticipatory for a ‘fresh-out-the-gate,’ new series.

I am a comic book nerd, and like all hobbies…I have my favorites.  As much as I love the CW’s Arrow, I was a neophyte to the topic.  Till recently, I had not read many Green Arrow graphic novels.  He just wasn’t a character that I was interested in at first.

However, the Flash (specifically Barry Allen) has always been one of my favorite comic book characters.  I love the lore and I have read nearly every Flash comic since 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, so when the CW announced a television series based on the Scarlett Speedster I was ecstatic beyond belief.  Once the mid-season finale of Arrow/Barry Allen crossover aired to audiences last December, the idea of a quality Flash series was proven and solidified…and I was hooked.

The Flash pilot begins with a brief introductory scene showing Barry Allen as a boy and the traumatic event that goes onto to shape the rest of his life (think Bruce Wayne expect more-hopeful in the end).  From there, the narrative springboards to the present— Starting before the conclusion of last season’s Arrow crossover.

Barry Allen has just returned to Central City and he is getting back into the groove of being back.  In stereotypical Allen form, he is late to an investigation as the acting crime scene investigator but one of the cops at the scene (and adoptive father played by the talented Jesse L. Martin) covers for him.  With only a set of tire treads and manure, Allen inevitably discovers the whereabouts of the criminals via his laboratory—  The very place in which he gets struck by lightning and doused in chemicals.

Essentially, the beginning serves as an introduction to Barry Allen, the supporting cast, and the overall aesthetic of Central City, just as any good pilot should.  The casting and writing are excellent.  Grant Gustin play a believable, young Barry Allen.  He portrays all of the little nuances of the character—  He’s clumsy, he’s perpetually late, but he has a good heart.  He tries to do good, even when he doesn’t always have the means.

The cast is rounded out by Law and Order alum, Jesse L. Martin, as Barry’s adoptive father and Central City Detective.  Tom Cavanagh plays Harrison Wells, the brilliant (but mysterious) scientist, mentor, and ultimate creator of metahumans within Central City.  The rest of the cast are primarily unknowns, but unlike FOX’s Gotham all parts are played with a sense of realization and believability.  This is especially impressive considering the nature of the show.

The writing is just as well-constructed as the casting.  It is surprising how much is packed into the pilot; the writing team took great lengths to respect the history of the character.

The pilot segues to the Flash’s origin and roughly depicts the same events that were shown at the end of the Arrow episode, Three Ghosts.  It then passes nine-months (throughout the term of his coma).  This is where the show gets interesting.  It is the first series to show metahumans— People with powers.  This is momentous for television, because in times past when they have tried to depict superheroes with powers it has come off incredibly cheesy and quite often bombed with audiences.  With the exception of Smallville, which carefully skirted Superman’s power set for years, television series’ have not dived headlong into CGI and in essence true superhero shows till CW’s The Flash.

The Flash has no qualms showing Barry running at high speeds, and the show pulls no punches by showcasing one of his primary villains right out of the gate—  An individual who also has fantastical powers.  The show does a wonderful job of introducing audiences to one of DC Comic’s greatest characters.  It holds true to the lore with only a little bit of a shake-up in terms of arrangement for television purposes, but nothing so far off the mark that it contradicts its origins.  The CGI and representation of the metahumans is superb.  Considering what the budget must-be and the risk it is to shoot a television series with a heavy reliance of individuals with superpowers the risk-reward nature is successful.

There are a ton of little Flash easter eggs and references to the Flash comics, so check out last Tuesday’s pilot episode and see if you can spot them.  Countless upon countless articles and posts could be written about all of the little facets and feats that The Flash pulled off last night, and as time permits, I will most-definitely be covering them throughout The Flash’s first season.

And, if you glean anything from this review…watch The Flash Tuesdays at 8/7c.

shout OUT!: Pop Goes the Geek Girl & Affiliates


It is easy to get lost in your own head.  We are all guilty of that at sometime or another, right?  Well, every once in a while I’ll get a snap back to reality and I’ll take a moment (or two) to appreciate those that define my life.

I have a very ebb and flow work style, which isn’t always conducive to long-lasting professional relationships.  My editor, Brian Triplett, has been a friend and colleague since I started contributing to the Examiner and he graciously agreed to start editing for me…merely because I asked.  That is an immense leap for anyone, and I doubt he realizes how much it means to me.

examinerdotcom-logoSo, if you get a chance:  Check out his Examiner page and blog, Pop Culture Warehouse.  They are both well-worth the read and subscription.  He covers a variety of topics from television, films, books, religious issues and news, mid-East relations, social media—  Essentially, the whole kit and kaboodle!

Like aforementioned, people are defined by others in their lives, and men are defined by the strong women in their lives.  The ol’ adage: “Behind every successful is man is a stronger woman,” is true.  I am fortunate enough to have three incredibly strong and successful women at my back who support me through thick-and-thin, and more-importantly define my day-to-day life.

My sister, Caitlin, is immensely intelligent (far smarter than I) and incredibly hardworking.  As a teenager she works nearly full-time whilst balancing family and school life with ease.  In her spare time she has numerous hobbies and pop culture addictions, and somehow, somewhere betwixt the chaos, she finds time to manage my ARSchultz Tumblr account and run her own blog with my equally talented mother, Chris Schultz.

My mother manages to take time management to a whole new level:  She works full-time as a teacher where she homeschools my younger brother as well as my sister, she then manages a household of four in its entirety (base to boards), and in between those full-time jobs she runs my sister back-and-forth for her shifts at work (around school lessons I might add) while indulging in hobbies ranging from pretty much anything in the sphere of pop culture that might nab her interest.  Then, on top of it all, she is an amazingly gifted poet and takes the time to handle the bulk of my social media endeavors—  She runs the official ARSchultz Facebook page, coordinates media blitzes and advertising, as well as wrangling me in when my work ethnic dips below subpar.

Nevertheless, I digress…

My sister and my mother have joined forces to create a new blog.  I know, I know…everyone has a blog, right?  Hell, you’re reading this on a blog right at this moment, so why should you had another to your RSS feed collection?

Well, you should and here is why:

cropped-geekPop Goes the Geek Girl is unique.  It hits on all things pop culture—  Music, film, television, books, etc., etc.  This unto itself isn’t standout-worthy, but what is the delivery and writing.  The writing is topnotch, better than you’ll find anywhere else, and then on top of it readers will be getting two perspectives for the price of free.  More often than not, pop culture reviews and insights get skewed, because of the person writing them, or more-specifically the age, background, current ongoings and situations of the writers, but what-if you had two writers working together in unison from different upbringings, generations, and predispositions, that absorbed the content together and each brought something to the table but a little bit differently?

The answer to that rhetorical question is a kickass blog that finds its footing in awesomeness and objectivity.  If you like art in any of its forms you need to check out this blog…it will not disappoint.

To subscribe, follow, and like Pop Goes the Geek Girl click here to be redirected.  Stay tuned there or here for more announcements concerning Pop Goes the Geek Girl.

 

Stephen King’s “Revival” set to addiction, fanaticism, and the afterlife


Stephen KingStephen King has been quite prolific these past few years and if 2014 is any indication the sixty-six year old writer shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. Besides “Mr. Mercedes” being published June of 2014, an announcement (via a “Under the Dome” video chat with the esteemed author last June) struck the Internet the detailing yet another release slated for November.

The release dubbed, “Revival,” hits upon such topics as addiction, religious fanaticism, and the possibilities of life after death. In the months proceeding King’s live chat, Scriber has released a brief abstract and rough release date for the novel:

In a small New England town more than half a century ago, a boy is playing with his new toy soldiers in the dirt in front of his house when a shadow falls over him. He looks up to see a striking man, the new minister, Jamie learns later, who with his beautiful wife, will transform the church and the town. The men and boys are a bit in love with Mrs. Jacobs; the women and girls, with the Reverend Jacobs — including Jamie’s sisters and mother. Then tragedy strikes, and this charismatic preacher curses God, and is banished from the shocked town.

Jamie has demons of his own. Wed to his guitar from age 13, he plays in bands across the country, running from his own family tragedies, losing one job after another when his addictions get the better of him. Decades later, sober and living a decent life, he and Reverend Charles Jacobs meet again in a pact beyond even the Devil’s devising, and the many terrifying meanings of Revival are revealed.

The book seems to harken to King’s roots, akin to the successful throwback novel “Doctor Sleep,” which released last year and was a direct sequel to “The Shining.” Nevertheless, these sorts of topics and particularly this style seem to be King’s bread and butter, and with age comes refinement.

“Revival” sounds more than promising, and hopefully horror fans will be delighted with King’s prose and pass it along to a friend, family member, or colleague because as everyone knows— Books should be shared. Don’t forget to check back here for more news on “Revival” as it releases.

And, speaking of sharing, share your favorite horror novels and/or your ‘must-read’ horror list of 2014 in the comments below.

(SOURCE: Stephen King’s “Revival” set to addiction, fanaticism, and the afterlife)