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Review: “Rated R” by Mike Leon

Title: Rated R
Author: Mike Leon
Series: Kill, Kill, Kill
Rating: ***
Publisher/Copyright: Self published, 2014

So, I agreed to read and review this on a whim, based on the synopsis the author posted when he offered digital copies to members of one of the GoodReads communities I’m a part of. Normally I write my own synopsis, but since the official one plays such a prominent role in this review (because of the expectations it created), I’ve decided to use it instead this time. So see below:

Lily Hoffman is trouble. The teenage video clerk is deceptively intelligent, exceedingly beautiful, and boldly prepared to use what she has to get what she wants. She’s not a bad person, just the product of the horrors in her past—and those horrors are catching up with her.

Then she meets a stranger who changes everything. He shows no fear. He performs death-defying feats without hesitation. He kills with merciless indifference while growling out snarky one-liners. He is nothing short of the hard boiled action heroes in the movies Lily loves.

Of course, where there are larger-than-life heroes, there are larger-than-life villains, and the ones hunting Lily’s new friend are like nothing she has ever seen before: machine gun toting mercenaries, an invincible cannibal butcher, a ninja master, and a killer psychopath more bloodthirsty than death itself. As enemies close in from all sides, Lily’s life spirals into a catastrophe that is eerily similar to a big-budget Hollywood body-count movie. And this is one blockbuster she may not survive…

So. My expectations going into this book. Some of them turned out to be accurate–for example, I figured it would earn its title. Had I actually looked at the cover art (much easier to overlook when dealing with ebooks) this expectation would have been strengthened. Others…not so much. Based on that synopsis, I expected some sort of clever meta-fictional tale where one or more of the characters either come from blockbuster action movies or get pulled into said movies a la The Last Action Hero…or something clever like that. And I suppose this kind of works, since the book pretends to be written up as a screenplay, with setting notes at the start of each chapter and closing credits where Mike Leon does literally everything, even things that aren’t required for the production of a novel. But mostly we just have over-the-top action-movie characters existing in a world where that’s not normal. You know how you kind of accept certain things in action movies because there’s an understanding that the rules are different? Cars explode when shot, the character named Karl can be full-out hung with a mass of chains around his neck and still come charging out the building in the last two minutes ready to be gunned down for the last thrill of the film, and Jason shrugs off everything anyone ever throws at him just so the studio can make another crappy sequel. The rules are different. By and large, people in those movies aren’t surprised when it turns out that the ninja can deflect bullets with his sword, or at least don’t react by breaking the suspension of disbelief and comparing him to a movie character. Here, the characters embodying all those action movie stereotypes exist alongside-but-not-related-to the action movies from which the author ripped them. So, I was disappointed in that aspect. Oh, it was entertaining enough, I suppose, but not nearly as awesome as I had hoped. Someone with more accurate expectations would probably star it higher than I did. Also, to be fair, nothing in that synopsis was especially misleading. I apparently just read into it what I wanted to see. If you’re looking for over-the-top violence, sex and profanity, this might be for you. Me? I was hoping for something a little more interesting.

Apparently, despite not being an official series, everything Mike Leon writes features most of the same characters. Thus, this novel brings a number of plot threads from his earlier book Kill, Kill, Kill to a close. I’ve not read any of the others, but that didn’t really hinder the reading experience this time. Normally I would be compelled to hunt down the rest of the not-series, but I think this time I’ll pass.

CONTENT: As the title would indicate, there is strong, bloody violence throughout; explicit sexual content; and R-rated profanity.

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Mini-Review: “Star Wars–Rebels: Property Of Ezra Bridger”

Episode Title: Property Of Ezra Bridger (AKA Not What You Think in some sources)
Episode Writer: Simon Kinberg
Short Story Author: Michael Kogge
Series: Star Wars: Rebels
Rating: ***
Publisher/Copyright: Disney, 2014

Okay, last one. Property Of Ezra Bridger is the fourth and final three-minute short being released to help promote the upcoming Star Wars: Rebels TV series. I posted on the first, second and third shorts a while back, and I’ll probably post on the Spark Of Rebellion movie one of these days too. Those same four prequels were also adapted by Michael Kogge into a series of short stories in the book Rise Of The Rebels. These prequels are meant to introduce you to the characters from the show in the context of an actual story as opposed to their earlier introductions that focused more on the production/character conception side of things. This time we meet Ezra Bridger, the young orphan that will presumably be joining the crew of the Ghost once the series gets started. Check out the short below:

Here we follow young Ezra as he walks home through the fields of Lothal, witnessing a brief battle between the Ghost and a lone TIE Fighter, which ends with the TIE a pile of smoking wreckage. Hopeful for a reward or some salvage, either way, Ezra heads for the downed fighter. The pilot is less than grateful for the “assistance,” and Ezra makes him pay for his ingratitude….On the whole, I did enjoy this one. I do have a couple quibbles though. Ezra is obviously inspired by Disney’s Aladdin, both in origin story and physical appearance, but I’m fine with that. He’s not nearly as annoying as Ahsoka was when first introduced, so that’s good. My main quibble has more to do with the way things work out here–Ezra climbs inside the cockpit of the fighter with the pilot and has room to maneuver, which should be clearly impossible. Every source, even the reference work for Rebels itself, emphasizes how cramped those cockpits are for just the pilot. Unless this particular one happened to incorporate TARDIS technology? Oh well. Thankfully, Michael Kogge alleviates this with his adaptation, which leaves Ezra on the roof leaning inside to do his thing. My only other concern is a reservation about how Ezra’s slingshot works. I don’t get it. If the balls are pure energy, he shouldn’t be able to arc them. If they aren’t, he should need to pull them from somewhere. I think on this one I might be unreasonable….requiring Star Wars to obey the laws of physics? I didn’t used to be this picky…..I’m going to go lie down and see if that helps.

Content: Some mild violence. No language, no sex.

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