“House of Leaves” Book Review

BY RILEY FANNING

“House of Leaves” is a story unlike mostit is filled with riddles, labyrinths, perpetual darkness and the inevitable horror of the unknown.  The debut novel written by Mark Z. Danielewsk centers around a young man named Johnny Truant, who comes to possess the manuscript for a novel written by a recently deceased blind man named Zampano.

So, “House of Leaves” contains a novel within a novel. The subject of Zampano’s manuscript is an extremely detailed analysis of a controversial documentary called “The Navidson Record.” The problem is, as Johnny soon discovers, that this does not actually exist. Zampano’s manuscript is entirely based off of a film that was never made.

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Photo from bookdepository.com

 

The fictitious documentary “The Navidson Record” follows a family who moves into a seemingly ordinary house, except for one thing: it is bigger on its interior than its exteriorcontaining shifting walls and hidden hallways of darkness.

However, this story is about so much more than an impossible feat of physics. It is about each of the characters, how the house affects them and how reading the strange manuscript affects Johnny.

“House of Leaves” is a nontraditional reading experience because it is considered ergodic fiction, for it requires work from the reader. It is an interactive experience where readers must engage in the novel more  intellectually and physically than most literature demands.

The plot intricately weaves multiple story lines together, giving the reader much to examine. There are points where the reader must decipher hidden messages, or read the book upside down. It requires the audience to both figuratively and literally read between the lines.

On the surface, this is a horror story; however, it does not deserve to be boxed in as one, for it is a romance as well.  “House of Leaves” expertly delves into the psychology of the characters, their relationships with one another and the way the world is perceived. Themes of family relations, how to cope with who we are and the things we have done and how the world around us ultimately affects us are all explored throughout the novel.

The story is a paradoxical enigmait is frustrating at times, yet it finishes as a highly rewarding experience. This is the kind of story that has made and will continue to make people think about the world a bit differently after one has experienced it. It will leave you wondering about the characters and about that strange, shifting house.

For those that enjoy a challenge when reading novels and unique reading experiences, this book should be in their collection.

The Flyer gives “House of Leaves” an 8/10.

David Brent: Life on the Road review

By Luke Wathan

Staff Writer 

“The Office” is one of the best known and beloved sitcoms of the past decade. Running from 2005 to 2013, the series was a smash-hit on NBC and continues to hold a devoted following thanks to frequent reruns and its massive presence on Netflix.

Unbeknownst to some people, however, is that the cherished American sitcom is actually a remake of a British one. The British series stars Ricky Gervais as David Brent, a counterpart to Steve Carell’s Michael Scott, who is just as awkwardly endearing. Like its U.S. contemporary, the British version of “The Office” has also ended, but recently got a pseudo-sequel with “David Brent: Life on the Road,” which was recently added to Netflix’s digital library.

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photo from comingsoon.net

The film follows Brent in the same quasi-documentary style that we are used to, only this time, he is not stuck in an office setting. Rather, he is given the chance to live his dream of becoming a rock star with the help of his newly reassembled rock band “Foregone Conclusion.”

The problem is, Brent is talentless. He seems to be stuck in this mentality that the soft rock and dated fashions of the 1970s music era never died, and his bandmates are left to suffer for it. A group of relatively competent producers, musicians and colleagues do their best to ground Brent in reality, but he is almost trapped in his delusion of grandeur.

The film carries the same awkward, often deadpan humor that made both versions of “The Office” so spectacular. Gervais gives an excellent performance as David Brent, the socially-inept boss-turned-rock-star who eats up every bit of scenery with his cringe-worthy antics and subtle self-deprecation. Throughout the film, he stuns others with the depths of his social inexperience, frequently laughs at his own jokes and makes comically tasteless comments about minorities and the handicapped in a hilariously bad attempt at political correctness.

The movie is currently available on Netflix and is one of the best original films to be watched on the platform in a long time. Fans of the British version of “The Office” will no doubt be happy to see the return of the affably awkward David Brent, while fans of the American version can still relish in the same humor that they are used to but with a refreshingly foreign twist.

Even if you are not familiar with either series, the film’s humor is reminiscent of other deadpan classics such as “Napoleon Dynamite” and “The Big Lebowski,” so fans of those movies should have no qualms with watching it. In the end, it might just be the most bizarre movie that you will ever love. Needless to say, if you are a fan of either iteration of “The Office,” this film was made with you in mind.

The Flyer gives “David Bent:Life on the Road” 8 out of 10 stars.

 

Everything Was Awesome Again!

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photo from comingsoon.net

By Lilly Metcalfe

Staff Writer

Warner Brothers does it again with the release of “The Lego Batman Movie,” a spin-off of the successful “Lego Movie.” The film incorporates the same elements that made the original so successful, including excellent humor, a great story line and mature life lessons for children.

While Batman made an appearance in “The Lego Movie,” this newest film has no ties to the original, allowing Batman and Gotham City to be in a self-contained universe. This was wise for producers Dan Lin and Roy Lee because it allowed for in-depth character development.

The story is based on Batman’s problem with letting people into his life because he is scared of losing them in the same way he lost his parents. His struggles with this dilemma give the audience an important lesson that you cannot tackle life by yourself and push people away because everyone (even Batman) eventually needs assistance from their loved ones to accomplish a goal.

The creators really play on the audience’s previous knowledge of the Batman character. It was quite comical to witness all the references to the various movies and television shows that Batman has appeared in throughout history. These references led to many hilarious breakdowns of the fourth wall. Some include Batman and Superman’s tension filled relationship and the rivalry between Marvel Comics and DC Comics.

“The Lego Batman Movie” raked in $55.6 million in the first opening weekend, which beat the two other competing sequels, “John Wick: Chapter 2” and “Fifty Shades Darker.”

While being another success in this developing franchise, there are many theories as to why “The Lego Batman Movie” made less in sales in comparison to its predecessor. Perhaps it was not as heavily advertised as the original, “The Lego Movie.” Perhaps people probably thought it was a sequel that wouldn’t live up to “The Lego Movie,” or because it is a February movie, it will not receive as much profit anyway in comparison to a summer movie.

“The Lego Movie” franchise seems to have created a great formula for successful, entertaining films. Fans of “Batman” will adore the references, which means that those who are not educated in Batman and his movies should watch them all before viewing this film. Warner Bros. will soon will be releasing another Lego movie titled “The Lego Ninjago Movie.” This is something for Lego movie fans to look forward to. We will hope that Lego goes three for three.

The Flyer gives “The Lego Batman Movie” 8 out of 10 stars.

Nicholas Sparks breaks his formula for the better in Two by Two

BY HALEY DICK

Staff Writer

Warning: the following article contains spoilers to #1 New York Times Bestselling author Nicholas Sparks’ most recent novel, Two by Two

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photo source: nicholassparks.com

Like most of Sparks’ past novels, this enjoyable and surprising story was set in North Carolina, specifically in Charlotte. It tells the story of a close-knit family of three, the parents being Russ and Vivian, and their London. Each chapter began with a blurb of text acting as an anecdote to what is to come, though is set in the past. Through periods of economic disparity and conflict told through Russ’s eyes, Russ quits his job at an established advertising firm to start his own business, leaving Vivian, comfortable with her role as stay at home mother, to feel pressured to return to the working world

As soon as Vivian finds herself excelling at her new job in a PR position, the marriage of two previously crazy lovers deteriorates, as the entire family dynamic is overturned. Russ finds his work taking off at snail’s pace, making him full-time caretaker of their daughter throughout the entire summer, just in time for Vivian to break the news that she is moving to Atlanta with her new boss and lover, Walter Spannerman, who the reader never meets, after much speculation from Russ concerning their drifting apart.

The parting of Vivian and Russ put a strain on London, and resulted in stone-cold letters between attorneys as the agreements were struggling to be met. London was seeing Vivian every other weekend and living with Russ full-time, making her accustomed to having her father be the primary parent. Her routine was being altered, and the news of her parents splitting up just about broke her precious heart and the perfect picture she had painted in her mind.

We meet various characters throughout, all playing different factoring roles in Russ’s life. Emily, first love and mother of London’s best friend, Bodhi, lends a helping hand and compassionate ear from before Vivian left Russ, all the way down to the day of the funeral. Their love was inevitably rekindled during their various encounters, and the epilogue indicates that they both move to Atlanta together so that Russ can share custody of London with Vivian.

 

The moment in which readers knew that Russ was going to be okay in the arms of his new companion occurred with he and Emily took the kids to the zoo for the day. The kids both bought a set of wings, butterfly for London and dragonfly for Bodhi, and Emily and Russ followed close behind, reminiscing on their old times together and becoming aware that new memories were to come. It was during this scene that Sparks wrote the following in the mind of Russ:

“I was acutely aware of how close she was; up head, London and Bodhi were walking beside each other as well, and I flashed on the book I read nightly to London. The four of us walking two by two, because no one should have to walk alone.”

A clear relation to the title of the novel, this quote speaks to readers outright on what all of the relationships in the novel are demonstrating, that everyone should have people in their lives that they can count on because it makes a world of difference.

Sparks develops the character of Vivian to be hated from the beginning, though flashes of compassion occur at times, all surrounding London. She was always so snappy and short with Russ, and always accused him of trying to start fights when he simply wanted to address issues that were crucial to their lives. It was obvious that she was going to leave him based on the way things were written, but the real hatred came when her attorney wrote to Russ’s threatening to imply that Russ was fostering an unhealthy relationship with her daughter, which was far from the truth.

This Sparks novel was so enjoyable because while it focused on romantic relationships as all his novels do, the father-daughter and brother-sister relationships were more prominent, giving it a different taste. The way in which London admired her father made the novel relate to young readers in more aspects than just romantic relationships, emphasizing just how much a girl really needs her dad.

 

The Ocean at the End of the Lane Review

By Lilly Metcalfe

Staff Writer

Childhood memories are sometimes unpleasant to remember, but in Neil Gaiman’s novel “The Ocean at the End of the Lane,” the worst of childhood memories are turned into a compelling fantasy story.

The novel’s setting is in Sussex, England. The main character, who remains nameless, returns to his hometown to attend a funeral. He feels drawn to his childhood home and he visits an old neighbor that lived at the end of the lane. At their house lies a pond that he and his friend Lettie Hempstock called the ocean. Looking out at the pond, he recalls repressed memories of a wild three-week spring vacation when he was seven.

The main character is characterized as someone who is introverted and prefers the company of books to that of other human beings. He is currently a poor artist who is divorced and all alone. His seven-year-old self was not much different, as he had no friends and was distant with his family.

The main character is actually the author Neil Gaiman, and the novel was a commentary on his own childhood living in a scientology community. The novel is not an autobiography, but is based on the author’s past. He wrote the novel for his wife Amanda “who wanted to know,” as he said on the dedication page.

It is hard to interpret what things Gaiman symbolized and what are the actual events that happened because the childhood memories are obscured by the story’s fantasy element. That may be what he wanted to do—to make readers question what to believe.

The writing style is simple, but the concepts are for adults. It contains topics of broken families, death and growing up, all of which are important lessons to reflect upon, which is what the main character does throughout the novel.

Neil Gaiman writes both children and adult novels. Two familiar books to most people are “The Graveyard Book” and “Coraline,” which both display how spooky Gaiman’s imagination is and his style of fiction.

The execution of the novel was well done. It flowed very well and had an interesting story line. The fantasy aspect in an adult novel is not usually done by authors, especially those who are trying to express major topics or something about their personal lives. The fantasy may throw people off, but it can be interpreted as just childhood imagination to help cope with traumatic events that happened to the main character.

The Flyer gives “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” 8/10 stars.

Zeds Dead releases dynamic debut album

By Drew LaCouture

Staff Writer

After years of paying dues and performing, electronic duo Zeds Dead finally release a full-length album that is top-heavy but enjoyable enough to match up against other albums in the EDM genre. DJs Dylan Mamid and Zachary Rovan combine dubstep, hip-hop, house and pop to create a familiar sound with clever delivery.

While these two are not contributing anything revolutionary to their respective genre, they make sure none of their songs overstay their welcome. However, “This is Me” and “Symphony” should have been bonus tracks to give the main album a tighter feel.

Among all of the producer/singer partnerships in music business today, Zeds Dead and alternative master Twin Shadow could and should make an album together because the opener “Stardust” and the enticing “Loneliness” are fantastic. A full album of songs like those two could make for a brilliant and artistic project.

Maybe this is not what Zeds Dead is aiming for, however. The album is pretty simple with “Too Young” and “DNA” being the only songs with clear-cut meanings. Hearing Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo on a track with Pusha T alone is worth paying for, even though the track itself is pretty flavorless. “DNA,” though it borrows from countless other electronic and hip-hop colorations, is a bold banger with some great head-bopping choruses.

Speaking of bangers, the only drum and bass track “Me No Care” is the only track that can carry itself without guest features. “Dimensions” and “Where Did That Go” is where the album starts to slow down in terms of creativity, for it sounds like other groups like NERO and Pendulum could have made them in their sleep.

Dedicated fans of dubstep will appreciate “Already Gone” where abrasive rapper Ghetts is featured perfectly on the equally abrasive track. Diplo’s stadium instincts also make an appearance on “Blame,” which should be their opening track in a live set list. For those looking for something more subtle, Jenna Pemkowski brings her gorgeous vocals on the closer “Slow Down.”

If it is not clear by now, this album is all over the place—however, a minor connection can be traced throughout the album. The music in many ways is mysterious and moody, but the guest vocalists bring a bright and clean sensibility to the songs just like how the Northern Lights on the cover shine through the night sky.

This theme is embodied most significantly in “Lights Out” and “Neck and Neck,” and both will sound solid live. This night sky-themed album could have used more bass overall. Perhaps not so much deep, like the sub-bass that many electronic artists rely on, but more vibrant and thicker bass lines would have made “Frontlines” even better.

Zeds Dead’s smorgasbord of an album demonstrates their talent in blending styles. What the album needed most to be great is more prevalent bass, and for the forgettable tracks to be scratched. At the same time, with good features, a good presence with synths and an ear for pop, Zeds Dead will fare well with their debut. In the meantime, we will be waiting for a Twin Shadow/Zeds Dead album in the future.

The Flyer gives “Northern Lights” a 7/10

 

How Far is Too Far

By LILLY METCALFE

Staff Writer

With descriptive language, personification and the perspective from a six-year-old, the novel “Too Far” by Rich Shapero encompasses all three of those things. The novel had potential to be a great read but it fell short due to the confusing plot and the creepy fact that the children were discovering sexuality at such a young age.

If the novel Bridge to Terabithia had a fraternal twin or part two, this novel would be it. The storyline is very similar. The two children use the wilderness and their imaginations in order to escape their everyday reality.

The two children, Robbie and Fristeen, were six-years-old and about to enter the first grade once the summer ended. They both came from very different homes, but each home was falling apart. Fristeen’s mother was a drug addict. Robbie’s parents’ relationship was struggling and leading to a divorce. Robbie and Fristeen used their friendship, wild imaginations and the woods to escape their home troubles.

The novel’s format is simple as if it was written for a middle school audience, but the content is very adult as the characters explore their independence and sexuality.

Robbie challenged the authority of his parents, when he claimed since turning six and being more mature than his five year-old self he should have more freedom, like explore the vast woods.

The author made Robbie and Fristeen have sexual tension and feelings towards each other. They shared their first kiss, saw each other’s genitals, held hands and claimed it was okay because they were going to get married.

There were also many sexual references like when Robbie was counting Fristeen’s teeth he got distracted about how warm and smooth her mouth was. These references and descriptions made the novel very uncomfortable to read because the children were so young.

The perspective of the novel is through Robbie’s point of view and that is how the plot unfolds about the parents’ relationship and the impact it has on Robbie and Fristeen.

Their active imaginations are seen through the metaphors and personification of the woods. The use of the personification was interesting and made the book stand out from others, but it may have been too much. There came a point when the story didn’t make much sense and was hard to understand because these literary devices were being over used.

The ending was very poorly written. It was a huge disappointment especially as it was tied all together at the last two pages of the 244-paged novel. The ending didn’t make any logical sense, which is what ruined the reading experience.

The author made it seem like the children witnessed a murder in the woods as it describes a pool of red, a person they called the Dream Man bashing a head of a woman and spilling her brains as they interpreted as releasing her thoughts. It sounded like a murder, yet the author took it in a completely different direction at the end, which is why the ending made no sense. He also did not explain the importance of what the children witnessed either, leaving it all for the reader’s interpretation.

The novel could be a metaphor of life, death, sex and young love, but if so, Shapero failed miserably. This novel was an attempt at trying to be a literary masterpiece, but this novel should be used as a doorstop.

The novel is available on amazon, for only one cent, so any Salisbury University student can read it and give it a chance.

The Flyer gives “Too Far” a 3/10.

6god plays it safe on fourth album

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BY DREW LACOUTURE
Staff Writer

Coming off the most successful year of his career, Drake manages to maintain the attention of everybody while not impressing anybody on “Views.” Meant to be a homage to his home city of Toranto, Drake decides to indulge in the moody yet seductive subject matter and instrumentals that made him successful including singing… lots of it. This and a lack of fantastic tracks (despite there being 20 tracks) might make this album polarizing for many people.
Drake over the past year has been dropping music back-to-back and just about all of it has landed a bullseye. While this album is without a doubt satisfactory, the Drake camp might be suffering from artist fatigue. All of his music has been so great on a pop and hip-hop level (“If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late”, “Back to Back” and “Hotline Bling”) so because this album is just good, it makes the album worse than it is. This is mainly due to View’s lack of distinction with several questionable decisions.
What people will remember most about “Views” is his inclusion of dance-hall inspired pop songs with “Controlla, the single “One Dance” and “Too Good” all coming off the success of Rhianna’s “Work.” Speaking of Rhianna, her feature on “Too Good” is spectacular plus the hypnotic instrumental make it a highlight. While these tracks might settle well with all of Drake’s fans, “Too Good” alone makes this experiment worth but “One Dance and “Controlla” will likely be inescapable this summer.
Unfortunately the overhyped “Grammys” with Future sounds like a B-side from “What a Time to Be Alive, with both artists talking about their success behind a lackluster instrumental. The real banger on here is ironically “Hype” that has one of his most braggadocios lyrics “I don’t run out of material/ you shouldn’t speak on me, period, you try to give ’em your side of the story/ they heard it, but they wasn’t hearin’ it.”
The opening tracks on “Views” actually start the album off strong with the emotional and cloudy “Keep the Family Close” which sets the tone of the album incredibly well. “9” has an incredible beat and is the only track strictly about his city. However, he never really explains why “I turn the six upside down, it’s a nine now.”
The album alone suffers because of “With You” where Drake uses PARTYNEXTDOOR and Jeremih both entirely outshine him and sounds more like an interlude then a full track. However, the situation is flipped on the next track “Faithful” where Plies and dvsn are underused. Plies only says a few lines while dvsn sounds fantastic on this track and his outro should have been re-written as the hook of the song.
There are just so many tracks that are just good, and nothing more that. Drake is most ear grabbing on the Fetty Wap inspired “Still Here” with his second verse (“I gotta talk to God even though he isn’t near me, Based on what I got it’s hard to think he don’t hear me”). The beginning of “Childs Play” gives so much promise but falls off half way through. Drake spits some nice bars on “Weston Road Flows” but the sample used is too loud and is quite distracting.
Love him or hate him, Drake is one of the only artists in history that makes sexy, lush songs but are really break-up songs or him struggling with love. This is especially true with “Feel No Ways” and ethereal “Redemption” that are both harken back to “Take Care.” What other artist can do that while still crushing Meek Mill?
The real question of the century though is why he put “Hotline Bling” on the album and not “Summer Sixteen.” The reasons why this move does not make sense is almost endless. “Views” should have been the actual closer because of its grand instrumental and great reminiscent lines ( “Running through the 6, thumbing through the contracts/ I’m possessed, you can see it under the contacts/ They think I had the silver spoon but they’ll get it soon/ I still got something left to prove since you left me room”)
To the credit of Drake and his producers (and possibly ghostwriters), the record does not feel like an hour and thirty minutes. The songs for the most part at least decent enough to vibe with. This is not to say that some tracks should have been cut for “U With Me,” and “With You” mentioned earlier. “Fire and Desire” is barely redeemed by the genius use of a sample from Brandy.
Drake as an entertainer did not disappoint on “Views” but his work ethic recently work against him here for outside of his dance hall tracks, Drake does not do anything incredibly noteworthy. If Drake waited a bit longer to release this to give listeners a break, and focused more on quality over quantity, then this album might have been more successful on a musical level. Despite this Drake still deserves credit where it is deserved and this album will not be seen as a misstep in the future.

The Flyer gives “Views” by Drake a 6/10.

Three Trapped Tigers’ Safe Third Outing

DrewBY DREW LACOUTURE
Staff Writer

London Instrumental Band Three Trapped Tigers return with a slight advancement in their tight and creative sound with “Silent Earthling.”
Combining metal guitar with the synthetic drums and heavy synthesizes of electronic music, TTT still sounds excited to make music. However, with a world of musical possibilities they could embody, they play it relatively safe on this record.
This is not to say a reinvention was required of them. After all, their debut “Route One or Die” and follow up “Numbers 1-13” were solid progressive rock albums where the listener never knew whether they were going to become darker or brighter, allowing TTT to have an off-kilter nature to them. [Read more…]

Wild Nothing grows up with “Life of Pause”

life of pauseBy Samuel Stevens

@SamuelJ_Stevens

Wild Nothing is a Virginia-based indie rock/dream pop band headed by singer-songwriter Jack Tatum, now with three studio albums and two EPs. Their latest album, “Life of Pause,” delivers the synth and jangly guitar sound of their past two albums, 2010’s “Gemini” and 2012’s “Nocturne,” while experimenting with their style and sound.

Their last EP, “Empty Estate,” changed up the more subdued, washed out style of the previous albums. “Life of Pause” is another evolution in Wild Nothing’s style. The album delivers on a number of fronts, easily surpassing both of their previous albums.

The production values on the record are a major improvement over the previous albums and EPs, especially the vocal mixing. “Gemini” and “Nocturne” featured hazy, almost incomprehensible lyrics in the vein of acts like Beach House, DIIV and Craft Spells. “Pause” takes its production and offers clear vocals without drowning the music out of the mix. [Read more…]