Book Review: Ghost Boys (2018)

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Summary: Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that’s been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing.
Soon Jerome meets another ghost: Emmett Till, a boy from a very different time but similar circumstances. Emmett helps Jerome process what has happened, on a journey towards recognizing how historical racism may have led to the events that ended his life. Jerome also meets Sarah, the daughter of the police officer, who grapples with her father’s actions.
This is a quick review.
Pros:
Characters. We meet a lot of characters in this story, with Jerome’s family and Carlos, even the bullies and the leader of the Ghost Boys, but I’m going to only focus on Jerome because he is who the story follows.
  • Jerome is the main character. We see the story through his eyes and the good thing is, is that while he’s a ghost (which isn’t a good thing), he gets to be everywhere. He’s a smart kid, kind, but he has a system, when he goes to school he’s really bullied by these kids and he’s used to it, but he has ways to avoid it. It’s sad really but understandable. When Carlos is introduced, no one reacts to be his friend, so Jerome does, and even when he doesn’t want to have Carlos around to make the bullying worse for him, he does. Later, when he meets Sarah and she can see him, he finds a bit of comfort in her even though they argued a lot at first since her dad was the officer that killed him. As the reader, you’ll feel bad for him because he was 12 and he had a life ahead of him, a life full of love and he has to watch his family suffer. His character feels like a real kid.
Story Importance. There is a lot going on in this book. Not a lot of action or anything, but a lot to think about. Characters deal with death, racism, bullying life after death, cultural traditions and it’s just so current that I think anyone can read this and completely identify with some aspect of Jerome’s life.
Emotional. I legit teared up twice and I think I kind of cried. Not sure. But it’s a very emotional story. In the first part, you learn about his death, there’s no easing into it, but when you get to meet Jerome before his death, meet his family and his relationship with them, it’s sad. Plus, Carlos feels this heavy guilt about Jerome’s death and when he talks with the grandmother at the end, it was a really moving moment. Also, Jerome can see into Emmett’s past, so his story is told again and that’s always sad and it makes me emotional regardless. Even if there aren’t any tears, I think readers would be moved.
Historical Connections. Being that the story is about the death of black boys at the hands of police, or violence, the inclusion of Emmett Till really helps put things into perspective. When Jerome first sees Emmett, we have no idea who he is, but he was my first thought (I didn’t really read the synopsis, so I didn’t realize Emmett Till was going to be in the story). There are also mentions of Tamir Rice and I think Jerome also sees Trayvon Martin’s ghost walking listening to music or something. In ways, it’s eerie because we know about these deaths but because Jerome was a victim of police brutality and racism, his story is connected to so many who came before him. I thought that was unique and it also gave Jerome things to consider and think about instead of just watching his family grieve for him.
Cons:
Heavy Handed. This was the only thing I could really think of when it came to what I might think would be a “negative”. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal, but I can imagine some people feeling too “pushed down” by the story. It’s an important story, but I think with what Jerome goes through, what Sarah deals with and what he learns from Emmett, that it could feel preachy.
Overall, while it took me a while to finish the book, I think it’s a great story for young readers to read and even understand what’s going on in the world today. I think the story is handled well and that the author doesn’t shy away from talking about grief, but also including how different cultures honor the dead. I think Jerome, being a young boy, gives the perspective of someone different as compared to teenagers or parents like in the other books of this nature. The story is importance, and I think the story is handled well. It’s emotional and holds historical importance. I can understand why someone might find it heavy-handed in the topic, and while I agree to a small extent, I think the author finds a balance.
Rating: 4 out 5 stars.
Check out Ghost Boys if you haven’t. It’s a powerful story told through the lens of a young kid. Give your young readers something to relate to but also understand the tragedy in the world today.
Next Book: I don’t know lol, I have a ton of things to read on my nightstand.
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When It’s All Over

Read the other parts before part four.

I. One and Only

II. Falling Fast

III. Hello Heartache

When Its All Over

“I met my soul mate today.”
 Those were really not the words he was expecting her to say. He didn’t know why but he couldn’t react. Not at first. He just stood there. Silent. Say something. But he couldn’t, he didn’t know what to say. What should he even say? He knew this day would come, he didn’t know when and he didn’t know what it would do to her and just by looking, he could tell it was killing her inside.
What should he do?
“Steve?”
Hearing his name snapped him out of whatever he just disappeared in. He cleared his throat and took a step back trying to regain his balance. Theo moved forward but stopped herself, her eyes darting away from him. He could see on her face that she was confused. He could see on her face that she was in pain.
This is why. This is why he never put stock in the whole “soul mark” thing because of reasons like this. She’s hurting, and he knows he can’t do anything to help her, not really. This is why he admired his parents for making it through this society full of matching soul marks because they are still in love. He never knew if they met their soul mates or not, but regardless they’re together. They’re in love. He wanted that regardless of matching soul marks. He knew Theo didn’t care either, she always wanted to make her own way. So why was this so hard? Especially for her?
“Steve…”
“Just…” He waved his hand asking her to stop. Just don’t. He wasn’t angry, not really. Steve didn’t really know what he felt. It was confusing. He turned his back on her and gripped the back of her navy-blue couch trying to stable himself. What does this mean for them? He wanted to move in together. He loves Theo. He doesn’t want to lose her to… “What is his name?”
“What?” Her voice was shaky, almost a whisper. He didn’t want to see the look on her face because who know what he’d see.
“What is his name?”
Silence. Steve turned to look at his girlfriend. She stood there, her head lowered, her arms crossed, like she was trying to close herself in. Theo had walls up before, he worked hard to get through them, but it was like she was trying to pull them back up.
“Theodora… what is his name?”
“Michael.”
Michael. He wanted to know what he was like. She was gone for a long time, perhaps they got better acquainted. That burned him up inside, it felt like something red-hot was trying to claw its way out of his chest. Jealousy maybe? He never thought he would feel this way. Theo looked at him, her brown eyes wet. Was she crying? Oh god, he can’t handle a crying Theo. She is always so strong so tears were a rarity.
“Tell me about him.”
“There’s nothing to tell Steve. He doesn’t… I mean, we didn’t… it wasn’t like a full conversation. We just talked.”
She stepped towards him again and he would have moved away but he forced himself to stay. He could smell her perfume as she moved closer. The honey lavender scent wafted into his nose and it centered him. He always loved the way she smelt. The smoothness of her hands, touched his arms that tightly gripped the back of the couch behind him. He watched as her hands moved up his arms, rising to his shoulders…his heart beat so painfully in his chest but he couldn’t help himself. He wanted to kiss her. Her hands moved to his neck, they rested on his face and she stood on her toes. Her full lips touched his and he didn’t know if the sharp intake of breath was his or hers.
Steve released the couch and pulled her closer to him. Her body touching his…but something was wrong. Something was off. There was an alarm going off somewhere in his mind. When they pulled away, his breath was heavy, her eyes stared into his eyes and he knew something was wrong.
“Theo I-”
“Something’s wrong Steve.” She pulled away completely, her movements frantic as she began to pace back and forth. She touched her fingers to her lips, her brow furrowed as it did when she was in thought.
“It’s the soul mark.” His voice was quiet. It was the only explanation. But why would they feel different just because Theo met her soul mate. Nothing changed when he met Ebony. Why has it changed now?
“No. Why would it be different for the both of us and not just me? I don’t understand any of this. It’s so annoying and I hate it. I love you Steve. I know I do but I just feel… so confused that I don’t know what to do.” He watched as her pacing picked up speed. Her face was full of agony and she occasionally stopped to look at him her brown eyes wide.
“No one truly understands how soul marks work Theo.”
“Maybe not but I don’t… I hate this. I hate it. When I heard my words…” No. I don’t want to hear this. “…I, I wanted to fight it. I did fight it, but it wasn’t good enough. I’m so sorry Steve. I never want to hurt you.”
“I know.”
“You know I never wanted to meet my soul mate. I just… I want to be with you. I just can’t decide what’s going on inside of me. If you meet your soul mate you’ll know exactly…”
“I’ve already met her.”
Theo stopped moving, her body rigid. She turned to look at Steve even more confused then she already was. Steve looked away. Today has been ruined. He shouldn’t have said anything, he should have kept everything to himself. He shouldn’t have asked in the first place.
“What? You have? When?”
“About six months ago.”
Theo’s eyes grew large. Steve wasn’t sure what that expression was, but he knew her mind was going through all kinds of scenarios. She stood still. She was so silent. He felt like he should have moved forward, maybe he should reach for her, maybe he should reassure her that it meant nothing. Yeah, he thought about Ebony, but not like constantly. It just happens every now and then.
“That’s why.”
What? It was so quiet that he almost didn’t hear what she said. He asked her to repeat what she said, but she finally looked at him. Her brown eyes watery once more but soft.
“Is she pretty?”
What? 
“Tha- that doesn’t… that doesn’t matter Theo.”
“Is she pretty Steve?”
He sighed. This is so painful, and he didn’t want to make it worse. Why should it matter if his “soulmate” was pretty? It didn’t matter.
The woman of his dreams stood there in front of him. Her eyes a beautiful light brown, seeming brighter because of her tears. Her beautiful brown skin always glowed from the light she carried inside her body. Her large curly hair styled in one of her favorite “go-to” styles of a fro-hawk. Her dark jeans and blue tank top. Everything about her was what he wanted. She was perfect.
But… there were times when he thought of Ebony James. It happened randomly. Not often but randomly. He remembered how she looked when he stopped her dog from running too far.
Ebony had her hair pulled back into a ponytail, it was black and straight with wisps escaping and curling around her forehead. Her skin was dark, he imagined it was beautiful in the moonlight. She had almond eyes, dark as well and a beautiful smile with full lips. She was beautiful and sometimes her face appeared, and he always pushed it away.
Sometimes it lingered for too long though.
Ebony doesn’t look a thing like Theo. But he couldn’t deny his own confusion, but he could push it away a lot easier than Theo apparently could. He didn’t know Ebony. She seemed nice, but he didn’t know her.
Shit. He’s been quiet for too long.
“Yeah, she was pretty.”
There was a sharp intake of breath, but he didn’t see anything accusing or hurt in her eyes. There was understanding, and he hated that. She was perfect and he’s sitting here upset that she met her soulmate, like she planned it.
He sighed and moved towards her.
She wrapped her arms around him and they just stood there entwined. He could feel her heartbeat against his chest, and he really wished everything before this moment could be erased but he knew it was going to be different.
At the end of the day, it’s Theo’s choice.
Isn’t it?

Hello Heartache

**Companion to One and Only and Falling Fast but probably should be read last.
How did he even get so lucky? He didn’t have an answer and he was sure that no one could answer that question for him either. He had the most beautiful girl in the world by his side, she loved him, regardless of the fact that fate said they were destined to be with another. That didn’t matter. The words printed on the inside of his arm didn’t matter. He found love on his own. She was beautiful.
He remembered the day he met her.
There was a used bookstore he liked to frequent. They often had great stuff in there for a cheap price, and he liked things that were good quality and cheap. He was looking at their book selection when he heard someone humming in the next stack. It was just humming, everyone could hum, at least in tune, but he still chanced a look. He acted like he was moving into the aisle to check out the shelves, but when he saw her, he was immediately taken.
There she was, with headphones in, her hair out in a curly afro, intensely reading a book. He could barely see the cover, but she was into it. Her head bobbing along to her music every now and then. Everything about her drew him in. He moved a little closer, hoping to see what she was reading; his hazel eyes shifted slightly to catch the title of the book. He couldn’t see the cover but he could just make out the title printed on the top of the page. A throner? Nice.
“Winter is coming.” He said aloud, moving a bit closer to her, enough where he wouldn’t freak her out, but enough for her to know that he spoke. She noticed him, and with an arched eyebrow turned her head towards him.
“I’m sorry, what?”
Um, maybe her headphones were too loud. He nodded towards the book in her hands.
“Winter is coming.”
She glanced at the book and it took her a minute before she laughed. It was a beautiful sound and he was already into her. Her brown eyes looked back to him, a twinkle in them… her smile though, wow.
“Yeah, it sure is. I can’t take it already.”
“You read the books?”
“No, not yet. I’m buying some of them today. I was reading the first chapter. I watch the show though.”
“Me too. This last season, man, it killed me.”
“I know right! I cannot believe they ended it with Jon’s death. I’m so upset right now.”
He watched her as she spoke about the show in an animated fashion. She was obviously very passionate about it and it showed, in her facial expression, in the movements of her hands and the speed of her words. He was locked into watching her talk. He could do that all day to be honest.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to talk your head off like that.” She said with an awkward chuckle. She closed the book, and moved to lift a stack off the shelf. It was the second and third book of the series. He hadn’t read them before either, but he did have the first book on his desk. He’d been meaning to read it since the second season of the show. He was slacking. She was already ahead of him.
“No, it’s not that. I just never met anyone who loved the show like that.”
“Oh yeah. It’s great. I can’t wait to see how different it is from the book.”
They stood there and talked for a few minutes. He honestly lost track of time. It was interesting to say the least and he enjoyed talking with her. She was animated, opinionated and passionate. It was kind of funny at how easily they fell into this kind of easy conversation. He never really talked with a woman this way. He found himself wanting to keep in touch with her. He actually never wanted to leave her presence. She was mesmerizing.
Later, he asked if she wouldn’t mind joining him for a sno-cone. It would be his treat. He was ecstatic when she accepted. As they talked, he couldn’t help but notice the scrawl on her shoulder. Oh yeah. He always forgot about these damn things. He saw the beginning of the word or phrase. “Ser”. What was the first thing he said to her?
Winter is coming. 
Damn. He wasn’t her soul mate. But they were perfect for each other. He could feel it. At least he felt something special. He had no idea how it would really feel when he finally met her, but this had to be close.
Yeah, he thought about that constantly. The day he met her. It was supposed to be a special night tonight. They were going to go to dinner and then a movie and just spend time together. They’d been talking of moving in together, well, he talked about it more than she did, he was ready for it but she always had a reason as to why they should wait.
He checked his watch. It’s been a while since she went out to get groceries. It’s almost been an hour. He hadn’t heard from her, and even when he called, she didn’t answer. Was everything okay?
Seriously? 
Those words popped into his head. No. Surely she would have said something if someone said those words to her, at least to the point where it wasn’t just a regular question. But if he was honest, he already knew who his soul mate was. He met her. He was jogging and she was walking her dog. He watched as her dog spotted a squirrel and took off after it. The leash was yanked from her fingers. She called after her dog but he was quicker and went after the dog.
He managed to grab the leash, and calm the dog down. He always loved dogs and this stranger’s dog took to him immediately. She jogged up to them, her face scrunched in irritation.
“Cute dog.” He said with a grin, as the dog continued to lick his face and enjoy his rubs.
“That damn dog.” She said with a light laugh, kneeling down next to him to scratch behind her dog’s ears. That damn dog. It was his words, the ones on the inside of his arm. Shit. He looked at her and she stared back at him, the dog between them panting, probably with a pleased expression on his furry face.
No. No. No. NO! His insides twisted, it almost felt a little painful considering what he knew. There was a sharp intake of breath, but whose it was, he didn’t know. They just stared.
“It’s you.” She finally breathed out.
No, it’s not me. He wanted to say to her, but something inside stopped him. What was going on? After all this time, NOW? He’s with Theo. He loves Theo. They play video games together, most times she hogs the controller and he swears she cheats when they play Mario Kart. They watch Game of Thrones and Supernatural together. They go to the movies together. It’s Theo, even without their matching soul marks.
Her expression killed him because he knew, he knew he was going to shatter whatever fantasy her brain and heart cooked up.
“I’m sorry.” He said.
“What do you mean? It’s you.” He watched as she removed her shoe. Her sock followed and he recognized his own slanted handwriting on her foot. Cute dog. It was right there on her foot. He stood up. She followed. “Wait, please.”
“I can’t. Look, I know what this means but I have a girlfriend.” Her eyes widened and he turned away.
Electricity surged through his body when he felt her hand on his shoulder.
“I- I’ve been waiting for this my whole life. To find you. For you to find me and you’re telling me you’re going to ignore this?”
“Didn’t you hear me? I have a girlfriend and I love her.” He said firmly. As far as he knew, Theo hadn’t found her soul mate, nor did she ever mention the word on her shoulder. Theo was always determined to make her own way. She marched to the beat of her own drum and he admired that in her. He wanted to be like that. He needed to be like that.
“But-“
“I can’t.”
He shrugged her hand from his shoulder and he started to walk away. He didn’t understand it. His parents warned him when he met Theo that this might not turn out very well. Soul mates were hard to ignore once found and though it’s happened before, though people never find their soul mates, it’s not impossible to be happy with someone else. They were still human after all.
“Please…at least take my number.” He could feel the worry in her voice. What would happen to her if he refuses to even acknowledge their connection? Would she give up? Especially since she’s been waiting for this forever. He hated to be a disappointment.
He found himself looking at her contact information in his phone.
Ebony James (704) 931- 8979
He never reached out to her; it was the only viable solution to keep himself from falling in love with her. He even refused to give her his number but for some reason, his mind wouldn’t let him stop thinking about Ebony. Why today of all days?
“Steve?”
Steve jumped up from the couch hearing her voice come through the front door. He calmed himself down before casually walking into the kitchen where she was busy putting things away. He leaned on the bar counter watching her. Something was wrong. Something was off. She wasn’t buzzing with energy like usual. Instead she was reserved, something Theo never is.
“Hey, what took you so long. You were gone for nearly two hours.”
“Yeah. I got caught up.”
“Is everything okay?”
She stilled, her back to him, the door to the freezer open. Something was definitely wrong. The nagging feeling in his guilt continued to build and he felt like it wasn’t going to be good, whatever it was that she wanted to tell him.
“Theo.” Nothing. He could see the words on her shoulder. “Theodora.”
She reacted to hearing her full name. He heard a heavy sigh be released before she turned around. Her eyes held a weight in them, her energy was off, everything was wrong. But he knew… he knew what happened because he felt the same way when it happened to him. She was about to tell him but he didn’t want her too. He didn’t tell her when he met Ebony. He couldn’t.
But Theo, she would tell him. She told him everything.
“I met my soul mate today.”

Movie Review: Moonlight (2016)

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Summary: A chronicle of the childhood, adolescence and burgeoning adulthood of a young black man growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami.
Pros:
Cast and Characters. We spend the most time with Chiron but thanks to him meeting others, the viewers get to meet them as well. The characters in this film are acted so well, everything is so understated and subtle. They feel like real people.
  • Chiron.
    • Alex R. Hibbert as Little. When we first meet Little, he is running away from bullies. Juan manages to find him, since Little won’t speak, he takes him to his house, feeds him and that sparks a friendship. Alex Hibbert starts off us with this character and he does such a great job setting the tone for this character. He keeps his head down, keeps his lips pursed like he doesn’t like the fact that people keep asking him to speak up. He looks like he has secrets. I thought he did very well.
    • Ashton Sanders as Chiron. I think he was my favorite out of the three who play the character. Being that he’s a teenager, this is usually a tough time in a person’s life as they are growing out of childhood and on the verge of adulthood. Things change. His mother is deeper into her addiction and he’s being bullied at school. Ashton Sanders is so good! He maintains what Alex started, the awkward walking, keeping his head down, the pursing of the lips like he has something to say but can’t say it. His confusion at his sexuality shows in his face later in this particular section and I think Ashton handles all of that very well.
    • Trevante Rhodes as Black. First of all, he is fine lol. Now Chiron is an adult, he is a drug dealer in Atlanta. He still says arms length away from others, just does what he has too. He seems have stayed the same into an adult but this time, instead of hating drugs from an arms length away, he hates them up close. He has a conversation with his mother and he ends up reconecting with an old friend. Trevante Rhodes also manages to maintain the same way about him the other two did, the same type of walk, keeping his head down, the quiet way of talking. He doesn’t purse his lips much anymore (I mean how can he with that stupid grill in his mouth) but everything is the same.
  • Mahershala Ali as Juan. He rightfully won that Oscar. He is drug dealer, who meets Little while he’s running from bullies. He’s kind to him, tries to find where he lives but as Little won’t tell him, he takes him home and cares for him. Even as time goes on, he forms a friendship with him, teaches him to swim and how to make his own path. I really like Mahershala Ali, he knows how to be very subtle and Juan is a man who has to do what he has to do in order to live his life, but when he’s not on the streets, he’s a different person. It’s great the way he takes in Chiron and teaches him many things. His story about living in Cuba and moonlight, I thought came full circle by the end.
  • Naomie Harris as Paula. Deserved her nomination. I read that she filmed her scenes in three days and it does not show. When we first see her, she doesn’t look like she does drugs but it’s easy to see the downward spiral. Each time we see her, it’s a different point in her life, when Chiron is a child, she seems to be abusive and angry at him, as a teenager, she’s a crack addict and only gives him attention for drug money and as an old woman, well things are different. Naomie Harris is such a great actress, she plays each version of this woman so well, it’s almost scary to see the change. She also made me cry as an adult.
  • Janelle Monae as Theresa. Definitely a supporting role, but she’s great and contagious. She is Juan’s girlfriend and becomes close with Chiron as she tries to get him to talk comfortably with her, even though he may not do that as a child, he definitely spends a lot more time with her as a teenager. She is what his mother isn’t and it’s clear to see that she loves him and he loves her. Janelle Monae is so likable in this role, the sassiness, her strength creates such a great supporting character.
  • Kevin
    • André Holland as Adult Kevin. He reaches out to Black, he is now a Chef in a dinner in Miami and life hasn’t gone according to plan but he is content for the most part. He and Black have a conversation, they learn more about each other as adults. Kevin does most of the talking and it’s quite interesting to watch their interaction. I felt like Andre Holland was a bit miscast in the role, he seemed to old to play this role, Black couldn’t be more than 25 and Andre seemed much older. Perhaps it was a well thought out choice due to what his life was like. He did a good job though.
    • Jharrel Jerome as Teen Kevin. He called Chiron “black” and I wouldn’t say they friends like they were when they were kids, but ya know teenage boys. He talks up being a ladies man, though I think he was just doing it on purpose, and later he and Chiron have a nice conversation. However, he us forced to choose a side when Chiron’s bullies want to “haze” him. I liked him, probably in the same way I liked Ashton Sanders. He was charismatic and kind of likable, he played teenage Kevin the way I would think a kid like him would grow into. Seems to be well off, used to getting his way and no one messes with him. Yeah, good job Jharrel (fun fact: he will be in the film adaptation of Walter Dean Myer’s Monster).
    • Jaden Piner as Child KevinCons. He is Little’s best friend, he’s small like Little but unlike Little, he uses it to his advantage and makes himself seem big. It seems like he comes from a better off family. He teases Little but he also is someone that Little obviously looks up too. Jaden Piner is adorable, he reminds me of Journey Smullet-Bell, like her twin brother (when she was a child). Some child actors can be good and some can be really bad and I think he was in the middle.
Tenderness. I think this film has a lot of tender moments between characters which I thought was beautiful and it isn’t always romantic tenderness. It’s two characters, or even three, who care so much about each other that they created this bond that it’s so easy to feel from the screen. I think it’s great, especially when at times black people can be shown as being sexual beings when it comes to love/romance and this didn’t make a big deal out of it.
Subtle. I liked the fact that a lot of things are shown or discussed in a subtle way. Nothing is made a big deal out of, it feels human.
The Transitions. At first, I was confused because it felt like the chapter for Little just ended, but I noticed that it was a pattern and each pattern was the same but a different color to signify a new time period. I thought it was quite unique.
The ending. I do think it comes full circle, at least in the very last shot we see. We hear Juan talk about it in the beginning and then the way the film ends I was like, wow that’s so awesome.
Cons:
Questions. I wouldn’t really make this be against the film because it’s probably an art choice, but considering the way the film is edited, we don’t know what happened in between those times when Chiron grows up. It leaves a lot of questions and it’s kind of frustrating, especially when it’s referenced but there isn’t really an explanation. I like the showing and not telling so much but when it’s not there at all, I want to know! Tell me!
Cliche. This isn’t really a terrible thing but I do think that outside of the way the film is told, and the acting, I do think characters like these aren’t necessarily new and fresh. We’ve seen them before.
Overall, I loved this film. It’s amazing. I had minor problems with it and as soon as it was over, I knew and wanted it to win the Oscar for Best Picture. I know a lot of people don’t like it, or refuse to see it due the nature of the film, but I think it’s important that a film like this was made because this does represent people, even men in the Black community. Besides, it may not apply to your life, but it’s a wonderfully made and well acted film.
Rating: 4.9 out of 5 stars. 
Have you seen Moonlight? Now that it’s won Best Picture at the Oscars are you more interested or not interested? Let me know in the comments below. Don’t forget to comment, like and follow this blog!

Movie Review: Collateral Beauty (2016)

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There might be spoilers ahead. Just saying.
Trailer Summary: Retreating from life after a tragedy, a man questions the universe by writing to Love, Time and Death. Receiving unexpected answers, he begins to see how these things interlock and how even loss can reveal moments of meaning and beauty.
Real Summary: After the death of his daughter, a man questions their universe by writing to Love, Time, and Death. Meanwhile, his “friends” and coworkers, are worried about his lack of interest in their company and devise a plan to push him out. They hire actors to portray Death, Time and Love in order to make him look/feel crazy so they could record digitally alter the footage to prove he’s unfit. 
Pros:
The Cast. There are no characters attached this time because I don’t think, outside of the actors playing them, that they were very interesting characters. I think all of the actors in this film are great actors and they did well in their roles but their characters were meh.
  • Will Smith is a good actor, I this he’s very charismatic overall and I think he understands humor and is a good dramatic actor but his character Howard, was just bland. He’s sad because his daughter died two years prior but he doesn’t do anything other than sulk, he builds domino contraptions in his place of work instead of actually working. He writes these letters to Time, Death and Love because he’s angry at them which is fine. Sure. But he’s just so… blah. There are a few times where he’s funny because I don’t think Will Smith can help it… he’s funny but the emotional moments, while he did a good job acting them, it just felt forced because of the circumstances. The ending though was a good emotional moment for him.
  • Edward Norton plays Whit, Smith’s best friend (I guess) and business partner. He comes up with the idea to hire actors to play the three entities that Howard wrote letter to. He also manages to have a closer relationship with Amy (Knightley) which happens to be ironic later on (but it wasn’t as clever as they tried to make it), he coaches her on how to be “love” to Howard. He is trying to mend his relationship with his daughter, who is upset with him for breaking her mother’s heart, so outside of his plan for Howard, he’s trying to reconnect their love.
  • Kate Winslet plays Claire, who I think was a mentee to Howard. She is the emotional one out of the group and spends her time coaching Raffi on how to be “time” as well as having other conversations with him later. She wants to have a baby because she’s worried her biological clock is ticking. She also is the one who feels bad for deceiving Howard. Kate Winslet is always good, she was good here and her character is likable enough but outside of the minor moments, we don’t really get to know her so you don’t feel bad for her.
  • Michael Pena plays Simon, who I’m not sure what he was to Smith before he became a “partner” or whatever he was. It’s so weird to not see him be funny as he usually always is. He takes the job of coaching Brigitte in being “death” and they end up having interesting conversations where she figures out something is up with him.
  • Naomie Harris plays Madeleine. I love Naomie Harris, she is such a great actress, you also wouldn’t know she’s British lol. But she plays the mediator of a group of parents who have lost their children. She ends up meeting Howard, they have a couple of conversations and she reveals how she was told, while at the hospital, about “Collateral Beauty” and she says this like 5 times in her story. Harris is good in her role in being an actual friend to Howard, someone he actually talks to and unloads his feelings to. It was a welcome change compared to other “friends”.
Death, Time, Love. I actually liked them, they were probably the only characters I actually liked. They are actually actors that Norton and co. hire to manipulate Howard.
  • Helen Mirren as Brigitte/Death. So I love her, she’s amazing and she’s good here too. She is the “leader” it seems of their acting group, and is very much into being the star. At one point, she even wants to portray all three entities. As Brigitte she is lively, a bit nosy and takes an interest in Michael Pena’s character. As Death, she’s the same but her interactions with Howard (there are only two) are her talking about his letter and how Death is important and that he shouldn’t be angry with her etc. but be understanding and accepting. I would have liked to see her play Death more to Howard, as she spends most of her time interacting with Michael Pena (which I get it) but that’s not what the movie was portrayed to be. It was supposed to be about her interacting with Howard and him learning that Death is important to life which is something he needed to understand. Helen Mirren is very lively in this role, she eats it up, it’s fun but she’s too good for this film.
  • Jacob Lattimore as Raffi/Time. I quite liked him and would have liked to have seen more of him. I think he shows promise as a good actor as he continues to grow up. He’s a young man, part of the three man acting trope and he is chosen to play Time to Howard, being that he is a young man. When I saw the trailer, I thought that was clever (and it still was). Raffi is a bit brash and outspoken. When Howard first meets him, “Time” is in his office, where no one else happens to be at that moment, and he is messing with his dominos. He was so harsh, that I loved it. I think Jacob Lattimore really enjoyed himself, his second scene with Howard was also a really good one.
  • Keira Knightley as Amy/Love. We meet her out of the three first, she is at the company trying out for an audition and she changes the slogan they have (it had something to do with love) and then Whit follows her to a theater where they find the others. Just like Kate Winslet, she is against doing this as it’s wrong, but while Kate Winslet is aboard, it’s harder for Amy to participate. She also seemed really emotional. The second time she’s with Howard was probably one of the better scenes in the movie. I also think Keira Knightley looked really beautiful in this film.
The idea. So, I think the idea is interesting. The idea of a man feeling so broken by depression and loss that he writes letters to abstract entities and then they come to him in human form… that’s cool. That’s what I wanted to see. It would have been cool to see him constantly interact with them, learn from them, learn that life is still beautiful even in the loss of loved ones. If it would have followed that path instead of the other stuff it tried to do, it would have been better.
The look of the film. I thought this film had a very nice look to it. It was beautiful to look at, the lighting, the crisp angles etc. I really thought the actors looked really good on screen, like there was some kind of glossy filter on the camera.
The parallels. I will admit, there is aspect of this movie that I thought was interesting which is why I wasn’t completely up in arms while watching it. While, Norton, Winslet and Pena hired actors to portray these abstracts to Howard, they are actually interacting with them one on one (Mirren/Pena), (Lattimore/Winslet), (Knightley/Norton) and are pretty much being to them what they wanted them to be to Howard, but for real. *Spoiler I guess*  which I thought was nice but that prevented from making the moments with Howard genuine.
Cons:
Character motivations. So Norton, Winslet and Pena all work with Smith and they’re trying to get him to get back into work because he’s not doing his job, he’s shirking on his duties, ignoring existing accounts and is refusing to go after more, so they devise a plan that involves actors to get him to appear unhinged in order to get him out of his position. I get it, they didn’t want to lose their jobs, but that’s terrible. They could have just gone to board as professionals instead of concocting this entire stupid plot.
The Detective. First of all, she breaks into a mailbox to steal Howard’s letters. She explains how she got the key but that’s a felony… not to mention, how did you even find his letters in that mailbox? That is not a little house mailbox, but one of those big ones at the street corner. I mean what the heck. Not to mention, when she would follow him to capture the videos of him interacting with the actors, she was like a friggin ghost. She would pop out of nowhere. I understand, she’s a private investigator or whatever, but no. She didn’t need to be in the film at all.
The story. Due to my being upset at the trailers lying to me, I feel that the actual story of the movie is stupid. The whole thing of wanting to show the business board that Howard is unfit… sure even though that’s mean… but why go through all this trouble? Why not just show them your business is falling… I mean come on. Besides, if the actors portraying the entities were only faking it to Howard, what was the point of trying to make it seem like they’re actually these entities.
The emotional manipulation. I’m not saying this movie isn’t sad, it is, but I didn’t feel sad it was more like pity than anything. I’ll go more into this at the end of the review. What this movie tries to do is make a person want to reinvigorate their life, it’s supposed to be one of those movies that shows how a person wants to give up on life after a traumatic experience and they have to learn how to live again. That’s fine, but that is wrapped up in manipulation from the characters in the film, and it feels like it’s trying to beat it over your head. It’s like one of those Facebook posts you’d see where you need to “share it”. I’m going to be honest, it almost made me cry but not because I was sad and affected but because the characters on screen were crying. I’m a contagious crier. If someone else is crying, there’s a good chance I might start.
The “twist”. So there might be spoilers here, I mean, I’m going to try not to… but we’ll see what happens. Howard and his wife got a divorce after their daughter died, it’s been a couple of years and I guess they never really talked to each other. He doesn’t talk about her (he barely talks), but he keeps trying to go to this “Parents who have lost their children” meetings, he makes it closer and closer each time. Naomie Harris plays the mediator. Howard asks her her name, they have a few conversations, she tells him about how her husband reacted after their loss, and she shows him the card she was given.  This is one of those *eye roll* and *HOW!* moments. So that’s as far as I’ll go… if you don’t care and want to know more about this part, I’m going to spoil this part at the very end. You can choose to read further or not.
Boring/Too Slow. This movie takes a long time to get to the point. It’s not a “slow burn” kind of movie, it could have been and I think it was trying to be but it wasn’t and I think that’s where it’s problems lie. To be honest, I don’t think we needed to see the beginning, that probably could have been cut out, I mean I get it, they wanted us to see how Howard was before his daughter’s death, but I think the videos we saw him watch would have been indication enough. Cut out the beginning and get to the point. Not to mention, how long it takes to even get him to actually meeting the abstracts took a while and then the rest dragged on. I can see how it would be boring.
Overall, I think I would have liked Collateral Beauty more if it wasn’t so shallow. The characters are not really that likable, they have their qualities but overall, none of them at least together in this film are that interesting. I think the trailer was very misleading to what this film was about and that’s not a clever twist, it’s manipulative (just like the characters). It looks nice, I think the actors do well in their roles (albeit they’re wasted) and I like the idea of what could have been according to the trailer. I didn’t really care for it, I expected a completely different story. I get it, I get what it was trying to do but it failed to me.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.
Have you seen Collateral Beauty? Are you interested? What did you think about it? Let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to like and follow this blog for more!
Spoilers below, do not read further unless you want to be spoiled about Collateral Beauty… you have been warned. 
The “Twist”. So about the twist, Howard stands outside the church staring into the window of the meetings, I said in the beginning that Naomie Harris was going to be his wife but I almost retracted that statement because when they finally talk, he asks her name and they introduce themselves. So later, he goes to her house and it turns out she was his wife and Olivia was their daughter. Now, like I said, it wasn’t that hard to figure out but the reason why I call it a twist, is because they go through this whole runaround like Howard never met her, even when she tells her story about the card her husband left her “I wish we were strangers”, he never showed any indication that he recognized it. So, why wouldn’t he unless somehow he forgot… but I cannot imagine that happening unless he was so depressed that he chose to forget. Or that because he wants to be “strangers” that he really chose to forget but that’s stupid. It felt forced and out of left field and it made me upset. The scene where she forces him to say their daughter’s name was sad and I did almost cry but it wasn’t really out of sadness.
But that’s all I wanted to say about it. I’m done with this movie lol.
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She Was Perfection

Tonight was the night. Tonight he was going to see how she felt about him. For months she would come, they would talk, walk about the grounds, tend to the garden that his mother used to pride herself on. Her company was wanted, it was needed. He loved having her around. It became a necessity for him. The young man would wait patiently, well almost patiently every day, until she arrived, so he could just be in her presence.
Pierre and Ben stood before him checking him over. His green eyes stared through the tall Pierre at the wall as he tried to remain still.
“My lord… calm down. You’ll do wonderfully.” Ben’s gruff voice stated.
“Yes yes, you should take deep breaths Master.” Pierre agreed. The young master nodded trying to get his thumping heart to slow in his large chest. She hadn’t been afraid of him since the first few days, he shouldn’t be so worried. However, he couldn’t keep himself from worrying. He was…a monster, had always been one on the inside and for years his outsides matched. She was so beautiful, so energetic, curious and fiery… he loved her.
Once they finished brushing his suit free of lint, and tamed his fur, he looked at himself in the large mirror. It’s been decades since he looked like this, dressed up. Even though he was much larger than his human body, he supposed it would have to do.
“It’s time sir.” Ben held the door open, he took a deep breath and followed Pierre out of his room and into the corridors. He followed them through the winding halls to the ballroom. Pierre opened the door and he descended the right set of stars to wait for his… what were they calling it these days? Date? The young lord waited, feeling nervous as time ticked by. What was taking so long?
The door opened and there she stood at the top of the left set of stairs. His eyes widened as she gracefully descended to meet him. Her curly dark hair was slightly pinned, allowing her face to be framed by small curls, the yellow gown she wore complimented her brown skin so beautifully. Where did Prudence even find that gown? He’d never seen it before? He mentally berated himself, focus Jasper. He needed to focus on her. She was perfection. Inhaling nervously, he held his arm out for her, she smiled and slipped her arm into his and they walked side by side down the middle stairs into the ballroom.
Music began to lightly play, Mrs. Chambers materialized at the old piano. It’d been meticulously cared for over the years but today it looked new. She began to play. The young lord took hold of her waist gently, mindful not to hurt her. “Relax.” She whispered resting her left hand on his shoulder.
They began to dance. Yes. Tonight, he would tell her how he felt and he silently prayed to whoever was listening… that she felt the same way.

One of my shorter ones, but as I haven’t posted in a while, I just had to! But this is part of my “Beauty and the Beast” novel, unfinished lol so this part is completely new.