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Archive for April, 2011

Hey Ya’ll!!

April 27, 2011 1 comment

I just wanted to write up a quick post to tell you that

I AM GOING TO BE ON VACATION FOR A WEEK!!!!!

Until Wednesday to be exact.  Granted, it’s a staycation, but it’s my first holiday from work since when I graduated from undergrad.  I know, I know.  Anyway, if I feel so inclined I might post before then, but don’t count on it. I am, after all, planning on being out and about taking my lovely city of Boston by storm.  Also possibly sleeping periodically.  Maybe.

Eh, who am I kidding, I rarely sleep!!  But there will definitely be sake involved.

<3

Book Review: The Summoner by Layton Green (Series, #1)

April 27, 2011 2 comments

Shadow of a man on a brown background.Summary:
Dominic Grey is a rogue US government agent currently assigned to Zimbabwe when a friend of the US Ambassador disappears in the middle of a tribal religious ceremony.  Grey finds himself investigating the disappearance under the watchful eye of the beautiful Zimbabwean government official, Nya and with the aid of a religious studies professor aka cult-buster, Viktor.  The investigation soon leads them deep into the dark world of Juju–the religion from which Voodoo originates–not to mention the seedy underbelly of Harare.

Review:
Take Raymond Chandler, transplant him to Africa, update mores to modern liberal ones, toss in some African Juju, and you have Green’s first entry in the Dominic Grey series.  If that combination doesn’t make detective mystery fans sit up and say “yes please,” then I don’t know what will.

Dominic is the classic wounded and dark but ultimately has a heart of gold detective hero.  He broods.  He has far more energy than is logical.  He is missing the classic addiction to alcohol of yore, but the side-kick Viktor has that (to absinthe no less), so that is easily forgiven.  His backstory is unique, yet relatable, plus there’s Japan and jiujitsu tossed in, which is never a minus.

The love interest is, refreshingly, a bi-racial, self-reliant woman with her own issues and priorities.  She is smart, yet not lacking in vulnerabilities.  Nya was a refreshing depiction of a female character in a detective mystery, and seeing an inter-racial relationship develop in a book that is not a romance novel was fresh and exciting.

The plot is complex and actually fairly terrifying, even for this hardened horror fan.  I did figure it out before it was revealed, but only just barely.  I did not, however, predict the ending, which is a definite plus.  Those who like some horror and torture in their mysteries will certainly enjoy the plot.

The one draw-back is that Green’s writing struggles a bit on the sentence level.  Sometimes the sentences are too simplistic, or he tells the reader a bit too much instead of showing.  There are also times when his descriptors are a bit off.  For instance, at one point the reader is told that the room smells of  vivisection.  Most readers do not know what vivisection smells like (thank goodness), so that kind of leaves a blank for the scent in the room.  Instead, Green could have said something like, “The room smelled of vivisection–a dark musk mixed with the unmistakable scent of blood.”  These issues are less of a flaw than weak characterization or bad plot, though, and I have no doubt that Green’s writing on the sentence level will improve with time and exposure.

Overall, this is an excellent first foray into the world of modern detective mysteries.  Grey is an intriguing main character, the plots are unique and modern, and I’m already anticipating the next entrance in the series.  I highly recommend it to fans of Raymond Chandler and detective mysteries in general.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Free kindle copy from the author in exchange for review

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Metropolis Drinking Game

April 26, 2011 1 comment

Black and white image of a woman winking.So.  You’ve decided to take the plunge and watch the ridiculous and baffling classic movie Metropolis.  Want a more fun, lively experience?  Take my advice and turn it into a drinking game using the following guidelines my friend and I came up with while giggling at the pure hilarity of it all:

  • Every time Maria gropes her own tit, take a drink.
  • Every time Evil Robot Maria winks directly into the camera, take a drink.
  • Every time there is an intensely homoerotic scene where the characters are |this close| to kissing, take a drink.
  • Every time a character raises one eyebrow with an amount of grace most modern actors can’t pull off, take a drink.
  • And finally, every time the movie mentions a mediator, take a drink.

Follow these guidelines, and trust me, the two and half odd hours of silent film awesomeness, hilarity, and bizarre plot will just fly right by.

Movie Review: Metropolis Restored (1927)

April 26, 2011 1 comment

Robot surrounded by blue rings.Summary:
Fritz Lang’s classic silent film tells of a future dystopia in which the elite few who live in a shining city are supported by the low-class masses in the depths of the earth performing mundane jobs.  Joh, the son of the mayor, becomes curious and goes to the slums below where he becomes infatuated with Maria, a peace-loving woman the masses look up to and adore.  The mayor along with the sinister inventor, Rotwang, decide to steal her likeness for a robot in order to bring the masses back under control.

Review:
This classic film has inspired art, music, and other films for decades, so I suppose I was expecting something mind-blowing.  Instead I found myself and my friend creating a drinking game to go with watching it, because it is just that ridiculous of a movie.

Now I have an appreciation for older films, including silent ones.  What made the film disappointing had nothing to do with the trappings of the time–the overly expressive facial cues, the odd choice of dress, the exaggerated movements.  It had entirely to do with the plot.

Supposedly the “moral” of the story is “between the brain and the hands there must be the heart–the mediator.”  Ok, so, this whole incredibly unequal society is a-ok and the only thing that will work for everyone, it’s just that there has to be a mediator between the elite and the lower class?  That’s a bit….depressing.  One wonders why such a film has remained so popular for so long with such an awful final message.

Plus there’s the whole Maria and her double plot that makes almost zero sense.  Although the robot double was supposedly made in order to make the lower class rise up to give the elite an excuse to be violent against them, her first task is to go to an elite club and dance sexually before the men causing them to abandon the women they usually sleep with.  What does that have to do with anything?  Why was that even included in the film?

In the end, I’m a bit baffled as to how this has remained such an inspiring classic over time.  Although it wasn’t dull to watch, there was nothing mind-blowing about it.  Overall I would recommend it to fans of silent films and those wondering what the fuss over Metropolis is all about, just don’t expect to be blown away by it.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Netflix

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Friday Fun! (MIA Reading Challenge Update)

April 22, 2011 7 comments

Hello my lovely readers!  Since we have just one week left of April, I thought I’d provide an MIA Reading Challenge update!  I’m so pleased with the enthusiasm for the challenge shown by the participants, particularly since this is its first year existing.

By far our most prolific participant so far is Karen.  Her reads have covered everything from OCD to Antisocial Personality Disorder.  So far she has read and reviewed (links to her reviews): Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, Devil in the Details: Scenes from an Obsessive Girlhood, An Unquiet Mind, Cut, The Bell Jar, Darkly Dreaming Dexter, Dearly Devoted Dexter, Dexter in the Dark, Missing, House Rules, and I Don’t Want to Be Crazy.  She’s only one book away from completing the highest level of the challenge.  Go Karen!

Jules is keeping up a nice, steady pace so far, having read two books (links to her reviews): The Bell Jar (Depression) and Alias Grace (Dissociative Identity Disorder).  Keep it up, Jules!

Jessica also has finished two books (links to her reviews): The Silver Linings Play Book (recovery from mental break-down) and The Madonnas of Leningrad (Alzheimer’s).  Excellent pace for the level you signed up for, Jessica!

I’ve also completed two books that fit into the challenge description (links to my reviews): American Psycho (Antisocial Personality Disorder) and Hunger (Anorexia Nervosa).

Thank you everyone for your participation so far this year and for raising awareness on mental illnesses.  We may be a small group so far, but hopefully each year will grow!

If you’ve read books for the challenge and I did not list you, please comment and let us all know!  Unfortunately with the way my blog is, you commenting and telling me is the easiest way for me to keep up with what everyone has read.

It’s not too late to sign up for the challenge if you’re interested!  Check out the MIA Reading Challenge page to find out more.

Happy weekends all!

Book Review: Glasshouse by Charles Stross

April 21, 2011 2 comments

Abstract art.Summary:
Robin lives in the 27th century where your consciousness can be switched from body to body (and not just ortho-human ones) indefinitely.  Frequent back-ups in an A-gate protect you from ever really dying.  Of course, sometimes people go in to get some memories wiped.  This is the closest thing to a chance at a new life.  Robin wakes up in one of these facilities with a far more extensive memory wipe than usual.  People are trying to kill him, and he finds himself signing up for a social experiment where the experimenters are attempting to recreate the second dark ages–the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st century.  He thinks he’ll be safe here, but he might not be.  Is he really at risk though or is he just messed up in the head?

Review:
This future where Earth no longer exists and a person is a person because of their consciousness and not their bodies is incredibly richly imagined.  It is abundantly clear that Stross has a clearly laid out society in mind when writing.  This is all taking place within a world within a certain timeline within a certain culture.  That is what makes for the best scifi reading experience, and Stross pulls it off quite well.

The plot is endlessly surprising and nearly impossible to predict until the last few chapters.  Of course any plot involving people who can change bodies with a complex civil war previously fought involving a computer virus that enters people’s consciousness via the A-gates would be complex.  But don’t be deterred!  It is really not difficult to follow, although you may have to stop to think about it a few times.

I also want to say kudos to Stross for writing such an incredibly GLBTQ friendly piece of scifi that isn’t necessarily about gender or sexuality.  It’s the first time I’ve ever seen the terms “cis-gendered and trans-gendered” used in a scifi book.  In this future where people can pick whatever body they want, it’s natural for everyone to spend at least a few lifetimes as both a male and a female, although they all ultimately tend to choose one over the other.  In fact, a plot-point for the book involves the researchers randomly placing someone who identifies predominantly as female in a male body and the resulting depression from that.  Similarly, characters identify as mono or poly, meaning both monogamous and polyamorous sexualities are recognized as equally valid.  It is an incredibly welcoming environment where people are encouraged to be themselves that only makes the experiment set during our own time period all the more jolting.  I could see any queer person finding this story very relatable.

Unfortunately, the strong set-up kind of lost me toward the end.  I’m still not quite sure exactly what I should have taken from the ending, but I felt that it didn’t live up to the incredibly high bar Stross set for himself early on.  I’m still glad I read it as it was a very different, unique experience, but I do wish he’d spent a bit more time figuring out an ending worthy of the meat of the book.

Overall, I recommend this to scifi fans, and highly recommend it to GLBTQ readers and advocates.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: PaperBackSwap

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Movie Review: Scream 4 (2011)

April 20, 2011 4 comments

GhostfaceSummary:
Sidney has returned to Woodsborough to kick off her book tour–a book all about overcoming being a victim.  Dewey is the sheriff and married to Gale.  Naturally on the eve of the anniversary of the original ghostface murders, new murders start occurring, and the townsfolk are not blind to the intense metaness of the whole thing.

Review:
The two words that best describe this movie are: hilarious slash-fest.  And it knows it too.  The insider jokes, the characters’ comments about how meta the whole thing is, movies within movies within movies, and the internet being worked into the plot all work together to make for a deliciously self-aware series that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

I have to say, I yet again did not figure out who Ghostface was, which is a huge plus in a franchise that has had to reinvent a similar theme over and over again.  The blood and gore was still at a shocking level.  They definitely kicked it up to the next notch.  Plus the editing and story keeps everything fast-paced.  As my friend who saw it with me pointed out, she didn’t look at the clock once, and that’s rare in a movie nowadays.

Could it have been better?  Yes.  If the ending had been taken a different direction, it would have gone from better than expected to reawakens the franchise.  Alas, they didn’t take that step.  It, however, is still an awesome sequel, particularly when Hollywood isn’t exactly known for generating good ones.

I highly recommend it to fans of the Scream franchise.  You won’t be disappointed.  You may even be surprised.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: theater

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Book Review: Soul Hunt by Margaret Ronald (Series, #3)

April 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Blue-looking woman smelling the air.Summary:
Native Bostonian Evie Scolan is an adept bicycle courier and has her first real relationship in a while.  Of course, her life isn’t quite that simple.  First, she’s The Hound with an uncannily adept sense of smell that helps her find things.  Plus her boyfriend is a werewolf.  Then there’s the whole try to keep the magical Undercurrent in Boston under control so her beloved city doesn’t fall apart thing.  Not to mention the death sentence given to her by yet another sector of the Undercurrent giving her only until Midwinter to pull everything together.  Plus the Sox are sucking this season.

Review:
Yet again, I accidentally picked up a book that is partway through a series.  I’ve noticed this is a lot easier to do when it’s an ebook than a print book, because the print book tends to have a giant “3″ or something on the binding, whereas the ebook gives you zero clue that this is part of a series.  Work on that, publishers.  Due to this fact, I spent the solid first half of the book trying to figure out what the heck was going on in Evie’s world.  Unlike paranormal romance that tends to offer up a quick recap of the important details, it would appear that urban fantasy isn’t so keen on that.  Well, that and Ronald’s world she has created is incredibly complex and hard to understand fully part-way into a series.

That aside, however, how is it for an urban fantasy novel?  Well, the fantasy element is strong and intensely connected to elements of urban living from good and bad neighborhoods to trolley tracks to old, abandoned buildings, to secret tunnels and ghosts.  This has it all if you’re after some seriously steeped fantasy.

Further, as a Bostonian myself, I can tell you that Ronald gets the local slang and layout of the neighborhoods right.  Personally, I think she’s a bit heavy-handed with the Red Sox love demonstrated by Evie.  I don’t really think Evie would be thinking about the Sox season sucking when she’s currently facing death, but maybe I’m just not enough of a fanatic myself.  Hah.

I think, perhaps, that why I couldn’t get into this partway through the way I could other series I started in the middle is that I don’t like Evie, and the mythos of the Undercurrent is way more confusing than it should be.  I can’t think of very much that’s appealing or redeeming about Evie as a character, which is problematic when she’s the heroine.  Similarly, she’s not beautifully broken or anything.  She reads as just…..average.  The fact that this is the case when she also has this weird supernatural nose is saying something.  Make Evie evil! Make Evie kick-ass! Just don’t make her so dull that I have zero doubt that I wouldn’t give her a second glance if I happened to see her on the streets of Boston.

Similarly, the mythos of the Undercurrent seems to change to suit the author’s needs.  Maybe I was missing plot twists from missing the earlier books, but it all just seems so much more complex than it needs to be.  Plus, what exactly makes Evie repeatedly go up against demigods when her only supernatural talent is the nose thing?  It just doesn’t make sense to me.  That and the whole part dog thing is just….ew.

I came into this wanting to love it, as I do with any book set in my home of Boston.  The fact is though, too much turned me off from it.  It is a fairly well-written urban fantasy, though, and a nice change from the typical southern setting we see.  I’d recommend it to urban fantasy fans looking for a change of scenery who don’t mind a rather ordinary heroine who’s basically part dog.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

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Previous Books in Series:
Spiral Hunt
Wild Hunt

Friday Fun! (What’s Important to Me)

April 15, 2011 4 comments

Hello my lovely readers!  I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking the last few months about what really matters to me.  I guess you’d say what values I hold dear.  I didn’t just stick with the ones I was raised with.  I’ve done a lot of research and soul-searching to figure out what’s important to me.  That’s what makes me stick so strongly to my guns on things I truly believe in.  The more time that has passed since I’ve gotten back on my feet from the awfulness that was winter, the more I realize that what it all boils down to, for me, is that I haven’t lost hope in the world.  I have hope that we can change the world.  I have hope we can make it a better place.  I have hope we can fix the trajectories of previous generations’ bad decisions.  I have hope that the cycles of violence, grief, and pain can stop.  We only have to want it.  I firmly believe that Gandhi was right when he said “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  That is at the core of my belief system.  I don’t have faith in a god or spirits to fix things.  I don’t have faith in government to fix things.  But I do have faith in myself.  I have faith that I can change for the better.  The cycles of violence and pain stop with me.  That basic philosophy extends out into everything else I do, from my firm belief in vegetarianism (that is gradually moving toward veganism) to my commitment to someday adopt at least one child.  And I just can’t be around negative people anymore.  I can’t be close to people who are willing to just give up.  Humanity didn’t struggle and evolve so much to just quit evolving.  It’s just that maybe the next step of evolution has more to do with our minds and our behaviors than how our bodies work.

Namaste, yo.

Book Review: The Group by Mary McCarthy

April 14, 2011 1 comment

Black and white picture of a group of women.Summary:
A collection of women graduate from Vassar in the 1930s.  Their friendship is known collectively as “The Group,” and their distinctive Vassar education has given them a distinctly liberal view on the world.  How this changes with time as they repeatedly encounter societal expectations and relationship problems are told through a series of vignettes that focus in on moments in their lives over the seven years after graduation.

Review:
I am so glad that Nymeth’s review made me add this to my wishlist.  This piece of historical fiction told entirely through women’s lives looks at women’s issues in an oft-ignored time period–1930s America.  Particular issues that impact these women’s lives and dreams include birth control, gender norms, violence against women, and social justice.

Moving smoothly through the seven years but changing perspectives by spending a chapter or two on each woman in turn, we get a glimpse of their lives.  For instance, early in the book we see Kay’s life in detail, but later we only catch glimpses of it through her friends’ eyes.  This lends a greater sense of depth and mystery to these women’s lives.  What happened to change them?  How drastic of an impact did certain events have on their lives?  Are they truly happy now?  Much like real life, the reader can only speculate based on the limited information she has.

The style of looking at women’s issues in history through the lives of multiple women lends a depth to the story that would not be there if it was told in the traditional manner of focusing in on one single woman.  The, essentially, cluster-fuck of circumstances, expectations, and personality that come together to create the different lives they end up leading is endlessly fascinating to study and ponder.

This book humanizes women’s issues in the 1930s and brings them to light in an engrossing manner.  I highly recommend this book to anyone with a love of historic fiction or an interest in women’s issues.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: PaperBackSwap

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