Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Book Review!

The Twin Prophecies: RebirthThe Twin Prophecies: Rebirth by Nina Perez
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The fictional worlds of supernatural creatures are riddled with clich├ęs: The Romantic Poet Vampire, The Pixie Fairy, The Werewolf Brute, and The Reluctantly Bad Witch. There are only so many ways you can combine these monsters, and it seemed recently that all of those ways had been exploited. Then you started getting combinations: The Pixie Witch, The Fairy Brute, etc. That was fun for a while, but even that was played out and eventually failed to amuse.

So imagine my surprise when I realized that Nina Perez wasn't doing any of this. The author has created whole new mythologies for the world of The Twin Prophesies, and she told the story with a fresh and competent voice. We encounter two teenage kids who are simultaneously put through the most heart-wrenching of tragedies. Naturally, sharing the experience of having your world turned upside-down can bond people, but there's so much more waiting that will bond them even more closely together. You get to experience the discovery of the world-behind-the-world from their eyes, and it truly is magical -- but more than the magical exodus you're taking with them from innocent and ignorant childhood to the responsibilities and power of adulthood, you learn about THEM: Moody and withdrawn Violet who's never quite felt at home with herself, and cocky, rebellious Jack, who is acting out against everyone who wants to help him through the most profound and disturbing transitions of his life. And I'm not talking about puberty.

From unrepentantly sexy vampires to secret coalitions to plots to literally wake the dead, you'll be surprised by the secrets the author keeps until the very end of the book. I know I was. I'm eager to read the next book in the series, and I'm sure you will be, too.

View all my reviews

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Interview with Steven Novak, Author of Goats Eat Cans

Those of you who know me on Facebook know that I've become a Steven Novak groupie.  I don't know how to explain why.  Maybe you should know that most of my friends in high school were awkward misfits that not even the Quirky Outcast groups would talk to.  (Maybe you shouldn't know.  Oh well.)  For that reason I feel a kinship with Novak, and I also feel oddly protective of him--even more so now that I've read his first blog collection, Goats Eat Cans (Amazon link here, my review here).  I know he's not impressed by my sense of protectiveness.  In fact, admitting something like that may be considered one of those incredibly awkward things Novak would blog about.  

To give you a better idea of what to expect when you read Goats Eat Cans, I sat down with Steven Novak -- okay, you know what?  I actually sat down with my computer and e-mailed some questions to Novak, and he replied with some answers.  I'm going to copy and paste all of that below without any simulated witty banter.  Hope that's okay with you.

1.  If you could score with any Star Trek character (from any franchise), which one would you choose?  If you had to go gay for any male Star Trek character, who would you choose?

Oh my, that’s tough. That’s real tough. It’s embarrassing how tough it is for me. I suppose it would be too obvious to say something like Seven of Nine, or 1960’s Uhura, or NextGen Troi in that little purple and gray jumpsuit of hers, or even T’Pol.

T’Pol was naked a lot.

Beverly Crusher had a very MILF sort of thing going on for her.

Ensign Ro Laren walked with an awfully enticing gait (though I’m not entirely sure what that means).

A harem of Orion Slave Girls might be the way to go.

No, wait…I could never satisfy a bevy of anything.

Okay, I’ve got it. After a heck of a lot of thought, and some serious number crunching, and some head scratching and some reviewing of tapes, I’ve decided to go with Hoshi Sato. Yep, Hoshi Sato it is. She was smart and she was a little bit mousey, but I’m guessing she was probably pretty wild in the sack when she let her hair down.

The answer to the second part of your question is Odo. I’d bang that blob of alien goo six ways to Sunday.

2.  Which of your bad habits do you secretly enjoy (and hope you'll never have to give up)?

Unfortunately, I have about a million bad habits and I probably won’t be giving any of them up anytime soon. I’m married. I’ve been married for almost twelve years. Trying to better myself just isn’t something I care about anymore.

That’s the wonderful thing about marriage.

3.  If you could go back in time and punch any historical figure in the face, who would you punch?  Why?  (Yes, just pick one.)

First off, just let me say that I’m against this whole “just pick one” thing. It’s silly. If I’m going to take the time to work out the equations necessary for time travel, gather the money to construct a time machine, build a time machine, and put my life on the line to actually use it, I’m punching more than one person.

I’m punching at least three people, damn it.

If I don’t return from my trip through time with a hand full of broken bones I’d have to consider the entire trip a failure.

Here’s the list: 1. Jim J. Bullock circa. 1990, (the Neal Tanner on ALF period). 2. Napoleon Bonaparte. 3. Albert Einstein

I’d also drive to Chicago and punch Oprah. She’s not dead and I don’t need a time machine, but she’s very punchable and I figure it would be best to just get all my punching out of the way at once.

4.  Do you have any invention ideas that could make you a fortune?  Do you want to share them with me so I can get rich instead?

I do not, no. I have a lot of ideas that could make me pennies, nickels, dimes, and possibly a few quarters. I don’t think you have any interest in those though. Do you?

You do?

Okay, since you asked I’ll toss one your way.

Muffin gloves.

Not only do they keep your hands warm on a chilly winter day, but they’ll also tickle your taste buds and come in a six delicious flavor varieties.

Don’t say I never gave you anything.

5.  How do you feel about Japanese anime?

I don’t think much about it.

Honestly, I don’t know. If that’s what the kids are into these days than that’s what the kids are into these days. I don’t get Justin Bieber either, or the Twilight nonsense, or Katy Perry (even if I kind of do get her boobs), or Tillamook brand cheese, or skinny jeans, or Dr. Pepper, or the man-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics originally put forward by Hugh Everett in 1957, or that stupid new boy band from across the pond whose name I can’t recall at the moment. Japanese anime isn’t exactly my thing.

Tillamook brand cheese is, though. I love that stuff.

6.  What's the worst fashion offense of the past 20 years, in your opinion?


Here’s another thing I don’t really know anything about.

Honestly, I haven’t bought a new pair of shoes in almost six years. I’ve been wearing the same shirts for five, and I squeeze my beefy thighs into a rotation of two pairs of jeans that wear on continual loop and wash only once a month. I’m hobo chic without the chic. 

7.  You recently saved a life in a very odd and spectacular fashion.  Do you plan to do it again?  Are you considering taking on a secret identity to protect your family from dangerous supervillains?

First off, I didn’t save anyone’s life. I was almost hit by an idiot in a flying car and I busted the passenger side window to help that idiot out of her flying car. She was shaken up, but she was fine. Despite the fact that her car had slammed through a tree, rolled, and there was a fire under the hood, there wasn’t a scratch on her.

If I had been ten feet further into my nightly walk I would have been a bloody smear across the pavement.

She was fine though.

Honestly, I should have punched her in the face after I pulled her out.

Monday, February 20, 2012

My Review of Roku 2 XD Streaming Player

Originally submitted at Roku

Features the highest-quality HD streaming available.

Wonderful little player!

By EmJay from Vancouver, WA on 2/20/2012


5out of 5

Pros: Compact, Built in Wi-Fi, Great value, Easy to set up, High quality picture, Easy to use

Cons: Inconsistent performance, Want more video choices

Best Uses: Bedroom, Living room

Describe Yourself: Technophile, Home entertainment enthusiast, Early adopter, Netflix fan

I love this Roku player, and I think it performs even better than the previous model, which has now been relegated to the bedroom television. We were using a Blu-Ray integrated streaming video service before, but it was choppy and didn't make the most of our high-speed internet service. Roku seems to process the stream much more efficiently.

My only criticisms are that, after several hours, it sometimes seems to get "stuck" with playback -- and I'm hoping Roku is working with some of the major cable networks on a subscription service that can be offered. I do sometimes miss my favorite shows, and having to broker HBO through a regular cable carrier seems to miss the point.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

On Candy Hearts and the Failure of Romance

According to the enrichment journal on the divorce rate in America:
The divorce rate in America for first marriage is 41%
The divorce rate in America for second marriage is 60%
The divorce rate in America for third marriage is 73% (source)

There is a lot of hate aimed at the Day of Love.  People decry the waste of money, time, and energy on what so many call a commercial holiday, one that was created whole-cloth for the sake of selling greeting cards and supporting the florist industry.  I won't go into the history of Valentine's Day.  it's been done before.  I won't say that the day is right, either.  But I want to address one of the complaints that I hear far too often:
"Why only show your lover how you feel on Valentine's Day?  We should be spreading the romance every day of the year."

Right.  Because we're so darned good at that.

I've been married now for more than 10 years.  The marriage has followed the typical pattern of relationships:  in the beginning, there was giddy excitement, and lust, and an overwhelming urge to be together and share every story with each other and learn each other's favorite everythings.  After that came the domestic partnership phase, wherein we moved in together, established a home with each other, and feathered the nest.  During all of these early phases, we were the stuff of movies: there was no end to endearments and little notes left all over the place and calling each other when we weren't together, just to hear the sound of the other's voice.

"What are you doing?  Collating?  Oh, man, that sounds AWESOME!"

After that comes the longest-lasting part of a marriage.  In some couples, it turns into fear, resentment, and sadness, because all of those giddy trappings of happiness fade out, and they can't accept that passing gas, forgotten micro-anniversaries (first kiss, first time naked together in the shower, etc.), and tattered pajamas are the new norm.  The sense of "us" disappears, and the sense of "me" takes over:  "Why doesn't he care enough about ME to dress up for dinner?"  "Why doesn't she care enough about ME to work out every night, like she used to?"  "Why doesn't he care enough about ME to take me to the airport at 4:30 in the morning?"  "Why doesn't he care enough about ME to take out the trash every now and then?"

"He doesn't say his vows to me anymore when I put this thing on.  What about ME and my insecurity?"

Yes, some relationships degrade this way, and the divorce statistics jump, and people become embittered because their expectations for romance weren't sustained.

But sometimes, people see the long-lasting parts of relationships for what they are.  The consideration becomes about US and WE: "Can WE afford this new television?"  "Will WE enjoy that trip to Hawaii, or is it just my idea of fun?"  "Are WE ready to have children?"  The questions have to include the feelings of both parties; the thinking has to be done for two.

I saw the pattern with my parents, that the marriage was a business, a partnership, a sustained cohabitation.  They negotiated.  They argued.  They maintained.  But once a year, my father brought home to my mother an insanely sappy greeting card along with chocolates and flowers, all to win that little smile and the beguiling "Thank you" of his sweetheart.

"Are those Cadbury?  I LOVE CADBURY!"

Marriages aren't about eternal sappy sentiments.  It's too much to sustain; that stuff belongs in the realm of dating, so you can pretend you're perfect and do your gas-passing and ratty pajamas in private.  Marriages are about the taxes and the budget and figuring out the commute and going grocery shopping.  It's about being comfortable enough with someone to let them see that you aren't perfect.  It's about putting US before ME.  And every now and then, it's about becoming those giddy newbies again, and giving each other notes of appreciation, and letting the love become sweet.  It's a reminder that this isn't just a business, it's a marriage.  It's a way to manage the divorce statistic.

If you are able to weave magic into every single day of your marriage, that's a wonderful thing.  But for those who can't, don't begrudge them this one day.

Oh, and for all the singletons out there: From the awkward, painfully shy single girl who never got a second look, DON'T GIVE UP.  Don't look for somebody perfect.  Perfect people don't exist.  Itemize your flaws, and itemize the things you're willing to tolerate, and find somebody who fits, who makes you laugh, and who thinks you're awesome.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Book Review!

11/22/6311/22/63 by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book broke my heart.

It wasn't the assassination of the President that did it. For most of the book, Kennedy himself is treated as either a martyr or the catalyst for our protagonist's little "project," and that exposes him to derision, contempt, and awe. The amount of time spent humanizing Kennedy amounts to perhaps half an hour, total; he isn't the heart and soul behind this book.

Neither was it the rather fascinating treatment that King gave the subject of time travel. He gave a nod to Bradbury, who wrote a short story called "Sound of Thunder" that was chilling in its illustration of the Butterfly Effect. King's butterfly, however, wasn't savage, like Bradbury; it was deranged, and its flutterings spawned hundreds of other butterflies that flew down different timestrings. Really awesome stuff.

No, the heartbreaking food of the book came in the relationship between Jake/George, our dual-personality time traveler, and Sadie, his tall, lovely, sweet and spirited librarian of the Land of Ago. I try not to spoil things, but at the end of the book, I shed some tears. I couldn't help it.

This isn't King's strongest work, but it is obviously his most exhaustively researched one. The late 50s/early 60s come alive here, and exposed through it is all the surface glory and the glossed-over dysfunction -- like an episode of the Twilight Zone.

Read it, but be prepared to give it some serious time. Even so, you won't be disappointed.

View all my reviews

Friday, November 11, 2011

Book Review!

Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If I could rate this higher than five stars, I would.

I've looked at other reviews of Ready Player One, by Ernie Cline. Much ado has been made over the intense nerd aspect of the book; there are so many references to technology, RPG gaming, and 80s culture in the book, it's impossible to deny the book's appeal to the nerd-goddess that resides in my heart. Further, the dystopian world Cline has conjured is not only possible, but is probable, as is the alternate-reality "holodeck" created by the mad genius of the book.

Yes, it's a nerd wonderland. But that could NEVER be enough to satisfy me. After all, when it comes to the debate of character vs. environment, I land every time on the side of strong characters. Plots do not move by themselves, after all. And this plot -- it's the stuff of magic and dreams.

In my opinion, it doesn't much matter how you frame the art. As long as the protagonist of the story starts off in adverse circumstances, overcomes adversity through the use of his wits, and in the end becomes the essence of a hero, I will become a rabid fan of the work.

Wade Watts, the protagonist of this book, is that kind of hero. I'd put him up there with Harry Potter and Taran, the Assistant Pig Keeper.

My sole complaint? I never got to find out if Lady Hawke, one of my favorite 80s movies, was, indeed, "canon." If you want to know what the hell that means, then I have three words for you:


You can thank me later.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Book Review!

Double Dexter (Dexter, #6)Double Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh, dear heaven. Dexter, you really *aren't* human, are you?

Our favorite vigilante serial killer is back, and this time, he's got a shadow. I'm not talking about a Peter Pan philosophical device; I'm talking about a stalker. The book opens with Dexter at play; he abducts and lets his knives and inner darkness work over a really foul human being. As usual, Jeff Lindsay is at his lyrical-prose best in this passage. He seems so comfortable in the nocturnal menace, in the Savage Garden of Dexter's homicidal dream that I sometimes wonder what the man does when he isn't writing these delicious and poisonous things. At any rate, we get to enjoy these delightfully awful things through Dexter's mind, because Jeff uses a brilliant literary device: we're plunged into a sort of second-person present tense scenario, a trick that immediately immerses you in the action.

And then, we're caught.

Dexter's playdate had been observed, and the person who saw everything immediately develops an unhealthy fascination with both Dexter and his world.

I have to start out by explaining why I've only given this four stars. I'm not going to spoil anything, but those of you who know and love Dexter know that he knows his way around the internet. So then, why would Lindsay rely so much on the plot device that someone can threaten and intimidate Dexter through a secret e-mail address? This is Forensics 101: it is almost impossible to have a completely secret e-mail address. Everything can be traced forensically. Even if there was a way to do it, Lindsay should have at least *briefly* explained it. Instead, he plowed ahead with this flimsy premise. It seemed a bit disappointing.

But there was far more to enjoy in this outing than not. Instead of the weird cannibalistic fetish of the last one, we are treated to a Doubting Dexter, a monster who has ALMOST been domesticated. His missteps are due to his connubial distractions. He has allowed himself to become a bit clumsy and slow, fattened up on his wife's good food and the charms of his little family. He's still -- *ahem* -- "sharp" when it comes to his prey, but his reflexes are gunked up when it comes to someone else being the predator. That made for a great foundation for the plot, and had him questioning himself and his commitment to his dark nature. I like it when that happens. A lot.

I'm also going to say that Jeff Lindsay is a fantastic audiobook narrator. I think that authors should self-narrate their audiobooks as often as possible, anyway. :)

View all my reviews