Non-Fiction Reading Challenge

I love reading non-fiction. I also love the library.

My city has a particularly good public library system, and not far from me is one of the most beautiful libraries I have ever seen (not including, of course, the public library in Manhattan that has been featured in several films with its giant lion statues.)

NW_exterior

Photo from the MetroLibrary site. The interior is even cooler.

I end up at the library frequently because a) I love working on my freelance writing projects in a quiet place that isn’t my apartment, and b) I can’t really afford to go out and buy books more than once or twice a year. It’s just not in the budget.

The non-fiction section at Northwest is one of my favorite places to wander, and I usually end up picking up at least one (if not more) books from this section each time I visit. Continue reading

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Sunday Review: Rock N Soul

Rock N Soul by Lauren Sattersby (2016)

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book when I saw the really nifty cover where it was sitting with the new acquisitions books at the library. It was pretty hefty, but I was immediately intrigued by both the cover and the description, so I figured it would be a good read while on my vacation.

Oh boy was it.

I super loved this book just in general, so I’ll try to piece together exactly why for you here. In the usual format.

Summary

Tyler Lindsey is a bell boy with a mediocre life. Then, he finds rock star Chris Raiden dead from a heroin overdose in his hotel room. He thinks losing his girlfriend and having a few nightmares is the end of the ordeal, until he finds Chris’s ring under the sink and the dead rock star suddenly appears again. Now, he has to help the ghost move on or be stuck with him forever. As they progress on their journey, Tyler starts to wonder if maybe forever would be so bad after all. Continue reading

Sunday Review: Seven Psychopaths (2012)

I have a tendency to skim through the lists on Amazon’s prime instant streaming when I’m bored. I add tons of things to the watchlist that I know in all honesty I will probably never watch, at least not before they stop being available on prime instant.

As it happens, I’ve started whittling down the list. Today, I watched Seven Psychopaths. I vaguely remembered seeing a preview for this movie a while back before it hit theaters in 2012, but I didn’t really think much of it beyond “Oh look, Christopher Walken.” Actually, until I checked it out on IMDB, I didn’t even realize it had come out that long ago.

Well, there is definitely Christopher Walken portraying a character that I really loved, but there’s also a lot more. So, here’s 5 things I liked and 1 thing I didn’t. Continue reading

Sunday Review: Writing Jane Austen

Every now and then I find a book that makes me decide I should just keep reading it until I’m finished. Writing Jane Austen (2010) by Elizabeth Aston didn’t start out that way, but somewhere around chapter 16, I stopped disliking the main character quite as much and the story felt like it was actually going somewhere. Actually, that kind of reminds me of the first time I read Mansfield Park.

Anyway, I had a lot of mixed feelings about this book-despite the fact that I read the last half of its 300 pages without stopping-but let’s get to it.

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At least it has a cool cover.

Continue reading

Sunday Review: The Boy (2016)

I saw The Boy (2016, directed by William Brent Bell) on its opening night. I haven’t been to a first night run of a film since The Woman in Black when I was at Stony Brook. It’s an interesting experience. The theater was packed, and I loved the communal feeling of sitting in a giant room with all these people hearing when they were scared or amused.

the boy poster

This poster is actually really unexciting

Summation

An American young woman named Greta (Lauren Cohan) travels to England to be a nanny in order to escape a dark past. What that dark past entails isn’t really a spoiler to me, but some of you might think it is so I’ll let you guess. She’s get to the house, and surprise! The boy is actually a creepy porcelain doll that the elderly couple treat as a real child. The couple immediately leaves for a long overdue vacation so the new nanny is alone with the doll in a giant house far from any neighbors or town. Oh, and the cute grocery man (Rupert Evans) comes by once a week to flirt, I mean deliver food. Continue reading

Sunday Review: The Thief of Always

This is book number #2 for John Guillen’s reading challenge: A book written the year you were born. I was born in the early days of 1992. I wanted to find a book that was actually published on my birthday, but Google was less than helpful.

Someone should really create a website that lists books with their full publication dates in an easily searchable format. Or maybe there wouldn’t really be a demand for that. It would be nice if Goodreads had this feature.

Anyway, I gave up on that idea and instead found a list of books published in 1992, and I chose The Thief of Always by Clive Barker, largely because the cover looked interesting, the author’s name sounded vaguely familiar, and it was available at my local library.

Random chance served me well here because I loved the book. Continue reading

Sunday Review: The Eyre Affair

Jasper Fforde is easily in my top authors. Shades of Grey, The Big Over Easy, and of course, the Thursday Next series are all amazing works with levels of both creativity and writing that are nearly unparalleled in my reading experience.

But enough gushing for the moment. Let’s talk about The Eyre Affair (2001).

This is the first of the Thursday Next series, though I think it was the fourth book that I actually read. I went through the series a bit out of order as I actually had some trouble finding this one.

Of course, when I did find it, the copy I bought used had been marked up. I don’t mind people writing in the margins, sometimes it’s fun and insightful. Like YouTube comments. However, also like YouTube comments, sometimes it’s just destructive, and that was the case here.

Basically, the previous owner went through and marked out very heavily, in ink, all of the curse words. And as one of the villain characters is named Jack Schitt, I’m sure you can see how this dislike of cursing wreaked havoc on my copy of the book.

RANT

click here for the video

Anyway, rant over.

Summation

Thursday Next works for Special Operations (SpecOps) in the LiteraTec division where they patrol basically everything to do with literature. And, in this alternate version of Britain in the 1980s, literature is a very big deal. There are whole, sometimes militant, societies dedicated to particular authors, poets, or even specific works. The debate over who actually wrote the Shakespeare plays runs throughout the novel as well as many other literary allusions.

Thursday is up against Acheron Hades, a thoroughly evil man who has stolen her uncle and his ingenious invention, the Prose Portal, which allows people from the real world to travel into a book world and vice versa.

General Thoughts

It was really interesting to see how it all started as I originally jumped in at about book four, when Thursday is already regularly traveling into the Book World without the use of her uncle’s invention. The world feels real and fully-formed; even the occasional expositional dialogue feels completely natural.

There are too many things that rock about this book so I’ll just throw out five things that I love:

  1. Performance of Richard III that reminds me of Rocky Horror with the audience reactions.
  2. Bookworms emit extra apostrophes, prepositions, and capitals that actually affect the text of the book.
  3. Landon Park-Laine is the most understanding man on the planet, even when he doesn’t understand a single thing that’s happening.
  4. All of the characters are quirky and quite possibly mad, but it seems to work for them. I never have trouble believing that Uncle Mycroft is a genius who creates impossible contraptions daily or that Thursday’s unnamed father has a face that can stop a clock. Even the walk-on characters are fascinating.
  5. Thursday Next is a fabulous main character. Her fatal flaw is her inability to ignore a crisis situation. She has a hero complex, but she hates being recognized for her heroism. Other than that, she is a tough as nails but still sometimes emotionally vulnerable character. She is vastly intelligent and fiercely opinionated.

And one thing that irked me:

  1. What happened to Spike? Thursday fights off a vampire with him, they have a moment, and then he never reappears in the book. And I don’t remember if he shows up again in later books, though I hope so because I really liked him here.

En fin

I highly recommend checking out the Thursday Next series if you like offbeat fantasy and literary jokes.

I’m counting this as my first book towards John Guillen’s Reading Challenge. Check out the list here. I love challenges like this because I’m always glad to give my reading some direction.

I’ll peg this one as “A book set in another country.”

 

Audiobooks: Reading with your ears

I’m not a fan of audiobooks. I know a lot of people who swear by them, but I just never could get into it. I like to feel the book in my hands. I like to read the words at my pace. I like to go back and ponder particularly good sentences.

And, perhaps most importantly, I like to hear the characters voices in my head rather than aloud because they always sound better with the voices that I give them than what someone else will actually produce on a recording. Continue reading

Sunday Review: The Outlaw Demon Wails

I recently read The Outlaw Demon Wails by Kim Harrison (2008). This is Book Six of The Hollows series. I have not read the first five. For one thing, I only have some of them.

My aunt gave me several of Harrison’s books over the summer, and I’m just now getting around to reading them. Instead of trying to find Book One or even sort through the books I have to find the earliest one, I decided to dive right into the one with a cool gargoyle and bright red stiletto on the cover. Continue reading

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20 Something: Love Lessons from Austen

mansfield park

I finished reading Mansfield Park last night, so I wanted to write about it again now that I’ve actually formed some ideas on the book.

It’s still not one of my favorite Austen novels. This is mostly because it’s a bit long (nearly 500 pages) for the content, which I have to attribute to the long sections of sermonizing and lecturing that tend to crop up when Edmond is involved.

There’s also an inordinate amount of time spent on detailing Mrs. Norris’s irritating character even after the reader has gained all the necessary knowledge about her to wish her away as much as her family does.

However, what I really want to talk about are the love lessons that I feel Austen was trying to impart to her readers. There’s actually a lot in the book that could fall under this category, but I’m just going to look at two of them in some detail. Continue reading

Review: Newbury and Hobbes series

Picture found here. Which is also a nifty interview with the author.

Picture found here. Which is also a nifty interview with the author.

Today I finished the fourth book of the Newbury and Hobbes Investigation series by George Mann. Now I have to wait until February (tentative) for the fifth book! Geez. This is why I hate reading series before they’re complete.

It wasn’t so bad with the first few books because the endings were tied up neatly without any major characters in mortal peril for the moment. There were hints at trouble on the horizon, of course, but the end of the book represented a breather of sorts for the delicious duo.

But #4, The Executioner’s Heart, ends on much more of a cliffhanger. The main plot is still tied up, but there are so many extra threads (and a significant side plot) that are going to carry over, and I need to know what’s going to happen.

the executioners heart

A brief overview of the series: Sir Maurice Newbury and his assistant Miss Veronica Hobbes are both agents of Queen Victoria in a steampunk age. Sir Maurice is an expert on the occult, and Veronica is an expert at being a kickass investigator in her own right. Of course, she does still play second fiddle most of the time while she and her boss help their buddy Sir Charles Bainbridge, Chief Inspector for Scotland Yard (and former/sort of current agent of the queen) solve murders around London.

It’s a pretty wild ride. Sometimes the books take a little while to get going (the fourth one is particularly guilty of this) but once the action starts rolling it doesn’t really stop. The action generally is easy to follow and reads swiftly; most of the time it involves Maurice getting his butt handed to him before somehow turning the tables or being rescued by Veronica.

The steampunk style setting provides some really interesting plot twists, too. It doesn’t just serve as a backdrop but often makes the plots possible in the first place. Actually, I’d say it is integral to the main plot in all four books. The medical wonders of the age (like the executioner’s heart in the 4th book and the queen’s magic medical chair in all of the books) are particularly fascinating, though the automatons are also pretty cool. And deadly. Even Maurice’s clockwork owl is important at one point.

The first book makes a big deal of a “revenant plague” sweeping through the poorer sections of London after being imported from India, but it barely gets a nod in the following books. I’m hoping that it will make a comeback in #5 as the working title is The Revenant Express. Can’t wait til February!

Now I just have to find a new series to occupy my time. Oh wait, I still haven’t finished Book #2 of A Song of Ice and Fire. I think A Clash of Kings is calling me.

Review (sort of): Killer Thrash/Death Metal Concert

Wednesday night (8/26), GoatWhore played at the 89th Street Collective in OKC along with Black Fast and a couple of local bands (I think), who may have announced their names when they played but I definitely couldn’t understand them and/or was not listening.

The day before, my former co-worker and current friend had invited me to go along with him to this show, for a band I had never heard of. $14 tickets at the door at 9pm on a slow Wednesday? Sure, why not.

Now, the 89th Street Collective used to be the Conservatory, which I had been to once before to see Russian Circles, which is probably my all-time favorite instrumental metal group–since the show anyway, I hadn’t heard of them before that. The venue is a very run-down space that doesn’t even have a sign out front, so you really just have to know where it is. It’s a very minimalist structure. There’s a stage in the right corner (facing the door) raised slightly above a pit, and on the left wall is a space where the bands set up their merch tables. There used to be a bar, but now the place is BYOB. The counter for said bar is still in place, though, so my friend/bodyguard and I posted up by that to wait for the show to start.

As I surveyed the black-clad crowd, I was really glad I found him easily in the parking lot instead of trying to meet inside. It’s not like there were that many people present, but I knew if I’d had to ask someone “Have you seen this guy?” my description of him would have matched pretty much everybody there: big dude, black hair, funky haircut, probably wearing all black, and it might even be a band t-shirt.

I shared this observation with my bodyguard (I kept mentally referring to him like this all night as I knew that nobody was going to screw with me as long as I stood next to him). He laughed and offered me one of the beers he had brought: Anthem Arjuna. It’s an awesome Belgian-style local brew. He got three different compliments on his beer choice when we walked in. Of course, he learned about Anthem from me (Arjuna and The Golden One are my favorites). If you aren’t in the distribution area, I’m sorry, and if you are but haven’t tried it, I’m even more sorry for you.

I don’t really remember much about the first band except the music didn’t match the vocals. Granted, I’m not a huge fan of screaming anyway (I know, I know, why the hell was I there?) but I can get behind it if it somehow compliments the music, but in this case, it did not. Second band sounded pretty much the same, though at least with them I didn’t have to completely tune out the vocals to enjoy it. Of course it helped that the vocalist (I just can’t call them “singers”) was cute, in a bald kind of way. Like Krillin. Also, I kept wondering if the artery in his neck was going to burst from his screaming because I could seriously see that thing across the room.

Black Fast sounded much the same as the locals. Except for some reason the vocalist had to talk in between every song. And by talk, I mean continue screaming into the mike so that I had absolutely no idea what he was trying to say. He seemed more excited about Goatwhore playing next than he was about his own band, though. Now that is some team spirit. Or whatever.

There was a mini-mosh pit for portions of the middle two bands. It didn’t really get going until the headliner came on, though. Well, except that one time during the second set where a dude in a spiked denim vest sat on somebody else’s shoulders and dominated the area. That was entertaining. Anyway, Goatwhore came on, but by this point we’d been there for two hours, so we only stayed for the first couple of songs before bailing. It was more of the same thing anyway, except with this group I wanted to steal the vocalist’s elbow-length gloves because those things were wicked.

I know that for someone who doesn’t like screaming, I’ve focused an awful lot on the vocalists, but it’s because I really couldn’t see anything else and as far as the sound went, it was all pretty much the same thing. Although, I will admit, Black Fast’s bassist was pretty fab.

I’m really not complaining with this pseudo-review even though on the re-read for edits, I’m sure that’s what it sounds like. The whole reason I went to the show was for the camaraderie and because I like the atmosphere of small metal gigs. I don’t know anybody other than the person I come with, and I probably stick out like a sore thumb (bright purple shirt and converse, red curly hair, small girly tattoos instead of sleeves), but I like it.

I like watching the people bob their heads off-beat and sometimes head bang without a proper understanding of how that is supposed to work. There really is a right and several wrong ways. And I’m sure it doesn’t always happen this way, but when somebody fell over in the mosh pit, like three people stooped to help him up. And this might sound stupid, but despite how much working in retail has made me lose faith in humanity as a reliable species, little things like that make me reconsider that viewpoint.

Review: Ant-Man

Admittedly, not my favorite poster

Admittedly, not my favorite poster

When I first heard that Marvel was doing an Ant-Man origin movie, I had mixed feelings. I mean, yes, Ant-Man and Wasp were two of the original Avengers, but seriously, how could that possibly be exciting?

As it turns out, they did a really good job, and this is one of my favorite origin stories. (Sony, please stop rebooting Spider-man.) Granted a lot of the plot didn’t make sense, and much of the science was inconsistent, but for some reason, I really didn’t care because it was just so cool. For those more interested in why it sucked, there’s a great article on Cracked that you should check out. However, I want to talk about why I liked it.

First off, Paul Rudd is adorable as Scott who will be the Ant-Man. I think he was a great choice for the character, and I love Evangeline Lilly as future Wasp. Is some of the thing with Scott’s daughter kind of corny? Totally. But it’s nice to see a superhero with a family (the throwaway bit about Hawkeye in the second Avengers movie doesn’t count because they aren’t given real personalities or importance), and it gives him the necessary motivation to move the plot along. Although, seriously who needs motivation to take on the role of a masked hero who can shrink at will and communicate with an army of ants? Because I would totally be up for that.

Second, the villain, although a bit generically bald, was really good. He wasn’t an overtly evil being; he was a smart guy seeking approval from his mentor and not getting it. Also, apparently his brain was a bit addled from the shrinking because he didn’t have the proper headgear? Ok, that plot point was seriously underdeveloped, but whatever. Yes, it was a dick move to try selling his new super-soldier equipment to Hydra, but he’s a villain, he’s supposed to do bad things. He kind of reminded me of the bald villain from the first Iron Man (I forget the name and am feeling too lazy to look it up) because they had very similar M.O.s. I mean, really Pym and Stark could only blame themselves for leaving their super science-y giant corporations in the hands of clearly unstable men with faulty moral compasses.

Third, as with all Marvel films, it was just plain pretty. Complain all you want about rampant CGI and absurd fight scenes, but that’s really most of why I even watch these films. And I felt like Ant-Man did a great job of having the hectic chaos in the fight scenes without the viewer completely losing track of the action.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the humor was on point for most of the film. Was the name Antony a horrible pun? Duh. That’s why it was brilliant. Horrible puns are funny. I also love that they poke fun at the name Ant-Man, but then, everyone has been giggling over that since the trailer came out. I prefer Marvel over DC (at least for films) because Marvel superheroes rarely take themselves too seriously. Sure things will get dark sometimes (though admittedly, there is rarely a feeling of imminent doom in this film) but overall it’s light entertainment.

A note on the funny minor characters: I’ve heard some complaints that the supporting characters (like Scott’s crack team of thieves) were just walking stereotypes with characterization only based on their ethnicity, and I agree. But while in a perfect world every character would have immaculate characterization and personality, it’s a two-hour film, and there are more important things going on. It’s far easier to slap a few stereotypical traits on a minor supporting role than to give them a complex backstory that the audience wouldn’t care about anyway. Because, be honest audience, you came to this Marvel movie to watch Ant-Man beat up a bad guy, so that’s what more time will be spent on.

Overall, if you liked any of the Marvel films to date, you’ll probably enjoy this one.

20 Something: Guilty Pleasure Turning into Obsession

I don’t know quite how to admit this. It is embarrassing. However, I can no longer hide my obsession with Stargate SG-1. It is reaching absurd proportions. I may need help. Last night I was awake until 4 am watching the show with my old roommate. This is not the first time we have done this. However, his addiction to the show is not as great as mine. Seriously. I have seen every Pintrest post related to the show, I have watched YouTube montage videos, and I have even begun venturing into the Tumblrverse (they call it that, right?), though honestly that may be the key to my salvation in pulling me out of the Stargate world because I may be fangirling too hard right now.

Absolutely everybody!!

Absolutely everybody!!

In addition to the standard fan routes of showing admiration, I have been reading a lot (and I mean a LOT) of Stargate fanfiction. I’ve gotten behind on reading the second Game of Thrones book to read story after story (many distressingly incomplete) on fanfiction.net.

It wasn’t until until a few days ago that I realized just how long this addiction has been building. See, I watched the show while I was in high school when it was still airing seasons 9 and 10. I ended up seeing the whole series (and Atlantis) in bits and pieces over time as the SyFy channel aired reruns regularly. During the summer I could, and regularly did, watch half a season in one day. When I rediscovered the show on Amazon Prime a few months ago, I remembered this binge-watching. However, I had forgotten one other thing.

I found said other thing again while digging through some old drafts on my computer. Lately I have been devouring fanfiction of Stargate SG-1, but a few years ago, I was actually producing it.

Stargate-FacePalm

Good news: I did not die from shame at admitting that.

The other night, I stayed up absurdly late to add to one of the incomplete homage stories. It is sitting on my computer waiting for me to continue, and you know what? Doing that is more tempting right now that working on my legitimate novel. I hadn’t written anything in over a week when I started adding to the fanfic, and in that one evening, I pounded out over 5,000 words. I know it is something that will never be published except perhaps here or on fanfiction.net. But it is relaxing to me. It is an outlet for my imagination which is currently overrun with the world of Stargate.

My roommate and I are currently about halfway through season 6. I’ve seen it all before, but it’s been so long that it’s almost like watching it for the first time all over again. I totally ship Sam/Jack, and I’m rediscovering how amazing Jonas Quinn’s hair is. I’m mourning for Daniel even though I know he will be back next season. And I can’t wait to see Lt. Col. Cameron Mitchell again. I know, I know, many fans view seasons 9 and 10 without Jack as blasphemous or whatever, but I happened to start with those. I grew to admire and adore Jack over time, but I fell head over heels for Cam.

To further illustrate my descent into madness, I will be adopting a kitten from one of my coworkers soon (the mama kitty is keeping them on her patio at the moment). I have decided that a female kitten must be either Maj. Samantha Carter or Selmak. And a male must be either Col. Jack O’neill or Teal’c. Or perhaps Martouf. There is still much decision-making to be done on that front.

I’m not sure why I deciding to bring this all up today. Perhaps it is offered as an explanation for why I haven’t posted anything in a week or more. Anyway, if you feel my pain at Selmak’s passing or the fact that Sam and Jack will probably never be together, then you can definitely be my friend.

Otherwise:

sam carter