Friday, October 8, 2010

1632 by Eric Flint (review)

Title: 1632
Author: Eric Flint
Illustrator: N/A
Kindle Locations: 9,611
Genre: Fiction
Dewey Decimal:
ISBN: 0-671-57849-9
Kindle Cost: Free

1632 is a blast from the past. Having seen this book and its sequels on the store shelves for years, I've always passed it by because it looked very old-school and campy.

And it was. To a point. You see, Flint takes a different road than most writers. He doesn't try to layer on the intrigue and plot twists and detail. Instead he keeps his story neat and simple and moves it along nicely. So instead of describing a lot of minute details about how people survived the sudden change, he skips ahead a few months.

A lot of readers may not like that, I found it refreshing. I needed to take a break from all the details in other stories I was reading. Stories that were starting to sound like Robinson Crusoe with their detail.

While Flint's approach to keeping things simple was nice, I didn't care for his transitions between scenes. Maybe it was poor formatting from the e-book conversion, but the story jumped from plot line to plot line or character to character without warning. In fact, several times I'd go back and re-read two paragraphs because I didn't catch the change that came between them.

Overall, Flint does a good job. His style is a little rough and doesn't have the polish of other big names in the genre, but he still entertains. An added bonus is this story was free. Hard to turn down a deal like that and hard to put down once you start.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Knight and Day (movie review)

Title: Knight and Day (2010)

Since Tom Cruise went a bit nutty, I haven't been a big fan of his. And while he has had some decent movies in the past, like Mission Impossible or Days of Thunder, his performance in this movie was luke-warm.

In fact, it reminded me very much of a bad Bourne movie ripoff.

Aside from that, it was at least entertaining enough to keep me in my seat. There were a few scenes that were funny, a few were romantic, and a few were action packed. So all in all, it was fairly well rounded.

But my biggest problem was with the special effects. They reminded me of something cheap enough to make it onto a Saturday night movie on the SyFy channel. Very campy and so noticeable that it actually took me out of the movie for a second.

In the end, it was a decent movie. I'm not sure I'd spend big money on the DVD, but I might get it from the bargain bin since my wife has a crush on Tom Cruise. She can watch him while I stare at Cameron Diaz in a bikini.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Kyle XY - Blame It on the Rain (review)

Episode Title: Blame It on the Rain
Cost: Free via Hulu

Yet another episode that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside while making you wonder who Kyle really is (and who the security guard is). And while there are points in the show when things get really campy and avoid questions (like why didn't Declan leave in the morning? The parents were okay with him hanging out all day?).

And yet, there's something oddly appealing that makes me keep coming back despite this campy feel. I know part of the mystery is that I've never seen the show and don't know what Kyle's story is in the end. How he came to be, where he came from, etc.

So in the end, I'll keep watching. It's good enough to at least keep me interested and entertained.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Last Airbender (movie review)

Title: The Last Airbender (2010)

I try my best to find the good in things, but sometimes I find it difficult. This movie was an exception as it was very easy to find the good.

Mostly because the movie was so horrible.

How this movie got so bad, I don't know, but it was like somebody took a decent if not good story and gang raped it. Holy cow was it bad. Atop the list of horrors in this movie was the dialog. It was so bad it was like somebody took a Japanese video game and tried to translate it into English with a translator that only knows Spanish. In fact, some of the lines sounded like my 2-year-old son pretending to be a robot.

And then there was the magic system. I know every fantasy world has a different base for their magic, and that's great. But the goofy looking hands and feet dancing around? Did they really need to look so silly to do their fighting? Couldn't they do the martial arts stuff to do physical fighting and then use magic with one or two simple moves?

Despite the horrible movie, there are a few glimmering jewels that, when combined with some popcorn and Junior Mints, might make it worthwhile to watch the movie. As long as somebody else pays for it of course. Those jewels would be a handful of actors that did a great job acting. Yes, their lines were still horrible, but their acting was surprisingly well done. First is Noah Rigner, the last airbender, who plays "innocent" quite well. Then we have Dev Patel, who does a wonderful job of playing the evil prince that has been ousted by his father. And the last was the father, the fire lord, Cliff Curtis. He did well in Trauma on TV and did well in his limited role in this movie.

So save your money and watch it when it comes to TV or Hulu. Meanwhile, you can go read a book. Or wash your dog. Or visit the dentist. Any of these would be more enjoyable than watching this movie.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Kyle XY - This Is Not a Test (review)

Episode Title: This Is Not a Test
Cost: Free via Hulu

I think I'm finally keying in on why I like this series and continue to stick with it. It reminds me of high school. Sure, some of high school was great, but other parts were horrible. And the sad part is I don't even talk to anyone from high school anymore. Heck, I barely talk to anyone from college (the big exception being my wife of course).

So aside from the flashbacks I'm having while watching Kyle learn about life, I enjoy his innocence and how other people react to it. Some make fun of him, others want to help him, and some want to hurt him. In this episode we see the school principal want to lock Kyle out of learning in school and yet he gets his ass handed to him when Kyle finishes the test in time. Then we see a school bully try to beat him up and his ass gets handed to him. And of course there's the cute little comic nerd who everybody hates but Kyle goes out of his way to make friends with him.

So in the end, I'm going to at least finish season one and if the finale is strong enough, which I expect it will be, I'll be back for the rest of the show.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Kyle XY - Diving In (review)

Episode Title: Diving In
Cost: Free via Hulu

Wow. Can't beat young women at the poolside. Reminds me of high school when I was a lifeguard. Ahhh the memories.

And now that I'm an old man, that's all they are; memories. In this episode we see Kyle learn about erections. That's right, erections. Once you're done chuckling, I'm sure all the guys out there will know how it feels to have one at the wrong moment. And that's what happened to Kyle. He felt "pressure" but in a good way. Yeah. Corny, but funny. And true.

So as Kyle learns about his own body and the hormones that drive it, the mystery man quits his job. But we're not sure how that will factor into things yet, so I'm sticking around to see if he's a good guy or a bad guy. And I still say the younger brother, Josh, is the best character on the show. He's hilarious!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Kyle XY - The Lies That Bind (review)

Episode Title: The Lies That Bind
Cost: Free via Hulu

Kyle, and the rest of the family, learn about lies and how they can hurt people. I'm beginning to think that this is more of a show that preaches values and has a bit of a sci-fi drama coating.

Not that shows preaching values is a bad thing. After all, I grew up on The Cosby Show and loved 7th Heaven. But in the end, it's not coming across as I'd expected it to. Meaning, it's not the hardcore science fiction stuff I'd heard about.

Moving on, we see a bit more from the mystery guy from Kyle's past and the mom finally discovers what the little lines mean on the art from Kyle. Took her long enough. Anyway, I'm still going to watch the show. It hasn't exactly hooked me, but it's still interesting enough to keep me watching. Better than some shows I've seen, but certainly not as good as others.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Persons Unknown - The Way Through (review)

Episode Title: The Way Through
Cost: Free via Hulu

I always feel like a quitter when I want to give up on a show. Combine that with a bit of OCD and you have a completest that just can't quite stop watching bad TV shows. And that's where this one is moving, into the bad genre.

It does have its merits, but I can only sing so many praises before the truth begins to surface. So far this is the worst episode yet. It's predictable, borish, and not very entertaining. The next episode promises to introduce the mole or inside man (or woman), but I'm not sure if I'll care much by then.

I guess what I'm saying is that I'll give this show another week, maybe two to pull itself out of the nose dive that it's in. Then I'm jumping ship. After all, I can always find out the mystery's solution on Wikipedia.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Persons Unknown - The Edge (review)

Episode Title: Pilot
Cost: Free via Hulu

I'm not sure how much longer this how will last, both on the network and in my Hulu queue. I think the basic concept is an interesting idea, but they left things open and unexplained. They didn't plant the hook well enough early on to keep you coming back for more. It feels very rushed in how it puts characters in scenarios without much explanation.

So part of the issue is the little things. Like cell phones and computers. Where are they? Are you telling me that everyone that got snatched didn't have one? Why not have it mentioned that they were all taken. Think about how you would react in this scenario. I'd call the cops or get help. And when I discovered I couldn't get out of town and I couldn't get out, take an inventory of the town. And don't give it 2 minutes, give it a couple of episodes. Have them find something interesting.

Another part of the issue is the big stuff. Like the guy that escaped and came back. Are you telling me that the guys that wanted to kill him are just going to let him stand there and talk smack? Seriously?

So aside from the frustrations, both big and small, I'm still giving this story a chance. There are stories I want to hear about and I'm willing to give it some time to come to the surface. But not too much time. And while Hulu is convenient and free, it doesn't mean I should watch junk when there are better shows out there.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Kyle XY - Sleepless in Seattle (review)

Episode Title: Sleepless in Seattle
Cost: Free via Hulu

In this episode, we find out that Kyle can't sleep. Ever.

And I learn the show has taken a bit of a campy turn. Nothing terrible so far, but enough for me to take notice of it. We'll see how it plays out, but I get the distinct feeling that this will NOT be a show geared towards adults, but rather teenagers.

And that's okay. After all, I used to be a teenager. So anyway, Kyle can't sleep. The family does all sorts of things to try to get him to sleep but nothing seems to work. In the end he does go to sleep, and in an odd setting (no worries, I won't spoil it for you).

So far I'm liking the younger brother. The character is funny and the actor does a fine job of playing the role. I'm hoping he'll continue his solid performance.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Persons Unknown - Pilot (review)

Episode Title: Pilot
Cost: Free via Hulu

This is an odd show. And with LOST being off the air, I am not surprised that networks are trying to fill the void left by such a strong program. But that would be like trying to fill in for Friends or M*A*S*H. It just is NOT going to happen. In fact, I would guess that it will be at least three to five years before another powerful show is on TV.

Anyway, back to the new show. So far, it is interesting, but I was expecting that. A group of strangers mysteriously wakes up in a hotel in some unknown location. A mother, a soldier, a mystery man, etc. They eventually make it out of the hotel to discover a town of sorts that will not let them leave. That's right, they get to a certain point and collapse. Kind of lame.

Also lame is the supporting cast of people that run the restaurant and sit the front desk at the hotel. I think if I were in that situation, I certainly would have handled things differently. Guns, supplies, water, food, safety, etc. would all be on my list of things to find, but just taking the strangers word that he knows nothing does not quite fit in.

What is not so lame, at least for now, is the mystery behind who did this (kidnap the people), why they did this, and the story behind each of the people involved. So, until we get there, we will just have to wait and see what is going to happen.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Kyle XY - Pilot (review)

Episode Title: Pilot
Cost: Free via Hulu

This series is new to me. It first aired back in 2006 on ABC and features a teenage boy that wakes up in the woods with no memory. As he progresses through the episode, he learns to talk, eat, and go to the bathroom. He displays an uncanny knack for math and physical ability (like catching a snake in mid-strike). We also learn he has no belly button.

During the episode he is adopted by a social worker and her family and goes through some growing pains (as does the rest of the family). There is a bit of a "mystery man" that's following Kyle, and I'm sure we'll see more of him as we progress into the series.

So far, it's an interesting start to the series. I'm not sure how much I'll enjoy it, but I like how the humor joins with the mystery of Kyle.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Calamity Jack by Shannan Hale, Dean Hale, and Nathan Hale (review)

Title: Calamity Jack
Author: Shannon Hale and Dean Hale
Illustrator: Nathan Hale
Pages: 144
Genre: Graphic Novel
Dewey Decimal: YP GN Hal
ISBN: 978-1-59990-076-6
Cost: $0

I have reviewed earlier work by this group (Rapunzel's Revenge) and was pleased by not only the story, but also the art. Calamity Jack being their newest installment, I was once again pleased.

The story line follows Rapunzel and Jack to the bright lights of the city where we find an evil lurking. While it was fairly easy to figure out who was behind the evil and how he was manipulating things in his favor, it was still a fun ride to the end. There were even a few plot twists I did not see coming.

I think what I enjoy so much about this book is that it gives a different spin on a classic fairy tale. We have all heard the story about the golden goose and the beanstalk and the woman in a shoe, but authors like this give those stories a new life. And the illustrators take it a step further.

So I would check out this particular re-imagining of a classic because it really is more enjoyable that those dusty, musty, older versions.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Smokey Joe's Cafe at the Riverside Dinner Theater (review)

Title: Smokey Joe's Cafe
Words and Music: Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
Producer: Rollin E. Wehman
Director: Stephen R. Hayes
Genre: Musical
Cost: $64.50 per person (includes meal, does not include bar bill or tip)

Today's performance at the Riverside is one of the best I have ever seen. And I do not say that lightly.

You see, we have been attending shows at the Riverside for several years. And we have seen some good shows, some not-so-good shows, and some great shows. But of all those shows, we have rarely given a standing ovation. Even for many of those great shows.

Today we stood and clapped. And the performers deserved it.

The meal of choice tonight was a apple-smoked bacon pork chop, mixed veggies, and a baked potato. And there were chunks of corn bread and the usual salad. Our server appeared to be a bit new to the process of being a waiter, but that was the only negative aspect of the evening (unless you count the bizarre hairdo we saw).

The play was a musical revue, which is new to not only us but also to the Riverside. And I liked the change. There was little to no plot at all, simply song and dance. There was some acting, but it was very sparse and very well played. The songs were straight out of the 50s and 60s, so I knew most of them having grown up listening to "oldies." And to say the performers sang well would be an injustice to their skill. There were many new faces in the cast making their debut, but they performed quite well.

Of particular note was the group of four men who sang many songs together. They reminded me of the Four Tops or something with their skill. And the star of the show, the one singer that gave these four a run for there money, was TaLon Thomas. She was Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight rolled up into one package.

So if you have not had a chance yet to see this particular performance at the Riverside, I suggest you do so while you still can.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Monday, April 5, 2010

Plundered Booty (review)

Title: Plundered Booty
Author: Travis Erwin
Illustrator: N/A
Kindle Locations: 19 pages (PDF)
Genre: Fiction
Dewey Decimal: F Erw
Kindle Cost: Free (via PDF)

This short story is a neat little peek into the life of a car salesman. Granted, it is a short story and it is a very small look into the life, but it was entertaining. I am not sure if it would be a good candidate for a longer novel, but even if this one kept going at a slow pace it would still be better than some others that I have read.

The story follows the "Captain" (which I was really hoping would be a real Captain of some sort) through a rough day at the office. His boss just died and his asshole of a son just took over. And by asshole, I mean capital-A-asshole-jerk-wad.

But in the end, the Captain gets his booty. Just not the booty I was hoping for. And I think that was the biggest downfall of the story, it was not long enough to turn into some bizarre tale of how this guy lost a leg, sailed the high seas, and taught a parrot to talk.

Alas maties, this was just about a car salesman. It sounds boring, but it was still entertaining enough to read.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Greatest Show On Earth (movie review)

Title: The Greatest Show On Earth (1952)

Jimmy Stewart is a clown.

No seriously, he plays a clown in this movie. And Charlton Heston is in the movie too. And Betty Hutton. And Bob Hope and Hopalong Cassidy (as cameos of sorts).

The star-studed movie takes place under the big top of the circus. And while many people knock this movie as something to be ashamed of, I personally found it refreshing. Sure, it is a movie about the circus, but to see how much of it was filmed with an actual circus as well as how many stunts the actors performed, I was impressed.

Factor in a decent plot (complete with a love quadrangle, jealousy, and murder) and you have a pretty darn good movie. Granted, not the best, but still enjoyable enough to be worth the time spent watching it.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Death At A Funeral (movie review)

Title: Death At A Funeral (2007)

It is a real shame that this is being remade this year. I mean, the movie is barely old enough to stand on its own and it gets remade. I do not want to speak too ill of the remake as I have not seen it yet, but I know from experience that the original is often better than the remake.

And this movie is quite awesome. From the opening credits to the guy falling out of the casket to the midget getting stuffed in the casket, I was constantly laughing while wondering what would go wrong next.

Turns out, the only thing that went wrong with the movie was that it ended. Leave it to the British to come up with a hilarious movie yet again. Sometimes I wonder if I should be living there just to make watching these movies easier.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Bell Book and Candle (movie review)

Title: Bell Book and Candle (1958)

Good ol' Jimmy Stewart. I just love his simplistic nature and acting style. Nothing over the top. Nothing shocking. Just simple, home-town goodness.

In this particular movie, we see Stewart and fellow Vertigo star Kim Novak fall in and out of love. Novak plays the witch to Stewart's "average guy." But being such an older movie, very little is done to explore the lifestyle of the witch and warlock underground. We just know they can perform magic, cast spells, and hang out in an underground bar that looks like an early hippie love den.

Not the best of Stewart's movies, that is for sure, but it is good enough to watch if you have time.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Surrogates (movie review)

Title: Surrogates (2009)

This movie is certainly no Die Hard or Hudson Hawk.

And it certainly does not replicate either one. Even The Fifth Element is better than this sci-fi snoozer. Yes, you heard me right, this was a boring movie. One that I am glad I picked up on Pay-Per-View instead of DVD.

Now, while it was a slow moving and low on action, the concept of the surrogate was an interesting idea. Not a new idea (just look at that old episode of SeaQuest DSV) but an interesting one. And it is an idea that I would have loved to have explored in more depth. You know, delve into the social ramifications of a surrogate world.

Instead, we got an action movie. That did not have much action. If it had more action, I might have forgotten about the deep thoughts on hoe the human race would be impacted by surrogates and if they should have the same rights as humans. But the action was confined to a few scenes that were, well, mediocre. So I began thinking about the surrogates and if they should have rights.

Anyway, a moderately boring movie that I would recommend only if it is in the bargain bin.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Long Green Line (movie review)

Title: The Long Green Line (2008)

Ahh, the good old days of running cross country in high school. Of course our team was not even close to being that full. In fact, I think we barely had ten runners.

Anyway, this documentary film follows the York High School cross country team through another season of victory. Coach Joe Newton is a solid leader among these boys and he does his best to shape them into young men. And fast runners.

Coach Newton is old school. And old. But he brings that stern fatherly figure to the table that many of the kids need, especially in a sport that is very tough mentally. It may be a team sport, but you are out there running by yourself with only your competitor keeping you company.

Along the way to winning, there were some bumps. Some members were kicked off for various reasons and others were dropped from the top spots based on their performance. Very much like working in the real world.

In the end, this was a mediocre film on how some high school kids excel and other fall. But in the end, it is really about how much effort you put into it.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Hot Fuzz (movie review)

Title: Hot Fuzz (2007)

Simon Pegg. Nick Frost. A British comedic duo that needs to continue. Forever.

Yes, I have been on this great British comedy theme for some time now and this is yet another installment in that trend. The dynamic duo of Pegg and Frost does not let you down in the bizarre tale of an overachieving police officer in London that gets moved to a rural town because he makes everyone else look bad.

In his new home, he tries to keep up with his previous pace but is continually hitting a wall with the local villagers. And he gets partnered with an underachieving officer. The hilarity increases on pace with the increase in accidents in town. And while Pegg's character thinks he has the killer cornered, he realizes a little too late that the conspiracy is larger than expected.

As I have noticed with many of Pegg's movies, this is a bit bloodier than I would expect from an "American" movie, but it is not nearly as bad as a horror movie. And with all the comedy, I can deal with a little blood. So be sure to check out this installment of the Pegg and Frost comedy team.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Hurt Locker (movie review)

Title: The Hurt Locker (2008)

This movie hurts on a few levels. Namely it just won an Oscar for Best Motion Picture of the Year. Do not get me wrong, it is a good movie. But not the best.

I did enjoy the action and some of the mental anguish you see the soldiers go through. Not that I enjoyed their anguish, I just enjoyed that it was a glimpse into the realities of war. And I loved that it focused on the EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) group. But it just did not measure up in other ways.

Take the action. Sure it was realistic in some scenes, but it did not carry the weight that other movies did about the seriousness of war. Take Saving Private Ryan or even Band of Brothers. While there is some romanticism of war in each, they are also very grounded in reality. The Hurt Locker did not carry that as well as I would have liked. It was too soft and cozy at times.

The actors did a great job though. They stood out quite well above the plot and the action. The tension between them, the bond between soldiers, everything was there. Even the loss of sanity. Maybe a larger cast would have helped.

In the end, The Hurt Locker was good, but not great. With a plot that had some holes and all the hype that makes you expect a ground-breaking movie, I was disappointed. Even though they are much lighter in their mood, I think you would get more for your money by watching The Devil's Brigade or Memphis Belle.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Spirit Of The Marathon (movie review)

Title: Spirit Of The Marathon (2007)

Another running movie that is free on Hulu. Overall, this is more of a documentary film than a movie. It covers some of the history of the marathon, how it came to be, what role it played in the Olympics, and how women were treated early on.

But it just barely touches on all of these interesting facts. Instead it focuses on some of the current names in marathon history and follows a few runners through their first time in a marathon. It does a decent job in motivating you to run and even makes you consider attempting a marathon.

Living up to the title, it goes into the "spirit" that is behind the race and the "spirit" that is needed to run the race. I just wish it covered more of the history of the sport.

So while it was disappointing in its content and scope, the story of the new runners, the camaraderie they share, and the skills of the elite runners make this an easy documentary to watch.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Big Nothing (movie review)

Title: Big Nothing (2006)

Lately I have been on a HUGE British comedy kick thanks to my pal in New Jersey, Pabba. It initially started with his suggestion to watch a British TV show, Black Books. From there, I went to Spaced and The Book Group. All of which got me hooked on the wonderful acting ability of Simon Pegg. Which brings us to our movie review today.

Big Nothing stars Simon Pegg and David Schwimmer, both talented comedic actors. The premise is fairly simple, but hte twists and turns leave you laughing and jumping at the same time. There is clearly a lot of violence, but nothing as terrible as a horror movie. In fact, most of the deaths are hilarious or shocking or both.

Pegg and Schwimmer and Alice Eve team up to commit a simple crime. A simple crime that goes wrong from the start. Then it gets worse. And worse. And, well, you get the idea. Needless to say, things do not turn out as you would expect them to. And that is what makes this such a fun movie to watch.

Stay tuned for more reviews with Pegg as I cannot wait to watch some of his back list of movies. In the meantime, you can watch Big Nothing on Hulu for free (while it lasts).

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Mist (movie review)

Title: The Mist (2007)

I am by no means a Stephen King fan, nor a horror movie fan. So it felt very odd in not only recording this movie, but also watching it. But I survived the movie. Unlike most of the characters.

And the characters were great. They were "real life" examples of a wide variety of people. When placed under dire circumstances, some people stand up to the pressure while others crack. In this case, we have a mysterious fog that descends from a secret military experiment. We do not see what is in the fog right away, but soon enough we see the blood and guts of the stereotypical horror movie. And the writhing tentacle of some mysterious monster to go along with it.

And with that amount of blood, there were several times I had to stop watching the movie and switch to something more light-hearted. Despite the bloody mess and scary beasts this movie had, I was continually brought back to the movie by the characters. They were great. Flawed most certainly, but easy to relate to on so many different levels.

Until the end. And this is where I was seriously depressed and pissed off. Not just because of the ending, but also because of the choice made by the main character. I know it was done in an effort to show the futility of life or something like that, but sheesh. No thanks. And that is why I do not enjoy King and his work. Something too depressing and scary about his stuff that makes it almost as bad as Elie Wiesel's Night.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Hart's War (movie review)

Title: Hart's War (2002)

This is no Stalag 17. Or a Great Escape. In fact, this movie is barely a movie worth watching. We see Bruce Willis do his best to act in a serious role while spending most of his time on camera with an expression that looks like he is about to bust out laughing. Not that Bruce Willis cannot act, because there are plenty of other movies where he performs miles above the rest of the cast. Hell, he was even better in Friends than in this movie.

Aside from Willis turning in a poor performance, we have a decent supporting cast. Most are names that are easily missed, with one exception. Jonathan Brandis. Yes, the star of one of my favorite television shows, SeaQuest DSV. But his scenes were cut from the film. And the rumor is that was his reason for committing suicide. Was it the real reason? We may never know. But if his performance was like many of the others in the supporting cast, he may well have had a chance at restarting his career.

The plot of the movie is a bit lame. A POW is murdered, a black airman is charged with his death, and the rest of the POWs are out to convict him for the crime he did not commit. From there, the rest of the story is predictable. Even before the trial begins, a good skeptic will know who committed the crime.

So in the end, the movie was okay. Certainly worth watching if you can catch it for free (like I did), but not worth buying on DVD.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Technical Difficulties

We recently experienced an outage of one of our external hard drives. While we work to repair the issue and restore our lost data, we will need to take a short hiatus. In the mean time, please feel free to browse through some of our older posts.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Star Trek (movie review)

Title: Star Trek (2009)

This is the newer version of Star Trek, as imagined (or re-imagined if you like) by director J. J. Abrams. As a huge LOST fan, it was hard for me to not give this movie a try.

And I am glad I did watch it. While certainly not the same style or mood as the older movies I grew up watching (I mean, how can you beat a whale in a spaceship?!), it did prove to be entertaining. Parts of the plot were entirely predictable, but not terrible enough to take you out of the story too far.

And while I did not like the whole time travel part, the interaction and introduction of the primary characters we know and love was pretty fun to watch. And as a past fan of Heroes, I kept seeing Spock and Sylar as long lost brothers or something.

In the end, the action was fun, the acting was good, and the plot was okay. I would say it is worth your money to buy it on DVD, just use a coupon to get the best deal.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

LOST - Lighthouse (episode review)

Warning: these reviews will contain spoilers. You have been warned.


This particular review was written after I read several other people's take on this episode. I know that deviates away from my normal mode of reviews for LOST, but I felt I needed a breath of fresh air for a bit.

First, we have the theory I put out there about the Smoke Monster being both Jacob and his evil nemesis that looks like Locke. In other words, there's more than one. I've now seen others ponder the same thought, so I feel slightly less insane for thinking it.

Next, we have a Jack-centric episode. Probably one of my least favorites that ranks up there with Kate-centric episodes. And while seeing Jack have a life off island is nice, it just doesn't seem to fit what we've seen from him so far. And the musical genius son? Just another red herring in my mind.

The biggest WTF! moment came when we saw the lighthouse. I mean, seriously? Another set? Why can't we shoot this scene in the Hydra Station of even the Swan? Oh well, at least we see more names of candidates. Until Jack goes nutters on the mirrors.

And Jin, well, I guess he should have listened to that guy and ran away while he could.

Hurley. I love Hurley. Whatever happens to everyone else, I hope Hurley wins. He's just so damn funny.

Now for some questions I came up with while watching:

- Is Jack's failure to remember his appendectomy a "crack" in the sideways shift of time? Could it all unravel?
- Where the hell has Claire been the last three years?
- What does it mean to be a candidate?
- Does having a child on the island make you go crazy? (think about Rousseau and Claire - both gave birth on-island and both went nutters)
- Who are Adam and Eve? (you know, those two skeletons in the caves...maybe Sawyer and Kate..or Jack and Kate.. or somebody else)

Now for some predictions for upcoming episodes:

- Kate is going to join Claire, Fake-Locke, and Jin on the way to the temple. Kate is going to tell Claire about Aaron and Kate will die. Then Jin will die. Then some people at the temple will die.
- Somewhere in this whole process, Sawyer is going to be "turned" by Fake-Locke and become the Darth Vader of the show (because Fake-Locke/Smoke Monster is the Emperor and Juliet is Padme). Sawyer will then kill Claire at the request of Fake-Locke (didn't Anakin do that to Count Dooku?). Or maybe Sun will kill Claire for killing Jin. Maybe Sun is like one of those bounty hunters.
- Jack will become the Obi-Wan of the show and die at the hands of Sawyer.
- Hurley will eventually turn Sawyer back to the good side and kill Fake-Locke while Jacob watches because Jacob is like Yoda. During the process, Sawyer is mortally wounded and dies.
- Hurley survives. Sun survives but is wracked with guilt and sadness and commits suicide. Rose and Bernard adopt Vincent and live happily ever after.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Breach by Patrick Lee (review)

Title: The Breach
Author: Patrick Lee
Illustrator: N/A
Kindle Locations: 5.337
Genre: Fiction
Dewey Decimal: F Lee
ISBN: 978-0-06-196205-9
Kindle Cost: $7.99

Speed reading. This book flies by so fast, you will be looking for a new book to read in a week. Patrick Lee makes his debut novel so compelling to read, I could barely read anything beyond the local newspaper. In fact, I think I read the first half of the book in about two days. The second half was a bit slower paced, but was still entertaining enough to make me want more.
“I forget who wrote it. One of those things everyone reads in English 102. This servant goes to the marketplace, and he sees Death standing there, and Death makes a threatening face at him. The servant runs back to his master and says, ‘Let me borrow your horse, I’ll ride to Samarra so Death won’t find me.’ The master lets him go, then heads down to the market himself, sees Death and he says, ‘What are you doing making a threatening face at my servant?’And Death says, ‘Threatening? No, no, I was just surprised to see him here. I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.’ ”
The premise behind the novel is unique, but only to a degree. We have the same old plot of an "average" man with a dark background out to redeem himself and gets thrust into a world of intrigue and danger. Think The Da Vinci Code, only ten times better. Lee writes characters that are semi-real enough to identify with. But the characters take a back seat to the action, and there is enough action to keep you turning the page.

The intrigue and danger focus around the Breach. This unknown "thing" reminds me a bit of the Stargate, except it's always on and odd things come out of it (like super heavy pieces of fabric or guns that heal you). This of course brought about a secret agency that controls and protects the Breach and the obligatory bad guys out to take control of it. This is the mess that Travis Chase, the lead man, finds himself thrust into the middle of.

Paige Campbell, the female lead, falls in love with him, forgets about him, and even plans to kill him. And as confusing as all of that sounds, it all makes sense once you read the book. All the objects that come out have their unique properties and powers. Some are boring and do nothing, some could end the world (and almost do).
“Humans call this problem the grandfather paradox. They get tied up thinking about it. What happens if you go back in time and kill your grandfather before he meets your grandmother? Do you cease to exist, having prevented your own birth? No. Your arrival in the past becomes your birth, even if it means being born fully grown, with a head full of memories of a childhood that may never end up happening...”
In the end, this debut novel is well worth your time and your money. Lee crafts an adventure with enough action to keep you on the edge of your seat for a few days (or weeks if you read slow). His next novel, Ghost Country, sounds interesting from the little blurb I read. And if it compares to The Breach, it will be worth the wait.

PS - You may be wondering why I have Dora's backpack in the photo above. It is because my wonderful wife thought it would match perfectly with the overall theme of the book. Which is items magically appearing out of a "hole" (or backpack in this case).

Monday, February 22, 2010

Heat Wave by Richard Castle (review)

Title: Heat Wave
Author: Richard Castle
Illustrator: N/A
Kindle Locations: 3,722
Genre: Fiction
Dewey Decimal: F Cas
ISBN: 978-1-4013-9476-9
Kindle Cost: $9.99

Richard Castle certainly turns up the heat on the reader in his latest novel. His previous series focused on Derrick Storm, one of those macho-manly guys who always wins. But in his last book, Storm Fall, Derrick Storm died. I know there is plenty of speculation out there about why Castle killed off Storm, but I think he was tired of the man.

And after reading how he portrays Nikki Heat, I can certainly see why he wanted a woman as his next focus. Heat is a tough but lovable detective based on the real New York Police Detective Kate Beckett. And if Beckett is anything like Heat, New York is never cold because Heat is hot.

Sure, Castle gives her that brooding attitude and sharp tongue but it fits perfectly with her dark and traumatic past. And that past is what drives her to catch her man (or woman). While Heat provides a lot of spark to the story, the leading man, Jameson Rook, provides the oxygen. Rook, based loosely on Castle, is the witty guy always trying to help, even when helping gets him in trouble. He truly tries to do good, but often times makes a mistake along the way. Fortunately Rook has plenty of friends in high places to get him out of trouble.

In Heat Wave, we see great scenes between Rook and Heat, and even though some of them are predictable, it was still entertaining enough to keep you reading. And this novel is on the short side, so things progress even faster than expected. In the end, this is an awesome restart to Castle's writing career and rumor has it Castle is even writing a script for a television series about a space cowboy.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Twilight (movie review)

Title: Twilight (2008)

Sparkly vampires. I know, I am way late to the Twilight epic saga of teenage angst and forbidden love. But you know, I had my fill of the Young Adult genre when I finished Harry Potter, so I am slowly easing back into it. Give me time.

As to this particular movie, it was oddly entertaining. I knew some of the basics of the plot but have never read the books. So the wife and I (she has not read the books either) started the movie and ended up staying up way later than normal just to finish it.

Now, I know what you are thinking. She forced me to watch the dreamy vampire, but that is not the case. You see, I actually wanted to watch it. Mostly so I could be "hip" (two years later) but also to see what the big deal was. I had some serious issues with the vampires (I mean, sparkles? Really?) but kind of enjoyed the flash backs to high school. I was turned down by many a young lady in my day.

I did enjoy some of the comedy, especially the Cullen family meeting Bella the first time. Hilarious! So funny, they should do a show just on that. The brooding, moody vampire sucked. No pun intended.

And I do want to see the next installment, just so I can see why Bella sides with the wolf-boy. I just need to wait for Showtime to show it for free because I don't think I'm willing to pay for any of them.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

LOST - The Substitute (episode review)

Now, two warnings before we move on. First, I am going to write my LOST episode reviews before I read any other comments. I hope this will keep my opinions clear from any cross-contamination. If I do happen to read or hear something that influences my review, I will say so. Second, these reviews will contain spoilers. You have been warned.


This Locke-centric episode was so much nicer (and stronger) than last week's Kate-centric episode. I was glad we finally learned what the numbers were for (or at least who came up with the numbers). And as usual with LOST, we now have more questions. Like, who was the kid with the bloody hands? Was this the same kid we saw later that told Smoke Monster Locke that he could not kill him? And is this kid (or at least the kid with the bloody hands) the reason Smoke Monster Locke is on the island? Was hurting this kid his crime and time on the island his punishment? And is this kid somehow related to Aaron or Claire?

All sorts of questions. But I expect that and to some degree, enjoy it. While this season has not been as strong as the first two seasons, I still think it has a solid chance of redeeming itself later on. Especially with how the sideways-flash time line plays into the events on the island. And seeing Hurley take care of Locke off island was great. The wheelchair bound Locke is so powerless at times it is amazing to see how well some actors do in portraying their off-island characters.

In the end, this was a good, solid episode. We see Richard afraid of Smoke Monster Locke. We see the reason behind the numbers. We see another secret cave. And we meet a new character that tells Smoke Monster Locke what he can't do.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Steven R. Boyett vs. S. M. Stirling

The elephant in the room: Did S. M. Stirling steal Steven R. Boyett's idea?

More specifically, did Stirling's Dies The Fire and the rest of his Emberverse series take too much from Boyett's Ariel (review here)?

First, a look at the facts:

- Ariel was first published by Ace in 1983
- Dies The Fire was first published by Roc in 2004
- The two authors are aware of each other as evidenced on the cover of Boyett's Elegy Beach where Stirling wrote "Haunting, elegiac, funny, and moving."

Second, a look at the rumors:
- Stirling stole the idea from Boyett and did not care
- Stirling is not a real person, it is actually Boyett writing under a pen name
- Stirling borrowed so heavily from Boyett's Ariel that he had to pay him a settlement
- Stirling borrowed so heavily from Boyett's Ariel that he agreed to help him promote Elegy Beach

As you can see, there is a huge gap between reality and fantasy. Now it is just a question of who can fill in the blanks.

In the meantime, I will digress to discuss my thoughts on the two books. I have long been a Stirling fan and really enjoyed how he took his original Emberverse series (the trilogy starting with Island In The Sea Of Time) and linked it to his second wave of books (starting with the aforementioned Dies The Fire). They showed both sides of the Change. Those people that were taken back in time with working guns and those left in our present without working guns. Both civilizations began to bend toward each other. Those in ancient times had a rapid growth in technology while those in current times had a relapse back to bows and swords. In fact, one could even argue that the ancient time line surpassed the current one with technology.

Both sets of books also showed a wonderful mix of characters. From a black, lesbian, Coast Guard officer that became the leader of the good guys to the free-wheeling, singing, Wiccan who led another group of good guys. Regardless of which characters you liked (or hated), they were fully formed, fleshed out, and felt so real. Many times I caught myself thinking of people I know (or have known) as these characters.

Moving over to Ariel, Boyett does not quite write with as much detail as Stirling. In fact, we barely learn anything at all about the Change, other than it happened, it was bad, and magical creatures came out of it. While the magical creatures certainly adds some spunk to the plot, the characters are not as fleshed out as Stirling's.

But while Boyett sacrifices some of the detail, there is a gain in speed and ease of reading. For those fantasy fans out there, it is like the difference between Joe Abercrombie and George R. R. Martin. Both write in the same genre. One writes fast-paced books while the other is very epic. Boyett and Stirling are the same way. Each author has weaknesses and strengths, but neither writes a heap of garbage. After reading Boyett's Afterword and learning more about him, I am impressed even more with his ability to churn out such a good book.

So who wins? Steve Stirling. Why? Simply because he has written more books for me to enjoy. Aside from that, I would say there's a bit of a three-way tie between Boyett, Stirling, and Taylor Anderson in the post-apocalyptic genre. Each author has pros and cons, but each writes a novel worth reading.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Little Shop of Horrors at the Riverside Center Dinner Theater (review)

Title: Little Shop of Horrors
Book and Lyrics: Howard Ashman
Music: Alan Menken
Producer: Rollin E. Wehman
Director: Stephen R. Hayes
Genre: Musical
Cost: $64.50 per person (includes meal, does not include bar bill or tip)

The food at the Riverside is rarely bad so I was not surprised when once again I had a delicious meal. The only downside to the meal was the side dish of carrots and mixed potatoes. I am not a big fan of carrots and the potatoes were a mix of sweet potatoes, purple potatoes, pinkish ones, and regular ones. On the other hand, the seafood puff pastry is was awesome. I could easily rank it as one of the best meals I have had at the Riverside. Each bite was a wonderful mix of fish, scallops, and shrimp. And the pastry dough was soft, flaky, and sweet.

The salad was about the same as usual. I did opt for the lobster bisque appetizer and it was nice and creamy. For dessert I had the caramel apple pie. And like the rest of the desserts at the Riverside, it was very sweet and rich. The Skid Row (the show drink) was a nice treat for intermission. It tasted like a milkshake.

The show itself was a wacky mix of music, comedy, and horror. I have never seen the movie, but I can only guess how hilarious it was. Of particular note in the performance was the replacement of the original Ronnette, Sandra Hill, but the understudy. Each playbill had a flyer in it that said Mrs. Hill had passed away. There was no mention of her during the introductions, but a search of the local paper only had a short mention of her services.

There were some timing goofs in the performance where lines were flubbed a bit and the audio was off a bit for the man-eating plant, but it did not take that much away from the overall performance. In fact, one of the best characters was the plant itself. Having never seen the movie, I was a little shocked that it would talk (and sing) and danced around as much as it did. The stage hand in charge of running it did a great job.

The rest of the cast did well in there performances also, but the standout performer was Michael J. Perez who did a great job of playing the geeky Seymour. Another pleasant surprise was our server, Chris Hlusko. He has been around the Riverside long enough for us to recognize him in other productions but it was a neat surprise to hear him say he recognized us as frequent attendees.

In the end, I would have enjoyed a better choice of vegetables with dinner and a bit more perfection in the performance. But despite these small hindrances, I still enjoyed the performance and the meal. And if you have never been to the Riverside for a play, I highly recommend it. It is well worth the time and money spent.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The E-Book Price Dilemma

I am sure we have all heard about the Amazon and McMillan blowout. Authors, readers, fans, and trolls are all coming out with an opinion on one side or another. Many people have sworn to never buy from Amazon again. Others have sworn to never buy McMillan books again. Some have tried to reach a peaceful truce by supporting authors through other venues.

Where do I stand? Well, I own a Kindle DX. My wife owns one. We both shop from Amazon on occasion. And we both love to read books (regardless of who their publisher is).

And none of that is going to change.

You see, the one extreme is to boycott Amazon. Which to me is like trying to boycott Walmart. Don't get me wrong, I'm no fan of Walmart, but both are powerful companies that can control their clients to some degree. After all, if Walmart can require their suppliers to use RFID tags, why can't Amazon require their supplier to use a set price?

The other extreme is, well, stupid. There is no way I am going to boycott an author just because of something his employer does. If the author makes an ass of himself, then I might boycott him, but just because his employer decides to use purple paint instead of green doesn't mean I'm going to stop reading his books.

And what about those trying to seek that peaceful middle-ground where we support authors and not Amazon? Malarkey. You see, I have a budget. In an effort for me to stay inside that budget, I buy books on my Kindle instead of in the store. So if an author asks me to pay more money to buy their book somewhere else, then it damn well better be autographed to me personally and have some sort of golden ticket inside for a prize.

What's the solution? I don't know that there is one. Amazon and McMillan are only doing what's best for them. Amazon wants to corner the market on e-books, so it wants to offer cheaper books. McMillan wants more money for itself (and their authors) so it wants to charge more. In the end, the reader and the author suffers. So I am still going to recommend people buy a Kindle DX. I am still going to shop at Amazon. And I am still going to buy those books that entertain me, regardless of who publishes them.

Will I pay more for e-books? A little more, maybe. But the book would need to have better formatting. When I pay $9.99 for an e-book, I expect it to be formatted quite well. A $14.99 e-book better be even better than that. But why can't we buy books that are in some sort of locked PDF format? Think about Audbile. You have to synch your Audible account with your Kindle in order to listen to your Audible files. No biggy. Took me two minutes tops. Why not something similar for e-books? You sync your device, and presto, you can open all those PDF files that are encrypted. This would prevent sharing the files across devices. And the formatting would be just as good as if not exactly the same as a printed version of the book.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Gamer (movie review)

Title: Gamer (2009)

With a great heaving sigh of reluctance, I will now write this review. Why am I reluctant? Because I don't like writing bad reviews, even when something deserves it. And this movie truly deserves a bad review. I paid $5.99 for this movie on Pay-Per View and I immediately wanted my money back. Even with the coupon from DirecTV to take off $4.99, I still wanted my dollar back. Preferably with interest.

You see, the concept sounds neat. A society where people control others through a video game like SimCity. Those people being controlled get paid. Enter an action video game, and convicts get set free if they survive to the end of the game.

And then they had to totally ruin the movie with so much gratuitous blood and gore, I was queasy. And the acting? There was none. Although Michael C. Hall does play a pretty cool bad guy, I just kept seeing Dexter.

So save your money and let somebody else buy this for you. Then you can exchange it for something much better like Hackers.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

LOST - What Kate Does (episode review)

Now, two warnings before we move on. First, I am going to write my LOST episode reviews before I read any other comments. I hope this will keep my opinions clear from any cross-contamination. If I do happen to read or hear something that influences my review, I will say so. Second, these reviews will contain spoilers. You have been warned.


Where to begin on this one. Probably with disappointment. Even though I knew it was coming, even though I knew it would not be a strong episode, I was still disappointed in the lack of plot movement. The big reveals for me were Sawyer's plans to marry Juliet (which was nearly as sad as Charlie's death) and Claire's return (both on and off the island).

Kate has become some sort of rubber ball/fickle bitch. She keeps bouncing back and forth between Jack and Sawyer. Just stick to a man and be done with it.

Jin, I love Jin. Sure, I hated (and still do) his older persona, but I love that he's still looking for Sun and has developed into a much more intelligent character.

Jack is, well, still himself. Rash, unthinking, and almost as wishy-washy as Kate. Not really digging him right now.

Locke, although he was missing form this episode, is starting to grow on me. Mostly the off-island version with his words of wisdom, but also his Smoke Monster version that kicks ass and takes names.

Claire. Wow. She's back. Off-island she looks as sweet as ever. Even when Ethan Goodspeed is there to save her baby Aaron. On-island, she looks as crazy as Rousseau. And is apparently "infected" with whatever the illness is. Not sure what all that means, but I'm sure we'll find out. Which further proves a new theory I have. But more on that later.

In the end, I want to be surprised by all the changes (new characters, new locations, old characters coming back, etc.) but I'm a LOST fanatic now and honestly, not much really surprises me with the show anymore. Sure, there's still some shocks when I see people (like Ethan or Claire) but I expect that. I expect to walk away from the show scratching my head wondering if this whole thing has been a dream. So while this episode was disappointing at times, I know it's only going to set up an awesome episode next week.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

LOST Predictions

Just a few predictions here for you to think about while watching LOST tonight.

1 - Sayid is still Sayid. He is not Jacob, nor can Jacob "possess" anyone. However, Sayid will have been "changed" by his "rebirth" and will now fight the bad guys.

2 - Neck wounds link Dan and Jack. Ever wonder why Jack had a bloody neck on the airplane? Did it make you think about Faraday and his neck wound on the island before he died?

3 - The whole alternate-time line theory is a hoax. It will turn out to be somebody having a dream during their coma, sleep, or some other unconscious state.

4 - There is more than one smoke monster. You read that right. There is a "good" and a "bad" smoke monster. Remember Jacob's cabin was surrounded by ash? And Jacob asked Locke for help? We know the ash keeps the smoke monster out (or in) so could that have been the bad monster that was somehow locked in there? And what about when the smoke monster came up to Mr. Eko? It didn't kill him, right? But it did the second time? Hmm, I think there's two of them.

5 - And finally, I found out where the polar bears went to after they left the island. You know one ended up in Tunisia at the exit point of the donkey wheel. But apparently the rest of them ended up on the east coast of the United States, specifically in a rural area of Virginia. I even have a photo of one their current keepers as proof.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Ariel by Steven R. Boyett (review)

Title: Ariel
Author: Steven R. Boyett
Illustrator: N/A
Kindle Locations: 6,547
Genre: Fiction
Dewey Decimal: F Boy
ISBN: 978-0-7592-9932-0
Kindle Cost: $7.19
Do you think the Change should be this neat Disney movie with animals like Ariel? Come on, Shaughnessy—it’s not Disney. It’s Dante.
There are many references out there that compare Boyett's Ariel with S. M. Stirling's Dies The Fire. Some in a kindly, gentle manner and some in a accusatory and disgruntled manner. But we'll cover that whole can of worms in another post.

After shelving those thoughts of Stirling's Emberverse series and focusing on Boyett's work individually, it's actually a very nice read. It is very simplistic, full of action, and even has a sex scene to seal the deal. Boyett's style is just what you would expect from a young author writing a fantasy/sci-fi book in the mid-1980s. In fact, it can be funny at times because you can almost see Boyett pounding away on a shiny, new typewriter (old and rusty by now, I'm sure). Like another powerhouse writer, this book reminded me of the level of work R. A. Salvatore gave when he wrote The Woods Out Back. Simple but fun.

Aside from the overall simplicity of the novel, the characters are a bit thin at times. Something addressed to some degree in the Afterword, but I think it worked. I focused on Pete (the lead male) and Ariel (the lead female). The go a-questing to beat the big bad guy and have mini-adventures along the way. The action was very well thought out and easy to visualize. But more importantly, it was easy to believe. Aside from hang gliding off the World Trade Center, that is.
But as it stands, the Change is an awfully inconsistent phenomenon, isn’t it? I mean, how come a bicycle doesn’t work but George’s watch does? They’re essentially the same thing, using gears to transfer motion. Ditto fires: people smoke cigarettes and light campfires all over the place, but guns don’t work. Why one combustion and not the other?
In the end, it was well worth the money to buy the book. It was entertaining. It was fun. It did not take a lot of thought to digest every nuance written (unlike an epic fantasy novel). And of course, it leads to the big elephant in the room: S. M. Stirling

But more on him later.

Friday, February 5, 2010

LOST - LA X (episode review)

Before we start up with the review of the first episode, I would like to propose a theory. We know that women who get pregnant on the island will miscarry and die. But we also know that Ethan was born on the island and his mother, Amy, survived. Granted, he was born earlier than expected, I think it is safe to assume that it was still beyond the window Juliet gives us earlier (the end of the first trimester).

With that said, could Amy's actions, namely her desire to kill Sayid, have caused the Island to reject pregnant women? Was her desire to kill the trigger for the island to punish anyone that got pregnant?

Just something to think about.

Now, two warnings before we move on. First, I am going to write my LOST episode reviews before I read any other comments. I hope this will keep my opinions clear from any cross-contamination. If I do happen to read or hear something that influences my review, I will say so. Second, these reviews will contain spoilers. You have been warned.


First, some random thoughts and notes I had while watching the show.

- I did not like the opening scenes. I was totally convinced that the show had gone in the crapper when the plane did not crash. Obviously later I realized there were two different story lines. And I am still not convinced that I even like that idea yet.

- I was so happy to hear that Juliet was alive. And so pissed off when she died.

- When they cut to the shot of Dharma-ville under water, we got to see the four-toed statue. Was that a Stargate I saw on the ocean floor next to it?

- I was glad to see Frogurt back in the cast. I mean, I hated him, but I am always glad to see a character with the name "Neil." Even if he is cast as a bad guy.

- Super-duper stoked to see Charlie back. I missed him!

- Did Richard Alpert arrive on the island on the Black Rock? I think so after that "chains" comment from the Locke Monster.

- Speaking of the Locke Monster, it clearly explains why Locke disappeared when Ben went to the temple to be judged. Ever notice that last season?

- Did you see the blooper with Sayid hitting a lady in the head with his bag when he deplaned? Funny!

- And finally, who the heck is the guy with the glasses in the temple?

Okay, that wraps up my random thoughts while watching the episode, now into a deeper review. We see two main plot lines, one on the plane with no crash and one on the island post-explosion. I wonder what Juliet's body/soul meant when it told Miles that "it worked." Could this mean an alternate time-line/reality? Our does it mean that everyone we see on the island is dead and these are their souls?

The plane scenes did not sit well with me, but I think I was taking things too seriously when the show started. I put too much faith in answers becoming clear in the first five minutes. I should have known better. So with that in mind, I think we will see answers, but we will need to wait.

Claire's return (and Charlie, Boone, Frogurt, the science guy, etc.) were all very cool. It was great to see things get tied back to the first season. Now I think the question is just how that all relates to the other plot line, the post-explosion island. This story line I really liked. We got to see where the 815 kids went as well as met new characters. How they all relate to the Locke Monster and Richard and Jacob though, I do not know.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dana Hand Interview

Author Dana Hand, author of Deep Creek (review here), was kind enough to take a few minutes to answer some questions.

Library Dad - I recently finished reading Deep Creek, the story of Chinese miners that were murdered in Idaho in 1887. Would you classify the book as historical fiction, mystery, or something else?

Dana Hand - We wanted to write a rich, dense novel about crime and justice, but one told in a spare, suggestive style. That let us borrow from many literary traditions. Deep Creek is historical fiction; it's also a romance, a thriller, a mystery. Readers respond to the story in all kinds of ways. Goodreads classifies Deep Creek on thirty lists, from Best Historical Fiction to Best Villains.

LD - How did you find out about the murders in 1887 and what drove you to write about them?

DH - Will learned the story on a National Geographic assignment in 1981. Over thirty Chinese gold miners killed, and the killers went free. For years he compiled historical research, but the record was full of errors and lies. The truth about what happened, and why, needed imagination. Once Anne joined the project, our main characters—Joe, Grace, and Loi—emerged to reveal their intricate pasts. Each is a cultural half-breed, and they repeat the struggles between natives and strangers that still consume America today.

LD - There are scenes in the book that are clearly fantastical and others that are historical. How long did it take you to research the true story behind your characters?

DH - We don't make a simple distinction between history and fantasy. Each moment in our lives is a mix of what we think and feel, know and believe, and around every "fact" dances a shimmer of possibilities. Because the miners die horribly, their ghosts cannot rest. For Joe to live with the killers, he impersonates an old prospector. To escape death, Grace and Loi enter other states of being. Even Dr. Stanton, solid man of science, knows how Grace could bring home aspen leaves from a treeless canyon. At the heart of our book lies the conviction that humans constantly seek to transcend their limits. Joe calls it "real pretending."

LD - What's the least glamorous thing you do in the line of duty?

DH - Grading student essays, paying bills, and updating software.

LD - What keeps you up at night?

DH - Fearing that print books, and their readers, will disappear.

LD - Who is the smartest author you know?

DH - John McPhee and Joan Didion; smart in entirely different ways.

LD - Are you working on another book? If so, what can we expect?

DH - Yes, the working title is Lion Rock. It's set in Tanzania, on the northern safari route. It will be what our publisher has called an "intelligent thriller," full of violence, hot pursuit, and lots of brooding about the magnificent lands of East Africa, where mankind arose and the last great wilderness clings to survival. The Chinese will be along as well, but cast in new roles.

PS: many people ask us about the pen name, Dana Hand. It's short, unisex, and comes from both sides of our families.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Deep Creek by Dana Hand (review)

Title: Deep Creek
Author: Dana Hand
Illustrator: N/A
Pages: 320
Genre: Fiction
Dewey Decimal: F Han
ISBN: 0547237480
Kindle Cost: $0.45 (due to NetGalley emailing the PDF to my Kindle email account)

First off, the name Dana Hand is a nom de plume (pen name) for Will Howarth and Anne Matthews. So be prepared for a novel that jumps around a bit in style.

Which brings me to my second point. The plot was not at all what I expected. I knew ahead of time that the basic story was based on real events (the murders of several Chinese in the Idaho/Oregon border area by some unsavory rustlers). What I expected was the story to follow the murders, the investigation, then the trial of the accused.

And that's mostly what I got, but there's a lot of side plots that follow the characters on their progress through life. While this helped me connect with the characters, it didn't help the story much. In fact, only the first half or so of the book was interesting enough to get hooked. Once the lead character, law man Joe Vincent, "solved" the case, the plot took a bit of a nose-dive by jumping around between characters and sub-lots.

With that said, I still enjoyed the story. It wasn't the best story, but I think part of that was my expectation going in. It wasn't the historical murder-mystery I wanted, instead it was a story about Joe Vincent and one particular investigation (and those involved). The various cuts to other characters was a nice change of pace, but at times I was a little lost when the names mentioned didn't ring any bells.

In the end, despite my mixed feelings, I'm still glad I was able to read about this little known moment in history. I got a good visualization of the scenery and the people that lived there. I'm also glad I was able to read it for free (or nearly free) and really appreciate the people at NetGalley for the wonderful services they provide (and to the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for allowing the galley on Kindle).

Friday, January 29, 2010

Movie Reviews?

That's right, I will be delving into some movie reviews to help expand my audience a bit as well as expand the types of media I cover. Just reviewing books (and audio books) does not seem to cut it considering libraries do carry movies on DVD these days.

On top of that, I will cover the final season of LOST. I know, I know, countless people will be doing the same thing and nearly all of them will do it better than me. But I love the show so much, I feel the need to chime in with my forty-two cents.

So stay tuned for some movie reviews!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Susan Beth Pfeffer Interview

Susan Beth Pfeffer, author of This World We Live In (review here), was nice enough to take time from her day to answer a few questions.

Library Dad - I liked how This World We Live In fit into the post-apocalyptic genre. What made you choose a world in ruin as your background for this story?

Susan Beth Pfeffer - I like disaster stories and there's something so interesting about the end of the world. I have no ability to write what I call leaping the lava stories (where the hero bravely leaps over a lava flow roughly the width of the Hudson River). What I'm good at is exploring family dynamics. So I decided to see what would happen to a family under the worst possible situation.

It turned out I love ending the world. This World We Live In is something of a sequel to two different books, Life As We Knew It and The Dead And The Gone. Both books deal with the immediate aftermath of the same worldwide catastrophe. In This World We Live In, the characters meet each other. The focus in all three books is simple everyday survival. Not just physical survival, but coping with emotional loss as well.

LD - Do you feel comfortable being placed in the same category as other post-apocalyptic authors like Richard Matheson, S. M. Stirling, and Steven R. Boyett?

SBP - When I wrote Life As We Knew It, I thought of it as a family problem novel, with a really really big problem. After it got shortlisted for the Andre Norton Award, I discovered it was science fiction. Since then I've learned it's post-apocalyptic. It is a tribute to my lack of knowledge of the field that I still can't spell apocalyptic.

LD - What's your favorite part of a typical day?

SBP - I have a kitten named Scooter who'll be a year old in February. Every morning around 7, he wakes up and plays what I call Purr On The Neck. He climbs on my face (sometimes he yanks my hair), and purrs ecstatically. Purr On The Neck can last for as long as ten minutes (at which point he tends to start playing Bite The Hand That Should Be Feeding Me).

I've had cats my entire adult life, but Scooter is the only one who's ever done this. It's our morning ritual. There's something quite luxurious about having a kitten proclaim how thrilled he is to be waking up with me.

LD - What's the simplest thing you never learned to do? Whistle? Skip? Ride a bike?

SBP - I'm not sure I remember how I learned to whistle (I'm an excellent whistler by the way, although I can't carry a tune when I sing), but I do remember being taught how to skip (by my brother) and how to tie shoelaces (by my mother). Both times I was stunned that I could actually master such complex tasks.

I never did manage bike riding though. I will never understand why grownups can't ride tricycles.

LD - What accomplishment are you most proud of?

SBP - I really don't like doing things for people. I don't like being asked to do a favor (and I try very hard not to ask other people to do favors for me).

Many many many years ago, a friend of mine asked me to go to a fast food place that was selling different Looney Tune glasses each week. For some reason she couldn't get there.

I did her the favor and I didn't resent doing it.

I remain very proud of myself for not feeling put upon.

LD - Who is the most under-appreciated author you know?

SBP - I have no idea.

I mostly read non-fiction. But I do have a real fondness for domestic thrillers from approximately 1950-1975. Husbands murdering wives. Wives murdering husbands. Perfectly ordinary people doing heinous things (or knowing someone doing heinous things).

It could be that entire genre is under-appreciated.

Thanks again to Sue for her time and answers!

Monday, January 25, 2010

This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer (review)

Title: This World We Live In
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer
Illustrator: N/A
PDF Pages: 257
Genre: Fiction
Dewey Decimal: F Pfe
ISBN: 978-0-547-24804-2
Kindle Cost: $1.65 (for conversion from NetGalley to Kindle)

The main character in this novel is a young woman named Miranda. She keeps a journal (or diary if you like) of the events of her life over the span of a few months. And it is quite a depressing life indeed.

But let's back up a little. The main setting is rural Pennsylvania, but it is not the world as we know it. Instead it is a post-apocalyptic world where an asteroid hits the moon causing it to orbit closer to the earth. Which in turn plays havoc on the weather. You can imagine what would happen from there, but Pfeffer puts most of this global catastrophe in the background. It plays a role in the setting and the hardship the characters live in, but the characters drive this story from start to finish.

From there, we have the genre to consider. While not exactly obvious from the blurbs seen around town, this is most certainly a young-adult novel. And while Miranda is legally an adult, she comes across as a very young teenager instead. As a middle-aged guy, it was hard to identify with her without going back to a middle school mindset and thinking about the girls I knew back then.

Despite the genre not being my primary choice, it did work for me in the post-apocalyptic genre. It did a great job conveying the emotional toll that I'd expect to see after a disaster. And it was this emotion that is rarely seen in other post-apocalyptic stories.

And all that emotion gets depressing. As the reader follows Miranda through her life in a wet and cold hell, we learn that she lives with her controlling mother and two brothers. The family grows through marriage and reunions with lost family members but it also shrinks through death and other natural disasters. What Miranda is looking for in life is not clear, but she and the rest of the people certainly do their best to survive.

All in all, this was a good read for the post-apocalyptic genre as it added the proverbial "woman's touch" as well as emotional depth. How it measures up to other young adult books, I do not know. But I would assume it could hold its own.

One side note. I discovered after reading this book that it was actually the third book in a series. While it is unclear what the name of the trilogy is here in the States, it looks like our UK readers call it The Last Survivors trilogy. Book one is Life as we Knew It and book two is The Dead and the Gone.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dusty Higgins and Van Jensen - A Joint Interview

Joining us today for our first interview of 2010, we have Dusty Higgins and Van Jensen, creators, artists, and writers behind the graphic novel Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer.

LibraryDad: How on Earth did you come up with the idea for a vampire killer in the body of a wooden puppet?

Van Jensen: I'll let Dusty tackle this one, since he came up with the idea.

Dusty Higgins: I sketch a lot just to keep those creative muscles going. It all started with a sketch that got way out of control. That and I've got a weird sense of humor.

LD: How long did it take to write and illustrate the book?

VJ: First we had to talk through the story and get an outline we were both happy with. From there, the scripting took me a few weeks. Then we continued to tweak things until right before it was sent to the printer.

DH: It's hard to say exactly because I juggle a lot of projects around at once, but it was about a year from when we first said "Hey, let's do this" to when we said, "Whoa, we actually finished that."

LD: Are you two working on another another Pinocchio book or some other project?

VJ: I've completed the script to Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer 2 and Dusty is started illustrating it. We can't say much about the story yet, but if you like the first, you'll love the second. Beyond that, I have a handful of my own writing projects that are on the way, including three graphic novels with other illustrators.

DH: I've started the pages for Pinocchio II, and I'm sure we'll be posting some updates on the second book on the Web site in the coming weeks. I'm also working on another project with Ron Wolfe called "Knight of the Living Dead."

LD: Did growing up in the mid-west (Nebraska and Arkansas) make it harder to get the book published? Or did you find a stronger following because of it?*

VJ: The key to getting the book published was finding the right publisher and sending them a good pitch. There are a lot of qualities I think one gains from living in the Midwest, with work ethic being atop that list. But there wasn't anything in my background that really related. I think it helped that I had worked in the comics industry before, and so I knew what publishers were looking for.

DH: I hadn't really thought about it. I think it's the idea and the quality of the work being done that sells the book more than mine or Van's location. The internet has helped a lot in getting the word out on the book. I think that makes location irrelevant. It is kind of nice being considered one of a handful of comic book artists in Arkansas.

LD: What was the best part of working on Pinocchio?

VJ: Definitely seeing pages as Dusty sent them over. It was a fun book to write, and I tried to script as much fun stuff for Dusty to draw as possible. And he always exceeded expectations.

DH: The characters we have, hands down. Be it the ones we created, or the ones we've pulled from the original Pinocchio. They were really fun to work with. It all started with Pinocchio, but some of my favorite characters to draw ended up being Canpanella, the blue fairy, as well as the Fox and the Cat.

LD: What's the least glamorous thing you do in the line of duty?

VJ: I work on the side for the publisher Top Shelf, and often my job is to help out packing boxes in the warehouse. Not very glamorous!

DH: As much as I enjoy it, I wouldn't exactly call drawing comics glamorous. It's a lot of long hours and late nights spent hunched over the drawing board. It can be fun and rewarding but it takes as much as it gives... none of it's glamorous.

LD: What skill would you most like to improve?

VJ: I'm always working on my writing, but one thing I've been focusing on lately is art. I grew up drawing and wanted to illustrate comics as a career. After spending the past decade working as a writer, I'm finally picking up the drawing board again. Unfortunately, my skills are pretty rusty.

DH: My first inclination is to say drawing, but I'm constantly finding new styles I enjoy, and I'll probably never be satisfied with that. Same for my writing. Perhaps my ability to network with people... it's really important nowadys, and I suck at it.

LD: What accomplishment are you most proud of?

VJ: I've been working toward having a book published for the past five years, so to finally have it happen is really rewarding. The most enjoyable part is definitely talking with fans.

DH: I'm proud of finishing a 128-page graphic novel, it was a big achievement. I do feel like my first child, coming in June (sorry, not available in stores), will be an accomplishment I'll be much more proud of.

LD: What keeps you up at night?

VJ: Besides vampires? Usually deadlines.

DH: Assignments... and video games (when the assignments are finished, of course).

LD: Who is the most under-appreciated author you know?

VJ: I'm not sure people realize just how good Rob Venditti is. His two Surrogates graphic novels are the best science fiction I've read in the past decade. He has two big books coming up this year in the thriller Homeland Directive and a graphic novel adaptation of The Lightning Thief, though, so he'll be plenty appreciated soon.

DH: I don't know if he should be described as an author, but I think Ben Caldwell is really under-appreciated as a comic book artist. He does some amazing work and his Wonder Woman for Wednesday Comics was phenomenal. His forms have this terrific feeling of action and movement. I'm surprised he hasn't been asked to do more work in the industry (although maybe he has and has just been turning people down, I don't know).

*I know this sounds like an odd question, but it was actually the Nebraska connection that made me want to read Pinocchio. My father's side of the family comes from central Nebraska so I always have my ears on for authors coming from the region.