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).