Friday, December 30, 2011

[Review] The Virgin Suicides


The Virgin Suicides
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



A group of neighborhood boys are obsessed with the Lisbon sisters who begin a downward spiral after the suicide of their sister, Cecilia. The girls hold some sort of feminine mystique over the boys, something about them enthralls the boys, even though the boys know that they're not perfect.

They immerse themselves in the sisters' lives, collecting things left behind from to live through them. It went much farther than just teenage infatuation. The story is told in the collective voice of the boys' view of the sisters and their lives up until their eventual suicides.

I enjoyed this, not quite as much as Middlesex, but this was an enjoyable overall read. I watched the movie first when it first came out on DVD, and while I enjoyed it, I felt that so much had been left out, that that couldn't be all there was to the story, and it wasn't.

The story was a complex weave of things stemming from an overbearing mother and passive father to sex. There isn't just one thing that can be pegged for the eventual suicides of the sisters. Everything seemed to work as a whole against them, but then again, sometimes you get the feeling that it isn't the strict household or the teenage troubles that made them decide to kill themselves.

You're clued in only through the boys who really only have a limited knowledge themselves of what's going on with those girls. So, the reader is left to pick and choose what might have cause their decision.

Parts of this book did seem a little unrealistic. I think it was how sometimes the prose seemed to become too dreamy to be believable, but that may have been the effect that Eugenides was striving for. Overall, the prose was beautiful, the story touching and ominous. An excellent first novel.

Note: Old review imported from old book blog.



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[Review] White Oleander


White Oleander
White Oleander by Janet Fitch

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



Astrid Magnussen's mother, Ingrid, is strong, self-relying, and unsympathetic to weakness of any kind. She also has strong rules against love and the way it should be properly handled. Ingrid is Astrid's world, everything she knows she learned from her mother, but she finds herself teaching herself to survive when her mother kills a lover (whom her mother falls in love with, breaking every rule she ever had) who tossed her aside.

I didn't expect to like this as much as I did. I watched the movie first and liked it. I was pretty much willing to accept what had been told in the movie, but I am glad that I finally read the novel. It was hard to put this book down. The reader follows Astrid from innocence to maturity. We also see her progress from being the doting daughter to the cynical teen who loves and hates her mother at the same time.

She does a lot of growing up in her foster homes, and she learns many things that aid her in the struggle to survive. Ingrid still plays a vital role in Astrid's life even though she's in prison. Ingrid is literally Astrid's world even in the confines of prison. She can still manipulate Astrid's life, even though Astrid tries to prevent that from happening.

Astrid and Ingrid's relationship is a complex one even to be a mother-daughter relationship. I didn't agree with some of the decisions that Astrid and her mother made, but life isn't perfect, why should this book be? Issues abound in this book from women's issues, maternal issues, mother-daughter issues, etc.

Note: Old review that I'm importing from an old book blog.



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[Review] The Lovely Bones


The Lovely Bones
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



In the winter of 1973, Susie Salmon, age 14, is raped and killed by her strange neighbor, Mr. Harvey, but Susie's story doesn't end there. The novel is told by Susie from Heaven as she continues to watch over everyone she loves--and those she doesn't love. Susie describes Heaven as being a place that caters to your whims -- your own personal heaven. Susie finds she can have anything she wants in Heaven except her life on Earth back.

This turned out to be completely different from what I was expecting. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but this definitely wasn't it. I was pleasantly surprised with the story. Even though, Susie is dead, she still seems to be going through typical adolescent behavior from Heaven. She dreams about first kisses and speaks on sex, but she no longer has the chance to experience those parts of life. So, she lives her life through her friends and family.

Of course, Susie's family--her mother, her father, her brother, and her sister--are effected deeply by her death to the point that their family starts to crumble because of her death, but we're also shown the impact that her death had on her school crush, Ray, and a girl she barely knew, Ruth. It was interesting to see how her family dealt with it and how those outside her family dealt as well.

But for all it's good points, there are some things that irked me. Some of the scene involving Ray and Ruth seemed to overshadow the main point. Susie's mother was very underdeveloped. While you could feel empathy for her father and siblings, you really couldn't do anything but dislike Susie's mother because you only saw one side of her. It was like she was a supporting character rather than one of the main characters. Also, The ending dragged a little longer than it should, and honestly, it left me feeling a little dissatisfied in regards to Mr. Harvey.

Overall, good read, though.

Note: Old review that I'm importing from an old book blog.



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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Daybreakers: I Was Never Any Good at Being Human


"I'm good at this. I was never any good at being human."

As much as I love vampires, even I have to admit that the market is over saturated with vampire movies with Twilight leading the pack. Before you ask, I am not a fan of the series, and no, I don’t hate you if you are. Vampire movies in recent years have fallen into two categories in American cinema. Either they are the sexy, irresistible demons or they are the reprehensible monsters hell-bent on destroying their food source. Sometimes, you’ll get some amalgam of the two. Daybreakers offered something a little different in their take on vampire lore.

The movie opens with a young girl sitting in a yard as the sun comes up. Flashes of a suicide note written in childish handwriting wraps around the scene as we realize the girl is a vampire. Unable to come to terms with the fact that she’ll be young forever, she forfeits her life. The scene switches and we meet our main player.

Much of the human population has been turned into vampires. Less than 5% remains. Those humans that aren’t in hiding are kept in a bank where their blood is harvested. However, the stores are almost completely depleted, and hematologist, Dr. Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke), is working desperately with a team to make a blood substitute.

A chance encounter with runaway humans changes Dalton’s life literally. Learning that he is a hematologist, these rogue humans reach out to Dalton to help them. Dalton meets Elvis, played by Willem Dafoe, who turns out to be a former vampire. However, he isn’t sure how he cured his vampirism and that is why they need Dalton’s help.

Dalton is able to recreate the variables needed in creating the cure and cures his own vampirism. Thinking that a cure is preferable to a substitute, Dalton is eager to present his findings. However, administering the cure becomes a bit more complicated as company politics and greed comes into play. You knew it wouldn’t be that easy.

I liked that the movie presented this “what if” scenario with vampires, attempting to show the complications of a world filled with too many vampires and too few humans. The vampires here aren’t portrayed as particularly sexy or evil.

They’re actually still very human in their actions and interactions. They maintain jobs and families. They still follow human social cues and have complicated relationships with those closest to them. Privilege is still delegated to the “haves” rather than the “have-nots.”

It was interesting to see how the vampires had modified things to accommodate their population. They do most of their working at night. Even their cars have a “night mode” with cameras to help them navigate if they drive during the day. The brief montages of the city in the daytime showed a lifeless world where not even humans roamed. Even the military has been relegated to being nothing more than human hunters.

Yes, there were parts of the movie that were just silly and probably sounded better in theory than in practice. I felt there could’ve been more story development about how this happened, and the ending was a little bit of a letdown. However, I enjoyed it for what it was worth and appreciated the different approach to vampires.
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[Review] Tess of the D'Urbervilles


Tess of the D'Urbervilles
Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



Tess's father, Mr. Durbeyfield, is jokingly told by a minister that his family is the direct lineage of an old, noble family that was once thought to be completely gone. There's nothing left of the family's land and fortune, except the family name (d'Urberville).

However, Mr. Durbeyfield and his wife see this as a chance to move up on the social ladder. They devise a plan to send their daughter to become acquainted with a rich woman who's last name is d'Urberville. From then on, Tess is left to try to maintain her dignity and honor and to pick up the pieces of her broken life that resulted from her parents' need to be important.

This was my first time reading anything by Thomas Hardy. I was warned that he was cynical man, and I'll agree that Hardy's prose is cynical, yet heartrending. I couldn't help feeling bad for Tess through all her troubles. This is not a happy novel. For a moment, you think that things will get better for Tess, but the fates seem to be against her.

The landscape of the novel changes with the mood of what's happening. The land itself almost seems to be a living person that he described. He uses vivid, beautifully described imagery to describe people and places in his novels. There are themes of theology (Hardy had internal conflicts with believing in God), virtue, the boundaries of love. He employs everything from Greek mythology to modern (or what was modern in his day) poetry.

There are no illusions of a happily-ever-after in this story. This was simply a beautiful novel, a novel that portrays its female heroine as the strong woman she was. She could put more modern women heroines to shame.



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[Review] She's Come Undone


She's Come Undone
She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



I'm not sure what I can say about this book without giving away too much of the plot. Everything I want to say seems like a potential spoiler, but I'll try.

Delores Price spends the early part of childhood in a sort of childish bliss. She somewhat oblivious to the problems her parents are having. It only matters that they're somewhat well-off. Then, Delores's parents divorce and she spends the next few years of her life sitting in front of the television and eating junk food to combat her problems.

Delores is like any other teen. She just wants to be accepted and liked. She admires movie stars, she likes music and guys, but she's not accepted because she's fat. Kids at school bully her (and that's the least of her worries), but instead of fighting back, she retreats into a world of overeating and the television.

I heard some people say that Lamb can't write women. I beg to differ. He wrote women exceptionally well in my opinion. Books rarely make me cry, but this one caused me to tear up quite a few times. Delores emotions, her failures, her successes were so true, so believable, as you follow Delores through tragedy after tragedy.

Note: Old review that I imported from an old book blog.



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[Review] The Bad Beginning


The Bad Beginning
The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



Book 1 of the Series of Unfortunate Events. Read it in about an hour or so. The Baudelaire children find themselves in the care of a very distant (and cruel) relative after their parents' death. This is the beginning of their unfortunate adventures as orphans.

I was expecting something a lot different when I started reading this book. I enjoyed this book, but it wasn't what I expected it to be. I found it a little jarring how the omnipresent narrator would suddenly start defining words in the middle of sentence, but I can see how that would be important for children who have no interest in dictionaries.

The book was absorbing. The plot was a little thin, but I had to see what happened to the children. Yes, it is slightly despressing for a children's novel--morose, even--but it's an interesting read. I couldn't help hoping that something good happened to those children, but as we all know, this isn't the case. I'll defintely read the later books.

Note: Old review, just importing it from an old book blog.



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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

[Review] Jurassic Park


Jurassic Park
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



I'm pretty sure most people know the story by now, but if you don't, here goes nothing. An eccentric millionaire finds the funding and technology to clone dinosaurs, which he plans on turning into a tourist attraction. The government is suspicious about his motives because of some biotechnology companies have been illegally testing different "products". To prove that Jurassic Park isn't a government threat, Hammond--the millionaire--opens up his park for inspection. During a visit (pre-opening) where he must prove that things are okay, things go wrong -- of course.

The movie was entertaining, but I never thought much about reading the book. The movie just never compelled me enough to hunt the book down. However, my friend loved it, and she shares reading interests similar to my own. I have a cold and didn't actually think I would finish with this book soon. Fooled myself. Dinosaurs still don't fascinate me, but the characters in this book did. The science behind creating something like Jurassic Park was interesting as well. But mainly, I really liked the characters and how they interacted with each other.

It was an interesting read. I will definitely look into the second book since the ending of this leaves everything up in the open really.

Note: Old review, just posting it here.



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Monday, December 12, 2011

Boardwalk Empire, Subtitled “My Fucking Feelings, HBO.”



I think I just quit Boardwalk Empire.

Before I go on, I have to give the usual warnings. There be spoilers from this point on, and I am not sorry for them. So, if you haven’t watched this season and you don’t want to be caught up in some spoiler-filled ranting, crying, and raving, you may wish to leave this space right about now. Go on; I’ll wait.

I love history, and I am a sucker for the retelling of historical events like this show. HBO really knows their stuff when it comes to television shows, movies, and mini-series in this genre. I’ve been watching this show since the beginning, but while I enjoy the show, I’ve never really been compelled to write about it beyond what I’ve said in general discussions about it on sites such as Twitter and Google+ with friends.

With that being said, HBO, why did you do this to my feelings? A day later and my feelings are still completely wrecked after last night’s episode. This season started with the KKK attacking Chalky White, an African-American bootlegger (and unofficial speaker for the African-American community) aligned with Nucky, and killing a few people in Chalky’s crew, and even though I didn’t think it could be done, the season ended on an even bigger bang.

While some thought this season was slow at times, I thought it was wonderful. They slowed down the pace just a little to give us time to learn more about some of the leading players by really pushing some characters past their boundaries and showing the true machinations behind some of them, a prime example is Jimmy’s mom,  Gillian Darmody. A few characters I thought really benefited from this were Jimmy Darmody, Richard Harrow, and Margaret Schroeder.

Jimmy found himself way in over his head, trying to head an organization of thugs after opposing Nucky. Jimmy was never really cut out for the life of a crime boss even though his father had a hand in many underhanded political dealings, and once upon a time, Nucky had hoped that Jimmy would be the heir to his crime empire. Jimmy is hot-tempered and rash, but this season showed that he was not able to deal with the stress and deceit that came along with being a major player in the crime world. Jimmy wasn’t really a “bad guy,” in my opinion. He was just trying to play the role of one, mostly to impress his surrogate father, Nucky, and sadly, it backfired on him. He also has a fair bit of “mommy issues” that were touched on this season.

Richard Harrow
Richard Harrow, I love him. I have some weakness for tortured, tragic characters, and no one encompasses that more than Richard. Like Jimmy, Richard is ex-military, but has suffered terrible facial injuries from an attack during the war. He hides part of his face behind a flesh-colored tin mask. Richard only wants normalcy in his life, but after being exposed to the horrors of war, he’s disconnected from reality a bit and sees himself as a monster. Most people shrink away from Richard, but Jimmy and Angela (Jimmy’s wife) accept him as he is with Angela going as far as to draw his “real” face.

A pivotal episode for his character shows him looking through a book where he’s collected “fantasies.” These fantasies are made up of normal things like a house, a wife, and children. Richard goes on to attempt suicide in the forest, but after talking with hunters who tell him “the forest is for the living,” Richard returns to Jimmy and asks, “Would you die for me?” To which Jimmy responds, “Of course I would, right down to the last bullet,” cementing probably the truest friendship Jimmy ever had on the show.

Yes, I said “had.” I’m getting there.

Margaret
Margaret started the series as the abused wife of a baker’s assistant. After Nucky had her husband killed, gave her a job, and eventually made her his girlfriend, Margaret is extremely grateful for everything he’s done for her until she starts learning just how much he’s involved in. Margaret also loses herself a little bit at the beginning of this season, forgetting where she started from and becoming a bit of the domineering, snooty housewife, becoming a bit of a cunning character.

She’s only snapped back to reality when she sees her family for the first time after running away years prior and after her daughter is struck with polio. She begins to believe that God is punishing her for being in cahoots with Nucky, and Kelly MacDonald does a great job in portraying a troubled Margaret who is struggling with her faith and her lifestyle, trying desperately to make amends to God while holding on to what she has.

There were some other notable power shifts, of course. Eli Thompson changed alliances in light of Nucky’s legal troubles and joined the forces that opposed his brother. However, he tried to make amends with Nucky, but ultimately finds himself locked in a physical fight with his brother that ends with Nucky sending him away. Eli is pushed over this edge this season and desperation tempers many of his decisions, including the decision to attempt to have his brother murdered.

Creepy motherfucker, Van Alden
At the beginning of the season, Agent Van Alden is in a weird relationship with Nucky’s ex-girlfriend who is contractually obligated to birth him (Van Alden) a baby for him to give to his wife, a wife who knows nothing about this arrangement and ultimately files for divorce when she finds out about it. His whole word is turned upside down when federal agents horn in on his operation to bring Nucky down, cutting him out of the process until he relinquishes the files he’s compiled on Nucky. Van Alden is a strange character who has secrets of his own, secrets that cause him to flee from Atlantic City. I do think that he really believes that what he’s doing is for the greater good, but he is so strange in a creepy way.

Anyhow, on to this finale that caused me so much anguish.

First, I hate Horvitz with every ounce of my being. I have never cared for him much since he started showing his stupid face. Whenever he’s in a scene someone is going to die by his hand whether they deserve it or not. After he killed Angela, I really disliked him and wanted nothing more than for him to disappear as quickly as possible. I thought for sure that Jimmy was going to go berserk after Angela’s death, but he was calm. Terribly upset for sure, but he didn’t go on the blood rage that I was expecting. He did some things in a moment of heat, but he was mostly in control of himself. I guess that should’ve been my first sign that things were only going to get ugly.

Things seemed to be going so well, too well maybe. Jimmy did right by Chalky by personally handing him the three Klan members that attacked his operation, paying more “restitution” than Chalky had demanded, and getting Chalky’s murder charges dropped. He only asked that Chalky get in touch with Nucky to let him know that he wanted to talk to him. Nucky meets with Jimmy, and it’s understood that  Jimmy needed to make things right with Nucky making a weak promise to tell Jimmy about Horvitz’s whereabouts if he should hear anything. 

He met with Horvitz at the beginning of the episode, but I figured he’d drop the information on Jimmy a little later in the episode. Then, Nucky calls up Jimmy and lets him know that he knows where Horvitz is, and… it was a fucking setup! Nucky’s coming up roses at this point in the show. Jimmy has pretty much helped Nucky beat his charges (along with Nucky marrying Margaret to keep her quiet). Of course I’m thinking that things may not be all well and fine between them, but Nucky was at least willing to give Jimmy a chance.

WRONG, WRONG, and WRONG. GODDAMMIT!

To take a Kanye West phrase and completely turn it inside out to suit my purposes: “Jimmy gone, my dude is dead.”

Jimmy and Nucky
Even though Nucky came out in full force, he executed Jimmy personally. Was this to establish his dominance? Was it because he couldn’t let anyone else do it? Or some combination of both? In any case, it was the most heart-rending scene.  Nucky has never killed anyone personally from what I’ve seen on the show. Jimmy talks Nucky through the process. He doesn’t plead for his life. He’s at peace with his decision. He tells Nucky that he died in the trenches while he was still a soldier. He tells Nucky not to be scared. The scene ends with Nucky killing Jimmy and telling him that he isn’t seeking forgiveness while a flashback or memory of Jimmy’s time in the trenches plays.

And then I realize that throughout the episode Jimmy had put his affairs in order. He knew this would happen. All the signs were there, but this is Jimmy! Jimmy wasn’t supposed to die. I was so sure that that scene would end with Nucky turning on Horvitz and shooting him or having his brother Eli (who Nucky made amends with somewhat) shoot him. I gasped audibly in true shock when Nucky did shoot Jimmy. That tied my emotions all up.

And though I said I quit Boardwalk Empire at the beginning of this, truth is, this is the mark of good storytelling. To be able to confuse and stomp on the feelings of so many fans—because I’m not the only person who feels like this—is a remarkable thing. They’re not afraid to take risks with their main characters. Honestly, I can’t wait to see what next season brings. How will they fill this hole that Jimmy has left? Where do they go from here?
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Thursday, December 8, 2011

[Review] Kingdom Come


Kingdom Come
Kingdom Come by Mark Waid

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



Never have I respected Superman as much as I did after reading this comic. Superman and I have a rocky relationship. I have never been a big fan of his because he’s just too perfect. And I have a hard time caring for perfect characters. I won’t go into that rant again. This isn’t about that.

This is set in an AU (alternate universe). Superman has retreated to solitude after a hero named Magog is acquitted of killing Joker—who went on a killing spree in Metropolis, a bender that resulted in Lois’ death. When humanity expresses that Magog is where superheroism should go, Superman leaves them to that, seeming to lose quite a bit of faith in people.

Shortly thereafter, humanity learns that heroes left unchecked terrorize the just and the unjust alike and aren’t too different from the “villains.” They only care about fighting and destroying what they personally perceive as threats to the people (such as one “hero” attacking immigrants), much of which is personal prejudices and biases.

Then, Wonder Woman appeals to Superman to come back after a devastating battle between the “good” guys and the “bad” guys leaves Kansas in ruins and millions dead. Reluctantly, Superman returns, but things don’t go as smoothly as hoped when he’s faced with opposition from this new school of heroes, enemies, and even old allies, namely Batman.

This seemed to be a commentary on old school superhero comics versus today’s ultra-violent, grim “heroes” who seem more intent on destroying half the city than saving human lives with Superman representing how heroes used to be and Magog representing these new “heroes.”

I thought it was interesting (and superb storytelling) that the story isn’t told from any of the heroes’ point of views. Instead, the story is told by Norman McCay, a minister and a friend of Sandman who has “inherited” Sandman’s powers after his death. McCay is struggling with his faith and, like Superman, has lost some faith in humanity. Before his death, Wesley Dodds (Sandman) had apocalyptic visions that most people thought were the result of senility. He passed these visions on to McCay.

A being known as Spectre uses McCay to bear witness to the madness unfolding between the heroes and tells him that he must ultimately pass judgment on them, to decide who is right and who is wrong, a decision that proves difficult because both sides start making rash decisions in this “war.”

And while logically, readers know that Magog is wrong (and even that plays interestingly into the story), you can’t say the old school heroes are completely “right” either. Some of them, such as Wonder Woman, have their own reasons behind that fight as well, causing them to be as brutal and decisive as the new heroes. And you can even somewhat see the new heroes reasoning for their actions.

Superman is presented very human here, making it hard for me to hold a grudge against him. He’s a man who has lost a lot, and even though he won’t admit it, he’s living in some kind of bubble that filters out the rest of the world. He reluctantly comes out of retirement and makes tough decisions, while questioning if this is really what it’s come to.

And the ending, wow. I actually got a little misty-eyed there, and I’m not even that familiar with Shazam or his exploits. And the art really was able to pull out a lot of emotion in this story. It was breathtaking, enhancing an already well-written tale. Overall, this was a great read. Definitely goes on my favorites list.




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[Review] Tao Te Ching Journal


Tao Te Ching Journal
Tao Te Ching Journal by Stephen Mitchell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



Very refreshing and insightful read. This gave me much to think about. I thought I would go through this slowly, but I found myself completely in love with this book after reading on the first few pages. My favorite passage:

"Therefore the Master acts without doing anything and teaches without saying anything. Things arise and she lets them come;things disappear and she lets them go. She has but doesn't possess, acts but doesn't expect. When her work is done, she forgets it. That is why it lasts forever."

I will admit that it can be somewhat repetitive. I don’t know if that’s because of this particular translation or if Lao Tzu really was being repetitive. It’s not a bad thing, though. It’s sort of like saying, “This is what you need to remember.” Repetition is a learning method—after all.

A couple of things to note. Some people I talked to about this while I was reading said this translation is “dry,” but after finding some of the other translations online, I believe this one speaks to me the most. Also, this is a modern interpretation of this, so Mitchell uses modern things that would make sense to the modern reader.

Note: This is actually an old review I wrote some years ago. I reread this last night. It's a very quick read.



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[Review] The Anatomy of Motive: The FBI's Legendary Mindhunter Explores the Key to Understanding and Catching Violent Criminals


The Anatomy of Motive: The FBI's Legendary Mindhunter Explores the Key to Understanding and Catching Violent Criminals
The Anatomy of Motive: The FBI's Legendary Mindhunter Explores the Key to Understanding and Catching Violent Criminals by John E. Douglas

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



This book is essentially written by John Douglas. I’m not sure what Mark Olshaker’s contribution to the book was, unless Douglas was giving him credit due to the research they’d done together. This book basically goes into details about the movtives, behavior, etc. of serial murders, rapists, career criminals, etc. Interesting read overall. I’ll have to read his book Mindhunter in the future.



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[Review] Wrong Place, Wrong Time?


Wrong Place, Wrong Time?
Wrong Place, Wrong Time? by Ann Jacobs

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



2.5 stars, actually. Darlene’s NFL star husband is found murdered with a woman that Darlene assumes is her husband’s mistress. For the past few month’s Vlad (a Russian ex-soccer player turned FBI agent) has been posing as a kicker to find the killer that’s been killing women in the cities the team visits.

Okay, the plot is a little thin because it basically focuses on the budding relationship between the two characters, but I enjoyed it for what it’s worth. It's erotica. I don't know what I was expecting anyway. And the writer does have a way with words that makes the reading enjoyable.

Warning--this book does contain explicit sex scenes dealing with BDSM.



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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

[Review] Demon Within


Demon Within
Demon Within by Dana Reed

My rating: 1 of 5 stars



Young women are dying in very gruesome deaths in an apartment complex, and one of the tenants feels that she is somehow involved that because of her past she has made this monster come to hurt the women of her building. I really can't say too much more about this book without giving away too much of the plot.

This book was horrible. It was so bad that I had to find out what happened to the characters. The heroine annoyed me to no end, but I had to find out what was going to happen to her. It didn't help that 100 pages into the book I already knew who the killer was and why it was happening.

I had to read it for myself just to see if I was right. I will give Ms. Reed points for trying to make something new and interesting, but she failed to get me to care about the characters, and despite having a plot that could have been superb, it was weakly executed. She could have really had a winner with this one.



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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mass Effect 2: Mission Complete


Yep, still awesome.

10 days after playing Mass Effect, your girl finished Mass Effect 2 on Playstation 3. Thanksgiving holiday gaming win! Even though I was playing this game on both the computer and PS3, the holidays just made it really easy to finish it on my console than on the computer—even though I prefer playing it on the computer because I have more control. (I still can’t believe I am actually lauding a PC game over the console version.)

This game is still amazing. The characters and the story are still very immersive. I don’t even know what to say without giving it all away. Everything I said about the first game still pretty much applies to this game. I am still awed by how they made a great story that can fit a male or a female character without making the storyline too significantly different based on sex. I appreciate how much thought and effort they put into creating this world from the planets to the races to the history.

Anyhow, I’ll just touch on a few things I enjoyed and didn’t enjoy about the game without turning into a fangirly mess. Besides, that's what Tumblr is for.

Three snipers were too much awesome.
Coming straight off Mass Effect, it took me a minute to get used to the new HUD. Targeting felt a little different, too, because it seems the crosshair is a little closer in this game than it was in the first one.  Once I got over all that, I enjoyed the new powers they added to the classes with infiltrators, which is what I finished the game with, getting my favorite new power—tactical cloaking. Enemies still aren’t much of a hassle. But I started playing on Insanity after beating it, and that definitely changes everything.

I liked the idea of gaining your crew’s loyalty (and earning a reward for it) instead of them just automatically deciding you’re the best commander ever. Even former crewmembers’ loyalty has to be gained—not so much because they’re not loyal to you, but they’re not loyal to organization you’re now working for. And the loyalty missions really are so much fun—even if I did almost fail Thane’s because of the Techno Turian—and add another facet to many of your teammates. I loved the new casts of characters as well as old favorites like Garrus and Tali.


Speaking of relationships and loyalty, they allow you more leeway with learning about your “romantic interests” without ending up gridlocked in some romantic relationship because you were just being nice to them. And at least one character will acknowledge how awkward it is for Shepard to romance him because he didn’t really see her like that at first (but THE PRIIIIIZE).  However, it still only happens around major missions and can feel a little disjointed from the main story, but at least, there are more major missions for it to develop around. It’s getting there, though, even if Femshep seems to prefer Jacob. You can hear it all in her purring voice she uses with him in just general conversation. I swear this isn't just headcanon.

Renegade QTE. Headbutted this fool.
Loved the new paragon/renegade QTE. Really, I liked how they cleaned up the paragon/renegade system overall, especially the renegade choices you make in the game. Renegade choices in the last game could come off a little silly to me, but they seem to have fixed that. And I liked how even some of your paragon choices might net you a few renegade points as well (and vice versa) making many actions more complex than just being “good” or “bad.” I don't know if it's completely realistic to think you'll go through this game without some renegade/paragon points

But the thing I loved the MOST about this game was the fact that so many things I did in the last game carried over into this game (at least on my PC save), even if I only heard about the results of a mission. I would bump into characters that I helped (or didn't help) in the last game. Nice touch to not have all my efforts be in vain, and it really made parts of the game seem vastly different.

There were other small things that I enjoyed about the game, but these are a few of the major things I enjoyed.


Now, just a few things I wasn’t thrilled with.

The Hammerhead—it almost made me miss the Mako. That is saying something since Mako was a thorn. My aiming was terrible with the Hammerhead. At least with Mako, even if I fall off the side of a cliff, I’m still pwning all day with that cannon and guns.  Maybe I feel that way because I didn’t have many missions where I had to use the Hammerhead for extensive periods, and maybe I decided to be loyal to Mako. It was a bigger pain to navigate with it on the PC than on the PS3, though, so I will cut it some slack there. I think my experience with it was mostly tempered with how much I hated navigating it on the PC.

I didn’t care much for how they had everything labeled on the galaxy map because some of the labels actually covered the nebulas I was trying to find and had me going insane because I thought I didn’t have them. I wasn’t a big fan of the mission summary after each mission either. Really, I don’t need a breakdown of what was accomplished in the mission.  That disrupts the feel of the game for me.

I miss infinite ammo and auto-cover. I used to love running into a room with my soldier in the last game and going crazy. My weapon would overheat, and I’d just cycle to the next one and keep at it like a boss. With auto-cover, I know some people had issues with this, but I liked that my character would take cover automatically when her weapon was drawn.

Joker Rage Face!
All that aside, I am totally obsessed with this series now, and I’m having pangs because I need this next part to be out RIGHT NOW. There are other things that I want to ramble on and on about like how Joker is doubly amusing and how much I love Dr. Chakwas, but I’d better stop before the fangirling begins.


Continue Reading…

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Mass Effect Thoughts.


First, I have something to say. I think Mass Effect made me a better PC gamer. No bullshit. I’ve already explained that I am not much of a PC gamer. Never have been, mainly because of the controls. I found I had little patience for learning what keys do what on a keyboard and remembering them. I do play a couple of MMOs, but the controls are so dummy-proof that there’s no way I can mess that up.  

When I first started this game with my Adept, I was a little shaky with the controls, which resulted in a few unfortunate—yet hilarious—deaths, but I stuck with it because I was enjoying the game. (Or it could’ve been the trademark Aries stubbornness coming out.) Then, I created a Soldier while playing my Adept and became really comfortable with the controls. By the time I piddled around with an Infiltrator and a Vanguard, I was whizzing through missions that took me some time to complete as my Adept (and even my Soldier).

This game was much more impressive than I thought it would be. Sure, friends told me it was a great action game with a solid storyline, but I still held off.

Once I got into this game, I was amazed at how rich this universe was. In some ways, you’re sort of thrown into the story. The world has an established feel to it, if that makes sense. Rather than there being a lot of time introducing you to everything cool and exciting in the world or starting you off early in Shepard’s career, you’re immersed in the world and learn about it more as you advance through the game until you feel like you’re really a denizen of this world.

The Eye of Sauron... er.. the beacon.
You do have a codex that provides you information about the races, wars, and various other things, though, that don’t necessarily affect the main story. I read it frequently in the beginning, but after a while, I didn’t really need it to learn most things because I often found these things out through conversation with characters in the game. I love exploring worlds completely, so I talk to whoever I can and do whatever I can. Speaking of conversations, every line in this game had spoken dialogue, even the conversations you would overhear was all voiced (and nicely so). Character interaction in this game was excellent. I think I played the game more for the interactions than the shoot ‘em up part.

 The story was amazing and executed with such craft that, when I neared the end, I didn’t want this game to end. I’d really come love and hate many of the characters, becoming more emotionally attached than I intended. You can tell they really spent time and effort creating this world, these characters, and this story.

One of the things that I liked about the story is that it presented you with plenty of complex moral choices to make, even if you’re taking the paragon path. There’s many moments in the game that are blurred between black and white, and you just have to go with the decision that you feel is best (or the decision you feel your character would make). Do you save the hostages or do you go after the warlord? Do you intimidate/charm this person to end a situation without violence?

I'm being inspirational here.
There was also plenty of action to keep my brawler side happy, as well.  I didn’t find many of the enemies challenging once I got the hang of the game and the controls, especially late in the game when I was nigh unstoppable and could run into a room with my soldier and just start taking out everything standing. (Okay, a few enemies can STILL be a pain in the ass late in the game like the Geth Colossi, and I really hated the Husks, too.)

Where it lacked in difficulty, they made up for it  by having plenty for me to shoot. I never thought it’d be so satisfying to shoot a bunch of robots for more than half the game. I’m sure once I play the game again on a harder mode I won’t say they’re easy again, though.

Another thing I liked is having the option to play as a woman. I appreciate that they wrote the story in a way that works equally as well for a female character as it does a male character.  They did nothing to diminish the female Shepard’s role unlike some other games who add a lot of unnecessary, mindless crap to a female’s story. Sure, there are a few areas in the game where a character you interact with will call you a beautiful woman or be a complete pig (and maybe the same holds true for the male character), but there’s usually plenty of room there to put them in their place.  Other than that, the story stays the same no matter if your flavor is male or female.

There wasn’t much that I didn’t like about this game. The two major things that bothered me most were the in-game romance and driving the Mako.

Two things I hate together!
I’ve already ranted about Mako, but in a nutshell, I didn’t appreciate the controls on it at all. While it was needed to cover long distances and to protect me from hazardous atmospheres, it was the most cumbersome experience that I have ever had with a game’s vehicle.  You only have two options when driving Mako. You either play a game of stop-and-go in order to keep the vehicle in control, or you decide to not give one single damn and drive it wide open.

 I did a little of both. Mako has a few redeeming qualities, though. The weapons on it are useful, especially the cannon against Geth Armature, Geth Colossi, and turrets. It also has a gun you can utilize while waiting for the cannon to cool down.  It’s also convenient to use as something to hide behind when picking off the enemies you’ve weakened. (You only get half of your XP for killing something while in Mako, but you can use it to soften up foot soldiers with the guns and then get out the tank and finish them off.)

My second issue? The romance.  This was probably one of my bigger peeves than Mako.  Okay, let me explain. I don’t have anything against the fact that there’s “romance” in this game at all, but it seemed somewhat forced on me. If I showed any interest in the two love prospects I’m allowed in this game (Kaidan or Liara for Femshep), then my actions were misconstrued as romantic interest. I just wanted to get to know my crew, and in the case of Liara, also learn about different cultures.

I asked all my crewmembers about their background and life because the stories are great, but it just seemed extra “attentiveness” was tacked on to my questions and responses toward my love interests, and there was no real way to get around it without being a total bitch to them. I wish that had been treated more as a side mission—like maybe throw in some responses that hinted at something “more” and inquisitive responses that were neutral.

There was no "Pump yo' breaks, homeboy..." option.

Also, I didn’t like how this “love” had to develop around the major missions. The main storyline isn’t that long in this game, and you’re only allowed to establish your relationship after each major mission. So, if you’re like me and do all the side missions, you’re left with big gaps where you don’t talk to your love at all—at least not about romance, anyway. This is another reason that I think it could be treated like a side mission. It would give those who want the romance some time to flesh this out and make it mean something. This game does such a wonderful job on giving this story, this universe, so much weight, yet the romance lacks terribly—and can come off, as is my case, inconvenient.

However, those issues weren’t enough to deter me from the game. Overall, this was an enjoyable game, and I’m glad that I decided to finally give this a play. And yes, I’ve already started on Mass Effect 2.
Continue Reading…

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Things I Don't Like: Mako from Mass Effect

A couple of weeks ago, I praised the game Mass Effect. I’m still loving it, but Bioware, I have a bone to pick with you. What the fuck is up with Mako? Sometimes, when I’m driving this tank, trying to be careful not to drive off a cliff or somehow turned myself over in it, I’m thinking: “I CAN’T!” The tank is so sensitive to controls that you’re either overdriving or you’re doing the stop-go-stop-go motion repeatedly just to keep control.

I’ve gotten to the point where I just say, “Fuck it,” and I start driving out all crazy, running over stuff and just generally going H.A.M. in Mako. And don’t get me started on aiming and jumping in that thing. It’s a joke. People say that I should feel better that it’s less ass to drive Mako on the PC than on the Xbox 360. I shudder to think of anything possibly being any worse. It just doesn’t seem possible.  

Fortunately, I hear that in Mass Effect 2 we are not subjected to the horror that is Mako. Obviously, someone at Bioware either heard the cry of hundreds of gamer women and men and decided not to torture them any longer, or someone sat down and played that shit and realized there is no using Mako without flipping a table over in frustration and rage.

And sadly, this is the only way to quickly cover ground in this game. Honestly, even walking would be better than driving this thing anywhere. Most planets present some type of hazard where I can’t stay outside the tank long enough to actually try to hoof it to my destination. Its only advantage is its awesome cannon that takes out most things with just a couple of fires. Other than that, no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

This tank won’t let me be great. 

And yes, I managed not to drive off a cliff here... but just barely.

Continue Reading…

Friday, October 21, 2011

Wonderfully Wicked Read-A-Thon

WWRAT


People who follow me on G+ should know by now how much I love my challenges, especially when they involve things I love like books. I signed up for this in September, but sign-ups are still open now.There is no requirement for what book you read during the challenge, but I wanted to read a "horror" book while doing the challenge.

I am currently reading A Clash of Kings, but when has reading one book ever gotten in the way of me adding more to the pile? The book that I'll be reading for the read-a-thon will be Anna Dressed in Blood. I think that title is probably one of the best I have encountered on a book recently.

Most of my updates will probably be on Twitter and Goodreads rather than here, but you know I'll post a full review of the book once I'm done reading it. Happy reading!
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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Swamp Thing, You Make My Heart Sing


I’m still slowly reading more of these comics. In case you’re not keeping count, this is book four for me. I thought I’d try again with my quest to read about a character I knew very little about even after being terribly unimpressed with Mr. Terrific—who was my first choice for new characters. That book sort of turned me off to reading anything more in the DCnU for a bit, but I’m back. Spoiler warning, as usual.

The story starts by showing Clark in Metropolis watching birds fall from the sky at the same time that the bats in Bruce’s caves begin to drop from their perch and the fish, watched by Aquaman, start going belly up. Over the scene, Alec Holland talks about his childhood helping his florist father and how he can hear flowers screaming. As silly as it sounds, it’s a bit ominous to read. Snyder did a great job of taking most of the cheese out of that.

The standard questions are answered about Holland. We learn who he is, his occupation (both former and current), and we learn a little about why he’s in his current position. Some of those answers led to more questions than answers, though. And then, there are bits of information that we learn that he insists are “dreams” or “memories” that aren’t his.

In a way, I feel that I’m not getting a complete story. Okay, maybe that’s not exactly the right thing to say, but let me explain myself.

I feel this comic is in some way referencing the old Swamp Thing comics with these “memories.” It seems like there’s a little homage to the old source there that will play a big part in this reboot, but it’s presented to new readers, who know nothing to very little about Swamp Thing, in a way that doesn’t confuse us, but that may make previous fans of the series smile a little. It works with the story, adding some mystery to it, rather than working against it.

These former “memories” are just as strange to Holland as they are to the reader. It allows us, the readers, to learn more about these things gradually as Holland learns them. It’s a great way to tell his story if you ask me. Instead of putting in too many unnecessary telling scenes to give the readers new information, it’s shown to us here in fragmented “memories” and “dreams” that need piecing together—that I’m assuming will come together over the course of these comics.

For me, this comic succeeded in a way that Mr. Terrific fell short. Too much information was given about Mr. Terrific at one time. The first few pages covered pretty much everything you needed to know, leaving the writer with a lot of space to fill with a weak story. This story allowed information about Holland to trickle in around the things going on in the comic. However, you still don’t have Holland’s complete story.

My only real complaint is how, even in a reboot, everyone’s stories are so intertwined together. Superman knows exactly who to look for (Holland) to maybe get answers about the birds and fish--or at least, that's the excuse he used for his true motives. It would’ve made for a better story if Superman had actually had to do some research and digging to find out who may be able to help them understand what was going on. Sure, he mentions that he had to search for him because the doctor went missing, but from their exchange, there is obviously a prior history there. And really, the thing with the birds and fish isn't Superman's primary concern. 

However, I guess that just makes things easier for the writers rather than going into a history that might end up botched in another few books or by fanfic writers. I've decided that Dr. Holland is who Superman cheated with while pregnant Batman was birthing his baby, and this is how they know one another. And now that I've written that down in words, you can't take that from me. But seriously, other than that, I liked this story. Can’t wait to read #2.
Continue Reading…

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Gaming Ramble: Mass Effect


Credit: Mass Effect website

I just started playing Mass Effect on PC a couple of weeks ago. This is a big deal for me. I’m not much of a PC gamer. Aside from a couple of MMOs and simple point and click games like The Sims 3, I haven’t played many “serious” PC games over the years. There have been some exceptions, though. I played American McGee’s Alice on PC when it came out over a decade ago—just to name one.  Loved it, but I really had to force myself to stick with it because I didn’t like the controls.

Over the years, I have tried to play other PC games, but there was something daunting about remembering a bunch of keys. I think some of that had to do with not having much patient to really learn and remember the keys. I’m just a console gamer… forgive me. I am more comfortable with a controller in my hand than navigating with a keyboard and mouse.

Then, Mass Effect 2 came out on Playstation 3. I didn’t know much about the first one. My main games at the time ME1 was released were City of Heroes and The Sims 2, and I had many things going on for me during that time, which meant I didn’t have much time to focus on gaming. (My life went through a complete change in 2007-2008, but that’s another story for another time.)

Many of my PS3 owning friends and friends who’d played the first game on either Xbox or PC kept telling me how much they thought I’d enjoy the game because I love a game with a good story. I love a good story period. I resisted for a little while, and then, after more prodding, I decided I’d play it. But if the story was so great, I wanted to start with the first game rather than jumping into the second.

However, with Mass Effect, I faced a dilemma. I don’t own an Xbox 360. So, if I wanted to play the first part and not get some glossed over story from the PS3 sequel, I was going to either have to a.) borrow an Xbox 360, which a few family members do own or b.) play it on PC. And since a friend had a copy readily available for PC, I decided to try it. What could it hurt to try? Crazy computer controls or not!

Femshep! That's me! I'm awesome.

I’m probably not even halfway through the story, but it’s been amazing. Male Shep, female Shep, and all characters both major and minor are fully voiced. (Side note: The woman who does Femshep’s voice is actually from my area!) The world is easy to get lost in. I spent a few hours doing side missions on the Citadel before actually leaving to find Liara after that whole Spectre deal. I know, even at this early point, that I will definitely be playing Mass Effect 2.

Surprisingly, the controls were easy to get… or maybe I’ve just learned to be patient after all these years. I still have to check the control settings from time to time to see what key does what. But mostly, it’s been a frustration free experience—if you don’t count trying to control Mako.  That wretched tank!

This is pretty much how Mako makes me feel.

The big question is, what will I play it on? I do want to keep my choices from the PC game, but I played the demo for ME2 on Playstation 3 and enjoyed it, too. So, I’ve figured out a solution. I’ll do both! On the PC, I’ll continue to play out my story, and on the PS3, I’ll try something completely different. I also will take that opportunity to play more of the classes. Right now, I’m playing an Adept and a Soldier on Mass Effect. Both are a lot of fun.

This was (basically) the obligatory post to tell my friends they were right and I was wrong, but this in no way means that I’ll trust your “wisdom” more often. 
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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mister Terrific Really Isn't All that Terrific or Why Won't DC Let Him Be Great?


First, a word, DC. This 10 pages of comics and 20 pages of ads deal? Yeah, that… that’s not working for me. Please, fix it.

This counts at my third foray into a book from the new 52. Spoilers ahead!

I wanted to read about a character that I wasn’t familiar with from DC to begin a foundation on the character(s) based this reboot. After mulling over a couple of books featuring characters I knew nothing about, I decided on this one. And… I wasn’t too terribly impressed with what I read, but I feel it has potential—if DC will let it be great. And honestly, DC hasn’t been allowing too many of these reboots to be great (says the woman who’s only read 3 books of the new stuff so far).

Mister Terrific had a great base for an awesome story, but the storytelling was weak. An example. In that moment where we’re supposed to feel Michael’s greatest pain, it’s hard to connect with the characters because the scene is so shallow and does nothing to dig up true emotion in the reader. I felt sorry for him, but there was nothing anchoring me to the scene emotionally. There was nothing to make it haunting and gripping to me, so I moved on. I’m not saying they needed to spend much time there, but so much more could’ve been done to make that scene brilliant.

Also, total side note. I’m assuming his wife had just found out she was pregnant—if she was pregnant at all (and not randomly referencing his future son?). So… why are there two caskets at the burial? Did he already have a kid even though he says they’d been trying so long and doesn’t mention a kid? I’m confused?

But anyway, back to my point.  This book has the misfortune of that superficial, rambling writing throughout it. The writer never seems to learn how to pick his words to make a captivating read, and the art did nothing to pick up his slack. There are a couple of scenes where there is way too much telling between characters who already know this information. I know the reader needs to know what was told, but there are a million other ways to subtly introduce information that the reader needs.

I did like some things about it, though. I like that he admits to being third string in the smarts department. Don’t we get tired of every superhero being the best at what they do (no Wolverine intended)? It’s such a treat when the find out that they may not be the best, but they are fully capable of finding a solution to their problems. And who can’t love this random “note-to-self” about Doctor Who while he’s trying to evade a baddie, “T-Note: Buy Jamaal season 5 on blu-ray”?

And I know that the race jokes probably made people put on their PC cap, but I thought the line he said about saying “thanks to the black guy” was snarky and well-timed. But the line from the Republican at the party? OVERKILL. And that ridiculous white woman/black woman spat? Even more ridiculous than the lines uttered by the Republican—especially since there was no real build up to that. Second of all, who are these wenches? Why should I care about them? And why was there a ridiculous need to mention that black women can handle things that white women--supposedly--can't even begin to fathom? Cheap. I'm a black woman, and I'm calling it cheap.

Oh wait… I’m supposed to be talking about the things I do like. Unfortunately, that was very little.

Bottom line, this book made it hard to care about the story. What could’ve been a superb comic that combined science and superheroes in an awesome way turned out to be very flat.
Continue Reading…

Monday, October 3, 2011

[Review] Hush, Hush


Hush, Hush
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



NOTE: This review was written almost two years ago! Just pushing it to my blog because I'm about to start book #2 FINALLY! Spoilers, ahoy!

First COMPLETE book read on my new Kindle!

As much as I love my vampire stories, I love stories delve into other areas of the paranormal especially when coupled with quasi-theology. This was definitely an enthralling read. I always pit sorta bad/sorta good guys against my favorite gray area character, and at first, it took me a little while to warm up to Patch. He was cute and dangerous, but his manipulativeness was a bit much in the beginning. However, I understand that was a necessary means to aid the story and to build him as a character.

I liked Nora a lot and really enjoyed reading the story from her POV. She was smart and stronger than she gave herself credit for. I was expecting her to be overly annoying because she is a teen, but she was such a lovable character (Vee was, too, in her own way). The only thing that REALLY annoyed me about her was that she pointed out TOO MANY times that Patch was internally laughing at her during most of the story. How many times do we need to hear that even though he didn't smile he was laughing on the inside at her?

There was one part that didn't make sense to me or maybe I missed something altogether. Patch mentioned he'd thought about killing Nora a few times during the story, but in the same breath he says that her death needed to be sacrificial. How sacrificial would stabbing her to death in the kitchen or throwing her off a roller coaster been? Maybe I'm just missing something.

A good Saturday read. Wonder if the author plans to write more about this duo.



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Sunday, October 2, 2011

31 Days of Horror: Xombie: Dead on Arrival


Day two pick for the 31 Days of Horror challenge--Xombie: Dead on Arrival. A zombie plague has wiped out most of the human race. Zoe, a human girl, washes up on shore looking for her family unsure of how she got there. She wanders into a graveyard where she is rescued by Dirge, a sentient zombie (called xombie), who makes it his mission to take her to the nearest human colony.

This movie was broken up into many smaller "chapters" (around 3 minutes or so) that make up the whole movie. Even though it was close to an hour long, the way it was split up made it feel much quicker. I'm not sure if this was featured somewhere on a site or something in episodes, but I'm thinking it probably was.

Interesting concept for a series, though. I'm sure there probably are books about zombies who have retained their consciousness, but I haven't read any of them. I read there was a comic based on this now, and I will definitely be on the look out for it.

Also, this one gets points for using E.S. Posthumus' Pompeii in one of the fight scenes! I love that song!
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31 Days of Horror: Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives


This movie kicked off my 31 Days of Horror challenge. After being viciously attacked by three men (one of whom is an ex-boyfriend), a group of transvestites get revenge on the men who hurt them. From the name, you obviously know that you aren't getting anything that supposed to be taken too seriously. This was like a take on those exploitation films from the 70s (even with the missing reel messages) but over-exaggerated to the max. This was full of one-liners, pop culture ("This shit ain't on Google Maps!") and fabulousness. If you're looking for something fun and schlocky in the comedic horror realm, this might fit the bill.  I give it a 3 out of 5 just because it kept me amused.
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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

[Review] Hellfire


Hellfire
Hellfire by John Saul

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



Carolyn Rogers marries Phillip Sturgess -- rich, eligible, successful bachelor with a heart of gold despite his snobbish breeding. Phillip, along with Carolyn's ex-husband, plan on reopening a mill where a group of the town's children burned to death in the late 1800s and has recently become the site of many mysterious accidents. And that's about all the Carolyn and Phillip have to do with the story.

The main focus of the story is Beth Rogers, Carolyn's daughter from her first marriage, and Tracey Sturgess, Phillip's daughter from his first marriage. Tracey goes out of her way to make Beth feel unwanted through any means necessary, and Beth finds herself miserable and lonely. Beth befriends a girl-child who died in the fire at the mill (not unlike the girl in Saul's Comes the Blind Fury) who becomes something of a best friend to Beth. Finally, this all comes to head in a "grand finale".

This was a good read, typical early-Saul fare. It shared many similarities with Comes the Blind Fury (and countless other books he's written), but it was different enough to keep me reading. Saul has a way of really making you love and hate his characters. I sort of thought that the ending was a little rushed and the revealed "secret" a little weak, but an enjoyable read still.



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[Review] Comes the Blind Fury


Comes the Blind Fury
Comes the Blind Fury by John Saul

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



In the 1800s (quick, I'm having a Hellfire flashback), a young blind girl used to walk along the cliffs of Paradise Point. One day, a group of children start teasing her until she falls over the cliff. A decade later, a couple and their adopted daughter, Michelle, move into the house that the blind girl, Amanda, used to live in. Michelle is injured and becomes cripple, leading to the town children taunting her. Amanda wants revenge and soon starts using Michelle as her "eyes" to end the laughter.

His books don't take too much thinking and they're not perplexing. He has an irritating way of making the last climatic scenes rushed, but he knows how to keep you enthralled. Even if you don't find his horror very "horror-full", you do want to find out what happens next because he can weave a story.

Saul's early horror is scholocky, but I enjoy it. It's cheesy, cliched, overdramatic, everything a B horror movie is.



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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

[Review] Decimation: X-Men - Son of M


Decimation: X-Men - Son of M
Decimation: X-Men - Son of M by David Hine

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



Post-House of M Pietro is depowered, living in a hellhole, thinking about how life used to be for him. His powers defined him in a major way. Pietro powers have always allowed him to be cocky, to be better than the humans he sees as inferior. Now, without his powers, he feels less than inferior—even to humans. He doesn’t understand normalcy. He doesn’t understand why anyone would want to be just human.

Life doesn’t seem much worth living to him, and he spends much of his time staggering about in his old costume living out his former life in his head and feeling guilty for being part of something that left so many mutants powerless. During an encounter with Spider-Man, Pietro tries to end his own life. He critically injures himself during his quest, but his estranged wife, Crystal, takes him to Attilan where he’s healed.

In desperation, Pietro appeals to Black Bolt to allow him to use the Terrigen Mists to restore his powers. Black Bolt refuses and with understandable reasons that he tries to explain to Pietro (through Medusa). Pietro uses it anyway, but his powers return in an abnormal way. Despite this, Pietro decides to return to earth with the Terrigen crystals and uses them to restore the powers of other depowered mutants. Do I even need to tell you how badly this goes?

Pietro, Pietro, Pietro. I’m a huge fan of Quicksilver. Say what you will about him, but I love him. He has a myriad of baggage that he’s toting around. He has all these personal issues, many stemming from the need to impress a father who hates him. He can’t do much right even in the best of intentions. Part of the problem seems to be that he just can’t shake hubris even when he’s not in the best of shape, and another part of the problem seems to also come from some need to prove himself due to Magneto’s repeated rejections. (And there’s also this fact that he’s more like Magneto than either man is willing to admit.)

Pietro finds himself in a place where he feels he has nothing left to lose—especially if it means getting his powers back. Damn those who stand in his way. The only person who can really seem to touch his heart is his daughter, Luna, who he hasn’t seen in quite some time, but she brings out a softness in him. You can also see traces of love there for Crystal still, and she’s obviously still holding love for him. But she doesn’t understand his human emotions such as jealousy. And he harbors some resentment against her.

I pitied Pietro because this made him seem like one of those people who can’t cope with a situation and find some peace with it. Instead of seeking to improve his situation, he seeks to regain his “former glory.” Since he can’t find his sister, he’s mostly resigned to think that those glory days will never come back without her... until he reaches Attilan. I shook my head at MANY of Pietro’s actions during and after Attilan because there was just so much obvious room for error there. And the inhumans are so particular about humans and not in a good way, but not a damn was given.

And then, Pietro also angered me. One thing that just really bothered me? Repeatedly exposing Luna to the Terrigen crystals to the point that seemed like a drug addict. Just heartbreaking. He finally realizes his actions are harmful to her and tries to do the right thing by sending her back to her mother, but in this, I realize that he’s continuing the odd family dynamics that his family faces. Aside from being the World’s GREATEST Dad (sarcasm), these are the reasons that I like the Pietro and his family. They’re just so damn complicated.

Things I didn’t like? Spider-Man. I think there were better ways to cause Pietro to take that jump rather than having Spider-Man all tangled up in the scene. It just seemed like a waste of panels for a story that could’ve used more panels to tell Pietro’s story. I also didn’t like how restricted this story felt. It was a good story, but it wasn’t a story that could be held by such small constraints. Towards the ends, things started feeling a little rushed like they suddenly realized, “Oh, hell, guys... we’re running out of space!” They lost a little focus and steam, in my opinion. Everything started happening too fast.

I still think that X-Factor probably does his character the most justice, but I did like how this seemed to really try to show Pietro at his worse, that it tried to show readers what desperate men when do when they feel backed into a corner.



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This blog is a mishmash of thoughts, pictures, and rantings among other things about games I've played, games I will play, and games I am currently playing. From time to time, I may post book reviews that I've written that are about different games and/or game worlds. Feel free to recommend games or add me on the platforms I've listed. I don't do competitive multiplayer much anymore, but I'm always down for some co-op these days. I'm usually DigitalTempest everywhere unless otherwise specified.

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2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge
Tiara has read 6 books toward her goal of 52 books.
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Tiara's bookshelf: currently-reading

The Elfstones Of Shannara
tagged: upcoming-reads, currently-reading, 2016-audiobook-challenge, classi...
Gardens of the Moon
tagged: currently-reading, fantasy, z-narrator-ralph-lister, 2016-audiobook...

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Tiara's bookshelf: read

Deceived
really liked it
Review to come.
tagged: 2016-star-wars-reading-challenge and 2016-audiobook-challenge
The Girl from the Well
liked it
More reviews @ The Bibliosanctum TL;DR Review 2.5 to 3 stars. Not badly written… I’m just disappointed by the squandered potential. I’m going to reread Anna Dressed in Blood to make myself feel better about this Longer Review: T...
tagged: 2016-women-of-genre-fiction-reading, horror, and young-adult
Thirteen Reasons Why
I don't think this quite captures the complexity of bullying and suicide, and some of the issues that Hannah started facing toward the end of the novel really seemed to detract even more from the feelings she was going through by having ...
tagged: young-adult, popsugar-2016-reading-challenge, 2016-audiobook-challe...
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
liked it
Spoiler free review to come.
tagged: 2016-star-wars-reading-challenge
The Phantom of the Opera
really liked it
tagged: classic-horror, classics, audiobook, 2016-audiobook-challenge, horr...

goodreads.com

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