Wednesday, September 28, 2011

[Review] 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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Sunday, September 25, 2011

The New 52: Detective Comics #1

“One-hundred fourteen murders over the past six years. That’s nineteen murders a year. And I can pin them all on him, even if the courts can’t.” – Batman, Detective Comics #1

Confession: Even though I have just about all the first issues of the released comics for the new reboot, I haven’t been clamoring to read them. After only thinking that Justice League #1 was only okay, even for someone who’s not-really-new-but-not-really-old to DC’s main continuity, I haven’t had a real desire to keep up at this point. I know everyone’s latest thing is the whole Catwoman issue, so I decided NOT to start there. As with Justice League #1, I have not read many thoughts on this comic (or any of the others in the reboot). I prefer to read first without the thoughts of others tempering how I go into this story.

Slight spoilers ahead.

The story starts with Batman briefly recounting Joker’s misdeeds in the past six years while heading to a seedy hotel where he believes the Joker is holed up. He’s correct (of course), but apparently, a naked Joker stabbing away on someone isn’t just disturbing for the reader. It’s disturbing for Batman as well. After years of not thinking there’s a pattern to Joker’s madness, Batman is starting to doubt that assumption. He thinks that there’s something very specific about the way Joker is operating in this comic, but he’s unable to understand what it might be.

There’s nothing really new here in the way of Batman. His personal life as Bruce is still a mess. He’s still tangled up with a certain cat lover and thief. He’s still gruffly brooding and feels that everything bad that happens in Gotham is a personal reflection of his own failures. He’s still Gordon’s BFF while the GCPD loathes him, and he still looks to Alfred to be on top of the game. There’s nothing wrong with this at all. Even if they make a million changes to everyone else, no one really wants to see Batman change into something he’s not—even for a reboot.

Instead of a stab-happy Joker, I'll give you Bullock instead.
However, there is a dark optimism there that I don’t quite recall Batman having before. Batman asserts throughout this comic that he is the dark, that he is Gotham. Yes, he even says it aloud no matter how cheesy it may sound. When Gordon tells him that Gotham will always be a hellhole, Batman responds, “Like hell it will,” showing that he believes things will get better, that he can somehow make things better. Maybe this is how Batman initially felt when he was years younger and maybe as this story goes on we’ll start to see less of that hinted optimism. However, I like it.

I also like that there’s more focus on Batman’s detective skills something that I felt was lost in some of the past Batman issues (before the reboot) or kind of glossed over in favor of getting straight to the punching part that everyone so loves. While he doesn’t expound for pages, there was a moment where Batman explains how he taught himself to search for anomalies in a crowd and what particular one he was searching for—a guilty reaction.

One thing I wanted to note is that this was much more brutal than Justice League #1 and there’s less back story build up. Not saying that JL #1 was all sunshine and happiness, but there was a much darker, brutal tone in Batman’s personal story—even the cover was a promise that this was not going to be a pretty story. And it wasn’t. While I’d be totally fine with my son flipping through JL #1, there’s no way I’d allow him to look at this. Starting from the first glimpse of the Joker brutally stabbing someone to death (while naked I have to mention again, but don’t worry no man bits are shown) right down to the Batman vs. Joker fight that went on for pages until Batman finally bests Joker and dumps him at Arkham. 

It begins.

The final image in the comic itself is somewhat haunting and gives a glimpse at the villain Joker will become while hinting at the new threats that Batman will face. No pun intended there for those of you who have read this one.

Did I enjoy this? Yes, I did. I liked this introduction to the coming Batman/Joker feud (though I did have one complaint about the end that I’ll go into with people who’ve already read this). And maybe part of the reason I like this is because Batman feels the same. I don’t really see much different about him or the way he perceives things other than there being some optimism in him for the city he loves.

In fact, all the familiar faces feel the same here like nothing really changed except they’re younger.
I literally couldn’t stop turning the pages as I wondered if we’d find out so soon what the Joker was up to and how this first confrontation between Joker and Batman would go. I’ll probably continue to pick up this series. 
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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Yes, I Realize I Just Posted a Boatload of Reviews

... And I promise that I'm okay.

I used to run a book blog back in the day that I haven't completely shut down yet. I feel that it's time to say goodbye to that blog, but I wanted to transfer all my reviews to Goodreads first. Some of these reviews are almost nine-years-old, so I'm actually curious to reread some of these books and see how life and time has tempered my opinions on them. I will be posting a whole bunch more over the weekend. Hopefully, the rest of them, and I will be deleting that blog for good.
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[Review] Summer Sisters

Summer Sisters
Summer Sisters by Judy Blume

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book spans the relationship of two girls -- the wealthy Caitlin and the underprivileged Vix. This follows them from the summer of 1977 to the summer of 1996. Cait and Vix meet in school when Cait asks Vix to accompany her to her father's house in the Vineyard. After that, Caitlin's life was never the same again. Vix is smart, observant, maybe even a little shy while Caitlin is vivacious, outgoing, and opinionated.

Most of the book is told from Vix's POV with subchapters from some of the supporting characters POV. However, Caitlin never gets a subchapter. We're left to figure her out from Vix's reactions to her and the reactions of the other characters. Caitlin gets a lot of reaction for her "don't care" attitude.

This book is about so much more than the relationship between two friends. It also focused on the complexities of relationships between women, women and men, between parents and children, etc. And then, there's the usual growing pains mixed into this story making it an excellent read.

A few things that annoyed me with this story was the contrived ending. It seemed almost as if Blume was trying to make her readers feel sorry for Caitlin. I didn't. I felt more sorry for Vix.

And another personal grievance was the way that Vix kept on forgiving even when Cait did the unthinkable. I think this irked me because I know firsthand what it's like to keep forgiving a person who keeps breaking your heart.

Other than that, loved this book. I read it in one sitting. This book made me nostalgic for some of my own friends.

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[Review] Torchlight to Valhalla

Torchlight to Valhalla
Torchlight to Valhalla by Gale Wilhelm

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Early 20th century (1938) lesbian literature. This was a painfully beautiful novella revolving around a young woman named Morgen Tuetenberg. In the beginning of the story, Morgen is caring for her sick father, the renowned painter, Fritz Tuetenberg. During a walk, she meets a pianist named, Royal St. Gabriel, who falls for her at first sight. The death of Morgen's father leaves her empty, and Royal wishes to fill this emptiness, but Morgen doesn't feel truly complete until Toni enters her life.

This story dragged a little in the beginning, but not for long. This story runs a gauntlet of emotions from love to grief to indifference. With this being so short, you seem to be watching strangers. You don't have much of a chance to get too intimate for the characters. You care for them, but only in that detached way.

I think the strong point in this story was the theme of human emotion and love. I was rooting for Royal. I really liked the guy, but love is capricious and Morgen had to do what made her happy. I think she did start to love Royal, but he still wasn't what she needed to fill that void.

There really isn't too much more that could be said about this book without giving it away, so I'll just stop trying to find the right words to describe it. If you ever get hands on a copy, definitely read it. It's a touching story.

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[Review] Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture

Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture
Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture by Douglas Coupland

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Coincidentally, the first novel I read by Coupland also happens to be the first novel he wrote. It follows the lives of Andy, Dag, and Claire. Late 20-ish adults who are living in the desert, doing basically nothing with their lives but telling each other stories. The story is told from Andy's point of view.

This novel sent me through a gamut of emotions. I called it everything from pretentious to decent. It had the ability to depress while entertaining. I found the beginning dreadfully dull to the point that I didn't know if I would continue or not, and I didn't truly get into the book until the introduction of Elvissa and Tobias. After that, the stories they told one another seemed to get better.

At first, I thought the characters were just pathetic. They didn't seem to have any ambition and all they did was tell each other stories. In fact, I will paste what I wrote in my personal journal about this book. I asked Nick (my friend) if he thought this is what our parents do? Do they sit around waxing nostalgic by making up stories about people, stories that correlate to their own miserable life?

The characters in the book are--or should be if they aged--around the age of my own parents. One character in the book said he was 15 in the late seventies. Hell, my mother wasn't 15 until the early 80's, making him technically older than her. Yes, I have very young parents. But I digress.

Then, an even scarier thought came to us. Would we act like them at that age? Would we get fed up with a no-end job and move to the west coast to live in bungalow-style houses and work a dead end job? Would the burden of being adults kill our spirit and make us run for the hills? Would we sit around one day telling apocalyptic stories about the end of the world because maybe, just maybe, we wouldn't mind if the world did just that -- end?

Things did get better for the characters, if better is the right choice of wording, at the end. They all seemed to have a sort of epiphany (with Claire's ability to get over her obsession being my favorite). While this novel didn't just make gape in awe (and I think a lot of that had do with the fact of my age), I do think that Coupland is a talented writer, and I do look forward to reading some of his other works.

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[Review] The Rapture of Canaan

The Rapture of Canaan
The Rapture of Canaan by Sheri Reynolds

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the story of Ninah Huff, the granddaughter of the founder of the Church of Fire and Brimstone and God's Almighty Baptizing Wind. Say that three times fast. I dare ya! Basically, the people of the congregation spend their time striving to do the "Lord's good" while denying themselves earthly pleasures (No TV, very little free time, you get the picture) because they don't want to be stuck on earth when the good Lord comes back. To avoid earthly sins, the members of the church are known to inflict pain upon themselves such as sleeping on nettles or walking on pecan shells.

The story is also told from Ninah's POV. She's a young girl struggling with religion and life in general. She questions what she is being taught in her community, but at the same time, she feels ashamed and guilty of the changes going through her -- particularly her attraction to a boy named James. Despite, Ninah and James's efforts to avoid temptation and sin, the two come together in the biblical sense, and the outcome tears their little community apart.

I thought this was a very beautiful story following the trials and tribulations of not only a teenager growing up under such strict beliefs but the desires of the heart and flesh, the questioning of religious beliefs. Ninah makes such a transition in this story. She goes from a timid teenage girl to a young woman who knows her heart and believes that God's love comes from more than just pain. She finds strength when so many obstacles stood in her way. She forces a community to change, to face it's hypocrisy, and above all, Ninah finds a sense of self.

I also loved the characters in this book. They were so beautifully drawn out. You could imagine them vividly. Everyone from Ninah to Corinthian, the woman who the community considers a backsliding whore. You feel for these people. You can probably think of people who share some similar attributes. Maybe not as religious, but we all know drama-queens and people who strive to please others.

Ninah's story is so heart-wrenching, but beautifully written. I could not put this book down, and I already want to read it again. All I have to say to that is, "Whee, Jesus."

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[Review] Holes

Holes by Louis Sachar

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I watched the movie first and loved it, so I knew I had to read the book. Stanley Yelnats is sent to Camp Green Lake to serve his 18-month sentence for a crime that he didn't commit. Each boy is required to dig a hole five feet high and five feet wide. The warden and the counselors say that it builds character, but Stanley knows better.

As far as young adult literature goes, a lot of it has been pretty forgettable, but in recent years, writers have started to give young adults more of a voice by making their books more complex and something to remember. I loved Holes for two reasons its complexity and its simplicity. The style was very simplistic, but Sachar managed to give it some complexity by intertwining three stories.

Since I saw the movie first, I already had faces for the names. Also, a lot of ambiguous things from the movie were explain in the book in better detail, such as why didn't Zero and Stanley get bitten by the lizards. I think I'm probably the only person who really wondered about that in the movie. Anyhow, great book. I won't be forgetting this any time soon. I'm sending this to my twelve-year-old cousin for her to enjoy.

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[Review] Girlfriend in a Coma

Girlfriend in a Coma
Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Girlfriend in a coma, I know, I know. It's really serious."

Liked this much better than Generation X. 17-year-old Karen goes into a 17-year-coma after having sex with her boyfriend. Talk about ways to scare you into not having sex. Well, she didn't go to sleep immediately afterwards, but she was really insistent on the two of them having sex. Before she slips into her coma, Karen tells her boyfriend, Richard, that she saw the future. Karen goes into a 17-year-coma, and wakes up to find her boyfriend still waiting and a daughter. She seems perfectly normal when she wakes, except she talks about the world coming to an end.

The first half of the book basically revolves around the people in Karen's life after she goes into the coma, the second part deals with life after her reawakening, and the third part, well, you don't want me to give that away do you?

This still had the same "what is the meaning of this sad, sad life?" theme, but I think it was much better presented in this book. And if you've read GenX, you'll notice some parallels with some of the characters (Hamilton equals Dag, Richard equals Andy, and Pam equals Claire), but all-in-all the story is pretty good. I like how Coupland manages to make you think without overwhelming you or depressing you.

What I didn't like was the fact that book was somewhat anticlimatic. Well, it's one of those endings you'll love and hate, and I'm sure, after mulling over it a few days, I'll like it better. And two points for Coupland for the Morrissey, the Smiths, and X-files references.

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[Review] Middlesex

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think the beginning lines of this story sums up what it's about nicely, so that's what I will use:

"I was born twice: first as a baby girl on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974." -- Calliope/Cal Stephanides

This was such a great book. The first chapter was sort of off-putting for me. In the begining the prose shifted between straight-forward and flowery, epic descriptions. Even the narrator, Cal, said his writing was Homeric and that it was genetic. But as Cal explain his history starting with his grandparents trials in the old country and their eventual move to America in the 20's, you become more and more involved with his story.

We follow his grandparents (who were related) and his parents (who were also related) through their lives, watching what led up to what and who Cal was. We watch what shaped his relatives -- values from the old country, values from the new, war, racial tension, etc. So, the reader gets so much more than just a story about a hermaphrodite. You get to feel like you're a friend of the family. We're also treated to breaks where Cal talks about his budding relationship with a woman named Julie. By his own admission, Cal "loves 'em and leaves 'em".

I don't even know what to say about this book really. It's fascinating. As one of my friends says about the book, "I don't know if I like this, but it is enthralling. I couldn't stop reading it."

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[Review] I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden
I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Joanne Greenberg

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Young adult reading about a mentally ill 16-year-old girl who endures 3 years in a mental hospital. The story is told mostly from Deborah Blau's, the 16-year-old girl, point of view.

Deborah's mental illness established early in her life due to pent up rage, frustration, and the pain of not being accepted in life, among other things. Because of this rejection by the world, she created in her mind Yr, a fantasy land where she could escape the harsh realities of life, but Yr slowly turned into a place none-too-nice that held her captive in her mind.

I loved this book for the simple fact that we're allowed to see things from Deborah's point of view. Few books do that. Usually, we're presented with a view from someone who's sane, thus sealing the prejudices and pity associated with the mentally ill. People tend to forget that the patients are still human, preferring to ostracize them because of their state-of-mind. This story presents the patients as people, and they are surprisingly astute and introspective despite their illness, and they are aware of what people who don't have an illness thinks of them.

Deborah's story is a fascinating one. She works with a gifted psychiatrist to overcome Yr and its gods, which hurts her when she tries to tell the secrets of their world. We follow her sickness, her stages of recovery, and her eventual reintroduction to the world. It was nice to read a book that wasn't a horror that presented a view of mental illness. My lack to rate it higher comes from the fact that parts of the book were lacking in my opinion, but that doesn't void out the fact that book was a good read.

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[Review] American Gods

American Gods
American Gods by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Shadow has been in prison three years and is being paroled soon. He's let out early due to his wife's death. With nothing left to go home to, Shadow is approached by a man who calls himself Wednesday who basically wants him to be an "errand boy", but Shadow's job description goes way beyond that as he travels across the country with Mr. Wednesday. He learns about himself, life, beliefs, and people.

This was my first Gaiman novel. I've read some of his comics, but this is the first novel that I've ever read by him, and I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. I like mythology, and this presented a whole cast of "godly" characters for me to figure out. That's some of the fun in the book, recognizing mythological characters and saying, "I know who that is!"

Despite what Shadow (and others) see as character flaws, he was perhaps one of the most endearing characters that I have ever encountered. Despite what he's been through, despite everything, he seems to have no trouble accepting what he's told by these gods. It's obvious he's a bit skeptical, but the side that believes seems to outweigh the side that doesn't believe.

That gives Shadow somewhat of a naive quality. This made him very likable, very human, even though you don't know much about him or his family. You don't even know his real name, but you can tell that he's a good man, and while others think he's big and dumb, you can see that he obviously isn't.

And the gods were amusing for the most part, they've "adapted" to the ways of new world by using what they know to get by. So, we have goddesses who are prostitutes, gods that are embalmers, gods that specialize in conning others, and a whole range of gods in between. And you have the new gods--internet, media, etc--who want to get rid of the old gods.

But what really made this story really enjoyable for me was the fact that I was tricked. I'll admit that many of the things in this book is obvious, but while I was paying attention to many minute details, I missed the most obvious thing of all.

This book wasn't without flaws like any book. There were some odd sentence structures in the book and sometimes didn't even seem necessary, but the sheer force of what a good book this is made most of that easy to overlook. I will definitely reread this in the future.

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[Review] Wet: More Aqua Erotica

Wet: More Aqua Erotica
Wet: More Aqua Erotica by Mary Anne Mohanraj

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A waterproof erotica book, sequel to Aqua Erotica, with the shared theme of "water". So, in every story, water in its different forms are used as a catalyst for the stories.

This wasn't a bad erotica anthology as far as anthologies go. It was hit and miss as with any anthology, but for the most part, I did enjoy the stories. Some of them left me feeling cold, but there were quite a few that made up for some of the lackadaisical stories in the anthology.

I think my favorite story in the whole collection was "Sakura". I didn't much care for the heroine who I found whiny and very childish, but I did enjoy the tone used in the story by the author. Some of the stories were very stereotyped, specifically those dealing with lesbians, which was very annoying and left a sour taste in my mouth.

I'll definitely keep this one around. It was entertaining at the most basic of levels, and it was much better than some other themed erotica books I have read (re: Love in Vein II). Besides, it's waterproof. You'll never get tired of abusing it.

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[Review] Belladonna: A Novel of Revenge

Belladonna: A Novel of Revenge
Belladonna: A Novel of Revenge by Karen Moline

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Isabella Ariel Nickerson is kidnapped and auctioned for 1 million pounds in 1930s England. She finds herself the unwilling play thing of a club of men who get their kicks out of forcing sexual tortures on women. Isabella is actually purchased by a man she knows only as "His Lordship", a man she will dedicate the rest of her life to finding and destroying once she escapes her hell.

The story is narrated by a man named Tomasino, one of the few men that Belladonna truly trusts (along with his twin Matteo). They were castrated in the war, and therefore, Belladonna doesn't see them as a threat. Belladonna finds herself the heir of a large fortune, and she dedicates her money and time to Club Belladonna, a popular club, where she hopes to lure one of the members into her club. One member is all it will take to find the rest.

I went into this expecting that I wouldn't like it, and honestly, the very beginning, the chapter before the actual story of Belladonna begins, was quite dull. It had that same rambling, verbose, tedious style as Middlesex did in the beginning, which sort of throws me off for a second because I like to get immediately sucked into a book. After that first chapter though, I was thoroughly engrossed with Belladonna's story.

Tomasino is a witty narrator. He loves to talk. He loves to gloat. He loves to be right. Honestly, I'm glad he was the one telling the story. It gives it a flair that I think would be missing if Belladonna, or even his brother Matteo, told the story. Belladonna's diary is also scattered throughout the book--the diary she kept while she was imprisoned. The diary format was an interesting one as well, as it was written in third person rather than first, showing how Belladonna detached herself to survive her ordeal.

I think the concept of revenge appealed to me, as it would many people. How many people get the chance to get their revenge against someone who wrongs them? Many of us have wanted to, but we've never had the satisfaction of doing so. Sure, Belladonna's methods seem a little out there, but wouldn't we all go to great lengths, if we could, to get payback? You can't help but root for Belladonna.

So, while this book seems a little extreme, it is a good novel. I wasn't too satisfied with the ending. It seemed a little rushed, a real let down to the climatic events that were taking place before it. Still well worth the read.

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[Review] Primal Fear

Primal Fear
Primal Fear by William Diehl

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Aaron Stampler is found in a confessional booth holding a knife, proclaiming his innocence, after someone killed the revered Bishop of the city. Martin Vail, a quick-witted lawyer who isn't afraid to leap before he looks, is basically coerced into defending the young man who appears guilty in every sense of the word. Every politician in the city seems to have a vendetta against Vail and looks foward to seeing him lose the case.

Liked the movie. Loved the book. As with most book-to-movie adaptations, the book was better. Unlike his movie persona, Vail isn't cool, well-dressed sauveness that Richard Gere presented. The Vail in the book is a man who isn't overly concerned about his personal appearance, and he isn't afraid to grab at straws, and he makes lawyers tremble just at the mention of his name.

The book also provided more insight on Aaron. You get a taste of his childhood and find out more about what molded him. In the book, Aaron is a genius, despite the accent and his angelic appearance. His childhood wasn't the best thing, and he's even described as being able to detach himself from tragedies. Is that enough to make him a killer? Is he mentally stable?

I'm sure by now, most people have heard about the twist, but that doesn't take the impact away from reading it for yourself. I read the "twist" over and over again, even though I've seen the movie and knew what to expect. A first-rate legal thriller. I can't wait to read the sequel.

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[Review] Trauma

Trauma by Graham Masterton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Bonnie Winters runs a crime scene clean-up service, meaning she goes in and clean up places where violent scenes have taken place. She also works as a cosmetics lady when she's not cleaning crime scenes, just to remind herself that she's something other than a mother/wife/cleaning lady. Bonnie works as the sole supporter of her family since her husband lost his job, which he blames on the Mexicans as a whole, and her son is just a teenager going through a difficult time.

I really liked how he didn't clue you in much on Bonnie. Bits and pieces of her life is shown through her interactions. One minute you're reading about a particularly gruesome crime scene, and the next you're reading about what she's cooking for dinner. I like this because it seems that the author is trying to show you some kind of normalcy in Bonnie's life.

This book turned out a lot different than I expected. I never saw that plot twist toward the end coming. Well, I did gradually, but in the beginning, it's not something you expect to happen. Everything so matter-of-fact in the book that I just didn't expect that at first. It could have been considered a deus ex machina if it hadn't been for the fact that there were subtle clues about what was happening.

There are a few editing problems in the book, but overall, it's a really good read.

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[Review] Meeting of the Waters: A Novel

Meeting of the Waters: A Novel
Meeting of the Waters: A Novel by Kim McLarin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The meeting of the waters is an actual natural event that occurs in Brazil. It's where the water from the Solimões River (which is muddy) meets with the dark water from Rio Negro. They run side by side without mixing. I've seen pictures of it, but I hope to see it in person one day. The phenomenon is mentioned in the book and holds much significance to the story itself.

Porter Stockman, a white journalist from Philadelphia, goes to Los Angeles to get the story on the Rodney King riots. While there, he finds himself the target of a group of angry, black people. Fortunately, a black journalist, Lenora Page, saves him. When he finds out that she will be working at the same paper, he goes out of his way to show her his gratitude, which results in love.

I loved the characters in the book. You have Porter Stockman. His mother is overbearing. His father doesn’t seem to care about much, and his sister is a maverick. He spent his teenage years wondering what the hell he was going to do with his life. He likes to think of himself as a white person who doesn’t see race as an issue. He’s an all-around good guy. He’s believable, funny, and real. He doesn’t do all the right things, and he doesn’t do all the wrong things. He makes human decisions, which many authors tend to forget about.

Lenora is a very pro-black woman who can’t believe she’s falling for a white man. Her father left her family when she was young, and her mother is dealing with being bi-polar. Her younger brother still longs to find their father, but she’s given up all hope. She’s very proud to be a black woman, and she’s quick to let everyone know. She’s independent, smart, and sassy. She loves herself without being a stereotype, and honestly, a lot of women—of any race—could take a lesson from her.

The only thing that annoyed me about this book was Lenora’s preoccupation with race. I understand this was important to establish her character. She was trying to make Porter aware of the prejudices that people of color and biracial couples go through, but it turned into borderline obsessive after a while.

Being a woman of color myself, it even drove me mad. I definitely understood how helpless Porter felt. I could see the wedge she was driving into their relationship with race. It was tiresome, even for me – the reader. She manages to break a really good man, and by the time she realizes her mistake, things are already broken. Then they must choose what they really want.

Other than that, I loved this book. It really makes its reader thing about race relations. One of the most important questions posed in the book is not about Porter and Lee’s relationship itself, but the question of what makes a person racist. It’s not just a typical romance where two of the characters happen to be a different race. It really gets the readers thinking about the politics behind race.

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(Note: This is a review I wrote some years back. I'm just importing a few reviews from my old book blog.)
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Monday, September 12, 2011

[Review] A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones
A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I started reading this for the same reason that many other people read this book for—I liked the show. I’m not much of a fantasy reader, but not because I dislike the genre. It’s hardly my least favorite genre to read in. I’m just more of a science fiction woman than a fantasy woman. You can blame that on a healthy, if not obsessive, love of comics and cyberpunk.

This book isn’t one that I would call high fantasy. There aren’t many elves, magic, and all that. There are hints of magic and fantastic elements of course. But mostly, this book is written about men and women who find themselves in precarious situations because they’re humans making human mistakes and not because of some magical interference, which I appreciated.

There also doesn’t seem to be any real “heroes” in this book. Oh, there are characters I love, and characters that I hate. But they’re all multifaceted and have flaws as if they were real people. They make mistakes. They doubt themselves, and sometimes, their decisions ultimately lead to a bad end. No one is completely white or completely black—even the characters that many despise.

Take Cersei, a woman who many people dislike as a character. Think about how she asked Ned if he loved his children and if he’d be willing to do anything for them. When he says he would, she basically tells him what makes her any different. She would do the same thing for her own. Sure, her means were messed up, but the logic behind it is not.

There are no pillar of virtues who can do no wrong and show that being honorable and virtuous is what will win over the bad guys in the end. Things like loyalty and honor don’t protect the characters from the evils of men. While Ned isn’t a complete pillar of virtue, he’s probably the most honorable character in the book to a fault, and we see where that got him.

And it’s things like that that made me like the book. It shows depth of character. No one is always what they seem, and don’t think that being a so-called “good” character means that nothing bad will ever to them.

The book made it a lot easier for me to keep up with characters than the show, and maybe this is because it was fleshed out and since I had an idea of who the characters were because of the show, the details presented in the book made it easier for me to make connections and remember them. And this book was written in an engaging, relaxed way that made it easy to follow along and get into.

Now, I will admit that I started getting twitchy toward the end and felt as if some POVs could’ve been omitted because it just started to get plain redundant, but over all I enjoyed the book.

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

On 09/11/01...

I was in college and working this pretty intense job that kept up far from daylight most of the day (or that's what it felt like anyway). There was little communication in and little communication out. It was just a very closed facility where I worked. Even though we had a break, it was mostly spent talking amongst ourselves, and I don't remember anyone mentioning anything at all about the towers during our break. 

It wasn't until after I'd left for the day that I started to get bits and pieces of what was going on in New York. I was listening to the radio--because this was before radios were obsolete--and trying to piece together what I was hearing. It was all kind of just a jumble of confusion and anger, and they kept mentioning the chemical plant near us being on high alert. 

I still wasn't sure why or what was even going on until I talked to my mother-in-law (who was just my boyfriend's mother at the time) and she explained tearfully, but very calmly, what had happened and how she'd been watching coverage of this all day and getting in contact with her own family that were in the areas that had been affected. And just like that my whole world was shook.

My dad was still in the military at the time, and I remember asking him did this mean that we were going to go to war. And my dad always has an answer for everything and rarely sounds unsure about anything, but he told me, "I don't know, but I think we are." His voice actually cracked. I can't even begin to describe how that made me feel.

I remember watching the stories, especially the ones about people such as Father Mychal Judge, and you try to hold on to those feelings that make you feel at solidarity with your fellow countrymen. But how soon we forget things like these and turn on each other faster than rabid dogs.

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

[Review] Casanova, Vol. 1: Luxuria

Casanova, Vol. 1: Luxuria
Casanova, Vol. 1: Luxuria by Matt Fraction

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I don't even know if I really know what to say for this. It's not to be taken seriously despite all the espionage and betrayal that's in it. (In fact, I kept wanting to randomly say: "BETRAYAL FIVE!") It pokes fun at so many comic book formulas (and even has jokes about how lame comics are) while setting the stage for Casanova.

Casanova reminds me so much of Hitman's Tommy personality wise. Their sarcasm and wit seems to be on the same page despite their differing settings. If Tommy were more suave or if Casanova was more local boy, they could be brothers.

This book definitely lives up to it's Mature rating. If nudity, sex, sexism (directed toward both sexes), violence, and a touch of racism (that's quickly laid to bed) isn't your thing, don't read this comic.

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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Objectivity! I Choose You! Thoughts on Justice League #1

Okay, I don’t think I can say this enough whenever I talk about anything dealing with DC, so I’ll state it again.

My exposure to DC has been limited. I’ve read plenty of their momentous storylines and have always had friends who kept me updated on the happenings in the DC universe. Admittedly, I am a Marvel fanatic and always felt like Marvel did a better job of making their characters seem human. DC was like that one cute boy that I hung out with when I wanted to make Marvel jealous, but knew I’d always go back after a round of telling DC: “It’s not you… it’s me.”

However, it looks like in recent years that DC has done much to try to make people relate to their characters more by featuring more stories that focus on them as a characters. Of course, this has been hit-or-miss as most things are, but I had to appreciate them for trying. Right when I was really getting into the apex of reading more of these character-driven stories, they decided they wanted to start with a clean slate.

I know that depressed many fans, especially considering some of the ill plans to do away with many things that they loved such as Barbara Gordon’s return to being Batgirl when so many people—myself included—felt that she was more formidable as Oracle and represented another minority in the oft whitewashed, male world of comics. And I can understand those feelings tempering how they view the New 52.

I enjoy opinions on the matter, especially those from longtime fans, and I enjoy discussing these things. But in the end, I try to gauge my feelings on something based on my own perception of what I’m reading and give an honest assessment of what I’ve read—straight with no chaser. And maybe this is all easy for me to say because I have no real attachment to DC. Up until a few months ago, I still only dipped my toes in the water every now and again. Then, on recommendations from friends, I picked up more comics in the DC world.

I haven’t read any reviews on this aside from one friend’s at this point. I wanted to read and think about this first before engaging in any serious talk about it, entering this new DC with a fresh mind and attempt to try very hard at not comparing it to its former self. Sure, I may make a couple of points about things from the comics before the reboot, but I’ll mostly try to keep it relevant to the reboot.

WARNING: There be spoilers beyond this point. Read at your own risk.

There was a time when the world didn’t call them its greatest heroes. There was a time when the world didn’t now what a super-hero was.

Opening lines to Justice League #1. Opening lines for me always seem to set the tone for what I’m about to read, and I liked these opening lines. The story opened right where you’d expect it to by throwing you straight into the deep end without any floaties.

We meet Batman first. He’s chasing something over the rooftops of Gotham, and the Gotham PD is chasing him and it. There’s a little commentary here between the cops about just taking both of them out. Their relationship with heroes are precarious at this point, and this is the type of rational response you’d think the cops would have to this rather than just standing around like a bunch of fools. Shoot to kill. Can’t blame them.

Batman is still pretty much true true to himself. Not much has really changed as far has his character goes in this new 52. I noticed as I was reading some of the later arcs about Batman before the reboot that he still seemed a myth to many people while readers would believe that everyone knew who Batman was thanks to earlier comics and the television shows and movies. I liked that they decided to keep that mythical route, to make him almost a fairytale, like the Loup Garou (prounouned “loo garoo,” French for werewolf basically, and a name used in my area many times in place of werewolf) that parents tell their kids to keep them in line.

Batman is already showing that his detective skills and sheer willpower will probably beat your super powers. And at this point, it appears that they plan to keep the same brooding, intelligent, non-powered hero that everyone has come to know and love.

Anyhow, enter Green Lantern from the West Coast doing intergalactic cop things. He runs this sector, y’know. He doesn’t want you to forget that. 

“I got this, Batman,” is a mantra that is heard often with Hal and usually ends up with him being shown that he doesn’t really have this. And nothing shows that better than when Batman took Hal’s ring right off his finger. Batman reminded me of that guy from Kung-Fu Hustle that took a gun that was pointed at him right out the minions hand like, “Oh, what’s this?”

Hal is doing many helpful things with his rings, but he’s flashy. Batman doesn’t like bright and shiny. That’s not his style. Hal doesn’t seem to get it, and I can almost see Batman wanting to do a Picardian double face palm. But it would mean having to take his eyes off Simple Sam, and that’s not a good idea.
Insert Batman here.
So, after hearing one of the aliens scream out an obvious suicide cry—that Hal didn’t get—about Darkseid (my fingers hate typing that) before trying to kill both Green Lantern and Batman along with itself, they decide, “Oh hey! That Superman guy is an alien. Let’s go bother him about this.” Aliens all know one another apparently, and Hal’s ring is unable to read the “computer” the alien left behind.

Cut to Victor Stone who will become Cyborg. (Did anyone else noticed that one of his teammates’ last name was Didio? It’s really the only name you can read on one of the jerseys.) I really like that Vic is a talented football player who doesn’t care about what they say about his superior sports skill. He’s just a kid who wants to show off for his dad and make him proud. I think so few people really know what Vic’s (and so many of these characters aside from like Batman and Superman) origins are.

It’s nice that they’re trying to start off on the right foot with where these unfamiliar characters came from rather than just throwing them at us. And Vic’s story is shaping to be a sad one.

At this point, I’m going to assume that he’s going to be some kid who’s given these powers—maybe even somehow doing this to himself or being injured to the point that his dad sees to it that he’s made “better”—who’s going to have to come to terms with the implication of these new abilities. And right now, readers are left open to speculation about how he becomes Cyborg and what affect will his age have on him as a superhero, especially when you line him up against the seasoned Batman and the intergalactic cop, Green Lantern.

Batman and Green Lantern don’t come into direct contact with him yet, but they do fly brightly over the football field he played on while everyone looks up at them and starts speculating on “them.” Superman only shows up in the last few pages, but there’s a little beforehand talk about him. Batman warns Green Lantern that Superman is very power. But Hal’s got this (LOL) and ends up being cannonballed by Superman who almost arrogantly asks, “What can you do?”

I can’t really make a comment on Superman’s new self just yet, but he’s not wearing any underwear.

I haven't edited this to say, "So... I'm not wearing any underwear," but I'm gonna.
I won’t say I was bowled over by this story, but it did seem that they tried to temper it a little bit by not introducing everyone at one time or giving away the whole story in the first comic. I liked that we see them from a meeting up for the first time perspective, and how their personalities are already starting to meld and clash rather, than to have everyone already sitting around the round table like, “Best friends forever, let’s do this.”

I’d give this maybe a 2.5. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it either. It’s enough to keep me interested, but it’s far from the big bang that it could’ve been.

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Saturday, September 3, 2011


It’s been a while since I played around in Linux, preferring the mindless simplicity that Windows offered me—most of the time. Yeah, I know Windows and simplicity should not be married in a sentence, but you have to grudgingly admit that there aren’t many hoops that you have to jump through for Windows—again, most of the time. Most users prefer that Next-->Next-->Finish routine and like to have things work out of the box natively. That’s the nature of the beast.

I love workspaces! PRODUCTIVITY!

Lately, some of my geekier friends had been talking about various things they’ve been doing in Linux that have piqued my interest, but usually I’d end up taking a peek at what they’re doing, leaving it at that and puttering along with good ol’ Windows. Then, I faced a problem with opening Open Office documents in Word at work, and a friend suggested that I boot Linux on my work computer from a flash drive. Brilliant solution and so simple.

It really allows me freedom at work that I wouldn’t normally have. Our ISD crew has us locked down tight. It was only about a week or two ago that I was able to get them to finally update from IE6 on our computers after having to compile a good case about why they should update (with something other than whining that it’s IE6; it’s the small victories).

So, I’ve been tooling around with various distros on my laptop, and I’m starting to realize that I enjoy working in Linux more than I do Windows, even when I do have to open the terminal and get all technical. I’ve found that I’m a Ubuntu woman, and part of this may be bias because I’ve worked with Ubuntu more than other distros in years past. I think it’s very user friendly for users like me.

What kind of user am I? I would say that I’m a seasoned beginner/intermediate user. I understand most of the terminology and how to go about applying it. The things I don’t understand I end up Googling to get clearer explanations. However, some things still a bit complex to me, and I have to do more research to really grasp certain elements.

I’ve moved from booting Ubuntu from a flash drive to dual booting on my personal computer, and I’m thinking that I’d like to completely migrate one day. Many of the programs that I use have Linux versions of their software, and the ones who don’t have been workable due to using Wine. And even if I don’t get everything that I’m used to working with in Ubuntu, I’d be happy with working with it about 80% of the time. Hopefully, this is a viable dream. 
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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.



PSN: DigitalTempest | XBL: DigitalTempest | Steam: DigitalTempest | Raptr: DigitalTempest

2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge
Tiara has read 6 books toward her goal of 52 books.

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...

Tiara's bookshelf: read

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...

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