Archive for the ‘ Literature ’ Category

The Ocean at The End of the Lane: Not an Actual Review of the Book, I Don’t Think

ImageAs you fall asleep, images and sounds and sensations start to move in an almost rollercoaster way, you hold on to what makes sense, dream-sense, and your dream begins. Sometimes I dream about shapes. Just shapes, swirling through blackness, and I think they are small, but they are not, and I am shocked and delighted by my mistake when I realize it. Some of the most impressive things in the world are impressive because of their size. Every waterfall mesmerizes because it is impossible to comprehend just how much water is falling and from how high up.

Franz Kafka was able to put the endless paradox of dreams into words and into a narrative, and Neil Gaiman has been using this device throughout his works, which is what makes him one of my favorite authors.

With The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Gaiman succeeded in transporting the reader to that hidden part of their mind that is only accessible in dreams. He did this even more successfully than he was able to with the Sandman graphic novels, where a great deal of the story took place in dreamscape.

The novel is about a man who remembers being seven years old and what happened when his fate found him. He isn’t having a particularly good time, feeling rejected, forgotten, and hides in his books. His childhood isn’t the kind that people feel nostalgic about, and as an adult he does not miss it. But then this lonely child makes a friend. The event that leads to the friendship is tainted with tragedy, but only tainted, because the story is told through a seven-year-old’s perspective and joy can be found in the smallest things even as the world crumbles. Our nameless protagonist moves between what is hard reality and then fuzzy magic-imbued reality and the transitions are seamless and matter-of-fact. And that is all I’m willing to give away about the plot. Continue reading

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The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor

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The Walking Dead has become a hit, both in TV and comic form. The comic is usually one of the top sellers in comic stores when it comes out, and the TV show continues to get high ratings every season.  So naturally, when something gets big, tie in media is eventually going to get made. In this case, it’s the book, The Walking Dead: The Rise of the Governor, by Jay Bonansinga and Robert Kirkman.

For anyone that doesn’t know, the Governor, Phillip Blake, is one of the more famous characters from the series. He is the psychotic leader of a small town called Woodbury, which has managed to barely survive the zombie outbreak. The book takes place early on in the outbreak, following Phillip and his friends and family as they survive the zombie apocalypse. Not much is known about the Governor’s past in the comics, and the TV show gave him a little back story, but for the most part his background has remained a mystery until now. Continue reading

StrengthsFinder 2.0: Test Your Might?

During my travels I ended up staying in California at an aunt’s house for a few days.  Much to my surprise, one of my cousins, M, happened to be staying there as well.  During one of our conversations, she brought up a book called StrengthsFinder 2.0.

I had never heard of this book.  Truthfully, I never would have even bothered with it had it not been for M.  She’s a natural charmer, highly energetic and spoke about the book with such fervent passion that I was pretty much helpless.  As the cliché goes, I fell hook, line, and sinker.  Curiosity eventually got the better of me and I decided to check this book out.  M, if you read this, I gotta say, you’d make one hell of a saleswoman!

StrengthsFinder 2.0 was published back in 2007 and written by Tom Rath.  Essentially, the book says that society spends an unhealthy amount of time trying to fix our deficiencies instead of fine-tuning and exploiting our natural abilities or strengths.  It stresses that the “you can be good at anything if you work hard enough” mentality is highly flawed and that we should instead embrace a “you cannot be anything you want to be, but you can be a lot more of who you already are” attitude.  Rath does bring up quite a few good points throughout the short read, but most of the first part of the book is spent explaining the 40+ years research process and how the assessment works, with the second half describing the 34 common strengths that humanity shares and how to best utilize them. Continue reading

Naked Heat: Compelling Murder Mystery or Cheap Tie In?

ABC has an excellent show called “Castle,” that is worth watching (and that is not just my love for Nathan Fillion giving that endorsement). It’s about a fictional writer, Richard Castle, who tags along with a female cop in order to do research for a series of books he writes, based on her. However, I’m not here to write about the show itself. ABC, in a rather brilliant form of marketing, has published two books under the Richard Castle name to tie in with the show. The first book, which was entitled, “Heat Wave,” was a short, fun read, keeping on par with the show.  So with high hopes, and without hesitation, I picked up the second book.

This is published as a legitimate book, including the fake author biography in the back. We’re supposed to take Richard Castle seriously as an author, but if that is the case, he’s a bit of a Mary Sue. The whole book is played out like an episode of the show, with the characters’ names changed.  For those of you that don’t know, a Mary Sue is a fan fiction trope where the author of the story inserts him or herself into what they’re writing about, usually as the main character. Everyone loves him or her and they solve all the problems that occur.
This is exactly what’s done here with the Richard Castle character inserting himself as Jameson Rook, the popular writer that everyone loves. It comes off as lazy writing to me, by both the ghost author and the fake author. We’re supposed to believe this is a New York Times bestselling author, and it just takes me out of the experience. I’m probably thinking about it too much, as this is just supposed to be a tie in book, but I need to explain this to get into the main problem I had with the plot. Continue reading

Pariah: A Different Approach to Zombie Horror

Pariah, by Bob Fingerman, is an engrossing tale about a group of NYC residents who are trapped within the safety of an apartment complex on the Upper East Side after a zombie outbreak ravages humanity on a global scale. Months have gone by since the initial outbreak and their food and water supply is rapidly dwindling. When it appears that hope is truly lost, the survivors spot a lone teenage girl walking amongst the undead, completely unharmed and seemingly able to repulse them.

Normally when people think of zombies, they think of George Romero, Resident Evil (or at least I do), and the trademark brainsss, blood, guts, and gruesome deaths associated with the genre. Over the years we’ve seen the zombie evolve from a shambling, festering corpse to a fast, almost cunning horror. Keep in mind that whether we see the resilient flesh-eaters or the rabid, murderous “zombie” found in 28 Days Later or The Crazies, one consistency has always been that 9 out of 10 times zombie outbreaks occur from either a toxic chemical or airborne virus that’s part of a very vague top secret military and/or pharmaceutical experiment. The other constant is that the characters in these stories usually serve as nothing more than zombie chow, so it’s very refreshing to read an intelligent, thoughtful narrative where human psychology takes a step forward while typical zombie fare gracefully bows down.

The world of Pariah is truly gripping and the characters themselves are what makes the story so great. It’s very rare to find a book where you feel like you are a part of that world. This book was so engrossing that it took me a mere day to read all 365 pages. I shared in their loss, their apprehension towards each other, and in their futility as they stared out their windows for hours at a time, throwing bricks, papers, or even spitting at the undead below to kill time. For those of you who are worried that the story is pure psych and not enough violence, don’t worry: there is definitely a fair amount of blood and gore. It wouldn’t be zombie lit if a few people didn’t get mauled. Now would it? Continue reading

Running into Classics: Around the World in Eighty Days

In my mad desire to prove some unspecified thing to some unspecified person, I have decided to run the New York City Marathon. I have made this decision several years ago, but failed to train for it for the past two years. This year my failure was not as great. I’m certainly not ready for anything as serious as 23.2 miles, but I’m getting there. What “getting there” entails is basically running for as long as I can, and so far, that’s about an hour and forty minutes. The problem with this is that I can only zen out for so long before I realize that not only am I in pain, but I am also bored. My brain has been rewired due to recent technology advances (a.k.a. the iPhone) and now expects constant entertainment. So I began to download audiobooks from the public domain, the ones that are out of copyright and where a nice amateur reads them for you and records it on their PC. This wonderful place is called Librivox.

That long-winded intro was meant to explain why all of a sudden I will be reviewing really, really old books, also known as classics. What’s the point of reviewing them? Hasn’t everyone read them already, isn’t this why they’re called classics? Everyone read ‘em and liked ‘em and kept on reading ‘em through the ages.  Well, I have doubts about our generation. We have too many new things to amuse ourselves with, and our desire for the next new thing definitely overcomes any interest we have in anything classical, since we all know it just means really, really old. So, I’ll try to bridge this gap a bit today by telling you, faithful reader, about Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne. Continue reading

Bite Me: A Love Story — A review

Vampires have somehow become a very popular trend in the last few years, with everyone seemingly wanting to cash in on them. From “Twilight” to “The Vampire Diaries,” the undead have spread through the media and there is seemingly no escape from them. Christopher Moore’s latest book, “Bite Me: A Love Story,” also tells a story about vampires, but not in the traditional sense. No one in this book sparkles.

Finishing up the trilogy started fifteen years ago, which previously included “Bloodsucking Fiends,” and “You Suck: A Love Story,” Moore released “Bite me”  at a great time, with everyone wanting to read about vampires (more than pirates, or even ninjas). However, these are not your typical vampires. Yes, they will still die if exposed to sunlight, but they are not the old, romantic brooding types that everyone obsesses over. They are not hundreds of years old and trying to hide among the humans in their secluded castles. These are regular people who got turned and are living with it, one day at a time.

The story is mainly told through the eyes of Abby Normal, an underage goth girl that is, like all goth girls, obsessed with vampires. She serves as a daytime minion to Tommy Flood, a young writer from Illinois, and Jody, his girlfriend who happen to be vampires. The book mainly focuses on their group trying to figure out how to stop a group of vampire cats from killing all the homeless people in San Francisco. The plot, while ridiculous, serves as a vehicle for the character interaction, which is where Moore’s clever writing really shines. He writes dialogue which produces laugh out loud funny lines one after the next, without making it seemed forced. Continue reading