Wednesday night book haul

New books on a Wednesday night? Weird I know. I don’t usually make a stop at the bookstore midwp-1470937404975.jpg-week, but my book-club met last night and we were just down the street from my local B&N so stopping by made sense.

This week I picked up three new books: Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch, The Widow’s Guide to Sex and Dating, by Carole Radziwell, and The Cemetery Boys by Heather Brewer.

I watched Wayward Pines, based off of books from Blake Crouch, and enjoyed the t.v. show.  I hadn’t read any of his books before but the reviews of Dark Matter have been positive so I thought I’d give it a chance. It’s about a guy who wakes up to a life that is not his own and he has no idea who the people around him are. Sounds like a good “where the hell am I” story.

The Widow’s Guide to Sex and Dating is my next book club read. My fellow clubbers and I have all had a stressful past few weeks and I recommended this book as a good, mindless, fun read. Nothing too heavy or serious since we all could use a bit of brightening of mood. This one is written by Carole Radizwell, most recently known for her role on Real Housewives of New York, but she’s got the skills and experience to back it up – a BA and a masters, and she worked for several years at ABC News – so it’s not one of those “I’m a reality star and now I’m a writer” things.  The plot of the book somewhat mirrors Radziwell’s own life – a woman widowed at a young age who finds herself out in the crazy dating world. Seems like this one will be a fun one to read.

And the third book, The Cemetery Boys, is by an author that I’ve read before. Heather Brewer wrote The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod, a YA vampire series that I liked quite a bit. This third buy is about a teenager and his family who are broke and need to move in with his grandmother to a small, creepy town.The teenager meets a girl and her twin brother and things get strange after that.  Again, not a deep thought read, but since I liked the author I figure I’d give this one a chance.

Percentage chances of me reading these books:

  • The Widows Guide to Sex and Dating – 100% It’s for my book-club and I’ve read every book so far. Plus,this is one I picked to read, so it’s being read
  • Dark Matter – 95% I’m curious about this book since it sounds so interesting. Slim chance it’ll sit in my TBR pile for a long time
  • The Cemetery Boys – 85% Probably won’t read this one right away, want to read a few others before it. Certainly another that won’t be relegated to the TBR pile for long

Look for more book haul posts since one of my addictions is buying books. Hope you enjoyed this one.

 

Wow, that was a long time away…

So, I’m back! At least I plan to be.  After an unintended and very long hiatus away from any posts (my own new ones or even reading blogs I follow), I’ll be back at it. My job got super busy and I wasn’t able to squeeze in posts/reads when I normally do. Then I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to post anything and was super unmotivated.

Things really haven’t slowed down work wise but I’m going to start posting again. I’m feeling a bit empty in terms of a creative outlet so, thankfully, the motivation is back again!  I plan on doing my normal book reviews since I haven’t slowed down on reading (always time to read – amirite?).  I’ll also continue my Shows Worth Watching posts (I can’t even remember the last one of those I did).  I plan on trying some new things – like highlighting new book purchases, doing a book club review post, and some other new stuff that pops up whenever I think of it.

So watch this space for regular posts. Thanks to those who have followed or read anything I post in the past and sorry for the long time away.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Life suReady Player Onecks in 2044.  Most people live their lives via the virtual reality world OASIS – a free online, VR place for people to “live”. Wade Watts spends almost every minute of his waking life there, hoping to find a better life in a fake world.  When the creator of OASIS, James Halliday (who was also the richest man alive), dies he leaves a puzzle within OASIS where, after someone finds all three hidden keys, that person will inherit Halliday’s money.  Needless to say, this starts a frenzy of action since everyone desperately wants to be the winner. Wade doesn’t realize his quest for the keys will be fraught with danger and unexpected surprises.

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline, was recommended to me by a friend.  I have to admit the synopsis I read for the book didn’t sound all that enticing to me. I’m not a gamer and I had a hard time thinking that a book based in a VR gaming world could be good. But I gave it a shot anyway since I usually end up enjoying books this friend recommends. Happily,  I wasn’t disappointed with this one.

RPO is loaded with 80’s nostalgia and reading this book was like a trip down memory lane for me.  Cline is spot on with his references and you can tell he actually lived though and grew up in the 80’s rather than researched the 80’s. The James Halliday character set up his game so that those trying to find the keys would have to have almost the same knowledge of the 80’s as he did.  This means that Wade has spent hours upon hours watching, reading, listening, and researching every single pop culture, and non-pop culture, eventh, thing, or moment that happened in the 80’s. This isn’t to say Wade doesn’t have any friends.  Well, not in the real world at least.  He’s got a few close friends within OASIS, though no one has ever met the other in person.

And that is the basis of this book.  Not the 80’s tsunami of information or the additive world of gaming and VR.  It’s the strong relationships that are formed within OASIS that is the driving force. One can live in a fake world but one still needs to have other people to talk to, to get to know, to feel a connection with, even if they’ve never met face to face. The strength of Wade’s relationship is what makes him a likable person and helps him on his quest for the keys.

The first quarter of the book is very heavy with tech references. This is necessary since the book needs to set the VR world and explain how it works, how others interact within it, and how dependent upon it everyone appears to be.  Once you get past the techy stuff, the book progresses nicely and becomes more interesting.  Wade goes up against a mega corporation that wants to win the quest so that they can then start charging people to use OASIS. The struggle between Wade and the corporation forces Wade to get to know his VR friends on a much higher lever and work together in order to have a chance at winning.

I was pleasantly surprised with this book and was very happy to have read it. RPO is more about the strength of relationships, even if you’ve never met in person, not allowing yourself to become isolated due to fears of rejection, the never-ending corporate greed, and a tiny bit about the environment.I highly recommend this book, even if you don’t find video games or VR interesting. This book has so much more to it and is well worth the read.

The X-Files – My Struggle

Spoilers will be in this post so if you didn’t watch The X-Files last night, don’t read.

We’ve been lied to. What we believe about aliens and what we think we know about aliens has all been a lie. It’s all  been a big cover-up in order to create a new world order. Nothing is known anymore.

That’s what viewers found out about half way through last night’s return of a six run episode of The X-Files. Thirteen years after the series went off the air, fans were treated to seeing old favorites back on the little screen again. No it wasn’t perfect, but it was so good to hear those opening notes of the theme song and to see Mulder and Scully again was everything I hoped it would be.

Mulder, living out in the middle of nowhere, is contacted by Scully in order for the two of them to meet with Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale), a radical right-wing, tv host who is also a racing conspiracy theorist. O’Malley brings Mulder and Scully to meet a girl who claims to have been repeatedly abducted by aliens who also impregnated her and stole her babies several times over. The meeting appears suspect and the girl seemingly coached by O’Malley. Mulder later goes back to her house and to see if he can get the truth out of her. It’s from this meeting that Mulder’s new world order theory comes about.  He believes all the work he and Scully did in the past and the things they found out were lies. The little green men were just humans dressed up as aliens. Everything has been a cover-up in order for a select few to take over the world.

Mulder believing so quickly in this new world order theory may seem a bit far fetched and convenient plot wise, but Mulder has always had a desperate need to believe. He wants to believe and he’ll do anything to find out the truth.  Is it so hard to believe he’d be convinced of a new idea? What do we know about Mulder from the time we last saw him to now? Nothing really. The world has greatly changed over the past 13 years – cell phones were barely a thing when the show first started airing. Mulder’s search for the truth hasn’t offered him much in terms of answers, so him clinging to a new idea isn’t that hard for me to believe.

What’s harder for me to get on board with is Sully’s implied relationship with O’Malley.  While I like Joel McHale, I don’t think his character quite fits into The X-Files. He’s too brash, too in your face, too much too much.  Why Scully would be involved with this dude is beyond me. He seems more like a way for the writers to say “hey, we know that these crazy, brash, t.v. hosts get a lot of viewers now-a-days, let’s make one who is like that but has a little bit of nuttiness to him.” I’ll be interested to see how his role plays out and how he influences the outcome or ideas of Mulder or Scully.

Overall I was thrilled to see The X-Files back on.  Mulder and Scully are played perfectly and it’s what I’d expect to see after a 13 years hiatus. I was never a Mulder and Scully shipper and I always liked how the show portrayed their romantic relationship as being right on the fringe of everything.  We didn’t really see them together as a couple and the show was so much better for it (see The Vampire Diaries for an example of how main characters getting together and becoming plot can ruin a show). There’s still that biting dynamic between the two. I loved an opening scene when O’Malley pulled up and Scully turned towards him, and the shot showed Mulder looking at Scully for a beat or two without her knowing. It was an excellent way to show their relationship without showing it.

We only get six episodes but that’s Okay. I believe a slightly bumpy start will even itself out and once we find out more about what is really going on, we won’t be bothered by O’Malley’s brashness or Mulder’s new theory.

How about you? Did you enjoy the episode as much as I did? What did you like or not like? I’d love to hear what others have to say!

 

Community Post: Five Great Overlooked and Underrated TV Shows from 2015

Here’s a post from a fellow blogger, Matt Thompson of TheTripleOption, about some t.v. shows that are worth watching.  He kindly asked for a contribution from me and there are three other blurbs, from a fellow blogger a follower of his site, and his own pick, of shows that sound like they’d be worth checking out.  Matt posts about t.v. shows, video games, movies, and the occasional book.  Give the post a read and check out his blog!

In the first community post here on the site, four other writers and I talk about some great overlooked and underrated televisions series we watched this past year.

Source: Community Post: Five Great Overlooked and Underrated TV Shows from 2015

 

You Killed Wesley Payne by Sean Beaudoin

wpid-20151021_074540.jpgDalton Rev rolls into town to work on the case he was hired for – to find out who killed Salt River the-mad-reviewer-reading-challenge-2015High student Wesley Payne. Salt River’s not the typical high school. The staff and faculty are all on the take and the various high school cliques are all out to get each other and would think nothing of trying to off someone. Even the town cops are crooked. All this makes for a tangled web of “who done it” that Dalton has to untie. Everyone’s a suspect. Dalton also gets tangled up in a story of his own while working on the Payne case, which complicates things a bit. But Dalton relies on his trusty private detective handbook to find his way out of the mess as well as help to find Payne’s killer.

You Killed Wesley Payne, by Sean Beaudoin, is a very unique crime-noir novel that was an interesting read.

What’s good: Dalton Rev is a cool kid. I really liked him and would love to read more books with this character. He’s witty, charming, smart, and not afraid to stand up to someone. Aspects that are required for any good detective.

The characters in the book were fun to get to know and held just enough mystery to keep you wanting to find out more. Periodic flashbacks offer insights into Dalton’s background and the reason why he’s a seventeen year old detective who hops from school to school to work on cases.

The hardcover slipcase offers extensive detail on Salt River’s cliques and a provides insight into which ones get along and the typical people found in each one. And the over all story is a fun crime, who-done-it.

What’s not so good: The cliques were hyper clichés of what is found in high school and that really got in the way of the story. At times I found it hard to read past what clique drama was happening and get to the real story. They might have been a deliberate distraction to hide the story of who the killer was, but I found it hard to read through things.

The reason for Wesley Payne’s death was brought up with minor background and caught me off guard a bit. I guess that is a good thing in a crime novel, but it seemed to take such a backseat that I found it hard to really connect the dots in the end.

Overall, You Killed Wesley Payne was a good read that had some great aspects. Some might find the hyper cliché of the cliques hard to get past and may not be able to get to the real story. The main character, Dalton Rev, is an instantly likable character that is a delight to read about and a good soul. The clique chart had me laughing out loud and is definitely worth the hardcover copy. The overall story is interesting, but will take a bit of effort to get to. If you are willing to take a chance on a different type of crime noir, this book is for you.

Shows Worth Watching: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Image from BBC America

Magic has returned to England in the 1800’s. Mr. Norrell, a reclusive magician, has been discovered by a group of magic scholars, who search him out and request that he bring his talents to London. At first Mr. Norrell is reluctant to share his magic, along with his precious books, with anyone. Eventually Mr. Norrell agrees to make the trip to London. While there, he uses magic to bring the beautiful Lady Pole back from the dead.  Doing this has ramifications he never imagined, or wanted.

At the same time another magician is coming forth, the naturally talented and charming Jonathan Strange. Jonathan is torn between his love of magic and his love for the fetching Arabella. While trying to secure his union with Arabella, Jonathan comes across a street magician who proclaims Jonathan is destined to become a great magician. Jonathan eventually meets the reclusive and stubborn Mr. Norrell. The older magician reluctantly agrees to take Jonathan on as his apprentice. The two start out as student and teacher and have a fairly level relationship. Johnathan wants to learn more and practice more of the old, dark ways of magicians. This desire eventually pits the two magicians against each other. The battle between the two has ramifications for all of England, and the future of magic.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, aired on BBC America in the states and was a thoroughly entertaining, compelling, and enjoying, limited series to watch. I wish it would have been longer!

The Gentleman and Arabella

Whats good: So much! Lets start with spot on casting. Jonathan Strange is played by the charismatic and charming Bertie Carvel and Mr. Norrell is played by the brilliantly subdued and subtle Eddie Marsan. I can’t imagine two more perfectly cast actors.  Each actor bringing the character’s nuances to the forefront and the interaction between the two is wonderful to watch. Marsan and Carvel were very convincing in their roles and they also played well off of other cast members. Marc Warren plays The Gentleman with creepy perfection. The Gentleman is summoned with dark magic and is from the kingdom of Lost Hope. He is possessed with a great amount of magic and his desire for beautiful companions sets up heartbreak for many. Charlotte Riley as Arabella, Enzo Cilenti as Childermass, and Alice Englert as Lady Pole are just a few of the other stellar cast members. Each role is played with authenticity, making for a well-rounded cast.

Jonathan Strange and The Gentleman

Special Effects: Special effects can make or break a show or movie. This show kills it by finding the right balance. From the big effects of Jonathan gripping the sand to make the phenomenal sand horses to upright a sinking ship, to the subtle effect of candles and the smoke emitted from them. For a show heavily based on magic, the effects are another star. They don’t distract, which is how all special effects should be.

Tone and color: The setting is England in the 1800’s, with a lot of time taking place during mostly winter. The subdued greens, grays, blues, blacks, etc., help to set the feel and look of the show. Most scenes are the darker side and low lit, giving an air of seriousness to the show. This also allows the actors to shine through since the viewer isn’t distracted by the setting. Rather the setting allows the viewer to be absorbed into the action.

The Story: The overall story is very interesting and I found myself rooting for both magicians, even though I wanted to punch Mr. Norrell at times. The plot involving Childermass was compelling and would have loved it if more about him and his background was offered.

What’s not so good: The show is based on the massive book by Susana Clark (which I have not read but have purchased and I plan to read). Given the massive size of the book, cramming the story into seven episodes made it seemed a bit rushed at times. Maybe one more episode would have made the mini-series that much better. The quick run also didn’t leave room to flesh out some characters that viewers might have liked to learn more about.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, while not a serialized over a few seasons show, is a wonderful and terrific program to watch. Stellar acting, solid special effects, characters viewers can be invested in, and a compelling story, combine to make a very watchable t.v. show. Even if you aren’t a fan of magic, the focus on relationships and what others will do to keep those relationships in tact, make for terrific viewing. I highly suggest you take the time to view this show.  You won’t be disappointed. Check out BBC America or BBC One to find out how to view this show.