Holy Cow by David Duchovny

Cow

A cow, a pig, and a turkey walk onto a plane.  Seriously, they walk onto a plane and fly to the middle east where theythe-mad-reviewer-reading-challenge-2015 inadvertently unite the Palestinians and the Israelis.  Elsie Bovary is a cow who was happy with her grass chewing life.  One day, she ends up peering into the window of the farm-house and finds out there’s something called an “industrial meat farm.”  This shakes her world to the core and Elsie is determined to leave farm life and her bleak future far behind.  Shalom (f/k/a Jerry),  the pig, and Tom, the turkey, get wind of Elsie’s plan and decide to join her on her quest to find a better life.  Together they find their way to an airport, fly to foreign lands, and come to the realization that what is imagined doesn’t always work out.

Holy Cow by David Duchovny is a dry, witty book full of humor, self-realization, and apparent unintentional peace making.  I have to admit my initial draw to this book was based on the author alone.  I’m a big Duchovny fan and have always liked his sense of humor.  I read the book description and it was a no brainer for me since I enjoy books written in this tone.  Duchovny peppers in pop culture and rock music references, along with words on how to live in harmony with the world and one another, throughout the book.  Elsie even slips in names of who should play whom for any script writers that may be reading.  Admittedly this book won’t be for everyone – Elsie’s and her cow friend Mallory use “cray cray” and other slang terms – and the target audience seems a bit jumbled.  This isn’t exactly a kids book since the humor is far more on the adult side, though there are several references on how to read certain things to your kids within the story.  Tom and Shalom are good counterparts to Elsie and provide the extra comic relief, even when not needed.

If you enjoy slightly off books that are witty and humorous, this book is for you.  Even if you are just a David Duchovny fan, this one is for you.  The book read as I imagined one written by Duchovny would.  I found it thoroughly enjoyable and laughed out loud several times.  Elise and her fellow travelers are a good-hearted lot and make for a fun read.

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Descent by Tim Johnston

Descent

The Courtland family is on their last family vacation in Colorado before their oldest, daughter Caitlin heads off to college. Caitlin, who is the-mad-reviewer-reading-challenge-2015a runner and Sean, on his bike, head out for a run/bike ride together.  Caitlin, impatient at times runs ahead of her brother and waits for him to catch up. Sean, while out of sight of his sister, gets hit by a truck and is seriously injured. Caitlin, desperate to get help since cell service is a no go so high in the mountains, hops in the truck of the driver who hit Sean. Caitlin never returns with help for Sean and the Courtland family begin their agonizing search to find Caitlin.  What lies ahead of them is years of pain, loneliness, and a losing struggle to stay connected as a family.

In Descent Tim Johnston does a good job of portraying a family’s agony of a lost child.  The family is fractured to begin with but the events on the mountain cause the fracture to become a gaping hole.  The parts told from the mother’s point of view were at first confusing and give the reader a sense this person is on the brink of losing her grip with reality.  I was initially a bit put off by these parts but then came to think of it as an effective way to show how the mom was dealing (or not dealing) with what happened.  I imagine it would be pure torture not knowing what happened to a child or knowing the whereabouts of that child. Later in the book the mom’s point of  view gets a little more clear given the passage of time, though she is still a tortured soul.  After the loss of Caitlin, the family stays in Colorado for a few months while the search for her progresses.  After a while, it’s time for Sean and his mom to return home so he can return to school and the father stays in Colorado, never giving up hope to find Caitlin.

The loss of Caitlin seems to have taken Sean off track and, a few years later, he is wandering the country, doing little jobs when he can find the work.  A series of events unfolds that cause Sean to eventually gets back together with his dad in Colorado and it’s at this point the book picks up steam. I don’t want to give too much away since I enjoyed how things played out in the second half of the book.  I’ll just say the pace picks up and the book becomes fairly suspenseful.  An overall enjoyable read.  A bit start/stop at the beginning but after the first part the story becomes a bit more cohesive and draws to a satisfying conclusion.

The Martian by Andy Weir

IMG_20150211_223744_853Mark Watney has just realized he’s been stranded on Mars after his crew members, believing he died during a wind the-mad-reviewer-reading-challenge-2015storm, left him there.  Stuck on Mars with no way to contact anyone, Mark doesn’t let the bleak odds defeat him.  Mark’s not a pessimistic guy, he’s able to think quickly and his engineering and botanist knowledge are all fortunate features/skills to possess if there is any chance to make it off the red planet alive.

The Martian by Andy Weir is a surprisingly funny, witty, quick paced book.  The main character’s personality is key to his likability as well as the plausibility for the story itself.  The book starts out being told from Watney’s perspective and Weir does a good job of bringing in mission control’s role at the right time.  A book told solely from and about one character could get boring quickly, even if there is a good amount of humor and unexpected situations. Having the mission control side of the story come into play helped keep this book moving and added the extra bits of suspense.

The humor was a favorite part of this book for me.  Giving Mark a wicked sense of humor made for fun reading.  If the main character would have been serious, practical, and regimented, I don’t think it would have been successful.  To be stuck in such a hopeless situation I think you’d have to find a way to keep positive, why continue trying otherwise?  A few parts of the book got a bit too technical for my taste and I found myself skimming a few paragraphs every so often.  The last 100 pages moved very fast and was suspenseful even though I could tell how it would end.  Watney faces success and failure over and over again and finding out how/if he overcomes each circumstance made for an interesting story.

The end of the book featured some background on the author and his insight into his writing, which I thought was a great thing to include.  It provided an extra insight into the author and why he choose to write Mark Watney as he did.  The Martian is an entertaining book that is interesting and suspenseful and a very fun read.

Mort(e) by Robert Repino

IMG_20150120_184037Sebastian is a normal house cat living his cat life.  His human is having an affair with the neighbor and the neighbor the-mad-reviewer-reading-challenge-2015brings his dog Sheba over, allowing Sebastian to strike up a loving relationship with Sheba.  Sebastian is content with his life with Sheba and he quickly grows to love her and cherish their time together.

Meanwhile, the ants have had it and have started their war with the humans.  The ants have made it so the animals on the planet can walk upright, talk, think, and act like a human would.  The ants have made an army of their own super-sized ants as well as an army of the animals in the world.  The animals, with their new-found abilities, are super soldiers who seem to revel in taking down their former oppressors with no regret.  The humans fight back by using a bio-weapon name EMSAH.  Who will this battle – the animals/insects or the humans?  Are the animals any better off living their new ways of life?

So goes the bat-shit crazy concept behind Mort(e) by Robert Repino.  Ants lead the rebellion along with humanized animals to obliterate the humans on the planet.  However, bat-shit crazy isn’t how this book really plays out.  It has very somber tones and a reluctant hero in Mort(e), f/k/a Sebastian.  Sebastian eventually gets rid of his “slave” name, taking Mort(e) as his new world name.  All Mort(e) really cares about is trying to find his friend Sheba.  Sheba went missing shortly after the animals started their transformations and Mort(e) has no idea where she went. Mort(e) eventually becomes part of a militia, where he achieves legendary status in the war against the humans.  Mort(e) doesn’t really care about this.  He’s like someone who is really good at a job they hate – it comes natural to them and, damn are they good, but they have something they’d much rather be doing.  For Mort(e) that’s finding Sheba.

As mentioned before, this book is a bit on the somber side.  The fellow soldiers that Mort(e) comes to know mostly have bleak memories of their time before and their stories are sad reflections of how some humans can treat animals.  This adds to the sad tone of the book.  It’s not a depressing book, just has an overall sadness to it.  The cause behind the bio-weapon EMSAH takes the book in a direction I wasn’t quite expecting, but Mort(e) stays true to himself and his cause – finding Sheba. Overall a good book.  A every unique concept that gets a little off track when dealing with the EMSAH virus, but well worth the read.

Under the Dome – T.V. Series

On Monday, CBS debuted their version of Stephen King’s 1,072 page opus Under the Dome. I read the book back when it first came out in 2009 and have to admit my memory of what happened is a bit on the fuzzy side.  I recall enjoying the book but the specifics of it have since escaped me.

Given I’m a raging King fan, I was more than willing to give this series a shot and view it.  I have to say I was happy with the first episode.  It wasn’t excellent, but not too many of King’s book to T.V. shows are.  I know the writers changed quite a few things from the book.  Since I don’t recall the details I’m good with the changes.  One thing I do recall is the rather gruesome death of an animal in the book – a woodchuck, changed to a cow for the show.  I thought this was a good change since it was a better representation of the arrival of the dome.  A bigger target to show the effect of being cut off.  Another thing that changed (I’ve read in read in reviews, full disclosure since I don’t recall this fact) is that the sound doesn’t travel through the dome as in does in the book.  Again, I’m good with this change.  I think it’s a good effect of showing how the town is cut off from the outside world and is in its own realm.  Lots of characters in the book as well as in the show.  The book actually has a three page list of the main characters at the beginning.  Always a scary sign when reading a book and being given a list of who’s who before even starting :-).

King’s book to movie/T.V. have been hit or miss for me.  Some I’ve loved and some I’ve hated.  The ones that seem as if they’d be more of a successful to me are the ones where the “evil” character is more on the human side rather than on the imagination side (e.g. Annie Wilkes from Misery vs., say, Pennywise from It).  Given The Dome is an inanimate object I think this series will be a good translation.  CBS did a good job of promoting The Dome – not too in your face and featuring the dome in many of its promos.  Future episodes will tell if this series is successful or not.  This T.V. junkie is hoping its good.

How about you – what are your favorite King book to movies?  Any books you wish would be made into a movie or a T.V. series?

The Following – worth following?

Last night (1/21/13) Fox debut a new t.v. showed called The Following.  The show is about a former FBI agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) who is called back to work the case of the killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) he captured in 2003 and who has recently escaped.  The premise of the series is Joe Carroll has built a cult following of fellow serial killers who communicate and connect with each other to commit gruesome murders.  An interesting spin on the serial killer plot line.

I have to say that the first episode did a really good job of drawing me in and keeping the suspense going.  I was appalled at the ways the first victim met their end – which is a good thing to say when talking about a crime series.  Joe Carroll is a former teacher who is obsessed with Edgar Allen Poe and this obsession played out with the murders that put him into prison to begin with, as well as the murders that will happen after his escape.

As with all t.v. shows, there are few things that could be better – the female FBI agent seems like she’s trying too hard and the other FBI agent seems suspiciously suspect (maybe I’m just seeing a connection that’s not there).  Overall, I would say this was worthy first episode and look forward to seeing how the series plays out.  The Following has at least one follower so far.

T.V. Premiere Season Bliss (spoilers)

Thursday started a full season of tv bliss for a self-proclaimed tv junkie.  The Big Bang Theory, Vampire Diaries, Project RunwayGrimm, Bedlam, The Walking Dead, American Horror Story, plus Bravo’s reality shows (yes I’m addicted to those shows as well) and some others I’m sure I’m missing.

My Thursday started out with the Big Bang Theory (last week was the premiere) with Amy being worried about Sheldon’s new assistant (really Amy?).  For fans of BBT, we know that Amy has nothing to worry.  Penny however, may have a different story.  The Big Bang is a great show to watch for laughs and entertainment.  Sheldon is my favorite but every character on the show is great.  Then it was on to Vampire Diaries and Elena’s “change.”  For those who read the books last season’s cliff hanger wasn’t too much of a surprise (we knew it would happen eventually).  I did think her change was a little bit dragged out and too dramatic, but what else should I have expected from Elena?  Caroline was initially happy when she thought Tyler had returned, but Klaus managed to have a little surprise for her.  Bonnie struggled with wanting to help her friends but using magic that she shouldn’t be.   And Damon and Stephan fall into their usual roles of trying to save/help Elena.  Don’t get me wrong – I still enjoy Vamp Diaries, I was just a bit impatient with the premiere.  Over on Project Runway it was time to decide who wouldn’t be going to fashion week.  I still watch PR but since the switch to Lifetime, the designers don’t seem to be pushed enough.

Friday – thank Grimm it’s Friday!  I couldn’t agree more with NBC’s tag line for this show.  After a stress filled week of work, having Grimm to look forward to is exactly what is needed.  The episode started out with what seemed like Juliette finally remembering Nick, but it ended up just being a dream.  Grimm is one of my favorite shows.  An original, scripted show that has quality story lines and keeps the action going is rewarding to watch (from a tv junkie point of view).  The character development is well paced and makes sense.  This one show that I hope is on for quite some time.

Then tonight – Saturday – it’s Bedlam on BBC America.  This is another spooky show that is well done (its a British show, how can it not be?).  This is the second season of the show on BBC-A and it was a good premiere last week.  Hoping they can explain a little more about Jed’s connection with Ellie

Sunday night is the long anticipated third season of The Walking Dead.  I haven’t read the comic books but I understand the prison is something fans have been waiting for.  After the long, drawn out time on Herschel’s farm last season, I’m hoping the prison is full of action and great zombie kills that were missing from last season.

Then this Wednesday is the 2nd season premiere of American Horror Story.  Last season FX did a superb job with AHS.  The fact that AHS is a stand alone story makes it easy for new viewers to hop on board – no catching up on what happened before.  The previews for AHS have looked wonderfully disturbing and I think I’ll have to DVR it and watch during the day.

So many shows to watch and so little time.  I hope fellow tv junkies have enjoyed the premieres of their shows.  Happy t.v. viewing to all!