Category Archives: review

Review: “Changing the World” by Mercedes Lackey

Changing the World and Other Tales of ValdemarChanging the World and Other Tales of Valdemar by Mercedes Lackey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve been starved for new Valdemar tales as of late. Mercedes Lackey dominated by bookshelves in the ’90s, and while I do like some of her new works, the world of Valdemar will always be my first love.

I think this was the best collection of short stories that’s been put out so far. Admittedly, a couple of them were a bit dull to the point where I skimmed through them, but what really set this book apart, for me, was the last story, “Interview with a Companion” by Ben Ohlander. It was reminiscent of “Interview with the Vampire” by Anne Rice, where the author meets a real Companion, in Kentucky of all places, and learns the world in the books may not just be the product of a woman’s imagination. What a neat concept!

A new Valdemar book will be published in October of this year, so this book of short stories really helped stave off my craving of wanting a new tale.

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What happened to Doctor Who’s originality?

If you know me at all, you know I’m a huge “Doctor Who” fan. Though still a relative newbie to the show, I’ve watched the revised series enough times to have whole chunks of it memorized and I’ve been renting as many of the old ones as I can.

I cried buckets when David Tennant left the show. I loved him and I think he will always be my favorite Doctor, but I was pretty gung-ho to see Matt Smith in the role when it premiered last weekend. I loved the story so much that I was willing to give the new guy as well as his writers a chance.

I'd hit the 'forget' button too if I had to walk around covered in vomit.

The first episode, “The Eleventh Hour,” was OK. Not brilliant, but not bad. It served its purpose in introducing us to the Eleventh Doctor and his new companion, Amy Pond. Smith’s version of the Doctor seems slightly more insane than Tennant’s, and I’m still trying to work out whether or not that’s a good thing. Karen Gillan is cute as a button, but her character, Amy… well, I don’t really like her. But then, I hated Donna when I first met her, and by the end, she was my favorite of all the Doctor’s companions. So I’ll keep an open mind.

The second episode, “The Beast Below,” really threw me, though. With “Doctor Who,” I want to see new and exciting things, but with this episode, the story was just too familiar. I expected more from writer Steven Moffat, who gave us the much-loved “Blink.”

The things that bothered me were first, the obvious Star Wars references. Normally, I love it when shows reference Star Wars, but not this one. “Doctor Who” is its own phenomenon. It doesn’t need pop-culture references. The line “Help us, Doctor, you’re our only hope” had me rolling my eyes. Then, coupled with the Doctor and Amy being shoved down the garbage chute into the waste disposal (mouth) section of the ship, even my mother said, “Well, that’s right out of Star Wars, isn’t it?” Was it done on purpose? I don’t know, but I didn’t care for it.

The second thing that bothered me was that this was not a new story. It was just too much of Ursula K. Le Guin’s story, “The One Who Walk Away From Omelas.” In “Omelas,” Le Guin introduces us to an almost-Utopian society whose inhabitants, upon coming of age, are told that “the good fortune of Omelas requires that a single unfortunate child be kept in perpetual filth, darkness and misery.” Instead of being offered a choice of forgetting, most of the population of Omelas come to terms with the fact that their perfect society requires the sacrifice of one child. Those who don’t walk away.

In “The Beast Below,” the citizens of Starship UK are shown that their society is dependent on the enslavement and torture of a star whale, a benevolent creature and the last of its kind. But most of them choose to forget, though subconsciously, they know something is wrong.

There was just too much similarity to the two stories, and others with the same theme, such as “The Lottery,” for me to really enjoy it for what it was supposed to be — the first real adventure of the Doctor and Amy.

But I’m far from giving up on this season. We still have the return of the Weeping Angels and River Song to look forward to. I’m just disappointed in how this season has begun.

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Review: ‘Kick-Ass’

(WARNING: This post contains spoilers for the movie Kick-Ass. If you don’t want to be spoiled, please skip this post.)

I don’t go to the movies very often. I love movies, but most of the time, I’m content to wait until a movie I’m interested in hits DVD. But there are some movies I make exceptions for.

Kick-Ass is the first movie I’ve seen in 2010. Actually, it’s the first movie I’ve been to in almost a year. For those who may not know much about the story, Kick-Ass is the story of Dave Lizewski, an ordinary high school kid who dreams of making a difference and fighting injustice in the world. So he dons a wet suit and becomes Kick-Ass, which in turn spawns a wave of other masked vigilantes and angering a local drug boss.

Nobody messes with Big Daddy's little Hit Girl.

I had never heard of Kick-Ass until I listened to the Geek Bits podcast where the guy seemed absolutely ga-ga over it. A link in their show notes to one of the trailers piqued my interest. And when the red-band trailer hit the Internet, I figured it might be a movie I would pay to see. It looked pretty awesome, and I was very intrigued by the Hit Girl character. Also, the trailer was pretty funny.

Unfortunately, this was one of those movies where most of the funny bits are in the trailer. That’s not to say I didn’t like the movie, but it wasn’t quite what I thought it was going to be, at least in the way of humor.

I expected the violence and the gore. I’m not usually squeamish about movie violence, but there was one scene where I had to look away (the scene where the bad guys stick the other bad guy in the giant microwave… I knew what was coming and just couldn’t watch). I’ve heard a bunch of criticism over the violence committed by the potty-mouthed, preteen Hit Girl, but none of that bothered me. Hell, it made me feel a bit empowered, even though I am separated from 12 a couple of decades.

Even though the movie wasn’t as funny as I thought it would be, watching Chloe Moretz’s portrayal of Hit Girl was definitely worth the price of admission. I’m not a big Nic Cage fan, but he also rocked the part of Hit Girl’s father, Big Daddy. Aaron Johnson, an actor I’m not at all familiar with, also did a really good job at playing the nerdy, but lovable Kick-Ass.

I have not read the comic that this movie was based on, so I can’t comment as to whether or not I liked or disliked the deviations from the source material, but overall I did enjoy the movie. I think, perhaps, the humor of the movie might have come through more if there had been more than six people in the theater when I saw it. I tend to feed on the energy of the audience. It’s hard to really laugh out loud when the theater is totally silent.

The action was crazy and Chloe Moretz shines in her role. Enough to where I’m actually hoping for a sequel, just so I can see more of her foul-mouthed, ass-kicking character.

All in all, a good movie, just not exactly what I was expecting.

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Review: ‘The Guild’ issue #1

I would totally date any of those avatars... even Zaboo.

I freely admit to being a girl geek, but my areas of “geekspertise” lie mostly in books, TV, movies and Teh Interwebs. I’m not a gamer girl. Aside from puzzle games on the DSi and stupid, mindless Facebook games, my hand/eye coordination is too lousy for anything more serious. Hell, I haven’t even turned my Wii on in over a year. As for comics, well… I’ve never been much of a collector of the American variety. Sure, I read my brother’s X-Men and TMNT comics when we were kids, and I may or may not have owned a small collection of New Kids on the Block comics (I admit nothing!), but I prefer my comics to be the size of a paperback novel, black and white, and Japanese.

So why have I suddenly subscribed to a comic series from Dark Horse about a bunch of online gaming misfits?

Other than my total girl-crush on Felicia Day, I really have no idea.

I fell in love with Day’s Web series, “The Guild,” about a year ago, after a friend linked me to the video for “Do You Want To Date My Avatar.” I’d loved Day in “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog,” and the video was so cute, I had to find out more about her Web series. I watched all the episodes on YouTube and immediately became a fan. Even though I had never been part of an online gaming community (Mafia Wars doesn’t count, right?), I knew people who had. And while I don’t always understand the lingo, I do know RPGs. I can rock the pencil-paper-multisided dice tabletop variety like nobody’s business.

When I heard that “The Guild” was coming to comic book form, I had to get it. I had to know the backstory of the Knights of Good! I had to see Codex in her full-color, two-dimensional glory! The fact that the story was written by Day was just icing on the cake. It gave me hope that the comic would have the same feel of the show. And that was something I was worried about, after recently reading the two “Firefly” graphic novels. I enjoyed them, but I just didn’t get the same feeling from the pages of the comic as I had from the show. I had a hard time hearing the characters in my head. But with “The Guild,” the pages seemed to come to life and it was almost as if I were watching the events unfold on a screen rather than from the pages of a comic book.

The story is awesome. Cyd/Codex is just as neurotic before she joined the Knights of Good. She’s stuck in a boring job and has a boyfriend who is way too into himself to care about Cyd and her feelings. Finding a way to express herself — without having to be herself — is just what she finds when she stops into a gaming store on the way home from her therapist. By creating Codex, Cyd can finally be whoever she wants to be — someone strong and confident with really good hair and cute outfits.

I’m not a comic aficionado. I don’t know what constitutes good artwork. All I know about creating comics I learned from Chasing Amy. So from a critic’s standpoint, I can’t really tell you much about the art style other than, “Pretty. Me like.” I love how the real world and the in-game world have two distinct styles. The real world is more crisp, clean lines, while the in-game world art is more fantasy-based with soft lines and colors — fairy-tale scenery complete with exploding squirrel heads. I love how the two worlds overlap, but are still completely distinct realms unto their own. Kudos to Jim Rugg for bringing the story to life.

I had never bought comics online before, but even that experience I found pleasant — like Cyd getting excited about new in-game hairstyles, I was excited at being able to pick my own covers. Some comic art just doesn’t appeal to me, so getting to pick between different covers was a big plus. All the covers were nice, but some appealed more than others. For issue #1, I chose the Cary Nord cover, because the Knights of Good look totally bad-ass — completely opposite of their real world personalities. Plus, Codex’s outfit looks amazing in that pose. (Did I mention my girl crush?)

Issue #1 ends with a familiar character making his first appearance — the beginning of what will become the Knights of Good. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for issue #2 and meeting more members of the Knights of Good as they find their way into Codex’s band of online misfits.

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“The Lost Symbol” by Dan Brown

The Lost Symbol (Robert Langdon, #3) The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I was really looking forward to this book. I mean, REALLY looking forward to it since I had really enjoyed ‘The Da Vinci Code’ and LOVED ‘Angels and Demons.’ But it took me over a month to read this one. I just couldn’t get into it like I had the first two.

About three-quarters into the book, I realized I wasn’t enjoying it because it didn’t involve some big Catholic conspiracy like the other two had. I love me some Catholic Church conspiracy. In the first two books, I loved how Brown had taken history and shaped it into something exciting. But in this one, all we get are Masonic legends. Maybe I just don’t know enough about the Masons. Maybe I just dislike American history. I was bored and I just wanted it to be over.

When I reread ‘Angels and Demons’ before the movie came out, I couldn’t help but realize that, despite the fact I enjoyed the story tremendously, the writing was really bad. I’ll give ‘The Lost Symbol’ credit in that I think Brown’s writing has improved since ‘Angels and Demons,’ but that couldn’t make up for the story line that was wholly predictable. The best thing about the book was decoding the hidden codes on the book jacket.

Again, it could have just been the subject matter of the book… the Masonic angle. It felt a little too much like “National Treasure,” but not nearly as fun.

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“The Third Secret” by Steve Berry

The Third Secret: A Novel of Suspense The Third Secret: A Novel of Suspense by Steve Berry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I do love a “Catholic conspiracy” novel. Steve Berry gets a lot of comparison to Dan Brown, and while I have to agree that Brown’s stories are more riveting, personally, I think Berry is the better writer.

I really enjoyed this book. “The Third Secret” is the first I’ve read from Berry, so I have high hopes for the next one I plan to read. The book was written before John Paul II passed away, but in the story, he had already passed, and a new pope, Clement XV, spends his nights in the Vatican vaults, obsessed over the third secret of Fatima. The third secret had been hidden away since 1917, and revealed to the world in 2000. But the revelation was so anticlimactic, many have wondered if the entire third secret was told.

Clement instructs his papal secretary, Colin Michener, to discover all he can about the third secret of Fatima, while ambitious men within the Vatican plot to gain power for themselves.

I could hardly put this book down. It made me late for work a couple of times! The ending disturbed me a little bit, but it was still, overall, a very good book. I hope the others he has written are just as riveting.

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“The Princes in the Tower” by Alison Weir

The Princes in the Tower The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
In the late 15th century, the 14-year-old King Edward V and his 12-year-old brother Richard, Duke of York, disappeared, imprisoned in the Tower of London by their uncle, Richard III, never to be seen again.

It is generally accepted that Richard ordered his nephews’ deaths in order to secure the throne for himself. This book looks at all the evidence of those few years of Richard’s reign to prove this.

All the evidence is circumstantial, but compelling. I don’t think there’s any doubt he removed the two boys as they were obstacles to his continued reign. However, it was the disappearance of the princes that proved to be his undoing when an upstart cousin named Henry Tudor (Henry VII) rallied enough support to overthrow Richard, thus beginning one of the greatest dynasties to ever rule England.

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“Cape Storm” by Rachel Caine

Cape Storm (Weather Warden, #8) Cape Storm by Rachel Caine

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I really liked this series when it began, but I had a really hard time getting into this one. It might have been because I could not remember a thing that had happened in the last book, but I was so lost when this one began.

Most of the book is set on a cruise ship that is trying to sail into the heart of a demon-created hurricane, to reach the “bad guy,” appropriately named Bad Bob. And then Joanne is evil. And then she’s not. And then she’s evil again. It might have worked better if it wasn’t written in first person.

I read that there is only one more book in the series, so I suppose I shouldn’t give it up yet. I think I can get through one more.

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Book Review: “The Monstrumologist” by Rick Yancey

I had an opportunity to read an advanced copy of the first novel in a new series for teens in July. This is the review I wrote for it:

The Monstrumologist The Monstrumologist by Richard Yancey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
If I had only two words to describe “The Monstrumologist” by Rick Yancey, they would be “deliciously creepy.” I had not read a horror novel in some time, and I had almost forgotten the thrill of wondering what will happen next, yet almost being too afraid to turn the page!

The book seemed, to me at least, to be almost a cross between a Young Indiana Jones adventure mixed with Stephen King. (Heavy on the King.) The story, set in late 1880s New England, is told from the perspective of 12-year-old Will Henry who is taken in by his parents’ employer, Dr. Warthrop, after their deaths. His life irrevocably changed, he becomes the apprentice to the monstrumologist, or monster hunter. Though the people in the town think the doctor is just an eccentric recluse of sorts, the monsters he hunts are all too real. And when a grave robber comes to their door late one night, with a shroud-wrapped creature in his cart, Will Henry is thrust headlong into a horrifying hunt to find the others… for where there is one, there are more. And they are very, very hungry.

The story is extremely graphic in its horrors, with detailed descriptions of death, mutilation, blood and gore… stuff any horror fan will love. I don’t think I would recommend this to younger kids, but older teens who enjoy the thrill of the macabre will love it. It’s the kind of book you’ll want to read in the dead of night, under the covers with a flashlight. The monster itself is unique and not one I was familiar with, but is written about in such detail that the reader is left with no doubt as to how truly horrifying it is.

The journals of Will Henry, as read in “The Monstrumologist,” tell only one tale of his adventures as an apprentice monster hunter. I, for one, cannot wait to read more!

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