No Halloween Plans

I’m not planning to go to any parties or do anything special for this Halloween.  Just not feeling motivated for it this year.

The most we’re doing is tonight we’re going to break in a new Board Game — Last Night On Earth. A zombie survival game.

 

I’ll let you know how it is.

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Book Review Soulless

I have  just finished reading, Soulless, by Gail Carriger. (Full disclosure as regular readers here know, I personally know Ms. Carriger so take that for what it is worth in this review.)

Soulless is a difficult book to define by genre. It has elements of Romance, Steam-punk, historical fiction, and horror all thrown together in its both complex and straightforward plot. I am not normally drawn to paranormal fiction, particularly  what I call Rock-And Roll Vampires. I prefer my vampires to be curse monster, hellspawn that just cry out for a good staking, but I recognize that I am in the minority with that viewpoint. Romances also in general do not work for me and I have never read a steam-punk book. (The closest I have come before with steam-punk was the TV series The Wild Wild West.) So this book was not one I planned on reading.

However as I followed Gail’s blog about the selling and publication of the story I became more interested. So when the novel was released I purchased a copy for my sweetie-wife and I to read.

It was a fun and fast read. Gail has done a wonderful job at world building. I read the novel as I was doing the heavy lifting for my own new novel and because of that I think I watched her world building a little more closely than I might have otherwise. Gail has a neat solution to the problem often ignore in vampire fiction, namely, why aren’t we up to our armpits in vampire and werewolves? Frankly if it was so easy to sire new vampires and werewolves they would be worse than zombies in terms of overrunning the world. In addition to solving that problem, she made it part of her integral plotting. The work builds, generally seamlessly, on itself to create a world that is utterly believable, with characters that flow naturally from their environment and yet are unique and memorable (that is not an easy trick, my friends).

There’s enough romance to satisfy the ‘shippers out there, enough werewolves and vampires to make the supernatural fans happy, and action and adventure to carry the rest of us along on a thrilling ride that does not slow down. Let me tell you this woman knows how to pace a story.

The novel, however, is not without its flaws. There was a bit of cavalry action that was not as well established as it should have been. (At least for my tastes and that’s all any reviewer can really speak to.) Also there wasn’t enough of a cost paid by the heros at the end of the book as I would have liked. (But then again I am the person who thinks more of the Fellowship should have died during the War of The Ring than just poor Boromir.)

These are small flaws and I have thrown books written by far more established authors across the room for the sins of bad writing. There is no bad writing in Soulless and I will be buying the sequel Changeless next year.

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Sunday Night Movie OSS 117; Cairo Nest Of Spies

oss 117 Released in the USA in May 2008 this French film is a deadpan spoof of classic 60’s spy films. OSS 117 is the title and code name for the lead character, played perfectly by Jean Dujardin. (Picture here as his character us learning to Mambo with lovely co-star Berenice Bejo.)

OSS 117 is sent to Cairo after the agent already in place goes missing and is considered assassinated. His mission is to find out who killed Jack Jefferson, OSS 117’s best friend, discover the fate of a missing Soviet ship full of arms, investigate local islamic terrorists out to overthrow the government and protect the French interests in the region. You know, the typical stuff that James Bond does before breakfast.

Oss 117 thinks he’s Bond. This is the 50’s. He dresses in the height of fashion, he knows every woman wants to bed him and he utterly clueless to just how thick he really is.

Jean Durjandin plays Sean Connery but with just the right amount of overacting. He clearly studied Connery’s movements and mannerisms, then repeated them in a larger broader fashion for comedy. The satire works spot-on. He delivers puns and quips that no one thinks is funny save himself. He routinely misses vital clues while self absorbed with some tiny detail that matters to only him, such as ‘Has the car been washed recently?’

Even with the subtitles getting the way of some subtle verbal performances, this film was a real treat and one I am likely to pick-up and add to my collection.

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An additional advantage to eReaders

So I have now read a few books on my Ezreader pro and I’ve discovered another advantage to reading on the eReader vs reading a dead tree edition.

I have a better idea of the quality of the writing than from just the dead tree.

It’s all about the ending. When I read 1633 I was shocked when there were no more pages turns left. The book felt incomplete. Too many loose ends left unresolved and so forth.

With other books I could feel that the author was bringing me safely back down to the end of the story. The arc of the narrative flowed and there was no sudden feeling of where the hell is the rest of the book.

I just finished reading Trading In Danger by Elizabeth Moon. (A book I would not have read had it not been for the EzReader Pro. Mysterious Galaxy had it in e-formats but not dead tree.) Even though the author left many threads open for further stories and novels, the story felt complete. Even though I could not see how many page turns I had left, I could feel the resolution of the ending unfolding. This did not happen with 1633.

I’m currently reading, and enjoying very much, Soulless by my friend Gail Carriger.

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The Book That Changed My Life

Recently my friend Gail Carriger had on her website the story of the book that changed her life. I thought I should share my story about the book that did the same thing for me.

Like most writers I have been a reader since I was a child. Unlike most writers as a child I liked non-fiction books much better than fiction books. I have always been a voracious learner and I can distinctly remember thinking I didn’t want to read story books because I wouldn’t learn anything from them.

One day in school we were assigned a book report to fill out. The teacher handed out an outline of what we needed to have in the report and then said we could go to the library and select our own books.

Well, being a science geek even at an early age I got myself a book about the planet Mars. I read the book – enjoyed it very much thank you – and then sat at the kitchen table and started to work on the report,

Title: well, that was easy enough. I copied the title into the outline format given to us.

Main Character: Mars

Plot or Conflict: Hmmm, I was stumped. I was sitting there, scratching my head trying to figure out what to fill that space with when my sister discovered me at work. My sister had been given a large amount of discretion in my schooling. She decided that I was not going to do a book report on a non-fiction book. Nope, that wasn’t going to happen. She grabbed a book from her collection and placed that before me.

I was going to read this book. I was going to write a report on this book. SHE would read and approve my report and then I could submit it to my teacher.

*sigh*

Star Beast As you can see the novel was the Robert Heinlein juvenile, The Star Beast. The cover art you see is the cover art of the copy I read.

So I read the book. I liked it, but at this time I did not know it had changed the course of my destiny forever.

I turned in the report – I have no memory what sort of grade I earned with it, and then I went back to reading my usual selection of science books from the library.

A few weeks later I was walking through the kitchen of our home and I spotted a black bound book on the table. I picked it up and started reading the first page. Then I read the next page and the page after that.

Well, you know how that turned out. I read the whole book, throughly enjoyed myself, and now discovered I had a taste for this Robert A Heinlein fellow, as this second book was Between Planets.

Between PlanetsNow I was lost. I quickly revised my rule about reading. I read non-fiction books and the novel of Robert Heinlein because clearly I could learn a lot from him. The sad thing is I quickly ran out of Heinlein juveniles to read. There weren’t that many of them and I was a fast reader. By the time that happened though I had discovered Isaac Asimov and his robot stories. My rules changed again and now in my little mind it was okay to read non-fiction and science-fiction (see, the science made it all okay).

Well that fell apart within a year or two when I read Beat to Quarters (in the UK it was known as The Happy Return),  the first Horatio Hornblower story.

I gave up. I became a reader of all sorts of things, and more importantly the idea took seed in my brain that I might even write stories. I had never thought of that before, though I have always been cursed with an over-active imagination.

The one event of reading The Star Beast set me down the path of my life. It gave me my life-long love of written fiction and the crazy dream of being a published author.

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Follow-up on Sarah Palin

When Sarah Palin announced on the 4th of July that she was quitting as Governor of Alaska I had some conjectures as to why she did it.

Here’s one of them:

3) She’s gotten a better offer. Some sort of TV show or other major media spotlight that pays better and flatters her ego better. This is credible if that’s what she really wants. To be the conservative Oprah would be a gig she is well suited for — but then again I don;t a high opinion of Oprah as a thinker either. If this is the case we’ll hear about it soon, otherwise why quite now?

Now we’re near the release of her book, Going Rogue. (I assume it’s not a not to play thieves book for D&D Gamers.) This book is reported going to be released with 1.5 millions copies on the first printing.

This along with nice speaking fees for closed to the press speeches I think nicely demonstrates that Sarah Palin quite for the money.

The surprising thing is that she is still respected by many as a future leader of the Republican Party. A quitter.

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