Friday, April 18, 2014

Follow Friday - Virginia Route 154 Is a State Highway in Covington, Virginia


It's Friday again, and this means it's time for Follow Friday. There has been a slight change to the format, as now there are two Follow Friday hosts blogs and two Follow Friday Features Bloggers each week. To join the fun and make now book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:
  1. Follow both of the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts (Parajunkee and Alison Can Read) and any one else you want to follow on the list.
  2. Follow the two Featured Bloggers of the week - Not Yet Read and The Sarcastic Palmtree.
  3. Put your Blog name and URL in the Linky thing.
  4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say hi in your comments.
  5. Follow, follow, follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "Hi".
  6. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the love . . . and the followers.
  7. If you want to show the link list, just follow the link below the entries and copy and paste it within your post!
  8. If you're new to the Follow Friday Hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!
And now for the Follow Friday Question: Spring Break. Where would be your favorite destination spot if you could join the Spring Break festivities?

I would like to go somewhere warm. I would also like to meet all of the members of the cast of Firefly. If I were somehow independently wealthy and had the funds and free time to do so, that would mean that I could go to the upcoming Dallas Comicon in May and fulfill both desires. This, of course, would be a destination pretty much for this year only. In future years I'd probably go somewhere else, since there's not really much reason for me to go to Dallas if Mal, Wash, Zoe, Kaylee, Summer, Simon, Inara, Book, and Jayne aren't going to be there. But since they will be there this year, that's where I would go for Spring Break if I could. In an alternate dimension, I invested my allowance money in Microsoft and Apple in the late 1970s and am now a multi-millionaire with loads of free time on my hands and I can travel from convention to convention whenever I want to, and would be looking forward to attending the Dallas Comicon in three weeks.

But in this reality I have to actually work for a living and have neither the time nor the money to go. So all of the cast members of Firefly will have to do without me. Even the ones whose characters died and might need some consoling. Even Nathan Fillion, who is the most not over the cancellation of Firefly that any person could be. Instead, I'll be here, where it is cold and dull. This is not the first time that reality has let me down, and I am sure it will not be the last.


Follow Friday     Home

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Review - Realms of Fantasy (April 2011) by Douglas Cohen (editor) and Shawna McCarthy (fiction editor)


Stories included:
A Witch's Heart by Randy Henderson
The Sacrifice by Michelle M. Welch
Little Vampires by Lisa Goldstein
By Shackle and Lash by Euan Harvey
The Strange Case of Madeleine H. Marsh (Aged 14 ¼) by Von Carr

Full review: The April 2011 issue of Realms of Fantasy was designated as the special "Dark Fantasy" issue. Given the nature of the fiction in the issue, I can only surmise that "Dark Fantasy" means "fantasy featuring a female protagonist", because that is the only element that four of the five stories seem to share. The staff did their best to set up the theme with an article by Resa nelson about the Walking Dead television series and a brief discussion of the movie Deadgirl, and a discussion by Douglas Cohen about the Addams Family musical running on Broadway. But while the Walking Dead is certainly a dark vision, the Addams Family musical is ultimately campy and silly, and despite Cohen's desperate attempts to connect it with darker Broadway productions of the past, it remains campy and silly and thus at odds with the issue's announced theme. Theodora Goss' Folkroots article about vampires is, as always, well-researched and informative and generally fits the theme of the issue.

But the heart of any issue is the fiction, and the "dark" nature of the selections in this installment is somewhat questionable. The first story in the volume is the macabre A Witch's Heart by Randy Henderson, a somewhat darker version of the classic Grimm's fairy tale Hansel and Gretel.In this iteration of the story, Granny Bab captures both Hansel and Gretel, but only imprisons Hansel, taking Gretel under her wing and introducing her to the ways of witchcraft. Although Gretel is initially skeptical, remembering the warnings about witches that her father and priest had imparted to her, Granny Bab's comparatively fair treatment and somewhat warped love slowly turn the girl into the witch's loyal apprentice. In the end, Hansel "saves" the day, but having tasted the freedom offered by Granny Bab, Gretel regards this salvation with some disdain. Any story that deals with the possibility of cannibalism is certainly "dark", but the counterpoint in this fairy tale is a message of freedom: Granny Bab offers Gretel the ability to become her own person, while the men who have previously controlled her life - her father, her brother, her priest - have effectively spiritually cannibalized her for their own purposes. But the price of freedom in Gretel's world is high because a woman who is not subservient is an outcast.

The danger of a woman acting on her own initiative even in her father's service is highlighted in The Sacrifice by Michelle M. Welch. The story is ostensibly told by a pair of clerks, Anders and Gilien, who are working for the Inns of Court and traveling to King Harald's castle on official business that coincides with the funeral of Harald's daughter. There they find Didi, a young girl who has been horribly wronged and assess her case for the judges. Along the way, Anders shows off his knowledge by regaling his younger companion with an account of the King's most prized possessions - the marks of the magicians, to which his success in warfare is attributed. Although Didi's case is never taken up by the judges of the Inns of Court, the two boys encounter her time and again, as she goes from being a mute victim, to the dead symbol and leader for used up veteran soldiers, to finally revealing the truth behind how she died. In the end, it turns out that the villains are not the enemy soldiers, but rather those who rewards the loyalty of family by turning their back. Didi, it turns out, made a brutal sacrifice to save that which was most important to her father, and he, in response, turned her out to become an orphaned outcast. Even when done with the best of intentions, it seems that the use of initiative on the part of a woman is dangerous to her standing.

Continuing the equation of "dark fantasy" with "fantasy featuring women" Little Vampires by Lisa Goldstein relates the story of a collection of female coworkers in the 1960s who get together after work for dinner and a drink and are joined for the first (and the story implies, only) time by Anna, the generally nice younger half of a somewhat standoffish pair of eastern European sisters. As it is Halloween, the women swap allegedly true scary stories - the first one told in full is by Irene, the young, pretty, and slightly hippy-ish woman in the office, about a close encounter she and her friends had with the owners of a creepy neighborhood house when they were out trick or treating. But then Anna takes her turn and tells of her and her sister's disparate experiences during World War II, when Anna got the benefit of an identity card that changed her faith from Jewish to a different faith, and Vera did not. Though Anna never experienced the nightmare of the concentration camps, their horror weighs heavily on her mind as she takes care of her sister. Of all the stories in the issue, this one is the least "fantasy" and the most "dark", as it puts on display the cost borne even by those who do not themselves endure the inhumanity that humans can display towards one another.

In contrast to the other stories in the issue, By Shackle and Lash by Euan Harvey is not centered on the story of a woman or a story by a woman, but is rather about a disgraced noble warrior who falls in love with what might be an imprisoned woman. Wahid and Kemal are honorable Mukhabarat until a fateful night when a Hand of Afiz comes after one of their comrades. They, and their doomed compatriot, turn and run, and for this they are removed from their stations and reassigned as lowly prison guards fit only to feed prisoners and clean up after them. In their subterranean existence, they come across a beautiful prisoner who makes them think of blue skies, fresh air, and the smell of hay. But the beguiling prisoner offers something that is both more wondrous and more dangerous than a mere yearning, she offers the promise of a lost world that could be recovered if only Wahid were bold enough to reach for it. Of all the stories in the issue, this one fits the "dark fantasy" theme the least, but it is still an interesting non-Western fantasy tale.

The silliest, and in my opinion best, story in the issue is The Strange Case of Madeleine H. Marsh (Aged 14 ¼) by Von Carr, a humorous account of how a young girl accidentally summons H,P, Lovecraft's Elder Gods into her family's basement while her parents are away. The ironic element to the story is that Maddie isn't particularly enthusiastic about Lovecraft's fiction, and was only aware of them because her friend Tori had lent her one of his books as part of an assigned reading swap. After trying to hire an exterminator to deal with the problem, and consulting with her friends, Maddie manages to deal with her problem in a very literary manner. It seems somewhat odd to have the Lovecraftian Elder Gods play the centerpiece in a comedic story about a teenager, but Carr manages to pull off this odd combination in superlative fashion. The only quibble I would have with the story is that it is not particularly "dark", and thus doesn't fit the theme of the issue particularly well. That said, it is the highlight of the issue.

If one looks at the material in this issue from the perspective of whether it is "dark fantasy", it is decidedly a mixed bag. While a story such as The Sacrifice is definitely dark, the remaining offerings are generally more hopeful and, in the case of The Strange Case of Madeleine H. Marsh (Aged 14 ¼), sillier than one would expect when reading a story that is ostensibly "dark". The one element that seems common to these stories is the empowerment of women - in four of the five stories the central theme is that of a female character making a choice and then living with the consequences of that choice. But what the fact that this collection of "dark fantasy" seems so focused on telling stories featuring women highlights is, I think, an interesting and depressing commentary on what "dark" actually means in the context of fantasy.

Previous issue reviewed: February 2011
Subsequent issue reviewed: June 2011

Realms of Fantasy     Douglas Cohen     Shawna McCarthy     Magazine Reviews

Home

Monday, April 14, 2014

Musical Monday - I'm Yours by Jason Mraz


I really, really, really would like winter to go away and stay away for a good long time. I'm tired of cold. I'm tired of snow. I'm tired of ice. I'm really tired of being sick.

This week's Musical Monday describes what I want the world to be like right now. Leaving aside the direct message of the song, which I dedicate to my redhead, this song embodies the feel good laid back feeling of the warm weather months. Happy. Carefree. Sunny. Summer.

It can't get here soon enough for me.

Go to subsequent Musical Monday: The Year of the Beard by Molly Lewis

Jason Mraz     Musical Monday     Home

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Book Blogger Hop April 11th - April 17th: '48 Is an Alternate History Novel by James Herbert

Book Blogger Hop

Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Annie of My Mommy the Writer asks (via Billy): What do you think is the best book marketing tool? Blog, facebook, twitter, pinterest, or goodreads?

I have no idea. I have no special insight into the marketing of books, and as a result, I have no idea what marketing tool works and what marketing tool doesn't. Given the track record of the publishing industry, I suspect that most people who are marketing professionals don't have much idea what works and what doesn't either. As far as I can tell, most marketing professionals seem to use a shotgun approach to marketing, firing with a broad a spread as possible and hoping something sticks.

That said, here is the marketing strategy that has worked best on me: In-person author appearances. There are few things that will make me interested in a book more than meeting the author and having a conversation with them. Granted, this method can backfire if the author is a bore or a jerk, but by and large, most of the times that I have met an author, I have ended up acquiring one or more of their books.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Friday, April 11, 2014

Follow Friday - No One Really Knows Why the Gospel of John Specifies 153 Fishes in the Miraculous Catch


It's Friday again, and this means it's time for Follow Friday. There has been a slight change to the format, as now there are two Follow Friday hosts blogs and two Follow Friday Features Bloggers each week. To join the fun and make now book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:
  1. Follow both of the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts (Parajunkee and Alison Can Read) and any one else you want to follow on the list.
  2. Follow the two Featured Bloggers of the week - My Thoughts . . . Literally and Create With Joy.
  3. Put your Blog name and URL in the Linky thing.
  4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say hi in your comments.
  5. Follow, follow, follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "Hi".
  6. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the love . . . and the followers.
  7. If you want to show the link list, just follow the link below the entries and copy and paste it within your post!
  8. If you're new to the Follow Friday Hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!
And now for the Follow Friday Question: Tell us about a book that you didn’t like and why we shouldn’t read it (as nicely and respectfully as possible)

I'm going to interpret this question as not asking for a response involving a warning against a really terrible book. I have read numerous awful books, but the likelihood that anyone would run across lousy books like Purheart (read review), Seven Wings and the Bleeding Twin Flowers (read review), or really, just about any example of Christian fantasy or science fiction seems rather small. Similarly, warning people off of almost universally panned books like They'd Rather Be Right (read review) seems almost redundant. After all, telling people that you didn't like a books that is widely regarded as being a bad book seems both redundant and uninformative.

Instead, I'm going to shoot at the top of the literary tower and say that I don't like Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Actually, I don't like anything by Jane Austen. I'm sure this brands me as a literary philistine, but in my opinion all of her books are simply putrid. I don't like the characters. I don't find their stories interesting. I find Austen's writing style to be tedious. There is simply nothing worth bothering with in her books. They should be expunged from school reading lists. No one should ever be required to read them. I suspect that if English teachers weren't continually throwing them at their classes and telling kids that they were great works of literature, they'd fade into well-deserved obscurity within a generation because they simply aren't very good. It won't happen, but I can still dream.


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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Event - The Doubleclicks and Sarah Donner at the Way Station, April 4th, 2014, and The Doubleclicks and Molly Lewis at Jammin' Java, April 7th, 2014


Today is my birthday. This video is from Monday, April 7th, and is the culmination of a really fantastically nerdy weekend. This video is, in fact, the Doubleclicks singing their nerdy Happy Birthday song to yours truly, which was both unexpected and amazing. This is one of the most nerdy cool things that I have had happen to me, and it transformed the excellent Monday concert that the redhead and I attended into the most epic and awesome concert I have ever experienced in my life.  But that was the end of the story. Let's go back to the beginning.

A while back, the redhead and I learned that the Doubleclicks were going to be performing on April 4th at the Way Station, a Doctor Who themed bar in Brooklyn, New York. Because I have family in New York who coincidentally live within a couple blocks of the Way Station, we arranged to travel up the coast and combine a family visit with a journey to see our favorite band. The first thing to say is that the Way Station is a very awesomely nerdy place. The entire bar is decorated in steampunk decor, the drinks bear Doctor Who themed names such as the Stormageddon and the Captain Jack, and the rest room is a TARDIS with a Dalek and picture of the Fourth Doctor painted on the wall.

Once we were settled in with some tacos (the Way Station doesn't serve food, but they allow patrons to bring food to eat, or even order food for delivery), Sarah Donner started her set. We had never heard her before, but with songs like Schrödinger's Cat's Reply and That Was a Pegasus, she quickly made us into new fans. But the main event of the night was Aubrey and Angela, and when they took the stage they demonstrated their mastery of nerd folk leading off with Will They or Won't They and then reeling off excellent performances of Worst Superpower Ever, Lullaby for Mr. Bear, Wonder, Cats and Netflix, Lasers and FeelingsThis Fantasy World, Nothing to Prove, Ennui (On We Go), Clever Girl, and Love You Like a Burrito. Because of the constraints of the forum they were performing in, their set was only an hour long, but they packed the hour with nothing but excellent songs. This was the third time we have seen them, and every time, they have been better than they were before.

After we had made plans to go to New York, the redhead discovered that the Doubleclicks had scheduled a performance for April 7th at Jammin' Java in northern Virginia (this time appearing with Molly Lewis), just a short trip from where we live. It took us about three seconds to decide that we should go to that show as well (and the only reason it took us that long is that we needed to figure out if our train from New York would get us to Virginia in time to make it to the show). But before then, we were spending the weekend in New York with my sister. Which turned out to be fortunate, because it meant that we were able to do a favor for the Doubleclicks, who reached out to us through twitter and asked if we would take care of a small problem they were having. I'm not going to go into detail as to exactly what Aubrey and Angela asked us to do, because that's a story for them to tell, but we were happy to do it for them.

After a weekend in New York that was made incredibly enjoyable by my sister and her husband (and which included, among other things, a trip to the top of the Empire State Building and a lunch as Tom's Restaurant which was made famous by Suzanne Vega's song Tom's Diner) we made our way back to the Washington D.C. area and settled in for our second Doubleclicks concert in four days. First up was Molly Lewis, who we had seen a couple years before when she toured with Jon Coulton and Paul & Storm, and as good as she was then, and has gotten even better. After opening with a cover of Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down), Molly ran through her impressive collection of ukulele based originals ranging from I Pity the Fool to An Open Letter to Stephen Fry to a song named Kapo which involved musing on the possibility that her vagina could detach itself from her body and fly about. She ended her set by having the Doubleclicks join her for The Year of the Beard, and as none of the three ladies have beards, they called Storm DiCostanzo of Paul & Storm to the stage to both assist in singing the song and show off his impressive beard.

Once Molly's set was over, the Doubleclicks took the stage and delivered a brilliant set of their infectious, adorable, and incredibly geeky material. They performed most of the songs they had sung in their set at the Way Station, but as they were not working with as restrictive time constraints, they were able to go deeper into their catalog and added Spock Impersonator, Oh Mr. Darcy, The Guy Who Yelled Freebird to their set list, and an encore consisting of an unrehearsed version of Ironically. And, of course, they performed the modified Nerdy Birthday Song for me. To finish their regular set, Aubrey and Angela brought Molly back to the stage as well as Storm for a rousing performance of Love You Like a Burrito, and true to form, Storm picked up the keyboard cat and stole the show by making Angela laugh so much that she temporarily lost her place in the song. Then Storm cranked out a hilarious keyboard cat solo and further derailed the song, but to be fair, it was the best possible derailment one could have hoped for. As good as they had been the Friday before, their performance on Monday was even better. This is a clear trend: I've seen the Doubleclicks live four times now, and each time they have been even better than they had been the time before. Given the brilliance of the first performance of theirs that I saw, that is quite an accomplishment.

I can't think of a better way to bracket a weekend than two concerts by the Doubleclicks unless one were to throw Sarah Donner and Molly Lewis into the mix as well. As a result, this past weekend was pretty much as enjoyable as I could hope for. Since I found them on YouTube three years ago, Angela and Aubrey have developed a repertoire of catchy, sweet, and nerdy songs that, when combined with their adorably dorky and funny stage presence, has made them into one of my favorite bands.

Also, did I mention that they sang me their nerdy birthday song?

Home     Events     The Doubleclicks     Molly Lewis

Monday, April 7, 2014

Musical Monday - The Year of the Beard by Molly Lewis


Because seeing the Doubleclicks once just isn't enough, the redhead and I are going to be seeing them again tonight. But this time, they will be appearing with the queen of ukulele folk nerd music Molly Lewis, which will probably make this performance even more epic than the Doubleclicks' already epic performance this past Friday.

And this has caused me to realize that although I have featured many of the Doubleclick's songs as Musical Monday selections, I have somehow overlooked Molly Lewis' awesome compositions. To rectify this, I'm choosing her recent love letter to facial hair, The Year of the Beard, as this week's song. And the fact that she is backed by the Doubleclicks in the video makes it even better. Ratching up the awesomeness even further are appearances by Jon Coulton, Wil Wheaton, and several other bearded individuals. I've had a beard of some sort for the bulk of my adult life, either a goatee or (more rarely) a full beard. In recent years, I've tried the full beard off and on, but given that it has a lot more grey in it than the relatively sparse hair that adorns the top of my head, that's a look I'm liable to leave behind. But no matter what form of facial hair I am sporting, I feel better knowing that Molly Lewis approves.

Go to previous Musical Monday: The Guy Who Yelled Freebird by The Doubleclicks
Go to subsequent Musical Monday: I'm Yours by Jason Mraz

Molly Lewis     Musical Monday     Home

Friday, April 4, 2014

Follow Friday - In Fallout 2 the Chosen One Starts with $152 in Cash


It's Friday again, and this means it's time for Follow Friday. There has been a slight change to the format, as now there are two Follow Friday hosts blogs and two Follow Friday Features Bloggers each week. To join the fun and make now book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:
  1. Follow both of the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts (Parajunkee and Alison Can Read) and any one else you want to follow on the list.
  2. Follow the Featured Blogger of the week - The Unusual Files.
  3. Put your Blog name and URL in the Linky thing.
  4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say hi in your comments.
  5. Follow, follow, follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "Hi".
  6. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the love . . . and the followers.
  7. If you want to show the link list, just follow the link below the entries and copy and paste it within your post!
  8. If you're new to the Follow Friday Hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!
And now for the Follow Friday Question: Late April Fools. What was the best prank you’ve played or had played on you? Share!

I am generally not a fan of pranks. Most pranks are simply not fun to be part of, and serve to do little but humiliate or embarrass the target. I'm sure there are exceptions, but in my experience they are so few and far between that they may as well not exist. This is, I suppose, my long winded way of saying that I don't play April Fool's pranks, and I don't bother to keep track of or even acknowledge any that someone might try to play on me.

Go to previous Follow Friday: There Were 151 Pokémon in the Original Set

Follow Friday     Home

Monday, March 31, 2014

Musical Monday - The Guy Who Yelled Freebird by The Doubleclicks


This Friday my redhead and I are going to go see the Doubleclicks perform in New York. And then we are going to go see them again (and Molly Lewis) in Virginia on the following Monday. I know you are all jealous of us. And I don't blame you. After all, not everyone gets to see Angela and Aubrey perform twice in four days. But if you do get to see them perform one day, one thing you should make sure not to do is yell "Freebird". If you do, then they are likely to make fun of you in song form.

And rightly so. Yelling "Freebird" at concerts is a joke that is extraordinarily tired now. It is as tired as telling a cashier that the product that isn't ringing up properly must be free. Yelling it out at concerts is neither clever nor funny, and the only people who do it any more are basically obnoxious and unoriginal real-life trolls. So save yourself the embarrassment of joining such company and simply don't yell Freebird.

Go to previous Musical Monday: Let It Go by Idina Menzel
Go to subsequent Musical Monday: The Year of the Beard by Molly Lewis

The Doubleclicks     Musical Monday     Home

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Book Blogger Hop March 28th - April 3rd: In 1964 Donald Bernstein Demonstrated That All Numbers Are Equal to 47

Book Blogger Hop

Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Jack of The Book Stop asks (via Billy): What are some of your favorite book blogs?


This is where I reveal that in some ways, I'm a very bad book blogger because I rarely read other book blogs. In fact, I rarely read reviews of fiction in any form. I tend to skip over sections in publications like Fantasy & Science Fiction and Locus that feature book reviews. It's not that I don't like reviews, it is just that I have a hard time following them unless I have actually read the book being reviewed. This is, of course, very ironic in that I write reviews in the hope that other people will read them.

Instead, I'm going to pick my current obsession, the Galactic Suburbia podcast hosted by Alisa Krasnostein, Alex Pierce, and Tansy Rayner Roberts. Galactic Suburbia is an Australian podcast (with the hosts recording from Melbourne, Perth, and Hobarth) focused on science fiction and fantasy with a decidedly feminist bent. They put out a new episode about once a month, with each one lasting between one and half and two hours. Alex is a reviewer, Tansy is a science fiction author, and Alisa is a science fiction publisher, and the three of them talk about issues in the science fiction community, the nominations for and winners of a variety of science fiction awards (with a slant towards science fiction awards in Australia such as the Ditmar and Aurealis awards) , and "culture consumed" where they talk about the genre fiction culture that they had consumed in since the previous episode. Their conversations are brilliant, funny, informative, and insightful. I simply cannot recommend them enough.

Go to subsequent Book Blogger Hop: '48 Is an Alternate History Novel by James Herbert

Book Blogger Hop     Home

Friday, March 28, 2014

Follow Friday - There Were 151 Pokémon in the Original Set


It's Friday again, and this means it's time for Follow Friday. There has been a slight change to the format, as now there are two Follow Friday hosts blogs and two Follow Friday Features Bloggers each week. To join the fun and make now book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:
  1. Follow both of the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts (Parajunkee and Alison Can Read) and any one else you want to follow on the list.
  2. Follow the two Featured Bloggers of the week - Mo Books and NjKinney's World of Books.
  3. Put your Blog name and URL in the Linky thing.
  4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say hi in your comments.
  5. Follow, follow, follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "Hi".
  6. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the love . . . and the followers.
  7. If you want to show the link list, just follow the link below the entries and copy and paste it within your post!
  8. If you're new to the Follow Friday Hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!
And now for the Follow Friday Question: Snap it Time! A picture is worth a thousand words. Anything and anything. Just give us a pic.

How about some pictures of the Doubleclicks, because next Friday my wife and I be seeing them perform live. And then we'll be seeing them live again the Monday after that. As a bonus, have some pictures of our nerdy friends who we are going to go see get married in late April.


And here is a picture of Molly Lewis performing with Jon Coulton and Storm of Paul & Storm. I'm going to go see her perform live in April as well when she appears with the Doubleclicks on the Monday after next. I don't think Coulton or Paul & Storm will be there, but since Storm lives in Northern Virginia, there is some possibility that he may crash the event.


And just to bring this back to book-related things, here are some pictures of me with a couple of authors. Left to right, me with Terry Brooks, me with Robert J. Sawyer, and me with Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon.


Go to previous Follow Friday: A Professor's Cube Has 150 Squares

Follow Friday     Home

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Review - Realms of Fantasy (August 2011) by Douglas Cohen (editor) and Shawna McCarthy (fiction editor)


Stories included:
The Progress of Solstice and Chance by Richard Bowes
Isabella's Garden by Naomi Kritzer
Collateral Damage by Kate Riedel
Snake in the Grass by W.R. Thompson
Leap of Faith by Alan Smale

Full review: After the emotional high of the June 2011 issue, there was a certain inevitability to the let down represented by the August 2011 issue of Realms of Fantasy. The June issue was the publication's one hundredth, and there were high hopes that the financial troubles of the magazine were behind it. But with this issue, the ugly reality began to show through. The fiction became an uneven collection ranging from average to quite good. Instead of focusing on a featured artist, the issue provided a broad but fairly superficial article about women in fantasy art. After the in depth Folkroots article about fairies from the June issue, the follow up Folkroots article on monsters seems shallow. Perhaps the most foreboding sign is the notation in the upper right hand corner of the cover advertising the "new lower price" for the magazine. In general, a publication that is counting on a reduced sales price to stay afloat is a publication that is in trouble.

The strongest story in the issue is Isabella's Garden by Naomi Kritzer, a mother's tale about her precocious daughter's increasingly disturbing talent for gardening. One wouldn't think a preschool aged child loving to plant things in the backyard could be creepy and somewhat terrifying, but Kritzer manages to make it so. The story starts off feeling mundane - a mother and her child planting turnips and cabbages in the backyard, and then becomes more and more unsettling as time goes by. First Isabella plants jelly bean in the backyard, which wouldn't be cause for concern except that it grows into a jelly bean plant. Then she plants a quarter. And then she decides that she wants a little sister and concocts a plan to overcome her mother's infertility. By the end of the story, what had seemed so innocent and sweet is transformed into something that is innocent and threatening.

The other two strong stories in the volume are both Biblically-inspired fantasies, each approaching the idea of the end of the world from a different direction. Alan Smale's Leap of Faith takes on the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, twisting the tale to make Levi the central character as God's engineer. As the tale opens, Levi is returning to his home after working away to keep creation stitched together, and after picking up a pair of wayward angels, makes his way to his unhappy wife Rebekah, his teenage daughter Deborah, and his younger daughter Leah. All three women are upset by Levi's long absences, and each makes her displeasure known in a different manner. The story focuses in on Levi's relationship with Deborah, who turns out to be something of an engineer herself. Alongside this family conflict, Levi has to deal with his two angelic guests and the anger of his neighbors. If this story sounds a bit jumbled up compared to the story from Genesis, it is, and the a certain extent, that is the point. But the greater theme of the story is the power of creativity, and the fact that creativity cannot be subservient, but must be allowed to run free in order to be able to be expressed. The other Bible-based story in the issue is Snake in the Grass by W.R. Thompson, a darkly humorous and satirical piece about the Satan, the Antichrist, and the impending end of the world. As the story opens Fred Larabie is an accountant who has just buried his father. Larabie's only real intent is to get drunk and stew over the fact that he could never seem to measure up to his father's expectations, but is interrupted by Satan who offers him a lifetime of happiness in exchange for his soul. Larabie accepts and soon finds Satan arranging his life, moving Larabie into a house in an undesirable neighborhood, requisitioning an apple tree for the backyard, eliminating the nearby biker gang and meth lab, arranging for Larabie to fall into a relationship with his landscaper, a muscular but innocent woman named Cheryl. Before too long, Satan has Larabie involved in a scheme to acquire some real estate and start a business and it becomes clear that Satan actually doesn't have Larabie's happiness as his goal. Satan, it turns out, has some issues of his own with his father, and it falls to Larabie and Cheryl to save both their future child and the world itself from Satan's fit of pique. I thought this story was slightly better than Leap of Faith, but only because I tend to prefer satirical fiction, and Snake in the Grass is loaded with heaping spoonfuls of satire.

Somewhat less effective is Collateral Damage by Kate Riedel, which seems to me to have been an interesting idea let down by somewhat flawed execution. Martha is the wife of a retired farmer whose long-lost sister Peggy walks out of a blizzard fifty years after she disappeared into one. This doesn't really surprised Martha, as her husband Robert was originally from the Civil War era and stumbled into the same time warping phenomenon before walking out onto her parents' farm when she was a young woman. The story focuses on Martha and Robert's efforts to figure out how to integrate Peggy into the modern world without raising suspicions about the teenage girl who suddenly showed up in their home. As the story goes on, long kept secrets are revealed and long held grudges come to the fore, until in the end Martha makes a decision that will change the remainder of her life. The only trouble is that the story is written in a way that feels almost disjointed at times. I suspect that this is an intentional choice on the part of the author, and is supposed to make the reader feel some of the dislocation experienced by the characters in the story, but instead it makes the reader feel like they are missing some critical part of the narrative when the story skips forward abruptly.

The weakest story in the issue is The Progress of Solstice and Chance by Richard Bowes, a story that attempts to be big and sweeping, and ends up being much too big and sweeping, resulting in characters that are simply too big to be relatable for the reader. In the opening paragraph the King of Winter marries the Queen of Summer, a union arranged by Cronus to keep the King of Winter from dallying with the Lady of Death, wife of the Lord of Life. Shortly thereafter, King Winter and Queen Summer have a child that they name Solstice who grows up shuttling back and forth between the abodes of her parents until the King of Winter's infatuation with the Lady of Death ruins the marriage. Eventually Solstice falls in love with Chance, the years pass, humans forget about these iconic beings, and Solstice pines for the old days when people would line up to see her travel from her father's house to her mother's home every year. The trouble with the story is that the characters are so abstract that I simply didn't care what happened to any of them. We are told that the King of Winter was in love with Lady Death, but we never see why this might be so. We never learn why the Queen of Summer agreed to marry a man who was widely known to be in love with someone else, which makes her rage when she discovers his affair with Lady Death somewhat less than convincing. The story attempts to convey a mythic feel, but paints the characters as representations of natural forces so broadly that they lose their humanity and the story simply falls flat.

By the August 2011 issue, Realms of Fantasy was a magazine desperately fighting for its life. And yet, the issue doesn't feel like a magazine fighting for its life, but rather a magazine that seemed to have been taking an almost lackadaisical approach. The fiction presented was decidedly uneven, and included two Old Testament based stories. Granted, the two Old Testament based stories are among the better pieces of fiction in the volume, but including two so thematically similar stories seems almost lazy. This, coupled with the somewhat underwhelming array of articles and reviews, makes this issue decent, but not particularly notable.

Previous issue reviewed: June 2011
Subsequent issue reviewed: October 2011

Realms of Fantasy     Douglas Cohen     Shawna McCarthy     Magazine Reviews

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Musical Monday - Let It Go by Idina Menzel


I'm pretty sure that at this point there are probably only about six people in the world who haven't heard this song. After all, it was featured in the most recent Disney blockbuster animated movie Frozen and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song, resulting in Idina Menzel performing it live on national television. Plus, the song won the Academy Award. The song also reached number nine on the Billboard top 100. And so, as I said before, I suspect that pretty much everyone with access to the internet (and thus, the ability to access this blog) has probably heard this song already.

Even so, I had to make this my Musical Monday selection, because it is an absolutely perfect song from an absolutely perfect fantasy movie. And Idina Menzel (who is not Adele Dazeem, no matter what John Travolta says) has the perfect voice to sing it. From a storytelling perspective, the song is brilliant, showing Elsa's transformation from a scared girl into a woman who can stand on her own - although the be honest, this transformation isn't complete until the close of the movie. But this is the critical point where Elsa begins to turn, shedding her inhibitions and finally accepting her power and her responsibility. This is the point where Elsa begins to become an adult.

Also, any song that includes the lyrics "frozen fractals" is one that tickles my inner math nerd. Plus, building an ice castle out of nothing is incredibly cool, both literally and figuratively. And if one pays attention, one realizes that at the end of the song, Elsa is wearing a dress made out of ice. That is about as hardcore as an ice queen can get.

Go to previous Musical Monday: Love You Like a Burrito by The Doubleclicks
Go to subsequent Musical Monday: The Guy Who Yelled Freebird by The Doubleclicks

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Book Blogger Hop: March 21st - March 27th: The Atomic Number of Palladium Is 46, Now Go Play Some of Their Role-Playing Games

Book Blogger Hop

Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Kisha of Books & Shtuff asks (via Billy): What is your favorite weekly meme?

Other than the Follow Friday meme hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read and the Book Blogger Hop, I haven't participated in any weekly memes. I just don't anticipate new releases of books sufficiently assiduously to be able do things like Waiting on Wednesday, or weekly cover reveals, or any of the other myriad of weekly memes that are out there.

Go to previous Book Blogger Hop: The 1745 Jacobite Rebellion Is Called "The '45"

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Follow Friday - A Professor's Cube Has 150 Squares


It's Friday again, and this means it's time for Follow Friday. There has been a slight change to the format, as now there are two Follow Friday hosts blogs and two Follow Friday Features Bloggers each week. To join the fun and make now book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:
  1. Follow both of the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts (Parajunkee and Alison Can Read) and any one else you want to follow on the list.
  2. Follow the two Featured Bloggers of the week - Fathomless Reveries and My Midnight Fantasies.
  3. Put your Blog name and URL in the Linky thing.
  4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say hi in your comments.
  5. Follow, follow, follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "Hi".
  6. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the love . . . and the followers.
  7. If you want to show the link list, just follow the link below the entries and copy and paste it within your post!
  8. If you're new to the Follow Friday Hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!
And now for the Follow Friday Question: How have your reading habits changed in the past few years? Did you get interested in a new genre? Do you read more? Less? Why do you think your habits changed, if they did.

I seem to read a lot slower than I did a couple of years ago. Actually, I need more recovery time in between books. I used to be able to set one book down when I finished it and pick a new one up seconds later and start plowing through the new book's pages. Now I need some time to digest what I just read, maybe a day or two. I also take more time to write reviews, which results in my reading slowing down as well, because I try to avoid building up a backlog of books that I have read but not yet written reviews for.

A practice that I have adopted in the last year or so is writing reviews of collections of short fiction as I read, writing about each piece of short fiction immediately as I finish it rather than reading through the entire volume and then trying to write everything at the end. This serves (yet again) to slow down my reading, but I believe that this makes my reviews of the individual stories much better, and since so much genre fiction is written in the short forms, this seems to me to be the choice to make.

Go to subsequent Follow Friday: There Were 151 Pokémon in the Original Set

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