Archive | May, 2013

60 Second Review – Mira Grant’s FEED

28 May

Feed (Newsflesh Trilogy, #1)Feed by Mira Grant
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a great book.

I don’t just mean great for zombie-philes or horror buffs, though they’ll surely find satisfaction here. If you have a penchant for flesh-eaters and catastrophic scenarios, this book will scratch that itch. But Feed is also just a great book period. It is very well-written, both in its language and structure. Mira Grant capably executes the suspension of disbelief while walking a self-made line between post-apocalypse horror, sci-fi, and political thriller. She makes some narrative decisions (no spoilers) that would have been disastrous in lesser-hands, but she pulls it off well. The exposition of the technology, society, and bureaucracy of this near-future was interesting and never felt forced. I enjoyed the way each chapter closed with a blog excerpt, reinforcing the story and atmosphere while further immersing us into the world. And I felt for the characters and cared about what happened to them, which, to me, is the number one victory for a work of fiction.

The headline of this book might read: Scrappy and Audacious Bloggers Tackle High-level Conspiracy and the Restless Undead. There is action and tragedy, a bit of humor and a bit of hope. The author’s attention to detail is impressive. The medical details are realistic for the genre, and the settings are logically thought out. Unable to eradicate the zombie epidemic, society adapts to live with it. It’s an America that has grown disconnected and fearful while clinging as much as possible to its past, with standardized blood-testing, gated communities, and a vigilant security culture. At the same time, it’s an America that is easy to recognize – ideological extremists make waves, while (literally) die-hard journalists who still believe in the value of truth fight for it with their very lives.

In short, Feed was a fun, interesting, and original read. Looking forward to the rest of the trilogy.

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Random Flicks

23 May

It has been a bit stormy and cloudy around here, which translates to movie-watching weather. There have been a few interesting viewings this week, courtesy of Netflix instant-streaming. My favorite was an understated indie from Matthew Lillard (yes, that Matthew Lillard) called Fat Kid Rules the World. Awkward, overweight teen Troy (convincingly played by Jacob Wysocki) is recruited by a spazzy drop-out named Marcus for a new punk rock band. Marcus is a chronic user of both people and pills, and Troy is initially reluctant to step outside of his comfort zone of computer games and quiet over-eating to join up with this unpredictable and shady character. But he soon agrees to be the drummer in Marcus’ band, and the two unlikely partners turn out to be exactly what each other needed.

This is Lillard’s directorial debut, and I really liked it. It’s well-paced and well-written, heartfelt without being sentimental. Wysocki is perfect in this role. Anyone who had a tough time in high school will relate to his cast-down introvert character. And hell, drumming is awesome. It’s very satisfying to watch an awkward young man find his own beat (sorry) by learning the drums. Just as the (also underrated) movie The Visitor (re)kindled my love for hand-drums, this movie made me want to go out and buy a kit. And one more neat thing about Lillard’s film, it was largely funded through Kickstarter donations, which I can only hope signals a new trend of viewer-supported media arts.

Switching gears a bit, I saw a sweet Italian film from director Silvio Soldini called Bread and Tulips, which follows a middle-aged housewife as she makes a life-changing decision to rediscover herself in Venice. Left behind by the tour bus during a family vacation, Rosalba Barletta (played by the adorable Licia Maglietta) decides to accept a ride from a friendly stranger rather than wait for her disgruntled and unappreciative husband to pick her up. Several rides later she finds herself alone in Venice, staying in the home of a charming but depressed waiter and getting a job at a florist shop. As plots go, it is nothing mind-blowing, but it’s the characters that make you smile. This is a great watch for fans of Italian romantic-comedy, a film of sweet humor and the unexpected courses life can take when we let it.

Lastly, I watched an interesting Chinese movie titled Tai Chi Zero. It’s an action / kung-fu flick with a definite steampunk influence, and made in a style that approaches something like a live-action comic book. The plot is pretty derivative (possibly on purpose), and the acting is nothing amazing, but the visual effects and fight choreography are absolutely spectacular. There are no dull moments, and a surprising amount of funny. This could be a fun and unique option for movie night. And bonus points just for being steampunk kung-fu, a genre which, if it didn’t exist before, certainly does now.

Pirates and Book Piles

6 May

It’s been a particularly bookish weekend. I recently received an ARC of the novel Greenbeard by one Richard James Bentley, and it looks like a rollicking swashbuckler of a good time. Looking forward to reading and reviewing it tonight, with the auditory aid of epic metal-pirates Alestorm in the background, and the libatious aid of Pyrat XO Reserve. Both heartily recommended.

Aw yesh.

Aw yesh.

Saturday marked the first day of the spring Friends of the Library book sale, a bi-annual event during which I buy absurd quantities of lovely books and then promise my lovely lady that I will buy another bookcase so that they aren’t cluttering the floors. It’s one of our little traditions. This weekend’s haul included a lot of great fantasy stuff that I’ve been meaning to check out – Glen Cook, Joe Abercrombie, Brent Weeks – as well as some literary stuff from Calvino, Gorky, and Robert Walser. The prize was a thick edition of Icelandic sagas and a two-volume set of Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber! Yes, book sale month is my favorite time of the year.

The glory.

The glory.

The last development of this weekend was an idea to compile and possibly self-publish a humble cookbook. My S.O. and I are often asked about some of the recipes we have created and/or improvised, and I thought it might be a fun joint project for us. We have both always been very conscious of our food choices, and as such we have developed an interesting repertoire of dishes that are healthful and scrumptious. So I look forward to sharing that, and I think it could also be a good experimental toe-dip into the realm of DIY e-publishing. There is certainly a lot to learn there, and I always learn best by doing! Advice always welcome.