Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Book Review: "Neverhwere" by Neil Gaiman

After enjoying "The Cemetery Book" so much, I decided I was ready to give "Neverwhere" another look. I tried it a while ago, when my brain was a tad overwhelmed by a new job and crazy schedule, and couldn't get into it. 

This time around, I found myself more interested in the characters and the story, but there were times I kind of began to lose interest. I kept plugging along, because I was curious to see how Richard Mayhew's adventures played out, but found myself feeling like I would rather just be done and get to another book. Too bad. 

The story isn't bad-- it's an updated "Alice in Wonderland" type of story, with Richard Mayhew, an ordinary Londoner finding himself pulled into a world that exists beneath the streets of London, followed by various adventures using magic and involving evil people and frightening creatures and good-but-decidedly-odd folks, including a bunch of people who talk to and almost worship rats. The story slowed considerably in the middle of the book, but the last 1/3 or so picked up again, action and character development make all the difference.

Gaiman is a good storyteller, and I enjoyed the surprise twists toward the end a lot. Would I recommend it? Sure. It's clean stuff, and the good vs. evil plot and "Wonderland" reflection are interesting. Will I read it again? No. Not likely. 

I will, however, take a look at some of his other books before I give up on him, mostly because of how much I enjoyed "The Cemetery Book".

Book Review: "Legion" by Brandon Sanderson

This is the ebook cover.
Once in a while, an author comes along whose work I enjoy so much that I take a leap of faith and buy their future books without borrowing them to preview before I buy. Brandon Sanderson is on that list, with good reason. I think what he has done in finishing "The Wheel of Time" series is nothing short of genius. He took a series that had become a bit sluggish (and I'm a huge fan, don't get me wrong, even with slow phases, this series is better than anything else out there) and revived it, like Dr. Frankenstein, injecting life and energy and vitality back into it. I, along with millions of other fans, anxiously await the release of book 14 (!) in January.

In the meantime, I am slowly listening to the audiobooks of the first 13 (slowly because I read about 6x faster than the narration... and only listen to a little here and there) and enjoying the odd non-fantasy book on the side. Yesterday, much to my happy surprise, my copy of Sanderson's novella "Legion" arrived.

First impression? Glee! I love a new book. Second impression? Sheesh. I spent over $20 (including shipping) on this little thing? When they called it a novella, they weren't kidding! It only took me a few hours to read, and would have been much less if I wasn't required to cook my family dinner and give a neighbor a ride somewhere... at any rate, it's a very quick read, and I would have liked it to not cost me so much for just a short moment of entertainment. It's so short, it almost felt like a preview, created solely to hook readers into buying a whole series... hey, wait...

This is the HB cover.
However, as a would-be author myself, I do understand the wholly justified desire to make money from one's work, and I do like and want to support Sanderson, so I won't say anymore about the cost feeling exorbitant. 

And, after all, it was generously offered as an e-book for only $2.99. I just don't have an e-reader or iPad, so I opted for the book rather than to read it on my computer screen. Which makes my eyes leaky. :)

As for the story, true to my expectations, it is very good. The story is about a man named Stephen. He has a form of schizophrenia that causes him to see various people-- hallucinations, that he calls "aspects", which is how he comes to be nicknamed "Legion". The aspects are varied and unique and have different abilities, but together they add up to his being a genius. In this first book about him, he tries to find a camera that's been stolen-- a camera that can take photos of the past. He's doubtful, naturally, that it really can, and if it can, that it should. He is brilliant (with the help of his aspects) and remarkably sane for someone who hallucinates constantly. He is also likeable and self-aware, and able to do remarkable things.

I'm always on the hunt for something original to read, as most books have overly formulas and patterns, so it's refreshing to read something so completely unique. At least, in my reading experience, it is totally new and fascinating. I especially loved Stephen's observations on what would happen if time travel were possible--amazing! I've never, ever heard time travel discussed that way. I love it when an author makes me think, without overwhelming me, and by reading his book I feel like I've actually expanded my brain a little!!

As you can see, there are different covers for the different versions. I prefer the ebook cover-- it seems to capture Stephen's aspects better than the other, but the chaos of the other seems to capture the relationship of these "characters" better.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in something new, very well written, and thought-provoking. Excellent little book.

Friday, September 14, 2012

You'll Fall in Love With Timothy Green

"The Odd Life of Timothy Green" is a sweet, unassuming story about a couple who cannot conceive, but who desperately want to be parents, and Timothy Green magically enters their lives, touching and changing them and everyone around them for the better.
The parents, played by the always lovely Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton, whom I had not seen before, jump into parenting Timothy, fumbling and over-thinking and making all the mistakes we real-life parents try to avoid, but often make ourselves. Garner and Edgerton gave solid performances, had good chemistry together, and seemed to genuinely care for Timothy. He may not have had top billing, but the real star of the show is definitely CJ Adams, who plays the precocious, smarter-than-his-age, funny, adventurous, sweet and loving Timothy. Maybe it's the mom-of-sons in me, but I couldn't take my eyes off him. He's adorable and his performance was excellent. He has a real presence onscreen and he rightfully stole the show.

As for the story, it's fantastical, light-weight, sugar-sweet and fun. There are moments of humor and heartache and a lot of suspending reality, but that's what good fantastical fiction is all about. The story is told in a flashback style by Garner and Edgerton's characters, and although there is the standard Disney live-action film kids-who-are-smarter-than-the-adults feel, it's still a very enjoyable show. Except for the reminder that children only stay with us (as children) for a short time. As mine are nearing adulthood, I'm reminded of this bittersweet life truth all too often. I should have taken more tissues. :)

So go see it! I found it appropriate for nearly all ages, except maybe the preschoolers and toddlers, who just ran around the theater (ahem...) in front of us. There is nothing offensive, but the subject matter is a bit grown up for small children. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

DVD Review: "Comicon Episode IV: A Fan's Hope"

Sitting down to watch "Comicon, Episode IV: A Fan's Hope" with my true-geek son, my wanna-be-geek son and my "I'm not a geek!" son, as well as my husband, I expected to see lots of goofy people in outlandish costumes, interview bits with famous and not-famous con attendees, and an overview of what happens at "the con".  I was not disappointed, and in fact, the movie included much more than what I expected.

I've never been to Comicon, but I've always thought it looked like a really good time, and the movie really only made me want to go even more. It looks like it would just be great fun to let loose among folks who are fans of the same things I am. And then some. I'm not a video game fan, and really, not a comic-book fan per se.

The documentary follows a handful of subjects' stories: two artists hoping to break into the comic book world (both were very good, Eric Henson, who is in the Air Force and has an adorable little family was phenomenal), a costume designer and her group of friends preparing to perform at the "Masquerade", a cute couple who met at Comicon a year prior and his efforts to set up a memorable wedding proposal, and a comic book store owner and his struggles to make enough money selling comics at the con.

As expected, there were loads of strange costumes, some characters were recognizable, many not (I'm not a "true" geek, according to my son), some were downright embarrassing-- large people wearing only a bikini and body paint or roly-poly Superman-spandex costumes are always a bit... odd... Storm troopers and Avatars, villains and heroes. I think it would be a blast just to go and people watch.

I liked the stories, and the interspersed Q&A with both attendees and celebrities-- the best of which were Joss Whedon's comments. He's just naturally funny. Oh, and my favorite thing had to be the comic-book style transitions from one story to another-- a freeze-frame of the subject would become a comic pane of the scene, panning back to show a full comic-book page and zooming in on a new pane, featuring the next person being profiled. It would be so cool to have a comic-book drawing of yourself!

I'm not a huge Morgan Spurlock fan (I wrote about his well-known anti-McDonalds documentary here a long time ago. I don't mind his agenda as much as I mind his superiority complex... but that's just me) but I was amused, entertained and fascinated by this documentary. I found it very entertaining and I would be interested to see even more!

There is some language, a handful of bleeped f-bombs and even more s-words, and a couple of crude sexual comments, for those sensitive to such things.