Posts tagged ‘book reviews’

October 8, 2010

Two Videos of the Week: Vampires and Camp

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We couldn’t resist – with so much mind candy on the Internet, how can we only put one video of the week on our blog? So, dear readers, a special treat: two awesome videos that we think you’ll enjoy.

The first video begs the question What Would Jim Henson Think? The cast of Sesame Street take their own unique twist on “True Blood,” the popular vampire/werewolf series based on the novels of Charlaine Harris.

Our favorite moment? The Muppet version of the character Lafayette sashaying through the foreground at the beginning of the video.




In the next video, Ron Charles at The Washington Post reviews Michael Cunningham‘s recent novel By Nightfall. True to Ron Charles form, only he would find a way to bring the Twilight franchise’s Taylor Lautner into a review for a character-driven book by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author.

Due to copyright restrictions, you’ll have to click here to watch the video review.

August 12, 2010

Book Review: Fledgling by Mari Miniatt

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Coiree Guardians: Book One
by Mari Miniatt

Animated Liar Media
(May 2010, $15, 218 pages)

Between the Twilight Saga and the True Blood series, you might be sick of hearing about vampires. I personally prefer zombies, although I do partake of other genres from time to time. I had given up on vampire fiction until I read The Strain about a year ago, and I realized that the vampire genre has improved a great deal in the last few years, despite the mainstream vamp-bandwagon fodder. Authors are breaking away from the typical stereotypes of drop-dead gorgeous vamps with sordid love lives and tormented souls. Fledgling: Coiree Guardians is the perfect example of breaking the vampire mold, and redefining the powerful female protagonist.

Indie-author Mari Miniatt introduces readers to Beka, an overweight young woman with a history of mental issues and a medicine cabinet full of prescriptions to prove it. She is a computer geek, with real hacker potential. She lives in an apartment above The Burgundy Rathskeller, a gothic nightclub run by her brother John. John is the only one who has any idea of the horrible secret that has haunted Beka. As her sympathetic landlord, he doesn’t charge her rent, and sometimes asks her to help out for a little extra cash. One night, while working at the club, she discovers that her brother’s friend Vincent is a vampire. Before she has any time to process this information, she’s attacked by another vampire who was hunting on Vincent’s territory without permission. Most female characters would have either broken down and sought help from a handsome stranger, or dressed in leather fitted with weapons to become some supernatural warrior, but Beka has developed a strong will to survive through all her personal trauma, without the added glamour.

Her attacker is a giant by the name of Steopa. Luckily for her, Steopa is more like Vincent than the other vampires; both Vincent and Steopa value the companionship of others. Steopa returns to help Beka make the adjustment to her new existence. She is reluctant at first, but there is the possibility that she might die if she doesn’t accept the link between her and Steopa. Once again, time is not a luxury that Beka has, even as an immortal. Before she can learn to feed herself properly, there are already other vampires hunting her. When she is attacked, she discovers her own unique ability, which Vincent tells her is “cooler than turning into mist.” She also learns that she overlooked a lot of what was going on around her as a human, especially with her friends: one is a berserk, and another is a psychic.

As Steopa teaches her to think more like a vampire, they find out that a string of brutal murders is related to the arrival of another vampire in the city. This mysterious vampire is hunting on grounds belonging to a vampire called Ogden. Steopa and Beka want to stop the mass killings, which have attracted the attention of the police, but Ogden requires proof before he lets them hunt the killer on his territory. While searching for evidence, with the help of Vincent, the four of them — Steopa, Beka, Vincent and Ogden — uncover a plot that is a threat to all vampires.

I don’t think this novel is strictly horror, but more a great blend of thriller and mystery. What begins as a personal evolution ends as the first installment of a chilling saga. There’s no abrupt cliff-hanger, but you are left wondering what will become of Beka and her two vampire companions. You can find out more about newbie author Mari Miniatt here.

~Ursula K. Raphael

July 26, 2010

Review: The Official Zombie Survival Handbook by Sean Page

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by Sean Page

Severed Press
(July 2010, $12.95, 202 pages)

The ever-growing zombie genre has given birth to a sub-culture known as zombie survivalists. These are people who seriously discuss and debate the possibility of an undead outbreak, and the various outcomes of such an event. As a result of this movement, several zombie guides have been produced, in an effort to make the general public aware of the danger zombies may pose. Unfortunately, depending on the personal background of the authors, most of the books do not contain practical guidelines that can be applied internationally. Consequently, new guides are being published, tailored to individual countries and their laws.

Sean Page, the author of The Official Zombie Handbook (UK), has taken it upon himself to write such a manual for his fellow Britons, as well as foreigners who may be able to adapt some of the concepts for use in their own countries. In the manual’s introduction, Page explains why other books like Max Brooks’ The Zombie Survival Guide are difficult to apply where it is nearly impossible to get your hands on a firearm for self-defense. He also points out that preparing for a zombie outbreak with his 90-day survival plan would appeal to the environmentally-conscientious with a “green” agenda (for example, self-sufficiency); as most zombiephiles know, if you’re prepared for an apocalypse, you’ll be prepared for any emergency.

Addressing the controversy over the various types zombies within the horror genre, Page defines a zombie as “a dead body that has been brought back to life by an as yet unidentified virus which leads to the body to behave in a low intelligent and cannibalistic way.” He emphasizes that the cause of an outbreak is not as important as keeping yourself alive. Beginning with the history of zombies and corresponding research, Page provides basic background information for those not already familiar with the field of “zombiology,” and walks readers through the science of zombie infection and transformation.

The UK guide quickly moves onto defense and disposal issues for varying levels of outbreaks, going so far as to address the concern that a zombie virus could spread from humans to animals. Readers are made aware of the tactical differences between land and water locations, while Page lays out the blueprint for his country’s national defense. He describes the complications that could arise if the UK government attempted a cover-up, illustrating this with a case study of one such incidence.

The most crucial section of this manual is Complete Zombie Defence [sic], which examines the barricades, provisions and skills required for a group’s survival. It tackles the who, what, why and how of the three main phases of the 90-day plan, taking lessons from past historical disasters, both man-made and natural, and including survivors with disabilities. There are a few diagrams, as well as a map of the UK, and critical details of every possible scenario are provided.

Even if readers have never been to the UK, or don’t intend on traveling abroad, there is still plenty of useful ideas to be gleaned from The Official Zombie Handbook for those who wish to prepare themselves for a zombie apocalypse.

~Ursula K. Raphael

July 25, 2010

July/August issue Is Here!

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It finally happened! The July/August issue (#4) of this is waiting for you on our website with fiction by James Thibeault and Scott Deckman; poetry by Geer Austin, Micah Muldowney, Birch Taylor, Mariele Ventrice, Ami Xherro, and Lorenzo Buford; essays by Peter Gajdics and Cailin Barrett-Bressack; art by Maddie Scott; photography by John Densky; and reviews by our contributing writers Ursula K. Raphael, Jordon Chiarelli, and John Coleman.

In this issue, we also announce our poet spotlight initiative.

Comments? Questions? Feedback? Let us know!

June 27, 2010

Book Review: Beatrice & Virgil by Yann Martel

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By Yann Martel

Alfred A. Knopf
(April 2010, CAN $29.95, 197 pages)

Yann Martel’s new novel, Beatrice & Virgil, is noticeably less reliant on Martel’s masterful lore-ridden prose exemplified in his Man Booker Prize winning novel Life Of Pi. Beatrice is obsessed with two popularly tackled, yet uniquely portrayed literary themes: a bard with artistic challenges, and the Holocaust. Main character Henry, a world famous author living off the success of his last novel, is working on a half essay/half novel flip-book aimed at providing a fresh account of the Holocaust. Henry’s inspiration is historical realism’s domination of the theme in art, in response to which he thrives for an aspect of wonder: “A work of art works because it is true, not because it is real. Was there not a danger to representing the Holocaust in a way always beholden to factuality?” But after twenty pages of Beatrice, Henry’s unique post-modern stab at Holocaust representation is shot down by his publishers, who see hollowness in is his idea.

Upon the negative feedback, Henry takes a break from writing, and he and his newly pregnant wife Sarah move to an unnamed city. Henry attains a job in a cafe and volunteers in the local theatre company; Sarah works in an addictions clinic. Beatrice drops its budding rhetorical discourse of differently representing the Holocaust to more closely follow the theme of life as a writer: Henry begins regularly coaching a lowly, old taxidermist, also named Henry, on a play he has been working on all his life. Now, Beatrice mainly becomes an examination of the taxidermist’s play.

The play centres around two fervently symbolic, Dante-esque characters: a donkey named Beatrice, and a howler monkey, Virgil. The play becomes infused in the story, at times lengthily, with multiple page excerpts that follow the two animals as they lapse in and out of comi-tragic scenes. The first snippet of dramatic dialogue is six pages of Virgil describing to Beatrice what a pear looks like. It takes a while to decipher why Martel focuses on discussions of arbitrary things, at times difficult to link to any real symbolism. However, Beatrice eventually reconnects with Martel’s Holocaust motif, offering depressing, empathetic scenes where Virgil is sought out by an elusive secret police squad, and the taxidermist lividly pieces together parts of dead animals (“the mouth was a tongueless, toothless gaping hole revealing the yellow fibreglass jaw of the mannequin. [. . .] It looked grotesquely unnatural, a cervine version of Frankenstein”). Martel spells out numerous Holocaust metaphors, but it somehow takes the genius-like Henry until Beatrice’s final pages to understand the taxidermist’s theme, and realize there is a real-life Nazi nearby.

Martel, like Henry wants to do, cleverly creates an original viewpoint for Holocaust representation in art, which drives Beatrice’s self-reflexive capability home. By Martel leading us through the taxidermist’s play, reader and writer, fiction and reality become synonymous. Suddenly, Beatrice’s function is just what Henry’s art is, an imaginative story shedding new light on the Holocaust. Martel is begging us to look at his work as a reflection of real events and to pull fruitful reality out of fiction. This said, an entertainment reader seeking a Life of Pi adventure will be drawn away by Beatrice and Martel’s attempt to paint a new picture not so in your face as most would like it.

~ John Coleman

April 26, 2010

Book review: Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes

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Video book review courtesy of Maria’s Bookshop in Durango, CO.

Would you like to review books (or music or film) for us? this is looking for great reviewers to join our list of contributors! For more information on becoming a reviewer, visit our website and click on “submissions” for more details.

March 24, 2010

YA Literature For Grown-ups

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Recently, a Los Angeles Times article mentioned that more adults are reading YA (young adult) novels than in previous years and sales of YA books are one of the few bright spots in a floundering publishing industry. Over at Flavorwire, the editors picked their selection of the ten best YA books for adults.

Adults loving YA literature is nothing new, of course, as the number of adult Harry Potter fans shows. However, outside of massively successful children’s and YA literature that is deemed acceptable for older audiences despite its younger targets, literature for the young is often received with disdain by “serious” readers.

Well, “serious” readers have no fun in life and probably spend their time drinking unsweetened tea and munching on rice cakes. The dividing line between adult and YA literature is a wavy, inconstant one and, despite the supposedly recent trend, not new. While there are plenty of trashy and terribly written young adult books, there are an equal if not larger number of trashy and terribly written adult books. However, just as The Catcher in the Rye is beloved by teenagers and adults alike, so The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime or The Book Thief can transcend the too often limiting label of “young adult” that prevents excellent books by fine writers from falling into adult hands.

A smart bookstore will have YA books adults can enjoy and adult novels that adolescents can enjoy in both sections of their store. Further, a smart bookstore will have a well-read staff that isn’t limited by the demarcation lines of publishing house imprints. The same goes for smart libraries and librarians. Reading is for pleasure, not shame. Much of what prevents adult readers from seeking out and reading books otherwise categorized as “young adult” is the belief that if “it’s intended for someone younger than me, it must be beneath me.” Adult readers need to get over this limiting and fallacious belief because, not only is it silly, but it also shows a lack of sophistication about writing and books.

This is one of the reasons why this actively encourages book reviews about YA books. We understand that, while not all YA literature is superb and not all of it will engage or interest adult readers, there are plenty of YA titles that adults can and should enjoy without feeling ashamed, idiotic, or a less serious reader.

In this Issue #2, Rachel Heston Davis reviews Alison Croggon’s The Naming. In future issues, we look forward to bring our readers thoughtful reviews of adult and young adult literature. We feel it’s important to recognize writers outside of whatever publishing house imprints their books come from and without much regard to the average age of the target audience.

March 1, 2010

New Issue, New Website & More!

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Our new website is finally finished! We inaugurate it with the second issue of this, featuring:

–poetry by Rachel C. Fletcher and Liza Sparks
–fiction by Ian Penrose
–erotica by Niki Graff
–an interview with Christine Stoddard, Founder and President of the Greater Washington Indie Arts Festival
–a short film by Erica F.
–a book reviews of Elizabeth Kostova’s The Swan Thieves, Alison Croggon’s The Naming, and Jennifer Scanlon’s Bad Girls Go Everywhere: The Life and Times of Helen Gurley Brown.

Don’t forget to join our fan page on Facebook! If you are logged in to Facebook, this link will take you directly to our fan page.