Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving for all those who celebrate and Happy Random Thursday to all those who don't. I'll leave you with a couple of awesome Thanksgiving themed videos.

* The Most Awesome Thanksgiving Musical Ever from Addams Family Values

* Hilarious Thanksgiving Stand-up by Eddie Izzard

* Greatest Thanksgiving Description Ever from Anya on Buffy the Vampire Slayer


Friday, November 18, 2011

The Night Eternal

Vampires have taken over the globe. The internet and cell phones are outlawed. Nuclear bombs are disarmed. The air is extremely polluted, shrinking daylight hours to only a couple each day. People with desirable blood types are put into farms to be bred or bled. Humanity keeps going as it always has, getting used to their vampire overlords' demands. Ephraim Goodweather is broken. His wife has been turned into a vampire and she frequently stalks and torments him. His son is missing and he has no idea if he's alive, or dead, or a vampire. In addition to all this, he has turned to drugs and alcohol to dull his feelings and survive day to day. He and his small group of friends are the only hope that human race has left to save themselves. They plan to find the Master's place of origin and nuke it, destroying him and all of his offspring. Can Ephraim hold it together long enough to destroy his mortal enemy or will he simply drown in his own sorrow?

The Night Eternal is the third and final book in the Strain trilogy. I loved both of the previous books and had high expectations for this one. I was a little disappointed, but many great things continued from the previous books. As always, the characters are completely fleshed out and multidimenstional. Ephraim is a good person, but became irresponsible and self indulgent due to his family and his world being completely torn apart. Nora is struggling to hide her less than lucid, aged mother from the new society that views the elderly as a drain of resources. Fez is trying to find a working nuclear bomb on his worldly travels and developing a relationship with Nora while Ephraim continues to drown his sorrows. The most compelling character to me is Mr. Quinlan, the only born vampire in existence. He was born during the reign of Caligula and his only goal is to destroy the Master, which would result in his death. His back story is fascinating and his enigmatic presence in the earlier books becomes more understandable. The other triumph of this book is the action sequences and sustaining a high level of suspense throughout. Their adventures take them from blood farms to the houses of the rich to the bowels of abandoned universities to a dark, ominous island.

The Night Eternal lost me when it broke from the other books and maintained a distinctly fantasy and mythology based origin for the vampires and relied on ridiculous moments of deus ex machina to solve their problems. I loved that the first two books had detailed, scientific explanations for vampire biology and behavior that the main characters figured out in order to defeat them. It was fascinating and something I had never seen before in vampire novels. This new, magic material just shatters the past science fiction basis. There are fallen angels, prophecies galore, and at least a few instances of deus ex machina, which is one of the worst writing tropes. It cheapened the story for me and was just annoying. I was disappointed that a great science fiction series suddenly changed into a mediocre fantasy.

Overall, I enjoyed The Night Eternal if I ignored the ridiculous prophecies and magical nonsense. The writing remained excellent beyond that and the characters stayed true to themselves. I would recommend that fans of this series ascertain if they can tolerate the change in tone before reading.

My rating: 3.5/5 fishmuffins

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Shatter Me

Juliette is seventeen years old hasn’t spoken to or touched anyone in 264 days. Whenever she touches someone, they suffer and eventually die if she holds on long enough. She was imprisoned for murder by the Re-establishment, an organization who is dedicated to rebuilding the polluted, barren Earth on the surface. Food and animals are scarce, the sky is incredibly polluted, and diseases run rampant. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is so harmful, but she is small compared to the larger problems of the world. Everything changes when after months and months of isolation, a boy is put into her cell with her. She has no idea what her jailers’ angle is, but she is determined to keep to herself and keep him safe. He isn’t what he appears to be and she has to choose whether she will be a weapon for someone else to wield or a self sufficient warrior.

Shatter Me is a mixed bag for me. On one hand, I was engaged by the interesting writing style and the main character, Juliette. The narrative is written in a kind of stream of consciousness style, giving the work the feeling of reading her journal or her innermost thoughts. It’s punctuated with occasional strike outs that reveal Juliette’s true feelings, usually followed by what she thinks she should feel. At the beginning of the story, she is practically catatonic, having been isolated for the better part of a year in an insane asylum. The strike outs provide glimpses into Juliette’s character that she doesn’t reveal outwardly. They lessen as the story goes along and as Juliette becomes stronger and more expressive. Juliette is the most compelling character by far and undergoes the most development. Underneath all the abuse she has experienced, she’s very strong and her sensitivity is sometimes mistaken for weakness. I thought her power was interesting, even though it was reminiscent of both Jenny Pox and Rogue from X-Men.

On the other hand, Shatter Me had a lot of flaws. The dystopic world isn’t fully developed and felt a little hollow for me. There are no real, detailed reasons for practically anything and no questions are answered. The story is closer to a paranormal romance than a sci-fi dystopia. The romance is pretty melodramatic and over the top. I didn’t like Adam, the soldier boy love interest, because he was too macho and alpha male for me. Not appealing. Plus all of the characters besides Juliette were flat and I also thought it was awfully convenient that two of the characters vying for her love can touch her without dying. The ending was the aspect I hated most because, like most first installments of teen series, it ended in the middle of a scene without really resolving anything. I really don’t know why this keeps happening in teen books, but it’s really annoying and I would like to read a complete story. Of course some things should be left open for a second book, but to abruptly, awkwardly end is just unacceptable.

Although it has flaws, Shatter Me kept my attention and introduced some interesting concepts that I hope are continued in the next book. I would recommend it to paranormal romance lovers who also like X-Men and Jenny Pox.

My rating: 3.5/5 fishmuffins

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley Concert of Awesome!

The concert was at the El Rey in Los Angeles on the Saturday before Halloween. I really wanted to dress up, but didn't have a lot of time to throw together a costume. So I wore the brain slug I wore for Comic Con. Lazy costume, yes, but a surprising amount of people recognized it.

Anway, opening the gig was the Petrojvic Blasting Company, who are an Eastern European brass band with a jazzy, cabaret feel. I must say that brass instruments really don't need to miked, but their songs were delightful and fun. My favorite song was Princess Andy.

The Jane Austen Argument came up next, who I had heard of from Amanda's latest album Amanda Goes Down Under. They are comprised of Tom Dickins on vocals and ukulele and Jen Kingwell on piano and vocals. They started with the song Under the Rainbow, about the implications of Tom Dickon's parents first meeting acting in The Wizard of Oz as Dorothy and the Scarecrow. I was immediately moved by this song, the ending nearly bringing me to tears. It's so beautiful and angry and sorrowful all at once with allusions to The Wizard of Oz throughout. Tom's voice has an amazing range and depth to it. I've been completely obsessed with this song and have been playing it over and over from their EP like some crazy person. They are incredibly talented and I hope they come to Southern California again soon.

In between sets, they played Halloween themed music at huge decibels for the crowd to enjoy. One of the highlights was the Time Warp from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Practically everyone (except for a few people around me) were doing a very small version of the time warp (as it was a very crowded and sold out show) and singing along. Those people who stayed silent did so for the entire concert and it's just odd to me. I don't know if they were unaffected by the perfomances or cared about looking stupid, but that's the experience of going to a concert like this. I screamed and sang and danced and clapped until by the end of the night I was completely exhausted and sore, but I felt the magic that live performances bring, where the crowd ceases to be individuals and instead becomes one amorphous, joined by our energy, enjoyment, and love of music.

Anyway, next up was Jason Webley, half of Evelyn Evelyn and master accordianist. His energy was boundless as he sang and danced while playing accordian. His style of music is folk and alternative performed in innovative ways. He came out with his band banging out rhythms with shovels and drum sticks, preluding my favorite song Dance While the Sky Crashes Down (mixed with Halloween). I love how it's played like a tango, but it's actually a song about the apocalypse.

He also played a medley of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and Thriller, continuing in the Halloween spirit, along with some of his other songs such as Map and There's Not a Step We Can Take. My favorite part of the set was how he included the audience in his songs. In one song, we were the orchestra, singing background parts. In another, he threw out water bottles with rocks in them for people to shake to the beat. In others, we simply clapped. It just made me feel more a part of the music.

After a small interlude of Halloween music (I believe it was Bauhaus' Bela Lugosi's Dead and This is Halloween), Amanda Palmer took the stage. Her electric presence and her raw, emotional singing and piano playing commanded the attention of the crowd. She played some songs from her albums, such as Ampersand, Astronaut, Map of Tasmania, Girl Anachronism, and In My Mind. Although I love these songs, I enjoy the more unexpected songs like covers and newly composed songs. My favorite of her covers was Rebecca Black's Friday, except she changed it to reflect the view of a truck stop hooker. She took a completely vapid, frankly horrible song and gave it depth and horrifying implications.

The newly composed song she debuted was called Judy Blume. This song should seriously be the YA Saves theme song. Palmer is asked all the time what her influences are and she never thought of Judy Blume as an influence, but she was affected by her books as a teen and never made the connection until now. I completely relate the song. I may not remember every single drama I went through or every single friend I had as a kid, but I remember reading The Wizard of Oz, The Vampire Diaries, and the Goosebumps and Fear Street books that helped me through my problems and sometimes acted as an escape for me.

For the encore, Jason and Amanda sang songs together. I was hoping for Evelyn and Evelyn songs, but they sang other songs. The first was Icarus, one of my favorite songs by Webley. Then all the musicians came onstage and we all sang a drinking song together. At first it was a failure because we weren't all drunk, so they had us spin around 11 times looking at our finger in the air to get good and dizzy to sing the song. I love that in the video the person actually spun around and swayed with their neighbors so the viewer can get the full effect.

All in all, it was an awesome show that I enjoyed immensely. I can't wait for these groups to return to Southern California!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Lochan and Maya are siblings that have become the head of their household because of their parents’ divorce and their mother’s neverending quest to reclaim her youth through irresponsible and immature behavior. They act as parents for their younger siblings, feeding them, caring for them, and even forcing their mother to give them money for their necessities. Life is hard for them because they have to balance their time consuming home life and their school work, exams, and their lives as teenagers. Their biggest nightmare is child protective services coming in and splitting up their family, so they work hard to make everything appear normal, despite their lives spinning out of control. After they have been relying on each other for so long and acting as parents for their younger siblings, Lochan and Maya have become extremely close. The close friendship they had as children slowly evolved into forbidden romantic love. Lochan and Maya grapple with their feelings that are so contrary to the society in which they live and decide if their relationship is worth risking everything they’ve worked for.

Forbidden is about incest. I was initially pretty shocked that a teen author would be brave enough to write a book like this. I assumed that people would hate it and be shocked and disgusted, but the general consensus seems to be quite the opposite. I would characterize Forbidden as a more coherent, better written version of Flowers in the Attic. That was my first encounter with incestuous relationships in literature and I was surprised that throughout that series, I really wanted Cathy and Christopher to be together. There are many similarities between the two works (abusive mother, parenting siblings, worrying over separating their family), but Tabitha Suzuma infuses her story with much more realistic situations and emotions. My heart broke for Lochan, Maya, and their siblings. Nobody should have to suffer as they did, struggling to get the basics of life while their mother squanders their money on clothes, drinks, and presents for herself. The bright light for Maya and Lochan, as well as the readers, is their budding romance.

After Lochan and Maya had my sympathy, their odd and weirdly right feeling romance flowered into a deep and profound love. Incest is taboo in most societies and most of us wouldn’t hesitate to call it disgusting, but Suzuma made their relationship organic and like any other romance. Of course, they are fraught with guilt and worried about other people finding out, causing them to have many fights and trying to push each other away in an effort to uphold the values of their society. The chapters are alternately narrated by Maya and Lochan, which gave insight to their inner thoughts and conflicts. This aspect was essential in making the subject matter believable and palatable.

Forbidden is a very fast read that grabbed my heartstrings and took me on an emotional and complex journey. I would recommend it to those not afraid to put aside their own feelings on the subject matter.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

Monday, November 14, 2011

Super Late September Zombies Winner Annoucements

I have been drowning in school work, so I kind of forgot to post the winners for the September Zombies giveaways. So here they are!

* Zombie Apocalypse giveaway
1) MAD

I will be emailing you one by one to claim your prize.

* Feed and Deadline giveaway

Congratulations to all winners!