Archives for August 2011

Power’s Out

Looks like I’ll have to backdate a few book reviews or something to make up for the three days I’ve gone without blogging. It’s been a harrying few days around here as Hurricane Irene knocked out my power Sunday morning and days later we’ve still no idea when it will be restored. I’m currently seeking refuge at Alice’s soaking up her electric. Uschi’s mere presence is alienating the four cats in residence while I type this out on Josh’s laptop. (I should apologize now if there are typos because I can’t really see his tiny screen.)

We lost power Sunday morning, just as I was turning my desktop on. A call to National Grid netted us absolutely no assurance as to when the power would be restored because we’re located in what they call a “low concentration zone.” Days later the response is still the same: we might get electric back on sometime today or it could wait until next week. They are “assessing the situation” and there are areas without power with a far greater population than the estimated three in mine. (Apparently the three outages are the three houses on my street!)

On Sunday that was all well and good. I have a gas stove and so I selected the things in the fridge that most needed to be cooked. I spent the day reading until the stormy skies got too dark to allow for this. After which I just went to bed. Waking up Monday morning I was greeted with bright blue skies and a forecast for much the same for the next few days. Sadly, the power was still out and my cell phone battery was dwindling. It seemed pointless by then to bother cooking anything since most of the fridge was beyond salvageable and anything I would make couldn’t be stored.

Cindy came over in the early afternoon and I used her car to charge up my cell phone while we got a bite to eat at Friendly’s. Back at home I continued my reading binge until once again there was not enough light to do so. And once again I took that as the cue to go to bed. I’m not sure why, but my cell actually died sometime shortly after even though it held a lesser charge for more than a day. Several people were texting and tweeting to me inquiring about the power loss including Josh who extended the aforementioned invitation to stay at his house where there is ample electric to utilize and a welcome lack of a fridge full of rotting food. I didn’t find all this out until later yesterday morning, though, when Cindy made a second trip over assuming my phone had once again died when I stopped responding to her texts. We had a late breakfast at The Blue Ribbon while my phone charged up in her car.

The most disconcerting thing about this lengthy power outage was the status of the freezer in the basement. Between my mother and I we probably have something like $200 stored in there. Thursday is trash pickup, so we decided to let it be until today when we would clean out the fridges. But thinking on it further we decided that it would be prudent to buy a generator on the likely chance we ever lost power again. $600 and some manual labor later we discovered that the freezer has remained fully frozen! The generator is more than capable of powering the entire house several times over, but at the cost of gas to run it it isn’t worth it to run constantly through a lengthy outage. I left Mom to keep the freezer going for the night and use whatever she wanted to via the generator and spent last night at Alice and Josh’s where I charged my phone and Kindle, had a “real” meal and watched Hot Fuzz. Might sound dull, but I assure you it was practically sublime!

Everyone’s at work now so I’m left to occupy myself for the day. I’ll have to make a trip home to get clothes and dog food for another night and as I mentioned above I need to sadly clean out my rotten fridge. All in all things could certainly be worse, but I won’t deny that it would be very nice to have power at my house! Still, Uschi and I are both safe and doing fine so while it’s terribly inconvenient I can’t really complain. And I’m incredibly grateful for the help of some awesome friends.

Will try and update again soon.

EDIT: YAY!

“Thor”

This year has been a big one for comic films and even though I’m more a DC Comics fan I’ve been very happy about this. Let’s face it, Marvel’s long since proven they know what they’re doing when it comes to film adaptations or at the very least DC has shown they really, well, don’t. Anyway, among the list of films parading through theaters was Thor.

Movie poster

My knowledge of Thor prior to watching this film comes entirely from Norse mythology, so wasn’t I surprised to find out that this is totally a girl’s movie? I mean it! I always thought Thor was a thinly disguised Hulk, running around shouting he’s mighty and smashing things with his hammer. Instead I discovered that instead this is basically Rainbow Brite if she were a totally cut prince with a badass hammer in place of her belt! Clearly, I was missing out.

Okay, okay, I’ll try to be serious, but let the record show that Chris Hemsworth is so damn pretty it is almost physically painful to behold. That alone was worth watching this. Actually, it’s probably worth watching it at least two more times.

So, yeah, there’s that. There’s also the fact that it passed the Bechdel film test within literally the very first minute. That’s quite a feat for any film, but definitely not something I expect of a superhero/comic movie. Yet more proof of the fact this is totally a girl’s movie.

After that shocking realization, I spent two hours basically giggling. With the fluffy plot I alluded to it shouldn’t surprise you and honestly if this film had tried to take itself seriously it would have undoubtedly backfired and been just plain awful. Instead there’s a lot of levity sprinkled throughout the run. And it’s done in such a way that it doesn’t degrade into camp. Always a good thing.

What is surprising is that for a comic film  — one that’s about a super strong god wielding a hammer! — it’s not very action heavy. Mostly the action scenes bookend the film with another at the midpoint that mostly serves to prove my “this is a girl’s movie” statement because it’s little more than an excuse to get drench Hemsworth and get him all dirty. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. But the sad fact is that the movie sort of drags at the start even with that first big battle. When Thor tries to retrieve Mjolnir I actually was surprised that half the movie had gone by because it felt like a year had gone by and not much had happened. At least not much beyond Thor with his shirt off and being ridiculously dreamy all over the screen. Again, I’m not complaining.

In short, it was fun.

“Vampire Academy: The Graphic Novel”

There’s a growing trend of late to turn young adult books into graphic novels. Perhaps because I’m visually impaired, I fail to see the purpose. From a marketing standpoint I suppose it’s like any other adaptation. And I guess it could be argued that they might help cross demographics. Anyway, I’ve basically been ignoring the whole thing until I saw the announcement about Vampire Academy being adapted. I debated ignoring the whole thing, but it came out the same day as the new spinoff series so I nabbed a copy.

Book cover

In my opinion, a media transition needs to stand on its own so it’s not fair to compare it to the original. Though, it should maintain that general feel of the source material. This adaptation has the unfortunate distinction of being taken from one of my favorite series (though, in my humble opinion, one of the weakest books from it). However, it’s been a few years since I read the book so I admit I’m slightly foggy on the details, which might be a positive thing.

Anyway, what I do remember is that I fell in love with Rose. Seeing her story brought to life this way is very refreshing, but this is a pretty light book in terms of action which leaves the art kind of lacking. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful. And it’s very accurate to the descriptions from the book. But I wouldn’t find it nearly as interesting if I weren’t already familiar with the story.

The real drawback to me is that it doesn’t feel like Rose telling the story. Her snarky wit is largely omitted, which is a shame. Perhaps this is because of the necessary condensing that the book requires to be adapted, but that doesn’t explain away the disjointed way her inner-dialogue is presented. Obviously large chunks of exposition and pontification can’t very well be put into a thought bubble, but I am a bit wary of future books being adapted as most are far longer than this one.

Newcomers will undoubtedly be at least slightly confused by the book, but VA fans will be pleased if only for the eye candy. All things considered, this is pretty underwhelming, but I’m still interested to see the rest of the series.

“Bloodlines”

Richelle Mead is one of my all-time favorite authors. In particular, I’m quite a fan of her Vampire Academy series. So, even though I’m generally approach spinoffs with a good deal of trepidation, I was very excited about the news that VA would continue on. Bloodlines is the first in the titular series and picks up where Last Sacrifice, the sixth and last VA book, left off. The main characters of the original series move into the background while Sydney and several other side characters take center stage.

Book cover

I’ve become quite cynical of spinoffs because they generally don’t live up to their original source. Being quite fond of the Vampire Academy series, I was very wary of this new series. This was only compounded by the news that books would be told via Sydney rather than in the third-person as was originally planned.1 Obviously, since her story is completed Rose is no longer an option to narrate, but I wasn’t convinced Sydney would be interesting enough and I hadn’t found her particularly likable in her previous appearances. Mostly, I was apprehensive because of the many dangling plot points from Last Sacrifice, which at the time of my initial read felt almost arbitrary. I try to approach every book individually and without any preconceived notions or expectations, but honestly the simple fact is that this book had a lot to live up to for me.

As it’s only the first book, I can’t say that Bloodlines has or will surpass VA, but I think it’s a worthy followup. More importantly, it picks up those loose threads from Last Sacrifice in such a seamless way that I actually want to read the VA conclusion again just to see if I still find those lingering plot points as jarring as they initially came across to me. My one quibble is that it’s such an easy transition into this new series that I wonder how accessible it would be to someone that isn’t already invested in the prior series. No matter how much I adore the series, it’s hard to recommend a book that requires so much advance reading. The biggest surprise for me was how smoothly Sydney’s narration comes across. Mead’s explanation sums up the differences between the two perspectives quite well:

[Sydney] gives us a human take on the Moroi world, which isn’t something we’ve really seen yet. Vampire life, through Rose’s eyes, is a very normal thing. For Sydney? Not so. It’s made worse because she’s been raised to believe vampires and dhampirs are wrong and unnatural, but spending time with them in Palm Springs begins to change her mind . . . What’s also interesting is that Sydney has a much more analytic view of the world than Rose. Sydney overthinks where Rose rushes in, and both styles are fun to watch. Sydney’s super smart and can memorize reams of material—but is a little oblivious to how a normal social life works.

I expected a bit of an adjustment to Sydney as the narrator. Her prior appearances via Rose’s perspective made her seem very standoffish, almost snobby at times. In comparison to Rose’s effervescent personality this came across as a bit cold. (I concede that I may have interpreted that incorrectly and it’s yet another reason I’m curious to do a reread of the original series.) Through her narration, Sydney reveals a different person than that and even shows us why it is she acts as she does. It’s also thoroughly entertaining to see someone else’s view of Rose! By the end of the book I was totally smitten with her and I’m deeply curious to see how things unfold for her throughout the series.

Beyond my initial qualms my feelings are somewhat conflicted. I’m inclined to think I almost psyched myself out of fully enjoying the book because of my expectations much as I tried to ignore them. The one comparison I can’t help but notice is that the story itself is much less driven, almost weak, than the typical VA book. I missed that sense of urgency that the prior books had and found myself wishing that someone would pull a Rose and just randomly punch someone to get things going. That isn’t to say I was exactly pining for action, but when it finally does surface — practically at the end of the book — it’s present in such a blasé fashion that it was like seeing the scene through a film of water. It also seemed far too obvious right from the start and so I found myself slightly irritated that things didn’t click into place for so very long. Even when Sydney started piecing things together there was no momentum to the story, in fact she actually stalled the plot a bit by sitting on her discovery! I also found it very hard to keep track of time. What felt like days, even weeks, was described as happening in the span of a week. Specifically, I can’t believe that in this economy a person could find three job interviews in (I think?) a day and moreover have them scheduled in the same day. And, while it’s only a little thing in the book, I’m absolutely disgusted with the hang up Sydney has over having to wear size 4 clothes — and that she mentions needing to diet her way back to a size 2. Not at all what I’d expect from Ms. Mead. Very disappointing.

What saves all this from a complete downward spiral is that the characters that take center stage in this new series are almost as fascinating as Rose and Lissa. It’s a different view of the Moroi world in several ways. As I mentioned before, Sydney gives us an “outsider” view, but in their own way each of the four is kind of on the outskirts. In fact, the entire location of the book puts them outside of the goings-on of the Moroi. It’s a completely different dynamic than the first series and it’s the perfect venue for these characters. Adrian has never been much of a draw for me, but he’s started to pique my curiosity. Personally, I’m most intrigued with Eddie and where his story will go.

In the end what it all comes down to is that I don’t really know how I feel. I enjoyed the book, but I’m not entirely sure if that feeling isn’t colored by my relief that my wariness was unfounded or my previous love of the original series. I do feel a bit letdown by some small elements, but I think they’re minor enough to be forgivable. So, for what it’s worth, I’m reserving final judgment until I read a bit further into the series.

  1. I’ve since read the original first chapter, though, and I think the change was a wise one. At the very least, I think it would have been confusing.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Up

Uschi gazing up towards the branches of a tree filled with summer blossoms

Uschi’s taking a moment to gaze up at one of my favorite aspects summer: the blooms on the trees. So pretty. Though, I’m looking forward to the lovely colors of autumn, which is just around the corner.