Friday, July 1, 2011

Friday Finds

Posted by Simcha 7:06 AM, under | 4 comments

Since Friday is generally a slow blogging day for me I've decided to participate in a new (to me) meme,  hosted by Should be Reading, in which I'll tell you about some of the new books that I've discovered during the past week. And although this isn't part of the regular meme I'm also going to include fun links that I've come across during the week and want to share with you.

I love the Damn You, Autocorrect! site with it's screenshots of iPhone auto correct mistakes that never fails to crack me up. And so I was excited to hear that the site's owner has put together a book with some of the best autocorrect mistakes that she has received.

Damn You, Autocorrect!: Awesomely Embarrassing Text Messages You Didn't Mean to Send by Jillian Madison

If you own an iPhone, BlackBerry, Droid, or any smartphone, there's a good chance you've screamed that phrase out at least once. In Damn You, Autocorrect! Pop-culture blogger Jillian Madison shows you are not alone.

Filled with submissions from readers of her popular website, this laugh-out-loud funny book features cringe-worthy exchanges with parents, friends, significant others, and co-workers that contain some of the most unintentionally hilarious--and mortifying--mistakes ever caused by Autocorrect. Inside, you'll find a husband who tells his wife that he just "laid" (paid) the babysitter, a dad who tells his daughter that he and her mom are going to "divorce" (Disney), and many more epic texting fails too raunchy to list here.

Whether you love technology, texting humor, or taking just a little bit of pleasure in the misfortune of others, Damn You, Autocorrect! will leave you laughing until you cry, and thankful that nothing this embarrassing has happened to you. Yet. 

A Books on the Nighstand recommendation, because I love everything they recommend:

House Arrest by Ellen Meeropol

Home-care nurse Emily Klein can’t get out of her new assignment – weekly prenatal visits to Pippa Glenning, a young cult member under house arrest for the death of her daughter during a Solstice ceremony. But Emily takes her work seriously and plays by the rules, so she is determined to take good care of her high-profile and unconventional patient.

With two other cult members in prison, Pippa Glenning struggles to keep the household intact. If she follows the rules of her house arrest, she may be allowed to keep her baby; but as the pregnant woman in the family it’s her duty to dance for Isis at the upcoming winter Solstice ceremony. To escape the house arrest without being caught, Pippa needs Emily’s help.


I follow Maureen Johnson on Twitter and I'm constantly delighted by her crazy sense of humor, though I've never actually read any of her books. So when I saw that she has a new gothic fantasy coming out I quickly added it to my TBR list.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it's the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago.

Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn't notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.

Fun Links:

Weird Things customers say in bookshops

Cherie Priest offers advice on buying underwear

Self-help t-shirts

Article about a family that sells everything to renovate a bus in which they travel around the US. ( I would love to do this)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Book Lender's Dilemma

Posted by Simcha 7:03 AM, under | 10 comments

I love it when I lend a friend a book by an author that is new to them and they come back to me raving about how much they enjoyed it. This is particularly satisfying for me when the book is a fantasy because so few of my friends are willing to even give genre books a try.

When one of my friends recently came to me looking for something good to read I was a bit hesitant about what to lend her. I have been slowly working on converting this friend into a fantasy reader but we had a bit of a setback when I lent one of my favorite fantasy books, The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, and she returned it to me unfinished, saying it bored her. I was now afraid of scaring her off by giving her the wrong book, but the pressure was on to find just the right fantasy to keep her reading. I finally decided on another one of my favorites, The Warded Man by Peter Brett, though I really had no idea what her response to it would be.

To my delight, my friend returned the book to me several days later full of praise for The Warded Man and eager to read the sequel. That's when I realized that I hadn't thought this out fully enough. I should have expected that if my friend enjoyed the book she would ask me if I had the sequel as well. And I do have it. And it's a fantastic book. But it's also the personally autographed copy that I won from Peter Brett himself after doing some crazy stunt for a contest of his. Needless to say, this book has a special place on a high shelf where it sits in isolation,  protected from grubby hands or jostling elbows.

I gently explained to my friend about the book and then, a bit reluctantly, told her that she could borrow it if she was very careful with it. But all the fuss I had made about the book caused my friend to become nervous understandably nervous about being responsible for it and so she asked if she could just borrow another book instead.

But now, several hours later, I realize how ridiculous I'm being. While it's really cool to have a personally autographed book, what good does the book do anyone if it just sits on a shelf unread? And considering how excited I was that my friend liked the book just much as I did, why would I not want to share the sequel with her as well?

So I've decided that tomorrow I'm going to take the book down from its shelf and bring it over to my friend's house where I will leave it for her without offering a single word of caution. Because, after all, isn't that what books are for?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Heat Wave (Nikki Heat #1) by Richard Castle

Posted by Simcha 6:38 PM, under , | 8 comments

A New York real estate tycoon plunges to his death on a Manhattan sidewalk. A trophy wife with a past survives a narrow escape from a brazen attack. Mobsters and moguls with no shortage of reasons to kill trot out their alibis. And then, in the suffocating grip of a record heat wave, comes another shocking murder and a sharp turn in a tense journey into the dirty little secrets of the wealthy. Secrets that prove to be fatal. Secrets that lay hidden in the dark until one NYPD detective shines a light.

Mystery sensation Richard Castle, blockbuster author of the wildly best-selling Derrick Storm novels, introduces his newest character, NYPD Homicide Detective Nikki Heat. Tough, sexy, professional, Nikki Heat carries a passion for justice as she leads one of New York City's top homicide squads. She's hit with an unexpected challenge when the commissioner assigns superstar magazine journalist Jameson Rook to ride along with her to research an article on New York's Finest. PulitzerPrize-winning Rook is as much a handful as he is handsome. His wise-cracking and meddling aren't her only problems. As she works to unravel the secrets of the murdered real estate tycoon, she must also confront the spark between them. The one called heat.

I've never before had the slightest interest in reading a book that was based on a movie or TV show but after seeing someone comment on my Facebook page about how much she enjoyed Heat Wave, my curiosity was piqued. I enjoy watching Castle and had heard that a book by “Richard Castle” had been published, but hadn’t given any thought to actually reading it. While I thought it was a cute gimmick I doubted that the book actually had any literary merit. But soon after seeing the book praised by my friend I came across it at the library and figured it can’t hurt to give it a shot, and it might even be fun. And you know what? It really was.

Reading Heat Wave is pretty much just like watching an episode of Castle. Nearly all of the same characters are here (minus Alexis, Castle’s daughter) just with different names, and the plot and dialogue were so familiar that I think they may have been lifted from actual episodes. There was one bantering exchange between the characters that I am almost certain took place, word-for-word, in one of the show's episodes.

    OK, we agree on the ferret profile, “ said Heat. “What do we come away with that’s useful?” 
    “I think he did it.” 
    “Rook, you say that about everyone we meet on the case. May I remind you of Kimberly Star?” 
    “But I hadn’t seen this guy before. Or maybe it’s his muscle. That is what you guys call them, muscle?” 
    “Sometimes,” said Raley. “There’s also goon.” 
    “Or Thug” said Ochoa. 
    “Thug’s good,” continues Raley. “So’s badass.” 
    “Meat,” from Ochoa, and the two detectives alternated euphemisms in rapid-fire succession. 
    “But muscle works,” said Ochoa. 
    “Gets it said,” agreed Raley. 
    Rook had out his Moleskin notebook and pen. “I gotta get some of these down before I forget.” 
    “You do that, said Heat. “I’ll be in with the...miscreant.”

There is one big difference between the show and the book and that is that Heat Wave is told from the perspective of the female detective, Nikki Heat, who is pretty much the same character as Castle’s Becket. Whenever I watch Castle I find myself wishing that Becket’s personal life received as much attention as Castle’s and in this book we finally get that inside look into Becket’s life, via Niki Heat. There are a few slight differences between Heat and Becket, such as the details surrounding the death of her mother, but the personality, humor, life- style and pretty much everything else, are exactly the same. So I enjoyed getting to see into Becket/Heat’s head and finding out what makes her tick, especially in regard to her feelings about Castle/Rook.

Another difference between the book and the show is that the physical relationship between Heat and Rook goes much father than the show has taken it (yet) and I liked that, especially since it really didn’t change anything about how the characters interact with each other. While I understand why the show can’t cement that relationship yet it was nice to see it develop further, at least in one place.

I have to admit that the writing was a lot better than I had expected it to be, at times even bordering on the poetic. While there is no mistaking Heat Wave for Castle’s best-selling novel from the show, it still held its own. I don't read a lot of mysteries so I can't say how sophisticated this one was but I enjoyed it and eagerly followed along with Heat as she worked to solve it. Though my favorite parts of the book were the interactions between the characters, full of humor,  snappy dialogue, and romantic tension.

One area in which the book was lacking was in the character development. Readers are never really introduced to the characters or given a description of what they look like and I got the sense that that the writers want us to imagine the show’s cast in the role of the book’s characters. While fans of Castle probably don’t mind this, anyone who has not watched the show will likely be left unsatisfied.

Castle fans looking for some entertainment while waiting for the next season to start will find Heat Wave to be an enjoyable alternative. I really had fun reading it and I look forward to trying out some of the other Nikki Heat books.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Human.4 by Mike A. Lancaster

Posted by Simcha 6:06 PM, under ,,, | 6 comments

Kyle Straker isn’t looking forward to the annual community talent show and having to sit through hours of lame performances, but he promised his friend Daniel that he’d attend. Daniel has been making such a big deal about his new hypnotism act that Kyle can’t help but be curious about it, especially since he claims to have successfully hypnotized his own sister.

Kyle has no intention in participating in Daniel’s act but when no one else responds to his request for volunteers Kyle finds himself stepping forward. Daniel is surprisingly affective as a hypnotist and each of his volunteers are easily led into a light trance. But when Kyle opens his eyes again he is faced with a terrifying sight. Daniel and everyone in the audience are frozen in place with expressions of horror on their faces. Something had happened during the few minutes that Kyle was hypnotized and only he and the three other volunteers are unaffected. In just the space of a few moments the world as he knows it has come to an end, and his life will never be the same again.

Human.4 is narrated through a series of cassette tapes that were discovered at some point in the distant future. The book is prefaced with an editor’s note from the book’s author, Mike Lancaster, explaining about the tapes and their importance in relating a relatively unknown part of history. Occasionally footnotes are included explaining various words or phrases that Kyle uses; words that we, the readers, are familiar with but are archaic and foreign to those listening to the tapes.

I had picked up Human.4 at the library knowing nothing about it and I had really no idea in which direction the story would go. The story begins innocuously enough with the town’s preparations for the upcoming talent show, narrated to us by Kyle, an average teenage boy. We find out a little bit about his parent’s troubled marriage and his best friend Simon and his new girlfriend, who dislikes Kyle. But among the descriptions of his every-day activities Kyle slips in hints and warnings about the dark event that will soon be taking place, giving the story a feeling of menace from the very beginning.

    That’s my family Drives you absolutely crazy But you miss them when you’re no longer there When the bad stuff comes-and it always will- you look back at those moments with longing. The bad stuff was just around the corner. The talent show changed everything. Forever. That’s why I like to think about the way things were, however imperfect they seemed at the time. In extraordinary times, the ordinary takes on a glow of it’s own.

Readers’ curiosity is peaked early on as we are told that something catastrophic is about to happen, but not what. Tension slowly builds as the story progresses towards that event but then once it occurs readers are still left in the dark, along with the book’s protagonists, as to what exactly has occurred. The terror and confusion that Kyle and the other survivors feel is clearly expressed to readers and the surprising explanation, once provided, does little to alleviate it.

I was easily caught up in Kyle’s compelling narration and I read the whole book in less then a day. Lancaster does an excellent job of drawing readers in and keeping their attention as the sinister mystery is unraveled. The ending, when it came, was a bit of a shock for me since the resolution I had been anticipating never took place. Perhaps I should have expected this considering the hints provided in the beginning, but I was left feeling that there was too much left unaddressed. I think I'm just used to most of the stories I read being wrapped up in some way by the end, especially young adult books, and was thrown off balance when it didn't happen that way here. Though days later I’m still thinking about the story, which I suppose is a testimony to how effective it was.

Lancaster has already written a sequel to Human.4, which is scheduled for publication next year, and I'm very curious to see what the subject of that book will be. Will it pick up on the story told in Human.4 or follow the futuristic race that "edited" that story, or something else completely? Whatever the case may be Lancaster has certainly hooked me and I look forward to reading whatever he comes up with next.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Some True Blood Fun

Posted by Simcha 3:43 AM, under | 1 comment

Yes, the day has finally arrived! After months of being teased by coy ad campaigns and tantalizing video shorts, season four of True Blood will finally be kicking off.

True Blood is actually not the kind of show that I would normally watch. To be honest, the blatant sex and nudity makes me uncomfortable and all the blood makes me queasy, so I usually spend most of the show with my hands over my eyes. But somehow the show still managed to get it's claws (fangs?) into me and I'm particularly looking forward to this season because it appears to be based on my favorite of the Sookie Stackhouse books.  And since I've pretty much given up on the books which have been getting progressively worse (I couldn't even finish the latest one) the show is now all that I have left, so I'm really hoping it'll be good.

Now for those of you who are also True Blood fans there is a way for you to get the chance to make a brief appearance in your own True Blood episode. That's right, you and your friends can appear beside Eric, Sookie and Pam in a short interactive video, by Liking the True Blood Facebook page. With your permission Facebook will then use the names and photographs on your Facebook account to make a personalized True Blood video for you. I did it myself and it was really fun, particularly seeing Eric send me an email. I was also very impressed that when a phone call was made to my name, my name was actually pronounced correctly. Way to go True Blood promotional people!

Anyhow, it's a lot of fun and I urge you to give it a try yourself.


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