Monthly Archives: January 2010

Fun Friday: Reading Technology

So this week’s big tech news is the new Apple iPad. (Ugh, could they have come up with a worse name? Really?)

It’s pretty impressive, in that portable, personal LCD screen kind of way. I’d love to use it to watch movies while on vacation or to play games. But as a personal reader? I’ll stick to the devices with e-ink technology. That’s the whole point, isn’t it? To go easy on the eyes? If I want a portable reader with a large, LCD type screen, that’s what the laptop’s for.

But… the buzz is large and heated. Will the iPad beat out the Amazon Kindle in the ebook war? With their new iBookstore opening… price wars are sure to begin.

How about you, readers. Fess up. How many of you read ebooks? How many of you would purchase the iPad as a reading device? What are your thoughts?

Thursday Myths & Legends 101: Manticore

The Manticore’s name literally comes from “man eater,” in ancient Portugese.  Manticores are creatures of India, and are supposed to have the body of a red lion, the head of a man (with blue eyes for some reason) with three rows of teeth, and the tail of a scorpion—which is covered with arrows that can be shot at its prey from long distances.  Its voice is compared to trumpets or pipes, and like its cousin the sphinx, the manticore will on occasion ask riddles of its prey before eating them.

The image above comes from a seventeenth-century bestiary, as the manticore was believed by some (including Aristotle and Pliny the Elder) as being a real creature, which lived in the depths of the earth.  Because of this, it was tied with the Biblical prophet Jeremiah, who had been thrown into a pit.  The manticore became a symbol of tyranny and an embodiment of evil, and was seen as a bad omen.  It was also seen as an unholy hybrid of the zodiac characters of Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius.

In fiction, a manticore plays a large role in  Piers Anthony’s first Xanth novel, and another plays a role in the third novel of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson novels.

Book Geek Wednesday: Third Time’s the Charm?

So this blog post is more of a follow up than a book review, but I thought it was important to give you all the skinny on what’s been happening in my book life.

I’ve been very frank on this blog about the epicfail that has been my attempt to read Graceling. I won’t lie. I was disappointed because I had really high hopes for that book, what with all the buzz that’s been going on about it. I picked it up and put it down more times than I care to admit. In fact, according to GoodReads, I started the book June 11 2009. *_* Wow.

Now, I know my post a few weeks ago said that it would probably end up in the DNF pile (did not finish) but I’m glad to report that as of a week ago, I picked it up for what would have been the last time, and around page 147 I found a spark of something magical. The story suddenly took flight. It was interesting, dynamic, adventurous and captivating. I read and flipped through pages with lightening speed wanting to know more about where the characters were headed and the mystery behind King Leck.

I’m now about halfway through and believe I will have a review ready for you all next week.

So I guess the moral of the story is, sometimes, you just can’t give up.Some stories start like a gunshot, fast and intense. But some are more like a boiling pot and you gotta just watch and wait until the water bubbles. 😉

Lisa’s Tuesday Perspective: Black is for Beginnings by Laurie Faria Stolarz

I was a little hestiant about this book… in mostly uncharted-territory (unless your Joss Whedon or Neil Gaiman, maybe) Laurie Faria Stolarz took her Blue is for Nightmares series (which I completely fell for last year) in a whole new direction in its last edition, Black is for Beginnings—and that direction was a graphic novel.

Now, I have to admit, anything remotely manga-styled has a tendency to put me off… this is a knee-jerk reaction due to far too many people assuming I like anime just because I’m half-Japanese (I don’t, by the way—at least not much outside of the Studio Ghibli range).  This book was offering me a little bit of extra story with characters I really enjoy, though, not to mention a few little loose ends tied up nicely, which would have made the last book overly long in reality.

Being a graphic novel, and not a very big book anyhow, this was a quick, easy read, though a good majority of it was summing up what had happened in the first four books—an understandable sidetrack, considering this book is in an entirely new medium, and likely to be picked up by a different audience.

As less-than-enthusiastic as I was about the exact type of art used here, it really was interesting to see an artists’ rendition of events I’d imagined in my mind—fairly clearly, considering what a visible, detail-oriented writer Stolarz is.  It also introduced me to the instant gratification that can come with graphic novels—I finished this in one sitting.  I don’t know that I’m 100% comfortable with this instant gratification… it brings to mind the generally floor-sitting, black-trenchcoat-clad types that I’ve had to crawl over in the past to get to the YA section of the bookstore (I haven’t had this problem lately… maybe bookstores have caught on and made YA more accessible?).  I always regarded these kids as miscreants of some sort, sitting in the bookstore reading manga from cover to cover rather than actually buying the books…

That said, I’ve been a little ADD with my books lately, as I mentioned a few weeks agoBlack is the first book I actually finished this year, and finishing a book is a peculiar kind of satisfaction that can’t be replaced with anything else.

Was the story particularly deep, or meaningful?  Was it as rich and enjoyable as the first four books in the series?  Not remotely.  But it did give me a little extra time with Stacey Brown, a character I’ve come to adore in her own right, and it was 100% true to itself, so I’m going to be gentle and give this a B-.

Movie Magic Monday: Avatar

I pretty much resolved to go see Avatar after I read a blog post on The Galaxy Express, an awesome sci-fi romance blog. I’ve always liked James Cameron. Titanic remains one of my favorite movies of all time as it was the first movie that made me bawl uncontrollably. The love story was epic and beautiful and memorable. But I’m also a fan of the other spectrum of his work, his earlier more action packed movies. Come on, you all know exactly what I’m talking about. The Terminator series was fascinating. Watching Sarah Connor fight to save her life and the life of her child, the child who would one day be the salvation of humanity against the evil robots. Awesome. And then, after all that madness in part one, to watch poor Sarah locked up in the crazy house (getting all strong and ripped) face the man who was originally sent to kill her, but is now meant to protect her. Talk about drama. It was brilliant. The backstory was intelligent and exciting and although Arnold Schwarzenegger is not what I’d call a talented actor, he had the robot thing down.

Anyway, I digress. The reason I brought up Heather’s post is because she quoted Cameron’s Entertainment Weekly article (Dec. 18th issue) as saying:

EW: Despite the guns and explosions and robots, your movies usually have an element of romance and a strong female protagonist, like Ripley in Aliens or Sarah Connor in the Terminator movies. Where does that impulse come from?

Cameron: First of all, last time I checked, women were 50 percent of the population. And when you’re making a movie that costs over $200 million, you don’t want to have a target audience. Your target audience is people with a pulse and $15–or even just $15. [Laughs] Secondly, I like women. I like how they think. I like how they see the world. The funny thing is, with Avatar I set out to do a pretty male adventure movie: a stranger in a strange land encountering this other culture. But in the back of my mind, I’m thinking, ‘Well, in my life, the way I’ve learned the most is through relationships.’ I’ve always found that lovers tend to be teachers. So I took that idea and made the story. What we found as we were editing the film was that the emotion was so strong, we just said, ‘F– it, it’s a love story.'”

(pgs. 49-50)

His potty mouth aside, those words thrilled me. I mean, he really GETS it. He knows that what really cuts to the core of a movie, be it a good fantasy or scifi or even contemporary is something that will move the heart. And romance is what does that.

So I saw Avatar in 3D (it wasn’t necessary but it was fun) and I was not disappointed. What a fantastic story. The hero was conflicted and impulsive. The aliens’ culture was well thought out and felt genuine, as though it existed far longer than our knowledge of it.

Their physical world was beyond the imagination- visually breathtaking. The CGI was amazing. There was no doubt in my mind Cameron had really lived and breathed there because I believed every moment I spent among them. The science behind the avatars was interesting and plausible, in so far fictional hybrids are concerned and in the end the entire package just really impressed me. Of course, the love story at the core really held the rest of the movie together and it was the perfect stranger in a new land scenario. Yes, that’s been done before, but Cameron’s vision was so unique it didn’t matter. He brought us on a unique journey, all his own. Score: A

Fun Friday: Which Salvatore do You Adore?

Vampire Diaries is back! And I, for one, am thrilled! I haven’t seen last night’s episode just yet, but it’s waiting for me, and I’m totally excited. I have to admit, I looooove those Salvatore brothers. How can you not? Besides being smokin’ hot, they’re kind of… well, smokin’ hot. 😉

So it begs the question, which Salvatore do you adore? Do you go for the brooding and beautiful Stefan? The one who denies himself human blood, and has done his utmost—at least until now!—to keep Elena safely away from him?

Or how about the dark and dangerous Damon? Damon’s a bit more fun than Stefan—but he’s also a lot more likely to kill you! Still, we’ve seen brief, but real moments of aching sweetness in Damon…

Both brothers were turned by the duplicitous Katherine over a hundred years ago, but while Stefan realizes that Katherine used her powers to compel him, Damon can’t help but believe in whatever is left of his heart that he truly did love Katherine… and for better or worse (usually worse!) he loves her still, in his own tortured way.

So which Salvatore brother do you lean towards? Personally I don’t know that I can decide… I openly confess that Ian Somerhalder is what really lured me towards watching the show in the first place, but Stefan sure has grown on me, too… and those little moments of tenderness we get from Damon make his character almost as appealing as Ian himself… tough choice this one… what do you think?

Meanwhile, as if the show needed more hotties, Sean Faris has gone and joined the cast… ah yes, I admit, I like this show!

Thursday Myths & Legends 101: Svaha and the Seven Krittika

Today I wanted to share with you a pretty awesome Hindu legend, involving the Big Dipper, Taurus the bull, and the Pleiades.

The story starts out with the seven Rishis, sages that made the sun rise and shine.  They made the seven stars of the Big Dipper, and they were married to the seven Krittika.

One day the fire god Agni emerged from a fire created in a ritual of the Rishis’ and he fell in love with the seven Krittika.   To try to forget his hopeless love, he wandered in the forest.  There he met Svaha, who is the star Zeta Tauri, the tip of one of the horns from the constellation of Taurus.  Svaha fell in love with Agni, but couldn’t tempt him, so instead she disguised herself as six of the seven Krittika (how this worked, I’m not really sure about but…) and succeeded in seducing him.  The seventh Krittika could not be impersonated somehow, because she was too faithful to her husband.

Eventually Svaha gave birth to a child, and rumors were raised that his mother was six of the seven Krittika, meaning they must have been unfaithful, which resulted in those six Krittika being divorced by their husbands—they were then thrown out of their homes in the stars of the Big Dipper, and so they became the Pleiades.

I’ve got to say, I really like this explanation for the seven sisters, and that they corresponded with the seven stars of the Big Dipper.  Star legends are maybe my favorite… you will surely see more here at the Hollow Tree!

Book Geek Wednesday: Night Shade by Lynne Ewing

After veering from my exploration of the Daughters of the Moon series, (DOTM as I will refer to it from here on in) last week, I thought it was time to get back on track. If you’re interested in the reviews we’ve had thus far, here is Book 1 and Book 2.

Book #3 is  Night Shade. This book centers around the third of the goddesses, Jimena. But she is not like any goddess you’ve ever known. The interesting thing about her as a protagonist is the type of life she’s lead. She’s not your average do-good heroine. In fact, her past is riddled with crime and violence. Jimena has tattoos. She was in a gang. And her boyfriend, Veto, was killed by a rival gang a year ago. Or so she thought. Because all of a sudden, Jimena swears she sees a ghost.

I loved that Ewing took this girl who came from the streets, from some hard times and gave her the chance to shine. She made her a hero- but more than that, she made Jimena a warrior. Her friendship with the girls (particularly Serena, as they’re best friends) softens her just enough to make her relatable and likeable, but you never forget where she’s come from and that she isn’t someone you want to mess with. It makes her a perfect addition and strength to the group as we’ve met them so far.

Ewing also does great with upping the mystery and suspense in this novel as we figure out what’s actually happening to Jimena. It’s a quick, easy read, but an overall enjoyable one. I still love that we get to see each character’s POV in their own seperate books, as I feel I’m really delving into their world, from multiple perspectives. Overall grade: B

Lisa’s Tuesday Perspective: Fairy Tales Retold

We all know the story of Cinderella.  Girl’s mother dies, her father remarries to a horrid woman with horrid daughters, and the girl becomes a servant in her own home—until a fairy godmother and a discerning, shoe-toting prince change everything forever.  It’s a simply story—the Grimm’s brother’s version is only two or three pages long.

That said, if you look up “Cinderella” on Goodreads, no less than 54 pages of results pop up.  That’s over 1000 books somehow based on thbe story of Cinderella—and that’s only one little fairy tale (though granted, it’s a very well known one!) and that doesn’t count tv, movie and play adaptations.

So what is it about a fairy tale—any fairy tale—that makes us reach for them over and over again, even if we already know how it’s going to end?  Is that what we like?  Knowing that—minus a few intentionally twisted versions—the girl ends up with the boy, and everything ends up happily ever after.

Or is it more of a tug-of-war in our hearts, where we want something old and familiar, but we also can’t help but yearning for something new and exciting?  Could it even be… *gasp* a bit of a sell-out?  People re-telling something they already know will sell, because it has so many times before?

Maybe another question I should be asking, is, why do we feel the need to recreate something—why can’t people come up with brand new fairy tales all on their own?  Some certainly have—look at Neil Gaiman, for example.  Or Maggie Stiefvater, who I can’t stop raving about.

So what do you think?  What is it about a retold fairy tale that appeals to you?  What are the turn-offs?  What are the best ones you’ve read?  We’re always curious to know your thoughts!

Where Did MMM Go?

I extend my deepest apologies. My husband was home from work today and I completely forgot that it was Monday, as it felt like a Sunday around the house. Then we went out and did some family stuff and posting just was the last thing on my mind. Shameful, I know. I have no excuses except that holiday/vacation brain has obviously rendered me incapable of knowing what day it is. Tomorrow we shall resume our regularly scheduled programming.

%d bloggers like this: