I’m home sick. Have been sleeping much of the day, and watching a little anime. My husband was recently introduced to Shinkai Makoto’s Voices of a Distant Star, so over the past couple of days, he and I have been watching both that and his later film, 5 Centimeters Per Second, which for some reason is the one I have fallen for most deeply. I watched it again today, and I was again struck with such deep emotion, it was difficult not to just start all over again as soon as it had finished. …
Features & Reviews
Today I have a terrible cold, which is not so great for me, but possibly a blessing for *you* who are thus spared a long and tedious discussion of Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 8, and why the manga is so much richer than the anime, since I am much too congested to manage that level of thought. Whatever that level is.
I have Lucy with me at work today, and she is keeping my head from falling off, though I’m sure she’s incredibly bored. I have finally taken a real break, just an hour before my day is done. Fortunately, New York auditions were much more successful than they have sometimes been, and we have a lovely handful of folks to call back next week. It is starting to look like I may be attending callbacks on Monday, which I didn’t intend to do, and which will make for a very long week, as I’ll be leaving Wednesday to hold auditions in Nashville and Atlanta at the end of the week. With four tours going out in January, we’re trying to expand our files a bit, so we sent our PA to SETC auditions this year, and these auditions are a follow-up to that.
I’m feeling nostalgic this week, after seeing Christian (and even Mark, briefly!) on Monday in New York. I drift away from old friends much too easily, and that’s something I need to fix. Old friends, if you’re out there, don’t give up on me!
Lucy is growling at shadows, and I must get back to work.
The weekend is flying already. Yesterday, Paul and I took a trip up to Brattleboro, VT, where we met up with Dave & Ren, and had a lovely day exploring shops and enjoying a delicious dinner at India Palace. I picked up a tiny little book called Japanese in Thirty Hours, which promises great things. I took myself through the first lesson this morning, and can now point at Lucy and say, “This is a dog.” Very exciting.
Today, Paul will go hiking, and I will attempt to do some writing (with perhaps a bit of laundry on the side). I have a lot of ideas swirling around in my head, and I need to get them down before they flee.
Tomorrow I will be leaving the house before the crack of dawn to make it to NYC in time for auditions. We are booked solid (with a short lunch break) from 10-5, and we even have a waiting list, which is a very great thing, but makes for a long day. I will be lucky to make it back home by ten, at which time I intend to collapse on the couch with Lucy and anyone else who will join me. If I am still capable of speech at that point, I will point at her and say, “This is a dog.”
Happy weekend, folks!
From the back cover:
To this day, the low, thin wail of an infant can be heard in Keldale’s lush green valleys. Three hundred years ago, as legend goes, the frightened Yorkshire villagers smothered a crying babe in Keldale Abbey, where they’d hidden to escape the ravages of Cromwell’s raiders.
Now into Keldale’s pastoral web of old houses and older secrets comes Scotland Yard Inspector Thomas Lynley, the eighth Earl of Asherton. Along with the redoubtable Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers, Lynley has been sent to solve a savage murder that has stunned the peaceful countryside. For fat, unlovely, Roberta Teys has been found in her best dress, an axe in her lap, seated in the old stone barn beside her father’s headless corpse. Her first and last words were, “I did it. And I’m not sorry.”
Yet as Lynley and Havers wind their way through Keldale’s dark labyrinth of secret scandals and appalling crimes, they uncover a shattering series of revelations that will reverberate through this tranquil English valley—and in their own lives as well.
I was quite surprised to discover, about halfway through this book, that Elizabeth George is American. I never would’ve guessed, as it seemed such a quintessentially English mystery to me. Stylistically, her writing reminded me of P. D. James: thorough, easily-visualized descriptions of places and people; well-defined detectives with class differences; and lots of words that required me to seek out the dictionary. Favorite new word: armigerous. One just has to love the way people talk in these books, too. A normal person might say “I’m just in time!” Here, however, an aristocratic lady appearing in time for breakfast exclaimed, “What a propitious arrival I’ve affected!”
While the mystery itself was okay, what really made the book special was the relationship between Inspector Lynley and Sergeant Havers. He’s an Earl, Eton-educated, and a “golden boy” with a reputation for appreciating the ladies. Havers, from a working-class background, is described as truculent and termagant (another for the dictionary!) and had actually been demoted back to the street on account of difficulties she’d had getting along with the inspectors with whom she’d previously been paired. I loved that the first appearance of Lynley is seen through Havers’ eyes: “He was the handsomest man she’d ever seen. She loathed him.” Hee hee. Watching them getting to know one another as they worked the case was of equal importance to the case itself.
About the only thing I didn’t like was the obnoxious American tourist with a propensity for demanding to be told “the poop.” I realized he was there to make our heroes cringe and all, but egads, he was repellent.
I am existing in that state that Elizabeth Ann has always referred to as “timelock.” This is a bad thing. It means that I have too much to do and too little time, and as a result, I’m feeling paralyzed to do any of it efficiently. I feel this everywhere: life, work, my inner world.
My “graphic novel” has been coming along wonderfully, or at least was until a couple of days ago, when the timelock kicked in. I have chucked stick figure drawings in favor of just writing a very clear script with descriptions, which I think ultimately will be more useful for anyone who might be trying to understand it. I am kind of in love with it, which is a great feeling, and something that has not been easy for me to come by in my own work.
Oh, timelock, please leave me. You are not welcome here.
From the front flap:
“Special Circumstances.” The words have sent chills down Tally’s spine since her days as a repellent, rebellious ugly. Back then Specials were a sinister rumor—frighteningly beautiful, dangerously strong, breathtakingly fast. Ordinary pretties might live their whole lives without meeting a Special. But Tally’s never been ordinary.
And now she’s been turned into one of them: a superamped fighting machine, engineered to keep the uglies down and the pretties stupid.
The strength, the speed, and the clarity and focus of her thinking feel better than anything Tally can remember. Most of the time. One tiny corner of her heart still remembers something more.
Still, it’s easy to tune that out—until Tally’s offered a chance to stamp out the rebels of the New Smoke permanently. It all comes down to one last choice: listen to that tiny, faint heartbeat, or carry out the mission she’s programmed to complete. Either way, Tally’s world will never be the same.
Specials is big on story and premise, small on emotional impact. The chief fault of this series (characterization) hasn’t changed. Tally’s in a constant state of flux: she’s this, she’s that, she thinks this, she thinks that, she feels this, she feels that. One can’t really identify with a protagonist whose true nature is so hard to pin down.
The plot and the setting, however, made this an enjoyable read. I was surprised by the direction of the story on a couple of occasions, and though Tally’s ultimate fate is a little odd, it also kind of brings things full circle, so I’m okay with it.
Ultimately, I’d recommend the series, but as a library selection. At this time, I don’t intend to purchase my own copies to have on hand, which I usually do with true keepers.
From the back cover:
Katie Ellison is not a liar. It’s just that telling the truth is so… tricky. She knows she shouldn’t be making out with a drama club hottie behind her football-player boyfriend’s back. She should probably admit that she can’t stand eating quahogs (clams), especially since she’s running for Quahog Princess in her hometown’s annual Quahog Festival. And it would be a relief to finally tell someone what really happened the night “Tommy Sullivan” was spray-painted on the new wall outside the gymnasium—in neon orange, which still hasn’t been sandblasted off. After all, everyone knows that’s what drove Tommy out of town four years ago.
But now Tommy Sullivan has come back. Katie is sure he’s out for revenge, and she’ll do anything to hang on to her perfect (if slightly dishonest) existence. Even if it means telling more lies than ever. Even if, now that Tommy’s around, she’s actually—no lie—having the time of her life.
From the book description, it sounded like this book would be very annoying, but it actually wasn’t bad. Oh sure, Katie could be irksome, but she was at least distinctly different from the rest of Cabot’s heroines. And yeah, the plot was totally predictable, but it was satisfying in a romantic comedy kind of way.
There was more of the “re-explaining” that has bugged me in Cabot’s other books. In this case, it was where the circumstances of the awfulness of Tommy’s return were reiterated. Yes, he ticked off some people in a highschool-football-crazy town by exposing some jocks for cheating on their SATs. Yes, they lost their scholarships. Yes, Katie is now dating the younger brother of one of said jocks, who is still angry about the whole thing. I got all that the first time it was revealed and (gasp!) made all the necessary connections without having to be led through it on a string. I’m quite sure most teens can manage the same.
Also, like most Cabot heroines I’ve thus far encountered, Katie had a hobby that she was serious about pursuing. I think I need to make a list.
Princess Diaries — Mia is into writing.
All-American Girl — Sam is into art.
Pants on Fire — Katie is into photography.
Suze from the Mediator series didn’t have a hobby that I remember, but she had a sort of job/destiny thing, so I guess that qualifies. Their friends are usually into something specific, too. It’s kind of a character shortcut in many cases (this one’s a cheerleader, no need to establish more about her), but it’s better than girls with no aspirations, at least.
Anyway, I shouldn’t be surprised that Cabot books are formulaic and occasionally padded with needless rehashing: it’d be difficult to crank them out at her current pace if she had to come up with something entirely new each time. It was still a fun read and I’m sure I’ll be back for more Cabot when the need for fluff resurfaces.
From the back cover:
Lots of women put their careers aside once the kids come along. Kate Connor, for instance, hasn’t hunted a demon in ages. That must be why she missed the one wandering through the San Diablo Wal-Mart. Unfortunately, he managed to catch her attention an hour later—when he crashed into the Connor house, intent on killing her. Now Kate has to dispose of a dead demon and pull together a dinner party—all without arousing her family’s suspicion. Worse yet, it seems the dead demon didn’t come alone. It’s time for Kate Connor to go back to work.
This book has been described as “what would happen if Buffy got married and kept her past a secret.” It bugs me when characters are compared to Buffy purely based on the fact that they have killed or do currently kill vampires and demons. They’re never really anything like her. Kate is far too flat a protagonist for any comparison to be valid. Sure, she kicks some butt, but she’s still pretty bland. Good supernatural horror should be used as a catalyst to explore character. Buffy did that. Carpe Demon does not.
The plot was pretty disjointed, and sometimes I just had to shake my head and go “Wha?”, like when Kate spontaneously decided to spring an old dude from a nursing home to come live with her family, or when she concluded based on no evidence that the nurses there were demon minions, or when it’s revealed she spent her orphaned childhood at the Vatican. Did she never discuss her childhood with her husband? Did she feed him lies? If so, this is never specifically addressed.
It wasn’t all bad, though. I did like the parts where Kate ponders the void in her second marriage (second hubby doesn’t know about her past, but the first one was a fellow demon hunter) and seriously worries that the threads of her past life will unravel her cozy present. Sometimes the writing was amusing, but also employed tired old clunkers like, “I’d tell you but I’d have to kill you.” Also, the demon voices on the unabridged audio were nifty and freakin’ creepy!
Though this book really wasn’t that great, it entertained me well enough that I’ll check out the second in the series for free from the library.
As you probably can see from my sidebar, I read Neil Gaiman’s blog regularly, and as I was reading last night (about his mutual fanboy encounter with John Simm), it gave me such a smile. I think what I find so charming about his blog, is that he’s just a guy out there, living a life, and it really made me think about what I’m doing with my time. I spend all this time in my own head, brooding about life and life choices, blah blah blah, when it seems like I could just be out there living instead.
Granted, it’s a lot easier to be out living a life when you have the momentum that comes from really loving what you do. But could I find that if I tried? I lived like that once, I think. Back when I was acting and still loving it, and maybe even after when I was at least still loving the travel, every day was about living. Now this is not to say that I’m unsatisfied with my life, because there is so much of it that I love. But what is all this blogging and introspection really doing for me?
I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but as I sit at my desk, forcing myself into taking a break from this long, headachy, meeting-saturated day, I wonder.
Yes, this is what I do when I’m at lunch.
I’ve been having a lot of thoughts lately, trying to define myself, which is not something I generally place a lot of importance on, but has suddenly been in the forefront of my mind. Something I’ve been struggling with a lot is the feeling that the things I am doing lack meaning. I originally chalked this up to Too Much Anime, but the truth is, it is something I’ve been feeling for some time, and Too Much Anime simply provided a catalyst for discussion.
I currently have a number of half-baked projects in the works, and my official “job” is a bit half-baked right now too, which doesn’t help. Obviously I can’t finish baking everything at once (that metaphor is getting old fast, isn’t it?), which brings me again to the question of defining myself. I defined myself in my introductory post here as “singer, songwriter, theater manager, former actor, stumbling writer, dog-lover, fiction addict, mac geek, wife,” and in truth, that’s still probably only about half of the things I’d have to list if I was being really honest. One person can’t possibly be all that, so what am I?
Lately, I’ve been working on something that very desperately wants to be a graphic novel, despite the fact that I can’t draw to save my life. For the time being, I’ve been sketching out frames with stick figures and other indeterminate shapes with the hope that someone, somewhere might be able to see what I’m trying to express with them and help me bring that vision to reality. This seems unlikely, as I have no idea whatsoever how to go about finding such a person. And yet I persevere. I even spent a couple of hours attempting to draw my main characters in some way that would give the stick figures a bit more meaning, but considering how long it takes me to draw the stick figures, that may have been a bit premature. Paul found me a class to take at UMASS entitled something like “Writing the Graphic Novel,” but when I looked it up online, it had been canceled. Is this a sign?
From the back cover:
Suze Simon finds it difficult to come across as an average teenager when she’s constantly visited by ghosts. Suze is a mediator, you see. And her boyfriend Jesse is, well, a ghost himself—from the 19th century!
Fellow mediator Paul Slater has figured out how to travel through time and alter Jesse’s future so he and Suze will never meet, leaving Suze in a conundrum. Does she let Paul succeed so Jesse lives an ordinary life in his own time period, leaving Suze with no memory of him? Or does she stop Paul and force Jesse to be a ghost forever? And all the while, Suze must cope with the perils of a normal teenage life.
This book was really ticking me off until the last hundred pages, but at least it ended the way it should have.
1) Suze had never been more annoying. I swear I actually yelled at the audiobook when she was dallying in calling an ambulance at one point. She was also very slow to grasp the ramifications of stuff that’s happening.
2) Bits of the plot were super obvious. Fellow mediator Paul needed an artifact from the past to travel there. (Me: Gee, that random mention of a belt buckle found in Suze’s attic a few chapters ago totally makes sense now! La la la, wait for the story to catch up with my surmise.) Also, by the halfway point, I had completely guessed how the happy ending would be occurring.
3) Re-explaining. Two characters would be having a phone conversation, and something would be pointed out to Suze and she’d realize that it was true. And then she had to explain again why what has just been said was really true.
Pretty much anything Jesse, particularly seeing him in the past. The ending, though predictable and a little too convenient, was still satisfying.
Ultimately, I don’t really think the series lived up to the potential it showed originally. If Cabot could’ve resisted making Suze incredibly dense at pivotal moments, it would’ve gone a long way toward making this a truly stellar series. Still, even with its flaws, it is recommended.
This first collection of Neil Gaiman’s unique and multi-award-winning Sandman saga introduces key themes and characters, combining myth, magic, and black humor.
This volume collects issues #1-8 of the Sandman comics. Morpheus, the Lord of Dreams, was inadvertently captured by some occultists who were attempting to trap and contain his sister, Death. They imprisoned him for 70 years and stole his stuff, and when he finally escaped, he wanted it back. He took the next few chapters to complete the quest.
I was occasionally lost when the story veered too far into mythological territory, and one story called “24 Hours” was incredibly disturbing, but on the whole I liked it. The best, however, was the last story, called “The Sound of Her Wings.” In it, Morpheus was a bit mopey because he’d completed his quest and his spunky sister came to drag him out of his doldrums. And throw bread at him.
As seems to be the case with comic books, the physical appearance of Morpheus was pretty inconsistent. I decided to think of him as Stephen Rea with blue hair, and that worked pretty well.
From the back cover:
Suze is used to trouble, but this time she’s in deep: Ghostly Jesse has her heart, but Paul Slater, a real flesh-and-blood guy, is warm for her form. And mediator Paul knows how to send Jesse to the Great Beyond. For good.
Paul claims he won’t do anything to Jesse as long as Suze will go out with him. Fearing she’ll lose Jesse forever, Suze agrees. But even if Suze can get Jesse to admit his true feelings for her, what kind of future can she have with a guy who’s already dead?
Haunted was a bit of a disappointment after the previous installment, Darkest Hour, was so good. Not a lot happens, really. Paul shows up at Suze’s school and throws her into turmoil. Suze is convinced that Jesse does not return her feelings. Then Jesse beats Paul up. That’s kind of the whole plot. Well, and Suze learns she might actually be something called a Shifter instead of a Mediator, which comes with more dangerous powers.
Suze is pretty annoying in this book. At any one point there are three or four things she’s not telling anyone, she goes to the house of a boy she dislikes and distrusts and ends up smooching him, and she also is able to convince herself that Jesse hates her, which is obviously untrue. I rolled my eyes at her fairly regularly.
The blurb on the back of the book is also wrong. Suze agrees to let Paul teach her the Shifter skills he knows after extracting a promise from him that he’ll leave Jesse alone. There really isn’t any coerced dating going on, though they’ll obviously have to spend some time together.
Despite not being thrilled with this particular installment, I still must know how the story ends. One volume to go!
From the back cover:
Section 31. They are the self-appointed protectors of the Federation. Amoral, shrouded in secrecy, answerable to no one, Section 31 is the mysterious covert operations division of Starfleet, a rogue shadow group commited to safeguarding the Federation at any cost.
Mere days after the startling events of Avatar, Doctor Julian Bashir faces his darkest nightmare when Section 31 compels him to undertake a mission to stop one of their own. But this renegade is no ordinary agent. Like Bashir, Dr. Ethan Locken is genetically enhanced, a human superior in body and mind. But Locken dreams of remaking the galaxy in his own image—and creating a new human empire based on the example of the infamous Khan Noonien Singh.
And as he begins to understand the terrifying truth about his opposite number, Bashir will learn more about himself than he ever wanted.
I’m continuing to enjoy the DS9 relaunch series. Perhaps the greatest compliment I can pay the book is that, for the most part, I could easily see this story playing out over a few episodes of the show. Some little reveals wouldn’t have been possible in a visual medium, though.
Mostly, the interaction between the characters was good and felt in character. I appreciate that the series isn’t just about plot advancement, but about character development, too. None of the plot threads that were introduced in the first two books was abandoned, though some of them only had a chapter devoted to them. The main story kept my interest, though I thought the very ending wrapped up too tidily. I don’t understand how Commander Vaughn knew of the existence of some indigenous alien folk that needed rescuing. Especially after Kira was just telling Julian that he isn’t superhuman and shouldn’t expect to be able to save everyone.
I am also very intrigued by the character of Taran’atar. Taran’atar is a Jem’Hadar who is not dependent upon Ketrecel White. He’s also very old by their standards (22) and more wise than usual. He was sent by Odo to learn about the Alpha Quadrant by observing, and has been told to follow Kira’s orders. He is the catalyst for and participant in some interesting conversations, and is also a very capable guy to have around on a secret mission. I look forward to seeing what will happen with him down the line.
From the back cover:
Ed Kennedy is an underage cabdriver without much of a future. He’s pathetic at playing cards, hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey, and utterly devoted to his coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery.
That’s when the first ace arrives in the mail.
That’s when Ed becomes the messenger.
Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary) until only one question remains: Who’s behind Ed’s mission?
Doesn’t this sound like the premise for a geeky TV show or movie? It certainly had that sort of vibe at first, with narration and dialogue that prompted me to mentally cast Simon Pegg in the role of Ed and Nick Frost as his annoyingly childish friend, Marv.
Pretty soon, though, things got a lot more serious. The cards Ed received sent him on a variety of missions, from kind of sappy things like spending time with a lonely old lady and rustling up a congregation for a priest to more dangerous ones, like dealing with a drunken lout who abuses his wife. I liked that the messages for Ed’s three best friends were the last tasks he had to complete, and that it forced him to take the scary steps of breaking through the pattern of superficial interaction he’d had with them and finding out their secrets, fears, and what it was they really needed. The resolution of Marv’s message was particularly moving.
The writing was often funny, but sometimes a little too pretentiously poetic. Example: “Voices slam and the door shouts shut.” Things like that disrupted the narrative flow of the story with their clunky construction. Plus, they conjured memories of high school creative writing assignments, which is seldom a good thing.
The ending was weird and very disappointing. The identity of the person behind Ed’s mission made very little sense. Zusak apparently felt the need to reinforce the already-obvious point that Ed’s not actually the messenger, but the message, and it concluded things on a rather confusing note.