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Book Review: The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins September 30, 2009

Posted by Realitybypass in Book Review, Book Series, Science Fiction, Young Adult.
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It’s a cold bleak kind of Wednesday around these parts.  The first big storm of the fall season is pounding down on us and looks like it’ll keep it up for the rest of the day and stay cold from here until sometime in March.  I have a love hate relationship with this time of the year.  I hate being cold, but at the same time I love the feeling of the whole world being close and cozy.  It makes me want to curl up with good books, hot chocolate and a warm blankie…a warm husband is pretty dang nice too, but I digress.

Today’s book up for review is The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins.  I was introduced to this one through a book club, though now that I’ve read it I want to know how I missed it earlier.  Book two of the series, it’s scheduled to be three books long, is called Catching Fire and recently released.  Book three is scheduled for Septemberish 2010.

The Hunger Games is a near future science fiction/survivalist story, though I’m not sure either of those terms really fully wraps around everything this book is about.  It’s young adult friendly and the protagonists are both teenagers, but I’d prolly lean towards 14+.  My friends called it a ‘girl book’, but I think there’s plenty of action and smartness which would appeal just as well to the male of the species.

The Hunger Games is a story about the teenager Katniss who lives in the impoverished District 12 in the country of Panem, a dystopic nation which exists where the US once did.  The 12 Districts are kept under control by the Capitol district where the wealthy and affluent use technology and social training to keep the haves and the have nots far apart.  Rebellion has happened before and been harshly put down.  As a result of the previous rebellions there has also been the creation of a yearly televised tournament in which two teenagers from each district are forced to fight to the death.  For the winner, and their district, there are great rewards.  The losers often don’t even have a body sent home.

Katniss isn’t selected for the games, but when her sister is she volunteers to go in place.  The games require every survival instinct she has and every trick she can come up with, even if that means playing to the crowd when she’s not sure of her own feelings, particularly when it comes to her male counterpoint from District 12, Peeta, a boy who has saved Katniss before and is trying to do so again.

The book was brilliant in the way it explored the themes of mass media and control of the population, as well as just how far one would go to survive.   The politics come fast and heavy, even though the book itself focuses on the games and how they’re played.  Nothing is without a double meaning and the cameras are always watching.  Katniss is prickly, but also has beautifully caring moments where I found myself really rooting her on and wanting her to succeed.  Peeta I loved from the get go…particularly when he comments that he wants to die who he is and never let the games change him into a monster.

There are some pretty gruesome deaths and injuries in this book, though they’re dealt with very tastefully.

I’m likely going to purchase both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire in hardback, which is likely the strongest recommendation I can give it because I don’t usually buy hardback, but I don’t want to wait!


Genre:  Science Fiction/Survival

Age:  14+

Content: violence, mild romance – kissing

Overall: 5  paws



Dialect vs Language September 29, 2009

Posted by kmcalear in Musings, Poetry, Writing Craft.
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I’ve been reading a lot of books written in a mix of Spanish and English, or even in an English-influenced local Spanish dialect. I’ve been studying Spanish since Junior High but I find myself struggling to understand a lot of the language used in some of these works, given it’s such a specific regional or class dialect. This frustrated me at first, until I realized I used to run into the same problems with a lot of thick southern regionalisms. It did get me thinking though as to how we should classify “regional” speech, particularly considering to understand many of these Spanglish works you have to be truly bilingual to truly appreciate them, which, by it’s nature is exclusionary. I enjoy the mix, particularly in poetry, but I still wonder if by it’s nature it will exclude many of these works from ever really joining the universal body of canonical works, because it requires a unique group of bilingual, culturally aware, readers. “Translating” a work that is specifically written bilingually always loses something. This also leads me to wonder about the place of writing an accent in your dialogue. Most conventional editors say you should keep accent out of the narration, leave it for dialogue. Others say you shouldn’t do it at all because of alienating a subset of your readers. Those who are proponents of regionalisms, bilingualism and such in literature, on the other hand, suggest that it will encourage people to try to learn the languages or regionalismis in order to understand the works, and thus should be included in the canon of works.

Just some musings…

It’s been a very very long semester already.

Link Salad September 28, 2009

Posted by Realitybypass in Life, Weblinks.
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It’s one of those Mondays.  The type where my brain is refusing to fire on cylinders and complaining loudly that I didn’t really take much of the weekend off to let it be a vegetable, so why not now?  The discussion goes something like this:

Me:  Come on Brain we have work to do.  Serious worky work.

Brain: Don’t wanna.  We haven’t taken a good break in a long time.  Let’s daydream about killer mermaids.

Me: We can’t do that.  This is work and they will fire us if we are brainless.

Brain: Oh, come on.  You don’t even li…

Me:   You can’t say that on the blog.  See previous get fired and then there will be no moneys and no moneys means no foods and the stomach will revolt and bad things happen thereafter.

Brain: Phooey.

Me:  Come on.

Brain: Fine…but later tonight I’m going to torture you with dreams about lemmings!

Yeah, so I’m doomed to dream about odd things and figured it was safer to make today link salad, so here you go:

* It’s Banned Book Week.  Go check out the frequently challenged books and read a banned book this week in support of the freedom to read and think!

* Jim C Hines is the author of the wonderful Step Sister Scheme and the soon to be released Mermaid’s Madness.  He also writes a set of goblin books which I’m tempted to give my boys except that we have enough snot accidents without help.  Today he made me laugh…he does that a lot.

* And the 25 best episodes from the Whedonverse according to EW.

Go forth.  Read.  Give your brain a break.  Heaven knows mine wants one.


More Supernatural Squee September 25, 2009

Posted by Realitybypass in Television, Urban Fantasy.
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JensenAckles49Okay, last night’s episode made me giggle and squeal.  My poor husband had to leave the room cause he just doesn’t get the show and I’m fairly sure he doesn’t want to.  As long as I’m happy about it he’s happy.

Though for me there were some great moments…

If you haven’t watched the episode don’t read any further.

I mean it.


Dean and Castielle out on the town just about killed me.  The look on Castielle’s face was priceless

Raphael the arch angel, scary and fun all at once.  I looved his defense of God (That’s my father you’re talking about), even as he gave into the despair that God was dead.

Castielle’s faith!

Sam and Lucifer!!!!  IPE!!!

Sad moments:  Dean admitting he was happier without Sammy.  Wah!  I can totally see where he’s coming from but…ouch.

Looking forward to next week.  We’ve seen the past, now here comes the future!

Book Review: Shadowlight – Lynn Viehl September 23, 2009

Posted by Realitybypass in Book Review, Book Series, Romance, Urban Fantasy.
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Hallo my darlings and welcome to another book review day on RealityByPass.   As a matter of housekeeping I’m changing the scoring on our books just a little.  The overall category we’ve been using as a buy, borrow or toss and I find it’s actually pretty hard for me to break things down that way.  Sooo…I’ll give it a paw rating between 1-5 and go from there.

Today’s selection comes from an E-ARC which I was lucky enough to get my hands on and will be available to the public on October 6th.

Ms. Viehl is a prolific author with 43 books published to date and at least a good handful coming soon.  This was the first time I’d picked up one of her books despite being an avid reader of her blog.  Now I have to look for her books at the library, since I’m not allowed to buy anything until after my birthday.  My husband says so.

Shadowlight is the first in Ms. Viehl’s Kyndred series, which takes place in the same world as her Darkyn series.  It tells the story of Jessa Bellamy, a psychical gifted young woman who died and then was reborn with even stronger skills.  Her particular power the ability to touch a person and see his or her internal shame and guilt.  It’s a double edged sword since it’s always on, and Jessa struggles with always seeing the darkest side of anyone she touches.  She takes to wearing gloves and does her best to be careful, mostly keeping her own company.  When her talents are identified by a genetics company (GenHance) with a dark goal she’s put in danger of being both kidnapped and killed.  Enter Matthias, the man with a secret past, who works with an operation focused on stopping such things and giving the gifted new identities and someplace to go.  He knows from the first time that he meets Jessa that she’s the woman for him, no matter how she fights him and tries to escape from his protective custody.  They have to learn how to work together in order to keep her from being found by the authorities, the company, or the mutated man who wants to take her apart piece by piece.

As well in this piece we get cameos by Lucan and Samantha from the Darkyn series, who are down in Savannah for Samantha’s police work and Rowan and Drew, gifted folks who are helping Matthias with his relocation program and trying to put a stop to GenHance all together.

Overall I found this an enjoyable read.  The pacing is good and the characters well thought out with few too stupid to live moments.  Jessa was so bull headed about wanting to do everything herself that it made me laugh because I know people like that.  I’m fairly sure I’ve been people like that.  She and Matthias might have been a little too perfect, but not so much that it dragged me out of the story and they are both given flaws and backstory which are charming and interesting.  That Matthias wants to be a family man also won points with me.  Rowan, the chef, was my favorite character and I’m really glad her story will be the next book in this series.

The plot is generally very good though there were a few points where I kinda felt like things happened too fast or there was a twist which the reader should have been given more information about.  I love the powers the characters have because they don’t tend to be typical.  No teleporting or flying here.  The romantic arc works well, save that I feel like Jessa goes from clubbing Matthias in the head to calling him the man he loves just a little too suddenly.  I reread the section twice to see if I’d missed something.

I liked the inclusion of the Darkyn folks as it made me curious to go look up some of those books and gave a different perspective on what was happening.  Sometimes their appearance at certain places seemed a little contrived, but also necessary to keep things rolling along.  I did like watching Samantha learn to at least begin to embrace who and what she is and I find myself curious to go back and find her story.

So all in all it was a good read and kept me flipping the virtual pages.  There is some graphic violence and a couple of graphic sex scenes which folks may want to be aware of.  I don’t think any of this was gratuitous as each scene seemed to serve a purpose either on the plot or romantic arc, but the reader should be aware.

Genre:  Paranormal Suspense Romance

Age:  Adult

Content: graphic violence, sexuality, language

Overall: 3.5 paws

Shadowlight cover image

Supernatural Fan Girl September 18, 2009

Posted by Realitybypass in Life, Musings, Television.
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I have a not so secret love of the television series Supernatural.  For the uninitiated, shame on you, the basic premise of the show is about a pair of brothers who fight supernatural critters while trying to learn more about their family’s past and future.  That’s boiling a LOT of stuff into a really small nutshell, but there you have it.  The show has something of a cult following, particularly among women because, let’s face it, Sam and Dean are angsty and phenomenally hot.  My poor husband has taken to fleeing the room when the show is on, and my female friends come over so we can watch on the big screen.

I think there are a lot of reasons this show appeals, and it’s not just for the hot guys.  I like seeing the themes of family and freewill explored.  As well I like the idea that here are two guys, who are pretty much just guys, trying to do the right thing and standing up to creatures that are much more powerful than they are and usually more scary.  Yeah, Sam picks up some psychic powers but those come with such a steep cost that I think he’s relieved to be letting them go.

The arc of the last season and this one deal with angels and the power of heaven and it’s an interesting mythology.  Not the one I buy into personally, but part of the brilliance of the show’s writers is being able to use common Judeo-Christian themes and turn them into a mythology unique to the show.

Tying this back to writing and books, I find that I look for the same ability to use the familiar in unfamiliar ways in the books I read.  I like to be caught by surprise in how a theme is explored, even when the them rings true for my experience.

So who else out there is as addicted as I am?  Want to come over and watch on Thursday?  I’ll bring the popcorn.


Book Review: Black and White September 16, 2009

Posted by Realitybypass in Book Review, Urban Fantasy.
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It’s a bird…it’s a plane…it’s…neither of the above, but it is a tremendous story about superheroes and where lies the line between hero and villan.

Black and White is a joint project by Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge which follows the lives of two superpowered women in a world where heroes are born every day and the Corp uses them to keep the world safer for all the normal humans like you and me.  The problem is that all is not happy in the world of the Corp and there are good reasons for it too.

This book took on a huge challenge in how it tells this story.  We’re moved back and forth between the heads of the two protagonists and back and forth through time to see what is happening in the current day and then given the background of the characters in snippets which show their years together in school.  Each section is clearly labeled with JET or IRIDIUM and a THEN or NOW to help the reader keep track.  Honestly when I picked up the book I was highly concerned by this set up and fairly sure it would be annoying.  Thankfully it’s not annoying and, in fact, works brilliantly.  I think a good part of this success is because both authors know both characters so well that even when the view point switches both characters remain perfectly true to themselves.  So instead of being jerked back and forth between two very different stories, it’s a beautiful lay out of one situation through two pairs of eyes.

I very much liked the characters involved and believed their motivations and the character quirks that were both their strengths and weaknesses.  I liked seeing the play on the normal superhero tropes by making Jet the shadow user the hero type and Iriduim the light user the ‘rabid’.   Their interactions as friends and later as enemies who remember being friends and still yearn for that closeness is powerful stuff.  The plot going on around them makes sense and while I figured out a few things early, it was only by a page or two.  This lead to me doing a happy dance when my suspicions were confirmed and my husband giving me a long suffering look before going back to his Terry Prachette.

The story was satisfying but definitely a lead into the next book Shades of Grey, which I’ll be happy to snatch up.  Now I’m going to go make enchiladas…I’m hungry.

Genre:  SuperHero

Age:  14 +

Content: violence, mild sexuality.

Overall:  Buy

Black and White

Communications overload? September 10, 2009

Posted by kmcalear in Life, Musings.
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Today as I was driving to work I heard the radio announcers talking about listening to John Mayer’s tweets and mentioning how with the new Media Package from ATT Wireless you could check your social networking sites from your phone. She went on to discuss how she loved text messaging because it permitted her to stay in communication without actually talking to someone.

That was immediately followed by an announcement for an online public gradeschool, mentioning how the online school would remove all the “disruptive students” and allow the teacher to have more one on one interaction with the child. I love computers and using them to communicate, however I was left with the puzzling question: How does the student get more teacher interaction through the internet? What does this mean for the future of the world, if we’re even starting with ‘online classrooms’? And finally… why is it we need to be in constant virtual communication? I know I, for one, tried out facebook but eventually I just got bored. I still use it to look at pictures but reading 10,000 daily updates of what someone is doing seems to be redundant. Then, why do we need to have a constant stream of advertisement of what we’re doing any minute? We’re becoming our own personal paparazzi, so incredibely involved in eachother’s lives and also so incredibly seperated. Perhaps it’s different if we’re doing the constant information stream of our most minute activities, when I’m sure if someone else was watching our every move we’d feel our privacy had been invaded.

Some early morning caffeinated musings…

Book Review: Vampire Academy – Richelle Mead September 9, 2009

Posted by Realitybypass in Book Review, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult.
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I don’t have any excuses for the amount of time we’ve spent away from the blog.  However, the time has been well spent in reading a LOT of stuff.  I love the library, though my ‘to buy’ list for the next time I’m at the bookstore is getting hefty.

I picked up Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead on a whim.  I wasn’t sure I’d like it.  Vampires in school can go so many different ways, but I’m happy to say this one worked for me.  The pages flew by and while there were a few moments when I was rolling my eyes for the most part I enjoyed every minute.  I think the eye rolling was mostly a matter of teenagers being teenagers.  If I think about it I’m pretty sure the teenagers I know would do the same petty things.  The games of popularity and trying to figure out who you are and how you fit in really represent that time in life.  It doesn’t actually get easier when you’re an adult, but teenagers are more honest about it.

I have to give Ms. Mead props for the relationships she builds between the characters, particularly between Rose and Lissa.  It’s a hard balance to strike to get the friendship and devotion without the two characters melding into a muddy sameness.  I believed in the friendships and the attractions and the rivalries and the twist as to who was behind many of the problems worked for me.  I only figured it out about a page before it was revealed, so I’m impressed.  The plot was very consistent with the world Ms. Mead presented and it’s a world I’m looking forward to visiting again.

I’ll go jogging with Dimitri any day.  Vavavoom.


Genre:  Urban Fantasy

Age:  15+

Content: violence, animal deaths, blood feeding, minor sexuality and smooching

Overall:  Buy


What makes an Urban Fantasist? September 2, 2009

Posted by kmcalear in Musings, Urban Fantasy, Writing Craft.
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I promise there will be a review of the book I read by tommorow, unfortunately today was spent wading through some Literary Theory and preparing my first commentary on it, which means I’m fairly wiped out. However, to relax, I decided to pop over to my netflix queue and see what was on the instant and I spotted The Munsters. It was another moment where I could look back at my writerly origins and realize there was always something that attracted me to the “Not Quite so Normal” in my entertainment. As a kid, the Munsters was one of my favorite shows: probably because it had those scary creepy monsters but with that air of comedy that made them more human than the humans around them. I think that’s where some of the true genious was in that show, the subtle commentary on the nature of monsters which I feel a lot of Urban Fantasy tends to touch on as well. Where do the Monsters Start and the Humans end? Is there a difference?

Anyway it’s time for me to crawl into bed, to start another day tommorow. 8 months and counting…. until the classwork for the PHD is done.