Monday, December 31, 2012

Goodbye to 2012

Looking back over 2012 I had a lot of exciting things happen for me: 1) I’m now halfway through the process of getting my MLIS, 2) I saw a lot of great Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction, and 3)My wife and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary, which means my marriage is now old enough to go to high school (I hope the popular marriages will let us sit with them!)

In classic genre works I discovered Zombi 2 and Shadow of the Colossus, and in terms of new stuff I loved there was Warm Bodies, The Cabin in the Woods, Chronicle, Safety Not Guaranteed, Old Man’s War, and The Hobbit.

The Third Season of The Walking Dead blew me away and both of my kids shocked me with how good they are getting at videogames, work, reading and life.

So Happy 2012 everyone, and let’s have an amazing 2013!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Things I've Noticed: The Vorkosigan Saga just keeps getting better and better

Looking back at 2009, my very first “Genre Character of the Week” post was for a science fiction character named Miles Vorkosigan.

Yesterday I finished the 14th book in the Vorkosigan saga, Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, and honestly, this series is quickly becoming one of my favourites in the genre of Science Fiction.

I came across the Vorkosigan novels while working my way through the best Science Fiction novels for the Locus Awards. In 1991 Barrayar won, but it was part of a series so I decided to start at the beginning, which turns out to have been one of the better decisions I could have made in my reading history.

Here’s what I love about the series, it grows and changes.  As a guy in his mid (soon not-so-mid) 30s, I’ve grown and changed a lot in my life, the Bookmonkey of my childhood is reflected in, but not the same as the Bookmonkey of my 20s, and both exist but do not fully represent the Bookmonkey I am today.  In a similar vein, Miles Vorkosigan changes and grows throughout the series, and it is that growth that first drew me to the character.

Although he only makes a cameo in the latest book, I really enjoyed it, and am now going to be keeping an eye out for the series in hardcover to add to my own collection!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas 2012 from Bookmonkey

A Quick Christmas Jingle from Bookmonkey



Oh Yeah!

It's Christmastime!

It's Christmastime!!


(Trust me, although the lyrics are lacking the melody is pretty fantastic!)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Movie Review: Safety Not Guaranteed

On Friday I finally got around to seeing the science fiction film Safety Not Guaranteed.  Based on an actual classified ad put in a magazine in 1997, the film follows three journalists who are tracking down the mysterious writer of an advertisement which claims the following:

Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me.  This is not a joke.  P.O. Box 91 Ocean View, WA 99393.  You'll get paid after we get back.  Must bring your own weapons.  Safety not guaranteed.  I have only done this once before.

Tracking the writer (Mark Duplass) down to his home, one of the journalists, (Aubrey Plaza) poses as someone responding to the ad, which is the setup for the film, wherein she learns about his proposed plan to travel back in time (again), and balances between disbelief and a growing belief in what he may or may not be doing.

The movie was a lot of fun, and part of the enjoyment comes from the fact that you can watch it (mostly - no spoilers through) either viewing the writer as crazy or a legitimate traveller.  

A fun film.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Things I’ve noticed: So I saw this guy wearing a Tree Skirt as a poncho…

…at work today, not a shopper, mind you, but a man enjoying coffee at the Second Cup closest to my work, having coffee with a bunch of coworkers, and It stopped me in my tracks.

I wasn’t sure what to make of it, I mean, did he just wake up this morning, walk past his Christmas tree and think, “You know what, I’m going to wear that tree skirt as a poncho at work today.

Being a fan of Christmas myself, but never having seen anything like this before, I did what any polite modern-day Canadian would do – I kept my head down, tried not to make eye contact, and immediately googled “Tree Skirt as Poncho” when I got back to my office.

First I came across this article, then this one, and then this one.

I know that as I’m getting older I’m a little slower on picking up the current trends (for example I just saw that Korean Gangnam Style video for the first time yesterday, so I'm about half a year behind my 15-year-old daughter on what is currently trending), but every year I’m more and more shocked at what has become a “thing” – perhaps next year I’ll wear stockings to work instead of shoes – that’ll teach them (them being, whoever decided wearing Tree skirts as ponchos was a thing).

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Genre Character of the Week: Bilbo Baggins

 So after looking over the many different characters I have enjoyed throughout the genres of Fantasy, Horror and Science-Fic... Oh who am I kidding - I just saw The Hobbit and today we’re looking at Bilbo Baggins.

Here’s what I love about Bilbo (whether played by Martin Freeman in the new film, or by Orson Bean in the animated 1977 TV Movie I grew up with), he is a small kind person who also has great courage in his convictions.  Also I love the fact that he lives a quiet, comfortable life and yet also answers the call to adventure when it comes.

Although I actually find The Lord of the Rings to be a more engrossing story, I was introduced to The Hobbit, when I was in the third grade, and Bilbo ended up as one of my favourite childhood heroes.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Movie Review: Paranorman

Okay, I just finished watching the 2012 film Paranorman with my kids and I really enjoyed it.  Although I didn't like it quite as much as my last favourite spooky kids movie, Monster House, but it was a lot of fun as well.

The film follows a kid named Norman, who has the ability to see and interact with ghosts.  Part of the fun for me was seeing just how normal he viewed everything, dealing with the ghosts as if they were friends and neighbours (which many of them in fact, are), but things do get trickier once zombies get involved.

The film was done in a stop-motion/CGI format, which was pretty cool to see, and although I'm not sure if it will get added to my Halloween themed marathon next year, it was definitely a lot of fun.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Things I’ve noticed: I do better at Nonfiction if I pace myself

Overall I’d saw I’m a pretty voracious reader – if I read less than half a dozen books over the course of a month, I feel like I’m falling behind.  (Actually, even reading my current seven books a month has me actually falling behind, but what can you do?), so in terms of reading any of my book club, fantasy, horror or Science Fiction books, I just fit in my reading into coffee breaks, lunch breaks, trips on the bus and early-morning reading sessions.

Nonfiction, however, is an entirely different beast.

Right now I’m reading Peggy Orenstein’s Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the front lines of the new Girlie-Girl Culture and I’m totally digging it!  As a father of two daughters, a book which focuses on the proliferation of princess-y images and values our culture aim at little girls is right up my alley.

It will take me about a week-and-a-half to get through, though.  Even though the book is only 192 pages of text (Big secret as to why nonfiction rules – the last fifth of the book is made up of indexes, bibliographies and other notes, so you finish faster than you think you will), I’m limiting myself to a chapter a day.

Personally, I feel that as nonfiction has so much information it’s trying to convey to the reader, I miss a lot of it if I just breeze through the book, so for me, I limit myself to a slower pace, allowing the info time to soak in.

Now the obvious question is – if I’m willing to do it for nonfiction, why not fiction?  Honestly, I think it’s because an ongoing narrative makes me interested in reading it whenever I can, because for short stories I do the same thing as nonfiction – a story a day until I’m finished.  I don’t know, for me this just feels more natural.

So there you go, some musings on nonfiction reading.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Genre Character of the Week: Ed Moore

Over the weekend I read the novel Apocalypse of the Dead by Joe McKinney, it is the second novel in his “Dead World” series, and other than a few mentions of the events and characters from the first novel, it is a stand-alone story.  Following a very large number of people through a zombie apocalypse, the stand outs for me were a young convict name Billy Stine, and this weeks genre character, Ed Moore.

Ed is a retired U.S. Marshall, who at the beginning of the story is living in a retirement community in Florida when a plague of zombies hit the shore, quickly changing the populace into even more zombies through bites and scratches (like the film …28 Days Later the zombies in McKinney’s world are actually humans suffering from a virus, rather than reanimated corpses)  Immediately taking charge of the small group of survivors

The first thing I like about Ed is the concept; usually in zombie stories the elderly are simply victims or would-be victims that our heroes need to save so the idea of a man in his seventies who can hold his own against zombies while still coming across as a real character had a great appeal to me.  The second thing I like about Ed was the fact that he’s an incredibly old school, cowboy type, tipping his hat to ladies when he says hello and rebuking Billy for his foul language around women and children.

As a novel I felt it was a little too busy, the number of significant characters was over a dozen and as we switched from storyline to storyline it often took me a little while to figure out exactly which character was being written about.  A big part of the appeal of Ed is that as a character he was so well written I never had this problem.

I’m currently reading McKinney ’s “Dead World” series as the third novel, The Flesh Eaters, won last years Bram Stoker award for best horror novel, and I wanted the context I would get by reading the entire series. The book was pretty good, unlike Dead City I don’t think I’ll purchase it as the number of characters was a little unwieldy for me, but overall it was a pretty sold zombie apocalypse novel.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Movie Review: Snow White and the Huntsman

Last weekend I finally got around to seeing Snow White and the Huntsman, and you know what, I actually really liked it!  Considering this was the second recently released Snow White-themed film I've seen in the last few months, and that I was sort of tepid regarding Mirror Mirror, I honestly didn't go into the film with a lot of expectations, but in the end it's pretty great.

The film looks great - the cinematography, the costuming and the art direction were actually pretty amazing, while watching the film my oldest daughter commented that the movie looks an awful lot like my personal favourite anime film, Princess Mononoke - which it turns out it was - the writer actually states that Princess Mononoke was the main influence and inspiration for the film.

We got the movie from our local library, and for a cost of $0, it was a great way to spend an afternoon.  Seriously, a pretty cool movie.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Things I've Noticed: Christmas 2012 is almost here!

And for me this means two key things:

1 - I get to change the banner on my Blog! (See Above)

2 - I get to take a few weeks off between my Fall 2012 classes and my Winter 2013 classes!

So what am I going to be filling up this month of non-school time with before I head back into the second half of my Masters of Library and Information Studies Degree?

Well why don’t I tell you? (Obviously I’m not going to mention my real first priority, spending time with my wife and kids, watching my favourite Christmas movies and hopefully getting some holiday baking in – I’m just going to focus on the “me” stuff)

First of all – I’ll still be heading down to the University campus every weekend to start reading books that may relate to my courses next month – I know this doesn’t actually sound very glamorous, but a couple hours a week now means that when term paper season hits, I’ve already got a handful of quotes and citations to get me started.

Second – I’m going to try and finish the third season of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. which I’ve currently got on loan from my wonderfully patient friend Ron, so I can start getting my collection of borrowed DVDs/Books/Comics back to the friends that loaned them to me in the first place

Third – I’m going to try and finish the PS3 Game L.A. NOIRE which I’m currently sitting at 1/3 of the way through as I’m hoping to get another game for Christmas and would like to be finished this one by then so I can start playing any new games I get as soon as possible.

Fourth – I’m going to try and catch up with my reading – for the last few years I’ve set a goal for myself of seven books a month and I started December with 11 (four left over from November) – you know, Full-Time work, Grad School and a rich family life actually do start cutting into your reading time after a while!

And Five – I’m going to try catching up with my Magazine and Comic-Book reading as I’m starting to fall dangerously behind and January is bound to get busy again.

So how about you, my ever-faithful blog readers?  What are you going to be up to this holiday season?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Genre Character of the Week: Dodger

For the last few days I’ve been reading the new Terry Pratchett novel Dodger, which takes place in Victorian London and is a fun mix of historical cameos (both fictional and non-fictional) a mystery novel, and is overall a pretty great story.  In my opinion the main reason for this is our main character, Dodger.
Dodger is a seventeen-year-old tosher, meaning that he makes his living from scavenging through the sewers of London for lost coins, trinkets and other treasures.  Throughout the novel Dodger (named because of his quick ability to get away from would-be aggressors) moves through the London from Street level all the way up to the powers that be, and the whole way through he comes across as carefully descent, helping out where he can, but not so much as to be taken advantage of by others.
Helping him in the novel is journalist Charlie Dickens, and throughout the story he meets all sorts of folks – ranging from Benjamin Disreali to Sweeny Todd.  To be fair, my favourite historical cameo I’ve come across in the last few months is the “villainous” Charles Darwin who works as the bad guy in the family film The Pirates! Band of Misfits.  But the cameos in Dodger are a lot of fun as well.
In the end, what I like best about Dodger is his sense of right and wrong; considering he’s a guy who digs through the sewers everyday, he just comes across as someone who know the right thing to do in even the trickiest of situations.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Season Review: The Walking Dead Season 3

Okay, my wife and I just finished the mid-season finale of season three of The Walking Dead and it was pretty freaking awesome.

Obvious spoilers to follow.

Unlike a lot of folks out there, I actually liked the second season, yes it was slower, yes it all happened at a single location, but you know what, I really liked the opportunity it gave for character development throughout.

Season three starts a few months after season two and zombie killing stated less than a minute into the first episode.  As a long-time fan of the comic book series, I was thrilled that this season finally gets the group to the prison and introduces the characters of Michonee and The Governor (one I love, the other I love to hate).

Throughout this season I really enjoyed the juxtaposition between the nasty people living in the lovely town of Woodbury and the nice people living in a nasty (and still partially zombie infested) prison.

I'm really enjoying where the show seems to be taking the characters and was happy that the series kept one of my favourite parts from the comic (Rick and the phone call).

I know I've got a couple months to wait before the season continues, but so far I'm really happy with the third season.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Things I've Noticed: The New Up Documentary is coming soon!

All right, I'll be the first to admit it, although I am usually interested in Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction, I am a huge fan of documentaries.

Hello?  Is anyone still there?

Cool - so about eight and a half years ago I read an article in my local paper about an upcoming documentary called 49 Up, which followed the lives of a bunch of 49-year-olds in Britain and basically asked them about their lives, life in general and anything else that came up.  The interesting thing to me was that this was in fact the seventh film featuring this group of people, that in fact they had been interviewed at the age of seven asking them the same questions and then had been followed up with every seven years since then.

This I had to see, but being the kind of guy who hates starting in the middle, I bought a boxed set of the first six films, sat down with my wife and over the course of six Saturdays watched them all.

Directed by Michael Apted (who directed all but the first, which he did work on) these movies are amazing.  Honestly there are some things film is best for as a medium and longitudinal studies (where a subject is followed for a long period of time) is definitely one of them.

The films have no flying cars, no horrible monsters and very little technology, but despite my love of all those things I just got sucked into this series of films and have been waiting for seven years to see the newest one, 56 Up.

Check out the trailer here - honestly, it is quite different than a lot of what I watch/read/play, but I would honestly put this series of films in my top ten list of favourite movies - no question.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Genre Character of the Week: John, the savage

Every once in a while I take the time to read a book off of my “I should really read that” list, which includes a lot of classics, a number of books my wife enjoys and a varied selection from friends and family.  This week I read the 1931 novel Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, and was swept up in the section of the story involving a savage named John who travels to a civilized world.
The story (sorry for any mild eighty-year-old spoilers) focuses on the horror of a utopian future, being an ideal place without strife, pain, hunger or fear. It’s interesting because although all of these things are absent in this world, it comes across as unbearably horrible – think of something like The Matrix,wherein everyone is happily living their lives, and they also just happen to be living batteries for (oh wait – mild twelve-year-old spoilers) for a giant computer.
In this Brave New World, there are reservations where people live in traditional ways, called savages by the people living in civilization, and one of these savages is a man named John.
Here’s what I like about John, he is incredibly well read (or as well read as a man in his situation can be), and he has an incredibly strong moral code. Unfortunately, morals aren’t really needed in a utopian society, so John’s journey is destined to be a hard one.
Overall I found the book to be quite readable, and aspects of it reminded me an awful lot of Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan.  Honesty, it is worth the read and it was a pretty fast read as well.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Movie Review: The Cabin in the Woods

Seven months after it was released in theatres, my wife I and finally got a copy of the 2012 horror film The Cabin in the Woods, and wow, was this movie right up my alley.

About fifteen minutes into the film, my wife turns to me and say, "So, obviously you're going to be buying this" and she was absolutely right.  The movie is a bizarre twist/homage to the classic slasher film that I grew up on (Roger Ebert uses the phrase Dead Teenager Movies which I love, but didn't hear until I was an adult) and unfortunately there isn't much I can say about it without giving away major plot points.

Lets say that on the simplest level it is about five friends who go on a weekend trip to a cabin in the woods and end up involved in something pretty terrifying.

The movie is a lot of fun, made me think of Tucker and Dale vs. Evil and Night of the Creeps a lot in how it plays with the standard concepts and plots of slasher films and director Drew Goddard has come up with something truly unique in the horror genre.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Things I've Noticed: Choosing a Calendar can be Tricky

I know, I know - It seems silly, but seriously, sometimes this is the stuff I think about.  As November is nearing the end, and as I'm one of those people who tends to get their Christmas shopping done before December 1st, I'm actually on to the next big holiday decision I have to make every year.

Calendar choice

In my life there are four calendars I deal with on a regular basis - my desk calendar at work, the wall calendar in my home, and the calendars my kids put up in their rooms.

First, calendars for the kids - in the past they've had everything from cute puppies and landscapes to TV-show and movie calendars.  As the person who purchases their calendars for them each year, this can be a lot of fun or pretty uncomfortable.  Honestly, the kids let us know what kind of calendars they want, so in terms of choice, the first two calendars are not a big deal for me.

Next is my work Calendar, over the last few years I've either used the Life's Little Instruction Book Day-To-Day Calendar or a horror-themed calendar.  But since my old job was in a cubicle by myself, not many people got a look at my calendar, and at my new place, calendars are noticed (and commented on) - so I've got to pick a good one.  Do I want to spend the year being known as Sudoku-guy?  or Word-of-the-day-guy?  maybe I'll be Island-view guy?  I'm really not sure - perhaps there is a library-themed calendar I can use to self-identify with.

Finally there is our home calendar, which is usually either a landscape calendar or cute primate calendar (my wife likes monkeys and great apes), but due to a sad lack of good primate calendars this year, I may have to put in a vote, and this time it will end up being something she sees more often than me so I'd better make it count.  Right now I'm leading towards The Hobbit but perhaps we'll try Modern Family or something related to books - you know I really don't know.

Anyway, here are my key tips for calendar selection:

1) No Girly/Guy Calendars - seriously, at some point your mom/dad/son/daughter is going to come over, look at your calendar and judge you.

2) Realize you will be judged on your calendar selection (I'm judging you right now)

3) Make sure you really like whatever the subject of your calendar is - your going to be looking at it for the next year and that "Knock Knock-Joke-A-Day Calendar" you are looking at will get pretty old pretty fast

4) Make sure you go calendar shopping early as the good ones get snapped up quick (unless you're ordering online)

5) You have my full permission to smack anyone who tells you that you are putting far too much thought into your calendar purchase - don't these people know how important this is!?!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Genre Character of the Week: Kyle Reese

Ask most people who said the phrase “Come with me if you want to live” and they’ll point straight to The Terminator Franchise – totally correct.  Then they’ll likely say it was Arnold Schwarzenegger who said it in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and if you’re like me, the answer will make you a little sad, because it was actually said in the first Terminator film by this week’s genre character, Kyle Reese.

To be fair to the folks who answered with Arnold Schwarzenegger, yes, he did say that phrase in the second film, but it was meant to remind the viewer of what Reese says in the first, not to stand alone on its own.

Kyle Reese, (Sergeant Tech-Com, DN38416) is a man out of time, sent on a mission to do the impossible, to save the life of his best friend’s mother from an unstoppable killing machine.  He has no weapons (or clothes, at first), and as he comes from an era after ours has been destroyed, he hits massive culture shock almost immediately.  Although he possesses the skill set of a guerrilla soldier (irregular tactics, the element of surprise, extraordinary mobility), the machine he is trying to beat is pretty much unstoppable.

What I love best about Kyle (played by Michael Biehn) was his humanity, his everyman quality, and the fact that he had fallen in love with a woman across time (a story concept I’m totally a sucker for) which altogether makes him not just one of my favourite characters of the franchise, but of Science Fiction in general.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Book Review: The Twelve

Last month I re-read Justin Cronin's novel The Passage, which is both an apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic novel featuring an outbreak of vampire-like creatures which overrun North (and probably South) America killing virtually everyone who lives there and the girl who ends up saving the world.

I loved The Passage - it was great, the pacing was wonderful and I loved how the first third of the book happens before the end of the world as we know it.

The Twelve was an obvious read for me - loved the first book, excited for the next, and after reading it I can say it was a lot of fun, but it didn't really impress me as much as the first.  For starters rather than move the story forward from the end of the first book a massive amount of time is spent returning to the vampire apocalypse and re-telling it from the point of view of other survivors whose lives will (mild spoiler) have an affect on those of our main characters almost a century later.

Now, I don't mind backstory, but honestly, the thing I loved most about the original book was it's pacing and this just felt backwards to me.

In the end I enjoyed it, but wished the story has moved forward rather than back and forward as it did.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Things I’ve Noticed: I won Bookmonkey Saw!

So I just got my mark back for my class project focusing on the Saw franchise and I got 87% - my conclusion wasn’t as strong as it could be, but my review of the videogame stood out nicely and overall I’m pretty proud of my work.
Next year I’m not sure which aspect of horror I’ll be looking into – perhaps a style of horror like “found footage”, exorcisms or zombies,  or maybe I’ll spend more time looking into a format, like horror in videogames or the like.
Anyway, it was a lot of work, it’s something I’m glad to say I’ve finished and I’m quite happy to finally put the Saw franchise behind me.
Thanks everyone!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Genre Character of the Week: Gobo Fraggle

Airing from 1983 to 1987 (or if you will, from my seventh through eleventh years), Fraggle Rock was one of my favourite television shows growing up.   The story involves a group of subterranean creatures called Fraggles, who on one end of their caves connect with our world and on the other connect with a world of giants (who consider Fraggles a delicacy).  Aimed for children, the series had a large focus on the ideas of friendship and cooperative play, and from my point of view, was just about the best thing you could be watching on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation any day of the week.
Unlike certain other friends of mine, who enjoyed the four “lesser-Fraggles” of the series, I was, and will always be, a huge fan of the greatest Fraggle of them all, Gobo.
Unlike his artsy, depressed, angry, or scared (and Hawaiian-shirt wearing) friends, Gobo was a level-headed, well-meaning young Fraggle, who kept up a written correspondence with his Uncle Matt and was often required to get his friends out of trouble.  Also he was brave and could play the guitar (or the tiny, gourd-based Fraggle version of a guitar), so he was pretty darn cool, which to my young mind, was all he needed to be.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Movie Review: Wreck It Ralph

To celebrate a great report card, I took my 15-year-old daughter out to see the new Disney film Wreck It Ralph today.

It was pretty great - the film feels pretty strongly like a mix of Shrek, Toy Story and Tron.  Our main character is the villainous Wreck It Ralph, a Donkey Kong-style character in a game called Fix-it Felix Jr..  In the game Ralph destroys a building, Felix fixes it and at the end of each level Ralph is thrown off the top of the building.

Being tired of always being the bad guy, Ralph decides to change his life, basically feeling that if he can't be a hero in his own game, he'll try to be one in another.

The film has many video game character cameos and used a lot of video game tropes as background to a story of seeking self-identity.

For me, the strongest part of the film was voice actor John C. Reilly who brings a wonderful sense of the sympathetic to what is, simply enough a two dimensional bad guy in a video game.

The film was a lot of fun, had great laughs and emotion throughout, and honestly reminds me why I can always count on a fun time with anything Disney produces.  I'm fairly confident it will end up on my DVD shelf.

Also a quick side note - the Disney short Paperman was, in my mind, such a sweet wonderful short it was easily worth the cost of the ticket all by itself.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Things I’ve Noticed: Wow – Pannekoeken are tasty!

On Tuesday, my friend Trish was lamenting to my wife and I about the opening of a new Dutch restaurant in our fair city – not that she has anything against Dutch food (she’s Dutch herself) but that as the restaurant is only a breakfast and lunch place, she works too far away to enjoy it.

Luckily for me, I work across the street from it (pictured above).  DeDutch serves traditional Dutch cuisine, all in a very cozy little setting very accessible to anyone who can get to downtown Edmonton.  As I had my lunch break today from 11:30 to 12:30, I beat the rush and was able to grab a quick photo of the dining room.

Not being very familiar with Dutch cuisine (except in terms of baking, largely because I live near on of our city’s Dutch bakeries) and having very little idea of where to start, I let my server suggest a good first meal – The Windmill Pannekoeken – which is a large 12” light pancake (or heavy crepe) served with wild B.C. Salmon, Edam Cheese and Hollandaise Sauce.

Traditionally you roll up your Pannekoeken and eat it in slices, so that’s exactly what I did.

The food was really tasty – and I got the one with fish as my friend Trish is not partial to those and I didn’t want to make her too jealous – but next time I’m thinking of something with apple, and maybe cheddar. 

Overall, an excellent place, the meal was served quickly (7 minutes from my order to my table) and it wasn’t too hard on the wallet ($25 including coffee and tip) – and believe me, I’m still feeling pretty full and it’s been a few hours since lunch.

Definitely worth checking out.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Genre Character of the Week: Eddie Hudson

Although the majority of my October horror experience was involved in the Saw franchise, I did get to enjoy a few other horror films and books.  Case in point - Dead City by Joe McKinney.  I actually picked up this book because I read the Bram Stoker winner of best horror novel each year, and McKinney's The Flesh Eaters won this year - but as it is the third in the series, I went back to book one, Dead City, and found my genre character of the week, Eddie Hudson.

Eddie is a patrolman in San Antonio, Texas, who spends an average day worrying about a fight he's having with his wife when the dead begin to rise.

From that point on we are treated to Eddie's harrowing escape from a city quickly overrun by the undead and get a good look at how quickly things might fall apart as the people who show up at emergencies (police, fire and ambulance workers) become the first to fall and change.

McKinney, a police officer in San Antonio himself, gives Eddie a great, ground-floor view of a zombie rising from the point of view of the police, and I actually found a lot the technical detail to be really interesting and compelling throughout.

Like my personal favourite zombie-fighting police officer, Eddie comes across as a regular guy in terrible circumstances and although the events of the novel only follow the course of a day, I would definitely be interested in checking out further books featuring the character.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Book Reviews: Little Fuzzy / Fuzzy Nation

For one of my book clubs last month I read the novel Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi, who wrote one of my favourite Science Fiction novels of the last few years, Old Man's War.  The book is a reboot of the 1962 H. Beam Piper novel, Little Fuzzy.

So, being me - I decided to read both.

Little Fuzzy (pictured left), tells the story of a miner named Jack Holloway, who while looking for fossilized rocks called sunstones on a far off planet discovers what may be a new life form, adorable little creatures he calls Fuzzies, who may or may not be sentient creatures, which if it turns out they are sentient, would mean that the prospecting on their planet is entirely illegal.  What starts out as an adventure novel ends up as a courtroom drama and it is pretty awesome - read it if you can find it, it was a lot of fun.

John Scalzi's 2011 novel, Fuzzy Nation (Pictured right) tells the story of a miner named Jack Holloway, who while looking for fossilized rocks called sunstones on a far off planet discovers what may be a new life form, adorable little creatures he calls Fuzzies, who may or may not be sentient creatures, which if it turns out they are sentient, would mean that the prospecting on their planet is entirely illegal. The story is basically identical to Little Fuzzy, but with more action, and the Holloway character is portrayed as more of a rough-and-tumble loner, than the grizzled-prospector type in the earlier novel.

Both books are fun, well worth your time, and although they cover the same bases, they each bring a very different feel to the concepts of big business, colonialism, and decency.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Thing’s I’ve Noticed: Movie Adaptations can be a lot of fun

On my anniversary this year, my wife and I went to see the film Cloud Atlas, and I totally loved it.  The six intertwining stories taking place across hundreds of years (circa 1849 AD to “106 years after the fall”), and involve multiple characters, many of them played by the same actors playing different ethnicities and genders throughout.  The film was ambitious, definitely something to be seen on the big screen and in turns funny, action-packed, horrifying, romantic and hopeful.

I totally loved it.

Now, going back a few years I actually read the 2004 David Mitchell novel for one of my book clubs, and honestly – it wasn’t really my thing.  At the time I enjoyed the two stories set in the future, and the story entitled “The Ghastly ordeal of Timothy Cavendish” was also pretty funny, but overall the novel just wasn’t for me.  

Unfortunately the book club member who chose the title was unable to attend the book club meeting and the three of us who made it found the book less than great, so we didn’t really have anyone to “champion” the selection.

So when I heard they were adapting the novel into a film, I honestly had very little interest in checking it out.  But, after a pretty amazing trailer, a glowing review from my favourite movie reviewer and the fact that my wife loves to see every movie Tom Hanks is in, we decided to check it out.

Totally worth it, lots of fun, and honestly – it kind of makes me want to revisit the novel.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bookmonkey Saw: Day 30 - The End


So here we are at the end of my month dedicated to an examination of the Saw franchise and what have I learned?

First of all, the 2004 film Saw is an effective, low-budget thriller that impressed me with concept, acting and a few intriguing plot twists.  I think I'll add my copy of the film to my horror DVD collection, and although I have zero interest in seeing the many films inspired by the franchise, I can honestly say the film is worth the watch for thriller fans.

Next, the comic book is a great example of how not to expand a text into another medium and both the Reality TV series and the video game are excellent examples of how to explore the phase space of an original text.  The comic added nothing to the original story and gave no lead-in to the sequel, in addition it could have created the beginning of an entire comic book series (for those of you unaware, horror and comics have a long and involved history together - check out The Horror The Horror: Comic Books the Government didn't want you to read by Jim Trombetta), while the reality TV series and Video game both spawned sequels and introduced new audiences to the horror genre and the original film franchise.

Finally, as a series, the franchise quickly looses steam and soon exhausts it's original concept - by the end of the third film I had seen the basic plot of the remaining four films.  As a long time fan of the horror genre, I can honestly say that unlike fantasy, horror works best in short form.  What horror also does is pack kids in theatres, and like the Friday the 13th's and Nightmare on Elm Street's of the 1980s, the Hammer Horror Films of the 1960s and the Universal Monster Movies of the 1930s and 40's, it ensures a new generation of teens grow up with a series they can call their own, as evidenced by the massive amount of fan fiction and websites devoted to any and all horror series.

In horror films, the two biggest sub-genres are slasher movies (wherein a killer chases teens around until one of the teen girls starts doing the chasing) and ghost movies (wherein a ghostly phenomenon terrifies a family until the Dad embraces the spiritual).  In 2004 Saw found another way (no teen characters and a "Slasher" who wants his victims to live, and to be better people for it) and creators Leigh Whannell and James Wan followed it up in 2010 with Insidious, one of the most effective ghost films I've ever seen, which also turned the tried-and-true formula on it's ear (It's not the house that's haunted).

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bookmonkey Saw: Day 27

Saw 3D, aka Saw VII, aka Saw: The Final Chapter

After one month, one comic, eight movies, two seasons of reality television and a video game (no luck on getting a copy of the second game to play within the time limit), I finally saw the conclusion of the Saw franchise this morning.

Saw 3D.

By the way, worst title ever - seriously, if you are going to name your films Saw, Saw II, Saw III, Saw IV, Saw V, and Saw VI, the final film should clearly be called Saw VII - if you want to cash in on the current 3D craze, you call your third film "Saw IIID" - it worked for the Friday the 13th franchise back in 1982.

Thankfully the DVD is called Saw: the Final Chapter (which still isn't as simple as "Saw VII" but, it'll have to do).

The film follows up where Saw VI left off - the new Jigsaw killer creates a new game and kills a record breaking of over 20 deaths in the film.  In the end, the story follows virtually the same plot used since the second film, doesn't really show anything new and left me disappointed overall.

I did feel pretty bad for the winner of season 2 of Scream Queens, as her scene was incredibly short and gave her virtually no chance to act at all.

I kind of feel like I just ran a marathon - a disgusting, bloody marathon.

Next up, conclusion and final thoughts.