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.