Friday, August 30, 2013

The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough

Synopsis From Back Cover:

In the late twenty-third century, Darwin, Australia, stands as the last human city on Earth.  The world has succumbed to an alien plague, with most of the population transformed into mindless, savage creatures.  The planet's refugees flock to Darwin, where a space elevator - created by the architects of this apocalypse, the Builders - emits a plague-suppressing aura.

Skyler Lukien has a rare immunity to the plague.  Backed by an international crew of fellow "immunes," he leads missions into the dangerous wasteland beyond the aura's edge to find the resources Darwin needs to stave off collapse.  But when the Elevator starts to malfunction, Skyler is tapped - along with the brilliant scientist Dr. Tania Sharma - to solve the mystery of the failing alien technology and save the ragged remnants of humanity.

I hate science fiction.  There I said it.  I feel as if that weight everyone keeps talking about, is off my shoulders.  I find most of it to be heavy handed, too preachy, and full of so much technobabble that I have a headache within minutes of reading it.  In the past, I have found a few exceptions to my disdain for the genre, but they have been few and far between.  The Dune series by Frank Herbert, Aristoi by Walter Jon Williams, and a few series, like The Emberverse books by S.M. Stirling, that mix science fiction with fantasy; are a few of those shining stars in an otherwise dark firmament.

I'm still not even sure why I agreed to review The Darwin Elevator.  And as I started the book, I was kicking myself for that decision.  I was finding myself bogged down in the back story, the vocabulary was getting on my nerves, and I really don't like stories set in space, even a little bit.  I also think I was still annoyed over the book, Mystery Girl by David Gordon, that I had just finished reviewing, prior to this one.  But I refused to give up on it, I figured I would just have to suffer through.  I know I don't like science fiction, so it was my own damn fault for agreeing to review it.

Then something changed in me about halfway through the book.  I was actually enjoying myself and getting lost in the action.  I was really liking Skyler and Tania, and everyone else they were friends with.  I found myself hating the guys I was supposed to hate, and cheering for them to die.  I became interested in the questions they were asking about the Builders and what the master plan was.  I got caught up in the quest to find the new elevator sight.  I was just as intrigued by the movable structures as Skylar was.  And quiet honestly, I'm really needing to know what happens next.  I'm not sure when I'll get to find out, but I can't wait for the opportunity.

I would like to thank Lisa of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review this book.  Please visit the tour page to read other reviews.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

TV Guide Picks The 60 Best Games Shows Ever!

At one point in time, I was a game show junkie.  I couldn't get enough of them, though that was mainly during my childhood.  I was dreamed of being on Jeopardy! and I remember when the contestants on Wheel of Fortune had to buy prizes at the end of every round.  I loved The Price is Right with Bob Barker, and can't stand it anymore.  I watched Card Sharks and wanted to go on Shop 'til You Drop.  For whatever reason I've gotten away from my love of game shows, though I will still watch a vintage episode of Press Your Luck on the Game Show Network.

After I read this list, I thought that for the most part they got it right.  It's hard to go through the years and even remember all the game shows, let alone rate them.  There are a few that missed their list I would have liked to see, but I'll share that on the other end.  So with no further ado, here is TV Guide's list of the 60 best Games Shows Ever.  The first ten are in order, the rest are alphabetical.

1.  Jeopardy! 

2.  Wheel of Fortune

3.  Family Feud
4.  Match Game

5.  The Price is Right

6.  Who Wants to Be a Millionaire
7.  The Hollywood Squares
8.  Password
9.  What's My Line?
10.  The Newlywed Game
11.  Almost Anything Goes
12.  Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?
13.  Battle of the Network Stars
14.  Beat the Clock
15.  Blockbusters
16. Card Sharks

17.  Cash Cab
18.  Concentration
19.  The Dating Game
20.  Deal of No Deal
21.  Don Adams' Screen Test
22.  Double Dare

23.  Gambit
24.  G.E. College Bowl
25.  The Gong Show
26.  High Rollers
27.  It's Academic
28.  I've Got a Secret
29.  The Joker's Wild

30.  Let's Make a Deal 

31.  Liars Club
32.  Love Connection
33.  Make Me Laugh
34.  Masquerade Party
35.  Name That Tune

36.  Pantomime Quiz
37.  People Are Funny
38.  Press Your Luck 

39.  Pyramid
40.  Queen for a Day
41.  Remote Control
42.  Sale of the Century
43.  Scrabble
44.  The $64,000 Question
45.  Studs
46.  Supermarket Sweep

47.  Tattletales
48.  Tic Tac Dough
49.  To Tell the Truth
50.  Treasure Hunt
51.  Truth or Consequences
52.  Twenty One
53.  Weakest Link
54.  Who Do You Trust?
55.  Whose Line Is It Anyway?
56.  Win Ben Stein's Money
57.  Wipeout
58.  Win, Lose, or Draw

59.  You Bet Your Life
60.  You Don't Say!

So that is the list, as compiles by TV Guide.  As I said earlier, for the most part, I like the list.  There are a few other shows I think should have been on it, and I'll list those in a bit.  I would have added Fear Factor, even though I was never a huge fan of it.  I'm also curious to know why The Amazing Race or Big Brother are not on there.  They are games shows, though not in a traditional sense.  So here are the shows I think should have been on the list, despite the fact I'm not sure what shows I would have taken off.

Fear Factor

The Amazing Race 

Big Brother

Shop 'til You Drop

Legends of the Hidden Temple

Murder in Small Town X

As a side note, the winner of the show, firefighter Angel Juarbe, Jr., was one of the firefighters lost on 9/11.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mystery Girl by David Gordon

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

When Sam Kornberg's wife, Lala, walks out on him, he's an unemployed used-book store clerk and failed experimental novelist with a broken heart.  Desperate to win her back, he takes a job as assistant detective to the enigmatic Solar Lonsky, a private eye who might be an eccentric and morbid genius or just morbidly obese madman.  

It's a simple tail job, following a beautiful and mysterious lady around L.A., but Sam soon finds himself helplessly falling for his quarry and hopelessly entangled in a murder case involving satanists, succubi, underground filmmakers, Hollywood bigshots, Mexican shootouts, video-store geekery, and sexy doppelgangers from beyond the grave.  A case that highlights the risk of hardcore reading and mourns the death of the novel - or perhaps just the decline of Western civilization.

I feel like Artax being sucked down in the Swamp of Sadness, unable to escape his fate.  Now forgive my hyperbolic language, but I'm not sure I have any other way to explain myself.  Before anyone gets too upset with me, I'm not comparing the book to the Swamps of Sadness.  Instead, I'm comparing my unwillingness and despair at having to write a review of this book, to being sucked down into the mud, never to raise again.

It's not because I didn't like the book, though I can honestly say it's not my favorite, but it has more to do with the fact that I really don't have anything to say about it.  If I had nothing but negatives to explore, it would be easier for me to sit my butt down and write something up.  Instead, I'm left with feeling rather panicked over the idea of writing this review.

I guess I could say that I enjoyed the characters and found them to be interesting, despite all the craziness going on around them.  There are even a few of that I would like to know personally.  I may even choose to comment on the fact that much like These Things Happen by Richard Kramer, the book felt too forced for me to really enjoy.  Everything, for me at least, read as if the author was trying too hard to be clever.  And that's all I really have to say, I don't even feel like going into a lot of explanation on why I feel this way.  Maybe I should just let the mud of the Swamp of Sadness swallow me up.

I would like to thank Lisa of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read/review this book.  Please visit the tour page to read other reviews, hopefully some that actually had something to say.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Julie Harris, 1925-2013

I still remember the first time I watched The Haunting for the very first time.  I was captivated by what I still think is one of the best ghost stories to ever be filmed on screen and the star of that movie was the fabulous Julie Harris.  Her portrayal of Eleanor Lance stills sens shivers down my spine.  Her ability to portray even the slightest nuance in that movie is remarkable to me, and I think a lesser actress would have destroyed the movie.  

I don't want anyone to think she was a one note actress, because she was anything but.  Her gift of truly inhabiting a role and bringing that character to life is almost second to none.  She was nominated for ten Tonys, which is more than any other actor in history; she won five of them.  She was nominated for eleven Prime Time Emmy Awards, and won three of them.  She won a Grammy for best spoken word album for her recording of The Belle of Amherst, a play she also won the Tony for playing Emily Dickinson. She was an Academy Award nominee and a BAFTA nominee.  

A lot of you will recognize her from her role in East of Eden with James Dean, or with Paul Newman in Harper.  Television viewers will remember her as Lilimae Clements on Knots Landing.  For me though, whenever I'm thinking of this powerhouse of an actor, I will put my DVD of The Haunting in, and get lost in her performance.

Julie Harris passed away on 08/24/13 from congestive heart failure.

Monday, August 26, 2013

My No Good, Very Bad Day.... With Good Pictures

For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you may have already heard my story of what happened to me on 08/14/2013, the day before my birthday.  If you haven't, please let me fill you in on the details.  It started of pretty great actually, I went to renew my license since it expired on my birthday, and that was the last thing I wanted to do on my actual birthday.  When I got there, I signed in with my cellphone and realized there was a two hour and forty-five minute wait.  Instead of waiting around, I decided to leave and come back when it was closer to my time.  They text you 15 minutes before your number is called, so I knew I would have the time.

I decided to go to a few of the parks in my neighborhood, of which there are around five.  I stopped at Riverside park first, but mainly walked along the river bank.  I then stopped at the gazebo of Villa Park, but not for very long.  I mainly wanted to see the small pond there  My last stop was Oak Park, one of the parks I rarely get to anymore.  I wish I did, especially since there is a nice walking trail that takes you through a wooded area.  I love it there, and will occasionally walk down the side trails as well.  I took a lot of pictures during the park time, pictures I'll share at the end of this story.  But as I was leaving, as I'm turning around to walk back to my car, I'm tackled by this huge dog and knocked to the ground.  The poor guy was wanting to play, and didn't mean any harm, but when he knocked me down, my camera fell on a rocky area, barely missing going into the water.  Now you would think that the dog's owner would have asked if I was okay, or at the least apologized for what happened.  Instead, she calls the dog away and disappears from view.  When I picked the camera up, all I saw was green static on the screen, and I could not turn the camera off.  The lens was stuck out, I thought the poor thing was finished.  Almost in tears, I took the battery off, which did shut the camera down.  When I put the battery back in, the screen went back to normal and I thought all was right with the world.  I was so wrong, the screen was actually cracked, and it was cracked right where the push screen button for my flash is at.  I had the flash off since I was taking pictures in the sunlight, and now it's stuck off.  I can no longer access that button.  So my camera works, but I can't use it inside after a certain time of day, or at night at all.

So I finally get back to the DMV, with 15 minutes to spare.  I get up to the counter and I'm told I don't have all the info I need, that I need to go home and come back.  You see, I had moved a few months earlier, but only to a different apartment within the same complex.  My street address had not changed, even though my apartment number had.  I had called them the week prior and was told since the street address did not change, I did not need to bring anything with me to prove the move.  Well now I'm being told I need that proof, and because of my already crappy day, I was less than happy about it.  So I storm off like a four year old, go home, and go back to the DMV.  Luckily, they didn't hold my temper tantrum against me, and allowed me back into line without having to wait too long.

So now I'm back home, wanting to rest a bit.  I'm lying in bed, watching TV and I notice that my patio doors are a little dirty.  I decide to wash them really quickly, and the inside takes just a few minutes.  Around this time, my roommate and son leave to go run some errands.  I leave my cellphone on the bed, and go outside to clean the windows.  As I'm cleaning them, the safety bar comes down and locks me out on my patio.  I'm on the second floor, with no real safe way down from my patio.  So I'm out there for about an hour to an hour and a half, when I decide I really, really need to go to the bathroom.  I'm hoping against hope that my front door was left unlocked, and I take my time trying to get down.  I eventually figure out the least dangerous way of getting down, and go for it.  When I land, I twist my ankle a bit, but thankfully with no other damage.  When I limped around the building, and up my stairs, I was praying that my front door was unlocked, and thank the lord it was.

After that, I took a shower, drank some wine, and posted about the day on Facebook.  I was really hoping all my bad luck came out on that day, so my birthday would go without a hitch.  For the most part, it did.  I had a quiet birthday, which was just what I wanted.

So now that I've bored you with my bad day, it's time to show you the pictures I took before everything took a turn for the worse.

The first eight pictures are from Riverside Park.

The following three pictures are from Villa Park

The rest of the pictures are from Oak Park.

I was standing on these rocks when I was knocked over.