Book Review- The Hunger Pains

Book: The Hunger Pains

Author: The Harvard Lampoon

Published: 2012

Publisher: Simon & Shuster, Inc.

 

When Kantkiss Neverclean is unwittingly volunteered to be the female contestant for the Hunger Games, she can’t believe her luck! She gets to compete for fame and glory…and her life too. Thrown into the unknown, she must now rely on her great skills as an archer (she can hit a cow at point blank range!), her mentor, and her new friend Pita, to make it through this harrowing experience and discover which of all of her boy toys she truly loves…and make it home alive. So will she make it? Who will she choose? Will she ever get President Bernette’s autograph for her mother? Find out in the raucously farcical book:  The Hunger Pains.

There is a fine line between good satire and bad. This book takes a running leap, clears that line by at least 10 feet, and lands flat on its face while laughing like an idiot (aka, the main character). Don’t get me wrong, I love a good satire and in the spirit of making the most out of this book, I read it as all good satires should be read – caffeinated, sleep-deprived, and with a steady stream of sugar coursing through my veins. None of it helped. Given that it was based off the wildly popular Hunger Games, the authors had great deal of fodder to work with. Unfortunately, it all seemed to fall flat in the end. Instead of mocking the original story they rewrote the story based off the questions “what if we make every single character a complete Neanderthal?” “What if we gave the characters stupid and sometimes unintelligently crude names?” “What if the best character in this book is a raccoon that shows up for all of two pages?” While there were some good lines in there, mostly in the form of sociopolitical jabs, they were often overshadowed by yet another brainless line directly afterwards. The characters were one-dimensional and annoying; in fact my favorite scene was when the main character was knocked out with a vase. Where a satire should be creatively snarky The Hunger Pains was painfully bland and mind-numbing to the point where I had to restrain myself from throwing the book across the room.

Maybe I expected too much, after all, this is the Harvard Lampoon. I will say it is palatable if you are looking for something to completely numb your mind after a long day of underwater basket weaving, or some other such tedious event. In fact, there are points that are almost enjoyable if you check your brain at the door and do not let anything more than air pass through the open cavity in your skull where said brain used to be. Due to this, I give it a 2 page rating; if, however, you are looking for something snarky and witty, with more intelligence than a pill bug, then move along, this is not the book you are looking for.

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Writer Wednesday – Patricia L. Beaudin

Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
Tell us (briefly) about you…
I’m a born and raised Michigander. When I was in high school, I was into art and didn’t think I’d ever be able to write something decent. In my mid-twenties I decided to write down a story I had been thinking about for fun. The floodgates were opened with that story and I haven’t stopped writing since.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
I love writing young adult. The stories always have some paranormal or fantasy elements.

…and what you’re working on right now.
A short story related to my debut novel, Being Human, called Sunlight. It takes place after Being Human and is in Jamie’s POV.

What are your earliest book-related memories?
I remember being in love with Clifford The Big Red Dog books. I had them all and reread them all the time.

What are your three favorite books?
Just three? Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion, Willow by Julia Hoban, and The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
I only read one book at a time and usually from start to finish which means nothing gets done until I reach The End. I’m actually not reading anything right now. I have some stories by friends I need to beta.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
get lost in another world.

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
I don’t reread often, but only because I have so many new books I want to read.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
Not likely. Goodreads has book recommendations and I have people recommend books and I rarely pick those books up. It’s not that I don’t think the books would interest me, it’s more I already have a giant TBR pile that I’m trying to get through.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
I do it a good bit. If I read a book that I really like, I’ll review it on my blog and that’s pretty much me recommending the book.

What do you look for in a good book?
I never really thought about it. Usually if I pick up a book it’s because the cover caught my attention and the back sounded interesting enough to open.

Why do you write?
I write because it’s fun and I like creating. I’ve always been creative so it’s a good outlet for me.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
I honestly can’t say. I’d probably just be working at a restaurant as a cook or baker, but those jobs wouldn’t be my passion.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
All over. Things I see or hear, other writers, my imagination.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
I can do things I didn’t think I could do. I always thought I was an awful writer, but I gave it a shot and it worked out. I know not everyone will like my stories, but they are good.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
My grandma is beyond proud and tells me all the time. I figure my parents are too, but we don’t really discuss my writing too much. I’m not much of a talker, even with my family. Usually, I thinking, “Don’t ask me about my writing. Don’t ask me about my writing.” when I’m with family.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
Not that I can think of.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
Getting noticed. There are so many books being released each day now. Self publishing really opened the doors for writers, but it also means that you have to work twice as hard to get noticed.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
My first paperback of Being Human I forgot page numbers. When I was formatting for e-book, the guide I used said take out the page numbers, you don’t need them. Then when I started on the paperback, I forgot to add them back. It took me a few months to finally put the page numbers in because I thought I needed to buy a new ISBN number and I didn’t have the money. Turns out I didn’t.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
I’d like to have a story in an anthology, but I’m horrible with deadlines. A friend asked me to be in one she was putting together and she said the deadline was Christmas. I couldn’t write a single thing for the story idea I thought up because all I could focus on was the deadline. Deadlines are my Kryptonite.

How do you deal with your fan base?
By being really excited. My fan base isn’t very big yet, so when I have a fan talk to me, I act like a fangirl and jump and squee. LOL

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
I’m a lot more anti-social than they think. Talking online is super easy because I’m hiding behind a computer screen, but if any of them met me in real life, I wouldn’t be half as chatty.

Anything else we should know?
This is the kind of question you don’t ask me. I always say nothing, even when I have a lot of new things happening in my life. I can’t help it though, I’m anti-social and an introvert. You have to drag me kicking and screaming and then I say things like, “This was so much fun. Let’s do it again.” Not even kidding. It has happened multiple times.

Twitter – https://twitter.com/patricialynne07
Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/patricialynne07
Website – http://www.patricialynne.com

Book Review – Time Enough For Love by Robert Heinlein

Title: Time Enough For Love
Author: Robert Heinlein
Format: Paperback
Written: 1973
Published: 1975

Time Enough For Love is a chunky science fiction novel about a man who has lived for more than 2000 years. It is set in a futuristic universe, and details his life and accumulated wisdom from the centuries. A variety of storytelling techniques are used, and the common theme of the various passages is an exploration of what it means to love another.

This book came highly recommended to me, which is the only reason I slogged it out. I kept waiting for it to get to the point. Any point. It is a frame narrative, playing with ideas of the Arabian Nights. Unlike the stories of Scheherazade, this one is lacking in thrilling cliff hangers that keep the pages turning.

Some of the incidents that are detailed in the book would be interesting as standalone stories. The chapters about Lazarus’s relationship with Dora are genuinely moving, and I am certain this is because it is one of the few times when the frame is distant enough that you are not reminded of it every two pages.

I was constantly irritated by the protagonist’s name. He changed it whenever he took on a new persona to hide his longevity, which was fine, but use of the chosen name was so inconsistent that I occasionally became lost about which person did what. The frame narrative would also impose on the individual narratives with alternative explanations and names as footnotes, which just confused things even more.

Because the theme of the book was love, the benefit of having such an old protagonist was severely curtailed. Two millennia is a long time to do a lot of amazing things. At one point the narrator was a slave, but we are only told this to justify why he intervened in a particular situation. Being pressed into slavery and escaping it would have been much more interesting than the story we did get about how he bought a young couple and then sold them a restaurant.

One of the best aspects of the book, due to its love theme, was the exploration of alternative family models. Many types of family were only alluded to in passing reference, but it was refreshing that our current cultural idea of the best family being the nuclear one was not supported in this text.

Aside from the occasional humorous passage, and Dora’s final scene, nothing in this book managed to stir more than a casual intellectual curiosity. I have no sense that my life has been enriched by reading it. I feel so little emotional resonance that I can’t be bothered hating it. If you have read this book, and understand why it was so highly recommended, please throw in your two cents in the comments below. Until someone convinces me otherwise, I am rating this book 1 out of 5 pages.

Book Review – Road to Marvel’s The Avengers

Title: Road To Marvel’s The Avengers

Created By: Various/Multiple Authors and Illustrators

Format: Paperback/Comics bound as a graphic novel

Written: 2010-2012

Published: 2012 (this binding)

This book features four ongoing comics – “I am Iron Man!,” “Iron Man 2: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D,” “Iron Man 2: Public Identity,” and “Captain America: First Vengeance” – and runs at least a hundred pages (they’re not numbered, I’m totally guessing).

These are supposed to be the lead up to the Avengers movie (and movie cannon).  The first part was written after the movie and based totally on it.  The other two Iron Man parts are sort of a lead up to the second movie.  Captain America is a lead up to when Rogers was chosen to be Cap –so the first bit of the movie.

Here’s the thing, I tend to like comics for their artwork.  (There’s not enough substance to the story for me to justify them otherwise.)  The artwork in here was –dark.  It sort of lost a little for me.  Most of the backgrounds are dark, there is hardly any white, etc.  I think that it would have benefitted from brighter artwork.

And the story lines are meant to be related to the movies, but the drawings don’t exactly look like the Tony Stark or Pepper Pots that we’ve seen so many times on the big screen.  If this was really done as a way to bridge comic fans and the movies…  what did they draw?  A hybrid?  Whatever they wanted?  I’m not familiar enough with the comics to know if they kept that aesthetic or started a new one.  But for what it is, I sort of expected Tony Stark to have an uncanny resemblance to Robert Downey, Jr., instead of just sorta looking like they could pass for the police sketch. Nevermind Chris Evans – he doesn’t look a thing like the drawings of Captain America.

Which brings me to another issue that I have with this.  There’s like one page that mentions something about old magic and shows a drawing of Odin.  Not even Thor.  If this is really the road to the Avengers, why don’t we have a Thor story of some sort, something about Hulk, etc?  There’s a bit about Natascha (Black Widow), since she goes undercover to keep tabs on Stark, but that’s it, and not a single word/mention/nod in Hawkeye’s direction.  I would have liked to see it a little more rounded.

In fact, I think that if it weren’t for the Captain America/Daddy Stark connection that they would have considered discluding him, too.  (And yes, I probably made that word totally up.)  This also opens my rant that they did stuff bass-ackwards and I would very much have liked to see Cap before Iron Man, just so you get the chronology and Iron Man’s history in the right order.

In the end – if you’re a fan of the Iron Man movie franchise, go ahead and pick this up.  If you’re psycho into the Avengers, you should have it because I’m quite sure you have everything else.  But if you’re a casual fan, you can watch the movies, skip this entirely and not have missed anything at all.  Not sure where that fits on the pages scale, I guess a three?

Book Review–Below Stairs by Margaret Powell

Title: Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid’s Memoir That Inspired “Upstairs, Downstairs” and “Downton Abbey”
Author: Margaret Powell
Format: Electronic–Kindle
Written: 1968/ 1968
Published: 2012

 

If you’re half as mad for Downton Abbey as I am, you’ve probably seen this book mentioned as one of the inspirations for that show.   And if you’re half as mad for Downton Abbey as I am, you’ll read pretty much anything that says “this has something to do with Downton Abbey.”

First, let me explain what this book ISN’T.  It is NOT a novelisation of the TV show.  You won’t see the Granthams and the Crawleys and their many dramas in these pages.

First written in the mid-60s and published in Great Britain in 1968, this book was all the rage, sort of the way _Eat, Pray, Love_ * was here in the US a couple of years ago.  On the heels of the book’s popularity, actresses Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins conceived of a show about housemaids that would capitalize on the revived interest in that vanished way of life. Much of Britain was undergoing shrinking pains as the Empire turned into the Commonwealth and the prosperity of earlier generations vanished under crippling war debts. Nostalgia for the bygone days was tempered with the memories of those for whom the good old days weren’t do good. So this book, and by extension the TV show, were perfect.    Marsh and Atkins were able to interest the networks in the show once they expanded their stories to include the wealthy employers as well as the maids, and Upstairs, Downstairs was born.

Julian Fellows, the creator of Downton Abbey, was an “Upstairs” fellow all the way.   He was one of those who was living the Upstairs lifestyle in the 60s as Below Stairs was released.   The stories and anecdotes in Powell’s successful memoir stuck in his head to be resurrected years later as the “Downstairs” storylines in Downton Abbey.   

Now that we have the Downton Abbey pedigree out of the way, let me explain what this book IS.

It is a memoir written by a woman who was highly intelligent and won a scholarship to college to become a teacher.  However, back in those days of no student loans, she couldn’t afford to go and instead had to go to work at 14 to help support her family.    Margaret Langley was a natural storyteller, a passionate reader, an autodidact and a keen observer of people.    When her sons went to college she went with them, got a degree in her later years and wrote several books about the way life was before the sun set on the British Empire and the Middle Class came into its own.

A lot of what happens in Below Stairs is unhappy stuff.  People are treated unfairly, harshly and sometimes with great cruelty.   But Powell’s skill at weaving the narrative makes it all go by in a pleasant and compelling read.   If you’ve seen either of the shows that use this as source material you’ll recognise Powell’s stories as having happened to this or that TV character, and the shout-out is a bit of a treat.   If you haven’t seen the programs, reading this witty, interesting and fascinating book will have you hunting them down on Netflix.

I love this book nearly as much as I love Downton Abbey, even though there is no Isis.

The only drawback, and that drawback is what costs it a worm, is that there are certain stories you come to expect after awhile–such as how she met her husband–that just never appear.    I would have liked more detail about that part of her life, especially as much as it figured into the narrative about her years on staff.

I’m rating this as a solid 4- bookworm read and hope you’ll seek out a copy for your enjoyment.

4 bookworms

Book Review – Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon 8 by Naoko Takeuchi

Title: Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon 8
Author/Illustrator: Naoko Takeuchi
Format: Paperback Manga
Written: 1991
Published: 2004
Translated: 2011
In a long standing series such as the Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, one would expect there to be books of transition and that is the case with Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon 8, it is a book that transitions from one plot arch to the next.  I mentioned in my review of volume 7 that this was the Pharaoh 90 plot arch which wasn’t one of my favorites.  I very much liked the passion and pain expressed from some of the characters when it seemed all hope was lost, particularly as there was a focus on Sailor Saturn who is my favorite outer Senshi and there was a good bit of Tuxedo Mask as well who is my second favorite character in the series over all (just behind Sailor Star Fighter).

Once the story of Pharaoh90 and Sailor Saturn was told, I was excited to see that story picked up right away with the plot arch of the Dead Moon Ciricus and the Amazonians which is a rather fun story to tell.  Having only watched the Anime, I was surprised to see how involved the Amazonians were from the start and I look forward to learning more!  Of course the start of this plot arch was the main focus and so there was a lot of set up going on in this book but I’m not too bothered by it as it was an enjoyable read all the same and I am looking forward to the end of the month when the next book should be available as it left off at a very interesting plot point of Sailor Moon and Sailor Chibi-Moon switching places.  It was rather fun to watch in Anime and I think it will be fun to read in maga how these girls deal with being age swapped, and continue to fight evil in the name of the moon!

Over all, I am giving this book a three page rating.  I liked the book and I enjoyed reading it.  I do after all love Sailor Moon but it was a bit weak and very heavy on the images with sounds for the ending of the Pharaoh90 plot arch and there were no translator notes inside the book which is something I very much enjoy reading.  I find the translation notes help give clarity, and I was sad to see them not present this time.  Hopefully the next book will be better for having a very fun plot arch and having a translator section in the back.

Book Review- Treasure Island

Book: Treasure Island

Author: Robert Louis Stevenson

Written: 1883

Published: 1998 (Oxford World Classics Paperback Edition)

Publisher: Oxford University Press, Inc

 

Jim Hawkins is an average boy who spends his days helping his mother and father run the Admiral Benbow, the family inn. He has no reason to suspect that when an unruly seaman, no doubt a former pirate, takes up quarters, his life will soon be changed drastically. The seaman, Billy Bones, has a map, one that his former shipmates will stop at nothing for – including attacking the inn. Left with the map, Jim solicits the help of Dr. Livesey and Squire Trelawney in order to set off after the treasure. Before long their voyage is under way and Jim is taken under the wing of a one-legged sea cook. But their adventure has hardly begun, as unbeknownst to the travelers, the pirates are closer than they could ever imagine.

I have been trying to read this book for over a year now. I kept picking it up and getting about 10 pages into it, and never reading any farther; so after pushing past the first 10 pages and not being able to put the book down, I can honestly say this is a must read! It has pirates, treasure (thus the title…), adventure on the high seas… my inner child was dancing in glee (not to mention swinging a little cardboard sword at imaginary buccaneers). Oh, and did I mention the scenes/songs  from Muppet Treasure Island playing though my head as I read various scenes?  The book was, is, and always will be a classic, and it is a great story for adults and older children (young children might be a little frightened by some of the scenes). I had very few issues with anything in the book with the exception of the wording/vocabulary. Some of the terminology was a little difficult to follow, as I am not a sea-faring girl of the 1800’s, though in context it was not hard to get the gist of what was being said. Also, the way things were worded made it a bit difficult to follow who the author was talking about in a couple of scenes. Finally, the biggest caveat, and again, chalk it up to the use of a differing vocabulary in a different era, was that there were a couple of words used that have innocuous meanings, yet sound incredibly similar to some rather unacceptable words by today’s standard.

Overall, I give this book 5 pages. It was awesome beginning to end, and I look forward to reading it again. So go out, have an adventure, and read this book. Arrrrrrrrrrgh.

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