Book Review – Welcome to the Symphony

TITLE: Welcome to the Symphony: A Musical Exploration of the Orchestra Using Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5
AUTHOR: Carolyn Sloan
ILLUSTRATOR: James Williamson
FORMAT: Hardcover w/attached music panel
PUBLISHED: 2015

Welcome to the Symphony is a fabulous book.  It’s probably best suited for slightly older kids because of lots of big terms… 4-7 maybe?  But the not-quite-3-year-old I read it to enjoyed the music part of it.  I’m sure he won’t be saying timpani anytime soon.

Anyway, the book follows three little mice.  One of them is at the symphony for the first time, so the other two mice explain it to their friend as the book goes along.  It’s a really direct approach to terminology “Tempo is how fast or slow music is played” – AND behavior at the symphony.  “Don’t clap yet, they’re just warming up!”

Plus, as it works its way through a pretty well-known piece of music (I remember this as a background to some cartoons), it explains all the instruments and you can compare them to each other pretty easy.  Violin, Viola, Cello, Double Bass, Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Trumpet, French Horn, Trombone, Timpani.  (And there’s a page about other instruments you may find in a modern symphony that you didn’t find in this piece of music such as the piano, harp, tuba, etc).

In all, this is a really thorough explanation of the symphony and a great introduction for a kid.

My only issue with the book is that you have to hit right on the number for the audio pad to work.  Most of these books, you can hit anywhere in the square; there are a lot of reviews on Amazon that say “This didn’t work!” and I suspect that they’re stemming from that issue.

Regardless – the book works, the toddler loved hearing the instruments, and when he’s a little older, I think this would be a great resource to teach him about music.

5/5 pages and 5/5 musical notes. :p

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Book Review – The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Title: The Maze Runner

Author: James Dashner

Format: Hardback

Published: 2009

 

A very long time ago back in the days when I was working at Walmart, I found myself in the book section for a few minutes either looking to kill a bit of time or on a break looking at the books house near by my electronics department. That was where I first stumbled upon The Maze Runner. The cover of the book and the title caught my attention. I read the blurb about the book and was intrigued and continued to be so as I read the first page or two.   I put the book back on the shelf thinking I would keep it in mind as I wasn’t enticed enough to spend my limited funds on the book.

 

It took me until recently to remember the book a lark and decide to pick it up. Little did I know that a movie has been made of the book which would entail a long wait list of over 50 people to get my hands on the book but I went for it and finally go my hands on the book and it was pretty decent. It took a while for me to get into the story and the world of the book. It was slow going and there were points where I thought I would give up and stop reading the book I think part of it is because I felt like there were similarities between the book and some other books I have recently read. Though they are vastly different in some respects I was reminded of Ender’s Game as well as a little bit of Lord of the Flies. Maze Runner takes on a different story despite some similar elements.

 

Once the story gets going it is pretty decent and worth the push to get into it even though it wasn’t what I expected based on the blurb, it was still something I enjoyed and with the last few chapters holding me fast such that I skipped half of my lunch to finish reading instead of going to get myself something to eat. I will also say the story surprised me in the fact that I originally thought this book was a one and done to discover it is a series, which I’ll be intrigued to see what comes of the series and have the next book on hold.

 

A brief over view of the book is a post apocalyptic world where the main character is lifted up via a elevator type box with hardly a memory to his name and a whole new world that is filled with nothing buy young boys aged 12 – 17 and he’s told that their job is to survive and figure out the maze it is a simply and straight forward existence filled with a lot of questions and oddities that get even more odd as the first girl ever is brought up the elevator and everything begins to change as she is marked as the beginning of the end. In a lot of ways this book is a survival story much akin to the Hunger Games just less death and possibly for a better reason than was had in the Hunger Games. We shall see in future books. Over all I would give this book a 3 out of 5 page review and say that it is a decent read.

Writer Wednesday – James D. Sanders

1. Who are you? James D Sanders
2. What type of stuff do you write? I am an author of Urban/Street Lit, Suspense/Thriller Fiction, as well as poetry.
3. What do you want to pimp right now? My debut Urban/Street Lit novel “Situations” was released on 01/01/15, and is available in paperback and E-book format on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.
4. What is your favorite book? My favorites cross a few genres. Inferno – Dan Brown, Heart Shaped Box – Joe Hill, Do or Die – Darren Coleman
5. What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat? I am also a husband and a personal fitness trainer.
6. What link can we find you at? Sandersjames.wordpress.com and http://www.facebook.com/authorjamessanders

Overcoming Writers Block

I would have to say that one of the most interesting things, or at least unorthodox things about my writing process occurs when I’m writing some form of a story. It’s common for me to hit a point of writer’s block that sometimes shuts me down for days or even weeks. The way that I seem to always overcome it is one that is almost completely out of my control. I will usually find myself rereading a chapter or two of the book I’m working on at random. While I’m sleeping, I will actually dream the next phase of the story. When I awake, I am usually able to put a few thousand words down without a problem, as if I never stopped writing.

Book Review – 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James

I’ve been agonizing over when to put this review out there.  Since today’s April Fool’s Day and this book is a bigger joke than Twilight… Here ya go.  I’m warning you, though.  This review is about 2x longer than any other I’ve ever written (or anyone on this blog has ever written) and is absolutely not safe for work.

Title: Fifty Shades of Grey

Author: Writer:  Chick who managed to put words on paper: E.L. James

Format: Paperback

Published: 2012

Also known as: Twilight, the fan fic.  (You did know that, right?  Because, you know, if you didn’t, you’ve been living under a rock.  This shit is fan fiction based on Twilight.)

So, at the beginning of this blog, Catherine made a comment about how we’d never review this book.  But, you know, I read it for the purpose of reviewing it, and hey, I’m reviewing it.

Someone, please hold my lunch.

If you haven’t heard anything about this book, please, crawl back into your cave and stay there.  You’re safe in your cave.  I promise.

I can’t save you if you keep reading.

Run away.

Now.

Quickly.

Why are you still here?

Haven’t you heard me yet?

RUN!!!

Really?  You’re sticking this out?

Okay, then.

I am no longer responsible for you if you stay.

So, I read the book.  And I took notes.  FOUR PAGES OF NOTES.  Then I decided that if I ranted and raved in this review even half as much as I do in person when somebody asks me what I thought… well, you’d be here longer than it took to write that drivel.

Here’s the story in a nutshell:

Ana, college chick, works at a hardware store in Portland/Seattle (the author doesn’t know the difference, why should I?), studies English, only reads old literature… oh, and doesn’t know how to check email and has never masturbated, let alone had sex.

Her roommate gets sick and sends Ana to do an interview in her place despite the fact that Ana isn’t a journalist and not smart enough to prepare for the interview – like, you know, read up on the guy on the internet or any- oh, wait.  She doesn’t know how to use the computer.  Wikipedia is clearly too difficult.  So she goes totally unprepared to her interview with Christian Grey, busy hating herself and thinking she’s a big fat loser, what with her blonde hair, blue eyes and all.  Oh, and as for that fat thing, she hates how skinny and hot her roommate is, but they share clothes so, uh…

Christian Grey on the other hand, is young, rich, and successful, so the list of responsible journalistic questions asked of him include insulting him at every question – is your success all luck?  Are you gay?  You know, that type of responsible journalism thing.   And then he falls for this useless fat ugly whatever thing that interviewed him.

Cause, you know, that totally happens in real life.    Jeez, I wonder who I could interview for this blog and end up in a bondage room with.

Oh, did I skip ahead?  Yeah, well.  That’s because there’s no substance to this book.

And more issues than Time Magazine.

So what do I have problems with?

  • The author can’t figure out the difference between Portland and Seattle and is there a mention of Vancouver for this American born/bred?  My best guess is Seattle, but I, as the reader, shouldn’t be guessing.  The author herself should know.
  • How the hell do you make it to 22-years-old, about to graduate from college, and can barely figure out how to hit the “ON” button on a laptop.  Email, are you kidding?!  What the hell?!
  • The writing is awful.  Aside from the first person present point of view (“I go and I see and I wait and… I vomit”) which I hate, it’s not even well written.  The thing about this POV is you either have to be good or you end up with a shitload of crappy, choppy sentences.  Yeah.  We’ve got those.  We’ve also got a ton of long, repetitive, run-on sentences.  Sentences that repeat words and colors and phrases and oh, dear God, kill me.  Please.  Because I can’t stand this!
  • Which brings me to my second argument about the writing, which is word choice.  Ana says things like “jeez” all the time.  Also, every combination of “good God” “good golly” etc.  I kept expecting a jeez god or a god jeez or something along those lines.  We get it already, James.  Your character is a clueless, stupid, innocent twit.  Wait, what?  That’s not what you want us to think?  You’ll get over it.  Cause that’s what you wrote and that’s what your editor pushed through.
  • Ana harps on everything – from her roommate and herself to every description every thought every whatever. Also, every guy she meets is cute, even though there’s no chance of a relationship with them.
  • Certain characters have names – like Roy, her father-like ex-step-father – but others, like her mother, don’t.  Not exactly a family therapist here, but if you love your ex-step-father like a father, you probably call him Dad.  And if what’s-her-name down in Georgia isn’t Mommy Dearest, you probably don’t call her that.  Just sayin’.
  • Oh, and she FUCKING MURMURS EVERY FUCKING TIME SHE TALKS.  (No, that didn’t bother me at all. </snerk>)  She doesn’t say, she doesn’t speak, she doesn’t yell (unless they’re in the bedroom) she fucking murmurs.
  • Million dollar words.  This here’s another pet peeve of mine.  When your character is a simple minded twit that uses words like “jeez” every time she opens her mouth, you don’t use fancy vocabulary for the rest of what you say.  Jeez.  I’m sorry, EL, but your character is a moron.  And honestly, people that use huge words when cute little tiny ones will do, end up sounding stupid.  I mean, I know our MC is a college-educated woman who can’t use a computer, but still.  [as a side note, several of the words that she throws around like popcorn in this book are so infrequently used that I needed a dictionary… I actually kept a list at one point of the bizarre choices of words she used]
  • She drinks every scene.  – no, I’m not anti-booze (I’m a card carrying member of the Tennessee Squire Association, thankyouverymuch), but I don’t see the point in drinking every time you go anywhere just because you can, and really, she drinks so much she should be sloshed.  What’s wrong with a glass of water once in a while?  Lemonade?  Iced tea?  Coffee?

So fast forward all this stuff.  After a few choice encounters where she happens to randomly run into Christian Grey (like at the hardware store where he buys zip ties and drop cloths), several meetings where her knees go weak, including a photo shoot of Christian Grey, etc., they end up doing a few things like dinner… and each other.

And the sex scenes are awful.  Because, here, ladies and gentlemen, is how every damn one of them works.

  1. Declare that you (the gent) will not do anything that shows any sort of actually caring about the woman you’re with.
  2. Demand she put her arms over her head.
  3. Do her like you’re her rapist.

Seriously, how bad is the sex life of a normal middle aged wife that they find that sexy?  Is it hot because it’s not missionary-style on Saturday night?  Grey’s not the husband and he’s not grunting till he’s done and rolls away?  What the hell?

50shadesabused

And as the book progresses and she does more and more of this even though she hates it, I seriously have to question Ana.  How bad is her self-esteem (and how clueless is she about sex) that she thinks she has to give in to the total control and domination from her man to get any?  How warped and twisted and – fucked up – are you to think that you don’t deserve any better?

As the story goes along, we learn a few more things about Mr. Grey.  He’s “fifty shades of fucked-up” (which is why I said that in the previous line – in Ana’s case, Mr. Fifty Shades becomes her new nickname for her boyfriend), and this includes his first time being with his babysitter, several (it felt like several million) discussions about the bondage contract she won’t sign, and the most agonizingly annoying scene in which she can’t believe she’s so naughty because she goes to dinner with his parents… without underwear.  (Poll women between the age of 18 and 30, and I bet within a dozen of them, someone will admit to having not worn underwear at some point in the past two weeks.)

ARGH!!!!!

You know, I’m gonna stop because, really, I just want to vomit.

Here’s the thing that pisses me off so much about this book.  Ana is a naïve, clueless, moronic twit (have I said that yet?).  And she somehow got into this relationship with a controlling freak.  Now, maybe, just maybe, if she had had several relationships, been a bit older, had a fucking clue, I wouldn’t be so upset.  But to have a main character that doesn’t even touch herself, who can’t refer to her girl parts – the word is not “down there” the word is “vagina” – thinks of her inner goddess or whatever other bullshit words she uses on herself… she is not equipped enough to be with this man.

And really, the author most certainly shows us this herself.

As the relationship progresses, and we see such uber-creepy behavior as Grey finding out where Ana lives because he has her cell phone tracked, demanding she get a new car because he doesn’t like the one she has, etc., and they discuss the contract to death, we learn a couple safe words (and they’re incredibly stupid safe words), get to watch her dream of sex toys and get them (I can never look at riding crops the same way), and eventually get to “the” scene.  I’d call it the climax, but really, slapping her twice gets this girl off, so using the word climax no longer has any meaning at this point.

Pardon the interruption, but… being stalked, tracked, or otherwise controlled is not ever the sign of a healthy relationship.  If you or somebody you know is in a relationship like this, please leave and find somewhere safe to go.  If you don’t feel that you can leave safely, call the police and they will help you.  Abuse is never okay, and you don’t need to be a victim to be in a healthy relationship. There are resources out there, and it’s NOT something glamorous.  

Ana/Bella (because let’s remember, this was based on fan fic, and she’s really just the tortured soul Bella in a new name) has at this point decided that she wants to know what the extent of Grey’s abuse, er, I mean spanking, is.  So she tells him to go  all the way.

And while she’s crying about how awful it is, she has her only moment of light where she decides that it scares the shit out of her and she should leave.  So after it’s done, she breaks it off with him.  End book.

And even this, I need to bitch about.  Because if you already forgot, about a paragraph and a half ago, I pointed out that they had safe words.  Which she doesn’t use.  At all.  And then she’s all “I can’t believe you hurt me like that” and pouts for a while.  Wait a damn minute.  She’s entered into an agreement (even though the contract never got signed) that she would do this sort of stuff, but she has a safe word so that it can’t get out of hand, and then because she’s too stupid to use it, she gets to play the victim?  I don’t think so.

Another side note.  Consensual BDSM happens all over the world.  It does not look like this.  And it is not about being hurt or abused, it’s about control and trust.  There is absolutely no trust anywhere in this book.  The author should be ashamed at writing this shit.

If I tell you to stop, I damn well expect you to stop.  But if I don’t say anything, then it’s safe to assume for whatever reason I want you to keep going.  It’s sorta like… going to a bar and seeing someone drinking across the room and assuming they’re at least 21 (or whatever the legal drinking age is where you are).  So really, all we learned through this book is that Ana needs therapy – not only to see why she thinks so lowly of herself but also to figure out why she has the sexual development of a thirteen-year-old.

Really, I think it’s irresponsible on the writer’s end.  We’re in an age where women (no matter how young or old) are increasingly having body issues.  (Just today, a friend of mine posted a link to Hardee’s new commercial paired with a conversation about how he can’t convince his 16-yr-old daughter that there’s nothing wrong with the way she looks.  For the record, she’s adorable and fairly skinny.)  Date rape cases are rising.  So what did this asshat author do?  She wrote a book where the main character thinks that nothing about herself is okay, is too emotionally stunted to deal with herself in any way, and then made her think that she had to be abused to be cared for.  Note that I’m not saying ‘loved’ because, you know, that doesn’t actually happen at any point in this book.

I thought the worst part was that there were two more books in this series, but no.

Somebody is writing fan-fic.  About this.  A fan-fic.  About Twilight.  And the longer this book is in print, and the more copies that sell, the more people who are going to take this crap and write their own.  And really, one was bad, it being a trilogy should have been the end of it.  But I picture a library full of this shit, and well… *shudders*  Also, even better, when the fan-fic about this was announced, EL James demanded her lawyers issue a statement to the next author saying “You just don’t steal other people’s ideas”  – um…

Can I give a negative pages rating?  Please?

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