Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cyberpunk: What the hell is that?!

There was a Summer where I was at a seminar for 3 weeks and bored to death when I wasn't in classes. I found the sole library (which was a children's library, by the way) and stayed there just to be around books. While looking for something familiar like Dr. Seuss or anything by Roald Dahl, I found this box filled with Young Adult Fiction novels. Among them I found Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. It's the first in a series of 4 books about a dystopian world where all teenagers get an operation at age 16 to become beautiful. Anyway, reading Uglies got me interested in book that I'd consider soft Sci-fi. This is when I came across the term Cyberpunk.

Originally, I thought it meant "Sci-fi for people who don't understand Sci-fi but kinda like it". Yep, I made that up. Upon further investigation, I found that it's a genre within Sci-fi created in the 80s. Author Bruce Bethke coined this phrase in his short story featured in a Sci-fi mag. He meshed the words cybernetics and punk to describe the "bizarre, hard edged, high-tech" science fiction that was taking form in the 80s.

"Classic cyberpunk characters were marginalized, alienated loners who lived onthe edge of society in generally dystopic futures where daily life was impacted by rapid technological change, an ubiquitous datasphere of computerized information, and invasive modification of the human body." –Lawrence Person

"Cyberpunk can be intended to disquiet readers and call them to action. It often expresses a sense of rebellion, suggesting that one could describe it as a type of culture revolution in science fiction"

Some relatively recent examples of Cyberpunk movies are Robocop, Paycheck, A Scanner Darkly & Surrogates. I listed the movies first because I don't know if you've read some of the books but here are some examples (chosen at random because I haven't actually read them) : Holy fire by Bruce Sterling, The Mirrored Heavens by David J. Williams Trouble and Her friends by Melissa Scott. Perhaps the most famous cyberpunk novel is Neuromancer by William Gibson.

Turns out Uglies isn't so much cyberpunk, but the it is very similar. This is such a fascinating genre to me and I hope I've inspired those of you who haven't heard of it to check some books out!

Here is a kick ass introduction into the world of Cyberpunk click here
Check out a complete list of Cyberpunk works here

Book Review: Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman & Kim Barnouin

Well, there goes lunch.

This isn't a novel, it's a healthy eating guide (that teeters on the edge of Animal Cruelty Awareness) that might have you thinking twice about picking up that bacon cheeseburger. It essentially educates you on what's really in the things we eat and the long term affects of these things. The book recommends a vegan diet (no meat, no dairy etc) and lifestyle (toothpaste made with natural ingredients and organic lotions). Before you think that it isn't worth reading, think again. There are truths to all the things you may've heard about the way animals are slaughtered** before they reach the supermarket. There are also interesting facts about the foods and beverages we think we need and the mental dependencies (addictions, uh-oh!!) that some of us have to certain foods...and WHY we have them.

My friend let me borrow this book over a year ago. I started reading it and was offended by the brash language right away. I guess I felt like I didn't need this book to tell me what I should and shouldn't be eating. I never end made it past the first curse laden chapter. But get past all the tough-love and you realize how passionate these ladies are about getting their message across. In the end, I liked the way they laid it all out for you. There are plenty of diet books that tell you "it's not your fault", "dieting is easy! just follow these 87163749 steps and you will be well on your way!". Skinny Bitch lets you know that if you gain this knowledge and continue to pollute your body, well then I guess it is your fault. They don't sugarcoat it and they don't make it seem easy as pie, but they do let you know that it is possible to change your lifestyle to be the best version of you and that, yes, you CAN do it!

**Note: Those with weak stomachs should skip through the chapters outlining the procedures of the US slaughterhouses.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Book Review: The Spell Book of Listen Taylor by Jaclyn Moriarty

I got this book a year ago at a book giveaway at the library. Not sure what happened when I tried to read it last year, but there was something about the way she structured her sentences on the first page.

"A moth touched its wing to the front porch light, and the apartment cleared its throat sharply"

She doesn't continue this way though, luckily. I was pleasantly surprised with the read!

Listen (Alissa) Taylor lives with her father, Nathaniel and his girlfriend, Marbie Zing. She finds a book plainly entitled "Spell Book" one day in Marbie's attic and begins to do the spells inside which often times require very silly instructions.

"Put a finger on your nose and say, "Golly!"

Alongside this story are a bunch of other ones that eventually intertwine. There's Cath Murphy the school teacher, Marbie's sister Fancy Zing and her husband Radcliffe and the elusive Zing Family Secret. The Zing Family meets every Friday to discuss the secret. There is some indication to what the secret is, but the final reveal isn't what you'd think! Cath Murphy is a school teacher whose troubles with men comes to full focus. Fancy Zing & Radcliffe's marital problems are how we are introduced to them as Fancy writes a list of irritating things her husband does.

I won't give away too much of the story but the author rarely mentions things that don't come into play later. This is one of the things I really liked about the book! And just in case you don't remember the seemingly small parts, Moriarty cleverly points those things out. In addition to being a well structured mini-saga, this book is hilarious!! I had so many laugh out loud moments that I've decided I might want to read some comedies before the summer's end!

It's considered Young Adult Fiction but there are definitely some not very young adult moments! I'll let you find those yourselves ;) You can enjoy this book at any age, especially on lazy summer days like these!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

iBook, Kindle, Digital Books, The Best Way To Buy Summer Reads [Article]

I subscribed to LearnVest's Daily newsletter a few months ago and I received this informative article for Frugalistas (like many of us might be now a days) to maintain their book habits on a budget. Namely during the summertime, the time where many people have a lot more time on their hands to read.

Personally, the bulk of books that I get to read are from the library. I tend to take out way too many and accrue a load of fines. They really tend to add up! Lately I've been visiting the deeply discounted section in Barnes and Noble or Borders. If I see something of note for a mere 3 dollars, I'll pick it up!

I also read through some of the comments on the site. Many people didn't like their idea about getting books from since it would leave already struggling authors with even less money.
How do you guys go about getting books to read?

Book Review: L'Etranger by Albert Camus (Translation by Matthew Ward)

I plucked this review from my other lighthearted blog. Please excuse the casual language I used, I was just so moved by the book that I wrote it down without giving much thought to how to say things:

I'd like to become a fabulous reviewer of, well, any and everything some day. Emphasis on the word become. So here's my amateur review of a classic book:

When my friend Chelsea told me to check out The Stranger because it changed her life, I was expecting to read something, well, life changing! not that it wasn't by any means, but this certainly is the type of book that will mean something different to you at different stages of life.

Most people I know checked this out in high school or junior high school. I imagined how I would've read it back then. Firstly, this book has major themes in Absurdism and is considered part of the Existential movement [although Camus didn't intend for it to be so]. I will have to admit that I didn't even know what the hell the Existential movement was before I read this. Just sounded kind of cool to say I was checking it out.

Anyway, the book is almost written in prose. The dialogue reads as though someone is writing in their diary or even half way recounting a story. An example not taken from the book would be: "We went to the store and got some tea, I asked about the flavors and he told me something about how he only had one type and who was I to be asking for various styles of tea in the first place". Something like that. I write that way for comedic relief often. That style of writing lent to his atmospheric, Absurdist way of looking at the world. Like it is just happening around him with no sense of cause and effect. I'd bet that back then Existentialism made sense to philosophers as a way of thought, but to me, it comes off as chilling. Kind of the way serial killers would talk about killing people. EEE!

I realize I'm writing this review backwards. The dude in the book's name is Meursault. And the action that happens in the book is told by him as though they were mundane everyday events. Strangely, I had no idea what was going to happen in the book so that kept it really interesting for me. So I won't tell you anything about it except for that it's only 121 pages long and might leave you feeling kinda like WTF.

So totally read it?

Book Review: Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

OH GOSH did I love this book.

I was walking through the library the other day looking for an interesting read. Earlier this summer I read "The Stranger" which was far too heavy for hot weather. Under the Summer Reading section, I found this charming book. In short, it's about a family who lives in an enchanted home with a magic garden. In the garden is an apple tree whose apples, when eaten, show a major event in your life.

That's basically what you find out right away, but what you discover as you read is a sort of fantastic coming of age tale about the wayward people in a southern town. It shows them as normal people who inherted a not-so-normal gift and is told as though practical magic is a normal part of life. The idea is very reminiscent of the tone Gaiman uses in "Anansi Boys". It was such a great change from the books I normally read and I will definitely read her new book "Sugar Queen" soon.

Anyway, if you enjoy a not too heavy read with a drop of romance and a lot of practical magic, you should definitely read this one!

The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill

I found this trailer for the great novella I read last Fall. I've copied the short review I did for it on my other blog:

I wanted to go to the pizza place the other day but I couldn't find a book to read in my house. So, I ended up picking this up from the library. It's size and subject matter was of interest to me after reading the very long "American Gods" by Neil Gaiman (which is a bit too long for me to review on here).

Well, I read this book in a matter of days. The language is clear and very conversational (as most of it is a recanting of a story from various characters) which made for easy and quick reading. It involves two main characters, a college professor, Dr. Parmitter and his student, Oliver. One night, the professor decides to share a story with his student but it's much more than a story, it's a horrifying tale that no sane person would or should believe.

I think the outside flap was misleading. I thought I'd be reading a hallowing, gruesome, bloody tale filled with violent death. I ended up getting much more. It was probably one of the more elegantly written books I've ever read. To quote another review I read on this book: Think The Omen vs. Scream or The Shining vs. Saw III. This is the art of understated horror.

I found this article on an author (Jennifer Egan) who recently wrote a fictional story that is considered "Avant-Garde". It's a book of short stories and they are connected in various ways. She also made a chapter look like a PowerPoint Presentation. Read on if you're intrigued. I was. Although, I don't find this to be very Avant-Garde.

I don't know, I feel like it's ALL been done before. While her concept seems like a great read, I wouldn't say there's absolutely nothing like this. To Egan's defense, she doesn't want her work to be considered experimental, the Avant-Garde title is purely an accolade from reviewers. Maybe I will reserve my final opinon for after I read the book.

Monday, July 26, 2010


I've been inspired to start a blog specifically for book discussion. I'd like to write amateur reviews, post links to other blogs of note and announce cool books on the horizon. I am no expert by any means, just a lover of reading. So expect to see reviews from books that run the gamut...not just complex literary works..and definitely not just paperback beach reads.

Thanks so much for visiting my blog, please feel free to comment with book suggestions.