Monday, July 29, 2013

Bitter Harvest (Harvest Trilogy 2) Written by: Michael R. Hicks

Good evening readers, I absolutely cannot believe how ...and forgive me for stating the obvious, but how fast this summer is going. It must be the scorching heat mixed in with the awesome thunderstorms...that and the fact I haven't had a days rest since....May? Yes, maybe a day in may I think. Plus for two weekends I've been the Baali named Skylar masquerading as a Gangrel... and then Eliza Headley wife to Professor Headley in the 1920's with severe TB...right off topic. So, I just finished the second book in the Harvest Trilogy...I remember being absolutely paranoid after having read the first book in this trilogy by Michael R. Hicks, so much so that I've been reading a gardening book on the side and I am investing in looking to grow my own organic garden... well, it's a responsible investment...not just because most of the books I read involve the end of civilization as we know it...oh hell who am I kidding most of what I do is because a book scared me into it... So, book 2, I've been trying to read a few books in between series so I don't just go straight through them and that's that, but with this book...well, I wanted to put it down but just couldn't. The first book put me in a paranoid state for sure and introduced me to the characters Jack Dawson and Naomi Perrault, well they're back as is a few other characters from the first book. I may have cried a few times while reading this book both from unease, terror, and loss... the story itself flowed very nicely from setting to setting and person internal monologue to horrific instances. You would think the events of the first book wouldn't be simply brushed under the rug, but it has been a year and how quickly people forget the near extinction of their entire race. The Harvesters have been forgotten so much in fact that a new President has come to power and all the stop gaps, laws, and legislation former President Curtis put into place have been repealed. Along with the new legislation Naomi and Jack now have to move on with their lives and Naomi has been given the chance to work once again do the work she wanted to before the whole Harvesters incident. With Naomi's new job it is quickly obvious that the work she's currently working on could only be as advanced as it is because of one thing...somehow this lab managed to get a hold of the dreaded bag...the bag they have never stopped worrying about. The book itself was very fast, and the new danger the Harvesters have brought to the table is just well...AHH! Yup, AHHH, pretty much describes the new horrific offspring brought forth from the original Harvesters. I am very excited to see where this series is going....I need some Vodka after a tale like that.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Book of Tea Written by: Okakura Kakuzo

Afternoon fellow readers. I know there's a heat wave that swept the United States the past few weeks, but I just have been dying to read the following book by Okakura Kakzo. This also has a foreword & biographical sketch by Elise Grilli. The MFA had this wonderful Japanese Samurai exhibit and the art and detail to these people were just beautiful in every way. So, one of the books in the gift shop was simply titled.."The Book of Tea." Well, I don't think I've mentioned this before readers, but I love tea! Absolutely love it. I used to just drink it when I felt a cold coming on, but a friend of mine completely turned me onto brewing my tea, buying tea leaves, and other forms of tea. So, yes, I love tea alas I don't drink caffeine so sometimes finding a tea I love can be difficult especially if it's can only stock up on so much tea and keep it fresh...drat! So, this book was just so well elegant and quite beautiful I could only dream to be as refined and eloquent in my writing as Okakura Kakuzo was in his telling of this book. Tea it seems goes back quite a long way and this tale begins with the Cup of Humanity which gives us the readers quite a history about Tea seriously, I had no idea this wondrous drink and its culture and different forms went back so far! How interesting that tea "Like all good things of the world, the propaganda of Tea met with opposition."  It is almost as if this drink was something to be shared, spread, and each culture adapted it to themselves... quite wonderous this Teasim is. But, tea is not just about tea no, there are the schools of tea which tell us about the variations of how tea was cultivated, served, and worshipped essentially. Then the author shows how tea was also a form of Taoism and Zennism and how the compared and contrasted. My favorite example that helped me better understand this chapter was the following example. "Three Vinegar Tasters explains admirably the trend of the three doctrines. Sakyamuni, Confucius, and Laotse once stood before a jar of vinegar-the emblem of life- and each dipped in his fingers to taste the brew. The matter-of-fact Confucius found it sour, the Buddha called it bitter, and Laotse pronounced it sweet." Brilliant no readers? You will simply have to read this chapter as it is quite fascinating. Next, we are told about the Tea room and how though it is simple in appearance just how much cost, work, and thought actually go into these classic rooms and how simplicity really can be quite beautiful and hard to achieve. Following the Tea room Okakura Kakzuo continue with explaining Art Appreciation this section is quite interesting as even the art associated with Tea is carefully selected and placed for this sacred ceremony. Okakura quotes the tea-master, Kobori-Enshiu, himself a daimyo..."Approach a great painting as thou wouldst approach a great prince." Okakura appears to think many art lovers of his time didn't truly appreciate the art they were viewing at least that is what it seemed like to me. His argument against the masses and their love of what is popular is quite well eloquent. It is much to be regretted that so much of the apparent enthusiasm for art at the present day has no foundation in real feeling. In this democratic age of ours men clamor for what is popularly considered the best, regardless of their feelings. They want the costly, not the refined; the fashionable, not the beautiful. To the masses, contemplation of illustrated periodicals, the worthy product of their own industrialism, would give more digestible food for the artistic enjoyment than the early Italians or the Ashikaga master, whom they pretend to admire. The name of the artist is more important to them than the quality of the work." There are some other wonderful examples and quotes but really readers how cool eh? There are far too many examples I can think of today that this occurs and I am guilty of having done this too, thankfully I usually only do this with books and I can admit when an author does a less than great job at story telling no? Next Okakura goes into the Art of Flowers, honestly readers I never really liked flowers as once you cut them they are just something beautiful and dying... morbid no? But, over the past few years I'm beginning to gain an appreciation for them, granted I like potted flowers best, but this chapter helped change my mind a bit more. Never have I realized what thought and care went into the cultivating and designing of flowers, though I probably should since one of my best friends was a florist for many years. My favorite example of the beauty of flowers was the following line. "The Primeval man in offering the first garland to his maiden thereby transcended the brute. He became human in thus rising above the crude necessities of nature. he entered the realm of art when he perceived the subtle use of the useless. Just poetic no? I know I may behaving a little in awe here, but the book was so beautiful in its writing and words. The closing of this book talks directly about the Tea Masters and some of their fates... I won't spoil this book for you readers. Then Elise Grilli ends with a biographical sketch on Okakura and his life. Readers, there's so much history and poetry within these pages it spans so many years and several cultures, but if you were looking to read about just tea leaves and brewing...this book isn't for you, but if you are looking for a better understanding of where tea comes from, how it has influenced cultures; Emperors, Kings, common folk...etc.., and of course modern nations then this is a wonderful book to read. I found it soothing and delightful to curl up with while having a few cups of tea. It is a short read only roughly 133 pages, but a very lovely read.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Love & Friendship Written by: Jane Austen

If this was how one behaved in the past and was treated as a Lady I most certainly am proud to be a woman of today. This book was a tough read, I understand that the first installment was written when Jane was 11, and it really shows compared to her later work. Though, I do get the that Austen was having a fun time making fun of a lot of the characters in her letters and pointing out all their bloated flaws…still at times I found myself wishing I could just put it down as her characters were really quite horrible. It almost seems like she was an adolescent/young teenager who was writing her first parodies making fun of other romantic novels and their cast of characters. As if she were blowing up every characters subtle flaws that may scream out loud to a few she wanted to make sure everyone realize most of these men and ladies behavior was just obnoxious and unbelievable. These were a bunch of short stories written by Jane from age 11 to age 18 I could appreciate her jokes and how she made fun of so many outlandish characters who though they saw their plights and the blows life dealt them as unjust really for the most part they were the ones at fault and so blinded by themselves. I just had a tough time getting into these first letters the large portion of the book was just so ridiculous then again I have hindsight on my side and the language of yesterday was somewhat confusing to me. The next portion of the book is the History of England…and again it is a very interesting writing style and concept with how the crown and royal family came to be, but perhaps I don’t know enough English History/the Royal family to really appreciate this part of the book. The rest of the book consists of random letters and short letters between people that seemed like quite a few could have been turned into a novel on their own but instead were just giving us a little piece of what Austen was thinking at the time. This book since it had so many errors in spelling and structure was at times a bit all over the place, but since it was written so separately and without any real plot flow I was able to read this at my leisure and gawk at the tales themselves. So, was this a favorite of mine? No, but it was amusing to say the least.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Crow, The Lazarus Heart Written by: Poppy Z. Brite Inspired by the Series created by James O'Barr

Greetings Fellow book nerds. I’ve had the recent pleasure of reading a book given to me by a friend who thought I would enjoy this book, and I am happy to say yup…I did! We are instantly thrown into a dark and poetic world where death is not the ending most would think it to be. There is an injustice that has been done and unlike where most people go on and leave all of our issues behind…(at least that’s what they tell me, seeing as I haven’t taken that eternal nap yet I can’t confirm this) but for the sake of this world death is usually the end, but sometimes something happens and the natural order says “Let’s make an exception in this case, no?” Jared Poe, yes that’s his name… is dead he was waiting on death row for his life to end by the State of Louisiana only that too was changed he is…was a controversial S&M photographer and not only was he condemned to die but to die for the killing of his lover. This is not at all a happy book readers. In fact this story is so gritty and so darkly poetic you will find yourself smelling the stink of human decay and will find no light casting   shadows only darkness. The beginning is so descriptive and just plain… well inky black it definitely reminds me of the Movie The Crow from my childhood see also Sin City, The Shadow, and the dark world of Gotham in Batman Beyond to get a good idea for the festering hopelessness these people and their home feels if you’ve not seen the Crow. Or, go watch The Crow. The three who suffer the most it would seem are of course Jared Poe, his lover Benny and his twin Sister Lucrece each are part of this horror and the crow can really only help one of them… or can it?  As I was reading I realize this book takes place in a time when the Gay and Transgender community was still very much bullied especially in more Southern Western states (they still are), but I kept having to ask myself.. what the hell is wrong with people? Especially since these are Supposed to be New Orleans finest…very disturbing readers, very disturbing. A few characters felt like red shirts from Star Trek they were easily throw away and lent no emotional contribution even the ones with names… You become quite attached to the World of the Lazarus Heart, but for the characters you mostly attach yourself to their pasts and even those are barely revealed. The present day characters are hard to get to know to understand and really build any relationship with even the master Killer of this book is so hard to get a fix on…the characters are just emotionally distanced from us it seems. Not saying their bad just that there’s a very particular way Poppy Z. Brite writes her characters as if they are stand alone in her world and so we as the readers can’t even touch them and we know all the secrets they all have. The ending was quite the finale but lacked something as after everything that happens it just well has to end doesn’t it? Even when the natural order of things is bent I guess in the end things must come to an end. I very much fell into Brite’s writing she creates some amazing scenery but again it almost overwhelms here characters.  Still, I enjoyed this story and think I would like to visit Poppy’s world again.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Clanbook Baali, A Black Dog Clanbook For The Vampire: The Dark Ages For Adults Only written by: Lucien Soulban & Sven Skoog

Hello fellow readers, a troubling world we live in no? So many things are going on and yet the world of books still draws me to them with their dark plots and multitude of schemes. This past weekend I had the pleasure of LARPING with a wonderful group of people the LARP system we chose to use was White Wolfe’s Vampire the Masquerade. Ooh how I get shivers just thinking about the wondrous backstabbing schemes we all created and carried out. So, quite a few years ago I became completely obsessed with White Wolf’s world of Vampire, Demon, Mage, Mummy, Changling, Werewolf, Wraith, etc… the world and drama these group of authors created and the cannon is just sheer genius and can easily be read time and time again. To this day I’m still finding books no longer in print to learn as much as I can. So, as you can assume my character this weekend was A Baali. Now, this isn’t published by White Wolf but their more adult publishing company Black Dog and it’s a good thing too, because the Baali book is DARK.  sven Skoog and LucienSoulban reaaaaly made  an  amazing book  here. Alot of the vampire tales are not for the faint of heart, but the few Black Dog books I’ve read just leave an impression behind the eyes that can cause bouts of squeamish ticks. (Seriously sometimes you just shiver at the artwork and tales told in these books) Perhaps I’m a bit faint of heart but “there are greater powers in the world than mere vampires… these vampires have powers which have secret names, names of power. The Baali know those names. These powers have hidden themselves in shadow and blood, lest they be awakened too soon. The Baali know where they sleep. These powers will someday awaken, and lay waste unto the world. The Baali know this too, and work to hasten it.” This book is for the Dark Ages game but the core system and character creation can be adapted to the modern age the book itself has the history of the most hated bloodline in the World of Darkness and gives the player a guide on how to spread their foul corruption as well as merits, flaws, and Daimoninon powers…Some awesome powers if I do say so myself…sense the Sin people… just a smidgeon broken. I had to cram all of this Baali lore and knowledge as well as other vampiric abilities and powers (as I was pretending to be from clan Gangrel since Infernalist Baali are so not welcomed to a Camarilla ruled city.) The chapter beginning stories really set the entire scene of Clan Baali, they are just so dark and terrifying in how grotesque and yet reserved they are, but they are also a scattered bloodline and in their evil can be seen as saviors odd no? A really fantastic read that is horrifying and just plain gross at times. Truly a must read if you ever want to know about a bloodline that at times joined the most common of enemies in one cause…the Elimination of the Baali
 also would like to give credit to  art by  Guy Davis,  Vince Locke,  and John Bolton  the art really helped set the book's tone.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Affliction An Anita Blake Vampire Hunter Novel Written by: Laurell K. Hamilton

So, I liked it! I have to admit readers Laurel K. Hamilton genuinely (And happily) Surprised me with her latest Anita Blake Vampire Hunter Novel. This was another case of two novels in one which is the standard for Laurell these days. But, unlike the last few novels which felt like two books that were fighting one another this latest novel appeared to actually bleed together and compliment itself between the supernatural aspect that is Anita’s life and the human side that Anita is (is she though?) still a part of. There were a lot of plot holes too readers A LOT… The story begins with a curve ball that has Anita, Micah, Nathaniel, Nicky, Ares, Dev, etc… going off to see Micah’s father who has been seriously injured by something that is quite rare…this is where the real curve ball comes into play as Micah tries to deal with seeing his estranged family and deal with all that there’s also the matter of what is happening to his father…. The doctors are whispering “Zombie Sickness.” Anita knows zombies she’s the first real necromancer of her kind in over a thousand years and so she knows everything about the dead…that is until this recent case. These zombies attack people in the daylight, they’re fast, have higher brain functions it seems, and their bite will contaminate their victim and in turn rot them and turn them into zombies… the Rule ladies and gentlemen have essentially changed and upped the danger quite a bit for this little family reunion. With all the scary zombie tales out there I always felt Laurell’s zombies felt the safest as they couldn’t infect people and rarely ever went rogue…they were animated corpses by magic nothing more…so to have this happen almost gave me a heart attack and just wait…there’s another big curve ball concerning this very deadly grotesque new zombie. Still, there’s so much action in this book and a lot of gunfire and combat that I felt like screaming ALRIGHT NOW THIS IS THE ANITA I REMEMBER! Only one problem…I was also going…why the need for guns..they’re zombies…you’re the most bad ass Necromancer in the states…so why the guns Anita? Okay, no spoilers, but c’mon she’s a Necromancer! Zombies are kinda her bread and butter no? Now, also my other issues with this book were the descriptions of each character…I know, I know it lets us know whose who, but c’mon! Must we know the height, weight, build, eye color, hair color/style, smile, etc… of every character? And, Laurell doesn’t just tell us this information once no, she tells us every time about old characters and quite a bit of the new’s enough to make a girl want to (Le GASP) Skip words while reading! Edward is also in this book (as he usually is) and he’s changed quite a bit I’m not sure if he’s scarier now as he can switch between Edward and Ted in the blink of an eye…but again we get it he’s Death. Him and Anita’s dialogue is very fun and adds a touch of comedy to the story, they’re old warrior friends who’ve seen it all together it seems. Also, am I spoiled not working in the field of cops, swat, special forces, etc… as I have never had so many men treat me like I were lesser because I’m 5’3 and a woman? Yes, I’m excellent at my job, and heck I’ve even worked security (I use security loosely) at a few conventions and have never gotten flak for being a woman and short (maybe a few jokes, but never hostility) It seems like every other character both male and female are just itching to pounce on Anita and pick fights with her. In the past I understood because Anita was such a wise ass, but to openly be so unprofessional towards a fellow officer not once but multiple times? Well…. Seems like I could understand one bad egg in that group of people but several? Maybe we need new training and police in Laurell’s World…okay of course there’s also the fact Anita is sleeping with the supernatural’s, but again you’d think that’d be old news by now? I don’t like bullies and I loathe people who judge others by what they do in the privacy of their bedrooms and the love they share who cares in this day and age? The boundaries Laurell writes about concerning relationships and love are very interesting and not at all for the conservative but I say “Hey you love them, they love you? You’re all happy? Why not?” Apparently though that must make me rare because in Anita’s world humans mostly think that’s a big no no..whatever. Also, I really used to love the Anita character since she’s such a kick butt woman who takes no flack, but why must she put down her own gender when she’s angry that the men won’t treat her equal and then she goes off and says “I’m being girly,  is it because I’m a girl, girly, girly, girly,” For a character that thinks women can be just as good as men she sure speaks about other women in the negative A lot… it’s pretty infuriating especially since not all men can do what Anita and the other supes and officers can do…just a little less girly bashing please Anita after all you do have that XX Chromosome so a little more respect please? Also, I get that Nicky is a sociopath did we have to bring it up every friggen time Nicky was in a scene? I mean we get it! Nicky is your bride, he technically doesn’t have free will, he’s a lion a big bad Sociopathic lion…yeah we got it the first three times. There was some fun banter in this book, but a few times I felt like the Anita character wasn’t dealing with her issues at all like all this filing away will lead to a very rainy day in the future and it’s not just one person who might be hurt by this but a lot of people. Still, that’s what Anita does and she’s still growing as a person twenty years writing only about half of that in the Anita Verse so characters got some growing up to do. Now onto the erotic side of the Anita books the scenes in this book oh my were they way better than the last book and quite steamy… so wait to go sex scenes! Overall I did enjoy this book it could have been shorter because of all of the descriptions and constant hate speech, but it also could have been longer in the ending as the story had this wonderful build up to the end and the big baddy is as usual confronted in a few short pages…. All that ground work and then well..I’ll let you read I wasn’t unhappy it was actually pretty spiffy but still the wrap up always seems so brisk in these books. There’s also a lot of special treats for you romantics out there who cannot get enough of (sigh dreamily) Jean Claude, Nathaniel, Micah, Nicky, etc…a very special treat indeed that hopefully won’t come back and bite everyone in the ass. So, will I keep reading this series? Yes, Laurell has addicted me from Guilty Pleasures and though she’s upset me quite a bit over the years this book made me feel as a reader more engrossed in the tale (and actually scared!) and ready to see just where she is going after all when you have slewn the Mother of all Darkness and the Father of Day and faced countless other nightmares what could top that? We shall see Readers we shall see…

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Dry. A Memoir. Written by: Augusten Burroughs.

Hello readers and here we are July once more, and I'm just looking forward to a few days off from the office. Le sigh... so I just finished reading Augusten Burroughs book titled "Dry". This is the third book I've read by Burroughs and I'm definitely seeing a pattern in his writing.That pattern is self destruction with a whole lot of booze and whit.  His internal humor makes him such an ass but I can understand that humor as I've caught myself having similar thoughts and know friends of mine who also think and speak this way. The book is so dark and powerfully honest that at times I caught myself wondering how true Burroughs story was, as it is a memoir and I've read other books about him by him in the past.That being said I loved the story and the humor and insightful moments were so beautiful, but again I'm not sure what I read here is 100% accurate...but it had a lot of interesting moments. I really hope this guy didn't have to live all this... I say interesting as this book was about Augusten being an full blown self destructive alcoholic who in this book has finally run out of his drunk luck. In the past he's done wonderful adds and is an up and coming star in the advertistment industry, but now his drinking has lost them a client and his office tells him either sober up or you're Rehab it is for young Augusten and rehab in itself is a bizarre safe world where a few sentences, cry sessions, cigarettes, support staff, and stuffed animals seem to be the mix that can help people sober up. There are some scary moments too in sobering up like the fact some places will give patients drugs to help them deal with the pain of sobriety...doesn't this seem like they're introducing another addiction to cure one addiction? I don't know...I was confused a few times by this logic, but I’m not dealing with such a complex problem and have no training in this field so I wouldn't know or even pretend to understand the workings of these places and their methods. The story progresses of course outside of rehab and Augusten must learn to live in the real world where his every hour isn't planned and everyone around him isn't an alcoholic in recovery. Again some really beautiful scenes and the test of true love and friendship comes into play and takes us all into a very dark world where there seems like there is no escape and no happy ending. Burroughs writes so unique in his gallows humor that I can definitely see the world he is trying to explain to us, but towards the end I felt like his story just stopped...He left out what we might have witnessed in the beginning middle of the book, and brought us right to the end making me wonder if it was the same as before? A very exceptional read if you like real world, real people problems, and don't mind the ugly side of things. Also, it makes you wonder from previous books by Burrough just how this guy is still alive?