Tuesday, January 10, 2012

2012 Science Fiction Experience: Science Fiction "B Movies"

Joining the 2012 Science Fiction Experience has made me crave not only books, but also science fiction movies! Now, I'm not talking about the best of the best here... I do love those: Star Wars (the original series), Blade Runner, The Matrix, Alien, a few of the Star Trek movies, etc. I also happen to have a secret passion for "B" movies. You know... the ones that get the dreaded "Rotten Tomatoes" ratings every year, the ones that the critics hate and that serious science fiction fans can't stand to watch? Those.

So, I began by watching some of those movies that I know are flawed (some of the seriously flawed), but that for some unknown reason I get stuck watching anyway. It's interesting because here and there these movies all offer something to science fiction fans. I looked for that this time around instead of doing what I usually do -- talking through most of the movies, pointing out what's wrong with them to my poor husband (who does the same thing to me), or just laughing at the most inappropriate moments, it's fun!

The first movie I watched was Pitch Black. Pitch Black was directed by David Twohy and stars Vin Diesel. Why do I watch this movie? I enjoy the action, the fact that in effect it has that sci-fi/thriller/horror edge to it with the aliens providing the gore, while some of the humans provide the real horror through their questionable actions. They prove to be the true monsters to be conquered by the oh so very dark hero, Riddick. Of course the thriller aspect of the film is still provided as those same humans are pitted against the aliens. It's nothing new or fresh in science fiction, but I do enjoy that type of story line within this genre.

Now, when it comes to the actual sci-fi details and world building, the story is lacking and the action aspect of the film takes precedence over character depth or specific details. This is where Pitch Black falls under the "B movie" category for me. A great science fiction film is all about the details, and those are missing. For example right at the beginning of the movie the pilot (Caroline Fry) crash lands the ship on the planet after they are hit by debris from a comet. However there's no way she could have survived the crash as all the windows of the ship burst right on her face as they are entering the planet's atmosphere at top speed. Later on, Fry should not have survived her foray into the alien's cave either, but obviously it wasn't her time to die yet.

There's also the planet itself and the fact that seems to be very close to three suns, with desert-like weather and blistering temperatures. The survivors are not prepared for a trek through this blistering desert. They don't have the right gear, nor do they have water... yet they survive a long trek by drinking alcohol without any outward effects. And then there's Riddick, the questionable hero of the piece. He obviously has abilities that are beyond those of a mere human. For example, he can see in the dark, but the rest is basically implied. In Pitch Black, Riddick is just a very dangerous criminal who somehow can survive in the dark when others can't, can smell when someone is bleeding (even though this is not apparent), and can even fight the native aliens and win, but how he does this is never explained. Ever. Not even at the end of the movie.

There are also lots of cliches used in the film. Most of what happens is foreshadowed. You know when someone is going to bite the dust, or make the stupid move that's going to get someone killed. This is not a movie I recommend as a great example of a science fiction film. However, as an action film with some of that science fiction flavor it can be highly entertaining to watch on a Sunday afternoon.

There's a sequel to Pitch Black, The Chronicles of Riddick where Riddick's abilities are explained. I've also seen that film, but that would be another post. :)

I did watch two other movies in the "B movie" category:

Soldier is a 1998 science fiction-action film directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. The film stars Kurt Russell as Sgt. Todd, a soldier trained from birth. This was one of the biggest flops ever in the history of film! There's some military sci-fi action in this film with a bit of social sci-fi. The problem is that neither is really developed and the film devolves into an action film that doesn't really make a point either way.

The interesting factoid about this film? The screenwriter David Peoples "considers Soldier to be a "sidequel"/spiritual successor to Blade Runner." Ahhh, nope! Sorry, but I don't see it.

Push is a 2009 American science fiction thriller film directed by Paul McGuigan starring Chris Evans, Dakota Fanning, Camilla Belle, Cliff Curtis, Joel Gretsch and Djimon Hounsou. The film focuses on a group of people born with various superhuman abilities: Movers (Telekinetics), Watchers (Foreseers), Pushers (Mind Controllers), Sniffers, Shadows, Shifters, etc...

The main characters, three young adults band together in order to take down the "Division", a government agency that is developing a dangerous drug to enhance their powers, hoping to create an army of super soldiers. This was an interesting movie with a good premise I enjoyed, even as I watched the dead end action scenes that had no real purpose and its inconclusive and sequel-bating ending. This movie is like an episode in an ongoing series with no real conclusion. Incomplete.

That's it for my science fiction "B" movie watching. That was fun!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Joining In: TBR Challenge 2012

The TBR Challenge 2012 hosted by Wendy of The Misadventures of Super Librarian is one that I definitely need to join this year. I've been accumulating books and that pile grew more than it went down this last year. Time to cut it down a bit (even if it is by 12 books!).

This challenge has simple rules. Choose one book per month that has been lingering in that old TBR pile, read it, and either leave a comment at Wendy's blog on the scheduled date, or review it.

Wendy is also providing some theme suggestions each month for participants, but this is not written in stone. I'm actually loving that aspect of the challenge, because now I'll have to start hunting my TBR to find books that match her themes, and I can't wait to see what I find in there. Hopefully some good reads.

This post will serve as my summary page for the Challenge.

Monthly Review Dates And Theme Suggestions:

January 18 - Light the Stars by RaeAnne Thayne: Category romance
February 15 - Anyone But You by Jennifer Crusie: Recommended Read
March 21 - Dalton's Undoing by RaeAnn Thayne: Series Catch-Up
April 18 - Almost a Gentleman by Pam Rosenthal: New-to-Me Author
May 16 - The Charm School by Susan Wiggs : Published prior 2000
June 20 - Logan's Outlaw by Elaine Levine: Western (Western )
July 18 - Open Season by Linda Howard: Not on theme
August 15 - Dirty by Megan Hart: Erotic Romance
September 19 - Storm Front (Dresden Files #1) by Jim Butcher: Genre besides romance
October 17 - On Thin Ice (Ice #1) by Anne Stuart: Romantic Suspense
November 21 - The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey: All About The Hype
December 19 - Holiday themes (Christmas, Thanksgiving, it's all good!)

Wish me luck!

Joining In: The 2012 Science Fiction Experience

The 2012 Science Fiction Experience is not a challenge, it is an experience. Hosted by Carl V. of Stainless Steel Droppings, this will basically be two months worth of discussions about science fiction that will go from January 1st through February 29, 2012.

Carl is making this experience fun and I think cool! I love that the discussions include science fiction books, movies and television shows watched. I'm looking forward to not only reading some books that I've accumulated, but hopefully joining in on some of the discussions. Hopefully, I will gather a great list of titles for future reading too!

I'm not sure which books I'll read yet. These are the books that I already own and that are in my list of possible reads:

However, I do have a few others! We'll see.

I'll be keeping my list of books read at the bottom of this post.
Wish me luck!

  1. Science Fiction "B Movies"
  2. The Butcher of Anderson Station: A Story of the Expanse by James S.A. Corey - Mini
  3. Overview: Old Man's War by John Scalzi (Old Man's War #1, The Ghost Brigades #2) 
  4. Impressions: Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold
Books Read:
  1. Old Man's War by John Scalzi
  2. The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi
  3. The Sagan Diary by John Scalzi
  4. The Last Colony by John Scalzi
  5. After the Coup by John Scalzi
  6. The Butcher of Anderson Station: A Story of the Expanse by James S.A. Corey
  7. Shards of Honor (Vorkosigan Series, #1) by Lois McMaster Bujold
  8. How I Proposed to My Wife: An Alien Sex Story by John Scalzi
Movies Watched (watched more!):
  1. The Matrix
  2. Pitch Black
  3. Soldier
  4. Push
  5. Star Trek (2009, directed by J.J. Abrams)
  6. Priest (spec fic)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2011 Moments and Final Recap!

Well, my overall recap for 2011 is here at last! It was a very good year! I read more than expected considering my crazy work schedule and family's health problems, but best of all I read some excellent books along the way and had a good time too.

Best Moments of 2011: Meeting friends (old and new), bloggers, and authors.
Favorite Posts/Reviews:
  • The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa - Talk about obsession, I actually wrote THREE posts about this book: The review, plus two posts at my side blog Quotes & Thoughts, with my favorite of those two being Sex and Power in the Feast of the Goat
  • The Abode of Bliss: Ten Stories for Adam by Alex Jeffers: I loved this book and writing the review was a pleasure, but then came the cherry on top. I'm not a fangirl, far from it, but when Mr. Jeffers came by and left a comment on my review, there was a flutter of the fangirl about me for a minute there... I admit it! LOLOL! 
  • John Donne - The Good Morrow: This was a totally self-indulgent post that went up after I spent weeks perusing some of my favorite works by Donne. If left up to me I would probably have posted about ten pages on his poetry and essays, but I figured you would all be snoring by the time I finished. LOL! Instead my post became a very small summary. To all those Donne-crazed fans who came by and made it my second most visited post of the year, a BIG thank you!! ;P

Worst moment of 2011:
  • Deleting ALL the numbers for previous years from my Stat Counter! Yes... in January 2011, I accidentally deleted my Impressions "project," lost all my numbers, and was not able to recover them. My numbers started anew as of the second week of January. Again! Oh... the idiocy! 

2011 Challenges:

As far as Challenges go, I only joined two in 2011: I continued the In-Death Challenge hosted by The happily ever after... where I failed miserable by not reading any books during the whole year! I mean, not ONE -- see my summary page. Fail! [Hangs head in shame]

I also joined the 2011 Book Club: The Women of Fantasy hosted by Jawa Reads, Too! I did a better job there. I chose four books to read for the year. Unfortunately as you will see on my summary page, I completed one book and "DNF" (did not finish) two of the books. The book club did not continue with reading and discussions after June, so the fourth book is still in my TBR.



Total books read: 202
Total Posts153
Total Reviews/Minis156
Books by Categories:
  LGBT (Fiction, Romance, Mystery, Thrillers, YA): 57
  Contemporary (Romance/Fiction/Erotica): 48
  Historical: (Romance/Fiction): 44
  Paranormal Romance: 11
  Urban Fantasy: 11
  Fantasy/Speculative Fiction: 10
  Science Fiction/Science Fiction Romance: 8
  Mysteries: 5
  Misc (Fiction/Children's/Poetry/Non-Fiction): 7

During 2011, I kept better records at Goodreads than I did at my blog. I actually had to reconcile my books read titles and numbers between the two sites! LGBT is my highest number for the year and that is a surprise (TY 57 vs. LY 36), especially since I read very few books in that category during the first half of the year. And I'm quite happy with the increase in the historical romance numbers (TY 44 vs. LY 26). I didn't quite reach my personal goal of reading 12 books for the year in the Fantasy category, but did increase the number (TY 10 vs. LY 2).

  • A noticeable change from 2010 to 2011 is the fact that I read more new releases and less books from my TBR or "to be read" pile of books. As a matter of fact, I added quite a bit to that pile! 
  • In 2011 I also accepted more books or ARCs for review. That's unusual for me, but even through all the stressful family emergencies somehow I found the time to keep up with most of the commitments I accepted during the year, and discovered some favorite reads and authors there! So, it turned out to be a good overall experience. 
  • This was the year of the anthology for me too. I read approximately 15 anthologies that included everything from 3 to 29 novellas or short stories! That's a record for me. 
  • And last, but not least, I joined Twitter after much bellyaching. I still don't really use it much and only think of using it after the fact, but I'll get there, someday. *g* 
That is it!! Now I'll look forward to 2012, and start fresh with the new year. :)

Monday, January 2, 2012

December 2011: Reads and Minis

Happy New Year everyone! Hope your holidays were fabulous!

Here's my last monthly recap for 2011. It's a long one. I read more than expected due to the fact that I was on vacation for over a week and just relaxed. Some of those reads are short, but I did manage to get in some full-length novels in there as well.

One of my top reads for the month made it to my top ten favorite reads for the year, one was an honorable mention, and the other two were read during the last week of the year! I ended the year with a bang, just the way I like it.

Here are my reads for December, 2011:

Total Books Read: 23  DNF: 1
   Contemporary: Romance, Erotica - 5
   Historical Romance: Novels, Short Stories - 6
   Paranormal Romance: 1
   Science Fiction: 1
   Fiction 2
   Non-Fiction: 1
   LGBT: Fiction, Romance, Mysteries, Erotica - 7

My top reads for December:
  • Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1) by James S.A. Corey: A
Leviathan Wakes! Yes! This is a science fiction opera with all the action and science fiction details any reader would expect of just such an endeavor. Yet for me, the characters in this fantastic space adventure are the ones that lifted it from being a just another tale about ships and chases through the stars. Miller, the pulp fiction noirish style, cynical detective, obsessed with finding one girl and relentless in his pursuit. And, Captain Jim Holden a rather naive, gung ho Captain with a rag tag crew who in his pursuit of revenge finds a truth bigger than the known universe. A mystery/thriller in space with amazing characters and fantastic science fiction details. What else can a geeky girl like me ask for? This book made it to my top ten favorite reads of 2011. 
The enjoyable Bs:
Here come the C's:
I love Chris Owen's writing style and own this series. Unfortunately, I "DNF" (did not finish) this book the first time I tried reading it a couple of years ago. I know a lot of readers love this series, so I decided I would try it again and finish it this time. Frankly, I had the same reaction this time and for the most part the book seems rather clinical and flat, lacking real emotion and passion. At least that's the way it read to me. I didn't connect with the characters at all. However, this time I continued to the end. There does seem to be a bit more of an emotional connection between the characters on that last third of the book, but by that time it was a bit late for me as a reader to connect with them. Obviously this book/series is not for me.
And one lonely DNF (did not finish): I usually don't include DNF's with my list. However in this case I wanted to give the book a chance and read over half of the book before simply realizing that the book is just not for me.
  • The Hunter by Theresa Meyers - DNF (Read 55% of the book)

That's it for December! I'll be writing a few reviews for my December reads. We the Animals by Justin Torres was a huge surprise and one that I'll be talking about. The Proposition by Judith Ivory was a delightful read full of mustaches, legs, ferrets and some wonderful characters. Drown by Junot Diaz is a fiction book I read for my Internet Book Club, and of course there's Jo Goodman's first contemporary romance, A Place Called Home, and Jacquelyne Frank's paranormal romance, Adam -- the last book of her Nightwalkers series, #6.

Did you find any gems in December?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year! 2012... Yikes!

Happy 2012!!!

Wishing you all, health, happiness, success and
all the best for the New Year! 


Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Life According to Books I read in 2011

And, because I'm on vacation and having fun this year, I decided to go ahead and join Christine with this fun, fun post that she has been posting for the last three years at The happily ever after... This is the first year I have the time to participate, so I'm going to play!

Basically it's very simple, answer the questions below with titles of books read in 2011. They have to be appropriate to the questions, of course. It gets tough... because you're not supposed to repeat your own answers. that others post. I've only just read Christine's! So, I hope I'm not repeating anyone else's answers at this point. Here goes!

Describe yourself:
A Companion to Wolves by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear

How do you feel:
Unlocked by Courtney Milan

Describe where you currently live:
Embassytown by China Miéville

If you could go anywhere, where would you go:
The Abode of Bliss by Alex Jeffers

Your favorite form of transportation:
Love and Rockets by Gavin Atlas

Your best friend is:
Somebody Wonderful by Kate Rothwell

You and your friends are:
We the Animals by Justin Torres

What's the weather like:
In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Flemming

What is life to you:
A Lot Like Love by Julie James

Favorite time of day:
Winter Knights by Harper Fox

Your fear:
Drown by Junot Díaz

What is the best advice you have to give:
Chill by Elizabeth Bear

Thought for the day:
Never Cry Wolf by Cynthia Eden

How I would like to die:
Playing Dirty by Susan Andersen

My soul's present condition:
Dangerous Ground by Josh Lanyon

That's it! I had a tiny problem with transportation -- my answer is the title of a book I didn't review, so no link for that title. AND, although I had two different titles to answer "Your Fear," both were for books I just finished reading this week!

That was fun. Thank you, Christine. :)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Review: Cowboy Come Home by Janette Kenny

Trey March never wanted to see Daisy Barton again. But there she is, in over her pretty little head running the JDB Ranch—and standing between him and the small fortune he's owed. Now if he wants to get his due, he'll have to save the ranch first. . .working side-by-side with the only woman he's ever loved.

Without her overprotective father to guide her, Daisy's trying to stand on her own at last. But a sinister foreman with a grudge seems determined to cut her down at every turn. And Trey, the one man she can count on, is the same man she could never trust herself to resist. . .not even now, when her heart—and her life—are at stake.

Cowboy Come Home by Janette Kenny is the third and last book in the western historical romance Lost Sons trilogy.

After months recuperating from being roped, dragged through the dessert and left for dead, Trey March returns to the JDB Ranch to collect his horses and the money Barton owes him. The last person he wants or expects to see is Daisy Barton, after all she's the reason he almost lost his life and besides she should be married to her rich rancher fiancé by now.

Circumstances have changed drastically in six months. Trey finds that Barton is dead and Daisy now owns a ranch that is systematically being run into the ground by the shady, murderous foreman who tried to kill him, and the drought is doing the rest. Daisy is floored when she sees Trey at her door! How dare he show up after running out on her six months ago? Daisy is way over her head, working with a foreman she doesn't trust and in a situation that turns more dire by the day. She promises Trey that if he stays two months and runs the ranch, she'll fire the foreman and pay the debt owed him so he can go. He reluctantly agrees, and that's when things really take a turn for the worst.

Trey and Daisy have a history of passion and for Daisy one of love for Trey. So, as they fight to save the ranch Trey and Daisy also fight their own personal battle.  They are so different. He is just a ranch hand and she the coddled daughter of a rich cattle baron. Their passion brought them together before when the two agreed to a one time only sexual encounter, and ended up having a passionate illicit affair that lasted months. Still, Trey figures there's no future for them, even after Baron died he doesn't think a cash poor, affection starved orphan like himself is good enough for Daisy. As they begin sharing a home at the Barton's Circle 46 Ranch, their passionate affair is renewed, but Daisy wants more from Trey than just sex, she wants love. Trey is willing to give her marriage, but won't lie or say he'll give her something he doesn't even understand.

If this was the whole story, then I would say yes... this is an action filled western romance where the main conflict between the protagonists is initially based on misunderstandings, but one that eventually works itself out with the benefit of passion and slow building love and understanding between Daisy and Trey. I enjoyed this part of the story. There is sexual tension and passion between Daisy and Trey, plus lots of western style action to keep me entertained. However there's more, and that more is what really didn't work so well for me.

As I said above Cowboy Come Home is the last book of a trilogy. I didn't know that fact when I picked up this book as it's not mentioned on the cover, or anywhere else. So it was a surprise to me when about half way through the book, the story shifted, and the plot changed direction. Kenny continues to develop the romance until the end, but the external conflicts become totally different. Daisy and Trey's past histories take central stage. Trey is an orphan and Daisy suffers from partial amnesia from a fall she suffered as a child. Things begin to unravel for both of them and the last third of the book is taken up with Trey's adopted "brothers" from the orphanage and their wives (the first two books) coming into the picture, and some highly coincidental and convenient resolutions to solve long-time personal mysteries.

I'm a bit torn about Cowboy Come Home. Having read this book on its own, for me, the shift in direction made a difference to my overall enjoyment of the story. However to be fair, I would say that I think reading those first two books in the trilogy is essential to making that emotional connection to the characters that eventually make their way into this story. And for fans, there is that happy ever after to the Lost Sons trilogy.

Category: Historical Romance/Western
Series: Lost Sons Trilogy
Publisher/Released: Zebra Historical/November 2011
Source: Kensington Publishing
Grade: C

Visit Janette Kenny here.

A Cowboy Christmas
In a Cowboy's Arms
Cowboy Come Home

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011: Favorite Quotes

I love quotes! I collect them just as I collect books. I've done this for years. I highlight them, bookmark them, think about them. I have little post-its and sticky notes all over my books, and a notebook of favorite quotes. Sometimes I re-visit them and depending on depth even have to write something about them!

Here are nine favorite quotes, and an excerpt from a poem, I collected this year.

  • "Because" ... "ye've bewitched and bespelled me, my sweet Silence, didn't ye know? I'll agree that the sky is pink, that the moon is made o' marzipan and sugared raisins, and that mermaids swim the muddy waters o' the Thames, if ye'll only stop weepin'. Me chest breaks apart and gapes wide open when I see tears in yer pretty eyes. Me lungs, me liver, and me heart cannot stand to be thus exposed." -- Mickey -- Scandalous Desires by Elizabeth Hoyt
  • "The scent of you," he said so softly. "Heaven help me, the scent of you." -- Clevedon -- Silk is for Seduction by Loretta Chase
  • "To address your question fairly, Miss Eversea... while I understand my broken engagement is a popular topic of conversation among the fashionable set, one must consider the possibility that the end of it was serendipitous for both Lady Abigail and I. And that thus freed our hearts might now love more appropriately and happily." Take that, Miss Eversea. He was rather proud of thatThat epic, steaming mound of balderdash. -- Alex -- What I Did For A Duke by Julie Anne Long
Urban Fantasy
  • "The Beast Lord walked out of the warehouse. The screen went dark. My knight in furry armor." -- Kate Daniels -- Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews
Science Fiction
  • "The beautiful thing about losing your illusions, he thought, was that you got to stop pretending." -- Miller - Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
Historical Fiction
  • "In New York nobody looks at a woman with that arrogance anymore. Measuring her, weighing her, calculating how much flesh there is in each one of her breasts and thighs, how much hair on her pubis, the exact curve of her buttocks. She closes her eyes, feeling slightly dizzy. In New York not even Latins—Dominicans, Colombians, Guatemalans—give such looks. They’ve learned to repress them, realized they mustn’t look at women the way male dogs look at female dogs, stallions look at mares, boars look at sows.." -- Urania -- The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa

Gay Fiction
  • "All men have macho in them. Even gay ones, but there are varying degrees, and while most forms of macho are lethal to the progression of the world and society, there are some acceptable levels, very low levels, that can sometimes be useful." Chulito by Charles Rice-González

Gay Speculative Fiction
  • "I squeeze it in my grasp and it shrinks to a twirlable size, sits comfortably between my fingers, a pen. There is no need for any statement of authority more grand than this, I think, not in this day and age. What was comfortable in one era as a humble reed with a wedge-shaped end, will be comfortable here and now as simple ballpoint. It is the most important of all these objects of power, I think -- though I am prejudiced, I suspect -- the original of all tools for shaping order and chaos." -- "Oneirica by Hal Duncan" -- Wilde Stories 2011: The Year's Best Gay Speculative Fiction edited by Steve Berman
  • "Combat isn't where you might die -- though that does happen -- it's where you find out whether you get to keep on living." War by Sebastian Junger

"Before Cortés lops off a messenger's
hands and has another trampled,
before the branding and burning,
there is wonderment
and, for a moment, endearment
as Cortés dances, off beat, around
the long neck of his field piece." --
Excerpt from Cortés and Cannon
 Empire by Xochiquetzal Candelaria