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Wetware: On the Digital Front With Stephen King by Kevin Quigley

1 Aug

 

Everyone knows I love Stephen King.

 

He has a way of writing that reaches into my subconscious that triggers so many different reactions. He is the only author I can think of that will have me gripping the book with fright on one page and laughing out loud another and all within the same book.

 

Stephen King is known for telling a good scary tale; but there’s a side of King that a lot of fans don’t think about. Unlike a lot of authors, King constantly embraces new and digital media to either reach out to fans or enhance our reading experience.

 

Knowing quite a bit about King and his interest in new media and the digital world, I had high hopes (and even higher expectations) for Wetware: On the Digital Front with Stephen King.

 

It’s a chapbook that has been beautifully produced by the lovely people at Cemetery Dance. You can get your copy here: http://www.cemeterydance.com/sh/quigley01.html

 

Even more than that, it was written by the uber talented Kevin Quigley, web master of Charnel House, my favourite Stephen King info site. You can find Charnel House here: http://charnelhouse.tripod.com/

 

Being that Wetware: On the Digital Front with Stephen King was published by Cemetery Dance and written by Quigley, my expectations for this chapbook were quite high indeed. Thankfully, they were all blown away.

 

Giving us a brief, but incredibly thorough, romp through King’s digital exploits. With incredible research and superb writing, Quigley takes a look at a side of Stephen King that no one has really looked at before.  I mean, we all remember the sensational eBook Riding the Bullet and the equally cool (but ultimate failure of) The Plant.

 

But does anyone remember The Mist Text Adventure Game? Or Stephen King’s F13? Nope, didn’t think so. That was all before my time and learning about them, and many other King web exploits, was a sheer delight and an absolute pleasure.

 

Quigley writes with a graceful pen; though non-fiction, Wetware reads well and swiftly. The only downside to the book is actually a plus: it’s just too darn short. Yes, I know it’s a chapbook, but Quigley writes so well, and looks at an area of King that no one else has really touched, that I would gladly have read a book twice or even three times as long.

 

Kevin Quigley left me wanting more. And that, they say, is the mark of a true writer.

 

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Harry Potter Should Have Died by Emerson Spartz and Ben Schoen

28 Jul

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It is rare that I don’t like a book and even rarer still that I return a book to the bookstore for refund or exchange. I did so with this book.

From reading the back of the book, I was expecting the book to be theological discussion on elements of the series of Harry Potter books. I was expecting a deep look into the mythos of the series and the elements of symbolism and magic.

Well, my expectations seemed to have been too high for this book. Each chapter is set up thusly: A Question, an argument for Yes and for No and the verdict of the authors.

Well, while some questions were valid (Did Harry Potter die in Deathly Hallows?) others, such as “Who would you rather make out with: a Demontor or Voldemort?” or “Would you rather shave Hagrid’s back or give Voldemort a foot massage?” left me shaking my head.

Instead of a really in depth look at the series, we are presented with a random series of questions with no order and answers with little to no substance. In fact, in reading the book, it felt as if I was in the middle of a flame war on a message board. Not a comfortable reading experience.

The authors previous book, Mugglenet.com’s What Will Happen in Harry Potter Seven, was only a NYT Best Seller because people were so desperate to find out what would happen at the end of the series.

I highly doubt the authors will achieve such a feat with this book. I was incredibly disappointed with Harry Potter Should Have Died. Proceeds from the sale of the book are going to charity, but I still wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

Italian for Tourists by Jo Lindsell

18 May

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I have always wanted to learn Italian.

There are several reasons for this; but most of all because the language sounds so incredibly beautiful. I would listen to foreign films, to operas, to Italian music and think to myself: I wish I could speak in such a beautiful language.

I would wonder, though, what I would do if I ever travelled to Italy. I’ve looked at every phrase book, every guide book and found no help within their pages. They would talk of grammar, punctuation, places to visit, sites of interest. But none of them ever taught me how to speak Italian.

Until now.

Upon flipping through Italian for Tourists by Jo Lindsell, the whole book looked rather simplistic. After reading through the book several times, I realized that this was part of the books beauty.

What Jo has done is to take a language and bring it back to it’s basics, back to its beauty. She has made the impossible possible with Italian for Tourists: she has helped me to learn another language.

I often struggle with learning new languages and new phrases, but Jo makes it incredibly easy. Italian for Tourists gives you every bit of language that you could possibly need if you were on holiday in Italy.

Divided into seventeen sections, all a tourist has to do is skim the table of contents and skip to the correct section. Sections include hotels, sight seeing, food and drink, greetings and more. Even better, each word and each phrase comes with a pronunciation guide, helping you speak like a true Italian in no time.

I never knew that learning another language could be so simple, so helpful and so much fun. If ever you are going to visit Italy, this is the only book you will need!

Stephen King Goes to the Movies by Stephen King

15 Feb

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I am a huge fan of Stephen King.

I have an entire bookshelf dedicated to his books and I have been one of his Constant Readers for quite some time. I still remember the first Stephen King book I read: Skeleton Crew. I remember the monkey on the front cover of the book filled me with delicious fright. I opened the cover and have never been the same since.

After reading his other non-fiction offerings (Danse Macabre and On Writing: A Memoir on the Craft) I was super excited to hear about Stephen King Goes to the Movies. It promised to be a treat. The book description described it thusly:

Now available, the #1 bestselling author reflects on the filming of five of his most popular short stories.  Those movies are The Shawshank Redemption, 1408, Children of the Corn, The Mangler, and Hearts in Atlantis.

Includes an introduction, his personal commentary, and behind-the-scenes insights by Stephen.

On reading those words, my first thought was: HOLY CRAP! My second thought was: AWESOME!

I thought it would be really amazing to get a behind the scenes look, as it were, at the stories behind the movies. We would get the stories themselves plus personal commentary and behind the scenes insights? Oh, it was every Constant Readers dream!

Except, it was a dream that was never realized.

I should have flipped through the book when I was in the bookstore, but I was in to big of a hurry to get home and delve into the mind of Stephen King. Imagine my surprise when I got home and opened the book to find the five stories and not much else.

Stephen King Goes to the Movies consists of the five stories behind the films 1408, The Mangler, Hearts in Atlantis, The Shawshank Redemption and Children of the Corn. As for new content, Stephen King has written a brief (and I mean brief: one to two pages) introduction for each story. He’s also provided us with his top ten list of the favourite adaptations of his work.

At first, I was rather pissed off. I mean, the advertising made it sound as if the book was non-fiction, a real behind the scenes look at the stories behind the movies and behind the scenes insights behind the making of the movies.

And all we get is a book of five short stories and some short (very short) introductions?

I was not pleased to say the least. But I decided, after spending my hard earned money on the book, to read the stories anyway. I figured it would fill the gap between Just After Sunset (which came out in November of 2008 ) and Stephen Kings new novel Under the Dome (which won’t come out until the fall of 2009). So I decided to give the book a chance.

And, you know what? I’m glad I did.

It had been some time since I had read the stories contained within Stephen King Goes to the Movies. I remembered reading 1408 and Hearts in Atlantis, but The Mangler, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption and Children of the Corn might as well have been new to me. I’ve read them, but it’s been years and I didn’t remember them clearly at all.

And you know what? They were good.

I mean really good. It felt wonderful to be surrounded by stories that held so many memories for me. Stephen King’s stories kept me company during many a dark hour during my turbulent upbringing; thus it’s little wonder that he inspires me so much. 

The stories were so good, so scary, so moving. The most interesting thing about the stories contained in Stephen King Goes to the Movies, however, was that after a few pages into the story, I stopped picturing the movie. All I could see were the images that the story itself called to mind.

Though the new content in Stephen King Goes to the Movies is almost nil (really about ten pages worth of new material) that doesn’t matter. Before you put the book back on the bookshelf, give Stephen King Goes to the Movies a chance.

Read the stories and let Stephen King scare you once again.

From Zaftig to Aspie by DJ Kirkby

26 Dec

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How many of us take the life we live for granted? How many of us never stop to consider where we came from, what made us who we are? How many people never stop to think of what defines us, what shapes us into the people we grow to be?

Growing up in Canada in the 1960’s, DJ Kirkby experienced a life that many of us would have taken for granted. Living in and around Canada, Kirkby lived with her hippie mother and followed her mother wherever her whims took her.

Living with hippies, Kirkby was exposed to a world that was all around us but only few seemed able to see it. She lived with people who “recreated the rules”, who lived their own lives and shaped their own existence.

And what an existence it is.

From a young age, Kirkby knew she was different. She had a different way of looking at the world that had nothing to do with her hippie lifestyle and upbringing. She knew inside of herself that she was different than everyone else around her.

But there were no words to describe her condition, no words to explain what she felt inside of her.

Those words, those powerful words that would put her entire life into perspective, would not come until she was forty years old when she was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome.

From Zaftig to Aspie, Kirkby’s moving, incredible memoir of her life, is an incredible, emotional read. There is no way a mere review can recount the richness of Kirkby’s life, the emotion that crackles off the page or the experiences that shaped who she is today. There is no way I could sum up the life that Kirkby has lived in only a few words.

It is a moving, beautiful account of one woman’s fight to understand herself and come to grips with the world around her. It is part memoir, part life puzzle that, once put together, creates a stunning picture of a life in words.

From the first page, I was drawn into Kirkby’s story and just had to keep reading. I have never read something so honest, so moving and so incredibly captivating. More than a study of human nature, what Kirkby has given us is really a life map.

Using select memories to mark her progression from her younger years to the time she was diagnosed with Aspergers, Kirkby is really marking the path she has travelled with memories. She has given us a true gift of a life and has invited us to turn the page and look inside of her.

I could not read From Zaftig to Aspie fast enough. In fact, I’ve read it twice so far and am awed by it’s incredible beauty and it’s story of living life to the fullest and overcoming even the most difficult obstacles. More importantly, it is a portrait of a very misunderstood condition. More people need to read From Zaftig to Aspie so that more people can know about Aspergers Syndrome.

From Zaftig to Aspie is a moving, incredible story of one woman’s will to understand herself. It is an important book and everyone should read it so that they, too, can understand more about Aspergers Syndrome.

More importantly it is the best memoir I have read in years. I laughed, I cried, I laughed some more. And was awed by the power of Kirkby’s words.

Read From Zaftig to Aspie and be enchanted.

Harry, A History by Melissa Anelli

14 Nov

 

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I am reading the most wonderfully, magnificent, incredible and enjoyable book I have read in ages. It is a breath of fresh air and I’m thrilled that I picked it up. I’m talking about Harry, A History by Melissa Anelli.

I remember the first time I read Harry Potter and The Philosophers Stone.

I had ignored the buzz surrounding Harry Potter for a long time. I remember thinking: No book could possibly be that good. I would see people reading it on the buss, on lunch breaks, line ups. “Bah,” I would say. No book could be that good. And I ignored it still.

I’m not sure why I did now. I must have been annoying about it however because one day, my closest friend at the time handed me something. It was a gift certificate. “What’s this for?” I asked her.

“If you won’t read the damn book, let me buy it for you.” She said.

“Which book?”

“You know damn well which book. You use this gift certificate to buy Harry Potter and The Philosophers Stone and nothing else. Then, if you don’t like it, you didn’t waste any money on it.” She glared at me, daring me to argue. “Alright?”

I remember staring at her, unbelieving, and taking the time to light a cigarette before responding. “The book is that good?”

She nodded. “The best.” She said. “Just read it and you’ll see.”

I did what she said. She and I had the same reading tastes and I figured if she said it was good, it probably was. A small part of me still doubted her. But I went to the bookstore at the mall downtown and picked up a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone. I hopped on a buss to go home and opened the book to the first page.

I remember being spellbound. I was held in place and all my focus was on the words on the pages in front of me. All that existed for me was Harry. I had found it. I had finally found home in the pages of a book.

I have the same feeling when I read Harry, A History by Melissa Anelli. Perhaps you can already guess at what it’s about.

Anelli, popular web mistress of the award winning The Leaky Cauldron (www.leakynews.com), a superb Harry Potter fan site, has penned a book of what the Harry Potter phenomenon was like from the inside out. She has written a stunning history of JK Rowling, the Harry Potter books and the Boy Who Lived. From the first page, I was pulled into what I knew was going to be a treat. I stopped walking and sat down in the middle of a mall on a hard metal chair, people milling about me, totally immersed in the words I was reading. Harry, A History pulled me in from the first words and didn’t let go.

The writing is lively and invites the reader to sit, to read, to enjoy. It’s lively and engaging and full of fact and tidbits of Harry’s beginnings and it’s first tentative steps and what it felt like for a fan, for any of us, to experience Harry Potter.

More than that though, it’s a beautiful portrait of one woman’s struggle to find herself, to find joy in books and finally, in the end, do something useful. It’s a brilliant, literary page turner about something that brings joy to so many.

I started it last week and I am fifty pages away from finishing the book a second time. Though there were a lot of things I should have done today, there was nothing that I wanted to do more than read Harry, A History.

You can learn more about the book by visiting www.harrahistory.com

If you have ever read Harry Potter, or experienced it’s life beyond the printed page, you will want to read Harry, A History. Trust me on this. I can’t afford to give out gift certificates to all of you; so you’re just going to have to take my word for it, okay?

Confessions of a Chatroom Freak by Mr. Biffo

20 Jun

I must confess that I am a late comer to the idea of chatrooms. When I first stumbled onto the Internet, the idea of chatting to people I didn’t know held little to no appeal for me. I didn’t understand the thrill that some people got from chatting in Internet chatrooms.

What I didn’t know is that most people go into chatrooms to have cybersex or meet up for sex; thus the excitement. It seems I was chatting in all the wrong places. I wasn’t surprised at the huge amount of sex chatrooms. After all, the Internet itself has three uses: Porn, Information and Porn. Everything else is just fodder.

I never had the guts to go into sex chatrooms though so I have never really been able to experience what those kind of chats are like. Thankfully, Mr. Biffo has all the guts I don’t have and more and has written one of the funniest books of the decade: Confessions of a Chatroom Freak.

Posing as LoopyLisa21f, Biffo entered singles and sex chatrooms and talked to men about the most hilarious, hysterical things, least of all sex. How wonderful is that? And thankfully, Mr. Biffo has preserved all these chats for us! Confessions of a Chatroom Freak contains transcripts of genuine conversations between LoopyLisa21f and many, many men.

That may sound like a very simple premise, but Mr. Biffo takes it to the next level. Not only does LoopyLisa21f talk about sex, she talks about all manner of things including farting, cats, flooding apartments, disciplining children, forehead models, car engines, snogging in cages and more!

If this sounds too good to be true, it isn’t! Confessions of a Chatroom Freak is utter glorious madness and I for one couldn’t be happier! It shows you what really goes on in Internet chatrooms if you haven’t been brave enough to do it yourself and reveals an underside of men that is usually hidden.

It’ll also make you laugh until your sides hurt and tears are running down your face. I have never laughed so hard, ever, while reading a book. I can’t describe how incredibly laugh out loud funny this book is, I don’t even have the words.

To give you an idea, here’s a brief exchange between LoopyLisa21f and one of her would be suitors:

Swanvester1975: are you really Loopy?

LoopyLisa21f: I don’t know about that, but I’m certainly quite itchy! My cat has fleas, you see.

Swanvester1975: ok not fun

LoopyLisa21f: I’ve scratched a hole in my t-shirt already, and I’m practically through to the bone on my ankles. That ins’t even a lie!

LoopyLosea21f: What’s good for lea-bites-other than rubbing your shines against a flea-ridden cat, that is? Ha. Ha. Ha.

Swanvester1975: vinegar

LoopyLisa21f: Urrrgh! I’m not drinking that!

LoopyLisa21f: I could mix it with some orange squash, I suppose.

Swanvester1975: are you mad!?

LoopyLisa21f: You’re the one who told me to drink vinegar. It isn’t my idea.

LoopyLisa21f: It might taste better if it has ice cubes in. Hang on.

LoopyLisa21f: I’m going to find out. One moment please.

LoopyLisa21f: …..

Swanvester1975: hello??

LoopyLisa21f: OK! Back now.

LoopyLisa21f: I have to say – That is the most DISGUSTING drink I’ve ever had.

LoopyLisa21f: I took two big mouthfuls, but most of it came out again – through my nose and bottom.

Swanvester1975: jesus

LoopyLisa21f: That is the most revolting thing I have EVER tastd. Worse even than the time Craig made me eat a bit of mud he’d picked.

LoopyLisa21f: I can really taste the vinegar through the squash and the ice. I thought it would be disguised more than that, but it isn’t at all.

Swanvester1975: u off ur trolly. Took your mind off the bites though

LoopyLisa21f: Yes but now I’m thinking about doing some vomiting.

LoopyLisa21f: Do you want some advice?

Swanvester1975: yes

LoopyLisa21f: Don’t ever dilute orange squash with vinegar and try to drink it. It’s horrible. You see – it will make you want to vomit.

Confessions of a Chatroom Freak is pure, unadulterated lunacy and bedlam and I loved every word. Mr. Biffo has written an excellent case study of the Internet, men and sex and has rolled it all into one hilarious book.

If you need a cure for the Winter Blues, there’s no better cure than Confessions of a Chatroom Freak. It’ll make you laugh, giggle and snort. But be warned: If laughing like a lunatic in public places is your thing, than read Confessions of a Chatroom Freak.

People will wonder why you’re laughing so hard, they’ll need to get their own copy! This is seriously great fun and an absolutely amazing book! Get your copy and start laughing today!