Thursday, 17 October 2019

Shout-Out: Salvaged by Madeleine Roux

Rosalyn Devar is on the run from her famous family, the bioengineering job she's come to hate, and her messed-up life. She's run all the way to outer space, where she's taken a position as a "space janitor," cleaning up ill-fated research expeditions. But no matter how far she goes, Rosalyn can't escape herself. After too many mistakes on the job, she's given one last chance: take care of salvaging the Brigantine, a research vessel that has gone dark, with all crew aboard thought dead.

But the Brigantine's crew are very much alive--if not entirely human. Now Rosalyn is trapped on board, alone with a crew infected by a mysterious parasitic alien. The captain, Edison Aries, seems to still maintain some control over himself and the crew, but he won't be able to keep fighting much longer. Rosalyn and Edison must find a way to stop the parasite's onslaught...or it may take over the entire human race.

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Movie Review: The Devil’s Backbone (El Espinazo del Diablo)

Directed by Guillermo del Toro, 2001
IMDb listing
Pros: atmospheric, slow paced, creepy

Cons: little explanation of surrounding events

After Carlos’s father is killed in the Spanish civil war he’s dropped off at a boy’s orphanage where a child recently died. Carlos starts seeing a ghost as he learns more about the Republican sympathizers who run the place and the volatile caretaker the kids are afraid of.

This is a great atmospheric horror story. It’s slow paced, giving you time to get to know the principle characters. Carlos is a great protagonist, curious and sweet, bullied a bit by one of the older boys.

The ghost effects are subdued but very creepy. They’re kept to a minimum so you never get used to seeing it. There are no jump scares and minimal gore.

There’s very little explanation of what’s happening outside the orphanage. They mention a war but you really have to piece things together to know what war (if you didn’t read it on the case). I’d have liked a bit more information.

On the whole this is a good, creepy film.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Shout-Out: The Passengers by John Marrs

You’re riding in your self-driving car when suddenly the doors lock, the route changes and you have lost all control. Then, a mysterious voice tells you, “You are going to die.”

Just as self-driving cars become the trusted, safer norm, eight people find themselves in this terrifying situation, including a faded TV star, a pregnant young woman, an abused wife fleeing her husband, an illegal immigrant, a husband and wife, and a suicidal man.

From cameras hidden in their cars, their panic is broadcast to millions of people around the world. But the public will show their true colors when they are asked, "Which of these people should we save?...And who should we kill first?"

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Book Review: Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia by Maria-Jose Friedlander and Bob Friedlander

Pros: beautiful photographs, incredibly detailed descriptions of all of the paintings, good background information

Cons: not enough photographs

This is a photographic travelogue of a series of remote churches in Ethiopia. The first three chapters are background information: The Architecture of the Churches, Ethiopian Christianity and Saints, and The Jesuit Interlude. These help you understand the context and material discussed in the following three chapters: The Churches of Tigray (detailing eleven churches), The Gondarine Churches (three churches) and The Churches near Lalibela (three churches). As appendices the book has a chronology of Ethiopian royalty and the Ethiopian calendar (which differs significantly from the Gregorian calendar the Western world uses).

When I bought it I wasn’t sure what churches were covered, so I was disappointed that some of the ones I was looking for (like the main Lalibela complex) did not appear here.

Ethiopian Christianity is practiced differently than Christianity elsewhere in the world, having closer contact with Judaism before being effectively cut off from other Christian nations for centuries. This allowed it to remain largely unchanged until the present day, despite efforts by Jesuits to convert them to Catholicism and Muslim invasions. I greatly enjoyed the first chapters of the book, which taught me a lot of useful terms as well as stories of local saints I was unfamiliar with.

For the churches, if there’s significant paintings, the authors put in numbered diagrams with explanations of what image is where for each wall, then more detailed information - including Biblical quotations and more descriptions of saints lives - in order to understand the stories being presented. There’s a wealth of information here that’s sadly lessened by the fact that there are so few pictures. Quite often I would read a description and want to see the painting only to find it wasn’t included in the handful of images each church received.

The pictures that are included are gorgeous and cover a wide range of religious subjects (so you’re not getting only Virgin and Child pictures from each church). I was very happy to discover that for a few churches the authors included images and descriptions of a few of that churches’ treasures, publishing photos of a few manuscript photos, one fan, some metal processional crosses, etc.

On the whole it feels like this book is designed to be used in situ, with each chapter explaining how to get to the church in question. Alas, most readers will never have the chance to visit these edifices, though if you can find a book with more photos of the interiors, this book would be indispensable for identifying the subjects in question.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Book Review: Ogre Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Pros: fun characters, lively story


Evie loves healing people and her favourite patient is her best friend, Wormy. But at 15 she thinks they’re both too young to marry, so when he proposes she says ‘no’. They’re both shocked when an angry fairy turns Evie into an ogre because of it. Now Evie has 62 days to find true love or she’ll remain an ogre forever.

This book takes place in the same worlds as Ella Enchanted, one generation before the events of that novel.

I loved Evie. She’s smart and determined. And she has a lot to learn about people, and love, and not much time in which to learn it all. The book is fast paced and lively.

I enjoyed learning more about the ogres and how they interact with each other.

I was a little sad seeing Lady Eleanor, considering how her story ends, though I thought the author handled her inclusion well.

As an adult I would have liked some commentary on how using a love potion or persuasive magic to get someone to fall in love with you is morally wrong (and won’t bring you happiness as you’ll always be afraid of the effects wearing off).

On the whole it was a fun read.

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Books Received in September, 2019

Many thanks to Simon and Schuster for sending me these Star Trek novels.

Star Trek The Next Generation: Collateral Damage by David Mack - I watched the first several seasons of TNG when they originally aired, but didn't see the last season or two. I'm a little concerned I won't know what's going on here, but I do like the characters and conspiracies can be fun to read about.

The past returns to haunt Captain Jean-Luc Picard—a crime he thought long buried has been exposed, and he must return to Earth to answer for his role in a conspiracy that some call treason. Meanwhile, the U.S.S. Enterprise is sent to apprehend pirates who have stolen vital technology from a fragile Federation colony. But acting captain Commander Worf discovers that the pirates’ motives are not what they seem, and that sometimes standing for justice means defying the law….

Star Trek: The Motion Picture, 40th Anniversary Edition by Gene Roddenberry - This book is the novelization of one of only two films I've ever fallen asleep in. I was pretty young at the time and woke up for the ending but have always been curious of what actually happened.

Celebrate the 40th anniversary of Star Trek: The Motion Picture with this classic movie novelization written by legendary Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry!

The original five-year mission of the Starship Enterprise to explore strange new worlds and to seek out new life and new civilizations has ended. Now James T. Kirk, Spock, Dr. McCoy, and the rest of the crew of the Enterprise have separated to follow their own career paths and different lives. But now, an overwhelming alien threat—one that is ignoring all attempts at communication and annihilating all opposition in its path—is on a collision course with Earth, the very heart of the United Federation of Planets. And the only vessel that Starfleet can send in time to intercept this menace is a refitted Enterprise, with her old crew heeding the call to once again boldly go where no one has gone before….

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Shout-Out: The Tenth Girl by Sara Faring

A haunted Argentinian mansion.
A family curse.
A twist you'll never see coming.
Welcome to Vaccaro School.

Simmering in Patagonian myth, The Tenth Girl is a gothic psychological thriller with a haunting twist.

At the very southern tip of South America looms an isolated finishing school. Legend has it that the land will curse those who settle there. But for Mavi—a bold Buenos Aires native fleeing the military regime that took her mother—it offers an escape to a new life as a young teacher to Argentina’s elite girls.

Mavi tries to embrace the strangeness of the imposing house—despite warnings not to roam at night, threats from an enigmatic young man, and rumors of mysterious Others. But one of Mavi’s ten students is missing, and when students and teachers alike begin to behave as if possessed, the forces haunting this unholy cliff will no longer be ignored... and one of these spirits holds a secret that could unravel Mavi’s existence.