Saturday, February 28, 2009

Repo! The Genetic Opera (DVD, 2009)

If I told you that the new-age singer, Sarah Brightman, a star of Law and Order, Paul Sorvino, Anthony Head from the Buffy series, and heiress Paris Hilton appeared in an opera together you would probably think I was under the influence of an illegal substance. Unless, of course, if you are a fan of the producers of other remarkable (?!) movies, most notably, the Saw series.
I am at once hypnotized by the performances and repulsed by the gore in this movie. The singing was amazing even if the songs were not.
The story is about a man, Rotti Largo who owns a company that sells organs for transplants. When recipients cannot make payments, he sends out Shilo's father, Nathan to reposess the organ. When Shiloh was born, Rotti slipped some poison to Nathan who unwittingly gave it to her mother while she was giving birth. Nathan has two horrid sons, Luigi and Pavi, and one daughter (Paris), Amber who are trying to be in position to take over the company when Rotti dies. Of course, there is one character who seems to know what's going on, Graverobber, played by Terrance Zdunich, who collects an addictive pain killer, "Z", from dead bodies.
Not for the faint hearted but fans of movies featuring maximum gore, a la Rocky Horror Picture Show, are the only people who would appreciate this movie. For me it was like watching a train wreck. I watched hoping that there would be some redeeming factor. I think one of the reasons I made it through the whole movie was the phenominal voice of Sarah Brightman (you may have caught one of her concerts on PBS).
BTW, Paris "won" a Razzie for her perfomance in this movie.
I'm even at a loss at what tags to link to this blog entry.
My rating for this movie: +

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Little Brother (2008)

"We struck out, four good friends, on our way to decode a clue, win the game - and lose everything we cared about, forever."
This action packed story by Cory Doctorow starts with terrorists blowing up the Bay Bridge and the BART tube going under the bay and keeps on going to the last page. Along the way, readers get a glimpse into the world of hacking as Marcus and his friends strike out against the Department of Homeland Security and its knee-jerk super-overreaction to the attack. We are taken along for the battle between security and privacy and trying to determine just where is the line that the government crosses when citizens feel victimized instead of safe. Of course what is a good action story without a little love thrown in and Marcus finds love even with all that is going on.
Many of the security systems that are described in this book are factual (such as the explanation of public and private encryption keys) but I could not find anything about the Xbox units which feature prominently in this story.
Please read this book and please read the afterwords. You will learn so much and will forever look at Fasttrack transponders and traffic cameras with a different view.
There is quite a bit of technospeak in this book but it should be very enjoyable for fans of fast action stories.
You can even download this book for free at
and yes, it is completely legal and endorsed by Mr. Doctorow.
My rating for this book: +++++

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Graveyard Book (2008)

"There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife."
So begins Neil Gaiman's book, an ingenious story of how a community (of ghosts) adopted and raised a boy and taught him everything a young man needs to face the world with confidence and independence. The opaque characters are introduced with their epitaphs.
"And so it went, until it was time for Grammar and Composition with Miss Letitia Borrows, Spinster of the Parish (Who Did No Harm to No Man all the Dais of Her Life. Reader, Can You Say Lykewise?)."
The toddler wandered into a London graveyard having slipped from his house while he family was being murdered. Since the ghosts didn't know his name they named him Nobody (Bod for short) and his adoptive parents were a childless couple, Mr. and Mrs. Owens, a elderly but kindly couple. The other ghosts represented all different times in history dating back to before the Roman occupation. In addition to teaching Bod learn how to read, they were able to teach him special abilities such as Fade which helped him hide in plain sight.
Aside from the touching story of an orphan, there is mystery, action, and a touch of horror when Bod discovers areas of the graveyard not visited by the living in ages. His guardian, Silas, is able to leave the graveyard and procure food and other necessities for Bod. As he said, "It is going to take more than just a couple of good-hearted souls to raise this child. It will...take a graveyard." And this village does just that.
This story will appeal to just about anyone who picks it up. In addition to the wonderful story, illustrations by Dave McKean makes this a true treasure.
My rating for this book: +++++

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Knife of Never Letting Go (2008)

Imagine being able to hear everybody's thoughts. Everybody's. Even animals. And they can hear your thoughts. That's what it's like for Todd in Patrick Ness' book which takes place on a planet called New World. When folks left Earth they couldn't hear Noise, the name Todd calls all the thoughts he hears, but something caused everyone to hear them on this planet. Todd lives in a town of all men and he is the last boy to reach the age of thirteen, the age he will become a man. Having lost his parents when he was very small, he was raised by two men, Ben and Cillian. But something is out there in the swamp that surrounds the town that triggers events and his guardians pack him up and force him to run away into the swamp where he finds.....
One of the enjoyable aspects of reading this book is the humorous way the thoughts of animals are heard.

"Swamp Noise, tho, swamp Noise is just the birds all thinking their worrisome little birdie
thoughts. Where's food? Where's home? Where's my safety? And the waxy squirrels,
who are all little punks, teasing you if they see you, teasing themselves if they don't and the
rusty squirrels, who are like dumb little kids, and sometimes there's swamp foxes out in the
leaves who you can hear faking their Noise to sound like the squirrels they eat and even less
often there are mavens singing their weird maven songs and once I swear I saw a cassor
running away on two long legs but Ben says I didn't, says the cassors are long gone from the

To say there is a lot of action in this book is quite an understatement as Todd and his dog, Manchee, are joined by another person in their flight to get to a town called Haven. Along the way he learns more about the history of the immigrants to this planet and why the men of his town are so desperate to catch him.
I highly recommend this book to readers of action novels. Sci-fi fans would also find this book a real page turner. Be forewarned that it is Part I of a series and you will have to wait for the sequel with baited breath.
My rating for this book: ++++

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"The most comprehensive people search on the web"

Do you know how many times your name appears on the web? What do you think employers might use to check on a prospective employee? is what they are using and it might be a good idea for you to check first before they do. An explanation on their website states that they search what is called the "deep web" which can gain access behind passwords. One example of this is Facebook. Would you be comfortable with a boss checking pictures on your site?
When I ran a check with my name I was very interested to see that a lady in East Lancashire, England, has my exact name. Luckily she seems to be a very upright citizen so I didn't have to worry about some nefarious person that I might be confused with. Otherwise, my Facebook page came up as well as links to my job and 4-H.
It is always good to remember that anything that goes up on the web will very likely stay there - forever. Remember that just about anything can be copied and pasted in other locations so you can't expect privacy when it comes to pictures, emails, blog entries (oh, my!), etc.
So, as I tell my young friends, "Be good, be careful!"

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Musician's Daughter (2008)

Susanne Dunlap's book takes place in 18th century Vienna, a place full of beautiful music and deadly intrigue. Theresa's father, a violinist in Haydn's orchestra, was found murdered near a Gypsy encampment. Then, as now, Gypsies were always accused of any crimes which happen to occur in their vicinity (rightfully or not). Theresa approaches them to find out more about his death and where his violin ended up. She finds that the Gypsies enjoy their own beautiful music and Danior, one of the camp's members, had lost his family's lands in Hungary. Theresa's father was trying to assemble evidence so they could return to Hungary. While trying to find the reason for her father's murder, Theresa stumbles upon other vile goings on.
The Musician's Daughter gives us a glimpse into the world of the nobles of Vienna as well as the underworld life of the Gypsy people. It is full of action with a little romance thrown in. This book would be enjoyed by historical fiction lovers as well as mystery and action readers.
My rating for this book: +++

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

OK, that's it. No more rereading H.P. until summer and the next movie is about to come out. It's just that J.K. Rowling's series of books is so darn addictive!
One of the interesting things that didn't make it to the movie is the major use of chocolate as a remedy for feeling down. I have no doubt in my mind that this is a factual cure and I always head for a bite or two of dark chocolate when I feel stressed. No fiction there! I also had forgotten the role Cruikshanks, Hermione's cat, had in this book. Let's hear it for cats! They can always read a person (or rat) better than other people.
If there is one criticism I could have for this book, it is the speed and ease that Harry went from hating Sirius, believing him to be the cause of his parents' deaths, to loving him when he found outSirius was his godfather. With all of the hiding and treachery going on at a rapid pace, it is amazing that Harry could switch gears from full reverse to full speed ahead in such a short time. Not that Sirius didn't deserve the love, but he was just so infuriatingly slow in revealing himself to Harry. I am also bothered that Harry's father, James, bullied Snape. I don't think Harry ever made the connection between how James harrassed Snape and how Malfoy harrasses Harry and his friends.
One of the best things about working in a high school library and having a teenaged daughter is that these books are available to me and I have a justifiable excuse for reading (and rereading) them.
I think everyone knows about these books and that everyone would enjoy them (again and again).
My rating for this book: +++++

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Harry Potter 1 (1998) & 2 (1999)

Of course this is not the first time I have read these books. I was sitting watching TV this past weekend and H.P. and the Sorcerer's Stone just happened to be sitting on the table next to me. During the commercials my eyes would wander over to the book and a feeling rose in me that made me open and start to read it. When I finished it, I thought about raiding my daughter's room for the second book and I am now halfway through that one.
It has been a long time since I've read these books and I've watched the movies many times. However, the wonderful feeling of being immersed in a whole new world of magic came back to me all over again. Since we have watched them so many times, when my daughter and I watch the movies, we can recite many of the lines with the actors (to the great annoyance of anyone else in the room). However, going back to the books after 10 years, I found scenes that didn't make it to the movies and it was like reading them for the first time. For instance, in the second book, there is a wonderful deathday party for Nearly Headless Nick, celebrating the 500th anniversary of his death. I had completely forgotten it. It was a prime example of the care J.K. Rowling put into the creation of her books. Even the minor characters (and culture of the exotic ones) get attention so they are brought into the foreground and are not just window dressing.

There are so many books begging to be read that rereading books seems to be unfair to the unread books. Some books are worth the time since new scenes, characters, items, or events take on a whole new significance. These books are so full of unique characters, items, and events it is well worth taking the time sitting with Harry and his friends again.

My recommendation reading or rereading these books: +++++