Wednesday, December 12, 2012

13 Questions With...Charlaine Harris

1. Name one thing you miss about being a child.  
The sense that all things are possible.
2. Do you have any phobias? If so, what are they? 
I am queasy about anything to do with eyes. I can’t watch movies in which people receive eye injuries.
3. Are you a collector of anything and if so, what? 
Yes, I collect Charlotte Rhead pieces. She was a pottery designer whose finest moments were in the 1920s and 1930s.
4. You're about the walk the Green Mile - what do you have for your last meal? 
 Hmm. Fried green tomatoes, fried okra, country fried steak. Sensing a theme?
5. What is your favorite cookie? 
They’re called thumbprints. It’s a shortbread cookie with a thumbprint in the middle that you dab with plum jam. Then you embed a pecan half in the jam and bake them, then dust them with powdered sugar.
6. Who is your favorite author? 
Impossible to narrow this list to one.
7. What musical artist are you currently into? 
Yo Yo Ma.
8. Have you ever had an imaginary friend? If so, who are they? 
9. What's your favorite word? 
10. What is your current desktop wallpaper? 
I used to have a beautiful fall scene, but now it’s plain.
11. You're at a Chinese buffet - what goes on your plate? 
General Tso’s chicken, egg rolls, rice, sweet and sour soup.
12. You may plant your dream garden  What's in it and what does it look like? 
I never dream of gardens. I used to love roses and planted many of them, but they take a lot of work and love. I saw some fantastic gardens in England .
13. What are you currently reading? 
“The Warded Man” by Peter Brett.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Review: Dead Until Dark

Dead Until Dark
Charlaine Harris
Available in paperback from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and for the Kindle from Amazon.

Good afternoon constant reader.

When I created The Written Universe, I thought I might need to pad my entries some, so I set myself the task of reviewing authors who were well known and established to review between my regular reviews. I wanted to high light earlier works or first works just in case the reading populace had forgotten what put the author on the literary map in the first place.
This entry is one of those.

If you've ever watched True Blood on HBO, you know the story: Sookie Stackhouse is a bar maid at Merlotte's in Bon Temps, Louisiana. She's 20-something and pretty, and can read minds.
As we meet Sookie, the Japanese have perfected synthetic blood, and the vampire population has come out of the coffin so to speak, trying to mainstream themselves into the human population. Since they can now drink the synthetic blood marketed under the name True Blood, vampires can live in peace and harmony amongst those they once had to feed off of to survive.

The book that started it all, Dead Until Dark starts off the same way. Sookie muses if she will ever meet a vampire, and in walks dark and handsome Bill Compton, a vampire. The attraction between Sookie and Bill builds throughout the book, but not without it's share of pitfalls. A lot of humans are not only biased against vampires, but against Sookie as well due to her ability to read minds. The fact that she can't read vampire minds is one of the reasons she is attracted to Bill - all she hears is nothing and it's a relief.

The TV show followed the first book quite closely but expanded the Tara character and introduced Lafeyette, who, well...spoilers.

The book is a lot of fun to read.
Characters are drawn with an assured imagination, and you really do like Sookie. Sookie is one of the most likeable female characters I've come across in a long time.

I liked this series so much, I went out and bought all the books in one fell swoop (with the exceptions of 10, 11, and 12) and number 13, the last Sookie Stackhouse adventure is due for release in May 2013. I plan on getting the three I lack and then I get to join the throng waiting for Sookie's final adventure.

I like watching True Blood - I finally got caught up and got to see the last season, season 5, and am anxiously awaiting season 6. Watching the show is like getting an alternate uinverse in which to enjoy seeing what the citizens of Bon Temps are dealing with regarding the supernatural. Some of the elements and plot lines of the TV show have borrowed heavily from the books; sometimes the show goes it's own way. That's okay.
Reading the books provides me the window Charlaine Harris has been looking out the entire time.
Both views are equally entertaining.

Charlaine Harris
Charlaine Harris on Facebook
True Blood on HBO

Thursday, June 21, 2012

And now for something completely different...

Good evening constant reader.

The following entry is going to break with tradition, but as I've stated before, this is my blog and I can do that.
What follows is my review of a new CD from a band you may not have heard of, but need to, especially if you're into dark wave music.

It's show time folks!

In a nutshell, if you like dark wave music, then you'll find Sapphire Rebellion much to your liking.

Their latest CD, Pocketful of X-Rays is just what the doctor ordered.
Front man Tim Curry has an impressive pedigree.
Beginning in 1992, he was one of the founding members of the dark wave group The Cruxshadows. Exiting as their lead guitarist, Tim left in 1997.
In 2002, Tim took on production duties and helped hone the group Girls on Film into a nationally known band.
In 2004, he assisted  former Cruxshadow band member, Stacey Campbell by producing two of her tracks, "Read Your Mind" and "Within".
Since then Curry has worked to promote Sapphire Rebellion as a national act, touring the east coast frequently. 

Here's the skinny:

Genre: Dark Wave
Artist: Sapphire Rebellion
CD Title: Pocketful of X-Rays
Year released: 2011
Band Members:
Tim Curry: guitar, vocals, synth, programming, mastering
Jay Godin: drums, programming
Platinum Dragon Productions

Track List:
1. Radio Commander
2. Hot Little Number
3. No Memories of Angel
4. What I Meant
5. X-Ray Eyes
6. Why Me?
7. This Day Will Pass
8. See Her Again

Pocketful Of X-Rays hits the nail on the head. 
The opening strains of Radio Commander will have your foot tapping straight away. I loved the keyboards on this.
In No Memories of Angel, at the last, Tim's voice soars and I break out in goose bumps every time at the anguish in his voice.
X-Ray Eyes is another stand out with a awesome hook.

The entire groove of Pocketful of X-Rays is filled with catchy melodies and attention to detail.
Godin's drums mix it up and don't pump out the same rhythm song after song.
Curry's guitar is smashing and masterful.
Bass lines accentuate the drums making for a solid rhythm section.
Keyboards soar.
Curry's vocals are well crafted and can understand the lyrics.
Curry's compositions are aurally satisfying. And if you don't know what "aurally" means, get thee to a dictionary.

Sapphire Rebellion sounds like...well...Sapphire Rebellion.
Comparisons have been made to and I hear the influences of Sisters of Mercy and David Bowie, but SR has it's own sound.

The musicianship is honed to perfection and wasn't mastered or recorded in a traditional studio, but you'd never know it.

I like Pocketful of X-Rays and have it on my iPod, and listen to it frequently.
Any downsides to it?
Wish there were more than 8 songs. But that's not much of a down side.

If you're lucky enough to live in the eastern part of the country and Sapphire Rebellion is playing in your town, run, don't walk to see them.
I'm pretty sure the rest of the country is going to get a taste soon enough.

CDs by Sapphire Rebellion:
Conspiracy Theory 2010
Pocketful Of X-Rays 2011
Both can be acquired through the band website
For more information, please see the SR Facebook page: Sapphire Rebellion on Facebook

Monday, April 23, 2012

Good afternoon constant reader.

It's been almost two months since I last posted to The Written Universe. It's not that I've run out of books to review, it's I've run out of the ability to read and review.
I've spoken to this problem before, and it seems to have returned.
For those of you who don't know, I lost my father in February 2009, my son, my only child in September 2010, there was a lawsuit regarding his death in 2011, and my mother presented with Alzheimer's in 2010, and had to be removed from the family home in 2011 and put in independent living for the time being. It was also at this time I had to clear out the family home as the house had been reverse mortgaged.

All this has taken a toll on me, and has impaired my ability to concentrate on and retain what I read. That's a deadly combination for a book reviewer. I've gone through this once already, and it seems after the holidays to have returned again.

Because of this, I've stopped reviewing and am trying to work back up to reading by reading strictly for pleasure. Even that has been hard to do.

If you're a regular reader of The Written Universe, I ask your patience and understanding.
If you are an author wanting to submit a book for review, please note it may be some time before I undertake any new books for submission, as I am currently back logged. I may also be forced to be more selective about what I take on for review. I don't want to waste my time reading things that aren't worthy of my time, and I don't want to waste an author's time, either. I try to be as fair as I possibly can.
Along these lines, I'm also toying with the idea of only posting positive reviews. If a book doesn't strike my fancy or is poorly written from the get go, I may decline to review it and notify the author. I haven't decided yet.

At any rate, The Written Universe is still something near and dear to my heart, and I intend on continuing to review books. I may also throw in the odd review from time to time of a film, or a never know. ;)

Friday, February 24, 2012

13 Questions with...Joel Arnold

1. You’re hosting a dinner party. What is the menu, and do you cook it yourself, or do you call a caterer?
I admit I’m not much into hosting parties. I would probably order pizza!

2. What is your beverage of choice?
Caramel Macchiato when I’m splurging, just coffee w/ sugar and cream when I’m not.

3. Physical book Vs an E-Reader. Your preference and why?
For most books, I enjoy my E-Reader – I love having all these books at my fingertips. However, there are coffee table books out there that an E-Reader is just not adequate for.

4. What kinds of books make up your personal library?
All kinds, although horror is probably the most pervasive.

5. How and when did you catch the writing bug?
I caught it at an early age – the 2nd grade, when I won a short story contest. The prize was a trip with my teacher, Mrs. Rosier, to the local A&W. She even said, “Joel, you’re going to be a writer someday.”

6. What is your writing routine?
I have a full-time day job, plus a wife and two kids, so we’ve worked it out so that I treat my writing like a part-time job. I have two nights a week set aside for writing, as well as about a five-hour block on Saturdays. Plus I’ll sometimes go write before work (on those days I can get my butt out of bed early enough.)

7. If you ever encounter writer’s block, what steps do you take to get past it?
I usually have multiple projects going on, so if I get stuck on one thing, I’ll go work on something else. Or I might just skip to a different scene in that particular piece. Sometimes – at least for me – I think writer’s block is just having this immense unknown in front of you, or at least a lot of work ahead of you – and you just don’t want to face it at the moment.

8. Do you have a hidden talent?
I know a disturbing amount of trivia about 1970s-era sitcoms.

9. What was your best subject in school?
Band. At least until I got into college, then it was sociology and literature. One of my favorite classes I ever took was one focused solely on the plays of Sam Shepard.

10. As in any entertainment, there are current trends. How much do these “current trends” influence what you write?
They don’t influence me much. I’m kind of a slow writer, so if I were to follow trends, I’d always be too late to the party, so to speak.

11. Mac or PC?
I use a PC.

12. Where do your ideas come from?
Anywhere and everywhere. There might be a setting that really sparks something in me, or a newspaper article, or a person I met. But usually the ideas come more freely while I’m writing.

13 What advice would you pass on to an aspiring author?
I think persistence is the key. Writers who have achieved any degree of success are those who don’t give up after the first few dozen rejections, or after getting stuck in the middle of something they’re writing; they keep coming back to it, they keep trying, because they can’t imagine doing it any other way.
But another piece of advice is to take advice from writers with a grain of salt – probably 95% of our advice doesn’t apply to you. Writing is an individualistic journey. There are sign posts along the way left by other writers, but some of those signs – while well-intentioned – will lead you in circles, while others will lead you straight into a rock wall. When you get advise, sure – ponder it, consider it, swish it around in your mouth awhile to see if it tastes right – but if it doesn’t, then spit it out and keep on plugging away.