Friday, October 31, 2008

Review: Zorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston

It's Dr. Seuss for (much?) older kids! And maybe adults!

No, wait, hear me out, it really is!

Zorgamazoo is a novel in rhyming, Dr. Seuss-like poetry, following the adventures of Katrina Katrell, an adventurous young girl, and Mortimer Yorgle, a decidedly unadventures zorgle who has been chosen to find the missing zorgles of Zorgamazoo. Heartwarming and hilarious hijinx ensue!

The poetry is really perfect, using infectious rhythm and unique words to suck you in and keep you from looking at anything else. The form allows some things to be simply TOLD (With a bit of a song, it was Morty's belief, / he could cope a bit better with feelings of grief.) so that we can move on to the story, but at the same time we're allowed to stop and really explore something for a few verses before we move on, all without losing track of the rhythm.

The plot and characters have a really fun blend of expected--the girl who believes in her fantasies and runs away from her evil governess--and unexpected, in the zorgle who's FATHER is adventurous and is bucking the tradition by being cowardly. Each character has a particular freshness, uniqueness, and individual motivation and none of that is forgotten as the story goes on. Also, and I won't spoil, I really really love the ending.

This would make an excellent read-aloud and vocabulary builder for younger kids, a great introduction to some of the possibilities in poetry, or just an exciting adventure to read to yourself. (Personally I read some passages aloud to myself just because I liked the words so much.) If you or your kids liked Seuss, Roald Dahl, Lemony Snicket, or The Edge Chronicles, this is the book for you.
What follows are some excerpts from the first few chapters of the book, just to get you hooked. Please note that these are taken from the ARC version, and may not be the final text. The final text was released on October 16th and is available to buy. You can visit for more info on the book. And now:
Here is a story that's stranger than strange.
Before we begin you may want to arrange:

a blanket,
a cushion,
a comfortable seat,
and maybe some cocoa and something to eat.

I'll warn you, of course, before we commence,
my story is eerie and full of suspense,
brimming with danger and narrow escapes,
and creatures of many remarkable shapes.
. . .
So if you've no time for the whimsical things,
for pirates and gadgets and creatures and kings,
if you spurn the fantastic to never return,
then put this book down...

for it's not your concern.

Ah, you're still here. Then I'm grateful to you.
This book needs a reader, as all of them do.
. . .

Now Mortimer Yorgle, or "Morty" for short,
was a zorgle, perhaps, of a singular sort.
He was certainly pleasant, and friendly enough,
but his edges, I'd say, were a little bit rough.

For instance: His necktie was always
His trousers were striped with ridiculous dye.
On each of his hands he wore fingerless gloves,
and a rumpled-up raincoat was one of his loves.

Now read the book, for goodness' sake!

Buy Zorgamazoo

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Conditioning

Mariel suggested this week’s question.

Are you a spine breaker? Or a dog-earer? Do you expect to keep your books in
pristine condition even after you have read them? Does watching other readers
bend the cover all the way round make you flinch or squeal in pain?

Ack! No! My books are in pristine condition, and anyone who damages them is a heretic and blasphemer!

Actually, a lot of my books are ex-library or otherwise used, so they aren't in pristine condition and I don't worry about them so much. But the books I buy new I'm very careful with, and I never write in them or highlight or underline. In fact I've been known to spend several hours with a used book going through and erasing pencil marks. I always use a separate journal for any notetaking... My sister also had a good idea, she uses small Post-it notes to write on and sticks them in her books, so she can take them out again at will but the note is still with the passage.

Read other responses here!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Review: Jaws by Peter Benchley

The famous precursor to the even more famous movie of the same name; the book that spurred on the deaths of thousands of innocent sharks; the book that makes people afraid to go swimming in chlorinated pools.

I'd seen the movie, and loved it. I'd read one of Benchley's other books, Beast, and loved it. (It's the squid one.) I love sharks and underwater monsters and the occasional horror movie to spice up my week.

With all that hype, I was kind of hoping the book would be, well, good. Sorry, folks... it wasn't. The pace dragged on for hundreds of pages at a time, layering on character development I didn't want for characters I didn't like, none of which resembled their movie counterparts in more than general ways. I found myself longing for the movie, because it was so much more straightforward and the characters were so much easier to connect with. And how can you be afraid of a shark that you hardly see or hear from for the middle third of the book?
If you're thinking about reading this, watch the movie or read Beast instead, You'll get a lot more satisfaction. All in all, it just didn't measure up.
Please note I reviewed this for the R.I.P. III challenge over at Stainless Steel Droppings. Since it generally failed to get me into the spirit, I'm off to read some Poe instead!

Buy Jaws

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Review - Athens: A History by Robin Waterfield

This is a nonfiction book that I read in relation to a paper I'm working on. It's a history of the city of Athens, from its founding to the modern day, published in 2004, 362 pages long including end material, and written by a man who lives in Greece and has translated about 20 texts from the Greek. I'll also mention that I'm learning to read New Testament Greek this year, so Greek history is that much more interesting.

I've read (relatively) widely about Athens and classical Greece; this stands out mostly for its modernity. It addresses issues that are most of interest to modern issues and the modern mind, and perhaps ascribes too much of that mindset to the Athenians themselves. Written for laymen, the prose is usually plain and clear, but with the occasional strange lapse into a conversational tone, and the author sometimes injects too much of his own opinion. He is very judgemental toward the treatment of women in classical Athens, but applauds the open homoeroticism contained in the games and symposia. Personally I'm a lot more interested in what the Athenians might have thought about those things that what the author thinks is politically correct today. (The currently accepted spellings, notation, research, and dates were also used, which was sometimes confusing to me but on the whole was helpful as an update.)

The writing is usually quickly paced, touching on the significant more than the detailed, and looks at the whole of Athenian history, not focusing only on the classical age. Each time period is approached from several angles and from a global perspective, which makes it easier to remember what happened when and tie it into the rest of world history. It's very apparent that Waterfield loves Athens, and his enthusiasm is part of what keeps the book fresh.

Overall this was a very interesting and helpful book, especially where recent discoveries are concerned, but I'd suggest reading it along with other books to get a more rounded picture of Athens. Here's a nice list provided by LibraryThing, if you're looking. Also, a good book of Greek mythology helps immensely -- try this one -- and some primary texts never go amiss.

Buy Athens: A History

Friday, October 24, 2008

Booking Through Thursday

Monica suggested this one:
Got this idea from Literary Feline during her recent contest:

“Name a favorite literary couple and tell me why they are a favorite. If you
cannot choose just one, that is okay too. Name as many as you like–sometimes
narrowing down a list can be extremely difficult and painful. Or maybe that’s
just me.”

Well, that'll have to be Taran and Eilonwy from The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander. But I'm also very fond of Yelena and Valek from Poison Study, by Maria V. Snyder. (Both of these are the best serieses ever and you should read them! Prydain is YA/juvenile fantasy and the Study series is adult/ya, fantasy/romance.)

For other responses to Booking Through Thursday, visit here!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Watchmen trailer 2

This was shown at the Spike 2008 Scream Awards the other night. I wasn't there, but now I wish I had been...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Watchmen trailer

I present for your viewing pleasure, the official trailer for the Watchmen movie. Does it look awesome? Oh yes. Will it be awesome? I hope so.

Review: Watchmen by Alan Moore

I don't usually read comic books. Pardon me, graphic novels. It's not that I don't approve of the medium or the genre, it's just my brain won't process the format. I can't keep track of who's who, what's going on, or even who each speech bubble belongs to.

But, I love the comic book movies that have been coming out, and when I saw a trailer for Watchmen I was very interested. I'd never heard of it before, so I went to the Wikipedia article and read just enough about its reception to realize that I HAD to read it and see it in action.
And boy, was I impressed! This is seriously the best stuff I've read in a long, long time, and even though it's one of the most complicated stories I've seen, I didn't have any trouble following it.
For those of you who also have never heard of it, it's an alternate history set in 1985. Superheroes, or masked vigilantes which in this case don't have any superpowers, were once active but were then outlawed. The one notable exception is Doc Manhattan, who does possess superpowers and works for the government, and a possible second exception is Ozymandias, who is supposed to have "peak human" powers. The story begins with the murder of one of the costumed heroes, and proceeds with another hero's investigation. The book explores the idea of what it would really be like if there were superheroes in the world, but its basic theme can't be stated better than "Who watches the watchmen?"

The first things that struck me were the visuals, the cinematic quality of it all. The "camera" zooms, pans, and chooses angles in exactly the way needed to emphasize what's happening, but the fact that it isn't a camera allows for pauses and juxtaposition that can't really be done in film. The art itself was perfect and very detailed, giving everything a kind of uniqueness and realism and made each frame memorable. There are also multiple flashbacks, and at the end of every chapter a fictional primary document is included, which serves to expand the universe in time as well as space and make it seem all the more real. I could mention the frames that were the most striking, that are still burned into my retinas, but that would give away too many spoilers.

The second perfect thing is the characterization. Characterization is one of the things that I usually miss when I'm trying to read a comic, but Watchmen had a perfectly arranged balance of character exploration and plot. Neither overtakes the other, but both contribute to the story's progress. I was pleased to note that the romantic (or less than romantic) relationships between the characters were important and helped to move the story, they weren't just fanservice and they weren't boring. The characters range from Doc Manhattan, the inhuman character who has godlike powers, to Nite Owl, a kind of "average" superhero with a lot of gadgets, to Rorschach, the ultimate antihero.

The one most impressive feature is the sheer weight of all the subtle things going on at any given time. From the slowly counting doomsday clock, to the slow wash of blood through every chapter, to the chapter titles that are quotes by anyone from Bob Dylan to Albert Einstein. Every character is vital to the story. Every frame is vital to the story. Every poster on the wall means something, every incidental character means something, even a crazy dude carrying a sign is going to be important. (I totally pegged that one.) The atmosphere of the story, at first only barely noticeable, develops into an almost suffocating mixture of nostalgia and paranoia that pervades every action. And when the end finally comes... what are we to make of it?

Seriously. Read it. It's incredible.

Buy Watchmen

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Review: The Dracula Dossier by James Reese

I confess, when I realized the author of The Dracula Dossier was also the author of The Book of Shadows, I was wary. I never finished The Book of Shadows, because although the story was interesting, I didn’t pick up the book looking for pages and pages on end of nothing but graphic violence included for no apparent reason. I was worried this would be more of the same.

Luckily I was wrong. There was gore in The Dracula Dossier, but only what you would expect from Jack the Ripper. (I may have to revisit The Book of Shadows, maybe there was a point to it.) It seems that things were treated more realistically in The Dracula Dossier, with more of an emphasis on Stoker’s reactions than the murders themselves.

What stands out the most about the book was the extraordinary realism and feel for the time period that comes across in the writing. The details are excellent, and whether the book was based on facts or not, it certainly suspends disbelief. The footnotes usually help with the realistic feeling and provide information that couldn’t be provided convincingly in the epistolary form. They drew a lot of attention to the Dracula references, which was helpful and kept up my interest, but it might have been more exciting if I’d been allowed to draw my own parallels.

The pace does drag some for the first hundred pages, but those Dracula references in the footnotes kept up my interest long enough to get past those pages, to Mr. Stoker’s interview with Mr. Penfold. During that scene the book suddenly transformed into a real thriller, and the rest of the pages flew by. The final fifty pages or so made up an expected but satisfying ending that tied up the loose threads.

I think this book fills a niche, addressing the already much-addressed topics of Jack the Ripper and Dracula from a more historical perspective than I’ve seen before. In the words of Mr. Stoker at the end of the novel, "It is the story of a man who -- though not a hero, per se -- finds himself suffering, nay surviving, heroic circumstances."

Attention: You can go to the publishers' Browse Inside site to see up to 20% of the book's content for free. I actually got an e-mail from the book's publicist! Cool, huh?

Buy The Dracula Dossier

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


While browsing the Interweb today, and the lovely Stainless Steel Droppings, I discovered this challenge. The R.I.P. III challenge of October 2008. I was barely in time, instead of three or four weeks late as I usually am for challenges, so how could I refuse? So, in addition to my usual reading, this month I will be reading one or more of the following:
Jaws by Peter Benchley (Thriller)
Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates (Horror)
The Collector of Hearts by Joyce Carol Oates (Horror)
Cults!: An Anthology of Secret Societies, Sects, and the Supernatural (Horror, Supernatural)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Introductory Post

Welcome to The Fickle Hand of Fate. My name is Fatalis Fortuna, Fate for short, and I will be your blogger for the duration. I am currently a student and a part-time librarian. When I'm not working, I occupy myself with all things fictional, be they in print, on television, or on the silver screen; my two cats, Amontillado (after "The Cask of Amontillado," of course), and Alice (after Alice in Wonderland,); and my novel-in-progress, which is of course the next Great American Novel. To my knowledge it will be the first Great American Novel that is YA urban fantasy, and for this I will become both famous and rich.

This blog will contain my stunning insights into the world of publishing, which I have practically no knowledge of as of yet, and the world of unpublished writers, of which I have intimate knowledge, but mainly reviews of books, movies, music, and anything else I may have a stunning insight about.

I've been published in both regional magazines and national magazines (Teen Ink, anyone?), but have not yet cracked the professional market. We're currently looking at weekly updates over the weekends.