Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Hating Game

Ya know how people always say “I wouldn’t be caught dead reading that kind of book,” or “I wouldn’t touch that kind of movie with a ten foot pole.” For my wife, it’s western movies. I don’t mind, because she enjoys comic book movies with me (which I prefer over westerns, anyway.) I know, I’m a lucky, lucky man.

For me, it’s obvious; I don’t have much time for romances. I don’t like the obvious formulas, the shuddering caresses and trembling limbs…pu-lease! No disrespect to the authors who do this, but I’ve never been able to elicit such reactions from the ladies (I was more often the “Special Friend.” Ladies, do us a favor and retire this term), so it all seems pretty far-fetched to me. Give me a space ship or a magic ring any day.

Twice this year, I ventured into this strange territory. I recently finished Blog Master Tali Roland’s “The Hating Game.” Honestly, I quite liked it. The premise is that the protagonist, Matti Johns, winds up on a dating-based reality show when she finds herself in financial trouble.

I found that this hard-as-nails business woman was revealed gradually, as the depth and layers of this ball-busting bitch are fleshed-out through the story. Against the background of an awkward and uncomfortable television setting, she is pitted against production staff with varying degrees of ethics, and struggles to hold her own during the twists that we’ve come to expect in reality shows.

While a bitter protagonist can be hard to like, she is nicely tempered by her more sensitive best friend, Jess. I also found that the failed fling described in the first chapter was so amusing that I could relate to her ill-feelings towards any romantic involvement. The garlic farmer was also a well thought-out character, and well-placed in the story.

Being set in London, there were a few references to stores or neighborhoods that I was not familiar with. However, the context of the comments gave me the gist of the type of places she was referring to, so it wasn’t very different than the fictional locales I’m used to.

While the romantic elements are dominant, I found that the story was strong, and it was easy to stay interested. I’m happy for the chance to support my Blogger buddies, but I’m happier still when I’m enjoying a good story in the process. I’d highly recommend this book, even if you’re like me and do not naturally gravitate towards romantic stories. Cheers, Tali, on a job well done.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Cassastar -- Well Worth the Read

I finally got to read Cassastar by Alex Cavenaugh. It’s kind of A Top-Gun-meets-Star-Wars story, and I really enjoyed it. I found it to be a well-written story, and when it seemed ready to wrap-up, it took another turn and carried on. The characters were well-developed and three-dimensional, but there wasn’t much time spent on the enemies. The focus of the conflict was internal to the characters, and between them within the flight school.

Personally, the only real disappointment was that the invading aliens weren’t introduced until about half way through the book. I can understand that there’s still military training in peace time, but I would have liked an idea of their political climate earlier in the book. However, I liked how the protagonist’s (Byron) special skill was revealed later in the book, making it a colourful surprise.

The ending could be a tidy wrap-up for a stand-alone book, or it could lead to a series, and I would like to see that universe expand.

All in all, most of us love and support Alex because he’s a great Blogger who supports the community, but set that aside. Cassastar is a great book, and I’d recommend it on its own merit. If I didn’y like it, I wouldn’t have even mentioned that I’d read it. “If you don’t have something nice to say…” and all that rot.

A Quick Word To The Published Bloggers

I find that reading a book from a fellow Blogger is different than other books. With my Blogger buddies, I’m used to reading their thoughts on the craft, so when I read their books, I’m much more aware of what’s going into the book. So far, I’ve read two books from be colleagues, and both have been very enjoyable.

Unfortunately, when I posted my review of Alex Cavenaugh’s “Cassastar,” I was having issues getting my new computer to play well with Blogger, so it wasn’t possible for people to leave comments, so I’m going to re-post that one tomorrow (Tuesday, the 23rd). Then, on Friday, I’ll tell you what I thought of Tali Roland’s “The Hating Game.”

If you have something available on Kobo, let me know. I’m happy to support the publishing Bloggers, but I won’t say if I got it or not, because I want to publish honest reviews, but I don’t want to get on here and say that I didn’t like someone’s work. If we were a thick-skinned lot, we’d be in movies, eh?

Monday, August 15, 2011

How Much "Like"-ing is too much?

I've noticed that when I'm on my Facebook homepage, the right side features suggestions on things you can “Like.” I'm wondering how liberal I should be with my Likes.

For example, some of my friends Like “Movies.” Not any particular movie, just movies in general. One of these friends has ambitions to be a professional video editor, so her choice makes sense. Or, if Alex, who regularly reviews movies had such a Like, it makes sense. But the other day, Led Zeppelin was suggested. Of course, I like Led Zeppelin, who doesn't? (Well, I can imagine that there are those who aren't too fond of Robert Plant's voice. His “passion” can get a little shrill.) But they aren't in my top 5, or even my top 10.

I think that my discretion is based on a conversation with a friend of mine. I was checking out his band's page on MySpace, and among his “Friends” was Metallica and Marilyn Manson. When I asked him about his “Friends”, he said that it has more to do with illustrating your influences. “Aaah...” (cue: light bulb) From there, I figured that I should pick my associations sparingly.

I'm not sure if anyone checks those things, but I'll bet that my friends occasionally get messages saying that “Will Likes Family Guy, would you like to become a fan?” Hey, no problem. But if I Liked Weezer because it popped up, and I had just been grooving on Buddy Holly, my friends might think that I was into garage band college music, and this simply isn't the case. Seriously, if you're not gonna turn it up and call it Rock, great! Or, lighten it up and call it Jazz. Either option is great, but the middle ground loses what's great about both. But I digress...

Many Bloggers have Facebook page that we can Like, and well, that’s just sharing the love. Still, it’s genuine, and for some reason I didn’t want to be associated with the Blog on Facebook, I wouldn’t. Fortunately, it hasn’t come up.

What do you think? Am I being miserly, or is it better to be freer with my affections?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Another Fashion Tragedy

As parents, we often fear that we’re doing irreparable damage to our kids (Thank you, Freud!). It seems that most parents have fits of grief over how brutal a job they have done, especially when their kids are older (as in, adult).

Kids rarely feel this way. I mean, I can certainly look back at things that my folks could have done better, but the actual hang-ups that I inherited are few and far between. Asides from real abuse, kids rarely grow up to grieve their parents’ shoddy parenting.

I recently encountered such “damage” in a friend. Like much of the continent, we have had some brutal heat this summer. It was so hot, our immigrant friends from India were getting uncomfortable. The aforementioned friend (not an immigrant from an Equatorial region) was wearing jeans.

I had to ask, because she isn’t the type to be self-conscience about her body – she’s a part time model. As it happens, when she was a wee lass, her mom made her wear purple corduroy capris. Now, whenever she wears capris, she still gets that cringing feeling. OK, that makes sense, and we all grieved for her misfortune.

I haven’t had any such fashion tragedies, how about you?

Monday, August 1, 2011

What do you think..?

Many of you will have heard of the “Slut Walk.” It started in Toronto when a rape victim was told by a police officer that she could have avoided it if she had been dressed more modestly. It doesn’t take a genius to see that this was the wrong thing to say, mostly due to its insensitivity. Enough women took umbrage with this that they started the Slut Walk, kind of like a civil rights march, or a Pride Parade, but for women who want to dress as provocatively as they please without judgement.

I’ve got mixed feelings on this. I think that women have every right to present themselves as they like, and that men should be gentlemanly and respectful. However, expecting all men to be so respectful is a pipe dream, and women should not be na├»ve to that.

Last night, we had one Andrea’s friends over for drinks on the patio, so I took the opportunity to get their opinions. It got lively. “It’s like they want the power without taking responsibility for the reactions they elicit.” Well, yeah.

Another point was that the sexual triggers for men are obvious. However, there’s a mystery to feminine sexuality. Even in our candid conversation, the best I could get from them was “it depends on our mood.” So when men see a display of sexuality that is familiar, our immediate association is that they displayer is aroused, and trying to be arousing.

Or let’s look at it from another angle: Would you wear a jersey from a Swedish football team? It sends a very clear message, and anyone who is familiar with the team would approach you, wanting to discuss the players, coaches, and recent games. Or how about a BB King T-shirt? People would approach with their stories of seeing him in ’82, and the hipsters with their “I mostly like his older stuff.” These are graphic examples of how one’s clothes elicit reactions.

On the flip side, women’s attire does not create a rapist. You’re not going to hear about a man who left his house, thinking of nothing deeper than an episode of Cheers, until he saw a woman wearing handkerchief-sized shorts and displaying three inches of cleavage, then thought, “Well, I was just gonna pick up some Fritos and smokes, but I think I’ll rape her first.” Rapists are predators, and they target the isolated and the infirm. If a woman is radiating power in any sense, a predator will be discouraged, but a woman huddling into herself and separated from the crowd may be a more likely target, whether she’s wearing club wear, or slacks and a hoodie.

As always, I’m eager to hear what others think on the topic, so don’t be shy! Display your naked opinions in all of their God-given glory.