Watch “American Gods | First Look | STARZ” on YouTube

Yes, please.

I literally cannot wait for this to come out. Super happy with the production value, this looks like it will be amazing!Gah!

I love how smart Shadow is. I can’t wait for other people this out. If you can’t wait either, get the full cast version of the audio book in the mean time, it is brilliantly done.

Nodds & Nends: Wacky Inventions, Diverse Casts in Kids Books, and Spamming the Spammers

It’s time, another Nodds & Nends, some Nerdy Odds and Ends on the internets that will hopefully make your day a little brighter.

Want to see some crazy things people have invented over the years? Check out this The Daily Buzz article, Wacky Inventions That Never Stood A Chance that was reposted by George Takei on his Facebook page.

I really really need those skates.

The Daily Buzz

Photo Credit: cracktwo

I really love reading the articles on The Book Wars blog. I was especially delighted with this list of children’s pictures books centered around the theme of dance that also have a diverse cast of characters. Read the article by Jane Whittingham Five Finds Lets Dance here.

I follow Misty Copeland on Instagram and was delighted to see that there is a picture book about her journey to be come a soloist with the American Ballet Theater. Awesome!

Firebird by Misty Copeland

Firebird by Misty Copeland

My most recent favorite find on the internets is the video about a guy who likes to respond to spam/scam emails until the spammer/scammer gives up and tells him to stop email them. Posted by Mashable this guy’s video about trying to get a toaster is hilarious!

When I shared this on my personal Facebook page a friend replied with an newspaper article from the Boston Globe that is along the same lines, The Spam Victim Strikes Back! By Mark Pothier. I giggled for a long time. 

I like to make fun of spammers as is evident by my posts Spam Mail, Spam Mail Part 2, and Spam Mail Part 3, but I do not actually engage with them in real life, just inside my head.

Movie Review: Swiss Army Man

I went and saw Swiss Army Man starring Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine) and Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter fame) in the theater this past weekend.

Swiss Army Man

Summary from Goodreads:

A hopeless man stranded in the wilderness befriends a dead body and together they go on a surreal journey to get home.

Surreal is a good word for this movie, also disturbing and flatulence.  Honestly, I could leave that one sentence and it would be my nicest review of this movie that I could give, but I guess I’ll put some effort into why I found this movie not exactly up to par with my expectations of humor and heart in a movie about disconnection and death.

Those are elements of humor and heart in this tale, but the reality of the story line grows more and more depressing as I settle into my understanding and emotional take away from it. In the end, there isn’t much to it. A man finds a dead body that he befriends and uses as a way to get back to reality. Sorta. Not really. Maybe? There are some joyous moments as Hank, played by Paul Dano, finally connects to something, in way he has not in his entire life. There are some funny moments as his adventure with a dead body takes him to surreal places. However, those moments do not mask the harsh reality that in the end it is a story about a man whose first real connection in a long time is to a dead body.

That is just depressing.

Plus, it feels as though the writers didn’t really know how they wanted to end it. I wont give away the ending, but I will say this, I expected maybe a sad ending or a weirdly wonderful one, like Seeking a Friend for the End of the World or Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind or countless other quirky and surreal movies that have heart and humor, but Swiss Army Man felt as though the writers wrote a weird ending to just to have a weird ending. Just, what is the weirdest way we can end this …. and yah lets do that weird ending. An unsubstantial ending that I felt derailed the entire journey of Hank.

I was the only one that thought this coming out of the theater. Everyone  in my group agreed it was a weird little movie, but several people loved that the ending was random and weird. However, the more I think about it, the more I feel my initial reaction was correct, that it was a non-ending in a way that was not very meaningful to the characters. And I think an entire movie that revolves around two people, one of them a dead body, should have a meaningful ending for those two people.

Interesting movie, yes. Fun to see the interactions of Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe, yes. Fascinating story, yes. Weird, humorous, and maybe worth watching at home some afternoon when your brain is going strange and you need a strange movie to watch alongside your strange brain. Sure. But. .  but. . . don’t expect to have a sense of . . . anything when you have finished watching it.

What it really boils down to is that it is a movie about farting, a dead hairy bottom, and a sad man who cannot connect with reality in any shape or form. Even sadder is that as a viewer I was wholly disconnected from the characters by the writers’ and director’s choice about how the story ends.

Audiobook Review: Armada by Ernest Cline

After re-reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, I decided to check out his most recent publication Armada and found the audiobook, read by Wil Wheaton, at my public library and borrowed it.

Armada by Ernest Cline

Review via GoodReads:

Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.

And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.

No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar?

At once gleefully embracing and brilliantly subverting science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline could, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before—one whose every page is infused with the pop-culture savvy that has helped make Ready Player One a phenomenon.

This was an interesting story where a fantasy becomes reality, with a side of conspiracy theory. I did like a few of the characters, they were interesting, and I really like Zack’s mom. As a protagonist, however, Zack did not catch my interest in the same manner that Wade Watts from Ready Player One did. Plus, I’m not a big gamer so that part was only so-so for me. I have no fantasy of my little Mountain Goat Mountain game coming to life in a way that I can save the world, not even a little bit. So maybe some of my disinterest in this story is my disinterest in shoot-em-up games in general.

I did enjoy Ready Player One and Cline is a good writer, I just think some of the over arching story line of Armada was rather predictable . I guessed every single plot twist when the character was introduced, so it was more about seeing if I was right than it was about expectations that a completely new revelation would happen. It’s an interesting sci-fi story, for gamers probably way more interesting, and a decent read over all, it just wasn’t for me in particular.

Wil Wheaton does a good job voice acting, and he is excited by the genre he so that gives his voice excitement and probably one of the reasons I stuck with the book. However, he does not do voices as well as some other voice over actors that I listen to, so there were a few characters I had a little trouble keeping straight, but he does a good job overall.

If you haven’t read Ready Player One, you should it is amazing, definitely read it before reading this book to get a better idea of Cline’s storytelling abilities. You can read my review here.

Armada, is  worth checking out from your library if you want a fun summer sci-fi read based on the gaming community.

Audiobook Review: The Aeronaut’s Windlass (The Cinder Spires, #1) by Jim Butcher

I borrowed the audiobook of The Aeronaut’s Windlass (The Cinder Spires, #1) by Jim Butcher from the local library. It is read by.

The Aeronaut's Windlass (The Cinder Spires, #1) by Jim Butcher

Summary from GoodReads:

Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist-shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances, and building fleets of airships to keep the peace.

Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship, Predator. Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the Spirearch of Albion—to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory.

And even as Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. Humanity’s ancient enemy, silent for more than ten thousand years, has begun to stir once more. And death will follow in its wake…

This book made it onto my Top Five Books I Enjoyed that were Outside My Comfort Zone in 2015 post because  I generally do not enjoy high fantasy but I ended up really engaging in this story. Maybe part of this was that it was an audiobook and I did not have to keep names straight because the narrator had excellent character voices and I followed along so much easier.

Ok, so the reason I really liked this story was that there are people who can speak Cat. No joke. It is amazing because Butcher has cat psychology and physiology down pat and brings this real world knowledge to the story, giving it ground in reality even though people are living in the clouds (literally) and talking to cats! Bridget Tagwynn is one of those people and she is such an interesting character. Of a lower status than those around her, but with training in how to be a strong human being, and an understanding of how people interact and react she is just a great shining example of a strong female character that isn’t hateful or bitter. All the characters are interesting, have depth, have things I liked about them and had things I rolled my eyes about, because they are human and have a reason for being part of the story.

I’ll dare say I enjoyed this cast of characters to a greater extent than the cast of the Dresden Files. Not because I now dislike Dresden, but because this series has a wider cast of strong main characters instead of just the select few in the Dresden series. From Gwendolyn Lancaster who is a little too enthusiastic and know-how when she first arrives for training at the Academy to her cousin Benedict Sorellin-Lancaster who seems a steady sort of person, but manages to have depth as well, to Rowl, a cat, who manages to be helpful and unhelpful all of the time. A really interesting play of people and story line, masterfully told.

But I attribute my ability to read this high fantasy story with greater ease to the voice actor Euan Morton. He did an amazing array of voices and I easily followed a wide cast of characters trotting across and unfamiliar landscape. His Rowl voice is literally stuck in my head, it is that good. I really recommend this audiobook, he is a wonderful voice over actor.

There is a lot to this story that I can’t even fully get into with a review, but I would suggest it for anyone who enjoys strong characters, both male and female. and for people who enjoy adventure romps that have depth. Don’t be put off by the high fantasy, steam punk aspects, or talking cats, this story is more than the fun  setting it is about the very real and interesting characters that make up a group people who are trying to accomplish something together.

Audio Book Review: The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman

I borrowed The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman from my local library. This audio book was performed by a full cast which I always love so much!

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman

Summary from GoodReads:

A thrillingly reimagined fairy tale from the truly magical combination of author Neil Gaiman and illustrator Chris Riddell – weaving together a sort-of Snow White and an almost Sleeping Beauty with a thread of dark magic, which will hold readers spellbound from start to finish.

On the eve of her wedding, a young queen sets out to rescue a princess from an enchantment. She casts aside her fine wedding clothes, takes her chain mail and her sword and follows her brave dwarf retainers into the tunnels under the mountain towards the sleeping kingdom. This queen will decide her own future – and the princess who needs rescuing is not quite what she seems. Twisting together the familiar and the new, this perfectly delicious, captivating and darkly funny tale shows its creators at the peak of their talents.

I’m biased when it comes to Gaiman, I usually find his way of writing stories and viewing life so interesting. This story definitely has it’s twists and turns and didn’t exactly go where I thought it might. At the same time the story feels familiar because it is based on fairy tales we all know and love. I do like retellings and I love a good mash-up so those aspects of the story kept me listening, plus it is a short story so it was over really before I knew it. But that was also part of the problem, there wasn’t as much development of character that I normally expect from Gaiman and the twists were OK, but not of the deep and dark and unexpected caliber that I have come to expect from the author.

Listening to a full cast is always fun, it makes telling the different characters apart easier and I enjoy hearing several people chime in on a story. No one stood out as particularly brilliant or horrible, just good voice actors giving life to  a story. (As I read the audio version of the book, I cannot comment on the supposed amazing pictures of the hardcover, but I hear it was brilliantly done.)

I enjoyed this retelling from Gaiman, but it is not my favorite of his stories. Some of the story line was predictable and it was so on the go adventuresque (that’s a word, I think?) that I didn’t get the same sense of development of character as I have from his other books. The ending was different than I expected, but not so much so I was blown away by it. While a fun fairy tale retelling/mash-up story to listen to, I’m glad I borrowed it from the library.