Thursday, June 18, 2015

Moxyland

Moxyland by Lauren Beukes is a cyberpunk novel set in a dystopian, not-too-distant future Cape Town, South Africa.  Big corporations run everything, and society is essentially controlled through technology:  for example, law enforcement can easily use a citizen's cell phone to tase them, and being disconnected is one of the worst things that can happen to a person.  Corporate-run orphanages are used to train and recruit employees, and the penalty for attempting to defect to a rival company can be high.

Beukes's book follows the intertwined stories of four young people:  Kendra, an art school drop-out who's been accepted to participate in a potentially sketchy marketing program; Toby, a drug-addicted vlogger who engages in all kinds of illicit activity in Cape Town's underground scene; Tendeka, an activist trying to foster revolution against the corporate tech-driven society; and Lerato, product of a corporate orphanage and now a high-ranking employee for Communique.

When I read Neuromancer, I thought that cyberpunk was just way too technical for me.  I didn't major in computer science, I'm not a programmer, and you're going to completely lose me with all that sort of jargon.  But then I read Snow Crash, and I felt like I "got it." Moxyland is written more along that sort of vein:  there's an element of grit and seediness amidst all the shiny future tech, and that is the sort of cyberpunk that I can get on board with.  

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The One That Got Away

The One That Got Away by Simon Wood is a contemporary mystery/crime thriller, and a good one at that.  Zoë and Holli are grad students at UC Davis who went to Las Vegas to let their hair down and de-stress, but on the drive back, something terrible happens.  Zoë wakes up to find herself naked and bound in a dirty toolshed, and she can hear someone screaming - it's Holli.  They had stopped for food and gas in a small town, but everything is fuzzy and Zoë can't remember what got them into this situation.  All she can think about is getting out of it.

Fifteen months later, the events of that night have changed Zoë completely.  Her life is on a much different track and she's a different person now.  She hasn't gotten over what happened - not even close - but she's coping in her own way.  That is, until something happens that sends her right back into the path of the man who abducted her and Holli.  The media has nicknamed him the "Tally Man," and it seems he has a score to settle with Zoë.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Her Dear & Loving Husband

Her Dear & Loving Husband, by Meredith Allard, is the first in her Loving Husband trilogy.  After a recent divorce, Sarah Alexander has moved to Salem, Massachusetts.  If she thought the quaint seaside town with all its historic charm would quiet her recurring dreams and night terrors, however, she was very much mistaken - moving to Salem seems to have had the opposite effect, in fact.  

Through a colleague at the library, Sarah meets James Wentworth, a professor at the college, and her resemblance to his late wife causes him to feel drawn to her.  James is hiding a secret which keeps him disconnected from engaging in any kind of a real social life and has kept him from being settled in any one place for very long.  His attachment to Sarah is powerful enough to potentially disrupt the quiet life he's built for himself, but there are questions which need to be answered:  is James attracted to Sarah, or is it her resemblance to his beloved wife which attracts him to her?  And if it IS Sarah he is attracted to, will his secret threaten any romance between them?

With a meddling reporter buzzing around asking questions about James, his secret might come out whether he's ready for Sarah to know it or not - but if exposed to the whole world, James fears a new mass hysteria and hunt will ensue.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Audition

Audition, by Michael Shurtleff, is a book written for actors to provide information and tips about auditioning.  Working as a casting director for several years, Shurtleff observed many different actors making many of the same mistakes, and this book is meant to help the actor to go into auditions better prepared.

References and language that Shurtleff used in this book are now out-dated (it was published in 1978), but the information he provides is timeless.  Most of the chapters go over general information of interest to actors regarding auditioning in general, and although it seems to be mainly focused on acting for the stage, I imagine only minor adaptations would need to be made when preparing for a film or voice-over role, as the fundamentals of the craft are essentially the same.

The real meat of Audition is the second chapter, in which Shurtleff has outlined his 12 Guideposts.  In fact, for the acting class I took, the guideposts were the reason this book was assigned.  These are 12 aspects to any character and scene which are recommended for an actor to consider, as thinking about and answering the relevant questions will have you as prepared as it is perhaps possible to be for any audition - not to mention that having already explored the guideposts for the audition will mean you aren't beginning from scratch with your character if you end up being cast.  Shurtleff's guideposts are:

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Devil's Arithmetic

The Devil's Arithmetic, by Jane Yolen, is an historical fiction novel about the Holocaust, geared toward younger readers.  Thirteen-year-old Hannah is on her way to celebrate Passover with her family, but she'd much rather stay with her friend Rosemary, eating Easter candy.  She feels like every year, the Seder is the same - they do the Seder ritual with dinner and the adults talk about the past, and how important it is to remember.  Hannah doesn't want to talk about things that happened so long ago, and she gets bored of her family's stories.  

When her Grandpa Will declares that she will be the one to open the front door for the prophet Elijah this year, Hannah feels silly, but she goes along with the tradition.  Upon opening the door, however, she doesn't see the apartment building's hallway and the doors to the neighbors' apartments - instead, she finds herself transported to another time and place.  She has, in fact, been transported to Poland of the 1940s, where she will come to experience for herself the horror of the stories she used to dismiss.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Ticker

In Ticker, by Lisa Mantchev, we follow Penelope Farthing (who rides a motorized velocipede, lol), her twin brother, and their friends on a romp of suspense and intrigue as they try to track down the Farthings' kidnapped parents and the now-madman who was once the family's trusted friend and physician.  

Penny was born with the same defect of the heart which claimed the lives of both her sisters; after a traumatic accident, Warwick surgically removed Penny's biological heart and implanted what was only meant to be a prototype of its eventual clockwork replacement.  However, when the truth comes out about how Warwick developed and tested the clockwork "Ticker" on people he abducted off the street, the family is shocked, and Penny becomes unkindly known as the first of the "augmented" - an abomination in the eyes of some.  But Warwick's trial is underway; maybe once he has been convicted, the family can begin to move on and try to find some peace.

The day of the verdict goes anything but smooth, however - there's an explosion at the Farthing family's factory, where Penny was on her way to meet her brother.  On top of this, their parents have been abducted, and the ransom demands not money, but the family's Augmentation research.  With what seems a little twist at every turn, will Penny and her friends be able to find her parents before any harm comes to them?  Will she even be able to solve this before her worn-out prototype Ticker finally gives out?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Blood Drive

Blood Drive by Jeanne C. Stein is the second book in the Anna Strong Chronicles, and picks up two months after Anna's becoming a vampire.  She's still picking up the pieces of her life after that night and especially after the way things went down with Avery, she's determined to maintain as much as possible some semblance of her human life - something that is becoming increasingly more difficult all the time, in ways she hadn't predicted.

In Blood Drive, however, things get even more complicated when the last girlfriend of her late brother shows up after more than ten years, claiming to need her help.  Anna didn't like Carolyn when she was dating her brother, and she doesn't trust her now, but the help she needs is with her daughter, Trish - Anna's niece.  Anna isn't as easily persuaded as her parents that her brother is the girl's father, but she agrees to help find her.  When a friend of Trish's turns up dead, however, and Anna begins uncovering evidence of the things Trish has been involved in, her protective instincts start kicking into overdrive and leaves open some very difficult questions:  Who can she trust?  Will she be able to reign in her rage enough to contain her newly acquired thirst for blood,  or will she lose her grip on what's left of her humanity?