Sunday, January 31, 2010

Book Review - The Somnambulist, by Jonathan Barnes

Title: The Somnambulist
Author: Jonathan Barnes
Genre: Sci Fi / Historical Fiction / Mystery
Rating: 3 out of 5 clever narrators

The Somnambulist, written by Jonathan Barnes, focuses on the exploits of an ex-stage magician and his loyal companion as they attempt to solve a murder mystery and protect London from destruction.

My review of The Somnambulist is going to end up being in two parts, because I felt very polar emotions while reading it. In terms of writing style, Barnes is an excellent narrator. However, I feel that his story as a whole suffers from lack of organization and clarity. First, the good:

From the very first paragraph of the book, Barnes draws the reader in. He utilizes narration not simply as a way to tell the story, but as a way to get the reader to relate more closely to the author. The narrator is a living being, not simply an omniscient observer. Barnes has a lot of fun with his narration, injecting humor and anecdotes into the story. This really keeps the reader coming back for more, because it makes The Somnambulist read more like a dialogue between author and reader, which is a lot of fun. However (in my opinion, of course), underneath the creative storytelling, The Somnambulist is an unpolished mystery tale.

A major flaw I see in this story is that Barnes tends to leave his audience in the dark when it comes to details. One expects a small amount of this due to the "mystery" genre, but Barnes goes on to mention past events and character relationships that he never really fleshes out or describes for the reader. This made me feel as though the author and the characters were always sharing inside jokes and stories that I was not invited to partake in. This was very frustrating at times, and serves to undermine the relationship that Barnes forges with his quirky narration. Ultimately, The Somnambulist feels like a sub-par sequel. I found myself not caring about what was currently happening. Rather, I wanted to learn more about the characters' pasts - something that Barnes teases with, but never delivers.

Another problem I have with The Somnambulist is that it feels very disjointed. The first three quarters of the book deals with the murder mystery that the main character attempts to solve, and then all of a sudden, a major plot development happens that basically throws the first part of the book into the trash and makes it irrelevant. Even the character that the book shares its name with seems inconsequential and pointless.

To be honest, I was very disappointed with The Somnambulist. It began as a very unique story and held a great amount of promise. However, it ultimately falls short.

3 out of 5 clever narrators.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

My First Blogger Award!

Hi all! I just recieved by first blogger award from Haley over at the Life (and Lies) of an Inanimate Flying Object. Here it is!

Thanks Haley! As a condition to getting this award, you need to tell 7 things about yourself, and pass it on to 7 other kreativ bloggers.

1. I recently drove 15 hours (and back!) to Indiana for a vet school interview.
2. I have a cat, named Khia.
3. I can play the bass guitar (sort of).
4. In third grade, I got a third degree burn on my back for leaning up against a hot radiator.
5. I'm the slowest reader I know.
6. Heather, at The Maiden's Court, is my girlfriend.
7. I share my last name with a popular canned-soup company.

Here are some more kreativ blogs:
The Maiden's Court
Elegantly Bound Books
Reading Daydreams and Nightmares
Ellz Readz

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Giveaway Results - Wicked, by Gregory Maguire

Good afternoon everyone! First of all, let me thank you all for commenting, following, and looking forward to this giveaway. It was a very exciting time for me, and I plan to do other giveaways in the near future!

Now, down to business. The winner of the first giveaway at Lions and Men, a paperback copy of Wicked, by Gregory Maguire, is...


Congratulations, and for everyone else: better luck next time!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Television Review - Kingdom Hospital, by Stephen King

I will not be reviewing a book today. Instead, I will be reviewing a television miniseries written by Stephen King: Kingdom Hospital.

Kingdom Hospital is a 13 episode miniseries that originally aired on ABC on March 3rd, 2004. It is based on Lars Von Trier's Sweedish series, The Kingdom.

Kingdom Hospital follows the lives of the patients and staff of a large emergency hospital based in Lewiston, Maine. With every episode, new critical patients arrive, and we find out more about all of the characters. We also begin to learn that the hospital has a dark side, haunted by angry spirits. The hospital, it seems, was built on top of the ruins of a disasterous fire where hundreds of children died. The staff eventually learn of the building's catastrophic fate, and rush to right the wrongs of generations gone by in order to save the lives of everyone in the hospital.

Check out the trailer below (sorry for the bad quality):

Kingdom Hospital is a lot of fun to watch. There is humor, horror, and a few scares to go around. The story also has a good moral at the end. The hospital is inhabited by tons of colorful characters, both living and dead. It also features the song Red Dragon Tatoo, by Fountains of Wayne, one of the most catchy songs ever.

It is not every day that the master of horror creates a television milestone. I remember watching every episode when they originally aired, and I can't believe that was six years ago! Did you miss it? If so, don't worry. You can buy the set of DVDs that contain the entire series, or you can watch it here for FREE.

5 out of 5!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Giveaway - Veracity, by Laura Bynum

Hey folks! I just wanted to tip you off to a great giveaway happening over at BookHounds.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Mailbox Monday - The Somnambulist

Hello everyone! I took a trip to the bookstore over the weekend, and I picked up a new book! It is called The Somnambulist, and it is written by Jonathan Barnes.

The Somnambulist is a novel set in Victorian England, and centers around Edward Moon, a magician and a mysterious man known only as the Somnambulist. The magic business is slow, and the duo get recruited to solve a case involving the mysterious death of an actor.

The Somnambulist appears to be a mixture between historical fiction, fantasy, and murder mystery. I would like to also share the first paragraph with you:

Be warned. This book has no literary merit whatsoever. It is a lurid
piece of nonsense, convoluted, written in drearily pedestrian prose, frequently
rediculous and wilfully bizarre. Nedless to say, I doubt you'll believe a
word of it.

Until next time...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Stephen King Reads From Under The Dome

Hey all! Welcome to my last post (for a while, anyway) about Under The Dome, by Stephen King. To wrap it up, I would like to share a Youtube video with you: Stephen King reading the first few pages of his newest novel. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for my full review of Under The Dome!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Book Trailer - Under The Dome, by Stephen King

Hi folks! If you were intrigued by my First Impressions post on Stephen King's Under The Dome, I think you will enjoy this quick (but exciting) book trailer:

Friday, January 15, 2010

First Impressions - Under The Dome, by Stephen King

I am currently on page 215 of Stephen King's newest novel, Under The Dome. A sparse 20% through. Here are my First Impressions.

With Under The Dome, King returns to small town Maine to tell the tale of a town that becomes inexplicably trapped under an impenetrable force field. This premise immediately caught my attention, and King wastes no time in getting to what the back of the book promises. The Dome appears within the first 20 pages of the book, and we are treated to all of the chaos that ensues. What chaos? I'll give you a hint: The invisible dome drops onto two main roads during rush hour.

Throughout the beginning of the book, King jumps from shocking (and sometimes gory) action scenes to in depth narrations that detail the lives of some of the most important citizens of the town. After a while, the shock of the Dome declines, allowing the reader more time to view the public and private lives of the residents of Chester's Mill, Maine.

A lot is happening in Under The Dome, and King handles it all with the mastery he is known for.

And if you are curious about Under The Dome, stay tuned throughout the weekend. There will be much more to see!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Book Review - Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

Title: Neverwhere
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4 out of 5 sewer pipes

Richard Mayhew was a man with an ordinary job, and ordinary fiancee, an ordinary life, and he was happy. Until the day when he found a girl bleeding to death on the sidewalk, and chose to help her. This simple act removes Richard from his ordinary life and throws him into the underground of London, where assassins, bodyguards, and rats rule all. So begins Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman.

As you may have read in my First Impressions post, Neverwhere begins simply enough. The reader never even gets a sense of the true genre of the story until Richard meets a strange man who takes him on a strange journey, about 50 pages into the book. However, once Richard takes the leap into the underworld, anything goes.

The characters of Neverwhere are well written in that most of them are not what they appear to be at first glance. The most appealing characters in the book are acutally the "bad guys": Smooth talking, educated Mr. Croup, and brutal, quiet Mr. Vandemar. These two characters are a lot of fun to read about, and I actually found myself looking forward to their appearances.

Neverwhere, in contrast to some of Gaiman's other works (i.e. Stardust), is not very visually appealing. It seems as if the characters are always ducking in and out of sewer grates and trudging through dirty water. Although this is to be expected, given the setting of the book, it left my imagination wanting. I found myself imagining nearly every scene as the same dark section of sewer pipe.

Another thing that began to bother me about Neverwhere is the fact that it adheres too strongly to the standard mixture of fantasy elements. There is a hero, who is destined to save the day. There is a girl, who he must protect. There is an older male, who is wise and tells them everything they need to know. There is a strong and stern sidekick, who is hiding their true nature. Many stories borrow these character archetypes, but I think Gaiman relies too heavily on them here.

With that being said, Neverwhere still presents a very imaginitive view of what happens after one walks by a "homeless" person on the street. If we would just open our eyes, as Richard Mayhew did, we would discover a whole new world of possibilities.

4 out of 5 sewer pipes!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Book Trailer - From the Shadows

Hi folks! I just wanted to share an interesting book trailer with you all. It is for a book of dark poetry called From the Shadows, written by E. J. Stevens. It sounds right up my alley!

You can also check out Stevens' blog here.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Giveaway - Wicked, by Gregory Maguire

Hello ladies and gentlemen!

It gives me great honor to announce my first GIVEAWAY. The book is a new paperback copy of Wicked, written by Gregory Maguire.

The following is taken from the author's official website:

When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum's classic tale, we heard only her side of the story. But what about her arch-nemesis, the mysterious Witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked? And what is the true nature of evil?
This giveaway will run for two weeks (officially ends Saturday, January 23rd, and the winner will be announced on the 24th).

This giveaway is only open to U.S. residents - sorry!

Here are the rules for entering:

+1 Entry - Leave a comment on this post, including your e-mail address
+1 Entry - Become a follower, or tell me if you already are
+2 Entries - Refer someone who becomes a follower (they need to tell me you referred him/her)
+2 Entries - Do a blog post, sidebar post, or tweet about this giveaway with a link to this post (make sure you leave the link in your comment)

Good Luck!

Friday, January 8, 2010

A Look Inside The Ultimate Sandman, Vol. 1

Hi all! Today, I wanted to walk you through The Ultimate Sandman, Vol. 1. You can check out the review of the actual comic content here, but today I'm going to take some time reviewing the actual product. When I saw this hefty volume in the book store for the first time, I was very intrigued. However, the price tag was pretty steep, and the product was wrapped in plastic, so I didn't want to take the plunge without knowing more about the value. After reading about Neil Gaiman's comic series, I finally put it on my Christmas list. And let me tell you, I am EXTREMELY impressed with what DC Comics did with this collection.

First, in terms of contents, The Ultimate Sandman, Vol. 1 comes with the first 20 full issues of the comic series - a total of more than 500 pages. The volume also contains an introduction by Paul Levitz, President and Publisher of DC Comics. Finally, at the end of the volume, there is more than 50 pages of "bonus material" - The original proposal, written by Neil Gaiman, of the comic series to DC Comics, a summary of the first eight issues (also written by Gaiman), the original story board and script of Issue 19, afterwords by Gaiman, and a ton of illustrations.

The volume is packaged in a rugged cardboard box with a beautiful illustration on the front. The volume itself is sturdily bound, has a solid spine, and has a convenient ribbon for marking your page. The pages are thick and durable, and the illustrations are beautifully colored. I have not seen other versions of the comic, but I have read that The Absolute Sandman contains remastered and enhanced illustrations. Beautiful (and sometimes creepy) illustrations are found at the beginning of each issue.

Is The Absolute Sandman the best volume for every reader? Maybe not. Like I said, it is on the expensive side for comic book. However, if you have felt interested in Sandman for a while and love quality books to collect and keep in your library, consider picking this one up. I wasn't disappointed!

Book Titles: Underlined or Italicized?

While we were growing up, we all learned that we should be underlining book titles. This practice originated due to the fact that it was near impossible for typewriters to type in italics. Instead, the author would simply underline the title. As technology began to advance, we began italicizing many types of sources, but books always stayed the same. Well my friends, the MLA has oficially changed the way we should be handling book titles. They should now be italicized instead of underlined.

What are your thoughts? I say the MLA can go take a hike. Especially here, in a place where books and movies based on the book often share a title, this may get very confusing (for example, Stardust the book and Stardust the movie - not cool, MLA). Rest assured, here at Lions and Men, book titles will always be underlined.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

First Impressions - Neverwhere

Good evening everyone! I wanted to take this opportunity to try out a new post idea I had: First Impressions. I thought I would take my current read, and after reading about 20% of the book, post about my feelings on it so far. I figured it would give the curious reader some quick information about the story, and what to expect. But don't worry, my full review will always be posted when I am done with the book! Also, please note that I reserve the right to discuss some minor plot points. I don't necessarily consider these spoilers because they come so early in the book, but if you'd rather not know anything at all, avert your eyes! Also, feel free to leave comments telling me if you did/did not like this post idea!

Here are my first impressions of Neverwhere, written by Neil Gaiman.

At first, I wasn't sure about this book. The first few pages read like a generic drama, and although I could sense Gaiman's hand in the works, it felt too dissimilar from his other stories. However, as the pages started turning, I quickly began to realize that there is much more going on in Neverwhere than originally meets the eye.

A girl gets attacked by two devious men, Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar, and narrowly escapes to be rescued by the protagonist Richard Mayhew. This sets a chain of events in motion that sees Richard falling through the proverbial rabbit hole and literally scaling buildings above the streets of London. At the end of my First Impressions read, Richard has gone back to the life he knew only to realize that no one notices him anymore - and those that do, do not recognize who he is.

Neverwhere is quickly grabbing my attention, and I find that I can not put it down (although I should, as I have a full time job and school on my plate!). Something tells me the rest of the story will fly by as I continue to follow Richard deep into the shadowed regions of London's underground.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Movie Review - Stardust

Title: Stardust
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Stardust, directed by Matthew Vaughn, is the movie adaptation of Neil Gaiman's popular fairy tail of the same name. I have recently finished the book, but I saw the movie before reading the book, so I thought I would review the movie first as well. Stardust details the adventures of Tristran Thorn, who has promised his true love that he would go to the unknown world of Faerie and retrieve a fallen star as a token of his affection.

The visual effects in Stardust are beautifully handled. It would have been all too easy to let CGI run wild with a story like this, but Vaughn manages to focus on the actors' performances rather than relying on the crutch of computers. With that said, those effects that are used serve to immerse the audience in Faerie.

Stardust is a very colorful and visually stimulating film. Beautiful costumes are set against vast vistas and backdrops. It is easy to just watch the movie and smile.

Where Startdust really shines, in my opinion, is in the actors. It is difficult to think of a role that I thought of as miscast, or a performance that was not quite up to snuff. Robert DiNero's character is one of my favorites, along with the great Peter O'Toole (as brief of a role as it is).

The scenes in Stardust are immediately memorable. The film is filled with action and romance, and there is something for everyone in the audience. Watch this movie!

4.5 out of 5!