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  1. Now to be completely off topic... Hair

    Wednesday, September 30, 2009

    This has absolutely nothing to do with books but is highly unusual for me so I thought that I would share. Just humour me, yeah?

    Today I went and did something that I have actually never done before. I went to an actual salon to get my hair styled. In the past it's always been cut by a family friend but I decided that I wanted to do something different. I even got foils. Oooh. Exciting!

    I snapped a before and an after shot for the comparing. I just used the my laptop webcam as my actual camera is bust.

    Please ignore my unmade bed in the background. Ooops.



    Nothing too drastic but still a change which I definitely needed. Change is good. Very good.


  2. What's on the Bookshelf

    Monday, September 28, 2009

    Another Monday and another shopping spree. I really have to stop buying so many books. I really can't keep up with myself. If I'm well behaved, these Monday updates should be restricted to library swag for awhile... That's a pretty big if. Haha.

    The Farseekers, Ashling, and The Keeping Place by Isobelle Carmody
    All part of Obernewtyn Chronicles. I still don't have the fifth book yet, however.
    The Study Series by Maria V. Snyder, I think, has put me in just the right mood to get stuck back into the Obernewtyn books. Oh, and I love this cover set too. A nice splash of colour on my shelf in such pretty tones, too.

    Dead as a Doornail and Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris
    More Sookie Stackhouse. No surprise there.

    Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
    I haven't read this before but like many I have seen the movie.
    The only Anne Rice book I have ever read was Pandora. That was years ago though but I think that I enjoyed it.


  3. Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder

    Saturday, September 26, 2009

    Picking up where Magic Study finished off, Yelena once again attempts to study magic only to be once more dragged away from her lessons to confront a major threat to herself and to both Sitia and Ixia.

    When Moon Man, her Story Weaver, sends her one of his cryptic messages, Yelena leaves straight away for the Sandseed Clan's lands, hoping that he has found Cahil and Ferde. He greets her to reveal a desperate situation. A rogue group that has broken away from the Sanseed Clan and become the Daviian Clan has been practicing a gruesome ritual using ancient blood magic to gain power with the aid of a powerful Fire Warper. Despite having learned the truth about his heritage, Cahil has joined forces with the Vermin, as they have become known, so that he can have his war and claim the Ixian throne. Furthermore, Yelena is feared and faced with suspicion due to her being a Soulfinder and so lacks the support of the Sitian Council. With limited support Yelena must restore peace and order to Sitia, all the while being sought after by the Fire Warper.

    Fire Study brings us to the end of the Snyder's Study Series. I really have loved this series. Despite not wanting it to end, I stayed up late to finish Fire Study even though my eyes ached and my body begged for sleep. I knew that I could not rest until I finally knew how it all came to a close.

    Fire Study is far from being my favourite instalment in the series but I am still overall satisfied on the key issues. Although still enjoyable, I didn't feel that it was quite as up there as the previous two books. So, what dragged Fire Study down in comparison to the previous two instalments?

    I found the continued use of Curare and Theobroma to become very repetitive. Considering Yelena's history as a food taster, ever since she crossed the borders into Sitia I have been waiting for her to be introduced to more new poisons. At times she still expresses paranoia left over from her food tasting days but we never see her take the time to learn about what poisonous substances are native on the Sitian side of the border. While she occasionally dwells on forgotten knowledge, I think that it is most certainly a shame that her potential with her knowledge of poisons was never follow explored.

    If you have not read the book yet and want to remain spoiler free then skip to the next paragraph. For those who do not mind some spoilers I will not name the subject of this spoiler. When a certain character died I felt that it was very unconvincing. It's hard to pinpoint a single reason or perhaps it was a mix of several reasons. Perhaps Snyder had successfully instilled me with faith in this characters ability to survive; Yelena is such a strong person that considering all else that was going on she was able to hold herself together hence not producing as strong a reaction as I desired; or maybe in knowing herself that the character was not really dead, Snyder did not spend the time to convince her readers that they were. The characters absence was brief and it wasn't at all surprising when they stepped out and said "tada! I'm alive!" It is not that there was no grieving for the character at all - Yelena had her cry in private and made her plans in her head to find them again in the other worlds - but I wanted it to be an opportunity to explore a more vulnerable side of Yelena. A person can't be all firey strength all the time, right? On the other hand, especially when considering Yelena's history, it is understandable for her character to withhold her emotions. So maybe others will disagree with me on this. We'll see.

    On the positive side of things, if you are a fan of action then Fire Study is full of it. Again, Snyder treats us to seeing some of our old favourites. We get to learn more about the nature of magic and Yelena's relationship with it takes an interesting course as she struggles to come to terms with her Soulfinder status. She is plagued by the concept that magic corrupts and by the realisation that she is becoming dependant on magic to survive, all the while trying to decipher her Story Weaver's cryptic advice and find her purpose as a Soulfinder. Her relationship with her new-found brother continues to evolve and we get some good insights into Valek's character. All the important ends that I can think of were all tied up to my satisfaction. We get a follow up on the lives of the Ixian characters, find out more on the nature of the Commander, why Valek has his immunity, and even a bit more talk on factories which I think helped a bit with my previous complaints about the technology level in this world.

    The concluding novel was not as strong as I would have liked but still enjoyable. I am pretty atisfied with how loose ends came together and I think that in the near future I will try to find the time to re-read Fire Study and see how I feel better about it a second time around. I still highly recommend this series. I have seen some people label it as romance but it is first and foremost a fantasy series and the romance does not take the focus. Now that I am done with the Study Series, I hope that I can quickly get a hold of Snyder's Storm Glass and Sea Glass of the Glass Series which follows Opal, who we first met in Magic Study. Until then I shall have to be satisfied with reading the short stories on Snyder's website.

    It's late and I am tired. Thought that it's about time that I post this but I may have to edit in the morning if I look back and this is all gibberish. Haha.


  4. What's on the Bookshelf

    Monday, September 21, 2009

    So, I went on a bit of a book buying spree the other day. Here's what's new on the Shelf:

    The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
    Been meaning to read this one for awhile to see what it's like.

    A Darkness Forged in Fire by Chris Evans
    A completely random impulse buy because Dymocks had 25% off.

    Manthropolgy by Peter McAllister
    I saw the author being interviewed on of the morning chat shows and thought this sounded interesting.


  5. Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris

    Sunday, September 20, 2009

    It's a new year and Sookie resolves that this year she will not get beaten up. Having split up with Bill, who has also now gone to Peru to continue working on his project, it might just be possible that Sookie can make that resolution come true. That is, until Sookie spots the vampire Eric running half naked down the road in the middle of the night having lost his memory. Sookie agrees to hide Eric while Pam and Chow investigate, believing that a group of witches have placed a hex on Eric. Stripped of his identity, a sweet and vulnerable side of Eric is revealed that Sookie finds hard to resist. But hiding the attractive Eric in her house isn't the only problem that Sookie has to deal with. Her brother, Jason, has gone missing and Sookie is worried that the witches may have something to do with his disappearance.

    Okay, so I know that I said that I wouldn't be reviewing any more Sookie books for awhile but after bumping into a high school friend and her telling me how good a book Dead to the World is and then reading the back cover and realising that it was filled with lots of Eric then I just had to read it without delay.

    Dead to the World is your usual fun romp that the Southern Vampire Mysteries usually offer. Boring, dodgy (now ex-)boyfriend Bill hardly gets a look in while the far more interesting Eric gets the chance to shine and showcase an entirely different side of his character. (In fact, sending Bill over seas was probably a convenient way to make sure that he doesn't step in on Sookie/Eric time.) It will be very interesting to see in the next book the effects of how Sookie and Eric's relationship developed while he had amnesia. (Amnesia plot lines sound so soap-opera...) We get to see Alcide again, who still gets my vote as best boyfriend material out of Sookie's potential choices. Previously I had complained about Sookie getting too many admirers too easily. She does acquire another in Dead to the World but he is not a character right up in the forefront of the storytelling all the time so it's not so bad.

    I found myself genuinely concerned about the fate of Jason but to be perfectly honest I don't know if my investment in the character is due to Harris's writing of him and his loss or because we got to see so much more of him in the televised version of the novels, True Blood...

    The way Charlaine Harris chose to represent Wiccans was also extremely disappointing. I read the acknowledgements at the beginning of the book before I began to read the actual story. She goes on about thanking the Wiccans who helped her to do her research and names a few specifically so my interest was definitely piqued and I hoped for a well informed portrayal. What I got instead was a character who suddenly became anorexic, decided to spike her hair and die it black, and get multiple piercing in her ears to fit a supposed Wiccan image who goes on to give an awkward and ill informed definition of the religion of Wicca. Sigh. If Harris wanted to include witches in her supernatural entourage then that is perfectly fine by me but if this is the result of her supposed research then she should have left the religion aspect out of it. Maybe her intentions were good. She may have have been trying to use Wicca to introduce nice witches so that she couldn't be interpreted as labelling witches as bad people as there are people who practice witchcraft in real life but this just came out terribly by making them look like wanna-be goths instead. (Not meaning to insult any goths who may happen to be reading this.)

    After meeting our supposedly Wiccan friend, Holly, Sookie comes out with this little doozy of a line:

    "Our little Town of Bon Temps had stretched it's gates open wide enough to tolerate vampires, and gay people didn't have a very hard time of it anymore (kind of depending on how they expressed their sexual preference). However, I thought the gates might snap shut on Wiccans."

    Does anyone else find that line to be a bit of a "what the?" moment? I mean, seeing as the only "flamboyantly gay" man Sookie has mentioned to have lived in Bon Temps was horribly murdered just a couple of books ago that doesn't bode well for the gay community in Bon Temps. Makes you worry for the Wiccans seeing as the only thing that she seems to directly imply as being wrong with them is that they aren't practising a Christian denomination.

    There was finally a bit of dialogue telling us about the fate of the culprit in Dead Until Dark. (As I have previously mentioned, I like a bit of follow up.) It was with some of the policemen and the way everyone discussed it you would think that Sookie had nothing to do with the arrest, knew nothing of his conviction, and didn't even know his name.

    I also sometimes feel that Harris let's the whole telepath thing fall too far to the wayside. It's a constant part of Sookie and she has to consciously keep it in check but she didn't mention much. Here it mostly came up as a device to involve Sookie in the battle at the end where she otherwise had no place attending. Sookie did once again refer to it as her disability which might be credited as the result of no Bill around to talk it up as being her gift.

    The book was still enjoyable but I don't think it was too well thought out. You may want to switch your brain off while reading this one lest the little details start to annoy you.


  6. Never Slow Dance with a Zombie by E. Van Lowe

    Wednesday, September 16, 2009

    Margot had sworn to herself that she would make high school a much better experience than junior high had been. She and her best friend, Sybil, had together carefully planned the perfect high school career. However, three years into high school and Margot is still yet to achieve any of the goals outlined in her manifesto. She a Sybil aren't popular, they don't go to cool parties, and they don't have boyfriends.

    Then one day Margot and Sybil go to school as usual only to find that their fellow students have become zombies. Sense memory seems to compel the zombie students and teachers to attend school as normal. Principal Taft urges the girls to coexist with zombies and continue attending school for the rest of the semester as though everything were perfectly normal. Being the only two living students left in the school, the girls realise that this is their opportunity to live out their manifesto and become the it-girls of Salesian High.

    I don't think that I've ever read a zombie book before that I would call cute but there is a first time for everything. Never Slow Dance with a Zombie makes for easy, light hearted reading.

    In some ways, I suppose you can say that NSDWAZ can be called Mean Girls meets Dawn of the Dead. The focus of the story, though, is more on the path to becoming a Queen Bee and the ugliness that it can bring out in a person. How far would you go to become the it-girl? Would you lie? Hurt your best friend? Take advantage of the mindless zombie state of your crush and make him be your boyfriend? In exploring the it-girl theme I thought that a number of cliché themes were also used but this didn't necessarily detract from the book. They were used, for example, to set up the tension between Margot and Amanda Culpepper, Queen Bee at Salesian High.

    Being set in an American high school, the book also addresses cliques and that people should socialise outside their set social groups. I always find cliques weird to read about as part of the student experience. Maybe it's because Australian public schools mostly have uniforms, or because we don't have such large student populations in our schools, but I never experienced such defined cliques. Oh, sure, there were people who were popular or athletic or nerdy and we had a few people that were into punk in my grade, but they didn't divide themselves into social groups and shun others who didn't fit in. I remember someone once actually getting offended when she was called popular because of the stereotype it implies!

    I quite liked Margot and how E. Van Lowe has channelled a teenage girl. I liked Margot's attitude towards herself and her body image, that she could admit that she was not skinny but still call herself cute and dress in flattering clothing. I thought that opening with her application cover letter to a college was a nice opening and I loved her sick letters that she forged from her parents to get out of P.E. Oh, how I too hated phys ed.

    Never Slow Dance with a Zombie is a cute and quirky approach to both the zombie genre and the high school experience. I have seen some mixed reviews for this one but if you are looking for a light hearted, easy read to relax and have a little chuckle over this one is worth a try.

    You can also go to the author's website to check out lots of extras such as his blog (including an aleternate/deleted scence!), Margot's blog, contests, and more.

    Thanks again go to Velvet for the signed copy.


  7. Excuses, Excuses, Excuses!

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009

    I have a confession to make. As I mentioned, the other week I was pretty flat out. When things slowed down again I made the big mistake of sitting down and playing a video game to relax. A terribly mindless yet shockingly addictive game. Yes, it is true. Over the past week the reason I disappeared is because I have been playing The Sims 3. Don't ask me how or why, but there is something terribly addictive about controlling little pixel people as they go about their daily lives doing the things that you are supposed to be doing in real life instead. Yeah. Absolutely shameful.

    In other news, the Zombie Bag o'Goodies that I won from the Zombie Challenge arrived this morning. A massive thank you to Velvet for the prize and for running such a great challenge. How awesome is this?

    Seeing as the t-shirt is a large and hence quite big on me, it has now been designated as my new favourite to wear to bed. =D

    My review for Never Slow Dance with a Zombie will probably be up tomorrow. So far it's a great book. In the next couple of days I also hope to get up some other long overdue reviews as well.


  8. District 9

    Wednesday, September 9, 2009

    I finally managed to go see District 9 yesterday and boy am I glad that I did. Directed by Neill Blomkamp and produced by Peter Jackson, District 9 is adapted from a short film that Blomkamp made in 2005, titled Alive in Joburg. The film is inspired by Apartheid, particularly District 6 of Cape Town. I've tried to say my piece about this film hopefully without giving away too much for those yet to see it.

    District 9 gives us an alternative history where, in 1982, a large alien spaceship stops above Johannesburg, South Africa. After three months of simply hovering, we humans force our way in to discover a malnourished population of extraterrestrials stranded on board. These alien creatures, given the derrogatory name of prawns, are taken from their craft and housed in a government camp called District 9, which soon becomes a slum. Fast forward to the year 2010 and the government has hired a private military contractor, Multinational United (MNU), to handle the policing and relocation on the alien population to a new camp. Wikus van de Merwe (played by Sharlto Copley) is a MNU agent assigned to lead the operation, starting with giving eviction notices to the alien residents. During this process, Wikus is injured and exposed to a strange black liquid. He later falls ill from the exposure and is taken to hospital where it is discovered that the substance is altering his DNA. All the alien technology is tied in with their biology, making it inoperable to humans, and Wikus has just made himself the key to gaining human access to alien weaponry.

    The film opens with a sequence of documentary footage and interviews but does not remain in this format. However, when it does break away from it, they do continue to use "shaky cam." While the camera work has been compared to that of Cloverfield, the majority of the film is not from the perspective of a hand held camera. Rather, the shaky nature of the camera work has been used to add to the gritty realness of the film. Some people have complained of experiencing motion sickness. I did not have any problems with the shakiness and was surprised that it was enough to make people feel sick, to be honest.

    As good science-fiction does, District 9 has us explore the nature of humanity, drawing the conclusion that we are a pretty horrible lot. We are unnaccepting of others and their differences. We are cruel and we are greedy. We are selfish and care little for others that or not like us. Being intolerable of alien culture, we have them take human names. This intolerance is further reflected in that we never learn the name by which the alien race calls themselves, only ever hearing them referred to as "prawns" and "non-humans". The alien population that was rescued are overall unintelligent, believed to be a manual workforce that lost it's leadership in the events that lead to them being stuck on Earth. (This, presumably, explains the lack of resistance to the way they are treated by humans.)

    Wikus, the main character, starts off pretty unlikable. He is bumbling, foolish, and naïve. Like the rest of his co-workers at MNU, he doesn't see the alien lives as having the same worth as human lives. He has a hut of alien eggs set ablaze and, seemingly enjoying the slaughter, comments how the burning young crackle and pop like corn. When he is being hunted by MNU and the government he seeks refuge in District 9 and selfishly places his own condition above the suffering of an entire race of beings on Earth. It is only as he is becoming more alien that he begins to develop likeable qualities, learning to be self-sacrificing and connecting with the alien, Christopher and urging him to survive for his young son.

    Christopher Johnson, on the other hand, being an alien with apparently higher intelligence than what is average among those trapped on Earth, is by far the most likeable character in the movie. He is a loving father to his son and seeking a way to return his people home. I thought that a great job was put into giving his character depth, and enjoyed watching the emotions on his face and in his eyes.

    I have seen some people call this movie racist due to the representation of African people but that wasn't the vibe that I got from this. Not only did I find it refreshing that this movie was not set in the United States (with humour they mention how, much to our surprise, the aliens did not sail their ship over Washington or New York) and I think that it would have lost it's impact if it was. There is a Nigerian gang in the movie that is exploiting the alien population and stockpiling alien weaponry but again, I would like to point out that there are no particularly likeable humans in this movie to say that any race is being shown favour. The Nigerian Warlord is disabled and confined to a wheelchair. He has turned to superstition to seek alien strength and power. The Warlord and his followers are just another example of human cruelty and selfishness, willing to see others suffer to achieve their means and placing their own survival above that of others.

    District 9 is a great look into Xenophobia, segregation, and stereotyping and I definitely recommend it. It's not all hardcore social commentary either, there is a fair good balance of action including explosions, a mecha, and guns that make people go splat! It is all the more impressive to hear that Copely improved a great many of his lines. Also, all of the shacks in the District 9 slum were real shacks in Johannesburg from which the residents were being evacuated by the government to be moved to better housing, mirroring the events which take place in the movie.

    Check out the trailer below!


  9. What's on the Bookshelf

    Monday, September 7, 2009

    Okay, What's on the Bookshelf will officially be on Monday's. I know I said Fridays but I decided that I like Monday's better. Just because.

    A friend let me borrow some books to read and I really have hung on to them for far too long. So, by posting them here on the Bookshelf, I officially promise to finish them asap! Last week proved to be a pretty busy one for me and I am sure that people noticed that while I squeezed in some hit and run posts for the Zombie Challenge, I didn't get much reviewing done. Time to pull up my socks, methinks.

    Coming up we have:
    Shadows in the Darkness by Elaine Cunningham

    Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski

    The Demon Awakens by R.A. Salvatore

    And of course...

    Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder

    Even though the Zombie Challenge is now over, I also may try to post up my reviews of World War Z and The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks.


  10. Geek Survival Guide hosted by Zach Ricks

    Saturday, September 5, 2009

    I decided that the Zombie Challenge is the perfect opportunity to introduce everyone to my favourite podcast.

    If you are a geek who plans on surviving vampires taking over your town, werewolves in the woods behind your house, homicidal maniacs who just don't die, the invasion of aliens who first impregnate you with a human/alien hybrid, the inevitable zombie uprising, bad movies, or just being the poor unfortunate in the red shirt then the Geek Survival Guide Podcast is for you.

    All the way back in 2006 we were gifted with our first lesson in geek survival. Listening to this first episode of Geek Survival Guide will teach you some of the important basics of zombie survival. For example. how do you identify a zombie? Ricks suggests that you try tossing a Twinkie. If they go for the Twinkie they are human. If they lunge for you then it is time to contact your local chapter of the Zombie Squad.

    So, say you have positively identified a zombie. The flesh craving shambler is dragging itself towards you moaning for your brains - what do you do? As he reminds us when it comes to self-defence: You are not a ninja. Also, memorise this mantra: Head shot. Head shot. Head shot.

    I highly recommend this podcast. It is the only podcast that I properly follow. Ricks will both entertain you and save your geeky little life all the while putting on his best host voice which sounds absolutely fantastic and most certainly gives to the shows individual edge. Some of my favourite episodes would have to be Daikaijuu, Surviving the Loss of a Beloved TV Show (Firefly, Tru Calling, and BSG D=<), Raising an Alien/Human Hybid, Working for a Super Villian, Bad Movie BINGO Redux, and... oh, heck! I have truely enjoyed all of his episodes. You can follow and download GSG on Rick's Blogger or you can subscribe via iTunes.


  11. Lemonade Award

    Friday, September 4, 2009

    Over the last couple of days, whenever I sit down to try and make a post, something comes up. Finally I would like to thank Faye for this Lemonade Award. Everyone should go check out her blog, The Rambling Teenage Bookworm, for some great reviews. It is now with great pleasure that I pass along this award to ten other bloggers who "show great attitude or gratitude".

    Books and Things

    Find the Time to Read
    Trisha's Book Blog
    The Book Pixie
    Becky's Book Reviews
    Accio Brain!
    What Book Is That?
    The Reckless Reader
    My Overstuffed Bookshelf
    Good Books and Good Wine


  12. At this rate, I am never going to recover from the case of warm fuzzies I have head ever since last Tuesday. This award has been bestowed upon me by Rachy (Parajunkee). She runs a great blog and has a super cute layout. Go check it out!

    Now I get the joy of passing this award along to...

    BEAUTIFUL Feed Your Imagination
    INFORMATIVE A BookLover's Diary
    NEIGHBOURLY vvb32 Reads
    GORGEOUS All About {n}
    OUTSTANDING The Neverending Shelf

    And Bingo was his name-oh!


  13. Bob Hope, Democrats, and Zombies! Oh My!

    Wednesday, September 2, 2009

    The video pretty much speaks for itself but I simply couldn't let Zombie Week pass by without digging this little gem up.

    For anyone wondering, this is a clip from the 1940 movie The Ghost Breakers.


  14. If you are interested in helping others, survivalism, and, most importantly, zombies, then the Zombie Squad is the website for you. The Zombie Squad is a community with a mission to help educate people about the importance of personal preparedness, self reliance, and to help you to be prepared to take on any disaster, whether it be an earthquake, flooding, terrorism, or, yes, even a zombie apocalypse.

    "We want to make sure you are prepared for any crisis situation that might come along in your daily life which may include having your face eaten by the formerly deceased."

    A paid membership will earn you:
    • An official ZS photo ID badge with your ZS membership number
    • Your own email that forwards to your current email address!
    • Your picture will be displayed on our site for the world to see (optional)
    • Access to a special "members only" forum on the ZS boards where you can network with other ZS members
    • Invitation to select "members only" ZS events and special merchandise offers
    • You can participate in the Volunteers Award Program and get lots of cool free stuff just for volunteering your time
    • You'll know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if the undead attack, we've got your brains covered
    I would pay fifteen dollars a year just so I could have a badge that I can show people saying that I am an official member of the Zombie Squad. Just think of how useful it could be! When the undead rise, no matter how annoying you may be, you will be the last person that the members of your ragtag group of survivors conspire to kill off as you have a badge that tells them that you, and only you, are the only person there qualified to keep them alive.

    But most importantly, Zombie Squad also supports other local and international disaster relief organizations/charities, helping people who's lives have been struck by disasters.

    The Zombie Squad website and forums provides lot's of useful information to help you survive any disaster that may befall you. For example, do you know what you should put in your BOB? Do you even have a BOB? Do you know what a BOB is? No!? Then read this Zombie Squad information brochure to find out! Quick! Then when you are done, print it off and give it to all your friends. To think that the world as you know it could end anytime now and you aren't even ready! Tsk, tsk.


  15. Imagine that you are in your car when you see a small horde of zombies shambling towards you. What do you do? Do you:
    A) Drive away fast?
    B) Attempt to run them over?
    C)Leave your car and attempt to escape on foot?

    According to the band Naked Ape, the correct answer is D) None of the above. Instead of fleeing for your life, park your car and make yourself comfortable. These zeds don't want to eat your brains. Oh, no. They just want to wash your car.

    (Anyone who is put off by the concept of a scantily clad zombie ladies getting soaped up while washing a car may not be inclined to hit play.)

    It turns out that not even the zombie economy is not doing too great at the moment either, prompting some of these zombie ladies to seek out a second job. They wash cars by day and by night they... pole dance? But be careful. Zombies that work hard also bite hard.


  16. To kick off my contribution to the Zombie Challenge, I am going to share with everyone some free to play, online, browser based games that I once invested many hours into playing. It is rather strange that games that are relatively visually unstimulating and played on a grid map would be so addictive. But I suspect that anyone who has a good imagination and likes to develop characters and play with a community or perhaps once enjoyed good ol' text adventure games and the like could have an absolute ball with these.

    Urban Dead was created four years ago by Kevan Davis. Enter the city of Malton where you will either exist as a human, struggling to survive the undead outbreak, or as one of the undead, hungering for the flesh of the living. One might strongly suspect that the NecroTech company is behind the unfortunate turn of events that has overcome Malton. You receive fifty action points over 25 hours with which to explore the city and to fight for your life (or to take the lives of others).

    Citizens of Malton will find that, regardless of what their preferred status may be, there are going to be a number of occasions where you will die, nom on some brains, be revived by a living ally when you happen to shamble past a revive point moaning in undead misery, return to the living only at some point grow curious as to whether or not jumping out of a building window will really kill you. Splat. The whole cycle starts again.

    Like Urban Dead, Christopher Wolf's Hell Rising takes place in a city that has been over run by the undead. Only in Hell Rising the stakes are raised by the inclusion of vampires to the list of what type of character you can play. In both games malls tend to be hot spots of activity. Humans huddle inside after using up all their action points after looting the shops for baseball bats, first aid kits, and alcohol while the vampires and zombie hoards tear at the barricades outside to get to the living within.

    You can join a group of other players in both games. It is a good idea, especially for newer players, as a group can help you learn the ropes and increase your chances of living. When coordinating attacks, more seasoned human players might leave the kills for the newer players, while the experienced undead might volunteer to tear down the barricades so that their newly undead brethren might lead the charge inside and claim the EXP. Long time players will find that after maxing out their skills they can accumulate thousands of extra experience points while waiting for new skills to be released. Beware also of TKers (team killers). These devious murderers will turn on their own side without so much as a second thought. Indeed, you may encounter entire groups dedicated to killing their own kind as well as the bounty hunter groups who hunt them.

    Both games also have detailed Wikis to help new players learn their way around the game. You will also find within these Wikis pages detailing the lives of significant characters, character diaries, group histories, and major attacks and battles that have taken place such as at Caiger Mall. Players will even create their own events, such as when the zombie hoarde takes off for a Mall Tour. Even player created businesses have a place. Raising a family in Malton? Take the kids down to McZeds for a Malty Meal complete with a free toy! At MickyZs they take great pride in serving only the freshest corpses to you and your family! In this way, the story of the game is very much written by the characters we add to it and what we have them do.

    You can have multiple characters in both games, (or alts, as they tend to be called,) but are not allowed to have any of your characters working together. There are also no NPCs (non-player characters) in either game.

    I don't play very often anymore but I've played with some great people and encountered some great characters in these games that they will always hold a special place in my little geeky heart. If you ever encounter in Urban Dead Scarlet Rowan, Ava Ridley, or find someone called Cheshire Kat chewing on your arm then that is me. By all means, say a friendly hello before taking a swing at me with your trusty fire axe. Likewise, if you ever find one Winter Devalos sipping on your blood as you wander Twilight City then I thank you in advance for the donation. ;-)


  17. Zombie Challenge

    Tuesday, September 1, 2009

    Late onto the band wagon as I usually am, the Zombie Challenge commenced today. As a fan of all things zombie I couldn't just let this event pass me by.

    This challenge has been set up to tie in with Zombie Week.

    Keep an eye out over the next couple of days for some posts containing some good ol' grr, arg, braaaiiinsss fun!

  18. I am sure that many of you have noticed the trend as of late to publish or republish books with covers that echo that of Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. I am going to be completely honest and say that I do not like the Twilight books. I won't go in to detail here seeing as if I were going to do so, I would post a proper review analysing the books.

    Anyway, here are just a couple of examples of what I am talking about:

    Yup, both these covers mimic the red, black, and white colour scheme of the Twilight books but also a flower to be likened to the New Moon cover. There is also no missing that both editions have the words "Bella and Edward's favourite book" stamped on them along with the phrase "Love never dies..."

    Then there is the Vampire Beach series. I haven't read this series but I didn't mind the old covers. They looked like they would make a nice colourful patch on a bookshelf and contributed to the novel nature of the concept of vampires on a beach. At the moment I think that many a YA reader's bookshelf must be threatening to turn into a wall of black. Such is the case with the new rereleases of Vampire Beach:

    Then there is my current love, the Study Series by Maria V. Snyder:

    At least these editions are not all red, black, and white but the allusion to Twilight is there with the glossy image over a black background and the novel title in lower case, raised white lettering. The Study Series has some really nice cover sets. I only ended up purchasing this set (which is the Australian set of covers) as I was able to get them cheap, otherwise I had planned to buy a different set online, such as this one:

    The same goes for the Australian covers of Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth and it's upcoming sequel The Dead-Tossed Waves.

    Again, I prefer the other covers available. I think that they carry the tone of the series better.

    There is also a new cover for Valiant out. Poor Holly Black.

    More books that I think have covers that are part of this trend:

    There are a stack more out there but I am not going to spend the time and space listing them all when I am sure that everyone has probably spotted them about. If I think of any later that I haven't included that I think of are significance then I will come back and put them up. I'll put up the rest of the Australian Study Series covers for anyone interested as soon as I can find an image of them.

    So, why do I even care about this? Oh, I know that we have all been told "don't judge a book by it's cover" but in truth it is really easy to find yourself doing. In this case, these book covers are telling me what audience they want to attract. As someone who really doesn't like Twilight I look at these covers and receive the message that these books are for Twilight fans. It can be very off putting. However, by fortunately putting aside the first impressions that they give, I have been able to find some really good books wrapped up in some of these "Twilightish" covers. Furthermore, I feel that some of these books being wrapped up to look like Twilight are nothing even like Twilight to be marketing it to that exact same audience. If you want the series to get good reviews and for the sequels to sell then isn't it better to target the kind of audience who usually read and like that type of book? Is merely being a Young Adult novel these days enough for it to be likened to Twilight? Is this is why I do not work in marketing?

    Also, some interesting cases of the publishers not looking around to see if anyone was already using the stock image that they had selected:

    If I am correct, De Beproeving by Tess Franke was published a few months before the Host.

    Also this:

    I could be wrong but I think that Twilight existed before this edition.

    Who knows, that little tid bit of information might come in useful to someone ever doing trivia or something of the like and have to name two books with the exact same covers. Or maybe not...


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