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Adira Rotstein "Scifi Degby" RSS Feed (Toronto)

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Lord Blackburn's Treasure (The Angel Employment Agency Series Book 1)
Lord Blackburn's Treasure (The Angel Employment Agency Series Book 1)
Price: $2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, February 23, 2015
A lovely romance!

Disney Nemo Rug
Disney Nemo Rug
Price: $28.03
3 used & new from $28.03

5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, January 27, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Disney Nemo Rug (Baby Product)
This rug is so cute and is good quality!

The Rook: A Novel
The Rook: A Novel
by Daniel O'Malley
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.67
56 used & new from $5.14

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Checkmate!, August 12, 2013
This review is from: The Rook: A Novel (Paperback)
The Rook by Daniel O'Malley
Review by Adira Rotstein

"The Rook" is without a doubt the most compulsively readable book I have read in ages. I literally could not put it down. I felt like I absorbed it rather than read it! Each chapter crackled with suspense and page-turning power. I remember reading books in this way as a child and teenager, eagerly racing from one surprise and tantalizing mystery to the next, only coming up briefly to eat dinner or go to bed. It's been a long time since a grown-up book managed to capture my attention in the same way keeping me riveted to the page until the very end. Kudos to Mr. O'Malley for achieving what I believed impossible in my life as an adult reader.
The first scene in the book is one of the best examples I can think of from recent fiction of hooking the reader right off the bat with an irresistible mystery. Myfanwy Thomas wakes up in the middle of a London park, suffering from amnesia and surrounded by the dead bodies of dozens of people wearing latex gloves. She knows she is Myfanwy Thomas, because of a letter from her pre-amnesia self in her pocket indicating that she knew this would happen and that she was betrayed by one of her associates. It turns out Myfanwy Thomas, before amnesia, was a shy, mousy woman with a talent for administration and planning, one that extended to the amnesia and horrible danger that she knew were coming for her. To this end, the pre-amnesia Myfanwy left a number of letters to her post-amnesia self that provide some of the most touching parts of the novel.
And how, you may wonder did Myfanwy know she would lose her memory in advance? Well, it just so happens that Myfanwy is a highly placed member of Britain's Supernatural Secret Service, an organization known as the Checquy.
Apparently, our world is constantly beset by supernatural threats and magical monsters that regular human police and armies cannot deal with. Hundreds of years ago the Checquy, was formed. Part of the organization's mandate is to identify and acquire all people in the UK with supernatural abilities and train them in the use of these abilities into becoming crack operatives for the Checquy. It is a wide ranging organization with many employees, including "retainers" who have no powers at all. However, only humans with powers can ascend to the highest ranks of the Checquy, which are named after the pieces on the chessboard. Myfanwy discovers she is a "Rook" in this organization. She has a power that allows her to psychically control the vital systems of other people when she touches them. She can hack into anyone's nervous system, an ability that is delved into with great imagination by the author as he throws Myfanwy into a variety of bizarre scenarios.
The pre-amnesia Myfanwy showed great promise when her talent first appeared at age 9, and the Checquy was eager to turn her into a super spy. However, part of the Checquy training involves permenantly removing children from their ordinary families. In a critique of the unconsciously pro-boarding school attitude of the Harry Potter books, it turns out that the trauma Myfanwy experienced in being taken from her family by the Checquy, induced a lifelong hesitancy to use her powers. The pre-amnesia Myfanwy was always too afraid of her power and what it could do to other people to get close to anyone. Instead of being the super-spy the Checquy hoped for, she rose to her rank in the organization due to her genius at organization. With no family or social life to speak of she was a workaholic. Some of the most interesting portions in the book, deal with the surprise of some of her pompous colleauges, who kept in the dark about what happened to her, are shocked by her assertive, carefree behavior. Determined to find out who is trying to kill her and why her memory was erased Myfanwy reaches out to her loyal secretary Ingrid, Shantay, a refreshing American colleague and her newly discovered sister Brigid.

As a female reader I nearly cheered. One of the things that was so refreshing about this book was that the author didn't feel he needed to include some superfluous romantic subplot in the story just because of the protagonist's gender. In science fiction and fantasy there are surprisingly few depictions of positive relationships between adult female characters that are true friendships, rather than competitions revolving around men. Then there is the distressingly common practice of relegating the women completely off the page ("The Hobbit" I'm looking at you), or sidelining them as colourless romantic distractions for the protagonist. I can't remember the last time I read a book or saw a film that prominently featured a female friendship based on their shared employment and their work as a team in the same occupational space, yet that's how most women I know make friends in this day and age. So often authors feel the need to "balance things" when female main characters are involved by adding a male supporting character to keep the male reader interested. "The Rook" proves this technique unnecessary. This book provides is an excellent argument that a fascinating, colourful, well-motivated character will always be compulsively readable no matter what sex that character is.

As Myfanwy is introduced to the organization of the Checquy, so are we as readers. The exposition provided by the pre-amnesiac Myfanwy's letters never weighs the story down and is often funny and entertaining. Current day Myfanwy investigates the different members of the Checquy trying to retrace her predecessor's steps. Soon it becomes clear to her that the "Grafters" a group of Belgian alchemist-scientists are behind the new wave of mischief washing over the UK. Instead of finding and honing the talents of people born with supernatural powers, the Grafters create super-powered monstrosities through their manipulation of biological matter-- grafting super-powered organs onto non-powered humans to create disgusting biological weapons. One of these biological weapons is provides one of the most stomach turning passages in the novel. It is a flesh creature that absorbs other human beings, dissolves parts of their bodies with stomach acid within itself and then repurposes parts of their brains, bones and musculature into making itself bigger. The episode involving this repulsive thing was a somewhat discursive part of the narrative and as it was completely disgusting and highly disturbing, I personally could have done without it. In fact, my only complaint with the book was that some of the passages involving the Grafters' creations were so disgusting.

Some of the humour in the book brought on favourable comparisons to other science fiction and fantasy humourists like Jasper Fforde and Douglas Adams (why are they all British?). There are some excellent comic descriptions in the book. The part with the future forecasting duck in particular caused me to laugh out loud.

I read in the author's interview at the back of the book that this is the first book in what will be a series, and I am definitely looking forward to the next instalment if it as absorbing as the first. I am hoping that in the next book the post-amnesia Myfanwy will continue to grow as a character. Right now she is often reacts through instinctive, as befits someone who is brand new to life in the world, without the hang-ups born of trauma and mistakes. Her life is constantly under threat and she fights back through her ingrained combat training and instinctive use of her powers. While she lacks the extensive emotional baggage that hampered her previous self, I do find that these little "weaknesses" are important in helping to humanize and endear a character to the reader. Perhaps this is why I found myself warming slightly more to the doomed, anxiety-prone pre-amnesia Myfanwy than to her more assertive, butt-kicking descendent.

I find it interesting that while the dangers besetting the world are identified by the Checquy as "supernatural" their main antagonists, the Grafters, seem more science fiction in character, like some GMO biotech firm run amock. I have noticed a recent trend in some fantastic fiction critically categorized under "the New Weird" label; There seems to be an increased fascination/horror with the intricacies of biological organisms and artificial hybridization. Often these depictions seem steeped in disgust and aversion, focusing on the less appealing of the bodily processes. Or perhaps it is just the over-saturation of the fiction and film marketplace with zombie depictions has raised the public appetite/tolerance for such things. Hard to tell. No matter what the reason, it is evident to me that robots and aliens as the main agents of terror in science fiction are being joined and possibly replaced by a terror of the "composite creature" or artificial hybrid.

The Art and Feel of Making it Real: Gesture Drawing for the Animation and Entertainment Industry
The Art and Feel of Making it Real: Gesture Drawing for the Animation and Entertainment Industry
by Mark McDonnell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $44.50
17 used & new from $6.00

5.0 out of 5 stars FANTASTIC!, April 29, 2013
This is the best animation/illustration figure drawing with gestures book you will ever find! Using his figure poses has really stepped up my drawing game a huge notch. Thanks!

Creative ZEN Style M100 4 GB MP3 and Video Player (Black/White)
Creative ZEN Style M100 4 GB MP3 and Video Player (Black/White)

1.0 out of 5 stars User un-friendly, September 4, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This product works but is super user unfriendly. First of all if you have audible you cannot download audible files onto the music player from iTunes or on a Mac. You can only download audible into this player with a PC. Otherwise the player can't decode the aa files.

On another note the player is very touch sensitive. If you even brush it slightly on the screen it changes the file. It is also impossible to skip from section to section in a very long audio file. This part doesn't work. Also, it always starts up from the menu, not the audio file you just left, so you have to go through the menu and a few submenus to get back to your audio file that you were just listening to. It is hard to navigate just by touch. You have to actually look at it to change it to what you want. Not so good if you are using it while biking or while driving a car.

The Zen X-Fi Style that I used to have was a much superior product and so was the old CreativeMuvo.

At least the sound quality it is good.

The Beautiful and Damned
The Beautiful and Damned
by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Edition: Paperback
Price: $7.95
46 used & new from $0.95

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, January 14, 2009
I have never read a book quite like this. It was written in 1922 supposedly, yet feels unbelievably modern. It's funny and sardonic and heartbreaking and very very real. The way Fitzgerald observes his world, in such ripely vivid and specific detail, with little overly portentious and self-aware "symbolism" makes it seem like you could reach out and touch it. Fitzgerald's flair for capturing people, both in their best and worst selves, his uncanny self-knowledge, his ability to understand and beautifully elucidate the problems of his group, while caught so inexplicably and fatally in their grasp is incredible. Anthony and Gloria are true originals, although I believe they are highly based on Scott and his wife Zelda. One of the things I really liked about this book is that it lacks the polish and spareness of Gatsby although that is one of my favourite books too. The characters are really allowed to breath in this novel and if the plot is rambling at times, it is nonetheless compulsively readable.
The amazing thing about this book is that Anthony and Gloria should, on the surface be completely unsympathetic characters. They are rich, trust fund kids who are excellent at partying and spending money and terrible at the practicalities of making money and unprepared for the practical business of being adults. Yet their Fitzgerald never looks down his nose or laughs at them and even through what might seem like inexcusable behaviour I never lost my attachment for either character.
Some of these reviews I've read here condemn Fitzgerald for moralizing with this book, that the whole message of it is "to do something with your life." Yet I don't think that's it at all. Basically in the book we have two characters who are deeply in love with each other and formed partly by their innate natures and partly by the way they were raised to be unsuited to the business of work and practical life. Yes, the characters are at fault, but Fitzgerald subtly indicates that part of the fault is American society itself, with its ridiculous military traditions, elevation of banality to a high art (the inspid "Heart Talks" pamphlets) and the hypocracsy of the great "moral reformer" who would cut his only heir out of his will for drinking. Gloria is an amazing character, a marvel of specificity and close observation. I love her because she is quite unappolagetically herself. A woman who as wretched as she may be at times is perfectly comfortable in her own skin and feels no need to bend to the "proper female image" of her time. While she is selfish and cruel at times, there isn't a malicious thing about her. If they are both snobs, well they freely admit it. The only thing I dislike is the ending, which I find doesn't quite do the complex Anthony justice and is not really realistic in terms of the character's mental health. Fitzgerald reveals his own flawed soul on the page with such honesty. Never before have I read of a relationship that felt so real to me, that is reflected on with such honesty and generosity of spirit. Fitzgerald was truly a master of his art and I am only sorry he was underappreciated in his time.

Jewel (Oprah's Book Club)
Jewel (Oprah's Book Club)
by Bret Lott
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
260 used & new from $0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Jewel not such a Jewel, September 6, 2007
I found the main character Jewel Hillburn to be the only fully realized member of the family in the book and she was manipulative, judgemental and annoyingly prim as well. I never really got a feel for any of the other children in the book. Also, they all seemed so perfectly well behaved, no one ever getting into any serious sort of trouble and not really having any conversations with the mother either. Another thing that kind of disturbed me, was for a book ostensibly about the main characters love of her mentally disabled daughter, Brenda Kay, the down syndrome daughter shows no real character or personality. Also, we never really see Jewel have any fun with Brenda Kay. Her relationship with her daughter is seen as one big sacrifice after another. Brenda Kay just comes across as annoying. I have worked with mentally disabled young people and find this is far from the truth. They each have their own distinct personalities as much as anyone else does. However Brenda Kay comes across as completely one dimensional.
About the only story I found really compelling in the book was that of Jewel's mother and grandmother, but that story ended after the beginning.
I definately saw the influence of "The Grapes of Wrath" on the book as well.

The Tortilla Curtain
The Tortilla Curtain
by T. Coraghessan Boyle
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.53
531 used & new from $0.01

8 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not an accurate depiction of Topanga, July 10, 2007
This review is from: The Tortilla Curtain (Paperback)
Many people have already mentioned the lack of characterization in this book and the way Boyle uses the people in this story as symbols rather than actual well rounded human beings, as well as his tendency to overwrite, describing a single event with two or more contradictory similes.

However, no has as yet discussed the fact that the depiction of Topanga Canyon in the book is a complete fabrication, leaving me to wonder if the author has ever actually been to Topanga Canyon at all. I have spent a lot of time there over the years and would like to say that there are no gated or ungated subdivisions in the actual Topanga Canyon. The Canyon community consists of individual houses, precariously built into a wild forested valley along Topanga Canyon Boulevard which winds its way for miles and miles through the Topanga mountains, alongside Topanga State Park. It would be impossible to build a housing development in this area because there is not enough flat land to do so. It is sort of like a little hippie village in the mountains. You would never know you are twenty minutes from LA there as everyone goes around in super casual comfortable clothes, unlike the characters in the novel, and rainboots because it is often muddy in all seasons except summer. The people I met in Topanga are by and large later day hippy freethinkers, older surfers, proffesors, musicians, actors, part-time pot growers and the complete opposite of the brand name and status obsessed people of the story. There are people with money there, but you would never think it by the way people act or dress and some of the cars you see around. Topanga is actually probably one of the safest and most tolerant communities in America. I didn't see any mention of Topanga Days, the Topanga Festival or the Topanga parade in the book, which is kind of like a small, better organized Woodstock, all of which are very big deals for a true Topangite or the problems of frequent rocks slides, roads washed out by mud or rain in the winter and the threat of brush fires in summer.

I realize that Boyle's aim in creating the book was to show the wide gap between the standards of living of illegal Mexican immigrants and the wealthy whites in Southern California, however his false depiction of Topanga Canyon detracts from the realism of his book and unfairly tars a wonderful community with a very nasty brush.

Nightmare of You
Nightmare of You
51 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lush Imagery, January 28, 2006
This review is from: Nightmare of You (Audio CD)
Wow! I was totally blown away by this. People complain the lyrics don't make sense-- but it's poetry, I mean check out TS Elliot's poems for chris sake. And hello-- about the mispronounciations-- those are done to fit the rhyme-- it's a time honored tradition

The imagery these songs conjure in my mind is so fascinating, exotic and wonderfully visual, NOY are just awesome, they can sing and play there instruments and the lyrics aren't just some mass produced studio BS. Keep up the good work

The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings
by Brian Sibley
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $63.00
82 used & new from $28.30

11 of 70 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars ENOUGH ALREADY!, September 3, 2005
This review is from: The Lord of the Rings (Hardcover)
The first time I read Lord of the Rings as a child I liked it. Nice poems, cool chase through Mordor and Saruman, Gollum and the Ents were pretty nifty.

Look, all you writers out there: All fantasy books don't have to be set in some pseudo-medieval European setting where everyone is remarkably clean, healthy and odor-free despite a distinct lack of basic sanitation devices.

I acknowledge that this book was revolutionary forty years ago, but the world has changed since then and our writing could stand to reflect that.

Not that Lord of the Rings is a bad book-- it's not-- but not everything about it is so unquestionably wonderful.

First off: The ending sucks. I still haven't figured out what Haven is meant to be, (Heaven?) and why Frodo and the elves had to go there. What? Is it that they were too good for our world. If so then that is really lame.

Second: The unquestioning faith Tolkien places in the superiority of high birth and the unfailing belief in a rigid class system, (something which I am surprised to see most modern readers simply don't notice) was old fashioned and retrograde even in his own time. I mean why should Strider/Aragorn be automatically made king? How come no one questions this? The idea that without the true blue-blood king the land would falter is ridiculous. Whatever happened to democracy? This odd yearning for the old class system can be seen in Sam's servile obedience to Frodo and Frodo's servility to Aragorn, the Elves and other high born humans.

4. How did Gandalf get out of the pit in the mines? No explanation in either the books or the movies.

5. Pure good vs. Pure Evil: There are reasons why Saruman and Gollum are the best characters in the books. They're the most like real people, with multiple facets and real motivations for their deeds. I mean what's Sauron's deal? He's a big flaming eye of pure evil. Not much characterization there. And the Orcs-- probably the worst scene in the book is when Gimli and Legolas brag to each other about how many Orcs they each have killed and this goes on without the disapproval of any character. Yeah, lets see all our enemies at war as subhumans agents of pure evil, right. This is a complete cheat. If ever we needed to hear the message that those we fight on the battlefield are people just like us, with families, desires and loved ones-- now is the time. How convient that Orcs are created out of mud and have no little Orc children to mourn them when they fall to serve as another notch on Gimili's belt.

5. In the same line of thinking the character development is lacking-- characters like STrider, Legolas, Gimli, Boromir and others seem remote and unhuman.

While I understand that Tolkien sought to copy the episodic style, characterization and epic tone common to such early Northern European myths as Beouwulf, for modern readers not to see the faults inherit in these forms is to be ignorant.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 28, 2008 12:11 PM PDT

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