The Flame Alphabet

On January 17, 2011 there is a new apocalyptic novel coming out. Named one of Amazon’s Best Books of the Month for January, 2012,  The Flame Alphabetby Ben Marcus is certainly getting some attention.

The premise is pretty straightforward: Society is is collapsing from a terrible pandemic, a toxic disease that kills adults exposed to the words of children.

While the premise is mildly interesting, it is not exactly original. It calls to mind Pontypool, the 2008 Canadian film where language is the source of a viral outbreak that turns the townspeople into zombies (of a sort). The movie is based on Tony Burgess’ book, Pontypool Changes Everything.

Much of the buzz about Marcus’ book is centered around a decidedly creepy book trailer. The advance reviews on this one are mixed. But make up your own mind. Read the reviews. Watch the trailer. What do you think?

Meteor Shower a Sign of the Apocalypse? Uh-oh!

In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, the Quadrantid meteor shower should be visible in the sky at about three a.m. EST.

Now, if you read that and didn’t squirm (just a little), or consider whether or not you shouldn’t watch ( just for a moment), then you obviously are not a fan of John Wyndham’s 1951 British sci-fi classic, The Day of the Triffids. In this vivid apocalyptic tale, a meteor shower blinds most of humanity, paving the way for the giant flesh-eating, moving plants, Triffids, to prey on the survivors. After reading this one, you will never view a meteor shower OR your garden in the same way again!

Don’t you just hate it when life starts imitating art?

Goodbye old year, hello… end of the world?

Well, it is the end of 2011. We are now at that point where time-honored tradition demands that we stop and reflect on the old and make resolutions and set goals for the new. Or else, we all have to buy new fitness equipmentand promise to exercise.

And, normally, that would be true. But since the new year that we are ringing in is 2012, I think a slightly different set of rules applies, don’t you? After all, we have it on good authority (based on things like the Mayan Calendar coming to an end, the predictions of Edgar Cayce and Nostradamus, etc.) that the world as we know it is coming to an end. Possible events range from pole shifts, floods, tsunamis, an ice age,  and The Rapture to an impending zombie apocalypse. Who knows, maybe even the end of football.  It is going to be rough.

Since we are all going to have to do our best to survive, I thought it would be fun this week to take the first few blog posts of 2012 and talk about some of the interesting dystopian and post-apocalyptic scenarios, past and present. I am reasonably sure there will probably be at least a few zombies. And maybe a super volcano and an earthquake or two.

Consider it emergency preparedness planning. You just never know.

The Internet Cookbook: Penne Bake with Spinach and Tomatoes

I haven’t been cooking anything new recently because I have been so busy. But I happened to find a dish that sounded so good, I had to give it an immediate try. Everybody in our house loves penne pasta, so this recipe from Bev Cooks fit the bill perfectly.

I didn’t have any Pomi tomatoes on hand (don’t they look delicious?) so I had to make do with what was in the pantry. For my meat loving family, I added thinly sliced beef smoked sausage and skipped the breadcrumbs  to lower the carbs. It was a huge hit with everyone.

I never would have thought of using smoked paprika as one of the main seasonings in the dish. It made for a refreshing change from my usual pasta dishes. I’d like to try it again and use cubed cooked chicken and small julienned ham slices. I think the smoky flavor of the paprika would complement it nicely!

Top 100 Books Meme

This is a meme that is making the rounds on LiveJournal:

According to The Big Read, the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books on their list.

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE.
4) Reprint this list in your own blog

1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6. The Bible
7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8. Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell

9. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11. Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

13. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare
15. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch – George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

31. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34. Emma – Jane Austen
35. Persuasion – Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41. Animal Farm – George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown

43. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50. Atonement – Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52. Dune – Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones’ Diary – Helen Fielding
69. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72. Dracula – Bram Stoker
73. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses – James Joyce
76. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal – Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession – AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94. Watership Down – Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

My list is somewhat skewed because I am not a fan of Russian literature. Nor am I a huge fan of Dickens, Thomas Hardy or Jane Austen. That knocks off a fair part of the list right there! There are classics like the Three Musketeers, Moby Dick and others that I have read portions of, but hadn’t finished the complete works. I didn’t want to change the meme to reflect those.

There are some books on the list that I question. Why is Nevil Shute’s A Town Like Aliceon the list but not his classic, On the Beach?  Some of the books are fairly recent “classics” like The Lovely Bones. And a  book like A Fine Balance is probably buoyed by being an Oprah Book Club selection.

Many of my favorites like Pat Frank’s Alas, Babylon, simply aren’t on the list. A lot of them are also not available in Kindle editions.

What about you? How many of your favorites are on the list?

Netflix nixes Qwikster

Netflix has evidently gotten the message that customers don’t want two websites, two accounts, two whatevers! The company has decided to leave the DVD and streaming services combined.

Netflix’s recent price hike and separation of streaming and DVD delivery services cost the company over a million subscribers and cause stock price to fall. The company announced the pricing change in July and the new price structure took effect September 1, 2011.

The company had already tried to placate upset customers. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings wrote his famous “I messed up. I owe everyone an explanation” email to subscribers to try to explain the company’s actions. In the email, Hastings announced the formation of Qwikster for the DVD portion of the business. Critics panned the move as poorly thought-out when it was discovered the Twitter account for the name was already taken.

This morning’s email from the company read:

It is clear that for many of our members two websites would make things more difficult, so we are going to keep Netflix as one place to go for streaming and DVDs.

This means no change: one website, one account, one password…in other words, no Qwikster.

While the July price change was necessary, we are now done with price changes.

We’re constantly improving our streaming selection. We’ve recently added hundreds of movies from Paramount, Sony, Universal, Fox, Warner Bros., Lionsgate, MGM and Miramax. Plus, in the last couple of weeks alone, we’ve added over 3,500 TV episodes from ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, USA, E!, Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, ABC Family, Discovery Channel, TLC, SyFy, A&E, History, and PBS.

We value you as a member, and we are committed to making Netflix the best place to get your movies & TV shows.

Now, if only they would back down on not giving customers who want both services a price break….

And check out this from Saturday Night Live. Kinda says it all.

 

Is A.J. Cook going to return to Criminal Minds?

There is news, news, news about CBS television series Criminal Minds.  According to TV Squad.com,  A.J. Cook is in talks to return! And Paget Brewster may return as well? And Ed Bernero is leaving? Hm. This sounds interesting.

After an joining an unsuccessful campaign to Save the Ladies of Criminal Minds (see the entry about the that campaign),   I have been boycotting all CBS shows since last July, including Criminal Minds.  It would be nice to be able to stop boycotting and start watching again. I would like to see the second half of the two-parter with Tim Curry.

Plus, I  really, really, really miss NCIS.

Stay tuned to see what happens!

Coffee, Contests and Demons: It’s Dead Demon Walking Time

If you have read some of my past reviews, you may know that I am a huge fan of author Linda Welch and her Whisperings paranormal mystery series. Whisperings is a series featuring Tiff Banks, who sees the spirits of those who have been violently slain, and her demon lover, Royal. You can read my reviews of both the first book in the series, Along Came a Demon and the second book, The Demon Hunters, right here on the blog.

Well, now it is time for the third book in the Whispering series, Dead Demon Walking. I have been looking forward to the third installment in the series for quite some time. A few months back, I was privileged  to be one of the beta readers for an earlier draft of the book. So, I cannot wait to read the latest installment in the series and see how it has turned out! And what’s even more exciting is that not only is the next book in the series here, but Linda Welch is actually having a contest with some serious swag picked out by characters Tiff and Royal themselves!

Here’s what you can win:

  • Exclusive – Royal’s coffee mug.
  • Royal’s favorite organically grown coffee.
  • Exclusive – Whisperings poster.
  • Tiff’s favorite made-in-Utah chocolates.
  • Your choice of Gift certificate: $20.00 or £13.00 Amazon, or $20.00 Barnes & Noble.
  • Dead Demon Walking T-shirt featuring a quote from the book, in your size.
  • And, not just one, but two lucky runners-up will get:

    • A gift certificate. Your choice of $10.00 or £6.00 Amazon, or $10.00 Barnes & Noble.

    You can accrue winning points by doing any of the following. The more points, the better your chances.

    • Leave a comment on her blog: 2 points.
    • Follow her blog: 2 points.
    • Become a Whisperings Facebook Fan:  4 points.  There’s a link on the side of her blog.
    • Mention the contest on your Facebook, Yahoo, or other social network page: 4 points.
    • Tweet, Digg, Stumble (or whatever) about this contest and ask your friends to spread the word: 5 points.
    • Blog about the contest: 5 points.
    • Read Whisperings book one Along Came a Demon and tell me What is Royal’s Gelpha name?: 15 points.

    An important note if, like me, you read the first two books a while back: Along Came a Demon was updated with additional material in late 2010.  If you read the original  novella, you won’t find Royal’s Gelpha name in there, if you read the current novel-length version, you will. 

    For complete instructions on how to enter, you’ll have to go to Linda’s website. I’d like to tell you more, but I am off to read the expanded version of Along Came a Demon. I am just dying of curiosity to find out Royal’s Gelpha name!

    Rock the Red Pump for AIDS Awareness

    Here in the United states, March 10th has been designated as National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD). In recognition of the day, we are proud to be part of the Rock the Red Pump Project. This year’s campaign goal was to get 500 blogs to sign up and join in spreading awareness of the day in just 50 days. The actual number was double that, with over a thousand blogs participating.  NWGHAAD focuses on the effect of HIV and Aids on women and girls. The 2011 campaign is focusing on the statistic “Every 35 minutes, a woman tests positive for HIV in the United States.

    The facts are that 27% of all new patients diagnosed with AIDS are women and girls.  African-American women account for 66% of that group.

    Women and girls are the one of the fastest growing segments of newly diagnosed HIV patients. It is vitally important that women and girls particularly know what the risks are, how to minimize them and where they can get tested.

    The CDC has a brief podcast  available about AIDS, HIV and the facts that women need to know about the disease.

    According to the CDC:

    [The] CDC estimates that 1 in five people living with HIV infection in the United States do not know they are infected. Getting tested for HIV is the first step to protecting yourself and others. Knowing your own HIV status and that of your male sexual partners is critical because 85% of newly diagnosed HIV infections in American women and girls result from sex with an infected male partner. Early diagnosis of HIV allows for counseling and prompt treatment. HIV treatment prolongs life and reduces the risk of further HIV transmission. If you are a pregnant woman, it is especially important that you get tested early to help ensure, that if you are HIV-positive, you do not transmit the virus to your unborn child. Encouraging your partner to wear a condom every time you engage in sexual activity is another important way to protect yourself.

    There is much more information available about AIDS in women on the CDC website. You can also jump to a form to find a testing facility near you.