Zombieland

Zombieland
Zombieland

Okay, I’ll confess: I love zombie movies. Heck, I love zombies, period.  Wait until I get around to posting the reviews on the last few zombie books I read.  You’ll see.

So I was really excited this week when Zombieland finally came out on DVD because I had missed it when it was out in the theaters. Now, I know that it is supposed to be more comedy than horror,  but still.  We are talking zombies here (see above, paragraph one). My husband (who does not do horror films) was even willing to watch this one with me for movie night on Saturday.

Nearly twenty-four hours later, I am still trying to figure out how to describe this movie. It started out really funny – laugh out loud funny. The ending was so-so.  The middle was totally blah.  Even Shaun of the Dead was better than this. The character development and the acting were just about as uneven.

And the zombies? I don’t even know what to say about them.  Nowadays, you have to distinguish between traditional, slow-moving zombies (Romero), fast-moving zombies (28 Days Later ) and everything in between.  These zombies were incredibly inconsistent,  making it hard for the average zombie afficiando (moi) to figure out what’s going on. This one was so poorly explained, I am not sure these zombies were actually dead (or dead dead, if you know what I mean).

One of the special features said that this idea was originally conceived as a one hour pilot for a TV series. This definitely explains why the beginiing was the best part of the movie.  Ironic isn’t it –  if they’d left it as a TV series, it might have actually been a good one!

Update 2/10/2010: Just heard that there are plans for Zombieland 2…Why!?!?

The Internet Cookbook: Sweet English Breakfast Porridge

Probably more than any other food, hot breakfast favorites really seem  to trigger memories.  Whether it is simple childhood favorites or newer dishes that speak to a more “adult”  sophisticated palate, we tend to equate breakfast foods with comfort.  This oatmeal recipe from InnCuisine.com is so good, breakfast is definitely a memorable experience!

I prefer steel cut Irish oats to rolled oats and make this in my rice cooker. I use 2 cups water and 2 cups milk to one cup of McCANN’S Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal. Cook in the rice cooker on the porridge cycle, then follow the recipe as written. One taste and you will never want instant oatmeal again! I now make this once a week (and not always for breakfast!).

Along Came a Demon: A review

51iwrUwhrdL__SL160_I accidentally found a sample chapter of this book by Linda Welch on the Internet.  Just a couple of paragraphs in, I was so hooked, I picked up my Kindle and downloaded it.  Yeah, it’s that good.

The protagonist, Tiff, is a character who is easy to relate to.  She has a job that doesn’t allow her to be herself.  She has roommates who complicate her life.  She has bad taste in men.  But her job is pretending to be a psychic because she can see and hear the spirits of those who have died violently.  Her roommates happen to be dead.  And her taste in men?  Well, you’d better read that for yourself.

This is a fun paranormal mystery that really keeps the suspense level high; I had no clue where the story was going. Besides being well plotted, the dialog in this book is delightful and feels very real.  My only complaint is that the book was too short! I sat down to read and was done before I knew it.  My only consolation is that this is the first in a new series.  The first chapter from the sequel, The Demon Hunters, is at the end of this book and looks just as interesting.  I am certainly looking forward to following this series.

You can learn more about the author, Linda Welch, on her blog where she post updates on the Whisperings series. You can also follow her updates on Twitter. There is also a fan page on Facebook for Whisperings here.

Susan Boyle, I Dreamed a Dream: What a disappointment!

I Dreamed a Dream
I Dreamed a Dream

This week, I finally got around to listening to Susan Boyle’s I Dreamed A Dream CD.  In spite of all the hype, the CD was unbelievably disappointing.

Let’s face it:  we’ve all seen the Youtube video  and heard that incredible voice.  It is very apparent that Susan Boyle is a very powerful singer who can really belt out a tune.  Unfortunately, that Susan Boyle was utterly sabotaged by the producers and music arrangers on this album. Poor song choices, bad direction, tepid arrangements, and bad production techniques are just a few of the problems that really helped to ruin this recording.  Add to that the fact that Susan’s vocals were so undermixed on the CD, you had to actually strain to hear the lyrics.

Susan Boyle is a talented lady and deserved a recording that would give her a real chance at the success her voice and her talent deserves. It is just a shame that she didn’t get that.

The Internet Cookbook: Rice Pudding

I love recipes that you can easily make in the crockpot. While I frequently use the crockpot to make dinner, I often forget how versatile it is for cooking deserts.  This recipe for crockpot rice pudding is not only simple and easy to make, but tastes fantastic! For a special treat, try it served warm with a scoop of homestyle vanilla ice cream. Yummy!

Police shot and killed another dog…

There’s a really good reason I don’t watch the local news. Tonight, one of the Chicago TV news stations led off with a story  about an off-duty police officer shooting some one’s dog.   As a animal lover and pet owner, I find these stories absolutely terrifying.  As someone who lost a beloved dog over this last year to cancer, I find a story like this especially heartbreaking. It is hard enough to lose a pet, let alone lose one to this kind of  sudden violence.

Unfortunately, this is a story that I am hearing all too frequently.  To see  just how prevalent this, try looking on the Internet.  A search on Google for “police shooting dogs” yields approximately 517,000 results.   Many of these dogs are shot and killed right in front of their owners.  In fact, not too long ago, police officers shot an owners’ dog right in front of them  in the city where I live.  The police officer in that case was cleared, as is usually the case  in most of these dog shootings.   It seems that “preventing injury” and an officer feeling  “in danger” are the excuses for both killing the animals and ruling the shootings  “justifiable.” 

In tonight’s incident, the officer evidently claims that she had no choice as the dog attacked while she was walking her dog and she felt “in danger.”  Unbelievably, after killing the dog, the officer then ticketed the owner for not having a dog license! The Chicago Police are supposedly investigating, so it will be interesting to see the outcome.  Unfortunately, I can already guess what that outcome will be.

If this happened to your dog, how would you feel?

Heat Wave by Richard Castle – A review

Heat Wave
Heat Wave

This book  is a tie-in to the ABC television series Castle. The supposed “author” of this book is the lead character in the series, a writer. Interestingly, the book itself is playing a role in this season’s episodes.

First, let me start by saying that I am a HUGE fan of the TV series. I think that it is one of the smartest show to come out on television over the past couple of seasons. And as a tie-in for the series, it works quite well on a lot of levels.

Anyone who has watched the series will recognize the characters in the novel as based on the series regulars.  There are situations and lines of dialogue in the book that are verbatim from the show–deliberately, I presume, as the lines feel like an “inside joke” for the benefit of fans of the show. The characters  (especially protagonist Nikki Heat) are sexier than their TV counterparts and really feel like characters Castle might have written.

I really thought that the plot of the mystery in the novel could have been better.  On the series, the police cases are generally tightly written. In the book, the case is not as well focused.  The end feels rushed and the finer points are not clearly explained.  There were also areas where abreviations  and acronyms were used that, to me at least, the meaning wasn’t obvious. Most of these seemed to pertain to New York City.

The grammar and writing style were also not at a level that most would expect from Richard Castle. Castle’s character has been established on the series as being  an excellent writer with a keen command of language usage and grammar. The novel has some grammar errors (a few that are glaring) and the writing style is not what I’d expect from a character that is supposed to be a seasoned professional writer.

I had heard a rumor that this book was actually written by the show’s writers, who were in a rush trying to get the writing done for both the book and season two of the series.  If true, this may explain some of the book’s shortcomings.

If you are a diehard fan of the Castle TV series, you will probably find this book enjoyable, especially as it ties in to the storyline in season two. If you have never watched the show and are instead looking for a good mystery to read, this probably is not the book for you. You can read samples from the novel on ABC’s website.

Heat Wave is available in an edition for the Kindle. An audio book is also available at a very reasonable price, although it is not narrated by Nathan Fillion, who plays the author on the series.

UPDATE:  The paperback will be available on July 27, 2010.

Peace Love and Murder by Nancy Holzner- A Review

Peace, Love and Murder
Peace, Love and Murder

As a long time fan of mysteries, there are a few things that are important to me when I read one.  First, I want original characters that I can care about who are also realistic and believable.  I want a storyline that is keeps both the action and the suspense going.  I don’t want to be distracted by needless details, but I also don’t want to know “whodunit” halfway through the book.  I most certainly want to enjoy the journey. Peace, Love, and Murder delivers on all counts.

The story elements are original and intriguing, combining hippies, communes, cab drivers and murder. This unlikely combination sets the stage for a delightful mystery.  It is an enjoyable story with interesting characters that are neither stereotypic nor predictable. The storyline keeps both the action and the suspense going, and it held my interest all the way through.

Ms. Holzner writes with an exceptionally clear voice and in a style that is a delight to read. The main character’s background gives the novel an interesting twist. I found myself wanting to know more about these characters (especially Bo and Trudy), and am looking forward to the sequel.

 This is not yet available as a Kindle or eBook version  and no word yet on when or if  it will be available in those formats.

The author is also coming out with the first book in an urban fantasy series, Deadtown, at the end of this year.  If Peace, Love and Murder is any indication of her fiction writing talent, Deadtown should be a most enjoyable read, one I am looking forward to.

 You can read more about Nancy Holzner on her blog. There, she provides some interesting tips and insights into her own writing process.

Disclaimer: An advance reading copy of this book was provided by the author. My opinions are strictly my own and not influenced by being provided a copy of the book.

Help Feed the Hungry: Hunger Action Challenge

Okay, I know I tweeted about this already today, but I think that this is such an important issue that I am doing a blog entry as well.  For Hunger Action month, Tyson Foods is asking for help to raise awareness for its Hunger Challenge to benefit the San Francisco Food Bank. The company will donate 100 pounds of food (up to a total of 100,000 pounds) for each tweet and 500 pounds per blog post on the subject.   The Hunger Challenge page has a list of hunger facts and suggested tweets.

While many of the facts listed on the page are specifically about San Francisco and California, unfortunately, the circumstances they describe are by no means unique.  Frighteningly, other states actually rank higher.    The truth is, that while we may be considered one of the richest nations on the earth, people in this country are dealing with hunger everyday.

There are so many other issues that make this situation worse: inflation, joblessness, under employment and homelessness.   Local food banks are seeing a huge increase in people coming to them for help because of the economy.  Many of the new people seeking services are middle class Americans.

If these statistics scare you like they do me, please do something.   Find a way to participate.  There are endless opportunities: I have seen local libraries hold food drives near the holidays where canned goods are accepted in leiu of fines for overdue books.  The United Sates Post Office has two food drives a year and the mail carriers will pick up your donation at your door. Find out who funds the food pantries: many are funded at least in part by local United Way charities which you may already be contributing to.  If your church or community group participates in a program, please get involved.

Look up the statistics on hunger in your community and find out where your local food pantries are.   If you can afford it, donate cash or food. Take the time to give the gift of yourself and volunteer at the food pantry-volunteers are desperately needed.

This is an important issue.  If my tweeting or blogging about this will help feed some hungry people in San Francisco, there is no way that I can let that opportunity pass by.  And truthfully, neither should you.  Tweet or blog, it is an easy, simple thing to do.   And if you can do something else to help please do, because every bit makes a difference. 

Hunger and homelessness are two of the greatest problems our society faces today.  Both of them are solvable if we are all part of the solution.

Just a few of the many links for even more information:

http://www.secondharvest.org/

http://foodpantries.org/

http://feedingamerica.org/foodbank-results.aspx

http://thefoodpantry.org/

Recycling Pizza Boxes?

I have to admit that my life is nowhere near as green as it should be.  But I am always on the lookout for tips to live a greener life.  Unfortunately, people my age weren’t taught these things as children.  Thank goodness we are doing better with our children.

What can go in with the recycling and what can’t be recycled is something that I am always trying to learn more about.  In our neighborhood, I see a lot of people who are definitely doing it wrong.  This article on the recycling of pizza boxes was fascinating and very helpful.  Check out the rest of Doreen’s blog while you’re there – it is certainly an interesting resource!