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My rating: 5 of 5 stars
After I read the first two chapters of Game of Thrones I felt overwhelmed by the number of characters and wondered if I’d ever be able to slog through the whole book. I’m so glad I kept going because I loved it. Game of Thrones reminded me why I enjoy reading epic fantasy. I loved the world building, the politics, the scheming, and even the grimness of it all. Some people might think it’s too grim or too violent, but it felt very real to me. I like some reality in my fantasy. I liked that all of the characters were shades of gray and there really weren’t any heroes, just people trying to do the right thing and stay alive. Or trying to gain power/stay in power by any means necessary. And yes, this is a very grim story. Bad things happen to good people, and sometimes very bad things happen to good people. Even Ned Stark, who is probably the most honorable character in the book, finds his honor tested at every turn.
I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the multiple points of view, but they worked for me and added to the breadth of the story. The reader gets insight into characters on all sides of the game of thrones, adding more layers to the plot.
It’s not a book for everyone. It’s crude, there’s a lot of sex, and there is a lot of graphic violence. Not exactly my thing, but the story and the characters sucked me in and didn’t let go. I also thought Martin wrote some strong female characters (always a plus for me) who are just as conflicted or in some cases as twisted as the male characters. Plus there is a potentially kick-ass tomboy with a sword and a wisecracking dwarf who steals the show every time his chapter comes around and is probably one of the sharpest characters in the book. Add in some cool direwolves and zombie-like creatures. And dragons. What’s not to love? I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series.
Hear what I had to say about Balticon 46 at http://alkaplan.wordpress.com/
If Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul collaborated on a science fiction novel, it might read a lot like “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”. Maybe that’s what irks me about it. But ironically, as a friend recently pointed out, regardless of his intentions, Heinlein ultimately wound up demonstrating that a nation without a strong Government cannot survive. He continued to rail against taxation, and he repeated his tag line, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” at every opportunity, but the overriding conclusion from this book is that a society cannot depend solely on human nature and hoped-for good sense to survive. It must have rules, and its citizens must collectively sacrifice a degree of freedom for the common good.
Looking for a bite of sushi but don’t want to break the bank? Look no further than the weekday lunch special at Nari Sushi. Located at the King’s Contrivance Village Center in Columbia, Maryland, Nari Sushi offers a variety of Asian dishes along with its sushi offerings. While the restaurant is small in size, it is large in friendly smiles.
Their weekday lunch special is a great deal. For only ten dollars you get your choice of ten pieces of nigiri sushi and a sushi roll. With seventeen different rolls to choose from, there is something for everyone. It also comes with a small bowl of edamame for the table, soup and salad. The fish was fresh and flavorful. We also ordered the seaweed salad. The generous portion was served on a plate with two pieces of crab stick. At the end of the meal, we were treated to a cup of cool cinnamon tea. Everyone at my table left satisfied and full.
Just a note: Yellowtail, salmon, tuna, and California rolls all have spicy versions that are available with the lunch special. If you love heat you’ll love these, but be forewarned, they are hot.Nari Sushi Japanese Restaurant King’s Contrivance Village Center 8640 Guilford Rd, Suite B-80 Columbia MD 21046 410-381-6888 Lunch: Mon – Fri: 11:00 – 2:30 Dinner: Mon – Fri: 4:30 – 10:00 Sat: 11:00 – 10:00
Wandering around DC before seeing Jersey Boys at the National Theatre, my family and I happened upon Asia Nine Bar and Lounge. The restaurant was practically empty, which didn’t inspire confidence, but it was barely six in the evening on a Thursday night so we decided to give it a try. We were greeted with smiles as soon as we entered, and the service remained impeccable the entire evening. My mouth started watering as soon as I opened the menu, which has a collection of Asian fusion dishes. The quiet, relaxing yet elegant décor was the perfect atmosphere for a sleepy Thursday night before a show.
Asia Nine offers a wide variety of small and entrée sized dishes, and a sushi bar. For you sake fans, there is a plethora of brands to choose from. We decide to pass on drinks. (Falling asleep at the theatre is so not cool.) After much deliberation we settled on three of their small plates and two entrées which we ate family style. Presentation from start to finish was perfect. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for flavor. Most dishes were wonderful, while others just didn’t work.
Our first appetizer, the Peking Duck Roll, was one of our favorites. The meat, wrapped with cucumber, scallions, and hoisin sauce was delicious, but it was the Indian Roti wrapper that had me. I would have been content with a basket of the bread for dinner. The Asian Shrimp Ravioli, served with a sesame-sake crème was Debra’s favorite. I loved the ravioli, but found the sauce a little too rich and plentiful for the three small bites swimming in the bowl. The Nuta Salad, which contained a variety of fresh raw fish, sliced cucumber, and seaweed, was our least favorite dish of the evening. There was also no mention in the menu that the sesame sake and miso dressing was spicy. Had we known, we would have ordered something different as only half of the family enjoys spicy food.
Our two entrees, chosen from the list of signature dishes got split reviews. Julie and Bruce both loved the Korean Sizzling Beef, which we heard coming long before we saw it. The sliced and marinated sirloin came to the table sizzling and bubbling with a smattering of vegetables. It smelled lovely, and the taste was reminiscent of Korean barbeque, but not quite. The Grilled Salmon with New Style Udon consisted of a grilled salmon fillet laid across a bed of Japanese udon noodles. Debra and I loved the flavor of the light sauce, which didn’t taste particularly garlicky or creamy despite the description. There was just enough of it to flavor and coat all the noodles without being soupy. Bruce didn’t care for this dish at all and Julie wasn’t thrilled with it either.
Dessert, which is ordered and served through a different waitress, was the highlight of the meal. We found two to share from their limited selection. Thai tiramisu, a layered chocolate, coffee and almond confection was light, rich, and full of flavor. I made sure to run my fork across the chocolate & caramel sauce crisscrossed over the plate with each bite. The real winner was the Sticky Rice with Fresh Mango, which wasn’t even on the menu. The creamy and coconut flavored rice was absolutely wonderful, especially paired with fresh mango.
Seed to Harvest consists of four novels (Wild Seed, Mind of my Mind, Clay’s Ark, and The Patternmaster) which all take place in the same universe. Each novel is set in a different time period, so the main focal characters change from novel to novel. It’s hard to talk about any of the books after Wild Seed without revealing spoilers, but there are some great concepts and dilemmas presented in them that I want to discuss a little. I’ll mainly focus on the first two novels and keep spoilers to a minimum, for those who hadn’t read this book yet, which I highly recommend you do.
What’s really wonderful about these stories is that each one portrays a different thought – provoking dilemma. The first of the novels “Wild Seed” focuses on Doro and Anyanwu, two very different immortals learning how to co-exist together. While these two immortals are man and female (theoretically) and they go through an erratic on and off relationship, I hesitant to call this a love story. I find it more about kinship and acceptance of each other’s beliefs and personalities. You see, Doro and Anyanwu are about as polar opposites as they come as regards of traditions and morality. They also differ in how they maintain their immortality; Anyanwu is an ageless shape shifter, while Doro is a spirit that travels from body to body, destroying the original host’s mind. It’s funny how these two beings contrast with each other. Anyanwu embraces her humanity and strong ethics but is detached from her offsprings, while Doro, who had become indifferent to the value of human life is closely attached to his descendants, but only because they’re his value breeding stock. And when he meets Anyanwu, he only sees someone who would be a great breeder for his children, but she considers the whole thing sickening and immoral. However, Doro isn’t a person you can simply turn down and still live. Anyanwu and Doro are easily the most interesting characters in the whole series and reading how these strong wills collide against each other is engrossing.
“Mind of my Mind”, comes closest to being a sequel in this collection. This book focuses on Doro’s offspring, who are psychic “Actives” and the story’s themes examine morality and the extent of human control. In fact those two ideas are prevalent throughout all the novels within “Seed to Harvest”. In this instance, these “Actives” use their mental powers in order to survive their isolation and sometimes self-exile from the rest of the human race. Some of them need to isolate themselves because they can’t control the endless waves of thoughts from the populace penetrating through their brains. For others, their psychic outburst of emotions could kill normal human beings. But ethics really become comprised when Mary, an emerging powerful Active summoned and created a community of Actives together. Each one of these Actives posses the vast mental powers, but lacks the discipline and ethics to use those powers. Now imagine these people by the thousands. If you want to learn how the rest of humanity fares against these people, you’ll have to read “Seed to Harvest” to find out.
I do have one complaint about this compilation. “Seed to Harvest”‘s story kind of just stops, having no clear conclusion to the conflict that escalated throughout the novels. I walked away feeling that there should have been at least one more novel to tie off the loose ends. However, Octavia Butler’s tragic premature death forever brought this great series to a standstill and robbed the world of a creative mind.
In the end, that did little to change my pure enjoyment reading Butler’s compilation. If you’re a fan of science fiction and good drama, I strongly recommend the book.
Recently I had the pleasure of visiting a small restaurant in DC called Blue 44. A friend, whose husband happens to be the executive chef, had recommended it. I arrived a little after one in the afternoon with my teenage daughter, not sure what to expect. A peek at their menu on-line had me intrigued. The restaurant is decorated in dark tones with an elegant yet homey feel. Mirrors covering one wall make the space look twice as wide as it is. In fact, having been seated on the opposite side of the room, I didn’t realize they were mirrors until I got up to leave. An elderly couple was having a quiet meal in the back and several families with young children sat at tables near the front.
A smiling waiter handed us the single page menu attached to a piece of corrugated cardboard with a bull clip. This completely recyclable innovation made me smile. I had been expecting something more upscale and less approachable. While humble in its presentation, this menu contains many simple yet elegant dishes. Even though the menu is small, there were a variety of appetizers, salads, and entrees to choose from and all sounded delicious. We perused the descriptions of burgers, grilled cheese, ribs, as well as papardelle with wild mushrooms. Appetizers were priced from $4 for the deviled eggs to $10 for the mussels, and entrees ranged in price from $12 – $19. They also have a separate kids menu.
We wanted a light meal, so we focused on the appetizer section of the menu. After toying between the Sweet Potato Biscuits and Wild Boar Sausage appetizer and the Calamari Appetizer, I finally went with the Calamari and an arugula salad. My daughter, Debra, chose the Fried Oysters.
Debra’s Oysters were served surrounding a small mound of greens. Not a huge fan of tartar sauce, she did enjoy the cucumber tartar sauce which was artfully drawn on the plate emphasizing the circular pattern of the oysters. Each oyster was perfectly fried and seasoned, with a crisp outer coating yet smooth and tender interior.
My senses were treated by the wonderful aroma of rosemary as my plate arrived. The sautéed calamari was deliciously tender and served over a smooth polenta expertly seasoned and prepared with fresh herbs and smoked mozzarella. The sauce was creamy with a hint of tomatoes and more fresh herbs. I didn’t leave a drop behind. The arugula salad was simple, with just enough lemon vinaigrette to add flavor without overpowering the dish.
I would highly recommend this restaurant for its excellent food and cozy atmosphere. By the way, I got to sample some of those humble deviled eggs later in the afternoon. Yum.
5507 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington DC, 20015
Check their web site at blue44dc.com for hours and directions.
They do have a small parking lot behind the building.
If you didn’t like the anthropomorphic talking cars from the original movie, it is highly unlikely that you will like the sequel because in one sense, it’s just more of the same. However, if you thought the talking cars were cute, but found the plot lacking then it is entirely possible that you might enjoy the sequel. If, like me, you enjoyed the original then there is a very good chance that you will like this one.
While the first movie was very much an introduction to the universe of the living, talking cars, the plot itself was very small scale and intimate: many scenes consisted of just two characters talking. The second movie is the same world, but the story is much larger scale – James Bond scale. Yes, jetting-around-the-globe-and-saving-the-world James Bond scale.
Now, I won’t kid you, the plot is a little silly and somewhat far-fetched, but then, this is ostensibly a kids movie that we’re talking about. It isn’t entirely a kids movie – the underlying themes are serious enough to challenge anyone. But, since it is primarily a kids movie, the best way to approach it is to embrace your inner kid and just enjoy the silliness.
I very much enjoyed the movie. The cars are still cute, but we get to see more of their world – and Pixar did an outstanding job of filling in little details that make it really come alive. Visually, this is a beautiful film – again, thanks to the artists at Pixar. The thing that I most appreciated was something that really surprised me. If you want to know what it was, send me an email – I’m not big on spoilers.
I decided on an unorthodox choice and medium in picking a story that helped inspire me as a writer. Final Fantasy 4 is a story that I enjoyed since I was 14 and have come back to on numerous occasions. A tale of good versus evil, the plot is filled with fantasy lore, magic, love, redemption, and revenge. Oh yeah, it’s also a video game.
I’ll refrain from talking about the gameplay and only discuss the game’s story and characters. However, I should briefly mention that all Final Fantasy games are self-contained stories, with storylines that barely connect (in fact all of the games take place in different universes).
Final Fantasy 4’s story follows Cecil, a knight from the kingdom of Baron, who, after committing atrocious crimes under his liege’s orders, starts to question his King. Aware of Cecil’s wavering loyalty, the king strips him of his rank as captain and sends him on a seemingly meager task of delivering a simple package to the village of Mist. However, after unwittingly causing massive destruction and death to the inhabitants of Mist because of the package, Cecil decides to oppose Baron and its mighty military.
While the adventure itself is a fun and intriguing tale, it’s the characters themselves that make the story memorable. On the surface their motives may appear simple or single-minded, but there’s depth, charm and character development underneath their actions. For example, the protagonist Cecil initially looks more like a villain and has in fact killed innocents for Baron’s gain. But we can see that guilt wracks at him for performing those deeds. Cecil’s conscience gets in the way of his loyalty, making him unsure of himself. This inner conflict and shame prevents the knight from achieving his full potential.
Rydia, a young girl and the sole survivor of Mist, is forced to overcome her fear and grief in order to become a powerful sorcerer. Palom and Porom, twins who are also wizard apprentices, complement each other’s personalities and skills and prove to be a good example that kids can work side by side with adults and not be aggravating. Edward the Bard and his unique singing have inspired me in weaving some interesting concepts for one of my novels. Goblez, a dark warlock, plays the villain role well, with his mischievous machinations and his eerily organ theme song that plays whenever he crosses our hero’s path. But my favorite character is Kain, a warrior from Baron and Cecil’s best friend and rival. What makes Kain stand out (besides his awesome ability to jump great heights) is that he was hypnotized into turning against Cecil because Goblez twisted his hidden desire for Cecil’s love Rosa. I sympathized with Kain and how sad it was for him to harbor those feelings, but refuse to express them until they were released by Goblez.
Another reason why these characters are so memorable is because the plot is very connected to the gameplay. Different people with varying skills come and go throughout Cecil’s quest. These events are usually heightened by exciting plot points. Suffering a betrayal by Kain, coming to the aid of a besieged warrior, or finding help in my darkest hour from an unlikely person; these events drew me deeper into the game’s story.
While Final Fantasy 4 isn’t my favorite video game story, it’s one of the most influential one as for being the writer I am today. The story has it flaws, but also possesses a certain kind of charm. It’s a fun adventure, but still covers serious issues and doesn’t come away being too goofy or morbid. A game made for the Super Nintendo, Final Fantasy 4 is an old game by today’s standards, but is still considered fondly as a classic by many gamers and myself included. It really shouldn’t matter what medium of stories one enjoys; if they tell great tales, then that method of storytelling should be encouraged. I suppose that’s the point of this post, that a video game can tell an engrossing tale and help inspire your imagination just as much as any novel or movie.
Six modern length novels is a heck of a lot of words.
The Lost Fleet is a military science fiction series set in a universe with two human civilizations – The Alliance and the Syndicate Worlds (Syndics). These two civilizations have been at war for 100 years now, and there is a considerable amount of fatigue and desperation on both sides.
Enter the story’s protagonist, Captain John “Black Jack” Geary. He was present, and in command, during the first military confrontation at the very beginning of the war. In that battle, his ship was destroyed, but he managed to get to an escape pod. Unfortunately, the pod’s communications were damaged and so he was forced to go into cryogenic suspended animation. His pod drifted, slowly running down. Just days before the story opens, an Alliance fleet stumbles across it while in transit to what is hoped to be a decisive blow against the Syndic capital system.
In the 100 years that he has been asleep, much has changed in the universe – and this gives the author plenty of opportunities to show us what has happened. Pay careful attention to what is going on because some of the main story arc’s most important details are revealed in dribs an drabs throughout the books. Much of the text concerns the battles fought between The Alliance and the Syndics, but there is also a bit of mystery, very nearly a galactic detective story, that was refreshingly subtle compared to the sledge hammer pounding of victory-or-death combat.
One of the aspects of the story that I found most interesting, was how the author explored notions of honor and right-vs-wrong in a society that has been at war for an entire century. The use of torture and the waging of war against unarmed civilians are not theoretical exercises to Captain Geary and his people.
I enjoyed the series tremendously and am looking forward to the follow-0n series “Beyond the Frontier.”