Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The FuMP

I've been meaning to write an entry about The FuMP for the past several weeks now, but for some reason I just kept putting it off. Which is a shame, because it's a really great thing. The FuMP is the Funny Music Project. I first heard about it from Tom Smith's LiveJournal(he's a member of it).

Every week, The FuMP has two new funny songs that you can download for free in MP3 format. If you want to, you can pay 99¢ to download a song in a higher quality MP3 or pay $4.99 a month to download all the songs in higher quality MP3s. If you're really generous, you can pay $9.99 a month for the downloads, and every other month you'll get a free CD compilation of the past two month's songs (with bonus material!).

As I said earlier, Tom Smith is one of the artists. The others are Raymond and Scum, Ron Balder, Sudden Death, the great Luke Ski, and Worm Quartet (Possible Oscar is an auxiliary member). Besides Tom smith, the only member I was familiar with before The FuMP was Raymond and Scum; many years ago, I got a copy of their Wow! What Amazing Cover Art!! CD off of MP3.com (back before MP3.com sucked). Even so, all of the artists are great, and I've added all of them as friends on my MySpace page--except Ron Balder, because I couldn't find a MySpace page for him (and speaking of MySpace, if you're reading this and you have a MySpace, feel free to add me as a friend).

My current favorite song of the bunch has got to be Sudden Death's Cellular Degeneration, because it's just so damn funny. I also really liked the great Luke Ski's You Might Be a Trekkie (though it's not really funny music), Raymond and Scum's Nothing's Gonna Tear Us Apart Love - Theme From Blood and Guts, Tom Smith's Tech Support for Dad, and well all of them really. The one I liked least was Ron Balder's Don't Shoot, and that was mainly because I'm not really into paintball.

The FuMP is great, and you should check it out. I give it the full five yo-yos.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Wizard by Trade, by Jim Butcher

Just in time for the brand new SciFi show, I finished another Dresden omnibus from Zooba, Wizard by Trade. This one contains Summer Knight and Death Masks. I liked both of these, but especially the second one.

Summer Knight is about faeries and a murder investigation. Death Masks is about some demons and the Turin Shroud. These are pretty imaginative. I just hope the tv show is imaginative and not crappy.

I give this book a full five yo-yos.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Diana Tregarde Investigates, by Mercedes Lackey

Besides being a member of the Zooba book club, I'm also a member of the Science Fiction Book Club (mainly because I've never gotten around to canceling my membership). Unfortunately, I forgot to send in my stupid ass "don't send me you're main selections" cards the last two months and have been stuck with books I didn't really want. Fortunately, if the first one is any indication, they don't suck.

Diana Tregarde Investigates is an SFBC exclusive omnibus containing all three of Lackey's Diana Tregarde books. Diana is a great character. She smart, tough, and powerful (but not so powerful that she can defeat her enemies with no problem). The stories are exciting and adventurous. I would give it a five, but I can be a bit of a nitpicker, and this book hit on one of my pet peeves.

Now don't get me wrong. I don't have any thing against Wicca or Wiccans (and if any Wiccans read this, please don't come in here and flame me). The first book is set around the time of the Watergate scandal (i.e. in the 70s), and at the time Diana is in her twenties (I think). Wicca was founded in 1954. Yet somehow, Diana was raised a Wiccan by her grandmother (or possibly great grandmother, depending on the book). Wicca may claim to be the survival of an ancient, pre-Christian religion, but (if Wikipedia is any indication) there is zero evidence of it. Therefore it would be highly unlikely that someone's grandmother in the fifties of sixties would be a practicing Wiccan who could secretly raise her granddaughter in the faith.

Anyway, it's still a darn good book, and I give it four yo-yos.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Singer of Souls, by Adam Stemple

I tjought Singer of Souls was a decent book. I had some problems with it--especially the ending--but I thought that overall it was ok.

It's an urban fantasy that is certainly reminiscent of de Lint's work. The protagonist is an underdog--in this case a busker and a recovering drug addict. He moves in with his grandmother in Scotland to get cleaned up. He ends up gaining the Sight, and gets into all sorts of trouble with fairies and a crazy priest. It makes for an exciting plot, and interesting characters.

Unfortunately, I didn't like the ending (and if you want to avoid spoilers, you should skip this paragraph). The protagonist goes insane and turns into a villain. That's annoying, unexpected, and entirely unjustified. Then there's the "epilogue," it makes for one of those god damned annoying, cliffhanger-type endings that serve no purpose except to make the reader want to read any possible sequel. In this case it didn't work, because I ain't gonna read any sequel.

Because of the ending, I can only view Singer of Souls as mediocre, so it only gets three yo-yos.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Roverandom, by J. R. R. Tolkien

Like most fantasy fans, I loved The Lord of the Rings, so I decided to pick up Roverandom the last time I was in Borders. I don't think it'ss ever be viewed as a classic like LOTR or The Hobbit, but it ain't half bad.

Like The Hobbit, Roverandom was written for children. This book was originally a story told by Tolkien to his children to console his middle son over the loss of a prized toy. It was never published in Tolkien's lifetime, and even the version of the manuscript used for this publication wasn't completely finalized (at least that's what I gather from the introduction).

Because of this, the story is a little rough. It's not bad, but I think it could have used a bit more of a polish. It's a very imaginative and entertaining story that children would certainly enjoy. I enjoyed it, and it's been a heck of a long time since I was a kid.

It's a decent book. Tolkien fans should get it, if they don't already have it. Fantasy fans should probably buy it too. I give Roverandom four yo-yos.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Starman, by Sara Douglass

I just finished reading Starman. It has nothing to do with the movie Starman; it's volume three of the Wayfarer Redemption series.

While this isn't actually the end of the series, it finishes off the battle between Axis and his evil half-brother, Goragel. I'm not really sure what the rest of the series is about then, but I'll probably pick them up to find out. I like these books. They're aren't great, but they're good. If you read volumes one and two of the series, you should read volume three.

Starman gets four yo-yos.

Friday, January 05, 2007

I Am a Dalek, by Gareth Roberts

I've been a fan of Doctor Who since I was in elementary school. It's probably been about twenty years now since I first watched the series. I loved the Tom Baker episodes. I started watching the new series as soon as it was downloadable via bit torrent (once it was broadcast in the US, I started watching on SciFi).

I was always a fan of the Doctor Who books too. I have a largish selection of the novelizations. I have (what I believe is) a complete set of the Virgin Missing Adventures. I have a few of the Virgin New Adventures too, but I never liked that series as much. When the BBC started publishing the books themselves, I picked up one novel, didn't like it very much, and stopped reading the books.

Flash forward to January, 2007. I got about $80 worth of Borders gift cards for Christmas, and was having some trouble finding $80 worth of books. So, when I saw I Am A Dalek for only $5.99, I decided to give it a chance. I thought the author's name was familiar, and after a quick search through my collection, I found that he wrote three of the Virgin Missing Adventures.

The book is pretty well written, though I thought the opening was a bit off. The plot is original, but true to the series. The characters seem like their TV counterparts. Style-wise, it's everything I'd expect from a Doctor Who novel, and it's a good book.

Sadly, I have to give it a mediocre rating because of the price. $5.99 is cheap for a book, but I think it's a bit much for a hundred-page book that I read in about an hour. I couldn't recommend a book of this size unless it was at least a dollar cheaper in price. So, with it being no reflection on Mr. Roberts' writing, I can only give I Am a Dalek three yo-yos.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Of Darkness, Light, and Fire by Tanya Huff

I love omnibus editions, even if the novels in the omnibus aren't part of a series, like in Of Darkness, Light, and Fire. The only thing these books have in common are: they're by Tanya Huff, they're fantasy, they're good, and they have some gay characters.

Gate Of Darkness, Circle of Light is an urban fantasy story. I'd rate it as being almost as good as de Lint's stuff. The heroes are all too human (even when they aren't human). The villain is monstrous. The heroes are a fairly oddball bunch. There's a mentally challenged young woman, a cat, a busker, a Hindu social worker, a bag lady, and a sort of angel. I liked this one a lot.

The Fire's Stone is a more traditional fantasy about a diverse group of heroes ( a wizard, a thief, and a warrior) who goes on a quest to retrieve a magic jewel and save a city. It may sound fairly standard, but he characters make it different. The wizard is young and very immature. The warrior is an alcoholic prince whose been dumped on his whole life. The thief is a bit mental because his lover, Ruth, was executed by his father (he's also a repressed homosexual with a crush on the warrior). It's a good book, though the plot is fairly standard.

Over all, it's a good book. I give Of Fire, Light, and Darkness five yo-yos. I have also finished another, very short book, but I'm going to wait until tomorrow to put the review of it up.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Angel of Darkness, by Charles de Lint

I just love Charles de Lint's books. His fantasies are great, and even his few horror novels are pretty damn good. So far, Angel of Darkness is my favorite of the horror novels.

This book has a pretty scary sort of monster. It's way better than the monsters/villain of the other de Lint horror novels. As you can guess from the title, the monster is a sort of avenging angel. The problem is, that after a lunatic opens a portal to the angel's world, it starts doing its vengeance thing on innocent people.

The creature was powerful enough that I was wondering how it was going to be stopped the whole way through the book. This book doesn't have any of the urban wizards or people with useful bits of folklore that always seem to show up and help save the day in other de Lint books. That's a good thing that makes this book more interesting.

Other than that, there are a lot of standard de Lint character types. There's a victim of abuse. There's an abuser. There's a musician. There are good and bad cops. There's a guy who tries to help street kids. As is usual in de Lint's books, they don't come across as stereotypes, even though he uses them a lot.

I give Angel of Darkness the full five yo-yos.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Haunted Places of York County, by Leo Motter

I got a couple of Borders gift cards for Christmas, and I decided to use them today. One of the books I got was a local book called Haunted Places of York County Pennsylvania. It's a fairly interesting bit of local lore.

Some of the stories in it were familiar to me, like the gates of Hell in Hellam, or see the post from earlier today for the Hex Murder. There were some lengthy digressions into other areas of local history--the story of the burning of the bridge over the Susquehanna River during the Civil War is a familiar one. I found the author's style to be occasionally grating.

Still, I like this book. The story of "The Imp of Clarke Alley" was great, even if the author compares it to a poltergeist for no apparent reason (it seems far more like a Pooka to me). I also liked liked "Cannibal," about the ghost of a Fiji warrior. Even if there weren't any ghosts in it, the story of Freeborn Garrettson was pretty good too.

Unfortunately, some of the stories weren't that good. "The Elmwood Mansion" basically boils down there being a house where a ghostly Confederate soldier and a girl in Civil War era clothes have been seen. It's not really much of a story. "The Ghost Students of Lewisberry" is basically a gravity hill--a type of illusion whereby a downhill slope looks like an uphill slope--with a corny ghost story attached to it.

Still, this book is at least as good as Weird Pennsylvania, and I'm actually giving it a slightly better rating, because it has a bibliography, which is always a useful thing in these types of books. I give this one four yo-yos. If you live in or near York County Pennsylvania, you should buy it.

Weird Pennsylvania, by Matt Lake

It's no fun being sick, folks. If you're wondering why it's been almost a week since I updated last, I've got two words for you: stomach flu. I went down with it Wednesday morning, and I was too sick to get out of bed until Saturday. Saturday and Sunday, I was too damn tired to update, and I didn't get much reading done anyway.

Still, I have read Weird Pennsylvania, which I got as a Christmas present. As you probably know, I've always been interested in the weird and unusual, so this would probably seem like the perfect gift. Well, it's the thought that counts.

Not that this is a bad book. It's actually a pretty good book, but not for the likes of me. I think it was the book's style that I didn't like. It was a bit too simplistic, and almost condescending in spots. Especially when he tries to define Fortean as gullible true believer,defines his position as as "somewhere between the credulity of true believers and dismissive responses of the critics lies the truth," which is really a far more Fortean stance.

Anyway, the book does have lots of interesting information and stories. You can here about Midgetville, killer albinos, SHC, shoe museums, giant creepy statues, the gates to Hell, ghosts, standing stones, and one of my favorite bits of local history--the Hex Murder. Sadly, by the nature of the book none of the topics are discussed in any depth, which is a shame because they're so interesting. That's the problem with this book, really.

Weird Pennsylvania is great as introduction to weirdness (especially in the great state of Pennsylvania). It could serve as a useful touring guide for weird sites in PA. It would be a great addition to the library of someone who is only marginally interested in the topic of weirdness, but for someone like me, it's like reading Dick and Jane. I can only give Weird Pennsylvania three and a half yo-yos.