Books, Books, Books – My Triumphant Return



A few months ago my family and I moved into a new house. This wasn’t the first, second, or even third time I’ve had to move. I’ve moved from house to house, apartment to apartment, and state to state. Each move brings anxiety, always over the possibility that I’ll lose some of my beloved books. I still have books that I got when I was a toddler. I have books from throughout my childhood, through my “YA Reader” years, and favorites from young adulthood until now.

When I found out we were moving, I started packing the books I couldn’t bear to lose. I figured I would start early and do it myself and write on the boxes so there was no way my books would be lost. By the day the moving truck arrived, I knew I had done my part to keep all of my favorites, all of my irreplaceable books boxed up and ready to go to the new house.

The anxiety, the panic that descended upon me when I realized I was missing a box is almost indescribable. Ready for some honesty here? I cried. For real. I sobbed. I sat in my new house, on my couch, surrounded by half-opened boxes, and just cried. The box that had my favorite childhood books (the first half of my Choose Your Own Adventures, The Game by Les Logan, and The Devil’s Children books) was gone. I looked everywhere. I had no idea how they could be lost, but they were.

A month later, I finally found them. Apparently the movers had put them into another box because my box hadn’t been good enough. (I have no idea why.) I’m sure my husband was relieved because it meant I wouldn’t go looking to replace all of them via ebay or etsy. I was ecstatic and spent the next few weeks dragging my books to work and showing my co-workers what a massive nerd I am.

So for the past six months I have been reading old childhood and teenage favorites. Then, halfway through the summer, we went to Pittsburgh (my hometown) and made our annual pilgrimage to Half Price Books (we don’t have them where I live now.) I was a little bummed because there were no ‘new’ Choose Your Own Adventures or Dark Forces books, or anything from my youth. After some consideration, I realized I have most of my old favorites now. There really aren’t any books that I once loved and no longer have. I have found and bought all of them. (quite a feat!) I made a few more rounds through the store, looking for buried treasure, and I hit paydirt! I found this:



As I have mentioned before, I love horror films. This book inspired a movie with Barbara Hershey and Ron Silver. This movie was weird, creepy, sexy, and horrifying all at once. The overacting was the only thing that topped the horrible special effects. the very minute I saw this book, I had to have it. And, my friends, the book was everything I knew it could be. It was full of 70s slang (“was this a put-on?”) and it just fit perfectly with what I remembered of the movie. As for story-telling, it could have done better. By the time I reached the end I was faced with two conflicting questions. 1. Is this book really still going on? Where does it end? 2. Was that the end? But nothing happened! The end left me wondering what exactly the point of the book was. I still had no idea what was going on when I closed the book one last time. Was Carlotta crazy? Was she neurotic? Was she having nightmares that induced some kind of mass hysteria? I have no idea, but it perfectly fit the movie and left me feeling like I had been in a time warp.

Can I recommend it to anyone? Eh, I can think of a handful of friends who might enjoy it. (the same friends who watched the movie with me back in high school) But it isn’t a good book. It gets long, it gets boring, and I was really just ready to move on to my next book.

Speaking of which, I am reading another book based on a true story (yeah, that last one was loosely based on ‘reality’), but this one is much more serious. In the 70s, a plane full of rugby players crashed in the Andes and the survivors had to eventually take meat from the passengers who died in the crash. It’s an amazing, humbling story of survival, humanity, and faith. I won’t review the book, but I can tell you now, it’s worth a read. If you don’t want to read it, watch the movie. (you won’t hear that from me very often)

I think my next couple of reviews may be of the old favorites I had as a young adult. I haven’t been reading many new books lately, and the newest book I plan to read next is “Ready Player One”, and that isn’t exactly new.

Please bear with me as I ease back into my book reviews. I haven’t written in a long time and I can tell I am rusty. I promise to write more if you promise to stick with me. Deal?

Enjoy the rest of your summer, and look forward to my next review, which will be a combination of Choose Your Own Adventure books, Dark Forces books, and an Apple Book.


A Repentant Horror Fan


So, as you probably know by my book reviews, I love horror. I love scary stories. I love them in all forms. Scary books, scary movies, scary TV shows, scary comic books…give horror a form and I’ll probably love it. (and a fair bit of sci-fi thrown in the mix as well) However, I’ve never been one of the types of people who claimed to have watched ALL the horror films.


I mean, don’t get me wrong, I have an extensive horror collection. (DVDs, BluRay, books, comics, on and on it goes) I love watching, reading, critiquing. I’m not even all that picky about ‘quality’. (I put that in quotes because generally people do not consider any horror to be good quality. They’re wrong, but that’s the way it is.) I like bad horror films. I like camp and cheeseball and completely unbelievable stories. Heck, my favorite thing about being sick (if I have to pick something favorite, that is) is getting to watch “Monsters” and “Tales From the Darkside” on SyFy. So my standards aren’t exactly high. My standard is this: I have to enjoy it. Pretty simple.

Best daytime viewing ever!

 My love of horror has existed for as long as I can remember. My Aunt Connie must have loved it too, because she let my cousin and I watch “The Exorcist” and “Poltergeist” at her place when I was about eight or nine. (you read that right…at eight or nine years of age, I saw Linda Blair’s head spin around.) My friend Julie and I went to see “Child’s Play” the summer before 7th grade. And the entire summer was spent watching “Friday the 13th” movies on HBO. In high school, my friend Sarah and I used to see how badly we could scare each other. We’d drive around at night, looking at creepy houses on dark, winding roads in the less populated areas near where we lived. We’d tell stories and see what it would take to freak ourselves out.

As a kid who loved to read, I started reading Stephen King at age ten. My first ‘grown-up’ horror book was Cujo. And, of course, before that, there was always Christopher Pike and many others like him.


So it should be no surprise that when I hear of any new horror film coming out, I almost always want to see it. I’ll admit, there are some movies I’m not anxious to see, but most of them pique my interest.

For all my love of horror, though, I have never been an “Evil Dead” fan. Ever. I never saw the first two films at all. “Army of Darkness” is something I view as punishment I endured at the hands of an asshole ex-boyfriend from high school. He made me go see it, even though I said I didn’t want to. I hated sitting through every second of it. So, I never expected that I’d want to see the remake of “Evil Dead” (a minor distinction here…the new movie left off “The” so it’s no longer “THE Evil Dead”.) The thing is, the trailers looked really good. They were creepy! So last night, when my husband and I actually got to have a night out without children, we decided to go see it. (My husband is a great sport…he’s not a horror fan, but he almost always goes to the horror films I want to see. In return, I never try to convince him to see the ones he thinks look stupid.)

So last night I saw the remake. Last night I saw “Evil Dead“. It was amazing! There was no camp. It wasn’t an homage to the lame, Ash-filled stupidity I remembered from “Army of Darkness”. It was creepy. Better yet, it scared me! Not even just a little…I was on edge throughout the entire movie. My heart was racing and my muscles were tense. I honestly cannot remember the last time a movie scared me like that. We saw “Mama” when it came out and I loved it. It was creepy and a little scary. But it didn’t actually scare me. It was creepy and there was tension when I watched it, but I wasn’t scared. “Evil Dead” scared me last night.



The thing is, don’t ask me why. I can’t tell you. Seriously, as far as I can tell, there was nothing especially different about it. I’ve seen all the “Paranormal Activity” movies so far. They were creepy and fun to watch, but they did not scare me. The last movie I remember being scared of was “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”.

One thing I can say I did love about “Evil Dead” was the exclusion of Ash in the remake. I am not a Bruce Campbell fan. I won’t say I hate the man, but I think he is one of the worst actors I’ve seen. Knowing he wasn’t in the remake is what convinced me to go see it. No matter how good it looked, if Bruce Campbell had been in it, I would never have gone to see it.

Another thing I loved is that focus on real special effects. This movie wasn’t full of CGI. It was beautifully done with real effects. Because the thing about CGI is…it looks like CGI. Special effects artists deserve credit for the beautiful work they do. This movie proves that fact.  I also appreciate that the blood looked like blood, not like a vat of tempera paint.

So let me be fair and as balanced as possible here. What didn’t I like about it? One, the girlfriend. She barely had a purpose. She was introduced and then forgotten for half of the movie. If  you’re going to show a gun, you must use the gun. If you’re going to introduce a character, you must use the character. don’t just wait until then end and suddenly have the character take an active role. Here’s how little she was involved in the main portion of the movie…I had to look up what her name was because I couldn’t remember if she was even introduced with a name.

The only other thing I had a problem with in this movie was the incantations…what started the whole thing. There was no reason the teacher (uh, in case you don’t know me by now….I am NOT River Song…so….SPOILERS!) So yeah, no reason the teacher should have read any of the incantations aloud. All of that seemed too forced. There should have been some impetus to him opening the book (wrapped in plastic and barbed wire) and then reading the words OUT LOUD and all of that good stuff. I mean, yes, it made the movie move along, but I feel like they could have made more of an effort to have a point to it. The original was pretty lame, but at least it made sense, as far as the incantations go. (Oh, yeah, I watched the original when I got home last night. I had to see what this new movie came from.) In the original movie, they played back an audio tape of a researcher reading his translations of this book he’d found. That’s what started it all. That makes way more sense than some random teacher dude deciding to take a book out of a witchcraft infested basement (full of dead cats, no less) and then open it up, using wire cutters to get the barbed wire off of it, and then making rubbings of the words so he could then read them out loud.  It just didn’t make sense.


So there is my critique. The rest of the movie was fantastic. It was gory, it was gratuitous. Disgusting bodily fluids splattered all over the place. More blood than was necessary was in practically every scene. Every single way possible to cut, puncture, slice, or otherwise rip-open human flesh was used in this film. It was gross. It made you want to turn away. But it was awesome! It wasn’t like the gore porn of movies like “Hostel” and “Saw”. It went just up to the point of ‘too far’ and then stopped. AND there was a point to it all. It wasn’t just ‘let’s see how completely disgusting we can be’.

My only other complaint, before I end my glowing review, is the very end of the movie. I always look up spoilers and I knew I was supposed to stay and watch even through the credits. (which, really, doesn’t everyone do this now? Who knows what goodies are hidden in them or at the end of them!) But at the end of these credits I got ‘rewarded’ with a giant Bruce Campbell head-shot. Ew. I assume there will be an “Evil Dead 2″, but if Bruce Campbell is in it, I will not be seeing it in the theater. They were sensible enough to leave him and the stupid campiness out of this one. I only hope they continue to see the light (dark?) and keep him out of the sequels. If they do, they have a lifelong fan in me.

So where does the ‘repentant’ part come in? I’m sorry I never even gave the original a chance. After watching it last night, it wasn’t a bad film for its time. For the only time in his career, Bruce Campbell acted the part totally straight. He wasn’t over-the-top at all. Not even a little bit. It was a decent movie with crappy effects. They had no budget and it showed, but it had a good basis. The remake fixed it all and made a truly amazing film.

As far as the original “Evil Dead” sequels go….I remain firm in my convictions. They suck.

Go see the remake. It’s killer. (bwahahahahah)

Why I Love Mira Grant

Have any of you noticed the incredible lack of good science fiction writers? How about the lack of good fantasy writers? Good horror writers?

Maybe you haven’t. Maybe I’m a grammar nazi and a bit of a word snob. Maybe I think we need more editors in this world.

But in reality, I think a huge portion of the science fiction and fantasy writers out there are mediocre at best. I’ll even name names. Peter Jordan. At the suggestion of my friends, I’m trying to read the Wheel of Time series. I quit after the first sentence of the first chapter. It was a total ripoff of Tolkien. Now, I have promised to try again, since my friends love these books so much. But I’m dubious. With the prologue and that first sentence, I was totally turned off.

Let’s move along to the next book I decided to start reading. S.M. Stirling’s “Emberverse” novels. I’m reading “Dies the Fire”. Now I’ll admit the story is good so far…interesting and it has my attention. But the story-telling is only fair. This guy’s style is a bit over-the-top for me, and he tends to repeat phrases or styles of writing. I have issues with that. Wasn’t his editor reading this stuff and saying ‘you might want to switch up how you say things here…’? I know I would. I’m also annoyed with the  constant new age and ren faire references. Not that I have anything against those things. I’ve gone to my fair share of renaissance festivals and have read plenty of new age books. But I need some balance in my literary worlds, and I don’t feel like there’s a whole lot of balance in “Dies the Fire”. It feels a bit too much like a Mary Sue.

(For those of you unsure what a Mary Sue is, here’s a detailed Wikipedia entry on it. I’m not up to it tonight.

Anyway, in regards to the two authors I mentioned here, they are extremely popular authors. They have followings. They have huge fan-bases.

Now let’s take a look at Mira Grant (pseudonym of Seanan McGuire.) She took a load of pop-culture references, a handful of lovable and semi-realistic characters, threw them into a zombie infested, mostly-suburban world, and crafted a wonderful story around them. She managed to write it all without making it sound like her fantasy life. And here’s the part I appreciate most. She edited! At least, I assume she did. The stories are good, smooth, they flow! They’re well-told and interesting and they don’t sound like they need another run past the editor’s desk.

There are good science-fiction and fantasy authors out there. I’ve ready them. But it seems like the ones who get by without polishing their work are far more.

Not exactly a complaint. Just a mild annoyance from someone who believes in the power of good editing.

Mira Grant, I thank you. And a thank you to all the author fantasy or science fiction authors out there who work hard to make good stories and not just self indulgent fantasy.

Now, I’m going back to allow myself to become immersed in the “Emberverse” and when I’m finished I’ll give the Wheel of Time another go.

Keep reading!


Get Ready, Cuz Here I Come!

After some serious considering, I’ve decided that I’m expanding my Aliverse a bit. I love books. That is still going to be my main focus. I will review books and talk about books and all that good stuff.

The thing is, I want more. Years ago, when I first started a blog, I wanted to just blog about stuff I love. But I had a hard time getting my head around such a huge undertaking. I mean, I love tons of stuff. I’m queen ADD. Where do I start? My sister-in-law Karen introduced me to book blogging and I figured “Hey, I love books! I’ve loved them forever! I love to write! I’ve loved to write forever!” and Aliverse was born. But the wonderful thing about Aliverse is, it doesn’t just say ‘books’. And now, after getting my feet wet with the book reviews, I feel I can review other things as well.

In the interest of full-disclosure, I promise to always tell if I got something for free. I can guarantee you that nobody is paying me for my posts or opinions, and they will not always be positive. This is for me and my readers, nobody else.

So in the near future, you’ll see reviews of Halloween candy (inspired by Go there, enjoy! They have the best Halloween selection of ‘stuff’ imaginable, including full candy reviews every single Halloween season!) You’ll see posts about toys, past and present, and all manner of pop-culture flotsam.

What you will not be likely to see…reviews of movies, TV, or music. It’s possible I’ll come here and talk about them at some point, but I’m so ridiculously opinionated and weird about my tastes, there’s no need to inflict that upon anyone.

Oh, expect some bento stuff too. I love bento. 😉

Hope you enjoy! And please check out and like my new Aliverse Facebook page!


Long Absence – Sorry!

So sorry for the long absence! By now, anyone who was once a regular reader of mine is probably long-gone. Sadly, that is to be expected. I do apologize. My life has been in a bit of an upheaval and I have had a difficult time prioritizing my non-work life.

To start with, I’ve got a new job. Now I’m a writer ‘for real’. As in, I get paid to write! Woo! I also happen to be working for a company that believes in helping its employees get fit. So I have gym access. I finally got my gym pass last week and have spent the past 9 days reminding my body what it feels like to move. Ouch.

I never intended to be gone for so long, but that’s what happened. I have two young kids, a husband, a full-time job, I volunteer and I’ve got the blog here. Things got a bit busy, but I never meant to leave the blog out!

So hopefully I’ll have a review soon. My goal for the year is to be more active overall…maybe active enough that I can actually attend BEA as a blogger next year.

Meanwhile, if anyone has a recommendation of a book to review, please let me know. I’m sort of stuck at the moment.

Hope to be posting again soon!

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie – A Book Review

Considered the best mystery novel ever written by many readers, And Then There Were None is the story of 10 strangers, each lured to Indian Island by a mysterious host. Once his guests have arrived, the host accuses each person of murder. Unable to leave the island, the guests begin to share their darkest secrets–until they begin to die. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. Review

~ 5 out of 5 ~

My first introduction to Agatha Christie was actually not “And Then There Were None”. It was “Murder on the Orient Express”. When I was a kid I loved mystery novels. I loved the unknown and the suspense of it all. Knowing this, my awesome Grammy bought me “Murder on the Orient Express”. After all, I was in the fourth grade and had already read Stephen King’s “Cujo” and had long ago finished up all the Apple books mysteries that existed. I had already demolished each and every Encyclopedia Brown book and been through my large collection of Choose Your Own Adventure books multiple times. This seemed like a no-brainer.

Unfortunately, for some unknown reason, I could never get into “Murder on the Orient Express”. I’m pretty sure I still have it in a box in my basement. I could never bring myself to part with it. I figured that I’d get to it…someday.  Fast forward to my adult years…I married a man who loves books just as much as I do. (which is why we have boxes and boxes of books in our basement…ew, alliteration!) So after many conversations with him about how I just can’t seem to relate to the Agatha Christie style of books and I really dislike Hercule Poirot, he suggested giving “And Then There Were None” a try. It apparently used to be called “Ten Little Indians” and before that had a racist title I won’t repeat here. (Google it if you must…) It was a sign of the times, I suppose. That held me back for a while.

Finally, knowing that March was going to be my ‘focus on women authors’ month, I figured I should start with Agatha Christie. She and Margaret Atwood are two authors I have huge amounts of respect for. They have done so much in the literary world and are truly loved and respected for what they do.

I expected another dry, unexciting story with a lot of interviewing from one investigator. Instead, I was delighted to find the novel was much like the books I already enjoy. It was a bit formulaic, but I could get around that…it’s a style and I’m fine with it. It moved quickly and easily captured my imagination. The beginning of the book introduced the characters without going into dull detail and had a great hook of getting them all to this mysterious island where they were to meet a ‘stranger’ they all supposedly already knew. What struck me right away was how similar this book was to the movie Clue!  Now obviously the book came first, so we know where the inspiration came from and where it began. Totally beside the point for me, since I LOVE the movie and game of Clue, so it was another point to further draw me in.

As the book went on and more of the guests met their demise, according to the childhood rhyme, I was delighted to find I was getting sucked in. It was hard not to, when I had an idea of what would happen as things progressed. Just look at the rhyme:

Ten little Indian boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were nine.
Nine little Indian boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were eight.
Eight little Indian boys travelling in Devon;
One said he’d stay there and then there were seven.
Seven little Indian boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in half and then there were six.
Six little Indian boys playing with a hive;
bumblebee stung one and then there were five.
Five little Indian boys going in for law;
One got in Chancery and then there were four.
Four little Indian boys going out to sea;
red herring swallowed one and then there were three.
Three little Indian boys walking in the zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were two.
Two Little Indian boys sitting in the sun;
One got frizzled up and then there was one.
One little Indian boy left all alone;
He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.

I admit, I peeked at the end, as I tend to when there’s a question of ‘who dunnit’. That in no manner took away from my love and enjoyment of this book.

It’s a quick read and a delight to read something sinister, yet seemingly light at the same time.

Thus begins my tribute to female authors this month. A little later than I’d intended, but I have a lot coming up. I hope you’ll stay tuned to see what else I’m reading this month!

Meanwhile, I hope you’ll consider supporting female authors if you don’t already do so. Sometimes it feels as if they are under-represented in reviews and literary publications. I think that needs to change.

Maybe you can start with “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie.

I give it a 5 out of 5!

FrontRow Monthly – Check it Out!

I just added a new link to my blogroll and I hope you will all give it a read.

FrontRow Monthly is a fun magazine with lots of fashion tips and juicy articles. This month is a special favorite of mine because of the exclusive interview with Bitchin’ Kitchen’s Nadia G! (I’m a foodie at heart, so it’s definitely an article that spoke to me.)

You also get the added bonus of seeing my book reviews in there. So I admit to a little self-promotion. 😉

The mag’s based in Pittsburgh, so there’s definitely a local flavor going on. But for anyone who enjoys InStyle or Vogue, this is a great magazine for you. (especially some of the handbags in this month’s issue…I seriously need one now!)

Please take a look and enjoy!

Be on the Lookout

Ok, I have at least a partial list of books I’ll be reading this month for my March Women Writer’s theme.

I hope to have the first review up tomorrow night, but it’s possible it won’t be up until Saturday. The first book to have the honor this month is…

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Then coming up later are the following (with additions forthcoming)

  • The Yellow Wallpaper – by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  • Night Swim – by Jessica Keener
  • The Do-Over – by Kathy Dunnehoff
  • The Mill River Recluse – by Darcie Chan

I’m really looking forward to this month of women writers. I hope you all are too!

Why Are Female Authors Less Recognized?

So I know I’ve been busy lately and haven’t been publishing reviews all that much. I’m remedying that now, as I’ve got 3 books I’m reading concurrently. On Twitter (@aliverse) I’m trying to catch up with what’s happening in the literary world and other bloggers. What I came across this morning was just mind-blowing to me. Almost disgusting, really.

Go ahead and take a look at this link:

Notice anything ridiculously off? Say…maybe the numbers of females versus males who were reviewed, read, written about, etc? That is why March is now my Women Writers month. My aim is to review 2-3 books a week during March, all written by female authors.

Women write and they’re talented at the profession. Why, then, are they ignored? Why would The New Yorker, New York Times, The Atlantic, etc. favor men over women when it comes to their books? I can’t even begin to guess. What I can do, is take part in an effort to give women writers more visibility.

So please get ready for March here at the Aliverse. I don’t ignore female authors. (maybe in part because I am one) I don’t pull punches either. You can expect full and honest reviews, including the good and the bad. A list of all the upcoming books and their authors will be up here by the end of the week.

Stay tuned!

I need inspiration!

So I’ve been excited about finding a new book to read. I’ve been looking forward to my next review. Problem is, I can’t find anything that is catching my attention at the moment. Mira Grant (also known as Seanan Macguire) has the final book to the Newsflesh trilogy coming out in June. I put it on pre-order today, but that’s months from now.

I don’t know what to read. I do tend to prefer thrillers and suspense. I love John Connolly, so there’s a bit of the supernatural in there as well. I like a well-written memoir, although I admit I’m partial to Jen Lancaster.

I have some freebies downloaded on my Kindle, but I rarely review those as they tend to not be as good as the ones I pay for. (a bit of a bias, I know, but so far it’s been true for me)

If you have a suggestion, please make it! I’m actually keeping myself from BEA this year because I’m not posting and reviewing enough here. It’s sad for me because this is what I truly love, besides writing.

Not only has my muse flown the coop, but my run of great books to read seems to have petered out.

Wish me luck, or if you can, please recommend something for me to read. I’m willing to try almost anything at this point!