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Below are the 9 most recent journal entries recorded in Casual Reviews, for books, songs, art, comics, et's LiveJournal:

Saturday, April 17th, 2010
5:31 pm
Book Review: "After the Hangover" by R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.

What has been happening to the “longest dying political movement” in the history of the United States?

Will they finally give up the ghost?

Using wit and experience gained from years of being involved with the conservative movement, R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. dives answers these in After the Hangover. Tyrrell uses much needed humor and witty sarcasm to ease his readers through the sometimes stifling history of the conservative movement as well as his proposed steps to keep the movement up and running.

I really enjoyed reading this book and found that it flowed nicely. He was able to keep my interest even through the long list of politicians and events he covered from the birth of the conservative’s movement in the 1950’s to more current events including Obama’s presidency. The problem I had with this book was that there were areas that I couldn’t understand very well because of my lack of knowledge about politicians. I found that his writing might be over the heads of those just starting to learn about politics and the politicians. Still, I think that this book is worth reading, and if one is interested in objectively analyzing America’s modern political movements they could easily use After the Hangover as a dive board into further study.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Current Mood: busy
Saturday, October 22nd, 2005
2:40 am
The Play What I Wrote
Under the cut is a play that I wrote for my Playwriting class. It is also cross-posted to my personal journal. I hope you enjoy.

I'm planning on entering this to the ACTFs (American College Theater Festival), so any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Title: Come As You Are
Author: Alaina L. Patterson
Characters: Lara, Emily, Richard, and James.
Rating: R
Length: ~2000 words
Warnings: Sexual innuendo, language, and harsh questioning of sexual orientation. But this is a comedy.

Also, I should mention that the characters are based on real people from my workplace. Three of the four are aware of the play and have read the play. You can probably infer who hasn't read the play. So, if you know the person I'm talking about... do me a favor? Don't mention this to him. Thanks.

Read Come As You AreCollapse )

Current Mood: Accomplished
Saturday, October 8th, 2005
4:27 pm
Book Review: The Book of Renfield
My first review will be on The Book of Renfield, by Tim Lucas.

My overall feeling of the book is: meh. I picked it up because I'm currently trying to adapt Stoker's Dracula (the novel, not the movie) into a play, and Stoker never gives the audience much insight into the character of Renfield. The amount of info on Renfield can be summed up as such: He's an inmate at the insane asylum, he becomes a pawn of Dracula's, he turns on Dracula when he meets Mina, and Dracula kills him for his betrayal. Because Stoker never lets the audience read anything that Renfield (may have) written (unlike the narrators of Stoker's novel), it was frustrating to me that I couldn't truly get a handle on Renfield's character.

The Book of Renfield is supposedly a real manuscript compiled by Dr. Seward, who supposedly actually lived. Dracula was another real manuscript compiled by real people, but the people involved gave the material to Bram Stoker, and that's how the "true" story of Dracula was able to get published. The narrator here is Dr. John Seward, the asylum proprietor. After Renfield's death, he felt it was time to publish the story of how Renfield succumbed to Dracula so easily; hence, the novel.

Renfield shares his history with Dr. Seward in a series of "Patient's Oral History" reports. Renfield was adopted as a toddler by a village priest with the same name. He lives his childhood in the village and is persecuted for being weird. Renfield -- which is the name given to him by his "Father," the priest -- knows that he doesn't have a "normal" family life, and he longs for a mother figure to look up to. His priest "Father" sends him to a true family in the village, but Renfield messes the foster situation up when the mother has a child. His next foster family provides him with foster siblings nearer to his age, and they torment the orphan. Renfield finds a mouse, whom he names "Jolly." Renfield falls in love with the mouse, who gives him the unconditional love he has wanted forever. You can guess right from when Renfield gets Jolly that the relationship with his pet isn't going to turn out well. He goes back to live with Father, and then we find out how Renfield came to be on Father's doorstep.

After the Oral History is finished, the book borrows heavily on Stoker's original novel. (Lucas, when using text from Dracula, bolds the text -- the last forty pages are so are 90% bold.) When Renfield dies (which is actually the prologue of the novel), the book just stops, with an epilogue "written" by Dr. Seward's "great-grandson," who found the manuscript in the attic and published it in 2005.

Overall, the plot was enjoyable -- it explained in details that made sense to the original novel how this little-explained character became so important. But at the end, I found that reading this book was like reading good, well-thought-out fanfic: the characters are written in character "according to canon," the plot takes its base in the original plot, it makes sense, but no new information is gathered. It's like if someone rewrote Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix from Kreacher's point of view.

I do think, however, that if I hadn't read so much information on Dracula and Bram Stoker et al previously to this novel, I may have enjoyed it more.

Conclusion: If you liked Dracula but felt a little empty in regards to Renfield's character, then this is a book I'd recommend -- just don't expect any true epiphanies at the end of it.

From a normal reader's perspective: B
From a "Dracula" fanatic's perspective: C

Current Mood: Stupid VH1...
Tuesday, October 4th, 2005
8:35 pm
Since this community is for reviews of all forms of art I've decided to place a photo on here for review. Please, feel free to comment/critiqueCollapse )
Sunday, October 2nd, 2005
10:55 pm
Review: Mirrormask
I saw Mirrormask today with some friends. Although I haven't read all of Neil Gaiman's work, from the bits of it I have encountered, I was expecting something nice. I must say I wasn't disappointed. Mirrormask was a breathtakingly beautiful film, and it had an interesting commentary on adolescence in it. It delved into an intriguing world of fantasy that was uniquely creative and captivating. And the character Valentine had the sexiest voice.... Mmm.... Anyway, it had a very Wizard of Oz kind of feel, and the line between dream and alternate reality was rather blurred. The acting was fairly well done. Still, the best part I thought was just the visual experience. The music was also very good. And Valentine....

Current Mood: amused
Friday, September 30th, 2005
12:51 am
So, I've run out of books other people have given more or recomended to me. Any ideas? I love character-driven books.
Wednesday, September 28th, 2005
9:14 pm
To All Members!
Hi! Welcome to the review community! I'd just like everyone to know a few things about this community:

*You are able to post a review here for most anything, be it literature, film, art, or music. Reviews need not all be positive ones. If a book or film sucked, by all means say so. Just be prepared for someone else to come along who loved what you hated, as this can happen all the time.

*You can post personal work here for critique, be it art, creative writing, photography, poetry, or what have you. Long stories should be placed behind a cut, and mature images should also likewise be placed behind a cut that warns of the graphic nature of the image.

*Posts not pertaining to a review or personal work may be removed from this community at the discretion of its moderators.
9:57 pm
Yay, first post!
Hehe, first post belongs to me!
I shall be reveiwing two books, Ender's Game and Wit'ch Fire, since I read them recently. I also read American Gods recently, but I already posted about that on my own lj. And anyway, I have less to say about it.

As with many book reveiws, there is always the possibility that these may contain spoilers, but I tried not to have anything major.

Title: Ender's Game
Author: Orson Scott Card

Ender's game is a really, really good book. I'm just gonna start by saying that. Whatever crtiticizms I have, it doesn't change the fact that this is a really good book. It seems to start slow, but looking at the book as a whole, it has to be done that way, for the mounting emotional tension to be apparent. The story basically follows a boy named "Ender" (his real name is Arthur Wiggin, but he calls himself Ender.) Ender was born for one purpose: to be a genius fleet commander. Humanity is engaged in a war with a superior race, and the millitary command knows that their only chance for survival is a commander whos tactical inteligence is better than that of their enemy. The book follows Ender through millitary school as he is unwittingly prepared for this monstrously difficult task. Basically, the story follows Ender as he is slowly diven nearly insane by the demands of his education. The plot is fairly straightforward, and the conclusion hardly unpredictable, but Card wrote this book a long time ago, when you could get away with less surprizing conclusions to science fiction stories. Anyway, the plot isn't nearly as important to the success of this book as the characterization, which is stunning. Ender is a child but not a child, petty and small-minded but also vastly inteligent and possesed of an almost godlike understanding of the motivations and actions of other people. Neither he, nor any other of the characters are really entirely good or evil (although MOST of the characters seem more evil than good, even Ender himself to some extent.) and there really isn't an actual villan, no matter how it may seem. I like psychological/philosophical science fiction a lot, and anyone else who ALSO likes philosphical science fiction would probably also enjoy this book. It is pretty dark, though, certainly not a light read. Also, if the idea of young children being endlessly emotionally abused is too unnerving for you, I'd avoid Enders Game. (not that everyone is okay with the abusiveness, but it is there)

The sequel to Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead is also a pretty good book, even though it takes place on only one planet and there isn't really very much interesting violence. Ender travels to a distant planet to figure out why the indegenous aliens (the first encountered PEACFULLY by humans) have killed the man who was studying them. This book is very different from Ender's Game, which was much more character driven. Speaker is far more plot driven, and in fact that plot is a lot more in-depth. I don't know, though. I didn't enjoy it as much as ender's game. And the hint of romance is rather sadly ignored, but I was expecting that. All science fiction authors of a certain generation are incapable of writing romance into their books.
The third book, Xenocide, I still haven't finished, and I probably never will. It was really, really talky. I just wanted to know what was going to happen, and was tired of reading so much dialog, and it wasn't really going into anything the other two books hadn't already done better. Perhaps my opinon would change if I actially finished it, though, so I'm not going to say any more.

Title: Wit'ch Fire
Author: James Clemens

So Tom loaned me one of his favorite books, Wit'ch Fire, and I did like it. It's a pretty good book. But it's not going to be my favorite fantasy sereis ever or anything like that. The setting is interesting, but really, this is a fantasy story I've read many, many, MANY times before. Tell me if this sounds familiar: "The land has been subjugated by a dark lord and his demon minions for a long time. There's a really old prophecy that only a few people know, that someone will come along and save the world. The prophecied savior appears, but she's just a kid, and doesn't want to save the world anyway. The minions of the dark lord want to capture her, but there's a group of unlikely heroes who are determined not to let that happen."

It was a good book, but in the end, it's nothing I haven't read before. There are lots of characters, and I already know what's going to happen to quite a few of them. I know who's ultimately going to betray the party, but then realize his mistake and help win the battle in the end. I know who might be going to die. I THINK I know who's going to end up shacking up, though I'm less certain of that than I am of the other things. I dunno. In a fantasy story, where the plot isn't anything terribly new, the characters are always key. Or perhaps that's just a personal thing with me. In any case, there are so many different characters, I feel like none of them really have much depth. It would be okay for some of the peripheral characters to be sketchy, as long as there were a few core characters who were really deep. But there aren't. Really, I just wish the MAIN character was deeper. Exagerating this fact is the way the book takes itself so seriously. There's very little humor of any sort in this book. Granted, there's little opportunity, since it's rather dark.

BUT, this is only volume one. I am perfectly aware that the characters may, in future books, surpass all my expectations. The characters may get deeper, and plot may develop some unexpected elements, and I may be more impressed than I am.
It wasn't a BAD book, though. The setting is incredibly detailed and wonderful, description and such is lovely but not overdone. The different races are all quite interesting, all with interesting traits and features. The action and fighting was really quite excelent, the demons were properly horrific, and things moved along well. It was a very easy read, which is always good. I have read some REALLY bad fantasy books, and this was not one of them. I feared for characters lives, and worried that someone was going to get captured by the dark lord, I was sad that some bad things happened. The fact that I knew what was, basically, going to happen was somewhat beside the point. I just wish I had been able to like the characters even MORE. I'll still read the second book, though.
I think my favorite part, in the end, was the forward, where the "publisher" stated that the author was a liar. I could have done with a bit more humor of that sort.
8:56 pm
Review of Shadowfall by James Clemens
Title: Shadowfall
Author: James Clemens

Shadowfall is a new book series by Clemens, author of another series I really enjoyed (and am trying to write up a D&D campaign setting based upon) called "Wit'ch Fire" et cetera. Clemens has a gripping style, and the book definitely had enough action and suspense to keep me turning pages. Another thing I really enjoy about Clemens' books is his innovative concepts of magic and how it works in his settings. In Shadowfall, the gods were sundered into three parts: Human, Aether, and Naether. They bestow magical Grace upon those they deem worthy through their sacred humours - ie blood, seed/menses, sweat, tears, saliva, phlegm, yellow and black bile. Alchemy and such also are used to combine these humours and stuff for spells and things. It seemed interesting and new to me, and the concept of a god's shit having magical properties was, needless to say, amusing. The main characters, as is typical of an epic fantasy novel, are thrust into the middle of some huge conflict, and struggle to get to the bottom of the dark forces and conspiracies that threaten to upset the balance of peace in the land. Lines between dark and light are blurred, however, and no character is as starkly pure or unpure as one might expect. The characters have a depth to them which makes them believable. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Clemens didn't let me down.

Current Mood: accomplished
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