Monday, February 15, 2010

Movie Review: Percy Jackson & The Olympians--The Lightning Thief

Zeus is not happy.

Someone stole his master lightning bolt and unless it is returned to him, then a war among the gods will erupt.

Unbeknownst to Percy Jackson, a troubled teen with dyslexia and ADHD, this is a big problem for him, because everyone on Mount Olympus thinks he stole it.  Percy is then catapulted into an adventure where he discovers he's the son of Poseidon and sets out to find Zeus's missing lightning bolt.

The Lightning Thief is based on the first young adult (YA) story of Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan. The premise of the series is that the gods of Greek mythology are still with us, and often get the urge to "hook up" with mortals every now and then. Unfortunately, these unions never last, because Zeus issued a restraining order against the gods, forbidding them from having contact with their demi-god offspring.
I haven't read any of Riordan's books, so the movie was my first exposure to the Olympian series:

Some movie reviewers considered The Lightning Thief a "cheap knock-off" of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter.  While a couple of elements are identical, where a boy discovers his unique powers and attends a special school, Riordan stays strictly within the realm of Greek mythology.  (A case of being "the same--but different").

While the plot was a formulaic quest and the real culprit was rather obvious, I found the movie to be fast-paced, which was supported by several well-known adult actors.  There were however, moments in the movie where I felt Percy and his companions should have handled the encounters better.  Especially when one of them, Anabeth, is the daughter of Athena, goddess of wisdom and warfare. 

Despite such weak moments, this was an enjoyable movie worth taking the family to see on the big screen.  Children already reading YA books will probably get the most out this movie and may encourage them to read the series.

I give The Lightning Thief 3-stars. Since the adult actors were chosen for their "sequel capability,"  we can expect to see more of Percy Jackson's modern mythological adventures.
For a full synopsis of the movie, including plot spoilers, check out Wikipedia's entry:

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

It's all about the chocolate, right?

Here's Wikipedia's version of the origins of today's "Hallmark Holiday":'s_Day

Friday, February 12, 2010

Games of Another Sort...

The 2010 Winter Olympic Games opened today in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Sci-Fi's "Periodic Table"

Nothing new is under the stars.

Someone very clever--or with too much time on their hands--came up with the "Science Fiction Periodic Table." This chart catalogues sci-fi movies and TV programs considered to be"pure elements." While some of the shows not listed on the chart are considered to be compound derivaties of the elemental stories.

(Click on the picture to enlarge it)

However, there is a debate on The Miniatures Page (TMP), where I found this, on why certain movies & programs didn't "make the chart":

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Book Review: The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl

The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, by Karen Burns, earned a slam-dunk of 17x5-star ratings out of 19 on

The two low scorers though, both gave 4-star ratings to Karen's debut book. Of which, only one gave a reason for her low review: She felt the real life career advice you can actually use was more suited for lower-tier careers and not for someone with an MBA or PhD. She was also concerned that most readers might feel inhibited about reading a book in public titled "Working Girl."

Fortunately, I have no such inhibitions and I'm siding with the 5-star reviewers on Amazon. In fact, the book, which is illustrated by the author, is more "girly" than risque in appearance.

While the saga of Working Girl is geared for women in the workforce (as opposed to the mini skirt and stiletto heels-attired working girls), it contains career advice anyone can use--even guys.

Okay, maybe getting "...your bras fitted by a professional..." (illustration, pg 120), doesn't apply to men--or most of them anyway--but just about everything else does.

Karen's warm, witty and uplifting prose, highlights what she's learned in each of the 59 jobs she's held before becoming an author. Despite the girly appearance, this book is not just a fluff piece of amusing anecdotes. Although many of predicaments Karen (aka Working Girl) found herself in, were funny, Working Girl addresses issues like stress, unethical bosses and even sexual harassment. In each situation Working Girl recommends how best to resolve the issue with grace, charm, aplomb--and if necessary--filing a grievance or initiating litigation. (Document everything!)

While the chronicle of Working Girl's amazing adventures came out in April last year, she continues to dispense sound career advice from her website:

But if getting job counselling from such a girly-looking website is too effeminate for your taste, then try the more manly US News and World Report Money Section, where Working Girl is a contributing writer:

Okay, so how do I know so much about Working Girl, instead of the stiletto-heeled working girls?

Well, I met Ms. Burns at last year's Pacific Northwest Writers Association (PNWA) Summer Conference. Her seminar, "Building a Platform from Nothing" was the first workshop I attended.

(Click on PNWA 09 Author Workshop Review under the Studio Contents Section and scroll down to the bottom to "Workshop with Working Girl," 7 August 2009).

I was impressed with her seminar and learned a lot about making my presence known on the web, without making a nuisance of myself (I hope). A standing-room only crowd also learned a lot that day too. In fact, her workshop drew more people than Deborah Schneider's and Chris Humphrey's "Writing Sex Scenes" seminar.

Seven months later, I'm still wondering which attendees had the better set of priorities...

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Book Review: Hunt At the Well of Eternity

They say "you can't judge a book by its cover." But in the case of Hunt at the Well of Eternity, by James Reasoner, what you see is what you get: A babes & bad guys B-movie, in book form.

(And yes, the heroine was wearing a red bra while crossing the rope bridge. Her blouse though, was only ripped, not torn off completely as depicted in the picture. I guess the artist Glen Orbik, decided to exercise some artistic licensing for the book cover).

One reviewer on called this tribute to the pulp fiction genre of the '30s and '40s, a "beach read for guys!" Seven others felt the same way and gave this book a 5-star rating, while six readers considered it a 4-star novel. However, not everyone was happy with this modern-day pulp novel, which received 2x3-stars, 2x2-stars and 1x1-star from other readers:

Charles Ardai, editor of Hard Case Crime books, created Leisure Books to chronicle the exploits of Gabriel Hunt, a 21st Century Indiana Jones. So far, a total of six books are planned, with several authors contributing their voice to the life & times of Gabriel Hunt. James Reasoner is the first author to join the "hunt for adventure" club:

Initially, I wasn't impressed with the first several pages Well of Eternity and would have concurred with the 1 and 2-star raters on Amazon. I found the characters, especially the evil mastermind, to be shallow caricatures; while the dialogue seemed awkward and the story loaded with cliches.

However, despite these shortcomings, James Reasoner, the author of more than 200 books, maintained a blistering pace throughout the adventure:

Snippets of Gabriel's backstory were deftly sprinkled throughout the narrative--along with an unsolved mystery haunting Gabriel and his brother Michael--while the "what-is-the-mastermind-after" exposition occured at a natural point in the story. Since it only took 8 pages to clarify the mystery, the remaining 218 pages of the book were chock-full of non-stop, two-fisted, guns blazing, action. (How's that for cliche?).

This book was a quick, easy and enjoyable read that deserves at least a 3.5-star rating.

As an aspiring writer myself, I have a personal bias for liking this book: It's the kind of story I'd like to write! The gaming articles I've penned so far contain the same (or worse), literary gaffes than the 1 & 2-star raters on Amazon gave this book.

And speaking of games, the resurgence of pulp fiction hasn't been limited to the passive art of reading either. "Pulp Gaming" has been gaining popularity among my fellow wargamers for some time now. Instead of commanding vast armies, players lead bands of heroes (or cuthroats), against the minions of an evil mastermind and attempt to thwart his diabolical plans. For some, like "Dr. Merkury," pulp gaming is their primary passion:

(A link to the "Doctor's Lab" can also be found under the Wargaming Blogs Section).

So whether you're gaming it, or reading it, pulp fiction can provide hours--or a lifetime--of great fun.