Review & Blog Tour: Alien vs. Predator

Alien vs. Predator

Alien vs. Predator
By Michael Robbins
(Penguin (Non-Classics), Paperback, 9780143120353, March 2012, 88pp.)

The Short of It:

Sharp, edgy and bold.

The Rest of It:

I am not a regular reader of poetry.  I read poetry in college and every now and then, I’ll come across a poem that speaks to me, but once again, just to be clear… I am not a reader of poetry.  I often don’t know how to read them out loud, or on paper so what I look for, is something different from what I experience on a daily basis. I want to be disturbed (yes) a little bit and forced to think. I want to be shocked, but not put off and there is a fine line between shocking and disgusting when it comes to poetry.

When I first read Alien vs. Predator,  I felt assaulted and vaguely dirty. As if I had been taken advantage of and tossed to the curb.  I wasn’t sure what to think! I put it aside for a little while. That’s when I noticed that my mind kept going back to it, whether I wanted it to or not. The visceral reaction that I’d first had, morphed into a vague curiosity and of course, that led me to pick it up again. Why, you ask?

National Poetry Month - Blog Tour
I have a soft-spot for references to pop-culture and this collection is chock full of them. Kool-Aid, Amber Alerts, Care Bears, Michael J. Fox, Soylent Green (my personal fave) and the list goes on. The poems themselves are almost written in a stream of consciousness style which makes it impossible to predict which direction he’ll take. Sometimes they are dark and once in a while, they are funny. Although, I do have to admit that most of them seem a bit angry to me. Not violent, just angry, pissed-off at the world in some way but then right when they begin to get too dark, he throws in something to surprise you, like calling himself an asshole. I chuckled over that one.

This collection may not be for everyone. It’s certainly not for the reader who is looking for poems about beautiful gardens, paths not taken and white, puffy clouds of happiness but there is something here for a reader who is looking for more. More substance, more food for thought.

Check out this video of the author, reading one of my faves out of the collection, Material Girl. It’s a good representation of light and dark and gives you an idea of what you can expect from the collection itself. His reading begins right around the 1:00 minute mark.

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher via Net Galley.
Read for: National Poetry Month Blog Tour over at Savvy Verse & Wit
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Guest Post: Matthew Pearl on Serial Thrillers & a GIVEAWAY!

Matthew Pearl, author of the bestselling novel The Last Dickens, is stopping by Book Chatter and Other Stuff today and I couldn’t be happier! As you may recall, as part of his TLC book tour, I reviewed his book and really enjoyed it. Click here for the review. Today, Matthew talks about serial thrillers. Would they work in today’s society?

Dickens: Serial Thriller

In the 19th century, many novels were published serially in installments. Charles Dickens is the most cited and probably most famous example of a serial novelist.

I’m often asked about the impact of serialized writing since I used Dickens as a focus in my new novel The Last Dickens. I’ve noticed in these questions a nostalgia or at least a curiosity about serializing stories. Novelists back then would often live at the edge of their deadline for the next installment, or just a few installments ahead of publication (it’s hard to imagine most novelists these days, myself included, being so good at deadlines!). Readers would line up on the last day of each month in London for Dickens’s latest installments, sometimes published in a magazine or journal, sometimes on its own as a stand-alone supplement. People would grab it and start reading. Imagine the suspense they felt, not having been able just to turn the page to see what would come next.

Writers were in suspense, too. Dickens kept a close eye on sales, professional reviews and public reaction to each installment, and sometimes one or all of those influenced his decisions on where the story should go.

The truth is, it’s harder and harder for us to relate to those readers. We live in an on-demand age. We can download entire books with the press of a button on the day of publication. People often talk about reading an entire novel in a single day or a few days. In fact, I notice attention spans might be reaching the point where some consumers insist they should be able to read a novel in a few days, or they don’t read it at all. We’re now accustomed never to wait for our fiction—at least once publication day rolls around.

That’s what is especially interesting about The Mystery of Edwin Drood, the jumping-off point for my novel. It was Dickens’s final novel and he died roughly in the middle of the writing process. In response to the existing fragment, there are as many scenarios as one can imagine as to where Dickens might have been going, from the straightforward to the bizarre. Whenever we read Edwin Drood today, we enter the same positions as those readers in September of 1870 when the last known installment was published. In other words, The Mystery of Edwin Drood freezes for all time the feeling of reading a novel in installments, a sensation we’ve largely forgotten.

That’s what appealed to me so much about using The Mystery of Edwin Drood as the basis for The Last Dickens. I wanted to dramatize the way the reader, publisher, and author all converged in this very real-time process of finding satisfaction from an incomplete novel. I’ve hoped to dramatize that into a quest, by Dickens’s real life American publisher, James Ripley Osgood, to find the ending to the book. The Last Dickens, essentially, picks up the story inside the limbo of the unfinished serial. My novel is even separated into six sections I title “Installments.”

As much as we might feel a rush of satisfaction trying to read a novel in a day or two, maybe we long for the community spirit that came from everyone reading installments at the same time. There is at least one excellent website channeling Dickens by serializing short stories each week, including Year of the Pig, one of my own. Another site, offers to email or send a feed of serialized installments of many classic works of literature and some newer books. DailyLit’s idea is that people’s lives and schedules today are so fragmented, that reading in installments actually fits our modern rhythms better than full length books.

Television shows, one of the modern serialized forms of entertainment, may have entered a new epoch with the rise of series on DVD as well as the hoarding of episodes on digital recordings through Tivo or DVR. How many people (including myself) have spent a lazy day watching half a season or more of The Wire, Deadwood or Curb Your Enthusiasm? A funny thing. If you have the patience or willpower to wait before starting a show, you can avoid ever waiting to see how the next episode or the whole series will turn out. This is a fairly recent phenomenon. Serial adventure shorts used to be a mainstay of cinemas in the 1950s, and were converted in spirit into full length features like Star Wars and the Indiana Jones series in the 1970s and 80s, in which we sit through a complete story all at once (though obliged to wait for sequels and prequels).

Unfolding news stories, which we can’t get ahead of because they’re still happening, may be our last pure vestige of serial narratives, with journalists the new serial writers (Dickens himself started in journalism). Perhaps this is why news stories so often are presented in sensational narrative formats, and why certain otherwise narrow occurrences—murder mysteries, missing persons, personal scandals—that might have been found in any one of Dickens’s novels are elevated to national and international headline status. These stories often don’t directly impact many people, but we crave the real suspense that can only come from installment reading (or viewing).

Do you think we maintain the spirit of nineteenth century serials anywhere else in our culture? At some level, do we long for that feeling of anticipation rather than immediate gratification, or have we become just too busy for that? Any memories of how a serialized story became important in your own life as a reader or audience member?


Thanks to TLC Book Tours for asking me to be a part of this tour.

Check out the rest of Mathew’s tour stops here.

To visit Matthew’s website, click here.

To purchase the book, please visit Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or an independent bookseller of your choice!

Note: the trade paperback comes out October 6th! Pre-order it now!


Random House has offered to give away one copy to a lucky reader. This giveaway is open to the U.S. and Canada. There are two ways to enter. Please follow the instructions carefully because I want every entry to count!

1. At the end of Matthew’s post, he asks a few questions. Answer one (or more) of his questions for ONE entry. Make sure that I have a way to contact you.

2. For another entry, Tweet about this giveaway and be sure to include @TiBookChatter so I can track it. After you Tweet, post a separate comment here telling me you did so.

This giveaway will run until Friday, October 9, 2009. The winner will be selected randomly and announced on Monday, October 12, 2009. I will contact the winner for his/her mailing address so be sure to include a way for me to contact you.

Good luck!!!

Guest Post Q&A / Giveaway! The Day The Falls Stood Still

As many of you know, I really enjoyed The Day The Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan. You can check out my review here. As part of her blog tour, Cathy is stopping by Book Chatter and Other Stuff for a Q&A session. There are no spoilers, so if you enjoyed the book as much as I did, or if you have yet to read it, grab a cup of something yummy, sit back and enjoy!

BCAOS: Although the story takes place during the early 1900’s, the fascination with hydroelectricity and the erosion it causes, is still an issue today. Global warming and the need for green technology must have been a factor in your writing of the novel. Did you intend to make an environmental statement when writing the book?

CMB: Though The Day the Falls Stood Still is a novel, it explores the very real subject of progress and its environmental implications. At the book’s opening in 1915, true to history, the engineers of the Hydro Electric Power Commission are working on a scheme to put an end to the power and money running to waste at Niagara Falls. Tom Cole, the riverman central to the book’s plot, is deeply reverent of the Niagara River, and he is dismayed as more and more water is diverted away from the falls to fuel the powerhouses.

I don’t think most tourists know that they are likely seeing only about half of the flow of the river going over the falls. Sixty years ago, the Niagara Diversion Treaty set the minimum flow over the falls at about 50 percent of the natural flow of the river during daylight hours of tourist season and 25 at all other times. Today, the largest diversion tunnel ever-it’s about 6 stories high-is currently being dug under Niagara Falls, Ontario. When it becomes operational in 2013, more water than ever before will be diverted around the falls. In writing The Day the Falls Stood Still, I did hope to increase awareness about the trade offs we make even for “clean” energy.

BCAOS: Throughout the novel, we are reminded of the day that the falls stood still. This is the day where the falls actually stopped flowing and the riverbed went dry. This is also the day that Fergus Cole is introduced to us and his rescue accounts are peppered throughout the novel. I know that William Red Hill was the inspiration for the character of Tom Cole, but when you created Tom’s character, did you know up front that there would be a Fergus Cole, Tom’s grandfather?

CMB: When I first started writing, I knew the book would be set in William “Red” Hill’s lifetime, but there were several bits of history I wanted to include in the book that predated him-the day the falls stood still, the rescue using Ellet’s basket, the collapse of Table Rock. I knew I needed an earlier riverman to include these stories, and it made sense that he would be an ancestor of Tom Cole.

BCAOS: Bess is first and foremost a Loretto girl. Many times in the novel we are reminded of her years there. I took comfort, as did Bess, in the routine that Loretto provided. What experience have you had with educational institutions such as Loretto? Did you attend a boarding school while you were growing up?

CMB: I attended the local public schools in Niagara Falls while I was growing up. My appreciation of tradition and routine likely grew out of my heavy involvement with ballet during my teenage years. I attended class four nights a week, and loved the practice of standing at the barre, night after night, and making my way through the same set of exercises so many other dancers had.

BCAOS: I was fascinated with the sections describing Bess and her sewing. I am not a seamstress and yet I found these bits quite useful as a way of defining class and position within the community. What inspired you to give Bess that profession? Do you sew?

CMB: The old adage “write what you know” came into play in making Bess a dressmaker. I sewed my own wedding gown, and also those of my three sisters. For my own big day, I decided to copy a wedding gown from a 1920’s photograph. The bodice of that aged gown was heavily beaded, and just as I had, Bess spends long hours beading a 1920’s era gown.

BCAOS: I was often touched by the interaction of lack thereof of Tom Cole and his son Jesse as he teaches Jesse about the falls. Being born and bred in Niagara Falls, Ontario, what is your fondest childhood memory?

CMB: I loved having company as a child, particularly my cousins. It meant we’d make the trek to the falls and spend a day riding the Maid of the Mist, walking through Queen Victoria Park, and gazing out over the Niagara Gorge. If there was time, we would hike into Niagara glen, a spot that plenty of locals think rivals the falls in beauty.

BCAOS: What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

CMB: Niagara Falls lore is endless-the Maid of the Mist and her canoe, Sir Isaac Brock and the War of 1812, Blondin and his tightrope, Annie Taylor and her barrel, Red Hill and his daring rescues, Sir Adam Beck and hydroelectricity, Roger Woodward and the miracle at Niagara… With so many intriguing stories, the difficulty lay in deciding what to include in The Day the Falls Stood Still.

BCAOS: The Day the Falls Stood Still was picked as a Barnes and Noble Recommends book, which is very exciting! I know that you are busy promoting the book, but what are you working on next?

CMB: I’m working on a novel set in and around the Paris Opera in the 1880’s.

Cathy, thanks so much for stopping by!

If you’d like to read more about Cathy Marie Buchanan, click here to visit her website.

Check out the rest of Cathy’s tour stops here.

To purchase the book, please visit Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s or an independent bookseller of your choice!


UPDATE! Giveaway has ended! Thanks for entering. Winner to be posted on 9/21.

Hyperion has provided me with a gorgeous hardback copy of The Day the Falls Stood Still to giveaway to one lucky reader.

This giveaway is open to the U.S. and Canada. There are THREE ways to enter. Please follow the instructions carefully because I want every entry to count!

1. Post a comment for ONE entry. Make sure that I have a way to contact you.

2. For another entry, Tweet about this giveaway and be sure to include @TiBookChatter so I can track it. After you Tweet, post a separate comment here telling me you did so.

3. Follow this blog for another entry and let me know. If you already follow, post a separate comment telling me so, and that will count too!

This giveaway will run until Friday, September 18, 2009 at 10pm (PDT). The winner will be selected randomly and announced on Monday, September 21, 2009. I will contact the winner for his/her mailing address so be sure to include a way for me to contact you.

Good luck!!!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 585 other followers