Geek alert: Mystery Box ME

Do you like sci-fi (books, movies, everything)? Anime? ‘Verses like Star Wars, Star Trek (yes you can like both – look at me!), Firefly and more? Comics? Gaming? OK, well you’re going to want to know about Mystery Box ME, if you don’t already!

I’m not sure how I came across the geek-themed Mystery Box ME, but I’m really glad I did. If I had to hazard a guess though, I’d say it was something I found via the geek-in-the-know, @theregos.

Anyway, the premise is simple. You sign up to receive a… well, a mystery box every month. You don’t know what’s in the box, other than that it will arouse the interest of all geeks.

Here’s an example of just one month:

Other months have included a Batman-themed fidget spinner, a Baby Groot bobble-head, a t-shirt with Futurama’s Bender, a Deadpool chef figurine, a t-shirt with Serenity (the ship) on it, a variety of comics, and so much more.

The website lists all the subscription opportunities; you can buy a one-off box for AED 199, or take monthly plans, ranging from a three-month plan to a one year plan, with prices obviously dropping with the volume that you purchase. I find that it’s always worth it…opening that box has never disappointed.

This month, the website released a “themed” box – Star Wars. The website also currently lists a video game-themed box. These do list what you’re getting when you order the boxes. Definitely looking forward to more of these!

Check out the official website for more information and to order your own box!

Want to see more? I’ll end with one of my (many) unboxing videos… 

Reading Discworld Books 16-20

Welcome to the next installment of my Discworld adventure… 

Earlier installments: Books 1-4, Books 5-10, Books 11-15

Soul Music: Discworld #16

The third in the Death series, Susan remembers the grandfather she forgot: Death. Upset after his daughter and son-in-law die, Death disappears (again). This time, instead of zombies, his granddaughter takes on the mantle. But during her work, something strange happens. One human doesn’t die. Music takes him over at the time he was meant to die. And then Music With Rocks In is born. This music is alive, and it’s determined to make its way. In a way, this book reminds me of Moving Pictures, which annoyed me ever so slightly. However, the book manages to hold its own.

Troll Bridge: Discworld #16.5

This short story with Cohen the Barbarian is a lovely little treat! Cohen wants to fight a troll to the death, just like the old days. But what he finds is that trolls are dealing with the passing of time, much like himself. The bridge troll and Cohen have a bit of a chat and find out they have more in common than they realise… a quick read, one for Discworld fans.

Interesting Times: Discworld #17

I first read this book in 2012, and gave it three stars on Goodreads. And you know what? I enjoyed it much more the second time around – four stars,if not 4.5. In fact, I’m not sure I remember the book as much as I did this time… The fifth in the Rincewind series, this one follows the hapless wizard (or wizzard, as it were) in his next adventure, where he is reunited with a friend from the past, along with a few barbarians. Maybe even Luggage. Sent to the Counterweight Continent, he’s thrown into a situation where people assume he’s the “great wizard” and barbarians are trying to take over. Guest appearance by Death at one point, wahey! Genuinely enjoyed this one, it really helped to have read the other books in the Rincewind sub-series, to really get into the zone with this one.

Maskerade: Discworld #18

The fifth in the Witches sub-series, this book is the first one where Magrat Garlick (last seen in Lords and Ladies) is absent. Having become Queen, she’s busy ruling Lancre, and the coven of three is now two. Sensing Granny Weatherwax is dipping into depression (and potentially turning bad), Nanny Ogg is keen to get that number back to three – picking Agnes Nitts (or Perdita) as a successor. But Agnes/Perdita has run off to Ankh-Morpork to become an opera singer, and she’s been thrown in the midst of a Phantom of the Opera-style murder mystery. The witches, naturally, arrive to get Agnes back … and then they have to figure out who the phantom really is… I’m really liking the murder mystery style of Discworld books, definitely a good read.

Feet of Clay: Discworld #19

A wonderful City Watch series book, this is third in the story of Captai Vimes and his band of merry men. This is a murder mystery, and Vimes and his team has to figure out whodunit – and who’s also poisoning Lord Vetinari! Throw in a few characters like dwarf Cheery Littlebottom, and you have a winner. We also learn more about Golems, made of clay, and their standing in the social confusion that is Ankh-Morpork – a lot through the eyes of Dorfl. A few places in this book made me want to tear up, but that’s just the nature of something written by Pratchett.

Hogfather: Discworld #20

I first read this in 2012, and picked it up again for my Discworld journey. It’s the fourth in the Death series, and so marks the return of my favourite character (Death FYI). This one marks the return of Death’s granddaughter, Susan. She’s trying to live a ‘normal’ life – as much as a Duchess and the granddaughter of Death can live a normal life – as a governess. But some things are trying to kill the Hogfather, the merry figure who appears on Hogswatch, and they’re nearly succeeding. And Death has stepped in… HO HO HO. The wizards make an appearance too, and what a merry bunch they are. All in time for the season.

Discworld Books 11-15

Welcome to the next installment of my Discworld adventure… 

Earlier installments: Books 1-4, Books 5-10

Reaper Man: Discworld #11

So, if you’ve been reading my Discworld series of posts, you will know Death is my favourite character. For me personally, this wasn’t my favourite book – which was a disappointment. The second in the Death series after Mort, the book explores what would happen if Death just wasn’t there. Death has been fired, and isn’t picking up the dead witches, wizards and others. Instead, he’s become Bill Door and is working on a farm. And … he makes friends, and shows, believe-it-or-not, empathy. In Ankh-Morpork, a wizard has died, and he’s tired of waiting for Death to pick him up. And so…he becomes undead and joins a society of the undead. Both stories are intertwined – the fate of Death and the fate of Ankh Morpork. A good read, but not my favourite.

Witches Abroad: Discworld #12

The third in the Witches series… the trio of Nanny Ogg, Granny Weatherwax and Magrat Garlick are slowly gaining ground as some of my favourite characters (Death, don’t let them beat you!). In this book, the three witches take a trip to Genua on a fairy godmother mission, when Desiderata passed away and left her wand to Magrat. And obviously Granny and Nanny had to come along, especially when they find out they weren’t meant to. Their mission is to prevent a young girl, Emberella, from marrying a prince, and thwarting a power-hungry witch in the process. Throw in voodoo, coachmen and pumpkins, and  a whole lot of sarcasm and common sense, and it’s a fairy tale for all!

Small Gods: Discworld #13

I first read this book in 2013 and gave it five stars. I read it again, and gave it five stars…again! In this book, the Great God Om has woken up as a turtle – and he just wanted to be a bull again. The Discworld is peppered with many gods, all competing for believers. He needs to find someone to believe in him, and make him great again. In comes Brutha, a novice, who believes. Imagine his surprise when he finds Om the turtle. Om’s challenge, should he choose to accept it: make Brutha make everyone believe in him again. Really believe. Or else he’ll become a “small god”… perish the thought.

Lords and Ladies: Discworld #14

Okay, this was a massive surprise – I fell in love with this book! The Witches Series is really fantastic. Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Eve is here! After the three witches have been out and about seeing the world (see book 12!), they are back. In Magrat Garlick’s absence, her wedding seems to have been planned with the King of Lancre. But something is afoot…elves? Fairy lights and twinkly beings? No. Dangerous elements. Evil. Mischief. And only Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax remember there’s more to the beautiful creatures… But the lords and ladies are trying to re-enter the Discworld… there’s a way to stop them. Will they? Absolutely intelligent and superb writing.

Theatre of Cruelty: Discworld #14.5

Short online read, a play on Punch and Judy, with Carrot and Death thrown in. Not my favourite, but Discword fans should read it. You can read it for free here.

Men at Arms: Discworld #15

The City Watch series is in its second outing after Guards! Guards!, and what an outing it is. Carrot is back, but so are some new recruits. While no one really knows what Nobby is, the Night Watch now has recruited a dwarf (Cuddy; a real one, no offence Carrot), a troll (Detritus), and a woman (and a werewolf, sorry for outing you Angua). And Sam Vimes is retiring! To become a gentleman and get married. In the midst of angst within the Night Watch, the royalists are coming back… and they seem to think a citizen of Ankh-Morpork may be the real heir. The Patrician is not amused. Neither is the Watch, especially when there are a serious of mysterious deaths. And a new and missing weapon called a gonne. Is this a murder mystery? Yes. Read it. Brilliance.

#Reading Discworld books 5-10

Welcome to the next installment of my Discworld adventure… 

Sourcery: Discworld #5

The third Rincewind. Not the biggest fan of him, though he’s slightly growing on me. In this book, the eighth son of the eighth son of an eighth son has arrived. He’s a sourcerer. And he’s out to wreak a little havoc on the world. Other characters include the Librarian (remember, ape not monkey), and Conina (daughter of Cohen the Barbarian), Nijel the Destroyer, and Cresosote. Not sure I liked these three very much – the narrative that included the wizards, Coin the sourcerer, Death and *shock* Rincewind was more interesting than these three. Easy to read, not the most engaging.

Wyrd Sisters: Discworld #6

This marks the return of Granny Weatherwax, last seen in ‘Equal Rites’, making this the second of the Witches sub-series. I really enjoyed this one – Granny Weatherwax forms a non-social coven with two other witches, Nanny Ogg and Margat Garlick, and during the course of their reluctant socialising, help save the kingdom of Lancre from the clutches of an evil Duke. Throw in ghosts, supernatural occurrences, and a healthy dose of Shakespeare satire, and you’ve got Wyrd Sisters. I quite enjoyed the down-to-earth nature of these witches, who aren’t what you’d expect from “witches” – as Nanny Ogg said in the book, as witches get used to magic, it’s a special kind of magic to not use any! One of Pratchett’s more enjoyable books.

Pyramids: Discworld #7

This is the first time I’ve read this book in the series, and absolutely loved it. I’ve always enjoyed history in general, and this book references Egyptian pharaohs and mummies and pyramids, and takes readers for a fun ride. Teppic has trained to be an assassin in Ankh-Morpork. But his father passes away – and he’s the new king! Teppic goes back home to rule and to build the biggest pyramid ever seen. But pyramids have power, and this developments leads to a series of hilarious incidents. This book has mummies, camel-mathematicians, and nubile handmaidens. Along with a few gods thrown in. It’s a standalone book, so doesn’t necessarily need to be read in the order that it was written.

Guards! Guards!: Discworld #8

The eighth in the Discworld series, the first in the City Watch – this book was absolutely fantastic in setting up the story of Captain Vimes and the Night Watch. We are introduced to Carrot, Nobby and Colon, all of whom are beloved characters in the series. Lady Sybil is also introduced, and her relationship with Vimes is wonderfully set up in the book. In this novel, Ankh-Morpork is subjected to a few dragons, one of whom decides it wants to take over the city and rule. How will the Ankh-Morporkians deal with this? And how does Vimes turn from a bottle-hugger to a hero? How does Carrot turn from thinking he’s a dwarf to transforming the Night Watch? One of the best books I’ve read so far in the Discworld series – I give it five stars.

Eric: Discworld #9

Rincewind returns in his fourth outing! While trying to summon a demon to make his teenage wishes come true, Eric somehow manages to end up with Rincewind the wizard (who picks up from where we left him at the end of Discworld #5, Sourcery). Join the pair as they embark on an adventure to the beginning of the universe, a war over a woman whose appearance may or may not have launched a 1,000 ships, a sacrificial empire, and perhaps even…Hell. It was quick reading, but I didn’t like it as much as I thought I might. Good moments, but I’ve never been the biggest Rincewind fan to begin with, so perhaps that contributed to me not loving it as much as I could.

Moving Pictures: Discworld #10

A standalone novel, Moving Pictures is a straight parody of Hollywood culture, with the Discworld version Holy Wood. In this book, alchemists discover how to create moving pictures, with the help of imps. But is this magic, or science? And why are people being drawn to Holy Wood, and who or what is putting mysterious dreams in their heads? We join failed wizard Victor and milkmaid hating Ginger on their adventures in tinsel town. I struggled with the beginning of this book, it felt like it was dragging on. About halfway through it got a bit more interesting, although the ending felt rushed/contrived. Even so, it’s a decent Pratchett book, but not one to read first if you’re not a Pratchett/Discworld fan already.

ADDENDUM: Death and What Comes Next: Discworld #10.5

So I cheated a little bit. I found this novella listed on Goodreads as Discworld 10.5, with my favourite character in the series – Death. Some of the reviewers shared where it could be read (here you go): all I will say is, it’s very short, but filled with the wit and sarcasm you would have grown to expect from Pratchett by this point.

Some autism movies on my to-watch list

In the last few weeks, I’ve come across two movie trailers, where the main protagonist is autistic. I’m always curious to see how people with autism spectrum disorders are portrayed in the cinema. So I’ll definitely try and watch them. I’ll post reviews if I get to see them!

Here are the trailers, let me know what you think:

  1. Jack of the Red Hearts
  1. Janes Wants a Boyfriend

Jane Wants a Boyfriend | Official Trailer from William Sullivan on Vimeo.

 

#Reading Discworld books 1-4

The Color of Magic: Discworld #1

The introduction to the Discworld is nothing short of fantastic. Terry Pratchett combines humour with outright impossible fantasy to create a world where you are asked to believe in trolls, magic, a giant turtle (male or female unknown), and heroes.

Rincewind, a failed (sort of) wizard, has come into the dubious employ of a tourist, Twoflower, and keeps him alive in the face of extreme circumstances, and against all odds. Twoflower is determined to see the wonders of the world which is equally determined to kill him. And then there’s Luggage – a mysterious box with thousands of feet doggedly following its master Twoflower. And there’s also Death, who isn’t amused by Rincewind escaping him more than once. Throw in a few Gods, dragons, and Heroes… and the first Discworld novel was born.

I first read this book in 2013, and it’s a madcap intro to a world with no rules. The book ends with a cliffhanger, and would definitely push people to pick up the second.

The Light Fantastic: Discworld #2

This is my first time reading this book, which is the second in the Rincewind series. We pick up right where The Color of Magic left off. Rincewind has [SPOILER!] fallen off the edge of the Rim, but there are a lot of forces keen to keep him on the Discworld. Twoflower, the irrepressible tourist, is still around, and as optimistic (or foolish, call him what you will) as ever.

In this book, matters move ahead. The Spell that has lodged itself in Rincewind’s mind is aching to get out. Twoflower just wants to see the world, while the wizard just wants to go back to Ankh-Morpork. Will the intrepid duo (and The Luggage) make it back to safety? They are joined by a geriatric Hero Cohen, and a nubile young woman Bethan. Throw a few trolls in, and we’re all set.

The humour is something I’ll keep coming back to, again and again. The puns, one-liners, and jokes are littered across this book, as the first. When I’d read Terry Pratchett books earlier, with no order in mind, Rincewind’s character thoroughly irritated me. Having been given a chance to read the first novel followed by this one, I’ve found that I’m growing to tolerate the wizard who’s fairly useless at…being a wizard.

The book ties it up neatly at the end, leaving Pratchett to further explore other Discworld elements from the third book.

Equal Rites: Discworld #3

I first read this book in 2013 (so says Goodreads anyway), and at the time I gave it a 3/5 rating. With my second time, it bumped up to a 4. The third in the Discworld series, and the first in the Witches sub-series, it introduces Granny Weatherwax, a witch, who is thrown into a situation that was without precedent: a female wizard has been born. Everyone knows (in Discworld), that men are wizards, women are witches. But the eighth daughter of the eighth son, Esk, has arrived to shake things up a bit. Join them for a journey to The Unseen University in Ankh-Morpork, and watch both characters come into their own. The book even throws in a special appearance from possibly my favourite Discworld character, Death.

By no means his best work, I bumped up this book from 3 points to 4 because I really appreciated the nuances of his world-building, and humour on the second read.

Mort: Discworld #4

The fourth Discworld book (and the first in the Death series) contains who is possibly my favourite Discworld character – Death. In this book, Death takes on an apprentice, appropriately named Mort (short for Mortimer). We get the feeling Death is a littel bored out of his skull (he he he) and needs company, needs variety, needs a bit of a shake-up before falling back in love with his job again. The book is, wonderfully, all about Death’s and Mort’s journey together. We also learn Death likes cats. And curry.

I’ve got to say, I’m probably biased giving it a 5/5 on my second read, but I genuinely love Death’s character, and he never fails to make me laugh. Yes, the book is silly, but so are many of the Discworld novels.

* * * * *

Right, four novels down. 37 to go.

 

Entering Discworld – again

My first Discworld novel was “The Truth” and I fell in love. I kept reading. And I always wanted more.

After him “leaving early to avoid the rush” last year, I wanted nothing more than to read the entire Discword series from start to finish, in the right order. I never got time.

But enough is enough.

Here’s what I’ll be doing. I’m going to read the entire series this year (that’s 41 of them; I’m not looking at The Science of Discworld range yet) and every 4-5 books, will write a round-up. Most are available in my local library, and the rest I’ll borrow or buy. Even if I’ve read a book before, I will read it again.

I’m not only going to be reading these though! As with every year for a while now, I’ve been aiming and mostly succeeding in reading 100 books a year. In 2015, due to a variety of reasons, I only managed 63. But I’m back to 100 this year, and I’m pretty sure I’ll make it.

So my Discworld journey begins.

May the Fourth be with you, always

IT’S STAR WARS DAY!!!

And right on time, I got an awesome press release drop in my inbox the other day… if you’re a Star Wars fan, you’ll like this one.

Rdio has put together a playlist to “make you feel like a Jedi” (YEAH I WANNA FEEL LIKE A JEDI!).  You can click on the direct link below to get to the music list.

May the Fourth be with you, and happy listening!

Star Wars Day Playlist by Rdio:  Direct link:  http://rd.io/x/QXgPYDPTcZk/

Track Listing:

  1. Main Title from Star Wars – John Williams – John Williams – Greatest Hits 1969-1999
  2. The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme) – John Williams – The Music Of Star Wars: 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition
  3. Princess Leia’s Theme – John Williams – The Music Of Star Wars: 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition
  4. Yoda’s Theme – John Williams – The Music Of Star Wars: 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition
  5. Binary Sunset (Alternate) (Medley) – London Symphony Orchestra;John Williams – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  6. Han Solo and the Princess – John Williams – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  7. The Asteroid Field – John Williams – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  8. The Throne Room/End Title (Medley) – John Williams – The Music Of Star Wars: 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition
  9. Duel Of The Fates from Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace – John Williams;London Voices – Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
  10. The Emperor Arrives/The Death of Yoda/Obi-Wan’s Revelation (Medley) – John Williams – Star Wars Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  11. Anakin’s Betrayal (Episode III – Revenge of the Sith) – Global Stage Orchestra – Star Wars – The Story Continues
  12. Cantina Band – John Williams – The Music Of Star Wars: 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition
  13. The Forest Battle (Concert Suite) – John Williams – Star Wars Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  14. Victory Celebration/End Title (Medley) – John Williams – The Music Of Star Wars: 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition

 

Massive book giveaway – any takers?

UPDATE: I will strike-through books that have been claimed. Books need to be picked up from Dubai Media City OR if I’m already meeting you at some place, some time, some event, then that’s sorted!

UPDATE 2: WOW, so many people want most of my books. PEOPLE STILL READ, YAY!!!

I love books and I love reading. I’ve amassed a ridiculously large collection of books over two decades. I’ve found that I’ve grown out of many of those books and recently I’ve bought some, read them and realised I don’t like them OR while I liked them, the chances of me reading them again are next to none.

I’ve just pulled out all the books I plan to give away to charity or a library that needs donations, somewhere they will find a loving home. However, before I do that, if anyone wants any of the series mentioned below, let me know. I have more random one-off books so will try my best to list everything. I plan to have given these away by the end of January 2014.

My books are in excellent condition… at best, some may have slightly faded pages because that’s how old they are. I’m not asking for money for any of these.

Books/series/authors:

If any catch your eye, buzz me on Twitter or leave a comment here if you want something or have a question about exact titles from some of the series.

Movie review: Man of Steel

Minor spoilers, none give away plot but refer to elements within the movie.

Man of Steel follows the story of baby Kal-El from the planet Krypton who is jettisoned into space by his parents Jor-El and Lara when General Zod attempts to take over the planet, which is rapidly dying. Kal-El crashes into Earth and is found by Jonathan and Martha Kent who take him in and raise him as their own son – Clark Kent. Thirty three years later … General Zod arrives to find Kal-El … and something else…

The character of Superman is meant to be perfect – how do screenwriters show perfection on screen? Thankfully, in this version, they scratch away that veneer and break it down. Make him real. Make us believe that he can exist. They manage to show that even Superman can struggle.

One of the small things that the writers do to aid this perception is strip away the use of the word “Superman” as much as possible. You hear it only three or four times at best. This is a coming of age movie. We don’t start off with Clark Kent as a reporter on the Daily Planet. We start with him struggling to accept who he is, wondering if the world will.

In this movie, the first thing that struck me was that the origins of Kal-El was explained very well. Why does Superman have a cape? We now know. Why does Superman wear a lycra-esque outfit? We now know. Why does he get affected by Kryptonite? WE NOW KNOW. Was Superman that egotistical to wear a massive “S” for Superman emblazoned on his mighty chest? Actually he wasn’t. A minor spoiler if you will: the “S” isn’t actually an S but it means “hope” on Krypton. Fair enough.

Krypton itself is detailed exquisitely. We learn a bit more about its society, about its people, and its fauna. We learn that the planet has indulged in breeding babies – with Kal-El being the first naturally born baby on Krypton in centuries. Fleshing his back story out has allowed the movie to take the story in a slightly different path yet stay true to the character.

Special mention to Kevin Costner for a fantastic performance as Jonathan Kent; there was a scene in the movie where Costner’s single hand gesture to Clark left me in tears. Absolutely loved him. Russell Crowe was excellent (as Jor-El) as well, delivering a measured performance as he is prone to do. Two absolutely moving appearances by these formidable thespians.

Michael Shannon as General Zod was a pretty good villain and thankfully doesn’t follow the cheesy villain pattern we’ve seen so far in this series. Although in terms of character development, I didn’t understand why he was doing what he did on Krypton or on Earth for that matter. What were his motivations? Did he really need to attack Earth? I suppose it’s sort of explained when he says he was bred to do all he could for his planet but it didn’t feel like a satisfactory enough explanation for me.

Amy Adams as Lois Lane? I wasn’t convinced. She doesn’t make the character very interesting and her pouty rendition of the line, “I’m a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist” served me to be put off by her more than anything else. And I’m sorry, but in the movie, HOW did she manage to follow Clark into that gaping hole in the mountain with no special equipment or skills? I’m sorry, what? How come she was the only one to figure out who he was?

Henry Cavill … aaah. I “discovered” him in the British TV series The Tudors, so when I found out he would be the next Clark Kent, I must admit I squealed a little. He tackled the role well, stayed restrained most of the time, letting his stolid demeanour rip where needed. A bit of it admittedly felt stiff, but by the end, I would imagine most audiences would accept him as the new Superman.

One of the gripes I had with the movie was its ending – oddly enough there was far too much action. At the end, it felt long and drawn out. I unfortunately reached a stage where I just wanted the movie to end. And that’s not a good thing. I’m no movie editor, and I’m sure the filmmakers had their reasons, but I do wish they had found a way to make the last few action scenes more concise.

Random mini-spoiler: the line at the end of the movie where someone asks Superman whether they can trust him not go against the “interests of America” made me laugh a little. What about making sure he doesn’t go against the world? Politicisation much?

Definitely a better Superman movie than the last reboot, Man of Steel packs a mighty punch. Expect no cheesy one-liners or red underpants outside the tight outfit. Expect a fast-paced tale to start off a potentially absorbing super-hero series.