Thursday, April 26, 2012

Not from Concentrate, Part Two, by David Wallace Fleming

Okay, it took me a little longer to get through the second half of this collection of short stories, but that's NOT because of the content. These stories were a little bit longer ("Goodbye, My Television" was a 3 act play that played for nearly two hours!), but just as creative and interesting as the first six stories. Not from Concentrate earns 4 out of 5 stars in my book :)

""The Infidelity Detector"- interesting take on society's trust in technology, and lack of trust in each other. John is more willing to believe an infidelity detector than just listen to his girlfriend and choose to believe her anyway. I kinda liked this story, especially how his freak out is something that could and does definitely happen everyday in life. Sad how nobody trusts anybody anymore.."

""Girl Fistfights Boy" perfectly sums up gender roles and chivalry in the 21st century. Women are just as capable as men, and chivalry is out the window in exchange for equal treatment of the 'fairer' sex. Even when the girl starts a fistfight with a weaker male. Highly entertaining and the ending is a perfect fit. I'm glad Benny and Alice were able to recognize their own flaws and prejudices and just laugh it off."
""I Want to Stand in My Cubicle"- Definitely a dark comedy.. Feeling pretty bad for poor Gregory, all he wanted was to make a good impression but keep his crazy newfangled ideas about health and exercise. Fun ending though, nothing like calling your manager out on a stupid idea haha. And this is total truth, because cubicle really would be mindless, drone work. I'd probably keel over drooling."
""Digital Girlfriend"- Hmm, this story sounds familiar. Karen's motorcycle accident, and her decision to create an adult website, are eerily similar to Em's story in "Growing Up Wired". That's not to say I didn't enjoy hearing this story. It was very personable, and you can't help but feel bad for her, no longer comfortable with herself and having to continue appearing perfect to everyone. That's a lot of pressure.."
""The Download Punisher"- Interesting look at the world of pirating music, and easy access to any/all information that you could possibly want. I generally liked this story, although I think I'm more fond of David's other stories in this collection, simply because I like the realistic stories that basically point out society's technological dependence. This was a fun read/listen, but quite unrealistic (obviously)."
"Goodbye, My Television"- This was just one more piece of evidence that I should not be listening to audiobooks. A 3 part comedy about a man, his television set, and his television's existential life crisis is very entertaining, and Fleming did a great job keeping the story interesting and fun throughout the nearly two hours of listening time. However, this is something that I would have been more comfortable reading in print format... I feel like I lost a lot of the humor just trying to listen and retain all the information that I was being given. It's a lot harder to go back and 'reread' parts of an audiobook, and I feel like I didn't enjoy this story as much as I could have and should have.

So, there you have it. I highly recommend picking up one (or all) of David Fleming's works, they are a lot of fun and really shed some interesting light on this technological age we're currently in. As well as opening your eyes to how EVERYTHING is technological, and brand-name. Shock shock. 4 out of 5 stars for this collection of short stories, and I am looking forward to picking up more of his work.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What Do You Want to Do Before You Die? by The Buried Life

This book was phenomenal, instantly a 5 out of 5 stars just for the message it gives the reader. Plus, I'm a fan of the Post Secret books, and the guys of The Buried Life took that design for their book.

From the Publisher:
If you had one day to live what would you do? Would you plant a tree? Would you rob a bank? Would you tell someone how you really feel?
What Do You Want to Do Before You Die? is an illustrated collection of your wildest dreams. Two hundred of the most moving, imaginative, amusing, and thought-provoking things to do before you die are brought to life through handmade art curated by Dave, Duncan, Jonnie and Ben—the founders of The Buried Life.
These four regular guys are on a mission to complete a list of 100 things before they die, and for every item they accomplish, they help a total stranger do something on his or her own to-do list. Peppered throughout the book are lessons, secrets, and stories that come from five years of asking millions worldwide: What do you want to do before you die?
Reasons you'll like this book:
Your life could change dramatically. (Ours did.)
You could do things you never dreamed of. (We have.)
You could feel the joy of being alive.

My Thoughts:
Seriously, this book was so much fun to read, and has some fantastic and uplifting stories in it. These four guys from Canada not only crossed a bunch of items off their collective bucket list, but they helped and encouraged others to do the same. One of my favorite stories from this is the guys taking children with cancer on a shopping spree to Toys R Us, in honor of a woman who later passed from ovarian cancer. Maybe I'm a sap, but it's really good to know that there are people out there who aren't just in it for themselves.

Definitely a great book to pick up and flip through, filled with Post Secret-esque pages with people's answers to the age old "What do you want to do before you die?" question. I already started working on my bucket list, and hopefully will be able to cross them all off before I die. Please do yourselves a favor and grab a copy of this book.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Growing Up Wired by David Wallace Fleming

Growing Up Wired is a very interesting modern take on the typical coming of age story, and I have to say I think it was very well done. Overall, I give this 4 out of 5 stars, I did have to take a star off because of the lack of character development in the supporting characters. Moving on...

From the publisher:
How will romantic relationships withstand technology's offer of instant gratification? 
While on his computer, Victor Hastings admires the provocative pictures of the girl he's dating. 
Meanwhile, she's posting more and more on Facebook and all the social sites. 
Now everyone in his cramped fraternity is competing for her. 
What kind of love is this? 
The wired kind. 

My review:
I received a digital copy of this book from the author, after listening to a few of the short stories from his audiobook Not From Concentrate (I've reviewed the first 6 of 12 stories, this is the link) and wanting to read more by him. I was not let down, as this story was catchy, interesting, and eye-opening. David does a great job integrating 21st century technology into a 'boy meets world' kind of plot. Victor Hastings spends more time on his computer browsing virtual women than he does meeting real women through his fraternity. This comes to a head when he's forced to deal with real people, face to face. Can he handle social life, or is he destined to fail and remain plugged in to the world?

I think David created some likable (or at least personable) characters in Victor and The Snitz, but I feel like most of the other minor and supporting characters fell, well, flat. I could hardly tell his two romantic interests apart, let alone try to remember all the members of his fraternity. Was one of them black? Did he get in a fight with one of the fraternity's pledges? There were a few too many character names thrown in, but not enough character development. I think there should have been fewer characters, or more plot involving these stories. Which I would have liked to see, as I did enjoy this novel and was sad to see it end.

In an interesting twist, I read this on my commute into New York, and on my way back home, I listened to part of "Digital Girlfriend", another of the stories in David's Not from Concentrate. I can tell where he got the idea for Em from! Her little backstory is identical to "Digital Girlfriend", and I have to say I kind of like that. It would have been a little more fun had I listened to this story before reading Growing Up Wired, but that can't be helped. I like that there's more to Em/Karen's story, it makes her a little more like a real person and not a two dimensional character.

I really did enjoy this book, character development aside. It's interesting to see this kind of world where everyone is slowly losing social skills to the internet, IM chats, and text messages. And it's terrifying to realize that that is what's really happening to the world. Even now, I note the irony that I'm talking about books on the Internet, while I have another tab open to my facebook page and I'm chatting with a friend of mine. What happened to live social interaction? Everyone is so quick to friend people on Facebook, but nobody really bothers keeping these friendships strong in real life. It's just one funny post/link after another. That's not what I want my future to be. And I hate when people assume that just because I'm in my early 20's that I wouldn't be able to survive without technology. I handled not having power after Hurricane Irene, and I don't go into withdrawal when I leave my phone at home. Sadly, I can't say the same about many of my friends...

I think that's about all I had to say on Growing Up Wired, although we all know I don't keep my mouth shut, especially when it comes to books. I thank the author for sending me a copy of this book, and highly recommend you all grab a digital copy here! (It'll work on your Nook, Kindle, iPad, PC, Mac, etc. etc.).

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Not From Concentrate by David Wallace Fleming, Part One

I listened to a (free) audiobook version of Not from Concentrate, narrated by the author (you can find this, again for free, here). This was my first, and probably my last, audiobook experience. I enjoyed this collection of bizarre short stories, but I think I would have had a better time reading them in print or on my Nook. Listening to books just isn't for me. That being said, here's part one of my two part review of each of these stories (I'm thorough like that):

"Robot Famous"- It kinda feels like Hollywood is already headed in this direction, with all the plastic surgery and makeup that celebrities use to look ageless. I feel sorry for Susan, being a 'real human' and unable to measure up to the robots that have been taking over acting positions through the years. Society is all about perfection and being able to sell stuff, so it's got to be difficult to stay in that career past your prime.

"The Corporate Afterlife"- Feeling a little ambivalent about this one.. I like Fleming's take on the afterlife, and how people would react to their own untimely deaths. Particularly in this case. "Where's the angels and glowing light and pearly gates?" Well, you didn't want to look at the beauty in life, so here's all the technology and the things that you surrounded yourself with in life. I do, however, think that Fleming used repetition just a little too much in this story. And by that, I mean and entire minute or two was devoted to his talking about the 'things' that the character's wife used in her daily life. A little repetition would have been nice, but I think it was a bit much. Also, I listened to this story a while ago, and can't remember if the characters were named in the story. If he was, then I'm just an idiot and can't recall the names. If not, that's pretty cool, since society is becoming more and more wireless, and more and more anonymous. He was only referred to as 'Wolverine', his Xbox Live name. Oh, the world today.

"The Natural Celebrity"- whatdahell. This was a comedy that I just kinda sat and stared blankly as I listened to it. IT'S ABOUT A POOP CONTEST. Idk I think I missed the point of this one. Is it that people will applaud someone for being the best at something, regardless of what that 'something' is? I think I was too caught off guard by this story to properly appreciate it..

"Father Internet" which I liked a lot more. The message I got from this story was to stop focusing on whatever it is you're focusing on, and just enjoy yourself and live in the moment. You'll be more relaxed and fun, and may even get to dance and have fun with some attractive women! You know, instead of sitting in the bar waiting for your iPhone to load with YouTube clips of how to appeal to women.

When I think office life, I seriously think
boring monotony with occasional
"Office Space" or "Mad Men" type drama.
"Yuppie Marooned"- This was a really interesting take on office life. In a sense, workers really are marooned. Especially in this story, where poor Andy Iowa finds his way from happiness in Texas to insanity-producing boredom in Virginia. "It's not the black or the white we fear. Anything pure can be beautiful. It's the grey we fear," is such a thought provoking quote. \Whether something is all good, or all bad, we're not quite as afraid of it as we are the unknown. Also, I'm getting the feeling that Fleming once worked in an office, and hated it. There are a couple stories involving cubicle life, and none of them are making me jump for that kind of a career.

"Microcosmic Romance"- CHERRYWOOD NIPPLES! This was a hilarious story, akin to a grown up Dr. Seuss book. I definitely think this was all the more funny having listened to it, rather than reading it in print. Sometimes hard to understand, and I had to go back and re-listen to parts, but in a good way. Like reading "A Clockwork Orange", you have to use context clues to understand these nonsensical words. I had a blast with this one though. Very unexpected, but very entertaining.

So there you have it, my review of the first half of David Wallace Fleming's Not from Concentrate. The first six short stories receive an overall rating of 4 of 5 stars. They were very well written, and even the stories I was less than satisfied with (see "Natural Celebrity") were still at the very least inventive, interesting, and fun to listen to. If anything else, grab the free audiobook just to listen to "Microcosmic Romance", that is definitely one of my favorite short stories as of right now. Although to be honest, I don't read short stories all that often. But this one is still really good.