Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Haiku Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, part 2

by Brian McGackin

Part 2 of 2! My favorite book! Important stuff happens!

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Chapter 20: The First Task

Harry Accio's
broom, avoids dragon, steals egg,
ties for first with Krum.

Chapter 21: The House-Elf Liberation Front

Ron stops being douche,
refriends Harry. Hermy finds
Dobby in kitchen.

Chapter 22: The Unexpected Task

Ron and Harry need
dates for the Yule Ball—Patil
twins will have to do.

Chapter 23: The Yule Ball

Pre-dance: snowball
fights, special socks, Fleur's a bitch.
Dance: Hermy's with Krum,

Fleur looks hot. Post-dance:
Snape is shady, Hagrid's half
giant, Fleur's a slut.

Chapter 24: Rita Skeeter's Scoop

Skeeter's exposé
on Hagrid's past leads to brief
vaca from teaching.

Chapter 25: The Egg and the Eye

Bath time research leads
Harry to believe the next
task involves merfolk.

Then he gets tripped up
in trick step and loses school
map to Prof. Moody.

Chapter 26: The Second Task

Harry grows gills, saves
Ron (and Fleur's sister) from lake,
shows moral fiber.

Chapter 27: Padfoot Returns

Big dog godfather
sneaks into Hogsmeade to dish
old magic gossip.

Chapter 28: The Madness of Mr. Crouch

Harry and Krum talk
Hermy, find crazy Crouch, and
go warn Dumbledore.

Chapter 29: The Dream

Harry passes out
in class and dreams a little
dream of Voldemort.

Chapter 30: The Pensieve

Dumbledore can't
leave Harry alone for five
minutes; the boy snoops.

Harry sticks his face
in a bowl of gooey white
stuff and sees visions.

Chapter 31: The Third Task

Quidditch pitch maze holds
monsters and magic to pass
through for the third task.

Harry battles Sphinx;
Cedric battles Krum; both fight
spider, tie for cup.

Chapter 32: Flesh, Blood and Bone

Oh snap yo! The cup
was a portkey?!? Cedric killed;
Voldy gets new digs.

Chapter 33: The Death Eaters

Daddy Malfoy and
other Death Eaters return.
Voldy monologues.

Chapter 34: Priori Incantatem

Harry, Voldy duel;
Voldy's victims' shadow-ghosts
help Harry escape.

Hmm, I wonder why
Voldy can't kill Harry. Will
this come up later...?

Chapter 35: Veritaserum

Oh $#!* Moody's not
Moody! He's Crouch junior, a
servant of Voldy!

Junior confesses:
killed Crouch senior, helped Harry
win cup/Voldy rise.

Chapter 36: The Parting of the Ways

Harry explains all
to Dumbledore. Minister
Fudge is a dumbass.

Chapter 37: The Beginning

Dumbledore tells school
Voldy's back.Twins given cup
gold to start joke shop.

Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle
are hexed unconscious on train
for being douchebags.

I guess Hogwarts needs
a new Defense Against the
Dark Arts professor...

OOTP! Part 1! Next week!

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Little Black Book of Big Red Flags (Natasha Burton, Julie Fishman, & Meagan McCrary)

by Suzanne Parker


Based on the blog The Little Black Blog of Big Red Flags, The Little Black Book of Big Red Flags outlines the top 200 warning signs you should never ignore, but usually do, when you start dating a guy. Conveniently divided into five distinct parts, the book guides you through every potential dating disaster you may encounter by providing real life examples and anecdotes.

However, it doesn’t tell you that if your guy is weird in bed that you should definitely ditch him. Hey, maybe you like that sort of thing. Instead, it gives you advice to help you figure out whether you can accept his quirks, or whether this “big red flag” is a relationship ender.

From “He’s Not Really Your Boyfriend” to “He Doesn’t Love You” to (my personal favorite) “He’s Just the Worst,” this witty little black book will certainly come in handy at pretty much any point in your relationship. Should you be doing his dishes when you
don’t even live together? Should you let him wear your lingerie even if he claims it’s just for one night? Should you be concerned if you’ve been dating for six months and have never met any of his friends? If you’re in need of further information on any of these topics, you might want to check out this book.

Even if you’re happily committed and not planning on dating again, you can still read this and laugh about someone else’s dating catastrophes and thank your lucky stars you’re done with all that.


The Little Black Book of Big Red Flags
by Natasha Burton, Julie Fishman, and Meagan McCrary

While there are plenty of stories in the book—most of them horrifyingly hilarious true accounts—there’s not really a story per se.

Interesting layout. I like the way it’s divided into different parts and then into different chapters. I also like that it lists the 200 warning signs all together as a quick reference guide. It's highly specific, though, and you have to be looking for exactly this type of book for it to have any real impact.

A good coffee table book. Definitely a conversation starter at a party. The stories are hilarious and fun to read aloud.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Haiku Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, part 1

by Brian McGackin

Part 1 of 2 covering my personal favorite book in the series! Super important stuff happens! The last three books are set up! How can you not love it?

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Chapter 1: The Riddle House

Voldemort is back,
killing witches and old folks,
Wormtail at his side.

Chapter 2: The Scar

Harry writes letter
to Sirius post-Voldy
dream; past books recalled.

Chapter 3: The Invitation

Grapefruit for breakfast,
World Cup invitation, and
birthday cake for brunch.

Chapter 4: Back to the Burrow

Dursley's living room
destroyed; Dudley poisoned by
the twins' cursed candy.

Chapter 5: Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes

Ginger twins aspire
to open joke shop. Harry
meets older Weasleys.

Chapter 6: The Portkey

Harry travels to
Quidditch World Cup by old boot,
meets Edward Cullen.

Chapter 7: Bagman and Crouch

Twins bet with bookie
Bagman, are bored by Crouch, both
Ministry high-ups.

Chapter 8: The Quidditch World Cup

Hot Bulgarian
chicks fight off leprechauns, turn
into angry birds.

Krum snags the snitch for
Bulgaria, but Ireland
wins, as twins predict.

Chapter 9: The Dark Mark

Death Eaters—Voldy's
former friends—mess with Muggles
post-match. Party: pooped.

House-elf Winky sacked
when found with Harry's wand 'neath
Voldy's calling card.

Chapter 10: Mayhem at the Ministry

Reporter Rita
Skeeter tears Ministry of
Magic a new one.

Chapter 11: Aboard the Hogwarts Express

Mostly setup: talk
of Hogwarts, other magic
schools, Mad-Eye moody.

Kind of a pointless
chapter, now that I’m really
thinking about it.

Chapter 12: The Triwizard Tournament

No Quidditch this year.
Instead, deadly tournament
against other schools.

Chapter 13: Mad-Eye Moody

Draco Malfoy: the
Amazing Bouncing Ferret!
That's Moody "teaching."

(Books' best line: "Can I
have a look at Uranus,
too, Lavender?"—Ron)

Chapter 14: The Unforgivable Curses

Moody teaches some
illegal spells, and maybe
hits too close to home.

First appearance of
Avada Kedavra. Plus,
Harry gets more mail!

Chapter 15: Beauxbatons and Durmstrang

Huge horses fly huge
woman's students; sailboat sub
carries Krum and co.

The two other schools
competing in Triwizard
Tournament arrive.

Chapter 16: The Goblet of Fire

Cedric, Viktor, Fleur...
Harry? Four champions of
TRIwizard tourney.

Chapter 17: The Four Champions

Gryffindors are stoked,
but everyone else is
pissed Harry got picked.

Moody thinks someone
wants Harry dead and that's why
he's a champion.

Chapter 18: The Weighing of the Wands

Skeeter wants Haryy
as scoop; champions’ wands weighed;
Hermy's teeth enlarged.

Chapter 19: The Hungarian Horntail

Dragon! A dragon!
I swear I saw a dragon!
...Wait...that's Pete's Dragon...

Hagrid lets slip first
task: dragons! Harry talks to
Black via fireplace.

Make sure to check back next week when Harry competes for the Triwizard Cup in part 2!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Haiku Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

by Brian McGackin

Book the Third, and many people's favorite HP. Since the series plot is thickening, some chapters are going to start getting two haikus. Upgrade!

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Chapter 1: Owl Post

A little boring:
Rowling recaps Harry's life,
he gets birthday gifts.

Ron's dad wins lotto;
owl cripple brings some letters;
Harry does homework.

Chapter 2: Aunt Marge's Big Mistake

Harry blows up his
cousin's fat aunt all Violet
Beauregard-style. Harsh!

Chapter 3: The Knight Bus

A Miss Frizzle-less
magic bus takes Harry to
The Leaky Cauldron.

Chapter 4: The Leaky Cauldron

Harry lives in a
pub now? Oh, and a psycho
killer wants him dead.

Chapter 5: The Dementor

Harry's happiness
is snacked on by some creepy
reject Scream villain.

Chapter 6: Talons and Tea Leaves

Malfoy almost killed
by magic horsebird thingy
in Hagrid's first class.

Chapter 7: The Boggart in the Wardrobe

There's nothing to fear
but that thing in the staff room
wardrobe—a boggart.

New prof. Lupin is
kinda cool and lets Neville
be the star for once.

Chapter 8: Flight of the Fat Lady

Mass murderer moves
to defacing sentient
works of art. The nerve!

Chapter 9: Grim Defeat

Dog and Dementors
interrupt sporting event;
Harry breaks his broom.

Chapter 10: The Marauder's Map

Twin gingers donate
absurdly powerful map
of school to Harry.


Chapter 11: The Firebolt

Hermy tattles, so
Harry's new broom—probs jinxed by
killer Black—taken.

Chapter 12: The Patronus

Professor Lupin
teaches Harry how to shoot
white stuff from his wand...

Ron's rat gets eaten;
Harry gets his broom back, eats
lots of chocolate.

Chapter 13: Gryffindor versus Ravenclaw

Gryffindor wins! And
Sirius Black tries to slice
up Ron with a knife!

Chapter 14: Snape's Grudge

Harry just avoids
expulsion but magical
map confiscated.

Prof. Snape professes
hatred of Potters.

Chapter 15: The Quidditch Final

Hermy quits Psychic
Class, but who cares? GRYFFINDOR

Chapter 16: Professor Trelawney's Prediction

Even a stopped clock
is right twice a day, and Prof.
Trelawney's broken.

Psychic Prof. predicts
Voldy's return; third-years take
exams; and horsebird...

Chapter 17: Cat, Rat and Dog

Harry and co chase
black dog Black to Shrieking Shack
for well-earned answers.

Eeeewwww! Ron's rat has been
a middle-aged wizard this
entire time? Creeper!

Chapter 18: Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs

Lupin's a werewolf.
Harry's dad and co magic'd
into animals.

Much exposition,
backstory, followed by a
Prof. Snape intrusion.

Chapter 19: The Servant of Lord Voldemort

So Sirius Black
is innocent! Pettigrew—
Ron's rat—was the spy.

More exposition.
Harry finally believes
godfather Black.

Chapter 20: The Dementor's Kiss

Lupin goes werewolf.
Dementors try to make out
with Harry and Black.

Chapter 21: Hermione's Secret

Seriously, Rowling?
Magic I can believe, but
time travel? Get real.

Hermy's necklace is
a time machine. She, Harry
save Black and horsebird.

Chapter 22: Owl Post Again

Lupin resigns; Ron
gets new pet; Hermy gives up
time travel; Summer!

Harry gains pen pal
in convicted murderer
outlaw godfather.

I guess Hogwarts needs
a new Defense Against the
Dark Arts professor…

Make sure to check back next week when we bring you part 1 of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, my personal favorite! Until then, keep reading, Genoshans!

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Meowmorphosis (Franz Kafka & Coleridge Cook)

by Thom Dunn

I hate cats.

Now we've got that out of the way. The Meowmorphosis is the latest installment in Quirk Books' literary mashups (made famous, of course, with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies). This time, however, they change things up a little bit. Rather than adding horror elements to a story, The Meowmorphosis takes an already frightening and bizarre tale — Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis — and injects it with irresistibly adorable charm.

Also giant kitties. Rather than waking up as a large insect, Gregor Samsa instead awakens one morning to find that he has been turned into a cat.

As a pet owner myself (a chinchilla — definitely not a cat), I often find myself trying to ascribe my pet with human emotions and thoughts to accompany her occasionally bizarre behavior. Part of the wonderful charm of The Meowmorphosis is the way that Coleridge Cook manages to do this for his feline protagonist, in an endlessly entertaining manner. He uses language and speech patterns akin to Poe and Lovecraft (I fear that calling it Kafkaesque would be redundant) to describe the satisfaction — and frustration — of a cat being petted, or chasing a piece of yarn, or even napping. The story still retains the same existential angst as the original book, but the tongue-in-cheek humor of a man suffering through these crises as a cat instead of a bug is truly hilarious.

Cook, along with his writing partner Kafka, also uses this technique to espouse philosophy from the mouths of cats, exploring what it is and what it means to be a member of their species. As someone who is not at all a cat lover (I have terribly allergies, and they know I have terrible allergies, so they like to screw with me), I was endlessly entertained by having an eloquent cat postulate about the things that make them superior to humans (because, as we all know, cats do think they're better than us). But Cook & Kafka manage to articulate why cats might feel this way, from their own point of view, and while the end result is humorous, it's also quite insightful. There were a few points in the book where the long-winded philosopher-cat ramblings carried on a bit too long, but for the most part, I was impressed by Cook's ability to get into the minds of an adorable kitty in such an amusing manner.

The Meowmorphosis, by Franz Kafka & Coleridge Cook

Story: 6.8
Most people are generally familiar with the basic story of The Metamorphosis, even if they haven't read it. For the most part, the story proceeds exactly as one might expect, hardly going past its initial premise but still exploring a plethora of ideas within a limited plot and setting. Basically the entire thing takes place in Samsa's apartment, with him as a giant bug, and then it's over. The Meowmorphosis, on the other hand, takes a bit of liberty with this, and allows Cat-Samsa to escape from the cage of his apartment and run free, as cats are wont to do. I enjoyed this part of the book immensely, but ultimately found myself wishing that there was more of it, and was slightly disappointed in how Samsa's outdoor adventure ended. Still, I commend Coleridge Cook for taking the story in a new and different direction, and I certainly can't blame him for having to adhere to at least some of the story guidelines set by Kafka.

Style: 8.92
Take the proper, long-winded horror prose that we've all come to expect of "classical literature" (specifically the early 1900s). Now add kitties. Some people find that kind of writing to be rather boring, but come on: kitties going on and on in the same way manner? It promises a certainly of ridiculousness, and on that it delivers. Coleridge Cook later lets his own voice shine in the Appendix, which includes a biography of Kafka, as well as Study/Discussion questions based on the book. Here he employs the same dry, ironic humor disguised as formal writing, and it just gets funnier. The Discussion Questions may have even been one of my favorite parts of the book.

General: 8.35
The Meowmorphosis is one of those books that delivers exactly what it promises. If you're a fan of mash-ups and parodies, this one hits the spot. It's a quick, easy read, full of comical beats (I definitely "LOL'd" a few times) and even some philosophical brain food.

Hilarious philosophical brain food.

Overall: 8.02

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Haiku Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

by Brian McGackin

Book two!

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Chapter 1: The Worst Birthday

Remember Harry
Potter? Apparently his
friends don't. Bummer, kid.

Chapter 2: Dobby's Warning

Elf Dobby warns, "Don't
go back to Hogwarts," breaks stuff.
Harry: house arrest.

Chapter 3: The Burrow

Twin gingers and Ron
kidnap starving Harry, bring
him to magic house.

Chapter 4: At Flourish and Blotts

Back to school shopping
gone wrong: fist fights, expensive
books, fireplace travel.

Chapter 5: The Whomping Willow

Ron breaks his wand; that's
what you get when you fly a
car into a tree...

Chapter 6: Gilderoy Lockhart

Mrs. Weasley sends
Ron angry voicemail. New prof.
Lockhart is a tool.

Chapter 7: Mudbloods and Murmurs

Ron voms slugs, Harry
hears voices, Slytherins get
new brooms from Malfoy.

Chapter 8: The Deathday Party

Nearly Headless Nick
throws killer party. Cat found
hanging out half dead.

Chapter 9: The Writing on the Wall

Hermione stops
ghost prof.'s lecture, asks about
Chamber of Secrets.

Chapter 10: The Rogue Bludger

Freak sports accident
takes Harry's right arm. First-year
Colin petrified.

Chapter 11: The Dueling Club

Lockhart makes kids fight;
Hufflepuff fauxttacked by snake,
then attacked for real.

Chapter 12: The Polyjuice Potion

What's Christmas without
forced puberty, drugged tweens, and
identity theft?

Chapter 13: The Very Secret Diary

Who is Tom Riddle?
Why was his diary thrown
down a girls' toilet?

Chapter 14: Cornelius Fudge

Hagrid arrested!
Dumbledore kicked out of school!
And Hermione...!

Chapter 15: Aragog

Harry, Ron almost
killed by spiders in Forest;
flying car saves them.

Chapter 16: The Chamber of Secrets

Broken bathroom leads
to Chamber of Secrets where
Ginny Weasley lies.

Chapter 17: The Heir of Slytherin

Memory Voldy
thwarted by Harry; magic
bird real hero, though.

Chapter 18: Dobby's Reward

All's well that ends with
a house elf being handed
a wet freedom sock.

I guess Hogwarts needs
a new Defense Against the
Dark Arts Professor...

Friday, May 6, 2011

Art and Madness (Anne Roiphe)

by Melanie Yarbrough

Up until recently I've always been a strictly-fiction girl. But after a brief dry spell of creativity and reading inspiration, I decided to ask the powers that be what to read next (read: The Daily Beast). And lucky for me, Liesl Shillinger wrote about Anne Roiphe's most recent memoir, Art and Madness:

Reading Anne Roiphe’s riveting memoir of her tumultuous twenties, Art and Madness, written in a tone of Didion-like detachment, but saffroned with her distinctive, pungent regrets and her curious humility, I marveled at her depiction of George Plimpton’s Paris Review parties in the early 1960s, on the Upper East Side, near Manhattan’s East River. Thirty years later, I had gone to those parties, in those same rooms, when I was the age she was then. They did not resemble the bacchanals she remembers. For a while, I almost envied her. She describes “the heavy air of flirtation, the perfume of illicit sex that wafted through the book-filled rooms of George’s apartment,” and the power games played by the male guests, “the famous men or the would-be-famous men flexing their skills, strutting their stuff, talking of agents and publishers and rights to this or that.”
After reading Roiphe's enthralling account, I felt the same way.


One of the downsides to memoirs like Roiphe's are the poor schmucks like myself who read it and romanticize the Golden Age of writing. I've been doing the same thing as I read Raymond Carver's biography by Carol Sklenicka; naively overlooking the depths of alcoholism, adultery, and poverty to wish that I could live in an era where creative writers - creative minds - could be as adored and sexualized as in the olden days.

But Roiphe is steadfast in her seeming quest to quell any of those romantic ideas. She is brutal. Her past relationships and decisions are far from pretty; they are neither justified nor justifiable. She does not make excuses, instead she admits to giving up on her own writing in pursuit of her first husband's success. It's a frightening tale to read, as a writer myself, especially as a writer who has been struggling lately with the balance of life and the pursuit of a writing career. Roiphe remembers a time when she forgot herself: "I had to learn that muses can be fired or dismissed but writers either do or don't write without permission or encouragement from anyone."

The way she talks about her daughter, her affairs, and how she struggled with love and sex and growing up show life in its messiest of states, the sandpaper underbelly of the creative life.


Art and Madness by Anne Roiphe
Story: 9.0

While it's difficult to judge the "story" of someone's life, the tales Roiphe tells are intriguing and revelatory. There is not one wasted sentence. From walking through the snow carrying her husband's typewriter even after her water breaks (yes, that water) to multiple affairs including with the founder of The Paris Review, there aren't many dull moments. Even for those not interested in romanticizing the old world of writers, Roiphe has come out surprisingly whole after a difficult road, an inspiring story for anyone trying to recognize themselves again.

Style: 7.5

Shillinger compares Roiphe's style to Joan Didion in her review of the book, and I would have to agree. Roiphe is succinct without being exclusive; she tells you the whole story with a detachment that strips the sometimes heartbreaking parts of distracting emotion. She gets right to the point of the realities of her situation and their consequences. There are lessons without imposed morals.

General: 8.0

While my reasons for reading this memoir may seem a little sick - exploiting another woman's journey in the world of writers to substitute my own lack of revelry - the experience was very different than I intended. Roiphe glares at her past and, thus, so does the reader. Aside from the scandalous moments, the heart of her story is about a woman, a writer, who gave up her passion for writing and lived a difficult period of time for it. No one will fight for what you want, especially if you give it up so easily.

Overall: 8.2

I'd say this is a must-read for aspiring writers everywhere, or anyone who's given up something they felt defined them. Roiphe gives a great description for the feeling of being undefined.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Haiku Review: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone/Sorcerer's Stone

by Brian McGackin

Welcome to the Daily Genoshan's Haiku Review for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, where each chapter gets its own 17-syllable recap! As I mentioned last week, for various reasons I actually used the UK edition, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, but they're basically the same thing.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Chapter 1: The Boy Who Lived

Wizard offers cat
candy. Baby with scar dropped
on fat uncle's porch.

Chapter 2: The Vanishing Glass

Ten years later: boy
can do weird stuff; tries to kill
cousin with big snake.

Chapter 3: The Letters from No One

Complaints about strange
letters go unanswered, so
family moves out.

Chapter 4: The Keeper of the Keys

Massive oaf, battered
orphan discuss scholastic

Chapter 5: Diagon Alley

Orphan Harry, oaf
Hagrid get ice cream, go on
wizard shopping spree.

Chapter 6: The Journey from Platform Nine and Three-Quarters

Harry can't find train.
Red-head Ron ogles, helps out.
Fat kid loses toad.

Chapter 7: The Sorting Hat

Harry: Gryffindor!
Ron: Gryffindor! Annoying
brunette: Gryffindor!

Chapter 8: The Potions Master

Prof. Snape hates Harry.
Annoying Hermione
knows everything.

Chapter 9: The Midnight Duel

Harry breaks rules: learns
to fly, joins a sports team, finds
three-headed guard dog.

Chapter 10: Halloween

Troll loose in Hogwarts.
Harry, Ron defeat it, save
Hermione. Friends!

Chapter 11: Quidditch

Harry plays Quidditch,
nearly dies, almost swallows
snitch. Secrets revealed.

Chapter 12: The Mirror of Erised

Hogwarts for Christmas!
Harry gets presents, can turn
invisible now.

Chapter 13: Nicolas Flamel

Three-headed Fluffy
guards Philosopher's Stone. Snape
wants stone for himself.

Chapter 14: Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback

Jerk Malfoy learns of
Hagrid's illegal dragon;
Ron's bro adopts it.

Chapter 15: The Forbidden Forest

Detention in the
Forest: dead unicorn, some
centaurs, Voldemort?

Chapter 16: Through the Trapdoor

Harry and co sneak
off to stop Voldy's theft of
Philosopher's Stone.

Chapter 17: The Man with Two Faces

Surprise! Prof. Quirrell
hosting Voldy parasite.
Harry saves the day.

I guess Hogwarts needs
a new Defense Against the
Dark Arts Professor...

Be sure to come back next week for the Haiku Review of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets!

Contact Information and FTC Disclaimer

FTC Rules: While I do not make any money from authors, publishers, or anyone else related to these books in exchange for these reviews, there have been times where I've received free copies of a book to be reviewed, and may receive more in the future. Due to FTC compliance rules, however, you should always assume that I have an ulterior motive, and thank them for their unceasing vigilance in the face of this ever-increasing threat of blog advertising.

If you would like to contact me regarding a book you would like reviewed, or for writing matters in general, feel free to email me at bpmcgackin@gmail.com