Wednesday, January 14, 2015

5 Books I Read in 2014 that REALLY Surprised Me

I have too precious time to waste on terrible books. I can be a really tough critic. I generally know what I'm getting into before I read a book, and I feel really bad when I say that I do judge books by their covers. But you know, some just fit the mold! The books below are books that I read this year where my first impressions of the book were completely wrong and I was surprised by what I found in them.

Please remember that this isn't a list of the 'best' books I read over the course of the years, but the books that I was 'most surprised about' which in a way I think beats any 'best book' award.

Most Surprising Fiction Read .....

This book is a classic example of what I get for not keeping my mouth shut. 
I'm sure you've read it here and heard me talk about it elsewhere. I am THE horror connoisseur of the Amarillo Public Library. If you want something to scare your pants off, I'm the girl to talk to. Unfortunately, because I've read so many horror novels, I get into a rut sometimes where things just aren't as scary as they used to be- I've seen it too many times- so I bitched and moaned to the internet and they directed me to a new breed of horror - 'bizarro' - and let me forewarn, this genre is NOT for the squeamish and NOT for the faint of heart. This novel is about an ill-educated young man who works at a beef processing plant slaughtering cattle and living with his grotesque over-bearing mother in a filthy trailer-home.... and how he rises above his station.... in the most horrible and terrifying ways possible. There were several instances in this book that I had to put it down to gag and question my own sanity. Yet despite all of the gore and filth, this book is remarkably well-written and has a lot of interesting allegories and symbolism within. This book was NOT what I expected, but Internet, I asked for something that would scare and unsettle me, and you delivered. Remind me to never ask you again. 

I feel really mixed emotions when I say that I ultimately ended up liking this.

Most Surprising Nonfiction Read .....

I've been playing video games since I could walk. My first console was a Super Nintendo, and the first game I officially beat was Super Mario World when I was about 7 years old (so proud of this accomplishment that I called my dad and insisted he leave a business meeting to take the call so I could tell him that I beat Bowser all by myself - you know you have the best dad in the world when he doesn't chide you for interrupting his meeting, but his response is "Good job, kiddo. I knew you could do it." ) Memories aside, I never knew all the competition and strife between Sega and Nintendo during my childhood years until I read this book, and it almost makes me wish that I had been born a little earlier so that I could experience all the hype as a teen or young adult.

The history behind the video-game industry especially beyond the games themselves is deep, dark, and full of some interesting characters that I would never suspected as being 'video-game' people. They are business people, there to sell a product, but in some cases it is a product they know little to nothing about- and how they market and help these early consoles evolve and land in the hands of the consumers is incredible. Not to mention the evolution and politics over some of the world's most recognized video-game characters : Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario

Most Surprising Youth Read .....
The Duplicate
by William Sleator

I picked this one up at the library's booksale on a whim. It's barely 200 pages long and had such bizarre cover-art that I thought it was going to be one of those quick cheesy YA reads that I would ultimately find mildly entertaining. The premise is pretty straightforward- teen finds a machine where he can make a copy of himself, figures "hey if I had a clone that would do my homework, that would be rad," clones himself... and discovers clones aren't what they are made out to be in science-fiction movies. I'll go ahead and spoil a twist for this book- the clones aren't mindless drones. They are copies down to the point where they have their own thoughts and feelings and schemes. Suddenly, this teen is having to out-think HIMSELF if he wants to set things right again, which is a mind-boggling feat in itself. There were several times during the book where I wasn't sure who was the clone and who was the real one and vice-versa. But this is where the mystery only starts... it's written in such a way that I actually didn't mind the confusion and I was eager to see which sentient 'clone' would end up winning. Let me tell you right now, you'll never see it coming. This is one of the best YA novels I've read in a while, and unfortunately, since the last copy was in the library booksale, I can't even write a staff pick about it.  

Most Surprising Comic/Manga Read ..... DC Comics' Blackest Night

Let me start this by saying I've tease Green Lantern for years for being 'allergic to the color yellow' -well, when I was reading my Batman comics and found references to this arc, I figured that I might as well read up on it even though Green Lantern was a 'totally lame character' As it turns out, Green Lantern has become one of my favorite DC heroes thanks to this arc which puts his powers in a whole new perspective as the DC world learns that each color of the spectrum is also controlled by a dominant emotion, and when that emotion takes hold- anything is possible. This arc also temporarily resurrects some 'dead' DC superheroes for one last hurrah and gives some interesting insight that modern comic readers might not know about their favorite DC heavyhitters and their interactions with these 'dead' heroes. The arc itself is HUGE spanning several books and featured from several different types of characters, and if you have the opportunity to read them all, it is one of the most exciting and at the same time thought-provoking arcs in comics I have ever read. Not to mention one of the most colorful!

Most Surprising Completely Terrible Read .....Demons of the Ocean by Justin Somper

Words simply cannot describe how disappointed I was with this book. I have a weakness for pirates... and a weakness for things that go 'bump' in the night. So a series of books devoted to 'vampirates' seemed like a dream come true. But the book falls short in EVERY department imaginable. I really wish an adult fantasy author would pick up this concept and try to rewrite it. It is so poorly executed that this concept alone is the only redeeming factor of the book itself.

If you want to see the nitty gritty why I hated this book, here's a link to my Goodreads review.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

History of Swick's RPG Extravaganza (part 6)

Dynasty Warriors (and a super-sweet Christmas present from my parents- a motion-sensor katana controller!) introduced me to this bad boy of a series....

Aw yeah, Onimusha. My first official 'M' for mature game when I was a teen (like fifteen-ish?) but all about feudal Japan and ghost/demon-slaying glory (what can I say? I was am into anime and samurai!) The Onimusha series is the dark fantasy equivalent to the popular survival-horror series Resident Evil/Biohazard .... and was my first step into the survival-horror genre. Survival-horror, I think most people would agree, is a subgenre of RPG gaming... where your protagonist is normally solving a paranormal/supernatural mystery and trying to stay alive! My sister M and I were immediately drawn to these types of games in thanks to our mother who has a huge love of Halloween and all sorts of things that go bump in the night. We were surrounded by ghosts and ghoulies before we could even walk. This didn't make us numb to horror's effects though. We still got chills and thrills, but enjoyed them. We didn't get to play very many of them because of the 'M' for mature rating, but the ones we did play we enjoyed immensely....

This is technically the fifth installment in the Silent Hill series, but was my sister M's and my first official Silent Hill game. 

The closest we could get was through dark-fantasy PC games with horror undertones....

.... neither game, I think we appreciated because they were both very much d20 games. I have only recently come to appreciate pen-and-paper RPGs and the art of the d20. Sadly, I never finished any of these RPGs, but wish that I had.

............. to be continued in PART 7

Thursday, June 5, 2014

He's ALL GROWN UP! ; u;



...and so happy for him.

Seriously, I have the coolest cutest baby brother anyone could ask for.

It seems like only yesterday that I was having my own highschool graduation; hell, my own undergraduate graduation! ..... all the pomp and circumstance, and that little swell of pride that you get as you walk across the stage. You feel like all the pain and suffering and essays you went through have finally been worth it, and magically you're a higher form of human being. That feel of accomplishment as you shake the dean or principal's hand to the ever-repeating "Pomp and Circumstance"

..... yeah, my brother will probably feel none of those things, lol. He is so done with highschool; it's not even funny.

But when he graduates from college, he will understand.

He will understand.

All those essays.

I nearly died.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Tanka Tuesday (part 3)

For those of you unfamiliar, 'tanka' is a form of poetry. Like a haiku, the lines don't have to rhyme but must have a set number of syllables : 5/7/5/7/7

i just can't explain
how the soft feel of black fur
and purr in my ear
and the rough tongue that licks me
carries all the sad away.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

In Swick's Bookbag : The Ruins of Gorlan

I have a love-hate relationship with series. The series that I do love, I love very much and I'm glad that there are multiple books. The series that I don't love or simply haven't read yet... well, they can be a pain because I have to label them all so that they are easier to find for kiddos.

Surprisingly! - just kiddo books. Adults don't seem to mind giving me the title of the second book in the series, or in some cases, the series name. Kids and teens on the other hand just say "I'm looking for Twilight #2 or Diary of a Wimpy Kid #2" .... doesn't matter if that isn't the name of the series... never know the title of the sequel so I'm constantly having to look series order up.... sometimes if it doesn't even have a sequel, they ask about the sequel because EVERY book lately (I'm looking at you YA section) seems to be part of a series.

The Ranger's Apprentice is one of those series that's been popular, long, and one I hadn't read yet. Since I've been putting the numbers on these books recently, I thought it was about time I introduced myself. The series STILL seems to be going on. It began in 2004 and the latest (#12) was published last year. Plus, boys seem to really like it, and I tend to dig guys' reads a lot.

I can't say that I've fallen in love with the series yet, but I am enjoying what I have read so far and already plan to check out the second volume called 'The Burning Bridge.' The Ranger's Apprentice is a medieval fantasy drama centered around Will, an orphan boy, who becomes apprenticed to Ranger Halt (duh, that's where the series name comes from!) and trained in the art of hunting, assassin arts, and espionage. The blurbs that I have read about the other titles suggest that there is a long epic storyline spanning years over Will's life as a Ranger and the lives of his orphan friends and their apprenticeships. I've been looking for a 'Game of Thrones'esque readalike that wasn't quite so complicated to get me in the mood to read high fantasy, and I think that I have found it. There's plenty of action, and all the characters- particularly the main ones : Will, Halt, and Horace are developing nicely.

Reminds me a lot of the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson series.

Thursday, May 29, 2014


I'm hungry right now, so I'm going to write about the ultimate sandwich. Well, MY ultimate sandwich; I don't know about anybody else... that's not my problem.


The ultimate sandwich has to start with the absolute PERFECT bread... which, if you don't know... is a lightly toasted wheat sourdough... crunchy salty tang and tear-your-gums goodness... buttered on both sides to get that perfect golden-brown color to it.

Then.... you get out some mayonnaise. Oh yeah, REAL mayonnaise; none of this namby-pamby 'lite mayo' or 'Miracle Whip' - NOPE ! 100% real mayo goodness, and you dip the knife in and spread a thin layer on one side of the sourdough. Just one side though! We don't want to clog up out arteries just yet.


Wash some fresh romaine lettuce. The darker the green, the better. Wash it in cool clear water, and then place a leaf on top of that mayo you just spread. Make sure the lettuce leaf isn't wilted, so that it still has some crisp crunch to it! That's the most important part!


Take a good old beefsteak tomato. Wash it under cool clear water, and then slice into it with a stainless steel knife. Don't take the end. Make sure to take a nice thick slice from in the middle. And cut it in half diagonally so that you don't pull the tomato all out at once on your first bite! It's important to pick a tomato that is fully ripe, but not squishy. We need structure AND favor in order to make this work, okay?


On the other slice of perfect toasted wheat sourdough... you need to spread generous amounts of ripe avocado. Mash it up with a little lime juice with a spoon so that it doesn't brown. One consistant green mushy layer of awesomeness.


The main event. You NEED maple smoked bacon strips. Oh yeah! Not the over-salted shit. You wanna be able to taste the maple and the bacon and all that salty-fatty-sweet glory as nature intended it to be. Put it in a skillet and cook it good until it has just barely become crispy. It must NOT be limp, nor can it be burned. It must be perfect Goldilocks bacon... both crunchy and chewy and full of juices. Slap that pig onto the sandwich and close it up.


Close your eyes and take a bite of the ultimate sandwich. Oh yeah... classic BLT with a little bit of a California twist to it. Let your tongue glide over all the radical textures and flavors .... crunchy bread, creamy mayo, savory avocado, salty-sweet bacon.... buttery.... bacon-y.... tomato tang.

Ultimate sandwich.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Tanka Tuesday (part 2)

I need to get back in the habit of writing more poetry. 

For those of you unfamiliar, 'tanka' is a form of poetry. Like a haiku, the lines don't have to rhyme but must have a set number of syllables : 5/7/5/7/7

truly i'm a fiend
drawing strength from enemy's
i don't need the whole story
i can smell the pain and smile.