Category Archives: review

Exclusive Magazine Reviews Chasing Zebras

From Exclusive Magazine

 

Book Reviews

Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, MD
By: Barbara Barnett
(Paperback / 352 pages / Ecw Press / ISBN: 1550229559 / $17.95)Description: ‘Chasing Zebras’ is a resource for seasoned fans, an atlas for new viewers, and a guide for students of television, film and pop culture. It combines Barnett’s insights with details from her numerous interviews with the show’s writers, producers and actors.

Verdict: Now, and for the record, House is not my kind of guy – too rude – but the show appealed to me for some reason. This book helped me understand why. House claims he only cares about solving the medical mysteries, yet somehow you sense that he really has compassion for many of his patients. The book explains the subtle comments and signs that indicate he does.

It reflects skillful scriptwriting and acting. In addition, the book’s in-depth analysis of House as a brilliant but troubled person humanizes him and creates a level of sympathy that somewhat excuses his behavior. The other main characters are profiled as well. These profiles are a reminder that the more you know about someone – on TV or in real life – the more connected with them you feel.

What this book really did for me, though, was teach me to better understand and appreciate good scriptwriting. Author Barnett, whose own writing I found impressive, explains how the stories and the characters are developed and presented. I plan to watch the show more often, and will be looking and listening more closely for things that reveal motives and insights into the personalites of the characters. I think anyone reading this book will become a smarter viewer, not only of this series, but of other dramas. [JVO]

Buy Chasing Zebras everywhere in paperback or in Kindle

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New Radio interview about House, M.D. and Chasing Zebras

I did an interview this afternoon on CKWR Canadian radio. MsHouseFan was nice enough to record it :). Thanks!

Scene Magazine Loves Chasing Zebras

London, Ontario’s Scene Magazine, an arts and entertainment weekly reviewed Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House. Here’s what they said:

For any fan completely stoked about the return of Gregory House to the Fox TV network this fall, pay close attention – Chasing Zebras: The Unoffi cial Guide to House, M.D. is the perfect primer and referential resource for this fantastic show. A major benefi t to sourcing unofficial material when it comes to program compendiums is that readers are privy to alternative insights and perspectives that don’t always make it into a sanctioned book. By the same token, author Barbara Barnett has accessed many people on the creative staff behind the show, which has helped shape her comprehensive analysis. Barnett claims she can be considered obsessed when it comes to House, and her fanaticism is the key component that sells this book, as she gently draws readers into her obsession as well. The book allows fans the opportunity to brush-up on certain episodes, or get a bigger picture of how the show has developed over the course of six seasons. But there’s a lot more here than just programming notes. Barnett discusses the criticisms that fans had regarding casting changes, and how the network attempted to resolve them. She explores the technical modifi cations Fox made to commercial breaks, which interrupted the program’s pacing and literally forced transformations to the format of the show. Because of this depth, Chasing Zebras offers more to readers than standard television compendiums might normally. It’s a level of attention that even House himself would likely respect. –Brian McQueen

Chasing Zebras is available now in the U.S. from your local bookseller (B/N, Borders, many independents) or from Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble or Borders online (or your favorite online bookseller). The book will be out in Europe and worldwide October 28.

You Are Invited to a Book Launch Party!

Kindle for iPad: A superb reading experience

Although I was curious about everything iPad has to offer, I was most curious about the reading experience on the iPad, since it’s been touted as the potential Kindle Killer in the media by some. So after familiarizing myself with the iPad, syncing my iPod apps and iTunes library, I downloaded the iBook app, Apple’s iPad reader application. The interface is gorgeous as you gaze upon the wood-like (albeit empty) bookshelves of your personal library. Well, almost empty, anyway. There is a lone copy ofWinnie the Pooh, standard equipment on the iPad, if that’s your pleasure.

I have to say, reading on the iBook app is a great experience. There are two things you notice right away using the iBook application. First, the books are in color, something technologically impossible on the Kindle and other similar eReaders. The second thing you notice is the navigation. On the Kindle (and most standalone eReaders) you turn pages by pressing a button. Depending on the eReader, the page turns either slowly—or extremely slowly. There is a significant lag time between the button-push and the actual turn of page.

Reading in iBook is a completely different experience. The page turns as you turn the page; there is no lag. Sweeping my finger (actually very much like “paging” through a real book) at the page edge causes the page to turn. Really. (At least that’s the effect.) The faster you sweep, the quicker you leaf through the pages. Cool. As on my Kindle, I can manipulate the font size so that my presbyopic, middle-aged eyes can read without benefit of the reading glasses I’m always misplacing.

One of the big selling points of standalone eReaders is that they’re reproduced using something called e-Ink. E-Ink provides the reader with a book-like feel and no backlighting (which is theoretically easier on the eyes because it’s not so bright). The absence of backlighting and relative simplicity of the device also means that there is virtually no battery drain while reading. My Kindle’s battery lasts for weeks when I’ve got its onboard wireless signal disabled.
Continue reading Kindle for iPad: A superb reading experience

My first book: Journaling the Journey


It’s a weird feeling seeing my book up there on Amazon.com, where I’ve bought hundreds of books written by others. Knowing that my book, Chasing Zebras: THE Unofficial Guide to House, M.D. (ECW Press, September 2010) would be on pre-order sometime during March, I’ve indulged my vanity by checking the site daily. And Friday was the day.

Of course I tweeted the news (from the rooftops); I launched an “author” website, although there’s not much to tell–yet. And feeling rather self-conscious about the whole thing.

The book is six months from hitting the shelves of the local Barnes and Noble; there’s not even an image yet on the Amazon.com site (although I assure you the book has a cover–and a very nice one, which you can see at BarbaraBarnett.com, my “author” site). There’s no description of the book either (it’s an introspective and hopefully intelligent companion guide to the series), yet the first day I hit #48,000 on the Amazon.com sales rank. “See Bestsellers,” the product description provocatively beckoned.

Besteller?! On the first day? Cool. Of course, ever the skeptic, I tried figuring out just how #48,000 actually translated to “bestseller.” It meant, I supposed, that at least someone bought a copy. Maybe more than one. By mid-day Saturday, Chasing Zebras had reached 13,000. And more than that, it was #11 in Guides and Review about Television shows. A menu appeared below the product listing that showed what other products people purchased who also purchased Chasing Zebras. (Obviously mostly books, DVDs and other things to do with House, M.D. and/or its star Hugh Laurie. OK, so now I was pretty sure more than one person bought the book. Very cool indeed.

By Sunday (yes, I’m obsessing), the book has settled to 170,000 (Note to self: learn to toughen that easily bruised writer’s ego.) and #65 on the Bestsellers in TV guidebooks and reviews. Well, at least its still on the best seller lists, for what it’s worth. My agent says that it’s encouraging and a good sign that my book is on the charts at all right out of the gate (especially with no image, no description, no keywords in the product description).

So, who knows what this week will hold. And on into the spring, summer and the book’s official launch. In the meantime, check out the book, if you’d like and follow my blogposts here about my virgin journey in publishing.

The Non-Geek Peek: TiVo Series3

Originally published at Blogcritics.org

DVRs, digital video recorders, are wondrous things. They allow you not only to record your favorite television shows and movies, but allow you literally to stop time, pause the action when the phone rings or dog barks; do an “instant replay” of that crucial “hail Mary” pass you’ve just got see again. And again. These are things to which a DVD recorder (or heaven forbid, a VCR) can never aspire.

After having subscribed to Comcast’s DVR service for several years, I became frustrated with the lack of features, and with the fact that my DVR machine inexplicably kept erasing the hard drive, or, conversely, failing to record due to “being full” despite the fact that I only had three other recordings on the d**n thing. So, last winter I treated myself to a TiVo Series3 machine and now receive all of my Comcast cable channels through the TiVo receiver. And I will never, ever look back. I’ve been “TiVo’d.” And here’s why:

The Season Pass: I am a House addict. I watch (and re-watch) each episode. I have set my TiVo to record House each time it’s on. The machine picks up every episode broadcast (that’s not already residing on the TiVo’s hard drive). The Comcast DVR can also do this. However, TiVo’s season pass allows something that the Comcast DVR cannot. In addition to being a House fan, I am also a Hugh Laurie fan (my husband would call it a middle-aged crush) — and I’m also a Stephen Dillane fan, an Alan Rickman fan… well, you get the idea. All of these actors are on my “wish list.” The TiVo then records everything (every movie, guest star appearance, talk show appearance, etc) in which my wish list actor appears. Imagine my surprise when Stuart Little 3: Call of the Wild appeared on in my recorded programs list (I didn’t even know there was a Stuart Little 3!).

You can also set up wish lists based on “keywords.” In my other life, when I’m writing my blog, I’m a Jewish educator, and always looking for interesting programming of a Jewish nature. Now, I don’t necessarily want the TiVo to record these programs, but I want to know what’s coming up in the next couple of weeks on TV. Typing “Jewish” into a wish list results in some fairly amusing “hits,” as it finds anything even remotely related to “Jewish.” I can choose, manually, to record or not.

TiVo Recommends…: Particularly fond of a show (or movie) you’re viewing? Completely hate it? Use the red and green “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” buttons on the TiVo remote control up to three times to show your enthusiasm (or lack thereof). TiVo uses that information to recommend more television shows and films. The recommendations screen lists programs that it thinks you’ll like, and you can choose to record or ignore, as you wish. The more often you vote up or down (either on your recommendation listings or on shows you happen to be viewing), the more refined will be future recommendations.

Resurrecting deleted shows: Have you ever unintentionally deleted or erased a show or a movie? I know that I have. I had forgotten that my husband missed a Tudors episode when real life dared to intervene on his Sunday night. I’d watched the episode (which was on “season pass” to automatically record), and since I don’t usually keep Tudors episodes past one viewing, I blitzed it before he had a chance to see it. However, TiVo has a neat feature that archives deleted programs, allowing you to bring them back from the dead, preserving not only quality television programming but countless relationships and marriages. Neat, huh?

Now of course none of the aforementioned would be possible without the huge, ginormous hard drive resident on the Series3. My Comcast DVR barely held a season’s worth of House episodes. My TiVo currently holds 57 House episodes, about 20 movies, countless other recordings, and (like that Energizer bunny) keeps going and going and going. (TiVo Series 3 holds about 300 hours of standard definition programming.)

Wireless capability: Although it’s an add-on (and a fairly inexpensive one), if you have a home wireless network, you can add the TiVo wireless adapter and connect to TiVo through your home network. This enables several very cool features. First, you can upload photos, videos, movies, etc from your computer to your TiVo. Anyone who’s connected S-Video cables and RCA plugs from a laptop to the television in order to view computer files on the TV can appreciate being able to do this completely without wires. The TiVo “sees” your computer and its contents and many things you can view on your computer you can see up on your nice big television screen. Conversely, files on your TiVo can be downloaded to your computer for easy transport and viewing on the go.

Fast forwarding past the commercials: TiVo’s very smart fast forward feature is nothing short of brilliant. Ever fast forward past the commercials, only to skip a bit too far ahead? TiVo feels your pain and understands your frustration. When the fast forward stops, it automatically rewinds back a few seconds, making an often seamless jump over the commercials.

Amazon Unbox: One of the few downsides of using the TiVo box instead of a conventional Comcast cable receiver is the loss of Comcast’s “OnDemand” feature. And admittedly, it’s a great feature; I miss it on my TiVo-powered television. Fortunately, if you miss it a lot, you can add your service’s digital cable box as a second receiver. I have digital cable boxes on two other TV’s so, if I’m in OnDemand withdrawal, I can feed my need. And someday soon (and I believe already available in some markets) Comcast and TiVo will get married and you’ll have access to the best of both worlds.

On the other hand, with TiVo you do have access to the Amazon Unbox (Amazon’s movie rental and purchase download service). This service allows you to browse and search Amazon.com’s movie and television library through TiVo and download direct to your television. Rental is $3.99 for a new release feature film.

Rhapsody: I’ve been a fan of the Rhapsody music service since long before RealAudio took it over years ago. Its music library is exhaustive and eclectic. It’s worth the $25 a year I pay to listen endlessly to everything from classic classical to classic rock, folk, Broadway shows, and pretty much everything and anything else. Log into your Rhapsody account via TiVo and you can have Rhapsody’s entire library come piping though your home theatre.

Et cetera: TiVo comes equipped with a few fun video games, original TiVo programming (The Onion’s, for example), access to Fandango to purchase movie tickets. And now YouTube, as well.

The Future: Amazon has just announced an expansion of its relationship with TiVo. The future will bring a “buy” feature embedded into the TiVo software. That will allow you to purchase products, like books, DVDs and CD (promoted on late night talk shows, for example), direct from Amazon.com with the push of a button on the remote.

The TiVo Series3 receiver retails for around $600.00.

Revisiting the Amazon Kindle e-book reader

Originally published at Blogcritics.org

I confess to having a thing for new electronic gadgets and gizmos.  I always have.  But I’m pretty fickle about them as well.  Gadgets that look cool and act cool, but are too much trouble to use, frustrate my simple mind and typically wind up cast off into a drawer, unused or, if I’m feeling particularly industrious, for sale on eBay.

And so it was with amused disdain (tempered with his usual teasing indulgence) that my husband greeted my delight at having acquired an Amazon Kindle last November. The Kindle is Amazon.com’s electronic reading device. Using something called e-Ink, it provides the user with a traditional reading experience, but without the paper. He waited (and waited) for this, too, to be cast off and up on eBay. Although I was sorely tempted (the eBay price for a Kindle topped out at around $1000 when the product was sold out on Amazon.com for months), nothing would get me to part with my Kindle.  Eight months later, I’m still as enamored of it as I was back in November.

I reviewed the Kindle right out of the box when I got it, but now, after eight months of daily use, I thought it might be time to revisit the device. You know, honeymoon being over and all. So, without further ado:

The Fabulous

Instant access to Amazon.com—Do not underestimate the importance of this feature.  It makes owning the Kindle and browsing in the Amazon.com store an experience as satisfying as browsing the aisles of a brick-and-mortar Borders or Barnes and Noble.  It also places the Kindle head and shoulders above the Sony Reader.

Because the Kindle is wireless, access to the Amazon.com store is always available (and free):  sitting in the pediatrician’s waiting room, in the airport waiting to board your flight, sitting at the pool or lounging in bed wishing you had something good to read.  You flick on the wireless switch, hit the button and you’re in the store.  Browse new releases, the best seller lists (several of them), or search for your favorite author (by typing on the Kindle’s keypad) or genre.  Read reviews, download a free sample chapter or two (instantly), or buy the book.

There is no other reading device (as far as I know) that can do this.  You can also access the Amazon.com store on your computer, buy the Kindle version of the book and, voila, when you turn on the device, your new book magically appears on your device’s home page within a minute or two.

You can also subscribe to newspapers like the New York Times. (The Kindle “whispernet” deposits the newspaper into your device like an invisible newsboy.)  Magazines, including Time and The Atlantic, as well as e-magazines and blogs like Slate and—breaking news—BlogCritics(!) are also available for subscription.

Book Price—The current best-sellers and most other hardcover books are $9.99. Paperbacks cost generally between $3.00 and $7.00. If you buy a lot of hardcover books (and I do), you are saving about $15.00 per book.  Admittedly, you don’t have a physical copy of the book, and for some of us, that’s a blessing.  The Barnett household is littered with books.  We have approximately 2,000 volumes stashed and stacked in various bookcases (shelved two deep in places), on coffee tables, shelves nightstands and other places.  The possibility of buying new books without adding to the clutter is (as they say in Yiddish) a mechaiyah. (Insert deep relieved sigh here.)

Deleting a book from the Kindle library doesn’t erase it, either.  The book is simply stored back at Amazon.com for easy retrieval. Unlike storing a finished book in the dark reaches of my bedroom bookcase, I can actually find that biography of Thomas Jefferson when I absolutely must read it again.

Selection and Variety—The Amazon.com Kindle store contains more than 130,000 books, and it’s not just the best sellers and new releases.  A couple of weeks ago, for example, I needed a particular book on Jewish prayer. I was out of town and needed the book for a lecture.  I accessed the Kindle store on the device, and crossed my fingers (or to be more to the point, said a little prayer).  And there it was. The Kindle store has a very comprehensive selection of all genres.

Portability—For me, this is the reason for forking out $350 or more for any electronic reading device.  I can carry a whole library of books with me wherever I go.  And I do. I typically read one novel and two or three non-fiction books at a time.  In hardcover.  That’s a lot of books to carry around on a daily basis (or especially when traveling).

I also like to read at lunch, and to me there is no bigger reading buzz kill than trying to manage silverware and 750-page novel at the same time (especially when the novel is towards the beginning.)  Keeping those pages weighted down with salt-shakers, ice-water tumblers, and other at-hand implements is neither easy nor relaxing.  With the Kindle, I simply turn it on and prop it up.  Pages are turned by pressing very large buttons located both on the left and right of the Kindle.  Making it a wonderful lunchtime companion.  It’s also great to read in bed, for much the same reason.  No more unwieldy and hefty tomes to balance while I’m propped up bed. (So sue me, I like really long novels!)

Adjustable Type Size—This is a great feature for the middle-aged and elderly amongst us.  You can bump up the font size incrementally—all the way up to “I-really-ought-to-get-reading-glasses” size.

Keeps your place—Ever fall asleep and lose your place in a book?  Forget to bookmark or dog-ear a page?  The Kindle always saves your place.  If you want to mark a page for reference, there’s a cute little dog ear graphic in the top corner of each page.  Place an electronic bookmark and the little “corner” turns down just like a real dog-eared page.

Battery Life—Like most electronic readers using “e-Ink,” the Kindle’s real-time battery life is about two weeks or more.  If, that is, you use the wireless feature only when needed.  Flip it on to download your books or browse in the store and turn off when you’re done.  The device itself uses very, very little energy.

Needs improvement:

The Back Cover—Maybe it’s just my personal device, but the back of my Kindle keeps coming loose.  It’s a nuisance, and it should snap in place more securely than it does.  Without the included book-cover (which is great), I believe I may have lost the back of the device long ago.

Buttons—Don’t get me wrong; I love the big, accessible page-turning bars.  But accessible location also makes them too easy to flip accidentally.

Color—The Kindle would be extra cool if it had color ability.  Maybe in its next life; I understand that Kindle 2.0 may not be too far off in the future!

Page Numbers—I like to know what page I’m on.  I just do.  The Kindle tracks your reading progress by paragraph rather than by page.  I do understand why, especially if you’ve bumped up the type size, you can flip page after page without seeming to have made progress.  Although I’ve grown accustomed to this “new” way of judging my progress in the book, I really miss those page numbers.

Blurb—Sometimes, especially after I’ve put down a book for awhile, I forget why I started reading it in the first place, and the back cover (or the blurb) synopsis helps remind me of what the book’s about.  It’s something lacking on the Kindle, and something I greatly miss.  It’s a little thing, but (for me) it’s the one thing that would really make Kindle books “real” for me.  Silly, huh?

Bottom line:  It’s still a totally worthwhile electronic gizmo.  I rank it in importance after my laptop and my Blackberry (and actually ahead of my iPod – though just slightly).

Review: House episode 4×15–“House’s Head”

All season, I’ve been waiting for an episode to leave me (at some point) breathless. And this is the first time in a while that I’ve been transfixed by the show (and not breathing — much anyway), cursing the television between commercial interruptions.

Brilliant acting by Hugh Laurie (literally in every single scene — this has to be his Emmy submission!), who conveyed nearly every possible range of emotion, taking us with him on House’s nightmarish journey. Lisa Edelstein was terrific as well, bounding from sensuous to caring and protective to frustrated and angry. In fact the entire cast put all into this hour. A stellar script by Garrett Lerner, Russel Friend, David Foster, and Peter Blake from Doris Egan’s story and exciting direction and editing created an intense and harrowing journey for the series’ hero. These are the things that make House great.

“House’s Head,” season four’s penultimate episode (part one of a two-part season finale), allowed us access to House’s mind as he tries to make sense of fractured bits and pieces of his memory after serious head injury leaves him with retrograde amnesia. “Someone is dying because I can’t remember,” House agonizes at one point.

At the episode’s start, House finds himself in a strip club, dazed and confused. A lap dancer struts her stuff and it barely registers with him; he has no idea how he came to be in the club in the first place. Leaving before he has his lap dance, bleeding and unable to remember, he wanders aimlessly into the street. All around him, people run and lights strobe — a chaotic scene. As the camera pulls back to reveal a serious accident scene we, along with House, realize that he was somehow involved in it.

As he is treated in the Princeton Plainsboro emergency room by Cameron, House insists that he had noticed a serious symptom in one of the passengers. And he is compelled to find out who it is, and what is wrong.

Wilson is doubtful, telling House that he can’t be certain that this person even exists; that the symptom he spotted may simply be a figment of a blurry imagination. But House is insistent, driven to reconstruct his memories to save a dying person, risking his health — and his life — in the process.

Continued here