Book Review: Shells by Yegor Chekmarev

Early last week I found out that someone who recently graduated from the same high school I attended had published his first book and thought maybe I should give it a shot. I was lucky enough to have known him from before through soccer and was given an opportunity to read and review the book. Shells by Yegor Chekmarev is currently available on Amazon ($10 for a paperback copy, or $0.99 for a Kindle edition). A self-described Russian-born American was influenced by “the short stories of Jorge Luis Borges, the visionary novels of Arthur C. Clarke, and the labyrinthine layers of Mark Z. Danielewski”. He wrote his first short story entitled “The Dreamer” and is currently in the process of getting his second novel out to publishers which I will hopefully get to review again here once that project is completed.

At 212 pages, it certainly didn’t feel as long from the moment I picked it up and began to read it. I knocked out half the book in the first night I got it but eventually got slowed down by work and other priorities and unable to write this review as quickly as I had originally thought. I will reveal some minor spoilers in here though I will spare the majority of details for those interested in reading it themselves.

The main premise of the book is that a man wakes up every single day in a new body and must learn what his name is, who his new family and friends are and try to collect as many memories about the individual to survive the day without causing too much damage to the person’s life. We are told that as he moves on from body to body, the original “host”, as I shall call it, is returned to the state with no recollection of what happened the day before and continue living their lives.

It has a very quick paced beginning with the protagonist waking up in a body of a high school kid that is clearly not his and is completely unaware of his current name, family or what kind of personality this person might have. As I mentioned earlier the main character, whose name we don’t actually learn until later on in the book, tries not to cause too much damage to the host’s life although we see on occasion that this principle doesn’t always hold true as emotions tend to run high as the novel progresses.

As you continue reading, several questions immediately come to mind. Is he the only person who is switching from host to host on a daily basis? Are there others? What happens if he switches and runs into himself during the course of his day? Is that possible or what has happened to his body as he continues switching. Will he ever break the curse or will he forever wander through life, flitting from soul to soul, never creating an identity for himself?

So many questions that for the most part do end up being answered as you wrap up the book. A very impressive book for a first time publisher so make sure to go check it out on Amazon: Shells by Yegor Chekmarev. It is pretty great to see people our age (or in this case a little younger than me) who have taken an interest in writing and can produce quality material. Hopefully there is more in store for the rest of us.

On a related note, if you have a book or a paper that you have written or published, let me know and I will write and review it when I get the chance. Hopefully some of you can return the favor when I finally get around to publishing my own.

iPhone OS 3.0 Review

Although I was less than pleased with the iPhone 3G S, the OS 3.0 has been a bundle of joy so far. The long awaited copy/paste as well as deleting/forwarding individual texts and e-mail multiple pictures at once.

I’ll just go through the top 5 that I thought they were most important and you can view the gallery of photos at the end of the post of some of the other features.

1. Copy and Paste

It is about time that OS update 3.0 finally gives you the ability to copy, cut and paste text. If you double tap on a white space, then Select and Select All appear but if you do it on given word, it is highlighted with the options of copy and cut are displayed. This copy paste works across every app on the phone I tried from Twitterific to Safari to Messages to Mail. It definitely makes things a lot easier when copying a link into Twitterific and then having it use its compress URL feature while using Twitter.

2. Deleting / Forwarding Individual Text Messages

This is probably one of the hit or miss things depending on how much you use the forwarding text message feature. I often get a lot of news or sports update that I want to send over to a friend out of state or even just update my brother, but that was a very tedious task before where you just had to type everything over again.

The way to use it is by going into the messages window, selecting Edit on the top right part of the window. This brings you to an edit screen where you can select a single or multiple messages that you either want to delete or forward on.

3. Undo Feature

If you accidentally delete some text, one that you accidentally cut instead of copying or you pasted something that you didn’t want to, you can just simply shake your iPhone and a pop up appears asking if you want to undo your action. Clever move by Apple, very useful.

4. Landscape Texting / E-mail

Another one of the features that is not for everyone but landscape texting is definitely a good option. If you’re trying to read a long e-mail, it definitely is very useful but for texting or writing an e-mail, there just isn’t enough room for me to use it consistently. The landscape keyboard takes up a lot of real estate of the screen but it’s useful for a long text message… but not necessarily for a long e-mail.

5. Spotlight / E-mail Search

The ability to search across the entire phone is very useful. It searches contacts, calendars as well as the body of e-mail messages amongst others. I don’t see myself using the search feature very often but I can see it being quite useful for others. In the past few days though, I have used it to find an old email and even once for an old calendar event. I guess it is a little efficient if you have a lot of pages of apps and you would rather search for it instead of scrolling to the last page to find it.

The Dark Knight: Why So Serious?

Why So Serious?

The Dark Knight is the first film I can remember in a really long time that lasted about 2 and a half hours but did not a dead scene or left the audience asking: When is this movie going to end?

The promotional campaign leading up to the release of movie was remarkable and certainly there were some (albeit a few) but some doubters who wondered whether all this promo would actually yield a decent movie. After seeing it yesterday, I can definitely say this movie has one Academy Award winner if not more. I bought the ticket online just to make sure it wasn’t sold out and even though I got stuck watching it in Menlo Park, it was still a packed house.

Read an excerpt below from Peter Abraham’s Yankee Blog on his review of the movie which accurately sums up what I was thinking.

Director Christopher Nolan starts with a gripping scene and there’s one after another right until the end. There’s no building to a climax here.

Mark down Heath Ledger for a posthumous Academy Award. The Joker is his greatest role and he was better than Jack Nicholson, which didn’t seem possible. Christian Bale does the brooding Batman thing better than the previous Batmans and adds a nice touch of irony.

The supporting cast is over-the-top good. Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman are the wise old heads on Batman’s staff. Gary Oldman is the incorruptible cop. Also dug Eric Roberts as a mobster. Maggie Gyllenhaal is the girl in the middle, Batman’s secret love.

The third man in to the Batman/Joker battle is Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent. He’s the key to the whole film from a story sense. The Dark Knight isn’t remotely a goofy comic book movie. It’s a classic battle of good against evil where the protagonists happen to be comic book characters. This film has much more the tone of Michael Mann’s Heat in that it’s about Gotham and it’s internal struggle. Things have to get worse before they better in Gotham and do they get worse. The city (Chicago, never looking more sinister) is a character in the film as much as any person.

The obvious theme that becomes clear right from the start is that you cannot trust anyone. Cops are bad, criminals at times make the better decision, trust kids to do the right thing and no one is safe. No one.

The Joker easily steals the show in this movie and at first I thought all the hype that i had heard and read about leading up to watching this detracted from his Oscar-worthy performance but the more I think about it, the clearer it becomes that he deserves the awards. As Peter wrote, “The most amusing moments are from Ledger, whose Joker is equally a sadistic anarchist and comedian. He makes blowing up a hospital hilarious. This is not a flick for the kids. It’s complex and disturbing at times.”

Don’t flip a coin, go see this and if you get a chance, go see it in IMAX.

MLB Review at the Break

So I had posted “MLB Preview… Sorta?” all the way back on March 24th before the season predicting which teams will go over or under their win totals according a number I believe that is given to each team by some Las Vegas betting line.

Currently I am on pace for only 14 correct predictions but do take a look at some of my “incorrect” picks so far in Cincinnati who is 1.1 games off the pace, Houston Astros who are 1.5 games off and Toronto who falls 3.9 games short. As for the close ones that I am getting correct right now are Philadelphia Phillies (0.25), Kansas City Royals (0.94) and Boston Red Sox (1.2). So technically I could be anywhere from 11 to 17 correct picks and certainly even higher if teams like the Mets and Brewers decide to make a little run.

The teams that I have looked really brilliant on are of course the Tampa Bay Rays (OVER +22.8), Seattle Mariners (UNDER -21.9), Cleveland Indians (UNDER -20.34), Minnesota Twins (OVER +16.9) and even Florida Marlins (OVER +16.8).

On the other hand, some teams that made me look down right awful are the San Diego Padres (OVER -21.9), Colorado Rockies (OVER -17.2), Chicago White Sox (UNDER +17.06) and Detroit Tigers (OVER -12.5).

Here is the table from the post at the start of the season: Continue reading “MLB Review at the Break”

Batman Is Back

Richard Corliss of the TIME Magazine has written an intriguing review of The Dark Knight that makes next Friday (release date 7/18/08) seem like forever and a half away. I won’t discuss any spoilers as I have carefully tried to avoid them myself but there has been quite the anticipation since the release of Batman Begins in 2005 for this film. Reportedly, Heath Ledger has played an Oscar Award worthy of an acting job reprising the role of The Joker and from what I have read and seen in trailers, I have a feeling his final acting performance is going to live up to those expectations.

“… And for reassurance, Nolan brings back old friends from Batman Begins: Michael Caine as Bruce’s butler Alfred and Morgan Freeman as Fox, who takes care of Bruce’s toys.

Actually, they’re just diversions from the epochal face-off of Bruce and the Joker. For a good part of the film, when the two embrace in a free fall of souls — one doomed, the other imperiled — you may think you’re in the grip of a mordant masterpiece. That feeling will pass, as the film spends too many of its final moments setting up the series’ third installment. The chill will linger, though. The Dark Knight is bound to haunt you long after you’ve told yourself, Aah, it’s only a comic-book movie”

To read the entire TIME Magazine review, here it is: Batman Is Back — The TIME Review. Anyone up for going to see this in IMAX?