Tag Archives: review

Living and Dying – Release Details and Special Offers

Original photo by Rachel Davies, used under a Creative Commons license.This Wednesday is the release date for Living and Dying. As long as the Kindle Store approval process goes smoothly, the collection should be available for pay-what-you-want download from this site around the same time as it becomes available for purchase from the Kindle Store for $0.99.

In order to allow for pay-what-you-want purchasing, I’m launching a TimSevenhuysen.com Store today. There won’t be any fancy shopping carts or download systems or anything; just download links and PayPal buttons so you can read my writing and pay me either a set price, or whatever you think it’s worth.

As promised, I have a couple of special offers available for anyone who’s interested.

Offer 1) Early Bird Bonuses: Buy Living and Dying through PayPal on or prior to release day and you’ll get early access to my next short fiction collection and (if you pay at least $0.90) a free digital copy of Fifty-Word Stories: Volume One.

Anyone who pays for a PDF/ePub copy of Living and Dying from this site (as opposed to the Kindle Store) before midnight PST on June 1 will receive my next short fiction collection a week before it becomes publicly available. You can still get in on this offer if you buy the collection from the Kindle Store, but you’ll have to pay me at least 1 cent through PayPal, so that I have proof that you’ve bought it. (The Kindle Store doesn’t give me any information about who’s bought my products, so I can’t verify purchases from there.)

Not going to be around on June 1? No problem! You can “preorder” Living and Dying right now by going to the product page and clicking the Buy Now button. I’ll email you the .zip file as soon as the collection goes live!

Offer 2) Reviewer Bonuses: Review Living and Dying on Amazon and you’ll get on the early-access list for my next collection and will also get the opportunity to provide me with the name of a superhero to write into a story that I will include in my next collection.

Anyone who reviews Living and Dying on Amazon.com and sends a link to their review to tsevenhuysen@gmail.com will have the opportunity to contribute a superhero name to a story that I’ll be including in my next short fiction collection. Want to have a character of your own creation mentioned in my story? All you have to do is write a review, good or bad, positive or negative, one star or five stars.

In addition, you’ll also get your name on the early-access list for my next collection and receive a copy by email a week before it becomes publicly available.


So… Who’s excited? ME! I AM!

Les Miserables Impressions

A couple of days ago I finally finished reading Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. With very little hesitation, I placed it at the top of my “50 Best Books” list.

Why? Well, as far as I’m concerned, Les Mis is a literary masterpiece. It has elements of what I consider to be every aspect of good writing. It is informative, intellectual, intelligent, and inspiring, but it is also emotional, entertaining, and endearing.

The book has an excellent mix of dramatic hooks and diligent high-mindedness: the essays that begin each section, covering such topics as the life of the Paris street urchin, the Battle of Waterloo, the history of social revolution in France, or the complexities of the Paris sewers, are thorough and educational, though I can understand how some readers might not like having so much non-fiction sneak its way into their fiction.

Les Mis also conveys a strong social and moral message. The most obvious of its messages is the concept of redemption, as Jean Valjean, an ex-convict, is redeemed by sacrificial charity and becomes a paragon of virtue. But the themes of the book extend a long ways beyond that. Les Mis is, ultimately, a romantic novel. I don’t mean that in the sense of romantic love: I mean it in the literary sense, meaning that it is a novel of ideal types, i.e., theoretical extremes. Jean Valjean is the strongest man you’ve ever met. The bishop who saves him is the most pure-hearted and charitable character you’ve ever read about. Marius and Cosette’s love is the epitome of high-minded romance. Thenardier is a black-hearted, remorseless snake with no redeeming qualities. Everything is an extreme: that is Hugo’s style. But that does not mean that everything is cliché; far from it. Hugo uses see extremes to drive home his moral perspectives (he values honour, loyalty, merit, purity, asceticism, and so on) and to highlight his social comments. Painting certain elements of life in bold strokes of black and white allows us to more easily see the colours and the grays that would otherwise blend more dimly into the background, and Hugo’s grays are vibrant.

What more can I say? Les Mis is, by turns, heartrending and uplifting, sometimes within the space of a single sentence. The tragedy that Hugo is capable of creating is exquisite–read The Hunchback of Notre Dame for more of that–but the joyous moments that he allows us to share are sweeter because of the depths that we have experienced. This, I feel, imitates life, but, as with the rest of the novel, it is pressed to an extreme.

Not everyone will enjoy or appreciate Les Mis. It’s almost 1,300 pages long, which is enough of a deal-breaker for a lot of people. The essays slow the pace of the book, but there may be abridged versions out there if that’s a significant problem for you. The vocabulary level, at least in the translation I read, is quite high, which to me supplements the romanticism of the book–poetry and poetic language are the natural home of literary romance–but this can make reading certain sections of the book a bit difficult. I found having a dictionary handy (in the form of my iPhone) to be very useful.

But enough with the disclaimers. Les Miserables is, at this point, the best novel I’ve ever read.

Next, I’m reading Peter Pan by JM Barrie.

District 9 Review

This may not be my most popular blog post ever…

I found District 9 really disappointing. A little bit of my disappointment can be blamed on the glowingly positive opinions I heard about it from friends who saw it in theatre and recommended that I watch it. I was told it was a mix of sci-fi, social commentary, and allegory. The parallels with South African apartheid were supposed to be really strong and, I was told, set District 9 apart from other sci-fi fare or action movies.

So I was ready for a really intriguing, thoughtful movie. And I got that. For about fifteen minutes.

The movie started off strong with an intriguing concept and some insightful character building and social/political commentary, but then it apparently lost confidence in its premise and decided it might make more money as an action flick. The mix of documentary-style footage, newscasts, and commentary really pulled me in. The world-building was going great. I thought I had something special here.

But then there was kind of a quick and indistinct transition from documentary-style, acknowledge-the-camera shooting to normal, there-is-no-camera cinematography. I wasn’t sure exactly where the transition took place, or what I was supposed to think about it. There are ways to do those kinds of transitions that don’t leave the viewer disoriented… I wasn’t particularly impressed with that.

More significant, though, was that from that transition forward, District 9 decided it was bored of being creative in its cinematography, its characters, and its setting, or maybe those things were just too hard for it, and it decided, instead, that it should take its world and its characters and spin them into a generic, violent, average sci-fi action movie.

Ultimately, District 9 felt, to me, like it was a fantasy world dreamed up by an independent soul who, like so many creative teenagers before him, decided it would be cool to set a story in his world, without really worrying about how well the story and the world fit together. Even having forgiven the immaturities in the construction of the world (the clichés, the stereotypes, the tropes, the… cat food, seriously?), the original concept had a lot of good things going for it–I thought Wikus van de Marwe was a really unique and useful character, at first–but District 9 didn’t capitalize on its opportunities, and because of that, I found it very disappointing.