I've moved bookishwhimsy.com to tumblr! This blog is now an archive of my past posts.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Awesome Adaptations (10) - The Night of the Hunter

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,

Awesome Adaptations is a weekly bookish meme, hosted at Alisa Selene’s books blog, Picturemereading.  Anyone can play along! Each week there is a new category of adaptation to blog about. Any format (television series, film, web series, etc.) is acceptable as long as it is based in some form on a book. If you’re playing along on your own blog, just mention Picturemereading in your post and include the banner above. Let them know which film you’d pick and why it is an awesome adaptation worth watching. Oh, and don’t forget to share the link to your own post in the comments for that week’s challenge so that everyone can read your thoughts!

An awesome adaptation of a spooky story
Title: The Night of the Hunter
Adapted from The Night of the Hunter by Davis Grubb

This is one of the few times I've found the adaptation improved on the book it was based on.  I found the book very difficult to get through - almost all the characters annoyed me, and the writing really got on my nerves.  It must be me though because it is a classic story.  And this adaptation is so gorgeously rendered from it, I must be missing something.

It's odd to admire the art in a film that dwells so much in greed, death, murder, religious fanaticism, and child endangerment.  It's such a dark Southern Gothic story and made so compelling by the directing, the cinematography and the acting.  Director Charles Laughton, makes use of and emphasizes high contrasting shadows and shapes to tell the story and also maintain an eerie and sinister atmosphere throughout.  It's visually intriguing and used to great effect.  The actors are perfectly cast, especially Robert Mitchum (shout-out to my Mom - he's her favorite actor!) as an unhinged preacher- Rev. Harry Powell who marries a woman, simply so he can figure out where her dead husband hid the money he stole.  Unfortunately the dead husband entrusted the money to his children, and the children become Harry Powell's next target.

The movie is unbearably suspenseful, taut and vivid, and often very unnerving.  I can almost guarantee the hymn "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" will cease giving comfort to anyone who watches this film.  It's thought-provoking, intelligently made, atmospheric and so compelling.  Forget ghosts and goblins, there is nothing scarier than a man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Review: Click-Clack the Rattlebag

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Click-Clack the Rattlebag
by Neil Gaiman

Plot Summary:

"'What kind of story would you like me to tell you?' 'Well,' he said, thoughtfully, 'I don't think it should be too scary, because then when I go up to bed, I will just be thinking about monsters the whole time. But if it isn't just a little bit scary, then I won't be interested. And you make up scary stories, don't you?'"

So begins this subtle, witty, deceptive little tale from master storyteller Neil Gaiman. Lock the doors, turn off the lights, and enjoy!

But first!

This short story (10 minutes long)  is available to download for FREE as an audiobook from Audible. (or Amazon)  But only through Halloween.  It is also for charity, so for each download, Audible will donate $1 to the charity DonorsChoose.org.  I recommend downloading it right now, before you finish reading this post, because although my review won't be directly spoilery, it might ruin a little of the fun of the story.  So do go have a listen!  It's written and read by Neil Gaiman.  It's a perfect scare for Halloween.  You can't lose!

Review:

The story starts off with a mundane, very normal scenario - a little boy wants to hear a scary story.  Just like the listener.  And the narrator is happy to try and oblige the boy.  As the boy must prepare for bed, the narrator and the boy move from the warm, lighted kitchen to the creaky, dark, old staircase that leads to the boy's bedroom. Introduce a rather odd bogey monster as the listener is swept up in the tale, and the whole story becomes insidiously creepy and unsettling. 

Neil Gaiman having written and also reading the story elevates the simple premise of the tale.  With Neil Gaiman, of course there is a brilliant use and economy of words.  He drops words and descriptions that gradually change and warp the images that appear in your head as you listen.  His reading has just the right pause and emphasis to bring out all kinds of meaning behind the words.  The story's end was a little predictable for me - only because it is such a short story, and I was waiting for the really scary thing to happen, only to realize that it might be happening all along.  Even if you almost know what is going to happen, there is a shivery delight in hearing the story all the way to it's conclusion.  And having Neil Gaiman lead you there.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Review: Anna Dressed in Blood

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Anna Dressed in Blood
by Kendare Blake

Plot Summary:

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until his gruesome murder by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn’t expect anything outside of the ordinary: move, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, but now stained red and dripping blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

And she, for whatever reason, spares his life.

Expectations:

PictureMeReading’s fabulous review was a great recommendation and when I received the book, my Mom got to read it before me and also loved it (she’s also started the second book before me!!), so two glowing reviews was very encouraging and I had high hopes that I would enjoy this story.

Review:

Cas is the real star of this book. With his snarkiness as he goes about his job sending ghosts to where they should be it sounds like it would be horrifying as well as exciting, but with Cas it is also funny. The set-up of the Lowood family being the new family in town (as they constantly travel to hunt ghosts) is familiar, along with the dynamic of people gravitating towards the new kid, Cas. Cas becomes fast friends with the popular girl (for reasons relating to his work) and when the first meeting with Anna Dressed in Blood occurs, the book takes a fantastic turn from the familiar. Anna is terrifying yet with Cas she becomes more of a lost soul that is easy to relate to. It is also easy to see why Cas increasingly finds it difficult to deal with her like any other ghost.

The horror aspect in this book was unexpectedly descriptive, as Anna is quite a rage-filled ghost, but it also made the danger visceral and explicit. There is suspense and plot twists that make Anna Dressed in Blood an exciting page-turner, almost up to the last page. I can’t wait to read the next in the series!


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Blogspiration (2) - "The passions may rage furiously"

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,

Blogspiration is a weekly meme hosted by GrowingUpYA and Saz101. The meme was created to help spark inspiration among bloggers, readers and writers alike. An inspirational quote/picture/video is posted weekly, on the day of the author's choosing, so that it may inspire creativity, conversation or just a little SOMETHING.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë holds so much inspiration for me, that I know I will have much fodder for this meme, picking out quotes from the novel that have inspired or touched me in some way.  This is one of my favorites.  It says Think.  Don't act rashly. Don't give in completely to Mr. Rochester.  (That last one isn't so very important....)



If you were interested in Derren Brown Apocalypse, which I posted about in my last Blogspiration, the first episode of the two-parter aired, and you can watch it here.

Review: Birthright

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,
The Dark Gifts: Birthright
by Willow Cross

Plot Summary:

For one-thousand years, Druid prophecies foretold of a young witch destined to alter the fate of both human and immortal alike. This witch-turned-vampire would be capable of harnessing the supernatural abilities of both and, in a bloody rise to power, would rule with unwavering control. Unwillingly thrust into a world she never dreamed existed, Liz Markum is catapulted into an ancient war between rival vampire factions. She must choose between those she loves and the ever-present darkness attempting to devour her very soul. Only one question remains: Will Liz claim her birthright or surrender to the dark gift? One choice. One chance. Two destinies.

Expectations:

I love a good vamp tale, and the paranormal aspects in this book sounded like a promising, eventful read.

Review:

I was drawn immediately into the story by the first few chapters in this book. The author sets up all the drama and danger very quickly and expertly while relating the turning of Liz by Michael. The world that is inhabited by these vampires and the talents and powers they possess were very imaginative and added much depth to the world-building. Somewhere in the middle of the book I started to become a little disappointed. The danger and complications that arose from the war that starts among the vampires, started to become resolved very quickly. It felt like every hindrance to the good vampires almost immediately resulted in a deus ex machina appearance of someone or some power that would help solve the problem. It all felt too easy and lowered the stakes in my opinion, making the story less suspenseful as things were solved so quickly.

The characters and romance of Liz and Michael - which really came across beautifully in the first few chapters - was very well done, and if anything, I was sad that Liz did not appear more in the story. I thought she was such a strong and sympathetic character. The author does do a great job fleshing out all of her characters though, and making them feel realistic and well-rounded. I thought the character and writing in this novel was excellent, and only wished for better plot development.

review copy kindly provided by the author in connection with Young Adult Novel Reader Book Tours


Suspense Sundays (18)

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
"Now let's see... Suspect... Suspectant... Suspend... Ah here we are, Suspense.  The condition of mental uncertainty usually accompanied by apprehension or anxiety.  Fear of something that is about to occur, as 'Do not keep me any longer in SUSPENSE.'"

Suspense was a radio series from 1942 to 1962, claiming to be "radio's outstanding theater of thrills."  I have a fondness for "Old Time Radio" as we call it now, and Suspense is my favorite show.  It sets up weird, dark, scary, or intriguing stories with a plot twist in the end, and all in half an hour.  I love the old-fashion story-telling and I thought it would be fun to give a short review of an episode every Sunday.  




"The Kettler Method"
Air date: September 16, 1942
Starring Roger DeKoven and John Gibson
Dr. Kettler spent years perfecting a brain surgery technique. When he finally tried it on a patient, the patient died, and Dr. Kettler went mad. He’s locked up in a sanitarium but he is now convinced that his patient survived and his fellow doctors purposely kept that from him because they were jealous. So on a dark and stormy night, Dr. Kettler starts an insurrection and takes over.

Leslie and Claire Winton need to see Dr. Morrissey because of Claire’s terrible persistent headaches. Mr. Morrissey is unavailable but Dr. Kettler is willing to consult. He thinks those headaches are very worrisome. In fact he has a special technique that will cure it for sure...

Madness and isolation. Great set-up for a suspenseful story! The listener knows the Wintons are heading down a bad path, and it’s nail-biting until they figure it out. This is a great atmospherically creepy story, complete with an 8 foot tall “giant” who is Dr. Kettler’s “assistant”.
Friday, October 26, 2012

Forbidden Forest Promotional Blitz

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,

Title: The Legends of Regia: Forbidden Forest
Author: Tenaya Jayne
Pages: 236 Genre: YA Fantasy Romance
Book Blurb:
Born in shame. Cast from society. Shape Shifter/Elf hybrid, Forest must fight for any respect she can get. Targeted in her youth by a vampire noble who placed an illegal slave mark on her, she is forced to obey him, no matter what.

Slipping the grip of her master and abandoning the prejudice of Regia, her native world, Forest takes a job on Earth, guarding the portal, using her skills as a warrior to enforce Regia's laws. Now, called home for a black ops mission, Forest must put aside her own prejudice to transport the vampire prince, Syrus, through enemy territory in a time of war.

Prince Syrus, mage and master of the Blood Kata, wants Forest more than he's ever wanted anything. In spite of their mutual mistrust, their attraction cannot be denied. Through the danger of their mission, and the secrets they both keep, it doesn't matter what they feel. Forest is forbidden.

 Excerpt:
 Forest pressed her back against the cool concrete wall, wanting to remain aloof from the entity of the crowd. She chose her position in the shadows, out of the paths of the roving, multi-colored spotlights. She closed her eyes and enjoyed the feeling of the undulating human pheromones flying around on the air. At the beginning of every shift, she allowed herself a few minutes of this alien/human experience, though she didn't fully comprehend the combination of dancing, drinking, and ear-breaking sound waves. They loved it, however, and never seemed to deviate from the recipe.

These were the people she was sworn to protect. She had developed a light affection for the human race and considered them a benign, if not slightly silly, bunch of creatures. Her religious passion for her job was rooted in hatred of that which harmed the humans, not a superhero tendency to protect the weak.

Forest opened her eyes and focused all her senses to sniff out the illegal suckers that tried to sneak through the portal. She was in the zone tonight, and not for the first time did she feel that hers was the best job in existence. It was a shame she couldn’t legally kill suckers in her native world.

Over the next two hours, Forest didn’t move from the wall. She monitored the light traffic through the portal: two shifters and one elf, each of which nodded to her respectfully as they passed. Yawn. The shifters left the club to enjoy the delights of Austin’s nightlife elsewhere.

The elf would have been breaking Regia’s law had he left the club, but he dutifully seated himself at the bar and ordered a fuzzy navel. He wore a plaid, porkpie hat, pulled down over the tops of his pointed ears. Forest didn’t know him personally, but she had seen him in here before. The bartender surveyed him with narrowed eyes as the elf nervously tugged his hat down further and ordered a few more girly cocktails.

Intent on making sure that not one sucker was able to sneak past her, Forest was blindsided by the drunk bubba who had been trying to catch her eye for the last twenty minutes. He had finally decided to stagger over to hit on her.

“Hey babe, you’re too beautiful to look so lonely. How’s ‘bout I buy you a drink?”

“How’s ‘bout I call you a cab instead?” Forest mimicked his drawl.

“Only if you share it with me, Darlin.” He leaned in closer, and Forest’s throat began to sting from the noxious fume of booze mixed with his natural musk.

“While I appreciate the offer, Jethro, It seems only right to inform you that I’m not actually attractive at all. If you leaned in a little closer, you’d see that you’ve fallen victim to the effect of beer goggles. A hag like me can’t take advantage of a stud like you.” As he leaned in, Forest instantly enlarged her nose, pockmarked her skin, evaporated her front teeth, and added a large black mole with a long hair sprouting from it for good measure.

“You’re no hag, baby! You’re the sexiest little thing in…I…uh… ” He stumbled backward. “Good grief! Sorry, sorry…” he stammered, retreating. “I’ve gotta quit drinking,” he mumbled as he turned away.

Forest chuckled to herself once he absorbed back into the crowd. Being a shape shifter sometimes had unusual perks.

About Tenaya Jayne Hello. My name's Tenaya and I'm an addict. I mean author. When I was growing up, writing was just something I played at from time to time. I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I was one of those people who could never finish anything. When my eldest son was diagnosed with Autism, I began to write seriously. Writing became a necessity for me in the midst of my heartbreak. It was either that or take up drinking. I 'm thankful I chose writing as my escape because I discovered it truly is my thing. I want to be swept away when I read. That's what I want my books to do for you.The main goal of my writing is to entertain you. I want to help you escape everyday life for a little while. I hope you enjoy my stories as much as I enjoy sharing them with you!

I have a wonderful husband and two beautiful sons. I'm an advocate for Autism awareness, and women trapped in abusive relationships. I try to always look on the bright side and help others do so too. I've lived many places but I currently reside in Missouri. I love reading, indie and foreign films, gardening, and moody music.

Author Links Purchase on Amazon Website Book Trailer

Review: The Haunting of Maddy Clare

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
The Haunting of Maddy Clare
by Simone St. James

Plot Summary:

Sarah Piper's lonely, threadbare existence changes when her temporary agency sends her to assist a ghost hunter. Alistair Gellis-rich, handsome, scarred by World War I, and obsessed with ghosts- has been summoned to investigate the spirit of nineteen-year-old maid Maddy Clare, who is haunting the barn where she committed suicide. Since Maddy hated men in life, it is Sarah's task to confront her in death. Soon Sarah is caught up in a deperate struggle. For Maddy's ghost is real, she's angry, and she has powers that defy all reason. Can Sarah and Alistair's assistant, the rough, unsettling Matthew Ryder, discover who Maddy was, where she came from, and what is driving her desire for vengeance-before she destroys them all?

Expectations:

My Mom picked up this book in the library and enjoyed it, so I decided to read it also. I love a good ghost story and this one looked very interesting.

Review:

This was a very absorbing and fast-paced read - the author writes so very well for the time period and for lonely and independent Sarah Piper. Sarah’s acceptance of a temporary position with ghost-hunter Alistair occurs quickly and most of the novel is the mystery Sarah, Alistair and Matthew must solve to find out what happened to Maddy Clare and why she decided to committed suicide. Maddy’s powers are pretty creepy, and the scenes where she encounters the three ghost hunters are chilling in their intensity. The suspense builds quietly as Maddy becomes able to affect our three main characters even outside the barn.

There is a quickly put together romance between Sarah and Matthew, and though they both have haunted pasts, I thought that Sarah’s past was not explained very well in terms of how it had affected her before she came to work with Alistair. The mystery was resolved satisfactorily and I did enjoy this story which had great writing and very spooky scenes with Maddy.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Book Excerpt: The Homeschoolers: The Ballad of Squirtina

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
I'm pleased to present this excerpt from The Homeschoolers: The Ballad of Squirtina by Henry Circle, a funny, young adult adventure novel.  Enjoy!

Plot Summary:

"Life is too big to squeeze into a weekend." That's what "half-heathen" public school misfit, Christina Begoni, learns after a bout of Spanish class diarrhea has her escaping into the arms of a holy-rolling homeschool group. With her mustachioed, evil genius brother and cute redneck bully in tow, Christina joins innocent homeschoolers, Sunny and David on a hilarious and often gripping adventure on the Mississippi River. Experience the thrill and romance of the never-ending weekend with The Homeschoolers.
Available on Amazon

Book Excerpt:

“Mama and Daddy should have called the police to come search for us by now. Really. They might have been pissed, sitting around, just waiting to ground us when it first got dark, but by now, they have to be having full blown anxiety. So, where are the rescue helicopters and the Red Cross volunteers with food and blankets?” I moan. “Why is no one looking for us? That’s messed up.”

“The liberal-run government has spent up all the funds on arts and other dumb junk that should be going to law enforcement,” Kip grumbles.

“Shut up, Kip,” I say. I am in no mood for his political ramblings and conspiracy theories.

“Sorry. I get ultra-right wing when I'm hungry,” he admits.

David says with a full mouth, “I know, I'm so hungry I'm gathering dewberries over here. And they are a little past their peak.”

I grab one out of his hand, “Um, David. It's dark out here. How do you know these are dewberries and not some kind of poisonous berries?”

“Me and Sunny pick these all the time around the farm.”

Holding the black-colored berry up for an examination by moonlight, I inform him, “This berry has some kind of white powder all over it. And you're not even pulling them off the vine; you're eating them off the ground. You're not supposed to do that, you know. Those aren't any good.”

Steadily, David munches them, with a goofy grin on his face. “The first few tasted awful, but the more I eat, the better they start tasting. Here, try one,” he says pushing the berry under my nose.

I yell, “That thing is covered in white fuzz, and it smells funky. If you want to end up with a killer stomach ache that's your business, but my recommendation is that you not eat another one of the disgusting things.”

He pops the rancid berry into his mouth. “I do feel kind of funny, now that you mention it. Like a little dizzy and stuff. These are dewberries, right?” he asks, holding a few out to Sunny and Ricky for inspection.

“Oh man,” Ricky laughs, sniffing the oozing clumps David places in his palm. “Well, the good news is they are dewberries, but they're majorly rotten. What you call it? Fermented! You gone end up with the runs or half-drunk or both.”

David takes the fruit out of Ricky's hand and says, “I should probably stop eating them.” He gobbles up three more berries.

“David, stop!” Sunny commands.

He picks up a squishy handful of berries, covered in dust and leaves from the ground. “I'm trying to,” he says with a grin, shoving the berries in his mouth. His head is bobbing slightly from side to side. “They're just so good,” he adds. He sloppily reaches for another over-ripe berry, but I hold his arm back softly.

“Okay, that's enough. As much as I'd like to see you wasted, this is probably not the time or place for your introduction to alcohol consumption,” I tell him.

“You use big words,” he giggles. “And you watch too much television, but you're pretty.”

“Thanks.”

“Heck, I'm getting so bored just sitting here waiting, I'm gone eat some berries and get tore up, too. This is why school ain't for me. I can't stand not doing something.” Ricky is shaking his foot excitedly and twitching his shoulders.

“If you tried actually listening during your lessons, you might enjoy it. Do you have add?” Sunny asks.

Ricky asks, “Do I have add? No, I ain't got add or subtract or multiply. What are you talking about, add?”

“You know the disorder where kids have trouble concentrating,” she explains.

I suppress a giggle and manage to say with a straight face, “She means ADD, I think. Attention Deficit Disorder.”

David pats my head. “You're so smart, Christina. Can I lay my head on your boobs?”

“No. Well, maybe later,” I say, smiling. I have to admit, I like Drunk David. I know this is a Haley's comet situation, a once in a lifetime event. I'll be waiting another 75 years before I ever see this boy boozed up again.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Awesome Adaptations (9) - Much Ado About Nothing

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,

Awesome Adaptations is a weekly bookish meme, hosted at Alisa Selene’s books blog, Picturemereading.  Anyone can play along! Each week there is a new category of adaptation to blog about. Any format (television series, film, web series, etc.) is acceptable as long as it is based in some form on a book. If you’re playing along on your own blog, just mention Picturemereading in your post and include the banner above. Let them know which film you’d pick and why it is an awesome adaptation worth watching. Oh, and don’t forget to share the link to your own post in the comments for that week’s challenge so that everyone can read your thoughts!

A story so awesome they adapted it twice
Title: Much Ado About Nothing
Adapted from Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

Much Ado About Nothing has been adapted more than twice, but these two versions stand out to me as exceptional adaptations that easily encompasses the wit and humor and drama in the play and also has that extra kick of awesomeness.

The 1993 film

The cast, the film locations, the music, and even the colors make this film so vibrant and beautiful to watch and makes this story of love and jealousy and misunderstanding exuberant and joyful. And just look at the cast!  An amazing collection of talent and they embody their characters so well. The actors make the dialogue flow so effortlessly and the drama so believable, which is important because it could so easily tend to the melodramatic.  The whole film just makes you want to go on swings, ride horses, have parties, wear masks, fall in love - live life!  

The 2005 TV movie

This version is a modern update of the story, and is set around a television news show. With the changes, and the focus more on Benedick and Beatrice, this adaptation emphasizes the humor but still maintains the heart of the story.  It's a wonderful adaptation with all the characters completely recognizable from the original, but with added dimension and character.  The updates also work surprisingly well considering some of the old fashion plot points in the original.  They do make one change to the ending which is a little sad, but completely understandable.  All the actors in this film stand out, but I must admit that Damien Lewis is especially awesome as self-absorbed, playboy Ben and his chemistry with Sarah Parish as Beatrice is palpable.  This is such a fun adaptation!


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Review: Ten

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Ten
by Gretchen McNeil

Plot Summary:

And their doom comes swiftly.

It was supposed to be the weekend of their lives—an exclusive house party on Henry Island. Best friends Meg and Minnie each have their reasons for being there (which involve T.J., the school’s most eligible bachelor) and look forward to three glorious days of boys, booze and fun-filled luxury.

But what they expect is definitely not what they get, and what starts out as fun turns dark and twisted after the discovery of a DVD with a sinister message: Vengeance is mine.

Suddenly people are dying, and with a storm raging, the teens are cut off from the outside world. No electricity, no phones, no internet, and a ferry that isn’t scheduled to return for two days. As the deaths become more violent and the teens turn on each other, can Meg find the killer before more people die? Or is the killer closer to her than she could ever imagine?

Expectations:

I was first drawn in by the mysterious and utterly eye-catching cover and after reading the plot summary, I was expecting a young adult version of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None.  Which I was entirely down for.

Review:

If you have read And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, this book might not hold as many surprises for you.  And I only say that because the logistics of having ten people in an isolated spot and a hidden killer in their midst, presents certain complications that Agatha Christie had worked out, and Gretchen McNeil deals with it in a similar way.  Only in these mechanics are the stories similar, but in the characters and the heart of the narrative there are many differences, which made Ten an absolutely compelling and page-turning mystery.

The variety of characters, and the amount of teen angst and drama make up that heart of the narrative that I found so interesting.  There is a reason why someone is killing off the unfortunate party attendees, and unravelling the circumstances that led up to the events on the island was an intricately fitted puzzle. The clues were all in place to figure out the culprit, and I must admit, because I read And Then There Were None, I was able to guess the murderer pretty early and I enjoyed spotting all the evidence that supported my theory as I read the story.  Even with certain suspicions, I was surprised by a few things and I could not put this book down until I had finished the last page.  The resolution of the story was not at all as straightforward for me as guessing the murderer was, and I was breathless anticipating how it would all end.  There is also a nicely built, tension-filled romance and Meg is a great snarky protagonist who drove the narrative perfectly.  Absolutely an amazingly immersive mystery, I would recommend this book to everyone who enjoys their mysteries fast-paced, insidious and compelling.



Sunday, October 21, 2012

Blogspiration (1) - Derren Brown Apocalypse

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,

(I've decided to retire the Highlight Poetry feature on my blog and start this new one which will allow me to talk about poetry as well as other things that interest me!)

Blogspiration is a weekly meme hosted by GrowingUpYA and Saz101. The meme was created to help spark inspiration among bloggers, readers and writers alike. An inspirational quote/picture/video is posted weekly, on the day of the author's choosing, so that it may inspire creativity, conversation or just a little SOMETHING.

Derren Brown is someone I find immensely inspiring.  He has inspired me to question the things I have taken for granted and to really delve into my psyche to understand what motivates me as a person and to understand what motivates people in general.  Sounds rather grand, but all this thought-provoking analysis comes in entertaining and intriguing TV specials or live shows which always encourages your own rational thinking, and is never preachy or high-handed.  Derren has a great sense of humor and often brings this to his shows, while also bringing dark and macabre elements as it applies.  When he is inspiring, he shows the very best of humanity and when he is dark, OMG it's so disturbing.

His new special which will air in England on October 26th, will have Derren convincing one person that the Apocalypse is really happening - complete with zombies. At first I would think this is going to be one of those dark, disturbing episodes but having read a little more about it, Derren will be trying to show that person and the viewers how important it is to value what you have - your life right now.  Ugh.  I'm probably going to cry watching this.

He's a master mind manipulator, illusionist, and magician who always takes his craft to new levels.  I am so looking forward to this special and the journey it will take me on. I hope it will find its way to youtube or his Hulu channel!  Watch the trailer for the special below! (Edited post 10-22-12 for the new trailer!)

Suspense Sundays (17)

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
"Now let's see... Suspect... Suspectant... Suspend... Ah here we are, Suspense.  The condition of mental uncertainty usually accompanied by apprehension or anxiety.  Fear of something that is about to occur, as 'Do not keep me any longer in SUSPENSE.'"

Suspense was a radio series from 1942 to 1962, claiming to be "radio's outstanding theater of thrills."  I have a fondness for "Old Time Radio" as we call it now, and Suspense is my favorite show.  It sets up weird, dark, scary, or intriguing stories with a plot twist in the end, and all in half an hour.  I love the old-fashion story-telling and I thought it would be fun to give a short review of an episode every Sunday.  




"One Hundred in the Dark"
Air date: September 30, 1942
Starring Eric Dressler and Alice Frost
A group of men in a writer’s club discuss the mystery story and how it is more compelling in the creation than in the resolution, unlike other kinds of stories. One man argues that knowing “whodunit” ruins the interest in the mystery for the listener. He tells a story about a society woman, Rita, who holds a dinner party, and she discovers that the sapphire ring on her dresser has gone missing. She assembles her party at dinner and tells everyone, also saying that she will turn out the lights and count to one hundred and if the guilty person puts the ring on the table, everything will be fine and she won’t press charges. Otherwise the police will be called and no one can leave. The lights are turned down and Rita counts to one hundred. The lights are turned on and the ring is returned.

That is the end. There is no revelation of who took the ring. Maybe.  It does make you think!  I found this episode very interesting atmospherically. Rita counts from one to one hundred completely and during all that time, the suspense keeps ratcheting up. And there is literally nothing going on. A few gasps and a few outraged outbursts only. It’s a marvelous story construction and gives ample evidence that knowing the solution of the mystery is less fun than knowing just the mystery. The magic of not knowing. It’s not something we are used to nowadays when so much can be easily known or explained.

I have to say the wrap-up at the end was hilariously horrifying. I'm glad I don't live in the 40s!  The man telling the story- Kenny (I think?) asks of his friends these questions about what sort of person took the ring:

Kenny: “Was it a woman who lacked the necessary courage to continue? Or was it a man who repented his first impulse? Is a man or is a woman the greater natural criminal?" 
(WHAT? A woman can repent, and a man can lack courage!!)

Man #1: “Well that’s simple Kenny, a woman took it of course.” 
(Whatever)

Man #2: “On the contrary it was a man, for the second action was more difficult than the first.” 
(Are you kidding me??)

Some jerk: “A man certainly, the restoration of the ring was a logical decision.” 
(*throws things*)

Kenny: “You see? Personally I incline to a woman for the reason that the weaker feminine nature is strangely susceptible to the domination of her own sex.”

Oh to commit a stunningly complex heist in front of these men!  They wouldn't even suspect me!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Feature & Follow (6)

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
Feature & Follow is a blog hop hosted by Parajunkee & Alison Can Read. The purpose is to meet  people and gain more  followers in the book blogging community.

Q: When you step out of your USUAL genre what do you like to read? Best books in that genre?

I don't usually step out of my genres, so looking at my favorites list I think Outlander by Diana Gabaldon stands out to me because it is in a book genre I don't usually read - adult Historical Romance. I like Historical Romance but not so much ones with adult-adult content but I think it was the time traveling element that initially persuaded me to read Outlander, and by the end I just loved the intricate story and the complex characters so much - even though it has elements that I found really disturbing, it was such a fantastic read for me that it went immediately on my favorites list.

Review: Descended - Jett

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Descended - Jett
by Dana Pratola

Plot Summary:

When a reclusive businessman takes an interest in Haven’s artwork, she knows it’s an answer to prayer. But Jett Cestone is an enigma with a disconcerting connection to the young women in his employ. He’s by far the most unusual man she’s ever met.

Haven is the most interesting woman to ever cross Jett’s path. But she’s too naïve and pure to learn what goes on in his home. Too bad he wants her more than he’s wanted anyone or anything in his life.

Expectations:

I read a review that likened this book to a combo of Batman and Jane Eyre.  Sold.

Review:

This is such a page-turning read!  The mystery surrounding Jett Cestone is set up early, and there is so much tension trying to figure out what he is.  His powers or special talent is sparingly revealed so that when Haven actually gets to see him, my eyes were rushing over the words to try and get the complete picture.  It was the most interesting way to maintain a suspenseful romance I have come across.  Especially as you don't "see" him until near the middle of the book.

I liken this story to a sort of Beauty and the Beast tale with Haven being invited to stay in Jett's home to complete her art project and becoming closer to Jett and discovering his secrets in the process. The romance is well crafted because Haven and Jett's personalities are so clear and strong, and through their conversations and banter you can see them drawing together.  Jett and Haven also became more three-dimensional because of their personal problems that affected the way they relate to other people.  I felt like the author created a believable psychological depth to the narrative by having many characters deal with relatable and realistic issues.

There is a strong Christian message wrapped into the story which wasn't too heavy-handed but surprising because the story did not seem like a traditional Christian romance.  Although I admit I've not read much in that genre.  I think it was surprising to me because the ideas raised in this book that legitimately challenge conventional Christian thinking is not resolved in a way that adheres to those teachings, but are still moral in a way that echoes Charlotte Brontë's "conventionality is not morality."  I appreciated the ideas that the author challenged and thought this story was uniquely thought-provoking because of it.  I did have qualms as I was reading about the issues in Jett and Haven's relationship - especially the mental scarring that was behind Jett's actions and if with that Jett and Haven could really have a healthy relationship.  There is compromise and I'm not sure if I can see their relationship working realistically, but this is a story after all and a really engaging, romantic and suspenseful one which I completely enjoyed!


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Awesome Adaptations (8) - The Adventures of TinTin

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,

Awesome Adaptations is a weekly bookish meme, hosted at Alisa Selene’s books blog, Picturemereading.  Anyone can play along! Each week there is a new category of adaptation to blog about. Any format (television series, film, web series, etc.) is acceptable as long as it is based in some form on a book. If you’re playing along on your own blog, just mention Picturemereading in your post and include the banner above. Let them know which film you’d pick and why it is an awesome adaptation worth watching. Oh, and don’t forget to share the link to your own post in the comments for that week’s challenge so that everyone can read your thoughts!

An awesomely animated adaptation
Title: The Adventures of TinTin: The Secret of the Unicorn
Adapted from The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn, and Red Rackam's Treasure by Hergé

I've only recently become interested in the TinTin stories.  They are wildly popular in Europe, but I had never even heard of them.  That was unacceptable.  After reading a couple of the comics, I couldn't wait to watch this adaptation and I was not disappointed.  The first thing that really struck me was the photorealistic animation - it looks so gorgeous!  The lighting brings out all the beauty of the scenery and the camera angles are varied and sweeping.  I loved how the scene transitions were so visually complex and interesting.  One that sticks out in my mind is a scene where we are looking at a ship in the ocean from high up, and then it becomes a spot in a puddle that a man's foot steps in.  Really clever!

The story is a fantastic adventure tale - throwing in all of the things that is great about TinTin - his determination and resourcefulness, his wonderfully smart and brave dog, Snowy, and showing the beginning of TinTin and Captain Haddock's friendship, all with a dangerous treasure hunt underway.  TinTin is threatened and kidnapped and robbed, but he finds a way to discover the truth and defeat the baddies.  The chase scene near the end especially stands out in my mind as a thrilling roller coaster ride of ups and downs as TinTin and his crew try to retrieve important scrolls taken by the enemy.  The story is full of great family friendly adventure and funny characters while also looking polished and realistic making this an awesomely animated adaptation.


Book Excerpt: The Oligarch

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,

In THE OLIGARCH: A THRILLER, the main threat to the Russian President's plan to destroy the oligarchs as a group is one particular oligarch, Maxim Blok. It is a fair to say that oligarchs are not generally nice people - many oligarchs might argue against this statement, some might even be the exception that proves the rule. But the truth is that they tend to aggressive, ruthless and, on occasion, even violent, and that is why they have got where they are. Blok is no exception. In the extract which follows we encounter him for the first time, seething in his office about the President's plans and determined to thwart them, and get a glimpse of his daughter who is destined to play a major role in the action: -

In the Yeltsin days, Maxim Blok had seized his chance in the new free-market environment and hoisted a financial colossus that jettisoned him high into the annual list of the world’s richest men. Proud of his wealth, he loved to flaunt his stretched limousine with tinted windows, his private Learjet, his spread-eagled mansion in Peredelkino, once the playground of Soviet moguls, and of course his vast yacht moored on the Riviera. It was his private boast that, while his business rival Abramovich may have bought himself Chelsea football club, the deck of his own yacht was big enough for the team to play on.

His study was on the ground floor of the mansion’s separate office wing. The lavish furnishings again attested to his power. The desk was a massive Edwardian mahogany and satinwood bowfront topped with embossed leather, acquired from a private dealer in London. On this rested a picture of a young dark-haired girl, framed in solid gold. The sofas and chairs were custom-made in Milan. An ornate antiquarian map of the Caucasus and a studio portrait of himself and his late wife hung from the oak-panelled walls. All this, though, was invisible to Blok now as, seated at his desk, he brooded over the Order, signed by President Karpev himself, handed over to him by special messenger earlier that day. It was final confirmation that he had ten days in which to surrender all his shares in Tyndersk Kombinat to the government. After that, he’d lose all control over its operations.

The tall poppy syndrome, Blok called it, the basic human instinct to chop down those who reached up and grabbed success. In this case, it was the men of action, the so-called oligarchs, who had led Russia out of her post-Perestroika economic desert. The President had made no secret of his view that Yeltsin had sold them the family silver far too cheaply, but until now he'd never dared to take them on. However, the global credit crunch had vastly increased public resentment of their excessive, dubiously-obtained wealth and played straight into his hands. Now, keen to salvage his popularity following the controversy of his third presidential election victory, Karpev had declared intention to bring enterprises like Tyndersk Kombinat back under State control so that the people, rather than a few individuals, could benefit from them. Now with the Order, the President had advanced to checkmate.

If the President's speed of action had taken him unawares, the traitor Ramaz spilling the beans to the journalist had the potential to prove catastrophic. Blok of course had been fully aware that Russian intelligence sources were monitoring the build-up of the separatists in his native Ingushetia. But now the authorities had been tipped off about where the money was coming from. Even with this knowledge, he was convinced Russia could not afford to make a pre-emptive strike against his native country, not after the universal outcry at its belligerence in the Ukraine and Georgia. Nevertheless the President had commissioned this Leksin, whoever he might be, to find the source of the funds in Tyndersk and cut them off. Under the circumstances Blok had no choice but to act fast.

Equally worrying, they had an informant in their midst. How else could Ramaz have discovered their plans? But who? Blok frowned as he ran through the possibilities in his mind, but none of them seemed likely. Yet one of them was guilty, and he needed to find out which and sort him out once and for all. Nothing was going to get in the way of independence for his beloved homeland. This had been his aim far too long to elude him now.

Blok's determined jaw jutted forward dangerously as he crushed the presidential order in his gnarled hand and hurled it into the bin. Then he turned his attention to the background material on this man, Leksin, that had been faxed across that afternoon. If anyone thought they could thwart him, they were sadly mistaken. And mistakes had to be paid for.

A resilient flower, the poppy. The more their heads were chopped off, the quicker they sprang back, tougher, prouder and more vigorously than before.

****************

At an upstairs window in the main wing, the thick drape of the curtains remained drawn, shunning the feeble afternoon sun. Inside in darkness, a slender figure lay cocooned in a pale yellow silk quilt, her long dark hair spread over the soft down pillows. Anya Blok was a night-owl. Sure enough, as outside the light faded to dusk, she began to stir, pushing aside the quilt and stretching out for her lace-trimmed robe. Switching on the light, she waited for her eyes to focus. Her head felt cloudy, it had been a disturbed sleep with too many things going on in her mind. Pouring coffee from the insulated jug on her dressing-table, she sipped it slowly.

She spotted a handwritten note placed next to the jug and bristled. Another summons from her father to join him and a business guest for dinner. Sometimes she felt like a Fabergé egg, something decorative for her father to show off to his guests and then replace in the cabinet until next required. His antiquated Ingush attitudes constantly precluded her from doing something useful with her own life. A top graduate at Moscow University and probably the most successful ever President of its drama society, she wanted a job like all her friends. Even the chance to pursue an acting career would be better than nothing. Yet despite their endless arguments he wouldn’t let her, seeming to take an almost perverse pride in her endless, futile social whirl as if he perceived it as an expression of his own wealth. Deep inside, she knew she was frittering away her life, but what way out did she have? She released the note and watched it fall to the floor.

She glanced at the clock on her dressing-table. Nearly six o’clock. Time to start getting ready. With no enthusiasm, she went into the bathroom, turned on the shower and let her dressing-gown slip off her shoulders.
****************

THE OLIGARCH: A THRILLER is available from Foyles, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all other major online book stores. Links to these stores can be found on the novel's website.

Synopsis: Following his controversial election for a third term amid widespread protests and allegations of vote rigging, the Russian President is determined to destroy the oligarchs before they destroy him. When the global economic meltdown decimates their wealth, the President seizes this chance to demolish their power base. His greatest opponent - Anton Blok, owner of the mighty Tyndersk Kombinat - has a secret agenda and faces far more than just financial ruin as his empire threatens to fall apart, and the President knows that his old enemy will stop at nothing to avoid catastrophe. With battlelines drawn, he turns to Alex Leksin, a business troubleshooter of Russian descent, to thwart Blok's plans. Against the challenge of hostile Arctic conditions, Leksin must tread a dangerous path through a labyrinth of corruption, terrorism and obfuscation until the exciting and unexpected denouement takes place in Russia’s northernmost seaport. Set in Moscow, Ingushetia (Chechnya’s neighbour), and Tyndersk, a Siberian mining town inside the Arctic Circle and geographically cut off from the rest of Russia, the plot twists and turns within an authentic and disturbing background.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Review: The Violet Fox + Giveaway!

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,
The Violet Fox
by Clare C. Marshall

Plot Summary:

There are two kinds of people in the land of Marlenia.

The Marlenians, who live on the surface, and the Freetors, who are forced to live underground.

The war between them ended two hundred years ago, but the Freetors still fight for the right to live under the sun. Fifteen-year-old Kiera Driscoll embodies the Freetors’ hopes as the Violet Fox. In a violet cape and mask, she sneaks around Marlenia City stealing food and freeing her people from slavery.

Then the Elders task her with a secret mission: retrieve a stolen tome that contains the secrets of Freetor magic, something the Marlenians both fear and covet. Kiera must disguise herself as a noblewoman and infiltrate the Marlenian castle before the Freetor-hating Advisor finds out her real identity, before her brother is imprisioned because of the secrets he hides, and before she falls any more in love with the prince she’s supposed to hate.

More is happening in the castle than she realizes, and Kiera is faced with a difficult choice. Will she be loyal to her people and their fight for freedom, or will she be loyal to her heart?

Expectations:

This sounded like an exciting adventure story, and the fact that Kiera had to go undercover and infiltrate the castle was a big selling point.  I love stories where the main character has to pretend to be someone they are not for a good cause.

Review:

The author sets up the fantasy world of Marlenia and the history behind the Marlenians and the Freetors so well!  There is a lot of backstory in the beginning to set up this world and the conflict that makes Kiera's subterfuge necessary - first as the Violet Fox and then as Lady Dominique so that she can find something that has been stolen by the Marlenians and hidden in the castle.  The pace is a little slow in the beginning but it moves much faster as the story develops.  There is much that Kiera does not know, and it seems like everyone is keeping secrets, making the final third of the novel full of shocking twists and turns.

Kiera is a strong character, with a few flaws, but with determination and heart and she gives up much for her people.  The romance between Kiera and Prince Keegan is very sweet, and I was very curious to see how the author would pull off such a star-crossed, impossible relationship.  It is interesting how the story is resolved - it is an uneasy but optimistic resolution that sets up the next book in the series.  Overall, I found The Violet Fox a very well constructed story - absorbing, action-filled and suspenseful with great writing and characters.

review copy kindly provided by the author
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Giveaway

Monday, October 15, 2012

Review: The Angel's Kiss: A Melody Malone Mystery

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
The Angel's Kiss: A Melody Malone Mystery
by Melody Malone (Justin Richards)

This short ebook is based on a story partially told in British science fiction television series Doctor Who.

Plot Summary:

On some days, New York is one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

This was one of the other days…

Melody Malone, owner and sole employee of the Angel Detective Agency, has an unexpected caller. It’s movie star Rock Railton, and he thinks someone is out to kill him. When he mentions the ‘kiss of the Angel’, she takes the case. Angels are Melody’s business…

At the press party for Railton’s latest movie, studio owner Max Kliener invites Melody to the film set of their next blockbuster. He’s obviously spotted her potential, and Melody is flattered when Kliener asks her to become a star. But the cost of fame, she’ll soon discover, is greater than anyone could possibly imagine.

Will Melody be able to escape Kliener’s dastardly plan – before the Angels take Manhattan?

Expectations:

Almost immediately after seeing the scenes where this book featured in the Doctor Who episode "The Angels Take Manhattan", I wanted to read this book (preferably own a copy).  I did know going into reading this book though that it is just what happens to River Song prior to Rory's appearance in her story so it doesn't follow the occurrences in the episode.  I wish they would release a full edition of this book that mirrors what happens in "The Angels Take Manhattan" though!

Review:

“Everything about me is pretty and a lot of it is shrewd. So I had a pretty shrewd idea what was going on.” - Melody Malone

Even though this book is affiliated with the TV show Doctor Who, it works pretty well as a standalone story - if you have a slight understanding of the show's baddies The Weeping Angels.  It reads as a typical hard-boiled detective novel set in the 1930s, with Melody Malone's hilarious wit and way with words.  As it says in the book and in the TV show, "She's got ice in her heart, and a kiss on her lips." and she is totally delightful - Melody's personality is wonderfully brought to life in this short mystery.  The actual story had some surprises for me - the Angels involvement was really not what I was expecting.  I wish there was more to this story, as Melody is such a fun character and I didn't want it to end!


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Suspense Sundays (16)

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
"Now let's see... Suspect... Suspectant... Suspend... Ah here we are, Suspense.  The condition of mental uncertainty usually accompanied by apprehension or anxiety.  Fear of something that is about to occur, as 'Do not keep me any longer in SUSPENSE.'"

Suspense was a radio series from 1942 to 1962, claiming to be "radio's outstanding theater of thrills."  I have a fondness for "Old Time Radio" as we call it now, and Suspense is my favorite show.  It sets up weird, dark, scary, or intriguing stories with a plot twist in the end, and all in half an hour.  I love the old-fashion story-telling and I thought it would be fun to give a short review of an episode every Sunday.  





"The Fountain Plays"
Air date: August 3, 1943
Starring Edmund Gwenn
>>Episodes here<<

This is based on a Dorothy Sayers short story about Archibald Spiller, a nice man living in a country house who has recently come into a bit of money. He is entertaining some guests and showing them his ingenious new ornamental fountain that recycles the water! (Amazing) One of his guests, Sam Gooch, is extremely rude and unpleasant and always complaining. Archibald’s daughter doesn’t understand why he keeps Sam around. We find out later after everyone has gone to bed that Sam is blackmailing Archibald who has dabbled in forgery, and in anger Archibald strikes Sam who hits his head pretty hard. Archibald decides to put Sam by the fountain and make it seem like he slipped and hit his head out there and when Sam unexpectedly starts to wake, Archibald finishes the job. The police come to investigate and it seems like Archibald got away with it, but of course there is a twist in the end.

The characters are fun stereotypes and the story is simple and pretty straightforward. The fun in this story comes from Archibald’s decision to murder Sam and his monologue. Sam is so unpleasant that I don’t mind that he was done away with!
Friday, October 12, 2012

Review: Fog

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Fog
by Caroline B. Cooney

Plot Summary:

Christina Romney is thirteen, with a personality that matches her unruly but charming tri-colored hair. She is about to start seventh grade, and for kids from Maine’s Burning Fog Island, that means leaving their little white schoolhouse for regular classrooms and life on the mainland. Everyone assures Christina it will be a fantastic year. Mainland school offers great advantages, after all: extracurricular activities other than boating and fishing, a gym, a cafeteria, and more kids her age. Best of all, this year the boarding students will live at the historic Schooner Inne, a former sea captain’s house (and now a bed and breakfast) recently bought by the school’s charismatic new principal and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Shevvington.

But Christina is apprehensive. She adores the wildness and excitement of her island life. Boarding with her island friends will surely help: Anya, a beautiful senior, fifteen-year-old Benji, the aspiring lobsterman, and his crush-worthy younger brother Michael. But Christina’s apprehension sharpens when Benji and Michael aren’t as friendly as they used to be on the island, and Anya starts acting so strangely it seems she is slowly losing her mind. Christina is increasingly certain the Shevvingtons are behind all of these changes. But no one else can see the Shevvingtons’ eerie behavior—not other teachers, not her parents, not even her fellow island kids. Is Anya the one going crazy in the Schooner Inne—or is it Christina?

Expectations:

I used to read Caroline Cooney's books a lot when I was in high school. I was especially enamored with her novel Both Sides of Time, a wonderful time travel romance. It is a series, but I think the first book is the best. Anyways, when I saw this book offered on Netgalley (it’s a reissue) I was excited to revisit Cooney’s work.

Review:

Fog is all about atmosphere. A gradual, suffocating horror is pervasive and unrelenting, and fantastically created by the author. It’s not over the top, and the nature of menace and even the purpose is unknown. This first book of the trilogy is just about the result and Christina’s fight. Christina, who is only thirteen, has to withstand the mental onslaught of the evil Shevingtons, and try to save her gradually fading friend, Anya. It’s a ridiculously absorbing read, yet frustrating because Christina, though such a strong personality, is in a weak position and I really feel for her predicament. And not understanding exactly why and how the Shevingtons wield their uncanny influence is especially frustrating.

This book is an interesting psychological study, and also has an unique brief writing style, that gets into the heart of the characters feelings with very vivid, descriptive prose. The story’s disturbing understated horror stems from the onslaught against children and the gradual unravelling of the human mind.

review copy kindly provided through NetGalley

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Review: Dark Dates

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
dark dates
Dark Dates
by Tracey Sinclair

Plot Summary:
All Cassandra Bick wants is to be left to get on with doing her job. But when you’re a Sensitive whose business is running a dating agency for vampires, life is never going to be straightforward – especially when there’s a supernatural war brewing in London, a sexy new bloodsucker in town and your mysterious, homicidal and vampire hating ex-lover chooses this moment to reappear in your life…

Witty, sharp and entertaining, Dark Dates is a heady mix of vampires, witches and werewolves – with the occasional angel thrown in – and introduces Cassandra Bick, a likeable heroine destined to join the ranks of fantasy’s feistiest females.
Expectations:
A feisty heroine and vampires and London - what was this book?  Written for me?

Review:
This reminded me of the Sookie Stackhouse novels - with an increasingly chaotic plot surrounding a hilariously snarky heroine who has a powerful ability.  There are constant surprises as Cassandra's unknown enemy reveals more of their power and their determination to put an end to her integrationist activities.  And Cassandra proves to have some surprising friends as well who have their own unique abilities.

This is a fun, supernatural mystery romp with great one-liners and a little steamy romance.  I especially loved the pop culture references that Cassandra makes - even calling for the Doctor!  There is a refreshingly realistic view on vampires and inclusion of a variety of supernatural creatures, one in particular you don't often read about. The pace and writing are excellent with strongly realized characters.  I highly recommend this story for fun escapist reading!

review copy kindly provided by the author


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Awesome Adaptations (7) - The Scarlet Pimpernel

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,


Awesome Adaptations is a weekly bookish meme, hosted at Alisa Selene’s books blog, Picturemereading.  Anyone can play along! Each week there is a new category of adaptation to blog about. Any format (television series, film, web series, etc.) is acceptable as long as it is based in some form on a book. If you’re playing along on your own blog, just mention Picturemereading in your post and include the banner above. Let them know which film you’d pick and why it is an awesome adaptation worth watching. Oh, and don’t forget to share the link to your own post in the comments for that week’s challenge so that everyone can read your thoughts!

An awesome adaptation of an adventurous tale
Title: The Scarlet Pimpernel
Adapted from The Scarlet Pimpernel and El Dorado by Baroness Orczy

This is one of my favorite books ever, and one that I think not enough people know about.  It is a period drama with romance, adventure, humor, and fantastic characters.  This adaptation is the best because the script, casting and approach is spot on.  Anthony Andrews is especially a revelation as the dashing hero.  If you don't know the story the identity of the Pimpernel is a secret for the first half of the book.  But this adaptation does reveal it within the first few minutes, and this an interesting example of how a book can not always be directly adapted to screen.  As well as the ending of The Scarlet Pimpernel would be very difficult to film, so this adaptation takes the ending of a later book, El Dorado, and works it into the film very well.

The Scarlet Pimpernel rescues innocent aristocrats and peasants during the bloody French Revolution - often under the noses of the French soldiers because of the Pimpernel's masterful disguises and cunning plans.  He also has a band of close friends to help him, saving the victims of the Revolution only out of a duty to fairness and justice.  The Pimpernel's disguises in this adaptation are fantastic, as Anthony Andrews changes his posture, voice and mannerisms as well as his look to suit the disguise and it is all a convincing, understated act.  The Pimpernel must also save one of his own men and through his cleverness, wit and prowess with a sword, of course he wins the day.  The sword fight near the end between the Pimpernel and his nemesis, Chauvelin is immensely entertaining.  It technically looks realistic and dangerous, but the Pimpernel is clearly the better swordsman and has fun at Chauvelin's expense.  I think this a most awesome adaptation of an awesome book!


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Highlight Poetry (13)

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
highlight poetry
Highlight Poetry is a meme created by Lace & Lavender Hints to celebrate a poem once a week.

When You Are Old
by William Butler Yeats

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.


I read in this poem a plea from the narrator to his love to realize her mistake in overlooking his devotion and to change before she would regret it.  A little presumptuous, but romantic.  I love the progression from quiet repose to sorrow with each stanza, and the line "But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you" such a beautifully constructed sentiment.  That line is my favorite of the poem.  I hope the lady in the poem did think twice!
Monday, October 8, 2012

Review: Phantom + a Giveaway!

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,
Phantom
by Laura DeLuca

Plot Summary:

The "Phantom" was a musical phenomenon that Rebecca had always found enchanting. She had no idea that her life was about to mirror the play that was her obsession. When her high school drama club chooses "Phantom" as their annual production, Rebecca finds herself in the middle of an unlikely love triangle and the target of a sadistic stalker who uses the lines from the play as their calling card. Rebecca lands the lead role of Christine, the opera diva, and like her character, she is torn between her two co-stars-Tom the surfer and basketball star who plays the lovable hero, and Justyn, the strangely appealing Goth who is more than realistic in the role of the tortured artist. Almost immediately after casting, strange things start to happen both on and off the stage. Curtains fall. Mirrors are shattered. People are hurt in true phantom style. They all seem like accidents until Rebecca receives notes and phone calls that hint at something more sinister. Is Justyn bringing to life the twisted character of the phantom? Or in real life are the roles of the hero and the villain reversed? Rebecca doesn't know who to trust, but she knows she's running out of time as she gets closer and closer to opening night. Only when the mask is stripped away, will the twenty first century phantom finally be revealed.

Expectations:

A novel based around Phantom of the Opera!? Yes please! I’m a big fan of the musical, and I have not read fiction based around it before, so I was very intrigued.

Review: 

I read that the author’s influences includes R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike, and I think this novel fits perfectly into that particular category of Young Adult thrillers. I used to devour those kinds of books when I was in high school, and I felt transported to that time while reading Phantom - totally caught up in the story and drama and suspense, and trying to figure out whodunit. Stories like these always seem to have a certain formula to them though, so quite a bit before the end of the book I guessed who the killer was, but I still didn’t understand why. The suspenseful romance in this book - which mirrors the love triangle in The Phantom of the Opera - also kept me turning pages, as it is so intense and mercurial.  Although the love triangle reflects Christine's dilemma in the original book very well, I felt that in this novel it is much clearer who Rebecca should end up with so the suspense does not lie so much in that direction but in whether the two will be able to be together.

I was really impressed by how the author worked in aspects of the musical to reflect the action of the story and even how lyrics from the songs in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical were re-written to still reflect their lyric counterpart. An example - spinning off Music of the Night:

“Let the music touch your soul.
Let the darkness make you whole.
Do not fear what is unknown.
Your true path has now been shown.
Listen to the words I sing.
Embrace the peace that night will bring.”

There were nods to the original novel as well, making this book a fantastic tribute to The Phantom of the Opera.

Rebecca, thankfully, is a stronger character than the character she plays in the musical, although Rebecca can be pretty indecisive and does make her share of bad decisions which made me want to shake her.  She can pull herself together when she needs to and the moments when she takes charge are some of the best in the book. Justyn is especially mesmerizing as the shunned, misunderstood new kid, with manners and wit and intelligence. I loved the scenes between him and Rebecca! The story is rounded out with a properly nail-biting conclusion and a few surprises. This is such a fast-paced, well-woven tale, every bit as beguiling as the Phantom himself!

review copy kindly provided by the author in connection with Young Adult Novel Reader Book Tours




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Sunday, October 7, 2012

The new Kindle Paperwhite and Giveaway Winner

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Thanks so much to everyone who entered the giveaway for The Casual Vacancy!  The contest has ended and the winner is:  Lacey @laceyblossom  Congrats!  And I hope you enjoy the book!

Friday I received my new Kindle (after much anticipation!).  I spent most of Friday evening playing around with it and organizing my library and I pretty much love it!  My first Kindle - the Kindle Touch which I bought only eight months ago had to be retired when I saw the new Paperwhite.  This is what I didn't like about the Touch:
  • Response time of the screen (when you are used to capacitative touch, and especially the extremely responsive iPhone screen, the Kindle Touch is pretty slow.

  • The interface - reading is a breeze, but navigating my books is not, because creating collections is a major pain if you have a lot of books and you didn't get them all from Amazon.

  • How many times have I had to put my Touch sadly away when it became dark out and I could no longer read.  (Never did buy the book light I was always planning to get)
I named my Paperwhite "Idris"
So I was so thrilled when they announced the Paperwhite (+ miffed I was "forced" to get another Kindle) and after spending a day and a half with it, it's pretty much my new love.  The glow screen is great - even if I'm walking around the house reading and not all the lights are on, I don't have to stop reading in the dark patches.  The touch screen is better - still slow, but better.  The interface looks and flows nicer - though they have made it a little less easier to turn off your wifi access.   I like that they took off the home button and made the navigation buttons on the top (instead of top and bottom on the Touch when you are reading).  The new reading progress feature was the Thing I Didn't Know I Wanted because how awesome is it to have a guesstimate for how much longer it will take to finish a book?  And sometimes with a physical book I flip forward a few pages to see if I will finish the chapter soon, and with the new feature, the Paperwhite can tell me by giving me the time to the next chapter.

Creating collections is still a pain, but a little better with a marginally more responsive touch screen.  I also got the special case Amazon made for the Paperwhite - the one that puts it to sleep when it's closed and wakes it when it's open, and it makes the Paperwhite look and feel more like reading a physical book.  Perhaps the only thing I kind of miss is having speakers and an earphone jack, but I never listened to anything on my Kindle Touch anyways.  It's just sad to lose features. Overall though I am very happy with my purchase and I really hope this Kindle will be my one and only for years and years.