Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Midnight Crossings - Audio

Title/Author: Midnight Crossroad (Midnight Texas #1) by Charlaine Harris.

Read by: Susan Bennett.

Genre: Supernatural.

Publisher:  Recorded Books.

Source: Library.

Synopsis:  Welcome to Midnight, Texas, a town with many boarded-up windows and few full-time inhabitants, located at the crossing of Witch Light Road and Davy Road. It’s a pretty standard dried-up western town.

There’s a pawnshop (someone lives in the basement and is seen only at night). There’s a diner (people who are just passing through tend not to linger). And there’s new resident Manfred Bernardo, who thinks he’s found the perfect place to work in private (and who has secrets of his own).

Stop at the one traffic light in town, and everything looks normal. Stay awhile, and learn the

Midnyte Musings:  This is not a book I expected to enjoy as much as I did.  It had a lot of characters that were not fully developed,  a lot of point of views and a lot of the events felt forced.  However, I followed it closely and enjoyed it immensely.

The characters were quirky and different enough to differentiate between each other.  The book starts out with one of the characters moving to the small town of Midnight and discovering that a small town holds big secrets.  I thought the story would follow him mainly, but it was really about several different characters.  The main theme in this installment is the murder of Aubrey.   

I don't feel anyone was placed in the story that did not have a role.  It also contained a lot of serious issues yet did it in a manner that was easy to follow; murder, militarism, racism.  For a tiny town, a lot happens and Midnight seems like an interesting place to live.

One of my favorite parts about this book was Fiji Cavanaugh's cat, Mr. Snuggly.  I'm not going to say any more, but even if you hate everything else in the book, Mr. Snuggly makes up for it.

Narration:  I have to admit, that I can't guarantee I would have liked the book as much if I had read it instead of listened to it.  Susan Bennett did a good job trying to differentiate between the characters and she moved the story along.  Again, my favorite part - the voice of Mr. Snuggly.

A fun, light read.  You could probably finish this one very fast.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Guest Post by Spencer Blohm - Frankenstein Adaptations Through the Years.

Victor Frankenstein, one of the most exciting movies to come out during this holiday season, is a new take on the old Mary Shelley classic. Ever since Shelley wrote Frankenstein as a teenager in 1818, the story of a patchwork man reanimated after death has chilled readers and moviegoers on a primal level. The work has survived dozens of film, TV, and theater adaptations, each one more grisly and grim than the last - but why are we so fascinated with this story and the mythology of Frankenstein's monster?

Mary Shelley was only nineteen years old when she conceived the idea for Frankenstein during a contest with her peers based on who could write the scariest story. It remained her most famous work and became a classic of gothic horror. Some even say Shelley invented the science fiction genre with her book because it mixes ideas of biology, engineering, and psychology to create a compelling fantasy story. Frankenstein is still studied and enjoyed in high schools and colleges all over the world almost 200 years after its publication, and continues to have a looming presence in both the literary and film worlds.

Frankenstein has been a popular book to adapt to screen ever since the conception of film. It hit the stage in the 1820s before being adapted to film for the first time in a 16 minute short film in 1910. But the most well-known adaptation was James Whale's 1931 Frankenstein through Universal Studios, which gave audiences the perception we still hold of the monster today. Actor Boris Karloff popularized the idea of a flat-headed, moaning monster with screws on his neck - a character we still commonly see around Halloween.

Due to the popularity of Karloff's portrayal, Frankenstein's monster became a huge hit with horror audiences. He reappeared in 1935 in the acclaimed Bride of Frankenstein (find it online), which is said to be one of the greatest horror films ever made. However, this sequel began a long string of Frankenstein films that diverted from the source material. Though the monster stayed generally true to form, he was given a female companion, something Victor Frankenstein decided against in the novel. In 1939, horror actor Bela Lugosi (known for portraying Count Dracula) appeared alongside Karloff in Son of Frankenstein as lab assistant Igor - a character that does not exist in the literary tale - showing how these classic horror stories all meshed together to create a popular mythology among moviegoers.

As Universal Studios horror films waned in popularity, Frankenstein's monster took a backseat until Mel Brooks’ 1974 comedy hit Young Frankenstein, starring Gene Wilder. This film (streaming info here) loosely adapted the story while poking fun at the gothic style of previous films. It let the monster tap dance and groan out a song while Victor Frankenstein tried desperately to clear his family's name. Rather than an all-out spoof, it comes off as a loving homage to a classic story, inviting new audiences outside the horror genre to enjoy the tale.

2015's Victor Frankenstein, starring James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe and directed by Paul McGuigan, focuses more heavily on the creator and lab assistant of the monster than the monster himself, showing that even an old story can take on new and interesting points of view in each adaptation. Even though Shelley's novel is a classic, it still makes audiences question what it means to be human and to create life, making it a popular and ever-relevant tale to turn into film.

Spencer Blohm is a freelance entertainment, culture, and lifestyle blogger. He lives and works in Chicago. When not working he can be found camped out in his apartment watching the latest films and newest television shows.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Guest Post Andrew Man - Dystopian Adventures vs. Conspiracy Thrillers.

Over the last few years, young adult dystopian fiction has seen a spike in popularity with several young authors writing trilogies like The Hunger Games and Divergent which have become best-selling books and films. These ideas are in contrast to past conspiracy thrillers from writers like Dan Brown and the thought-provoking espionage novels of John Le CarrĂ©. Based on this rise in popularity between the two genres, I decided to write a fiction series which would be a modern day conspiracy thriller, with some of the dystopian ideas from the future. In this way, the reader is able to relate to the characters, in our current world and read about the same characters in a world fifty years in the future. ‘Tego Arcana Dei’ is a three part thriller series which follows the protagonist through his adventures in his past working life, up to the present day. These three books are both exciting and mind bending, as shown in the book trailer for Forces of Retribution, leaving the reader wanting to know more. The final book will debut later this month, so let’s take a closer look at this three book series.

Book 1 - Keeping Gods Secret (2011)
The British hero James Pollack meets a young American on a train in London who shows him events which he will have to do in his future life. Britain is suffering under a recession and James leaves to work for a bank in Switzerland– only to return to the Caribbean island of Antigua for a meeting. Her name is Gina; her client is the Commander of one of the world’s most powerful agencies. As the couple plunge into a dizzying, mystical adventure, American powers collide with secrets at the Vatican summer palace. James is helped by Deepak his guardian who shows him a circle of wormholes leading from Rome down to ancient ruins in Lebanon. Meanwhile, the antagonist Elizabeth tracks his banking activities and his travel with unusual friends. The story takes James back to the shadowy corridors of Italian Banking, his excitement heightened by memories of his escape in Rome with Alexei a young legal assistant. This leads him on to the Russian Natasha at an archeologically dig on the coast of Lebanon, where they find an ancient artefact. A magic blade enabling him to time travel to other dimensions, and so the real adventure starts.

Book 2 - Forces of Retribution (2013)
In this story’s most powerful, and heart stopping novel yet, James is at a hospital in Geneva, after major surgery from his time travel experiences. Locations move back to Lebanon, London, and onto the pyramids in Egypt in a desperate hunt to find the secret of quantum weirdness. The hunter is the passionate and resourceful James Pollack, an ex-Swiss banker who has an interest in science, the paranormal and women. His quarry is the young Italian Alexei, who has given up on her life and seeks his help to time travel from a Centre of Science in Switzerland, to the very heart of our Universe, fifty years into the future.

This story picks up where the first book left off continuing to follow the Russian Natasha trapped in another dimension in the South of Lebanon. While Natasha is on the run in a warzone she is given an ancient Madonna doll which James finds he can open with his magic blade. Inside they find a mysterious time travelling medallion, similar to the one used by their Indian guardian and needed by his friends to return from the future. We get a glimpse into how string theory can explain multiple universes and some of the theories as to what the pyramids in Egypt really are. There is a very anthropological dialogue about the origins of humans and the evolution from Mitochondrial Eve. The benevolent guardian Deepak again appears to control who and what appears and where to help James solve the mystery of instant communication.

Book 3 - Beyond the Rest of Us (2015)
The final book is set in the current decade, when James now retired is kidnapped at a Geneva hotel for crimes he doesn’t understand and an Italian cruise ship crashes into rocks in the Tyrrhenian Sea. A respected American scientist disappears into thin air, but when the mist clears, we see mind control and astral travel in their dreams. Elizabeth the antagonist from the previous books is still following a trail of corrupt power in this third book featuring Andrew Man’s aging male protagonist James Pollack.

In this story, when James is kidnapped back to 1814 he has to use all his skills to uncover the corrupt European operation, against the backdrop of a disintegrating and unscrupulous world. The story mentions the crumbling European economy and the conflicts in the Middle East and the part the West had to play in them. We cross continents, eras and astral planes on this journey and meet a variety of James’ friends and enemies, before the characters return to the temples in Lebanon to finish the series.

The title of the series Tego Arcana Dei roughly translates to “Begone, I conceal the secrets of God” and is an anagram of “Et in Arcadia Ego.” This was represented in a painting by Poussin in the early 1600’s called ‘The Arcadian Shepherds’, which is a common theme throughout the three books.

Andrew Man is an independent author, of books about politics, science and conspiracy theories. He lives and writes in Switzerland. In addition to his writing, he has formed the Geneva Creatives Group with and can sometimes be found at a cinema centre, discussing new projects over a glass of wine.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Guest Post by Spencer Blohm - Dystopian Adaptations Continue to Dominate the Big Screen.

Over the last few years, young adult dystopian fiction has seen a spike in popularity with a number of adaptations making it to the big screen. Trilogies like The Hunger Games and Divergent were not only best-sellers, but also came out on top dominating the box office upon their on screen debuts. This rise in popularity could be attributed to audiences being able to relate so closely to the characters, or it could purely be the entertainment factor of watching a dystopian world played out. Either way, these stories are both exciting and mind bending, and leave audiences constantly wanting more. In anticipation of the fourth and final installment in the Hunger Games franchise premiering this month, let’s take a look back at the top five adaptations of the genre.

Ender's Game

Ender's Game takes place in the distant future where young boy named Andrew “Ender” Wiggin is said to be a brilliant strategist and fighter. During the course of the film, his incredible skills are mastered and he is successful in destroying the planet Earth is at war with. One of the best scenes in the movie is when Ender is sparring with a friend in a zero gravity room above Earth, the cinematics of the scene are truly breathtaking. Even though the author played a role in the adaptation, fans of the book agree the movie lacked in terms of plot and character development. But what the film compensates for the lack of substance by delivering stunning visuals and a condensed version of the tale without compromising the lead character or core message.


Insurgent picks up right where Divergent left off continuing to follow Erudite leader Jeanine on her mission to dominate the factions and an end to all divergents. Tris and Four are on the run from Jeanine and her army of evil, and appear to be the only ones capable of saving the world and revealing the truth about the Erudites. While both movies in the series, currently on demand through DTV & Hulu, have streamlined the story on screen, Insurgent took far more liberties and altered the driving force behind the story. In the movie, there is a mysterious box that can only be opened by a divergent, Tris, after passing sims of all five factions. However, this box does not even exist in the book, and Jeanine’s hunting Tris in order to make a serum. These alterations in the storyline left fans wondering what this meant for the Allegiant adaptation and where we will see Tris and Four next.

The Giver

The Giver is a story of a young boy named Jonas who lives in what appears to be a utopian society. Jonas and the rest of his neighbors live in a peaceful area that is protected by a council of elders. Far more intelligent than other children his age, he is selected to be The Receiver of Memories upon graduation. While in his new position, he quickly discovers that people are basically being brainwashed, arranged in marriage, and even euthanized. The movie does a good job of taking the major points of the book and putting them on screen. Other than there being a few film differences that are actually celebrated by fans of the story, the movie does a great job of telling a story full of ethics and complex issues without being too heavy-handed.

The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner follows Thomas as he wakes up in transport to an unknown location. After a short time, Thomas discovers that he is trapped in a large maze. His goal is to escape and save the others that are stuck in the same predicament. The film adaption of The Maze Runner did its best to stick to the main plot of the book, but there are still a few changes that took place. Thomas begins to remember things from his life very quickly in the film, Alby and Thomas are friendly with each other, and Teresa doesn’t spend half of the time in a coma. The book version offers much more intimate and in-depth character building throughout, but that’s almost to be expected. And in comparison to reactions to the changes made from the source material in The Scorch Trials adaptation, fans were relatively pleased with these.

Hunger Games, Mockingjay Part 1

The Hunger Games series is arguably the greatest dystopian film franchise of all time. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 takes place after Katniss is rescued from Quarter Quell. She wakes up underneath District 13, and she learns that her home, District 12, has been destroyed. As Katniss is saddened by the news of her home's destruction, she also learns of a rebellion taking place in order to dethrone President Snow with herself as the leading symbol. Burrowing deep into the concept of a revolution, this film is a standout among the series with few notable differences from the book. Katniss visits the destroyed city of District 12 much later in the film, and Peeta’s physical description is altered, but we get a better emotional understanding of Katniss and a clear showing of the power of propaganda cleverly put forth by Snow.

It’s never easy adapting a book to the big screen and full capturing every detail to fans expectation. While these strayed from their sources, there no denying the high levels of entertainment put forth by each. With this genre more popular than ever, it’s only a matter of time before another dystopian adaptation is in the works.

Spencer Blohm is a freelance entertainment, culture, and lifestyle blogger. He lives and works in Chicago. When not working he can be found camped out in his apartment watching the latest films and newest television shows.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Press Release: Bride of Ha-Ha! Horror.

Award winning author and artist Monstermatt Patterson (The Man of a Thousand Bad Monster Jokes) is pleased to announce the release of his new book, Bride of Ha-Ha! Horror, published by Mystery & Horror LLC. Foreword by Zac Amico and Aftwerword by Justin Martell, both from Return to Nuke 'Em High Vol.1&2

The book is full (over 500 jokes) of "rancid rhymes" and "putrid puns" aimed at the horror movies we love. There are a number of cartoons that accompany the gags, too!

With each book of hilarious horror humor, Monstermatt reaches out to the horror community and enlists actors/actresses , filmmakers and authors to roast him. Poking fun at him this time, are
Julie Adams- Creature From the Black Lagoon 
John Amplas -Creepshow
Sean Whalen- People Under the Stairs
John Migliore- The Drownsman

Nathan Head - Exorcist Chronicles 2
Sephera Giron- Experiments in Fear
Chris Olen Ray- Mega Shark
Greg Petaloudis-Diabolique Magazine
Ron Mackay- Return to Nuke 'Em High Vol.1&2 Melantha Blackthorne- Death Race 2000
Mitch Markowitz- Hilarious House of Frightenstein Charles Band- Full Moon Entertainment 

What can readers expect from the book? Classic gags like...
Why was The Invisible Man mistaken for a Scientologist?
He went CLEAR!

What is a grave digger's favorite nursery rhyme? "Little Jack MOURNER!"

Which Hellraiser Cenobite wants to compete on "Dancing With the Stars?"
"Dr. Cha-Cha-CHANNARD!"

The jokes entertain and educate those looking to further their horror movie knowledge, while using a "borscht belt" type of humor.

The book is now available for your Halloween enjoyment. It's perfect for the ghoul or horror movie buff in your life.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Guest Post by Jason Phillips - Halloween book hits for kids.

The Halloween holiday is right at the door, and parents have already started picking (or making) outfits for their little ones and decorating their homes. But there’s more to this celebration than meets the eyes, and every child should know that. This season you could surprise your kids with several cool Halloween inspired books. Here are 5 titles that will help them love this costume holiday even more.

1.     “Halloween Is…” Gail Gibbons
Gail Gibbons talks about the origins of the Halloween holiday in his book. It also ties it to Christmas and it tells the story in a very whimsical and alluring way. Beautifully decorated with pumpkins and wee ghosts, “Halloween Is…” will definitely appeal to kids with ages between 4 and 8. All children should know how the Halloween holiday began and where it has its roots. In this book, the funky illustrations will make the lecture even more pleasurable and enticing.

2.     “Scary, Scary Halloween” Eve Bunting
“Scary, Scary Halloween” is one of the most famous Halloween books ever published for children. It packs an ideal amount of scariness for the little ones, so you don’t have to worry that you’ll terrify your toddler if you read it aloud. There are gremlins, witches, werewolves, and vampires spread throughout this fascinating book; so kids will definitely be excited to know more. Readers will be instantly drawn by the plot and adventurous events, not to mention that the pictures will add to the overall experience. Get your children excited about the spooky Halloween holiday, and read this book together. Use voice inflections to make the atmosphere seem mysterious, and they will want you to read it every year on Halloween.

3.     “Tell Me a Scary Story…But Not Too Scary” Carl Reiner
This book is for older kids who want to be scared on Halloween. Carl Reiner, comedy writer and award-winning director, has managed to write a genuine spine chiller. “Tell Me a Scary Story…” offers lots of exciting events that will keep your blood pumping. No avid reader with a passion for mysteries will be able to resist this provoking tale of scary monsters. The book tells the story of Carl, a young boy lured in his basement where he’ll be greeted by fake eyeballs and creaking doors. Of course, there’s a lot more to this than meets the eye, but you’ll just have to read the book uncover all the mysteries.

4.     “Coraline” Neil Gaiman 
Before the famous Coraline movie, there was a book; a New York Times bestseller with the exact same name. The tale is absolutely incredible. Packed with mysterious events and scary places, “Coraline” centers on the story of a little girl who finds a hidden door in her home. She chooses to open it and notices a whole new world, apparently a better world. Will she be able to go back home to her loved ones? You can find that out by reading “Coraline” with your kids for this Halloween. It’s strange but interesting, dark but alluring; a must-read for this festive season.

5.     “A Tale Dark And Grimm” Adam Gidwitz
With unexpected delicacy and disarming good cheer, Gidwitz reveals several of the most unbelievable stories collected by the Grimm Brothers in the famous Hansel and Gretel book. “A Tale Dark And Grimm” is incredibly compelling; but it’s also quite scary, so read it carefully. Funny and scary at the same time, the narrative of the book will instantly appeal to the senses of your kids. Read to them before bedtime and make a statement with voice inflections. This way the story will come alive and your little ones will feel more connected to the storytelling. Spooky but not overly aggressive, this book is an ideal read for this Halloween; so make sure to check it out.

Are your kids ready for Halloween? Let this be a most memorable celebration. Make them the coolest costumes, take them trick-and-treating, and prepare them the most delicious Halloween-inspired dinner. At the end of the night, cuddle up and let the reading begin. The 5 amazing books we mentioned above are truly worth checking out. They’re all packed with mysterious events, spooky characters and fun stories that will keep your kids engaged.

By Jason Phillips and!

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