Monday, April 21, 2014

The Hallowed Ones

Title/Author: The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle

Genre: YA, Horror.

Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Source: Purchased.

Synopsis: Katie is on the verge of her Rumspringa, the time in Amish life when teenagers can get a taste of the real world.  But the real world comes to her in the dystopian tale with a philosophical bent.  Rumors of massive unrest on the "Outside" abound.  Something murderous is out there.

Amish elders make a rule: No one goes outside, and no outsiders come in.  But when Katie finds a gravely unjured young man, she can't leave him to die.  She smuggles him into her family's barn - at what cost to her community?  The suspense of this vividly told, truly horrific thriller will keep the pages turning.   ~Goodreads.com

Midnyte Musings:  I first heard about The Hallowed Ones when Karen from For What It's Worth read and reviewed it on her blog.  I quickly put it on my TBR pile and finally got around to reading it.  I was delighted with everything about it.  Scares, dilemmas, ethics, romance and difficult choices.

"There was a difference...between knowing and believing" Kate said at one point in the book.  I think this is something people struggle with.  Some people have so much faith to the point where they are sure about God, religion and the afterlife.  Some people are more skeptical.  These are issues that Katie, the main character struggles with.  She believes in God, but has questions, She knows she should trust what The Elders (the spiritual leaders in her community) preach, but not everything sits right with her.  I loved this about her.  She is not a sheep that takes everything at face value.  She is independent and a thinker.  She is also a doer.  Another thing I loved about her.  She is brave.  She makes choices about what she thinks is right and she does some required dirty work. What else I love about Katie is that she loves her parents who are very important to her. She wants their approval and love, yet she is true to herself.  I also love how Katie sees herself as selfish because of her very human emotions.

I knew that I was weak, that I sometimes failed to submit to the God's will. But I didn't feel truly sinister. ~Katie.

There is a bit of a love triangle in this story, but I didn't even see it as such until I started to write this sentence.  The relationship between Katie, her childhood sweetheart Elijah, and the new man in her life, Alex, reads as very natural.  Katie has been looking forward to Rumspringa, the time when Amish teens get to experience the outside world for a very long time.  She and Elijah were going to go together.  However, the advent of the vampires changed everything and now because the outside world is too dangerous (the vamps can't come on Amish land - because it is deemed holy) Elijah has opted to be baptized earlier than planned and take his place in the adult community. This causes a rift between Elijah and Katie that is understandable and I couldn't help but sympathize with Katie while understanding Elijah's decision as well. With the arrival of Alex, Katie deals with more decisions.  She also is introduced to another's point of view and maybe begins to understand that there is more than one path to the same Creator.  Basically, to sum all this up, this story includes great theological discussions.

What also tickled me is how Katie would point out things that Outsiders, (okay me) take for granted in society.  For instance, that woman in magazines are obsessed with clothing and horoscopes and sex.  She wonders why there is no mention of other parts of a woman's life such as family, work and their community. Okay, so those magazines are there to sell products, but it shows how she just thinks certain things are more important.

Oh yeah, let's not forget the Horror.  You may be thinking Amish and vampires?  Well it works.  And it works very well.  The reader gets to experience Katie's first encounter with the creatures and the eeriness and fear come across successfully.  It is scary and exciting.  There are other encounters that are frightening as well and a very gory job that Katie has to help with that will not make a sqeamish reader happy.  

The only issues I had with the book was that sometimes I did feel that Katie is too literal. She knows of the outside world so why question everything? Also sometimes the guilt she feels is punctuated too many times, but I guess if you are brought up under such strictness this is understandable and maybe something I cannot relate to.  Also, I feel that the ending was summed up instead of played out and shown to the readers.  However, I started the sequel immediately, so obviously these were just minor issues in the story for me.

Starstruck Over:  The many layers and believable characters of this well written book. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

11/22/63.

Title/Author: 11/22/63 by Stephen King.

Narrator: Craig Wasson.

Genre:  Speculative Fiction, Sci-Fi.

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster Audio.

Source:  Library.

Synopsis:  If you had the chance to change the course of history, would you?  Woud the consequences be what you hoped?

Jake Epping, 35, teaches high-school English in Lisbon Falls, Maine, and cries reading the brain-damaged janitor's story of childhood Halloween massacre by their drunken father.  On his deathbed, pal Al divulges a secret portal to 1958 in his diner back pantry, and enlists Jake to prevent the 11/22/1963 Dallas assassination of American President John F. Kennedy.

Under the alias George Amberson, our hero joins the cigarette-hazed full-flavored world of Elvis rock'n'roll, Negro discrimination, and freeway gas-guzzlers without seat belts.  Will Jake lurk in impoverished immigrant slums beside loner Kee Harvey Oswald, or share small-town friendliness with beautiful high school librarian Sadie Dunhill, the love of his life? ~Goodreads.com.  


Midnyte Musings:  Here's a few things I would do if I found a portal to 1958:
-Buy and collect all the Halloween memorabilia and antiques I could. 
-Buy a bunch of cars and put them in a garage and hire someone to start them every few years to keep them running, so that when I came back to the present they would be there waiting for me. If I had enough money, I would also hire someone to buy a lot of classic cars throughout the 60s and 70s to be held for me as well. Ever watch those Barrett's Car Auctions?
-Buy a lot of Beatles memorabilia and maybe even fly to Berlin or wherever they were at that time to meet them.  And probably The Who as well.

But onto Stephen King's vision.  Wow.  Wow, wow, wow.   So much going on. When I first heard about 11/22/63 and the premise, I had thought it would involve the government and agents, secret plots and complicated political intrigues.  I didn't realize it would center around just one man, Jake Epping,  who was attempting to change history.  What a daunting task.  Jake is convinced by his friend Al, that this piece of history must be changed, must be stopped.  That the world would be better if JFK was never assassinated.  But is the vision and intention of one man, even two, absolutely certain?  The fact that Jake is convinced is the impetus of the story and his life as he finds it between 1958 and 1963 is the meat of the story.  He builds a life for himself during this time all the while, keeping up with the comings and goings of Lee Harvey Oswald. 

The concepts are interesting, at times existential. It's not about time travel, it's about different realities. The narrator keeps repeating that the past is obdurate, meaning it doesn't want to change. This is apparent in the the coincidences that occur, in the resistance of manipulating events. Our reality is what we have experienced, as individuals and as a population.  Major events I would want to change would be The Holacaust and 9/11.  But if I managed to do that, what would I then be putting into motion?

Of course there is the typical detailed descriptions and backstory that King is known for. Although in a lot of King books I wonder if I need to know so much, in 11/22/63, the details seemed more pertinent.  The taste of a root beer in 1958, the flavor of the air.  The cost of living and the descriptions of cars and the landscape.  Did King need all that "filler?"  Certainly.  Because Jake's life really began when he went back to 1958, when he found a purpose.  All the richness of his life and what he went through for others adds to the rich tapestry of the story.

When I saw Stephen King speak in Connecticut, he said that 11/22/63 is a love story.  I can definitely see that.  And to me it epitomizes that it's a love story because of the sacrifice.  The love story in my eyes is not epic.  It's quiet and nurturing.  Jake shows his love by standing by Katie, by taking care of her and caring for her.   I don't want to give too much away, but the end had to happen the way it did. In typical King fashion, it left me heartbroken and thinking about it long after I closed the book. 

Narration:  Once again, King has provided a stunning narrator.  The story is told in Epping's first person POV and he is likeable and relatable.  There is nothing forced about his speech, even female voices.  What I loved was the self deprecating chuckles throughout.

Starstruck Over:  It's a beautiful story.  It's a tragic story.  It's an epic story.   Not just for King fans.

Other Editions:







Monday, April 14, 2014

Game of Thrones -- Different (if not "Better") on Paper.


Pop literature makes for great film and TV fodder. Producers love that there is already a built-in following for whatever book series, and much of the conceptual “heavy lifting” (with respect to the writing) has already been done. The die-hard fans, whether they love or hate the adaptation of their favorite book, are sure to talk, blog, and Tweet about their feelings, thereby doing their part, conscientiously or inadvertently, to boost hype around the show.


Game of Thrones is an interesting case-study. It began as a book series from author George R.R. Martin, and has gone on to become an immensely popular television program on HBO. Rabid fans of the show eagerly awaited the premiere of the  fourth season on April 6th, and newbies can get acquainted with the show by watching their own private marathon, if they’d like, thanks to online video streaming (click here to find previous episodes).While there is considerable hype surrounding the series, many fans of the original novels have taken issue with the show deviating from the books in certain ways.


Certain narrative subtleties from the books have been more overt in the series, presumably for the sake of clarity and accessibility. For instance, while the books hint at a romantic relationship between the characters Renly Baratheon and Loras Tyrell (played by Gethin Anthony and Finn Jones in the show, respectively), the HBO series made no effort to conceal this fact - if anything, the show was intentionally blatant about there being a love interest between the two characters.


Another key difference between the books and the show is the age range of central characters. For instance, the characters Jon and Rob are said to be 14 in the books, but they are 17 on the show. Rickon is three in the books, but double that in the show. It does stand to reason, given all of the sexuality latent within the books, that older actors would be recruited. Underage actors and simulated sex on TV are a major league “no no” even for controversy-courting networks like HBO.


One of the more curious gaps, though, between the books and the show, is the character of Lady Tasila, who exists in the show as a substitute for the character Lady Jeyne Westerling, who, in the book, is a nurse who first meets Robb on the battlefields. George R.R. Martin helped to provide justification for this in an interview panel, saying that the very nature of the character changed organically as they began to flesh her out for the sake of the TV show - bear in mind, that Jeyne Westerling was out of the picture for most of the books. It was decided that they character needed more screen time, and she “evolved” into Tasila, a character who is better suited the TV adaptation.


But, this is all to be expected! Different devices serve different art forms. Literature allows for a level of introspection and contemplation that TV simply can’t. For all their similarities, the two forms are markedly different. TV is all about ephemeral exposures, and stories which keep a pace that’s rapid enough to sustain the interest of a modern viewer. TV, traditionally, is not a medium which lends itself to subtlety. It lends itself to content that is overt, instantly gratifying, and over-stimulating. And now that more and more viewers are watching TV content on the internet, the producers have to be even more cautious, as the internet is infinitely more ephemeral and distracting than television.


However, the fans should try to remember that the true magic of the written word is its power to evoke imagery.  There's always a high degree of mediation that takes place between reading and constructing a teleplay, and the purest relationship you'll ever be able to have with of text is what you have when you sit down to read it.  And remember also, if you were to set about adapting a book for a TV show, it's likely that you yourself would interpret things in a way that would irritate other fans of the books.  




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.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

She Walks in Darkness.

Title/Author:  She Walks in Darkness by Evangeline Walton.

Genre: Thriller.

Publisher: Tachyon Publications.

Source:  Purchased.

Synopsis:  A gorgeous Tuscan villa harboring a terrible secret houses this original harrowing adventure of ancient mystery and modern intrigue.

Archaelogist Richard Keyes and his resourceful young bride, Barbara, are expecting a blissful honeymoon in a welcoming new country.  But from the moment they arrive in their secluded new home, circumstances conspire against them.  A car crash leaves Richard lying unconscious in a bed surrounded by frescoes of a benevolent goddess, while a far more sinister deity in the courtyard seems to gain power in the night.

Meanwhile, in Barbara's hour of need, a beautiful, young Tuscan appears, and she is drawn to his seductive charms.  A conflict has been reawakened after generations of sacrifice, betrayal, and madness, and the key to the mystery lies in the catacombs under the villa. ~Goodreads.com.

Midnyte Musings:  She Walks in Darkness is a newly discovered manuscript and an automatic purchase for me since I love all of Walton's books.  I'm not sure this is a book I would normally pick up from the synopsis and I have to admit I wasn't as enamored of it as I had hoped to be.  However, it's a good little mystery and I did like Barbara, the main female protagonist.  She is smart and brave in the face of danger and does all she can to keep her husband safe. 

What I also liked about her is her honesty with herself.  She admits to being attracted to another man other than her husband (and on her honeymoon no less) in a precarious situation and she doesn't know if she can even trust this stranger.  She uses her wits and what she has learned form her archaeologist husband to observe all she can in the villa that is on the site of an ancient temple and has a history that is almost palpable, making the location a character in itself.

At times this book reminded me of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting and Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians, not so much in the plot but in the style of the writing.  It is interesting to me because they were all female writers from the early to mid century.  

Starstruck Over:  I'm happy that I was able to read another work by a favorite author.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Innocence.

Title/Author:  Innocence by Dean Koontz.

Narrator: MacLeod Andrews

Genre: Fantasy.

Publisher:  Brilliance Audio.

Source:  Library.

Synopsis:  He lives in solitude beneath the city, an exile from society, which will destroy him if he is ever seen.
She dwells in seclusion, a fugitive from enemies who will do her harm if she is ever found.

But the bond between them runs deeper than the tragedies that have scarred their lives.  Something more than chance - and nothing less than destiny - has brought them together in a world whose hour of reckoning is fast approaching. ~Goodreads.com 

Midnyte Musings:  I was pleased to see a new audio book by Koontz at my library and although I have mixed feelings about Innocence, it was fun, kept me guessing and reminded me a bit of old Dean Koontz.

There is definitely a creepy, supernatural vibe going on and as a reader, I felt the underlying tone of mystery throughout the story. Things are not what they seem in Innocence and secret after secret is revealed to show the reader a fantastical and kind of whimsical world.   Addison Goodheart (yes, that's his name) must hide from the world because everyone who sees him is overcome by his appearance and tries to hurt him.  His own mother tried to kill him several times until at last, she simply turned him out at eight years old.  Addison finds a man who has the same issue he does and they hide and exist in a subterranean dwelling only venturing out for food runs.

On one excursion, Addison runs into a beautiful girl, named Gwynneth, with her own issues.  She has social anxiety, and therefore is just as isolated as Addison. Unfortunately, she is running from the man who killed her father and wants to destroy her.

To top it off, the threat of a viral contagion that will wipe out humanity is breaking out in the city where Addison and Gwynn live and they will also discover their lives are more intertwined than they knew as events unfold.

I feel that Koontz takes great liberties with his stories in the fact that the characters are over the top, the situations really far-fetched.  I mean really, Dean Koontz can write whatever he likes.  On the one hand, I feel that Innocence works, because it is crafted in such a way where the over the top situations and characters are believable and fun.  Maybe it's because the story started out with the over-the-topness as opposed to inserting it into a real situation.

However, on the other hand, as with a lot of Koontz books, there is a LOT of explanation and a few things that I felt were not played out logically. What was that knocking in Gwynn's attic?  What was up with the clears and the fogs?  I also felt that the marionnette plot device was amazing and would have liked to have seen an entire book written around that premise, not just touched upon.  There are several elements in this story that are hard to swallow. 

Narration:  I liked the narration.  He did Gwynn's voice well, no falsetto.  The villain, Ryan Telferd, was exceptional and carried smugness and arrogance.  Many characters really seemed like different people reading.  

Constellation of Characters:
Addison Goodheart - The male main character, who is so loving and forgiving although all of mankind wants to kill him when they see him. 

Gwynneth - Addison's love interest.  She is his perfect Eve to his Adam, but first must overcome a few obstacles of her own. 

Starstruck Over:  I don't know if I would really recommend this book, but for the most part I enjoyed the fun and the fantasy of the story.  


Friday, March 28, 2014

Feature and Follow - Bring on the Awesome! (March 28, 2014).


Feature and Follow is hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  Click on the links to visit their blogs and find out more about this great meme.


Snap it Time!  A picture is worth a thousand words.  Anything and anything.  Just give us a pic.



This is my doggie Mari.  She is a rescue and is so sweet and totally adorable (as you can see.)  Yes, I'm very, very biased...but I can't help it!  She is a very independent dog and not overly friendly.  My husband says she takes after me.  


This is our evil cat, Mr. Meow Meow Kitty.  He was found hanging around my sister's house and no one claimed him despite the lost cat signs we put up.  Could it be because he is so evil that the original owners didn't want him back?  Or did he accomplish his mission of destroying them and is now working on us?  His soft spot is Mari.  He is in love with her although they come from different animal planets.  He follows her, watches her from the window when she goes out and sometimes tries to cuddle with her.  Mari mostly ignores him, until he gets too fresh.  Then she puts him in his place with a snarl and a bark.  

What is your awesome pictures this week?









Monday, March 17, 2014

Haunted on Bourbon Street

Title/Author: Haunted on Bourbon Street (Jade Calhoun #1) by Deanna Chase.

Genre:  Paranormal Romance

Publisher: Bayou Moon Publishing.

Source:  Purchased.

Synopsis: Jade loves her new apartment -- until a ghost joins her in the shower.  When empath Jade Calhoun moves into an apartment above a strip bar on Bourbon Street, she expects life to get interesting.

What she doesn't cont on is making friends with an exotic dancer, attracting a powerful spirit, and developing feelings for Kane, her sexy landlord. Being an empath has never been easy on Jade's relationships.  It's no wonder she keeps her gift a secret.  But when the ghosts moves from spooking Jade to terrorizing Pyper, the dancer, it's up to Jade to use her unique ability to save her.  Except she'll need Kane's help -- and he's betrayed her with a secret of his own -- to do it.  Can she find a way to trust him and herself before Pyper is lost?  ~Goodreads.com. 

Midnyte Musings:  Cute cover with witch, check.  Intriguing title, check.  Interesting premise, check.   This book definitely appeals to a lot of things I love.  First of all, it's a total fantasy for me.  Main character Jade Calhoun is an empath, so she's got a supernatural gift.  I want a supernatural gift!  She is young and moves to New Orleans. I want to be young again and move to New Orleans!  She is a lampworker.  She makes beads!  I want to learn lampworking!  AAAaaand, when she moves in she meets a bunch of nice, new, cool people including a hot guy who happens to be her landlord and sparks fly between them.  I want!  I want!  I want!  So reading this was an immersion in a fantasy. I got to live vicariously through Jade.

Also it takes place on Bourbon Street.  Bourbon Street!  Okay, I enjoy Bourbon Street, but I don't think I'd want to live there, especially over a strip club.  However, in this version of living above a strip club, it's quite enjoyable.  The owner/landlord is a hot guy who wants to class the place up.  The manager, Pyper,  is a woman who wants to take care of her workers.   Even the strippers are pretty much normal.  Along the way, Jade encounters ghostly problems, along with issues from her past.  She has to navigate through her own insecurities and learn to accept help from others in order to persevere.

I appreciate that Jade learned from some of her actions.  When she feels that someone invades her privacy using supernatural powers, she comtemplates her own gift and its effect on someone from her own life.  I like how she wonders if her own feelings are somehow tied in with her empathic abilities.  Does she bond with people because she can feel their emotions?  Or does she/did she genuinely rely on her own feelings?  I thought that was interesting.

Although I'm sure some questions I had will be answered as the series moves along, I feel a bit frustrated that things got brought up, but didn't get resolved.  I want to know what happened with her mom.  What happened the night her ex-boyfriend saved her and her best friend in the Foster home where they all lived for a while.  In this story, I wasn't clear on the details of the nice ghost who seemed to be smitten with Jade.  I didn't particularly like the insta-love between Jade and Kane.  Although maybe it's more believable because they are not teens?  Not sure.  There were also a few cliches along the way that caused a few eye rolls and it frustrated me that Jade sometimes acted like a victim.  Why is it that characters who have pyshic gifts or supernatural powers are always shunned and look at in a negative light?  I'd be in awe of someone with true powers.

Constellation of Characters:
Jade - A sympathetic main character.  She has issues trusting people because of her empathic abilities have gotten her in trouble in the past.

Kane - Jade's landlord and owner of the strip club who is interested in her.  Hot and wealthy.  He sometimes comes off a little cheesy, but he's genuinely a nice guy.

Kat - Jade's best friend who she grew up with.  She convinced Jade to move to New Orleans.  Will she let her relationship with Dan ruin their friendship?

Dan - Kat's boyfriend and Jade's ex-boyfriend.

Pyper - The manager of the strip club.  She shows Jade that not everyone is turned off by her empathic abilities.  

Starstruck Over:   Haunted on Bourbon Street is a guilty pleasure.  I enjoyed the fun storyline, likeable main character and of course, ghosts and magic in New Orleans.

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