Sunday, August 29, 2010

Top 5 Sundays - Favorite Childhood TV Series

Top 5 Sundays is a weekly meme hosted by Larissa at Larrisa's Bookish Life.  Check out her blog, it has great content, excellent reviews, unique name it.  This week's Top 5 is Favorite Childhood TV Series. 

5. Charlie's Angels.   I know this is now considered "trash tv" and "jiggle tv".  But think about a little girl and her first taste of kick-ass heroines!  With all the macho shows on and programs with male leads, these were women who were independent, tough and could take care of themselves.  What great role models!  Me and my friends used to run around our yards and pretend we were them.  (I always chose Kelly.)  My favorite episode was a spooky one, something about Kelly being hypnotized.

4. Bionic Woman.  I don't think I missed this one either.  I loved the one with Sasquatch!  I guess because it had to do with the paranormal.  I think there might have been an episode with aliens too.  
3. Little House on the Prairie.  Like the books, there was something so simple, comforting and "homey" about it.  I always wanted siblings closer in age to me and I loved watching the closeness of Laura and Mary.
2. 21 Jump Street. Johnny Depp. The end.
1. The Addams Family.  I know, not a shock right?  I think I watched this in syndication when I was very small because I don't really remember the episodes.  I do remember the characters and I definitely know since then I wanted to be in that family, live in that house and have Morticia as my mommy!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Strange Candy

Audio book.

Title/Author: Strange Candy by Laurell K. Hamilton

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Publisher: Berkley Trade

Source: Library

Favorite character: The merman.

Favorite quote: “Moonlight shivered through the curtains.” -The Edge of the Sea.

I was very reluctant to try an audio book. What if it didn’t give me that same sense of wonder and entertainment? What if I couldn’t pay attention? What if it just ruined the reading experience for me? But then I realized that the oral tradition was the very first form of storytelling and I decided to give it a try.

I stopped reading Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series after they got to be too over the top in my opinion. But I chose this one because I thought short stories would be easier for me to pay attention to and Laurell was an author I was familiar with.

I was very pleased with my audio book experience. Sure, there were times when my mind wandered and I had to re-wind a little and there were times when I wondered if I would have enjoyed it more, or less for that matter, if I was actually reading the book. But it was nice being “read to” and being able to multitask (driving to work, running errands while listening to a book) was a bonus.

What I liked: The stories were enjoyable. Nothing too deep but I took into consideration that these were early works that were re-released. A lot of the details were beautiful; descriptions of moonlight and mist, the sea at night, dripping blood that couldn't be removed.  I liked the horror and scary stories more than the fantasy ones although I loved the blood drinking sword, “Leech.”

I liked “Selling Houses” which took place in Anita Blake’s world about a real estate agent trying to sell a house where a supernatural murder took place. I also thought “A Lust of Cupids” which was about a woman trying to outrun cupids trying to shoot her so she would finally fall in love, was cute and clever. My favorite one though was “The Edge of the Sea” about a trident (merman) who was seducing and killing women. The details and emotion in it were haunting and memorable.

The narrator spoke well and used different voices so I knew which character she was portraying.  Although I liked her voice better for some stories than others.

Each story also had a short introduction about when Hamilton wrote it and why and who turned it down. They were kind of funny in a way because at times it felt like she was now thumbing her nose at those who rejected her work but on the other hand, all writer’s receive rejections, and it seemed like a bit of sour grapes.

What I didn’t like: There was some telling and repetitiveness in descriptions. All the blondes in every story had “pale yellow hair” and everyone who had blue eyes had “pale eyes like a summer sky” or an “autumn sky”.  Many of the stories were pretty basic and simple, which is fine, but just not in a caliber that made them stand out.  The characters were not terribly engaging, although I did like the people in the stories I mentioned above.

*SPOILER ALERT: Also, the last story “The Girl who was Infatuated with Death”, started out really interesting. It was an Anita Blake piece and had to do with moral dilemmas vs. the law.  A girl with cancer wanted to become a vampire so she wouldn't die (permanently), but her mother didn't agree. The girl was under 18 and therefore wasn't old enough to make her own choice.  Any vampire who turned her before her legal age, would be breaking the law and put to death (permanently).  I could see this story turn into a full length novel and explore difficult issues spanning politics, religion, law and personal freedom.  But unfortunately, the real meat of the story was cut short and ended with Anita having sex with Jean-Claude. With chocolate sauce nonetheless. END SPOILER ALERT*

I give this book a 3 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Horrorfind Weekend September 3-5, 2010, Gettysburgh.

I'm looking forward to this!  Anyone else going?  Here is a link to the Horror author signings and readings.

Horrorfind Weekend

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Childhood Thrills - Dick Whittington and His Cat.

Childhood Thrills is a feature that recalls books I read in my childhood or adolescence that were special to me or "haunt" me in some way.  I don't intend to re-read & review them, just simply share my memories and the feelings they evoke.  

Dick Whittington and his Cat  

Turn again Whittington!
Thrice Lord Mayor of London!

Does anyone remember this story?  My Dad kept it under his bed and read it to me over and over.  The cover pictured here isn't the version we had, but I do remember loving the colorful pictures in my book and I loved the story even more.  It's about an orphan boy who through hard work, a good heart and tenacity overcomes his situation and eventually becomes the mayor of London.  The story has a fairy tale quality to it, but it is also realistic, which made me believe in possibilities that Cinderella or Snow White couldn't.  Plus, my father and I shared a love of cats, so that made the book even more special. 

In doing some research on this story this past week, I discovered that the tale is based on the real Lord Whittington who lived in Medieval Times and was indeed Lord Mayor of London three times.  

What I also remember most about this story is that it was the only one my father would read to me.  I found this puzzling and still do to this day, because my father was a voracious reader!  He sat in his recliner and read all the time.  I mean all the time.  He read quickly too.  There was a pile of books around his chair on the floor and when he would finish one book, plop! it went on one pile and he would pick up another one.  He also had a battered red Webster's dictionary next to him that he would refer to often.  Toward the end of his life my sister wondered what he could possibly be looking up!  Didn't he know the definition of every single word in the English language by now? But even with his love of reading, even though I came to him with other books, he would only read Dick Whittington and his Cat to me.

I credit him for giving me my love of reading.  When I was small, he brought me to the library frequently and one of my earliest memories is him coming home with a collection of Dr. Seuss books.  As I got older he would always leave books for me in my room and when I moved out, he usually had some waiting for me when I came to visit.

This post is for my Dad because today is his birthday.  But I still use the gift he gave me.  My love of reading.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

When I'm Not Reading

When I'm Not Reading is a weekly meme of The Unread Reader.  Check out her rules for this fun feature here.

When I'm not reading I'm doing a lot of other things.  But I told a few people that I would post pictures of my dog.  We got her from an animal rescue and we think she is a Katrina dog.  Her name at her foster house was "Marielle", but the people there called her "Mari".  We couldn't think of anything else that fit, so Mari she is!  And it suits her.  We think she is part Border Corder and/or part Australian Cattle dog, but we're not sure.  We might do one of those doggy dna tests just to see.

Mari is really smart and figured out how to work a doorknob with her paws and can do a variety of tricks.  Her number one admirer is Spooky, our evil cat.  He looooooves Mari.  We've told him many times that it will never work out, but he is devoted.  He follows her around and when she goes out he sits at the window to wait for her, sometimes scratching at the glass.  She tolerates him, but sometimes you'll hear a snarl and yip and we know Spooky got in Mari's face.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ghoul by Brian Keane

Title/Author: Ghoul by Brian Keane

Genre: Horror

Publisher: Leisure Books.

Source: Purchased at Borders.

Favorite character: Hmmm. I’m going to go with the Ghoul.

Favorite quote: The dead kept their silence; kept their secrets.

All in all:  I didn't love it but it kept my interest and I wanted to know what happened.

What I didn’t like: I’m going to start with what I didn’t like this time.  There is a lot of telling in this novel and if you’ve read any of my reviews, you know how I feel about this. I also had a hard time getting through the first few chapters as the author describes the neighborhood in detail, the three main characters and their family life.  There were also a lot of asides and flashbacks which took me out of the story.

I really love coming of age stories. There is something magical about that time in your life. This one held similarities to A Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon (loved) and The Body (or Stand By Me) by Stephen King (excellent) and Summer of Night by Dan Simmons (Hell yeah!).  A lot of stories have been “done before” and what makes them enjoyable is finding a fresh way to tell it, strong characters and a unique plot.  However, in Ghoul I didn't feel close enough to the story to get lost in it.  A lot of the people in the book came off as characterizations not characters.  One that comes to mind is Timmy's father.  I had an easier time accepting the monster than some of the people.

The other thing that stuck out to me is the numerous references to the time period of 1984. It’s always fun to take a trip down memory lane, but at times it seemed to be a list of pop-culture from that era.

I really wanted to know what happened after. Timmy’s father didn’t believe him about the ghoul. But Timmy outwitted it (with some help) and even saved someone's life. What happened next? It would have been so interesting if I could have seen Timmy get vindicated. But that’s where the book basically ended. *SPOILER ALERT: The other thing that bothered me was the way Barry turned out. The Epilogue shows Timmy re-visiting the town 20 years later. He sees Barry and it turns out his childhood friend has followed in his abusive father’s footsteps. I know, I know. Most abusive people were abused themselves, but it still made me sad after everything Barry did to overcome his father. END SPOILER ALERT*

What I liked: I liked the Ghoul. He was unique and interesting. Creepy, icky, gross…everything a monster should be. And yet, he had a vulnerable side too. I also really liked his backstory.  It was interesting and compelling and this was one of the most unique aspects of the book.  There was also some good tension when people were prowling around his lair.  And the gore was deliciously disturbing.

Despite everything I didn’t like about this book I did want to find out what happened, and I kept turning the page.  There were some parts that I also liked about Timmy and his realizations of that summer.  One of the most touching scenes was when his friend confessed a secret to him.  He sort of knew what his friend was going to tell him, but he was afraid for it to be said aloud.  "A loss of innocence..."  he called it.  This was the point of no return in some ways.  Timmy has to take responsibility for knowing a secret.  He has to make decisions based on it.  Keep his friend's secret or tell an adult who could take the responsibility from him.  I think this also spurred him on to try to solve the crisis of the ghoul himself, but I'm just making inferences here.  At another point in the book Timmy talks about how when fighting monsters you have to be careful that you don't turn into one yourself and he cites an example of their plan to foil Catcher, a neighborhood dog, that terrorizes them. I felt this was an interesting analogy to the secrets his friends had, his feelings regarding the adults around him as well as any "real" monsters.

After I wrote my review I read a lot of others about Ghoul and many people said that this book did not hit the mark, but several of Keane’s other books are great. So even though I didn’t really like this one, I will give his others a try.

I'm going to give this a 2 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Book Blogger Hop (August 13-August 16, 2010)

I love the Book Blogger Hop.  It's really amazing how many book blogs there are and each time I participate I always find a great new blog and have a few people stop by my blog as well.  This meme is hosted by Crazy For Books.  Please check out her blog for complete rules.

This week's question is:  How many books to you have on your "TBR" Shelf?

Answer:  Well do you mean real books that I have to store in the guest room?  That's about 20.  But if you mean how many I've put on my wish list on Amazon...well that's a whole different story.  I think that people who are addicted to reading have tons of books on their TBR shelf and wishlist, don't you?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Desperate Souls

Title/Author: Desperate Souls by Gregory Lamberson

Genre: Horror

Publisher: Medallion (October 2010)

Source: ARC

Favorite character: Edgar and Laurel.

Favorite quote:  "They don't call it Black Magic for nothing."

All in all: Slow to start but shot ahead full throttle.

What I liked:  I’m not much of a zombie girl, I’m more into other supernatural creatures, so this is one of the first zombie books I have read. I liked how the zombies (or zonbies) were created, not by an infection or a bite, but by magic and drugs. The very first chapter is told in one of the creature’s perspective and I thought this was original and interesting. I felt his despair and anguish and how he was suffering.  The plot also really heated up making the book hard to put down. Several characters were involved in this story and they were threaded together very well.  There were also a few surprises that blindsided me to the point where I remember saying "Oh my God!" out loud.  The action scenes were exciting, well executed and had me on the edge of my seat.  I also enjoyed that it took place in NYC, which is pretty familiar to me, so it was easy to visualize.

This story is the 2nd book in the Jake Hellman files, who is the main character, but it wasn’t difficult to follow.  There was some re-capping and even though I didn't have prior knowledge to everything being described, it wasn't confusing.  I did not exactly like Jake as a person, but as a character he was top notch.  His honesty and flaws make him realistic and therefore his story believable.

There is violence, but it wasn’t a gore-fest. Well maybe a little, but I guess it's what you're used to and your frame of reference.  There were some parts that gave me the "ick" factor, but sometimes I'm all about the blood.  It was a dark tale, gritty and tragic, but there was also a lot of humor especially between Jake and his friend Edgar.

What I didn’t like:  It was a bit slow to start and there was a fair amount of telling instead of showing.   The italicized one liner thoughts of the characters were also distracting.  Things like,  Oh my God! They’re after me!  I felt there were too many of them and it seemed to chop up the action.  It also felt like a device for telling as opposed to showing.

I give this book a 3/5 stars.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Title/Author: Ruined by Paula Morris.

Genre: YA/Supernatural.

Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.

Source: Purchased through Amazon.

Favorite character: Lisette.

Favorite quote: “It’s strange to think of how the past gets swept away.” "The past doesn’t go away…you just can’t see it anymore.” P. 141

All in all: Rich and intriguing. This review may seem short and not too deep because I tried not to give too much away. I thought this was a YA book, but somewhere else it said Middle Grades, so maybe that made me give it more slack as well. I liked this book a lot and would recommend it.

What I liked: First of all New Orleans. Yay!!! It’s one of my favorite cities, so I can’t get enough of visiting, even if it is only through a book. The author painted the city so beautifully and delved into some history and dynamics; The Yellow fever epidemics, the intricacies of Mardi Gras, race and class division, Haitian culture, the Garden District, Katrina. The City itself was the most complex character in the story.

Rebecca has to spend a school year in New Orleans with her aunt because her father got a temporary job in China. She attends a snooty upper crust school in the Garden District where she doesn’t fit in because she is not wealthy and she is an outsider. She is distanced from her friends in NY, distanced from making any friends in NOLA because of her status and then to rebel she lies about her origins in order to distance herself further.

One night when she sneaks into the cemetery she meets Lisette, a ghost who becomes her only friend. (This is not a spoiler since it’s on the book jacket.) They connect because Rebecca can actually see her, because they are both lonely and probably because they share a common bond…being separated from their mothers: Lisette because she is earthbound and Rebecca because her mother died when she was a baby.  Rebecca soon uncovers secrets about the local wealthy Garden District families and in doing so, stumbles upon one about her own family as well.

There is also a budding romance between her and Anton Grey, one of the wealthy kids in the neighborhood. He professes not to be like the rest of his crowd and is drawn to Rebecca. I suspect because she does not fit the cookie cutter mold that all the other people in the school and Garden District adhere to. He also seems impressed with the fact that she is from New York and even mentions her “cool New York friends”.

I also really liked Lisette’s story and her “life” as a ghost. It was bittersweet and at times humorous. It was also a good plot device not only as a key to the story, but to give background into the city of New Orleans past and present.

(Also, I think the cover is lovely).

What I didn’t like: *SMALL SPOILER ALERT: Without giving too much away, I feel that a secret that came out didn’t lend itself to the rest of the story. It was jarring in comparison to the quiet, spooky tone the book had until that point and therefore I had a hard time suspending my disbelief in regards to it. But to take the other side, I realize that is something you have to do in stories, throw rocks at your character and then throw more rocks at them. Plus, yes it was exciting. END SPOILER ALERT*

I also felt that the characters were not that rich, but the story moves along so well and fast that this didn’t bother me as much. There were also some plot points that I had issue with, but again, it didn’t ruin the book for me.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Top 5 Sundays - Movie Soundtracks

Top 5 Sundays is a weekly meme hosted by Larissa at Larrisa's Bookish Life.  Check out her blog, it has great content, excellent reviews, unique name it.  This week's Top 5 is movie soundtracks.

5. The Dead Matter.  Over 10 years ago, I discovered Midnight Syndicate, innovative creators and composers of Halloween and gothic themed music.  Then I met them at a trade show and they were so nice and enthusiastic about their craft, that since then I have bought all of their cd's as they came out.  I play them on Halloween as a soundtrack to create a spooky atmosphere.  I listen to them in the car on the way to work because I love them.  Coincidentally, they have just released The Dead Matter, their first feature film and the soundtrack is another one to make it on my hit parade.  The movie is available at Hot Topic stores or on their website and it includes the soundtrack plus another bonus music cd.

4. The Skeleton Key.  I don't scare easy, but this movie...yeah, it was creepy, intense and heart pounding.  And, it takes place in New Orleans (another one of my obsessions), so it has that going for it also.  The soundtrack is very moody and eerie.

3. The Lost Boys.  This is one of my favorite Vampire movies, and it has Kiefer Sutherland in it.  (Kiefer...)  In fact, Joss Whedon based his Buffy The Vampire Slayer's vampires on the Lost Boys vamp look.  Whenever I listen to this, it brings me right back into the movie.

2.  Queen of the Damned.  I didn't like this movie the first time I saw it.  Then my friend urged me to watch it again.   It grew on me and now it is another one of my favorite Vampire movies.  I'm including the soundtrack cd and the score album.  The soundtrack cd has all the rockin' songs that give the movie(and sountrack) it's edge and the score album is just beautiful.  I was trying to make a playlist combine the two soundtracks in the order they appear in the movie, but I haven't completed it yet.
1. Nightmare Before Christmas.  A Tim Burton movie.  A Danny Elfman Soundtrack.  I don't think I need to say more.

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