Saturday, July 26, 2008

Captures the Magic of Youth

Robert R. McCammon captivated millions of readers with his storytelling power in such bestsellers as Mine, Swan Song, and Stinger. Now he has created is tour de force: Boy's Life, a masterpiece of magic and mystery, of the splendors of growing up in a small town, and of the wonders beyond. Narrated by one of the most engaging young voices in modern fiction, Boy's Life takes us back to our own childhoods, when bicycles were enchanted steeds and anything was possible...

Zephyr, Alabama, has been an idyllic home for eleven-year-old Cory Mackenson... a place where monsters swim in the belly of the river, and friends are forever. Then, on a cold spring morning in 1964, as Cory accompanies is father on his milk route, they see a car plunge into a lake some say is bottomless. A desperate rescue attempt brings Cory's father face-to-face with a vision that will haunt him: a murdered man, naked and beaten, handcuffed to the steering wheel, a copper wire knotted around his neck. As Cory struggles to understand the forces of good and evil at work in his hometown, from an ancient woman called the Lady who conjures snakes and hears the voices of the dead, to a violent clan of moonshiners, he realizes that not only his life but his father's sanity may hang in the balance...

Title: Boy’s Life
Author: Robert R. McCammon
Start & Finished: 4/5/08 - 4/6/08
Published: 1991
Publisher: Pocket Books
Pages: 608
Genre: Fiction-Fantasy, Mystery, Horror

Winner of the Bram Stoker and the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, retired author Robert R. McCammon’s “fictography” (a combination of fiction and biography) story Boy’s Life is one of his most acclaimed works. It is also one of his more controversial ones too since there was an attempted ban of it in 2006 but it failed once the author flew in to defend it himself.

When I had just started reading horror, I discovered a few of McCammon’s books and although I enjoyed them, I have a hard time remembering much about them today. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve matured or if this story in particular is just that good but I absolutely adored this book! I’m so glad that it was chosen as the book of the month in one of my online reading groups.

After finishing Boy’s Life, I was left with a feeling I don’t get very often: I just wanted to sit and savor this beautifully haunting (in all definitions of the word) story that McCammon had created. It had a wonderfully poetic Stephen King meets Ray Bradbury feel to it but there is uniqueness to the story as well. I think that if Mr. King had made his short story The Body (better known as the movie Stand by Me) into a full-length novel, he would have created something similar to this.

If I have one bad thing to say about this book it would be that I was able to figure out the mystery part, including the who and a little of the why a little too quickly but there were many other parts to the story so it didn’t matter as much. I especially loved the characters like The Lady, and the many varied adventures that Cory goes through during the course of the novel. From zombie dogs and river monsters to ghosts, bullies, floods, and many other things. Growing up in Zephyr, Alabama was quite an experience.

These are a couple of my favorite passages from Boy’s Life:

~ “I'd like to be everybody in the world," I said. "I'd like to live a million times." p. 11

~ There is something about nature out of control that touches a primal terror. We are used to believing that we’re the masters of our domain, and that God has given us this earth to rule over. We need this illusion like a good night-light. The truth is more fearsome: we are as frail as young trees in tornadoes, and our beloved homes are one flood away from driftwood. We plant roots in trembling earth, we live where mountains rose and fell and prehistoric seas burned away in mist. We and the towns we have built are not permanent; the earth itself is a passing train. When you stand in muddy water that is rising toward your waist and you hear people shouting against the darkness and see figures struggling to hold back the currents that will not be denied, you realize the truth of it: we will not win but we cannot give up. p.72

~ My bike, old in the ways of a boy’s life long before it had reached my hands by merit of a flea market, was no longer a living thing. I felt it, as I sat there in the pouring rain. Whatever it is that gives a soul to an object made by the tools of man, it had cracked open and flown to the watery heavens. p. 57

~ Because Death cannot be known. It cannot be befriended. If Death were a boy, he would be a lonely figure, standing at the playground's edge while the air rippled with other children's laughter. If Death were a boy, he would walk alone. He would speak in a whisper and his eyes would be haunted by knowledge no human can bear. p.344
Author Website: Archived Interviews and a page about Boy’s Life
Wikipedia: Robert R. McCammon & Boy's Life

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Power of Imagination

Alyss of Wonderland's rules has only just begun and already those who prefer chaos to peace are threatening to destroy everything worth imagining. Trailed by newly appointed Royal Bodyguard Homburg Molly, Alyss is doing her best to keep pace with the non-stop demands of being Queen while attempting to evade Molly for a few private moments with Dodge. Alyss's life is already a challenging mix of duty, love and imagining when a series of phantom sightings set fire to an urban myth of her imperial viciousness's return and have everyone. . . Seeing Redd.

Title: Seeing Redd
Author: Frank Beddor
Series: The Looking Glass Wars, Book 2
Start & Finished: 4/3/08
Published: 2007
Publisher: Dial
Pages: 384
Genre: Fiction-Fantasy

Skier, stuntman, actor, producer, and now author, Frank Beddor is certainly a man of many talents. After producing There’s Something About Mary, Mr. Beddor decided that he wanted to
create and then spent five years doing just that with The Looking Glass Wars. Rejected several times, his “true story” about Wonderland was finally published and a year later, the sequel Seeing Redd followed. Despite the many outraged Lewis Carroll fans, this trilogy (the last installment is to be released in 2009) has accumulated it’s own fan following inspiring a graphic novel featuring Hatter Madigan, an album of original music, and the author is rumored to be working on a screenplay for a movie adaptation as well.

I love it when an author includes people and things from the classics but I’ve found that I equally enjoy “re-tellings” of familiar and timeless stories as well. Not only are they recreating something new but they’re also generating interest in the old material as well for a new generation of people. Gregory Maguire (author of Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West) was mainly my go-to guy when it came to the “true story” re-tellings but I’ve enjoyed Beddor’s books even more.

The characters in the book have gone through some emotional developments in Seeing Redd. Alyss is still working on her Imagination because she went all those years in England not being able to use it, we learn why
Hatter Madigan had to request a vacation, and Molly’s childishness gets everyone in a really big mess too. Plus back in England, Charles Dodgeson (also known as Lewis Carroll) gets to meet his “Queen of Hearts” face to face while she’s building her army.

Despite the fact that this is the middle book of a trilogy it has a great ending but I’m still anxiously awaiting the release of the third book ArchEnemy (originally titled The Law of Wonderland). Alyss is doing a good job as queen but with so many obstacles in her path and so many people trying their hardest to take over, I think the ending could be anyone’s game.

LGW Trilogy:
1. The Looking Glass Wars (2004)
2. Seeing Redd (2007)
3. ArchEnemy (2009)

Hatter M: The Looking Glass Wars graphic novels
Far From Wonder : Volume 1 (2010) (with Liz Cavalier and Ben Templesmith)
1. Hatter M: The Looking Glass Wars Volume 1 (2008) (with Liz Cavalier)
2. Mad With Wonder (2009) (with Liz Cavalier)
3. The Nature of Wonder (2010) (with Liz Cavalier)

First Paragraph: Wonderland's finest architects had designed it and overseen its fabrication. The most skilled glaziers, carpenters, masons, and gemologists had worked tirelessly to ensure that even its smallest details were built according to plan: Heart Palace, imagined anew on the site of the former palace, which had stood for generations until being cruelly decimated by Redd.

Wikipedia- The Looking Glass Wars
Wikipedia- Seeing Redd
BookBrowse- Interview with Frank Beddor



Source: Personal collection, hardcover

Related Reviews
Disney's Alice in Wonderland (1951)
Visitors from Oz by Martin Gardner

Picture Explanations
Original artwork commissioned for book

Friday, July 18, 2008

Shirley Temple's Baby Burlesk Shorts

The Baby Burlesk series were satires of major motion pictures and the then current events. All of the performers were preschool-aged children. They were costumed as adults--excepting their giant diapers with pins--and given mature dialogue. Filmed in 1931-32, before the Hayes Code was actively enforced, the series is considered dated and exploitative by many modern viewers and film critics because of its depictions of young children in adult roles and situations.

Many of the children used in the series were recruited from Meglin's Dance School in Hollywood. One of them was Shirley Temple, who made her film debut in the Baby Burlesks at the age of three. Her first studio stand-in, Marilyn Granas, also appeared in a few of the pictures. Neither of the two leading actors of the series, Eugene Butler and Georgie Smith, went on to notable success.

Title: The Runt Page
Release: April 11, 1932
Genre: Comedy Short
Writer: Jack Hays
Director: Raymond Nazarro
Music By: James Dietrich
Produced By: Jack Hays
Distributed By: Universal Pictures
Run Time: 10 minutes

Shirley Temple, the most famous child star of all time, got her start in the Jack Hays and Charles Lamont Educational Films known as Baby Burlesks. These short skits featured a bunch of toddlers in diapers who depict scenes from famous movies. The first of these was a take-off of The Front Page (later adapted as His Girl Friday) called The Runt Page.

The only reason why some of these short parodies are even still around today are because how much the world loves Shirley Temple. Without her, this would have disappeared a long time ago or have been banned. It was an interesting look at Temple’s early career although it probably would have been better if the adult voices hadn’t been dubbed over the kids!

Title: War Babies
Release: September 18, 1932
Genre: Comedy Short
Writer: Jack Hays
Director: Charles Lamont
Produced By: Jack Hays
Distributed By: Educational Film Exchanges
Run Time: 10 minutes

The second Baby Burlesk short to be released, and probably the most popular one, is a spoof of the 1926 silent film What Price Glory. Originally to be titled What Price Gloria, it was instead decided to call it War Babies and give Shirley Temple a much bigger and better part than her first film.

Even if I had a hard time understanding what the kids were saying, I liked it more than having the adults dubbing their lines as they did with The Runt Page. I thought War Babies was a much cuter skit than Temple’s first screen appearance- and she even had a few lines in this one. Hays and Lamont may have not been the ideal filmmakers especially when it came to punishing the little actors but you can tell that the little French bar girl was having a good time.

Title: The Pie-Covered Wagon
Release: October 30, 1932
Genre: Comedy Short
Writer: Jack Hays
Director: Charles Lamont
Music: Alfonso Corelli
Produced By: Jack Hays
Distributed By: Educational Films Corp.
Run Time: 10 minutes

The first and only western made by the Baby Burlesk series was a spoof of the award-winning silent film The Covered Wagon that had premiered 10 years earlier. Altering the name only slightly to The Pie-Covered Wagon it’s basically a pioneers and Indians type of drama with Shirley Temple being saved just in time by the hero (played by Georgie Smith).

I didn’t enjoy this short at first because it was more about shouting and running around than anything else but then it got better even if it still had an Our Gang feel to it and Shirley had a very small part. I thought the pies as ammunition was hilarious and the dog had some of the best parts. Although the dog did talk once (in a growly weird voice), there was an even better line after the pioneers defeated the Indians:

The hero: “You should have been looking for Indians, not fooling around with bears!”
[The bear is swiftly approaching] Dynamite: “Boss, this bear ain’t foolin’!“

Title: Glad Rags to Riches
Release: February 5, 1933
Genre: Comedy Short
Writer: Jack Hays
Director: Charles Lamont
Music: Irving Bibo
Produced By: Jack Hays
Distributed By: Educational Film Exchanges
Run Time: 10 minutes

Unlike the previous Baby Burlesk shorts, this parody is an original about the Gay Nineties period (1890s) in America called Glad Rags to Riches. Shirley plays a showgirl called La Belle Diaperina that doesn’t want to perform anymore but she is trapped by her mean manager who will only release her if she marries him. As usual, her sweetheart saves her in the end.

Temple had a much bigger role than in the past shorts in Glad Rags. She acts, she sings, and she dances! It’s hard to believe she was only four years old when she made this. Actually the whole cast is terrific and they’re all around the same age but Shirley proves that she is most definitely the star.

Title: Kid N’ Hollywood
Release: March 14, 1933
Genre: Comedy Short
Writer: Jack Hays
Director: Charles Lamont
Music: Alfonso Corelli
Produced By: Jack Hays
Distributed By: Educational Films Corp.
Run Time: 10 minutes

Kids N’ Hollywood was a satire of Hollywood and some of its more famous actors at the time like Greta Garbo except of course by different names like Freta Snobo. In her autobiography Temple wrote: Kid in Hollywood cast me as a lowly, ambitious scrubwoman, rocketed in one blinding instant from anonymity to movie stardom. Within one year, this preposterous theme would be fact.

I liked this one and again little Shirley Temple steals the show as Morelegs Sweetrick (Marlene Dietrich). She can throw insults like no other, “Leave me, you oily-tongued rascal,” and her small musical number was good too. Her mother sewed most of Temple’s costumes in the Baby Burlesk series and the feathery one in this short was one of her favorites.

Title: Polly Tix in Washington
Release: June 4, 1933
Genre: Comedy Short
Writer: Jack Hays
Director: Charles Lamont
Music: Alfonso Corelli
Produced By: Jack Hays
Distributed By: Educational Films Corp.
Run Time: 10 minutes

In Polly Tix in Washington, Shirley Temple plays a girl on the payroll who is trying to corrupt an honest politician who is against castor oil and wants “A full milk bottle and a lollipop in every fist.” Ironically it was Temple who later in life went on as U.S. Representative to the Unite Nations and was also the first woman Ambassador and Chief of Protocol.

This is one of the more disturbing Baby Burlesks and I’m sure censors today would have a field day with it. However, it is probably an accurate portrayal of politics back then since it came out around the time of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal policy. It's just odd seeing a four-year-old play a call girl. Of course, Polly falls in love with the country senator by the end but again, this was an odd little short.

Title: Kid in Africa
Release: October 6, 1933
Genre: Comedy Short
Writer: Jack Hays
Director: Charles Lamont
Music: Lee Zahler
Produced By: Jack Hays
Distributed By: Educational Films Corp.
Run Time: 10 minutes

The last Baby Burlesk short was a satire of Tarzan called Kid in Africa in which Shirley Temple plays a missionary named Madame Cradlebait who is attempting to tame and civilize the cannibals of the jungle. When she is captured and about to be eaten, Diaperzan saves her from her grisly fate and helps her with her mission.

This is the other popular Baby Burlesk that has appeared in several Shirley Temple releases but usually two or three minutes are cut out of it. Usually the part when the cannibals fall down while chasing her (they were actually tripped with a thin wire and several were hurt). I’ve only seen the cut versions so I think it’s one of the better Burlesk’s and the ending is really funny!

LikeTelevision Embed Movies and TV Shows

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Not the Best-o but Good

When Tom Winters (Cary Grant) learns of his estranged wife's death, he decides that his three young children David, Elizabeth and Robert should live with him. But to his dismay, he learns the children don't like him very much and would prefer to live in the country with their Aunt Carolyn (Martha Hyer). After an encounter with Cinzia Zaccardi (Sophia Loren), the rebellious daughter of Italian conductor Arturo, the children ask if she could become their father's maid and look after them. Eager to escape her overbearing father, Cinzia decides to keep her socialite status a secret and accepts the position- even though she has no housekeeping skills. However, living with Tom and the children on a run-down houseboat isn’t any picnic!

Title: Houseboat
Release: November 19, 1958
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Writer: Melville Shavelson & Jack Rose
Director: Melville Shavelson
Music By: George Duning
Produced By: Jack Rose
Distributed By: Paramount Pictures
Run Time: 109 minutes

Starring Sophia Loren and Cary Grant, the 1958 romantic comedy Houseboat was nominated for several prestigious awards- including two Oscars for Best Music and Best Writing. According to gossip, Grant had accepted the leading role in the film for the sole purpose of being close to Loren with whom he had had a relationship with during one of their previous movies together but by the time filming started she had married producer Carlo Ponti for the first time. Despite this awkwardness, Grant and Loren performed well together but it also may be what kept this film from being as good as it could have been.

I had heard the name Sophia Loren a few times over the years but it wasn’t until Sallie over at The Vintage Place talked about her that I ever paid attention… especially after hearing her sing with that lovely Italian accent! Therefore, I asked what would be a good film of Loren’s for a first-timer and Sallie recommended Houseboat.

After taking her suggestion, I won’t say that I thought the movie was bad but it also wasn’t wonderful either. I found Sophia Loren to be very was beautiful though and at times, she resembled Audrey Hepburn- except more fiery and passionate. I also loved her little Bing, Bang, Bong Song that she sings throughout the movie and the kids were cute but had very little to do with the film (besides being the reason why Cinzia was hired of course).

Cary Grant’s charming dry wit completely won me over in His Girl Friday and Bringing Up Baby so I was expecting more of the same in Houseboat. Unfortunately, even though this was a romantic comedy- his forte, Loren manages to outshine him in every scene. Now I’m usually not one of those people who believe that an older, distinguished actor and a young Hollywood starlet shouldn’t play opposite one another in a romance but I believe the 30-year age difference between Grant and Loren worked against the comedy. If he would have been a decade younger or her a decade older then maybe it would have seemed like they were on more equal footing (like Katharine Hepburn and him in Baby).

Cary Grant Fan Site
Sophia Loren Fan Site


Bing Bang Bong:

Friday, July 11, 2008

Chocolate to Die For

After giving up her career as a Texas trophy wife, Lee McKinney finds herself in a Michigan resort town, keeping the books for her aunt Nettie's luxury chocolate business. But she soon discovers that her new life isn't all truffles and bonbons...

Clementine Ripley, the defense attorney everyone loves to hate, is throwing a party that calls for several thousand dollars worth of custom chocolates- some made in the image of her champion cat. Lee jumps at the job, but sweet success takes a bitter turn when someone adds an extra ingredient- cyanide- to one of their delicious chocolates and it finds its way into Ms. Ripley's mouth. Now it's up to Lee to figure out who tampered with the family recipe before she and her aunt end up behind no-so-chocolate bars.

Includes Yummy Chocolate Trivia!

Title: The Chocolate Cat Caper
Author: JoAnna Carl
Series: Chocoholic Mysteries, Book 1
Start & Finished: 3/25/08- 3/26/08
Published: 2002
Publisher: Berkley Signet
Pages: 240
Genre: Culinary Cozy Mystery

The author of the Down Home and the Nell Matthews mystery series, Eve Sandstorm was asked to add to the cozy mystery genre by her agent so once she picked her pen name JoAnna Carl (which is the three middle names of her children) and the beautiful setting of a small resort town where many wealthy people vacation, she then decided to add chocolate into the series (because who doesn’t love chocolate?) and thus The Chocolate Cat Caper, the first book in the delicious series, was created.

I’ve noticed that a lot of the good cozies lately have some kind of extra little something. For example: in a Joanne Fluke book, because the heroine owns a cookie shop you get all kinds of good recipes. In JoAnna Carl’s series however you get chocolate trivia which although I would love to know how the TenHuis Chocolade makes their truffles, the “Chocolate Chat” (which is mostly about chocolate origins and other random trivia) is a pretty original and interesting idea.

Lee “tangles her tongue” (kind of like Doc from Snow White) but other than that I really liked her and Warner Pier seems like it would be such a nice place to visit… when murders aren’t being committed of course! Oh and the Chocolade shop aunt Nettie (whom I adored) owns made me wish I had a similar shop around here since I’ve been craving a non-lethal truffle ever since I finished the book. I was very pleased to learn that all of Aunt Nettie’s chocolate is based on a real chocolate shop called Morgan Chocolate- and you can order from them online.

A properly done cozy mystery is truly a work of art. The author has to balance between giving only just enough clues away so at the vital moment the killer is revealed, the reader understands how and why the author came to that conclusion. At the same time, it’s incredibly easy to give either too many clues (to throw off the sleuth and the reader) or so many really good ones that the reader figures the whole thing out too early. If I know who the killer is without a doubt, and even the why before I reach 100 pages like I did with this one, then I’m usually disappointed. Thankfully there were still plenty of surprises, even a few red-herrings that almost threw me off. Not bad for the author’s first cozy debut!

After leaving her bad-news husband back in Texas, Lee McKinney moved up north to a quaint resort town. Now she keeps the books for her aunt's luxury chocolate shop. But Lee soon finds that Michigan winters can be murder...

Lee and Aunt Nettie can’t believe their luck. A teddy bear promotion will have tourists flocking to Warner Pier, which could mean skyrocketing sales for TenHuis Chocolade. To help decorate the scrumptious store, Gail, an antique dealer, lends them a collection of valuable chocolate molds. But after a burglary at the shop, Gail meets with a grisly fate- and the main suspect in her murder is Lee's troubled teenage stepson. Lee sets out to clear his name, but awakening long-hibernating secrets might be more than this daring crime solver can bear...

Includes Tasty Chocolate Trivia!

Title: The Chocolate Bear Burglary
Author: JoAnna Carl
Series: Chocoholic Mysteries, Book 2
Start & Finished: 3/29/08- 4/3/08
Published: 2002
Publisher: Berkley Signet
Pages: 225
Genre: Culinary Cozy Mystery

Set six month’s after JoAnna Carl’s debut mystery The Chocolate Cat Caper, the little resort town of Warner Pier is getting ready for their winter tourist attraction in the second Chocoholic Mystery, The Chocolate Bear Burglary. Before the Teddy Bear Getaway even begins there is a burglary and a murder in the little town and Lee McKinney is right in the thick of it.

After the first yummy story I couldn’t wait to venture back to Warner Pier and find out what kind of trouble Lee would land herself in next so I got the second book as quickly as I could. As soon as I got over the fact that she even had a stepson; since (although her ex-husband was mentioned, and even called her in the first book) the fact that she was a stepmother was never even brought up before now, I had to push all of Jeff’s drama aside to be able to get into the story.

I can’t say I really liked Lee’s love interest in this book either. Joe Woodyard (the guy whose ex-wife was killed in the first book) and their whole weird relationship annoyed me. So did all the “tongue-tangling”, also known as malapropisms, that the heroine does (but hers are more painfully embarrassing than funny) - even if it’s not as bad as in the first mystery.

Again, I was fairly certain who the killer was early on in the story but I wasn’t positive if that person had an accomplice or not. I did guess correctly about some things but others completely came as a shock to me like who was really on that snowmobile that tried to kill Lee.

The “Chocolate Chat” in Bear Burglary is mainly about mysteries that feature chocolate this time. Everything from Joe Morelli’s chocolate- colored eyes to a short story about a man poisoning his wife with chocolate through an ingenious way. Just a warning: make sure you have some chocolate of your own on hand when you start the book!

The Chocoholic Mystery Series: The Chocolate Cat Caper, The Chocolate Bear Burglary, The Chocolate Frog Frame-Up, The Chocolate Puppy Puzzle, The Chocolate Mouse Trap, The Chocolate Bridal Bash, The Chocolate Jewel Case, The Chocolate Snowman Murders (Oct. ‘08)

An interview with the author

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Dr. Seuss’ Moral Stories

Dr. Seuss on the Loose introduces Sam-I-Am, from Green Eggs and Ham who insists that everyone sample the dish he loves best! Plus, you'll encounter some very narrow-minded Sneetches and packs of Zax on the prairie of Prax! Brimming with fun, each story also offers a gentle life lesson for young imaginations!

Title: Dr. Seuss on the Loose
Release: October 15, 1973
Genre: Animated TV special
Writer: Dr. Seuss
Director: Hawley Pratt
Music By: Dean Elliott
Produced By: David H. DePatie, Friz Freleng, Theodor Geisel
Distributed By: DePatie- Freleng Enterprises (DFE)
Run Time: 30 minutes

The first cartoon in the Dr. Seuss on the Loose collection is story of The Sneetches and how the star-bellied Sneetches prejudice against the plain-bellied Sneetches with “no stars upon thars” cost them when Sylvester McMonkey McBean comes to call. After the Cat in the Hat’s lead in (he is what ties all of these stories together), the story of the Zax comes next. As in the first cartoon, this one also has a moral: the importance of compromise and finally the last cartoon shows and it’s the immensely popular Green Eggs and Ham.

It has been claimed that Ted Geisel used his feelings about anti-Semitism (prejudice against Jewish people) as the basis of the story for The Sneetches but as an article the Independent Lens states, “Dr. Seuss’s true genius may lie in the fact that all of this was done with such humor and finesse, that few realized he was being political at all.” I believe that The Sneetches can be related to by any child that has been deemed “not cool” because of the clothes they wear or the people they are friends with or any other number of things. A great “moral” story all around!

The second story, The Zax is the shortest cartoon in the Seuss on the Loose collection, being a little over three minutes long. I thought the rhyme was interesting and I loved the fact that Hans Conried (the narrator for Horton Hears a Who) is the narrator as well as one of the Zax’s voices but I didn’t really care for this cartoon as much.

Finally, the last cartoon and my favorite in Dr. Seuss On the Loose collection is Green Eggs and Ham. I just loved the Cat in the Hat’s lead in song about eggs and I was pleased to that the cartoon- and even the animation- stuck to the original Dr. Seuss story for the most part. Of course, whenever I read my favorite Dr. Seuss book I never pictured Paul Winchell (probably better known as Tigger) as the voice of Sam-I-Am’s unnamed friend but it does work!

Dr. Seuss on the Loose wasn’t my favorite animated adaptation, matter if fact none of the DePatie-Freleng Enterprises cartoons based on his books are but this was enjoyable nontheless!

Other Dr. Seuss Animated Cartoon Posts: 9 animated adaptations, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Halloween is Grinch Night

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Black Dagger Brotherhood Series, Books #1-4

Author: J. R. Ward
Series: The Black Dagger Brotherhood
Publisher: Signet Eclipse
Genre: Action, Paranormal Romance

In the shadows of the night in Caldwell, New York, there’s a deadly turf war going on between vampires and their slayers. There exists a secret band of brothers like no other - six vampire warriors, defenders of their race. Yet none of them relishes killing their enemies more than Wrath, the leader of the Black Dagger Brotherhood…

The only purebred vampire left on the planet, Wrath has a score to settle with the slayers who murdered his parents centuries ago. But when one of his most trusted fighters is killed - orphaning a half-breed daughter unaware of her heritage or her fate - Wrath must usher the beautiful female into the world of the undead…

Racked by a restlessness in her body that wasn’t there before. Beth Randall is helpless against the dangerously sexy man who comes to her at night with shadows in his eyes. His tales of brotherhood and blood frightens her. But his touch ignites a dawning hunger that threatens to consume them both…
Title: Dark Lover
Start & Finished: 3/21/08- 3/22/08
Published: 2005
Pages: 393

Vampires are some of the most compelling (and numerous) beings in paranormal romances but author J. R. Ward has raised the bar with her extremely popular Black Dagger Brotherhood series. Dark Lover is the first story about this slightly complex group of warriors who protect the innocent civilian vampire species from the evil Lessening Society but it’s core story is Wrath and Beth’s relationship (each Brother gets their own story in this way too).

For the past several years I have read tons of glowing reviews about the Brotherhood series so although I was still wary (especially after reading the glossary at the beginning) I finally gave in and read it. I quickly fell in love with this book even if some things (like the way the guys talk sometimes, especially since some are centuries old) drove me nuts but who can resist tormented vampire warriors in leather who kill bad guys? Needless to say, I picked up the next three books my library had the very next day.

I was impressed with how the author introduced the series and how she made each person in the huge cast of characters an individual so you're able to keep them all straight. However, I didn't really like how the narrative would switch over to the bad guys. Usually they have some redeeming qualities when an author lets their voice be heard but not so here- pure evil. Of course this made it all the more satisfying when one of the Brothers sent them back to re-meet their maker, the Omega.

The main character in Dark Lover is Wrath who is the king of his people (but he prefers not to be) -therefore he’s incredibly powerful:

Wrath was six feet, six inches of pure terror dressed in leather. His hair was
long and black, falling straight from a widow’s peak. Wraparound sunglasses hid
eyes that no one had ever seen revealed. Shoulders were twice the size of most
males’. With a face that was both aristocratic and brutal, he looked like the
king he was by birthright and the soldier he’d become by destiny. And that wave
of menace rolling ahead of him was one hell of a calling card.
He’s also almost completely blind. Each of the Brothers are “flawed” in a unique way but it helps define who they are and being all alpha males, their only weakness is their mate, with whom they bond with for life.

In the shadows of the night in Caldwell, New York, there’s a deadly turf war going on between vampires and their slayers. There exists a secret band of brothers like no other - six vampire warriors, defenders of their race. Possessed by a deadly beast, Rhage is the most dangerous of the Black Dagger Brotherhood.

Within the brotherhood, Rhage is the vampire with the strongest appetites. He’s the best fighter, the quickest to act on his impulses, and the most voracious lover- for inside him burns a ferocious curse cast by the Scribe Virgin. Owned by this dark side, Rhage fears the times when his inner dragon is unleashed, making him a danger to everyone around him.

Mary Luce, a survivor of many hardships, is unwittingly thrown into the vampire world and reliant on Rhage’s protection. With a life- threatening curse of her own, Mary is not looking for love. She lost her faith in miracles years ago. But when Rhage’s intense animal attraction turns into something more emotional, he knows that he must make Mary his alone. And while their enemies close in, Mary fights desperately to gain life eternal with the one she loves.
Title: Lover Eternal
Start & Finished: 3/22/08
Published: 2006
Pages: 464

After the overwhelming success of her first story Dark Lover in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, the second book Lover Eternal was published a mere five months later, something almost unheard of for a debut series! This particular story continues right were the first left off but Rhage is the main character instead of Wrath, although he along with the other Brothers are featured heavily throughout the story.

Rhage; also known as Hollywood because he’s drop-dead-gorgeous, is one of my favorite vampires in the Brotherhood. He’s just so yummy and yet lethal! I knew immediately after being introduced to him (and learning what his flaw was- he turns into a sort of dragon-beast, when threatened or hurt) in the first book that his would be one of the most interesting stories; besides Viscous and Zsadist’s, and I wasn’t disappointed.

J. R. Ward did a wonderful job convincing the reader and the characters themselves that Mary, although human, was the mate for this particular vampire warrior since she also has an internal affliction in the form of cancer. I loved them together because they truly seemed to connect but by the end of the book I just didn’t care for Mary as much. I’m hoping that will change in the future books though.

Besides Rhage and Mary’s relationship, quite a few other things- some good, some very, very bad happen throughout the course of Lover Eternal. The reader gets an even closer look into the lives of the Brotherhood while the war with the Lessening Society gets even uglier with more losses on both sides. My advice: after the shocking ending of this book, you might want to have the next story, Lover Awakened on hand to start immediately afterwards!

In the shadows of the night in Caldwell, New York, there’s a deadly turf war going on between vampires and their slayers. There exists a secret band of brothers like no other - six vampire warriors, defenders of their race. Of these, Zsadist is the most terrifying member of the Black Dagger Brotherhood.

A former blood slave, the vampire Zsadist still bears the scars from a past filled with suffering and humiliation. Renowned for his unquenchable fury and sinister deeds, he is a savage feared by humans and vampires alike. Anger is his only companion and terror his only passion- until he rescues a beautiful female from the evil Lessening Society.

Bella is instantly entranced by the seething power Zsadist possesses. But even as their desire for each other begins to overtake them, Zsadist’s thirst for vengeance against Bella’s tormentors drives him to the brink of madness. Now Bella must help her lover overcome the wounds of his tortured past and find a future with her…
Title: Lover Awakened
Start & Finished: 3/22/08- 3/24/08
Published: 2006
Pages: 462

J. R. Ward has claimed on many occasions that her favorite vampire in her Black Dagger Brotherhood series is the main character from Lover Awakened, Zsadist. Set a little more than a month after Lover Eternal, Zsadist is still relentlessly searching for Bella, and killing the evil members of the society that took her. Once he rescues her, she realizes he is in need of rescuing too from the internal demons that have pursued him for centuries.

Of all the Brothers so far, Zsadist’s story is it is the most heartbreaking. As Phury says, each of the Brothers is missing a part (or in the case of Rhage, has an unwanted part) and Zsadist’s is the fact that he was a blood slave for several years that was physically, emotionally, and sexually abused until Phury, his twin rescued him. By then it was too late since he had seemed to have lost most of his soul which made him all the more appealing to me (even though his evil streak did bother me sometimes).

Bella is my favorite shellan in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. She seems like the only person who could heal Zsadist. Its amazing how the author made such a damaged character that none of the Brothers really liked or trusted not only appealing but she also makes you fall in love with him.

Like all of the books, there are several little side plots going on throughout the story like Butch and Marissa‘s relationship, the Lessers get a new leader, Vishous gets more “screen time” (since his story is next in the series) and the reader finally finds out what his hand can do and why it’s so lethal. I also loved the little implied hints about John aka Tehrror and I can’t wait to find out more about him too so hopefully he gets his own book.

In the shadows of the night in Caldwell, New York, there’s a deadly turf war going on between vampires and their slayers. There exists a secret band of brothers like no other - six vampire warriors, defenders of their race. But now an ally of the Brotherhood is about to encounter his own dark desires…

Butch O’Neal is a fighter by nature. A hard-living ex-homicide cop, he’s the only human ever to be allowed in the inner circle of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. And he wants to go even deeper into the vampire world- to engage in the turf war with the lessers. He’s got nothing to lose. His heart belongs to a female vampire, an aristocratic beauty who’s way out of his league. If he can’t have Marissa, then at least he can fight side by side with the Brothers…

Fate curses him with the very thing he wants. When Butch sacrifices himself to save a civilian vampire from the slayers, he falls prey to the darkest force in the war. Left for dead, he’s found by a miracle, and the Brotherhood calls on Marissa to bring him back. But even her love may not be enough to save him…
Title: Lover Revealed
Start & Finished: 3/24/08- 3/25/08
Published: 2007
Pages: 455

Lover Revealed is the fourth story in J. R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood and it’s two main characters are Butch (aka Cop) and Marissa. Both of the main characters have been on the outskirts of the vampire community throughout the series. Butch because he’s human- the first human to ever fraternize with the Brotherhood ever- and Marissa because the vampire king Wrath (from Dark Lover) chose another woman over her and is therefore considered to be damaged goods by the vampire aristocracy.

I have to admit I was one of the people who were disappointed to learn that the author had decided to tell Butch’s story next instead of one of the other Brothers but I thought at least I could enjoy the many side plots throughout the book. Of course, I quickly got over my hang-ups and loved the whole thing even if I still didn’t care for Butch’s personality by the end. I was however thrilled that the females in the series are finally doing their part in helping take care of the vampire civilians.

Besides Zsadist’s mate Bella, I didn’t really care for any of the other females in this series and until this book; I didn’t really like Marissa either. She eventually won me over though because she’s just so compassionate and although she had been treated as if she was made of glass her whole life, she is able to survive and thrive in a different lifestyle than she is used to. Moreover, she really enjoys helping people and working in the shelters she helped create. It was wonderful to see her grow a backbone and stop being a pushover too!

There are many things about this series I loved but the main one would be the fact that although all of the Brothers lay their lives on the line nightly they aren’t heroic, however, they‘re such good guys! Each Brother has some kind of affliction, they’re super sexy, and of course they’re vampires (almost all vampires are born not bitten). Like I said, the entire series is complex and hard to explain since so many things happen in each book and you get to know all the characters too: Wrath, Vishous, Rhage, Zsadist, etc. All of whom would make any shellan happy!

The Black Dagger Brotherhood Series: Dark Lover, Lover Eternal, Lover Awakened, Lover Revealed, Lover Unbound, Lover Enshrined

Wikipedia has an article on The Black Dagger Brotherhood as well as on the author (under her real name Jessica Bird) and I joined J. R. Ward’s yahoo group about the Brotherhood too. I also found two interviews from 2006 and one from 2008. Lifetime's B(u)y the Book has a few videos with author too like why the Brothers are so appealing in addition to the ones below.

Author Discusses Writing:

Author Discusses Her Series:

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Living the American Dream

Academy Award winners Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe team with director Ridley Scott in this powerful, epic story. Armed with ruthless, streetwise tactics and a strict sense of honor, crime boss Frank Lucas (Washington) rules Harlem's chaotic drug underworld. When outcast cop Richie Roberts (Crowe) sets out to bring down Lucas's multimillion dollar empire, it plunges both men into a legendary confrontation.
Title: American Gangster
Release: November 2, 2007
Genre: Crime Drama
Writer: Marc Jacobson (article) & Steven Zaillian
Director: Ridley Scott
Music By: Marc Streitenfeld
Produced By: Brian Grazer & Ridley Scott
Distributed By: Universal Pictures
Run Time: 176 minutes
Official Site

Ridley Scott has directed a few wonderful movies like Hannibal, Gladiator, & Thelma and Louise (just to name a few) so I knew American Gangster should be good and the trailers just about confirmed it for me. Even though it was met with quite a few mixed reception by the critics, the box office numbers (and the many award nominations... and wins) don’t lie, this was one fantastic film!

Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe's characters were so compelling that even I wasn't sure if I should root for the gangsters or the cops- especially since a good majority of the cops were dirty. One of the reasons it was hard to pick a side was that the two main adversaries (Frank Lucas played by Washington and Detective Roberts played by Crowe) were a lot alike but just happened to be on opposites sides of the law. I also loved Ruby Dee in this film (she plays Washington’s mother) and apparently I’m not alone because she was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar and quite a few other awards as well.

An amazing, edgy, dark film that was even more interesting since it was based on the story of Frank Lucas; the real drug lord and one of the most notorious gangsters in America, whom I must say Denzel Washington should have won, or at least been nominated for an Oscar for playing. I thought it was really interesting that they had some of the actual real people that the movie portrays on set too. Of course, more than half of the film was more “Hollywood than real,” I still thought it was a great “crime” movie with an incredible cast and even better plot.

Reelz Channel has tons of interesting behind-the-scenes looks, interviews, and even reviews on their page about American Gangster (all in video format). Wikipedia and have their own respective pages as well.


Original Song:

Washington Talks About Lucas:

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