Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tale of Imagination

Gerald, Kathleen, and Jimmy hope to find adventure when they set off to explore the woods, but they get far more than they bargained for when they discover the Enchanted Castle.

At first they seem to be in a fairy tale come true, until a friend turns invisible, thanks to a magic ring that she can’t remove. Adventure follows adventure as they seek to control the magic – but the magic has a will of its own and it is all they can do to keep up.

Faced with sleeping princesses, magic rings, and moonlit gardens filled with enchantment, the children must use all their courage and ingenuity to control the magic and solve the mystery surrounding the Enchanted Castle.

Title: The Enchanted Castle
Author: E. Nesbit
Illustrator:
Paul Zelinsky
Published: 1907
Publisher: Books of Wonder
Pages: 288
Genre: Children’s Fantasy

E. Nesbit’s imaginative and superbly well-written, The Enchanted Castle is a modern children’s fantasy story, which is even more surprising since it was first published in 1907! This incredible
writer’s works have inspired several other children's writers over the years including C. S. Lewis who mentions some of Nesbit's characters in one of his Chronicles of Narnia books.

If it wasn’t for my online reading group,
The Childrens Books of Yesterday choosing The Enchanted Castle as January's group read, I probably wouldn't have picked up the book on my own. I have heard of Nesbit before but I didn’t think it would really appeal to me. Was I ever wrong!

Just about everything a kid has ever imagined- invisibility, growing tall, growing older, even turning into a statue- happens to the four children in this novel... and they can’t seem to stay out of trouble! I liked both Gerald and Kathleen more than any of the other characters because Mabel and Jimmy were both immature and annoying characters. Eliza was another favorite character even though she refused to believe her own little adventure with the magic ring but adults always do, don't they? I couldn’t imagine not being completely terrified those Ugly-Wugglies though!

Many of Mrs. Nesbit’s books have been made into movies over the years
and The Enchanted Castle is no exception. It was made into a TV series in 1979 by the BBC but that’s about all the information I can find on it. I’ve included several of the illustrations from my book here which are by Paul O. Zelinsky who has also illustrated some of Nesbit’s other stories (you can click to enlarge).

The Enchanted Castle has now passed into public domain so several sites have uploaded the entire book but the
Gutenberg Project’s version is one of the best and LibriVox has the audio book online too. I also found an interesting article about E. Nesbit’s works by the New York Review of Books.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Melting the Ice Man

Never get in the way of a mission...

The job was supposed to be dead easy—hand–deliver some legal papers to billionaire philanthropist Harry Van Dorn’s extravagant yacht, get his signature and be done. But Manhattan lawyer Genevieve Spenser soon realizes she’s in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that the publicly benevolent playboy has a sick, vicious side. As he tries to make her his plaything for the evening, eager to use and abuse her until he discards her with the rest of his victims, Genevieve must keep her wits if she intends to survive the night.

But there’s someone else on the ship who knows the true depths of Van Dorn’s evil. Peter Jensen is far more than the unassuming personal assistant he pretends to be—he’s a secret operative who will stop at nothing to ensure Harry’s deadly Rule of Seven terror campaign dies with him. But Genevieve’s presence has thrown a wrench into his plans, and now he must decide whether to risk his mission to keep her alive, or allow her to become collateral damage….


Title: Cold as Ice
Author: Anne Stuart
Series: Ice Series
Published: 2006
Publisher: MIRA Books
Pages: 360
Genre: Romance- Adventure, Contemporary

Cold as Ice is the second novel in Anne Stuart's romantic suspense Ice series which involves an organization called the Committee and their "employees" who save the world by eliminating the bad guys. Each book in the Ice series is about one of the Committee's individual members (which you are introduced to in the previous novel, Black Ice- Bastien Toussaint's story) and their current mission.

Peter Masden, aka the Ice Man is one of the best operators the Committee currently has, especially since Bastien retired but even he is no match for the lawyer Genevieve Spenser! They seem perfect for each other from the very beginning even if they drive one another insane. Even if I didn’t like the romance genre (which I love), I’d still like the Ice series because of the action packed suspense. The car chases, blowing up houses and boats, world destruction threats, you name it, Cold as Ice has it!

Although I really enjoyed reading the second book in the Ice series, it wasn’t as great as the first book but I did enjoy it and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series. Hopefully the heroines will start being as real as the males in the stories.

Anne Stuart’s Wikipedia entry has a complete bibliography of all her books and you can find an excerpt of Cold as Ice here. ARA also has a 2006 interview with the author about the entire Ice series.

The Ice Series:

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Love That Transcends Time

Dr. Kate Forester (Sandra Bullock) has finally found romance. Trouble is, it’s a long-distance relationship. She’s in downtown Chicago. He’s in a remote lakeside suburb. And there’s more: She’s in 2006. He’s in 2004. It begins when Kate moves out of her visually stunning lake house and leaves a note for the next tenant, architect Alex Wyler (Keanu Reeves). They begin a correspondence and soon come to realize they are meant for each other... and that, somehow, they live two years apart. Can they ever meet? What would happen if they tried? Magical and emotionally rich, The Lake House is a love story for 2004, for 2006, for all times.

Title: The Lake House
Release: June 16, 2006
Genre: Drama-Romance
MPAA Rating: PG
Writer: David Auburn
Director: Alejandro Agresti
Produced By: Sonny Mallhi
Distributed By: Warner Brothers
Run Time: 98 minutes
Official Site

One of the sweetest, romantic movies in years, The Lake House stars two of Hollywood’s best actors, Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock reunited for the first time in 12 years. Some of the movie is actually kind of confusing because it messes with time until you stop trying to make sense of the temporal paradox. This film was based on the South Korean movie called Il Mare.

I’ve always thought Sandra Bullock was a great actress but she’s never actually made me cry before like she did in The Lake House. It was such a good movie! I was able to figure out the “major plot twist” pretty early into the movie but that didn’t stop me from worrying that I might not get my happy-ever-after ending.

The setting is one of the most important things in the whole film and believe me, it’s a gorgeous , if unusual piece of architecture designed by Alex’s father played by the stately Christopher Plummer. It wasn’t hard to believe that such a beautiful place could make people love it so much at all. I also really liked the dog Jack and how vital she was to their getting together.

Imdb.com and Wikipedia both have articles on The Lake House and Hollywood.com has cast interviews and the movie premiere.

Trailer:


The View Interview:


The View 2:

Monday, January 21, 2008

Love at Last Glance

Lucy Kelson (Sandra Bullock) – a brilliant attorney with a strategic mind who's more interested in saving her Coney Island neighborhood than in earning a big paycheck – is presented with the opportunity to do both when she accepts a position as chief counsel for real estate tycoon George Wade (Hugh Grant).

However, the handsome, charming but totally self-absorbed Wade pushes Lucy to the limit by treating her more like a nanny than the Harvard Law School grad she is. When Lucy decides to quit, her two weeks notice makes them realize they have fallen in love.

Title: Two Weeks Notice
Release: December 18, 2002
Genre: Romantic Comedy
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Writer: Marc Lawrence
Director: Marc Lawrence
Produced By: Sandra Bullock
Distributed By: Warner Bros.
Run Time: 101 minutes
Official Site

Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock; the king and queen of romantic comedies, finally get together in one of their own in writer Marc Lawrence’s directorial debut Two Weeks Notice.
It’s the classic plot line of girl falls in love with annoying man and neither doesn’t realize that
they love one another until it’s almost too late but with Grant and Bullock holding the reins you know you’re in for a treat!

I had been in the mood for a good romantic comedy when I stumbled across Two Weeks Notice and when I realized who was in it I knew I would love it before I even watched it! Sandy and Hugh are just incredibly charismatic and have this ability to have chemistry with whomever they’re co-starring with so you truly believe that they will fall in love.

Most people believe that if you’ve seen one romantic comedy, you’ve seen them all and that may be true to an extent but I honestly believe that ones like this become almost like comfort food for when life gets you down and you need to believe in fairy tales. Even when they pair a lawyer with a playboy.

Wikipedia and imdb.com have plenty of information on Two Weeks Notice but About.com also has a text interview with the stars of the film available.

Trailer:

Bloopers:



Interview:

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Great Knight Read

Men in tights...
... never looked so good. At least that's Pepper Marsh's first impression when she attends a jousting competition at the Renaissance Faire in Ontario. An unemployed and unattached software engineer, Pepper has had enough of the computer geeks in her dating pool. She yearns for a man of yore. A man not afraid to stare death in the face and laugh at it. A man with a big lance...

Pepper's cousin has promised to find her a knight in shining armor, on the condition that Pepper walk around in wench garb. With her mind on her embarrassingly revealing bustier, Pepper promptly steps into the path of an oncoming steed... and is rescued by sexy Englishman Walker McPhail. Once the wild man of jousting, Walker has let a brush with death keep him out of the ring. Though his emotions are clad in almost impenetrable armor, Pepper finds Walker infuriatingly sexy- and she’s about to go medieval on his heart...


Title: Hard Day’s Knight
Author: Katie MacAlister
Published: 2005
Publisher: Signet Eclipse
Pages: 346
Genre: Romance-Contemporary

Saucy, quirky, and fun would be the best way to describe any good wench and of course any Katie MacAlister book! This is especially true in her contemporary romance Hard Day’s Knight which is set in a present day Renaissance festival complete with jousting of course.

I’ve actually never had the pleasure of going to a Renaissance Fair before but MacAlister did a good job of making the audience feel like the setting was very real. I do however think she went a little too far into some details that I could have cared less about but I suppose someone would have complained about it if she hadn’t. Either way, you can tell MacAlister did her research and really enjoyed working on this book.

As much as I liked all of the characters in this book I would have to say the grumpy feline Moth completely stole the show! I’ve noticed that even if I love the characters in this authors books, I’ll always like the animals more. They have just as much personality as their owners (especially Moth) but they don’t necessarily have to follow the rules of typical animal sidekicks.

Hard Day’s Knight was an interesting short book that I enjoyed and that I learned more about jousting and wenching than I ever could want to know. I wouldn’t mind if there was a sequel to Pepper and Walker’s story but mainly because I’d like to see more of Moth. Now I just need to find a Renaissance festival around here somewhere and get a pair of those devil horns for my kitty too!

If you would like to read an excerpt from Hard Day’s Knight there is one available on MacAlister’s website and if you would like more information on the author and her books, Wikipedia has an article. There is a behind-the-scenes podcast for this book as well. As I mentioned, MacAlister did some research before she wrote this story including joining the International Wenches Guild and talking to people from the Seattle Knights performance troupe.
Other Katie MacAlister Posts by Me:

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Classic Oz Characters in the Real World

Ever Since The Wizard of Oz was first published in 1900, Dorothy and her companions have captured the imaginations of Americans, both young and old. Generations of readers raised on L. Frank Baum’s incredible Oz books, and on books by his worthy successors, will be amazed and entranced by Martin Gardner’s exciting account of further adventures of Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Woodman in the United States. Indeed, by placing the story in Manhattan of the late 1990s, with cameo appearances by Rudy Giuliani, Oprah Winfrey, and Geraldo Rivera, Gardner has for the first time ingeniously adapted Baum’s immortal characters to an American setting.

While a century’s worth of readers has enjoyed the Oz series, it is not generally known that in Baum’s fifth Oz book, Ozma teleported Dorothy and her aunt and uncle permanently to Oz. Nor is it known that Glinda moved Oz to a parallel world. In Gardner’s wild novel, Dorothy and her faithful friends visit several towns in Oz- including Wonderland, a new Mount Olympus, and Ballville- before they arrive in New York’s Central Park by way of a mathematical curiosity called a Klein Bottle.

The purpose of their visit to Earth is to publicize a new musical film about Oz. But plans go awry when two evil mobsters, hired by a wicked rival movie producer, try to kill Dorothy and her companions. In their desperate attempts to flee these villains, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Woodman find themselves in a series of precarious predicaments across New York City. Combining vivid suspense with a host of mathematical riddles and technological pyrotechnics, Martin Gardner has created a new fable in the finest tradition of L. Frank Baum that celebrates the power of imaginations and the lure of an ageless heroine named Dorothy at the turn of a new century.

A jewel of a story, Visitors from Oz will bedazzle children and adults alike for decades to come.

Title: Visitors from Oz: The Wild Adventures of Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Woodman
Author: Martin Gardner
Illustrator: Ted Enik
Published: 1998
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Pages: 189
Genre: Fiction-Fantasy

Sequels to and stories about The Wizard of Oz have proven to be very popular over the last 100 years since the first story was published by L. Frank Baum, making them some of the most immortal characters of all time. The mathematician and author, Martin Gardner manages to
mix the old with something entirely new in this clever little story called Visitors from Oz: The Wild Adventures of Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Woodman.

When I was younger I read a few of the Oz books and again when I was a little older but somehow I never did manage to read all of them. Although Gardner refers to many characters from the Oz books he also explains who they are for the most part so people like me who aren’t entirely familiar with the classic characters from the original stories don’t become hopelessly confused.

From what I remember though, the characters in this Oz do seem to be the same as Baum portrayed them even if the illustrations included in the book by Ted Enik don’t resemble the original ones at all. They are beautiful though and I really liked how well they depict the story.

I simply adored Visitors from Oz but I didn’t think I would like the story at first because it starts off so slow (and confusing!) but once Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Woodman left on their journey and started visiting the other lands inside Oz, I was instantly hooked. I loved all three lands that they visited but my favorite would have to be Wonderland. The best lines in the whole book take place there:

The pink caterpillar turned the end of his hookah toward the straw man. "But who are you?" The Scarecrow did his best to explain. "And who are you?" the caterpillar asked the tin man. After the Tin Woodman told his story, the caterpillar waggled his head from side to side. "We've had plenty of weirdos visit Wonderland, in and out of sleep, but you two take the cake."
I sincerely hope that Martin Gardner decides to write another sequel to this! I would love to visit more “Ozzy towns”!

There isn’t too much information on Martin Gardner online but Wikipedia has an interesting article on him as well as on all the books about Oz. The International Wizard of Oz Club is mentioned several times in the preface as well as their magazine the Baum Bugle.



First Paragraph: N/A

Source: Borrowed from husband's aunt


Related Reviews
Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
Disney's Alice in Wonderland (1951)
The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
Seeing Redd by Frank Beddor

Picture Explanations
Illustrations by Ted Enik

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Poetry for Kids

William Butler Yeats was one of the finest modern poets in the English language - and also a playwright, theatre manager, politician, and believer in fairies and ghosts. He brings to life the drama, mysticism, and haunting beauty of his native Ireland in this selection of 26 of his most accessible and mesmerizing poems.

Matching the splendor of Yeats' written images is a series of breathtaking paintings, which range from Ireland's atmospheric natural landscape to vivid portraits of his wonderful characters - human, animal, and fantastic.

In "The Song of Wandering Aengus," the legendary god of love, youth, and poetry is on a quest to locate the magical girl who was changed from a fish into a human being - but she is very hard to find. Yeats was inspired to write "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" while standing in a bustling London street. "I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore; / While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey, / I hear it in the deep heart's core." "The Hosting of the Sidhe" imagines the strange and powerful fairies of Ireland galloping on horseback across the landscape of County Sligo. Read it aloud, and you'll find that its beat is like the regular rhythm of galloping horses. A fierce and terrible battle seen in a dream is at the heart of "The Valley of the Black Pig," in which Yeats imagines spears, warriors on horseback, and the shouts and cries of the fallen.

Title: Poetry for Young People: William Butler Yeats
Editor: Jonathan Allison
Illustrator: Glenn Harrington
Series: Poetry for Young People Series
Published: 2002
Publisher: Sterling Publishing Co.
Pages: 48
Genre: Poetry-Children

The Sterling Publishing Co. has released a series of books called Poetry for Young People in which they take popular poems from great authors like Robert Frost, Rudyard Kipling, Lewis Carroll, William Butler Yeats, etc. and pair them with beautiful illustrations to appeal to a young audience. The editor, Jonathan Allison also includes a mini-biography of the poet as well as an explanation of what each poem is about and a glossary for the unfamiliar words at the bottom of each poem. Hopefully this will get them interested in poetry at a young age.

I’ve always liked William Butler Yeats (or WB Yeats as he was sometimes called) because of his familiarity with faeries and such but I never really took the time to find out anything about the author himself nor much about some of his poems until now. I wouldn’t mind looking up more of his poems or books about him soon. He was such an interesting man and with as many things as he was actively involved in I find it amazing that he ever found time to write at all!

I found many poems that I had never read before and really enjoyed them but my favorite poem by Mr. Yeats will always be The Stolen Child. There is just something so lyrical about the prose that makes you want to sing the poem instead of read it.

The award-winning Glenn Harrington has beautifully brought to life each poem on every page. The Sidhe in the painting for the poem The Hosting of the Sidhe look like they’ll start running just the second you turn your back! I thoroughly enjoyed reading the poems provided and these paintings only enriched the experience. After all, what’s a children’s book without pictures in it?

WB Yeats’ poetry has now entered the public domain so you can find almost all of his poems online now and Wikipedia has an article on the man himself too. I also found plenty of videos on YouTube that feature Yeats and/or his poetry.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Two Myth-Chievous Tales

A modern woman and a god from an ancient legend? Surely an epic love mismatch... or maybe it’s the “myth match” of the century? The irrepressible Katie MacAlister brings is heroes who are more than mere mortals in two sparkling new novellas of the Otherworld.

Stag Party
Dane Hearne- also known as the Irish fertility god Cernunnos- must choose a bride quickly. His longtime goddess has run off with a salsa dancer, and Dane must be married by Beltane, just a week away, or become a mortal- and die. When he meets American travel writer Megan St. Clair, he knows he’s found his soul mate. But while Dane is a sexy Irish hunk with his fair share of blarney, can he convince Megan to marry him in just one week?

Norse Truly
Alrik Sigurdson is cursed to sail his Viking ship along the same stretch of Scandinavian coastline forever. So when lovely American Brynna Lund skids her car off the road into the ocean, he and his men are happy for the diversion of rescuing her. The Alrik discovers that Brynna is the only woman who can break the curse. Is it any wonder that he’s determined to keep her... forever?

Title: Ain’t Myth-Behaving
Author: Katie MacAlister
Published: 2007
Publisher: Pocket Star
Genre: Romance-Contemporary, Fantasy
Pages: 353
Rating: 5 stars

Katie MacAlister takes classic mythology and turns it on it’s ear in her book Ain’t Myth-Behaving, which is actually two different stories compiled into one volume. This was the second book I have ever read by the wonderful MacAlister but it’s the one that has guaranteed that I would be reading more from this fabulous and imaginative author.

In Stag Party the gods from old Irish myths (and I’ve always loved mythology!) are brought to life but with a completely new twist: humans become gods and can live for hundreds, even thousands of years. Essentially it’s just a job title like a manager position and there is usually someone who would love to take the place of the current god or goddess (the only way to do this is to kill the current god) but that doesn’t make it any less interesting.

Dane Hearne has had the position of the god
Cernunnos for a really long time and I’m not sure if it’s because of his god status or not but he’s a very egocentric and pushy person. Not really mean or anything but he does believe he’s the god and goddess’ gift to women so it was fun watching Megan knock him down a peg or two! She’s a great character, and just the person to play opposite of him. There were other minor characters that I liked too (especially the toy poodle hell hounds!) but I really enjoyed the quirky plot more than anything else.

Norse Truly is a completely different story and the plot isn't as complex as the previous novella but there are still many references to gods and mythology. It’s just Norse mythology this time and the characters are much more interesting, even if they are a little rough around the edges but what else would you expect from Vikings?

Alrik, Brynna, and the rest seem to be a bit more fleshed out and real than the characters in Stag Party. I thought the quest to get Momo Hildi’s ring back was a little too long but I really enjoyed the story. I really hope MacAlister decides to write more about the gods and goddesses in some future book!

If you would like more information on Katie MacAlister than what her website provides
Wikipedia has an article on her. January 15, 2008 she is supposed to do a behind-the-scenes podcast on Ain’t Myth-Behaving that I’m really looking forward to and here's an excerpt from the book. If some of the names in the novel are a little unfamiliar to you, Wikipedia has articles on both Celtic mythology and Norse mythology and here’s the website on the Pippi Longstocking park where Alrik found Odin.

Other Katie MacAlister Posts by Me:

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The World is His

He loved the American Dream. With a Vengeance.

In the spring of 1980, the port at Mariel Harbor was opened, and thousands set sail for the United States. They came in search of the American Dream. One of them found it on the sun-washed avenues of Miami... wealth, power and passion beyond his wildest dreams. he was Tony Montana. The world will remember him by another name... Scarface.

Al Pacino gives an unforgettable performance as Tony Montana, one of the most ruthless gangsters ever depicted on film, in this gripping crime epic inspired by the 1932 classic of the same title. Directed by hit-maker Brian De Palma and produced by Martin Bergman who brought both Godfather legends to the screen, Scarface follows in the violent career of a small-time Cuban refugee hoodlum who guns his way to the top of Miami's cocaine empire.

Title: Scarface
Release: December 9, 1983
Genre: Drama-Crime
MPAA Rating: R
Writer: Oliver Stone
Director: Brian De Palma
Produced By: Martin Bregman
Distributed By: Universal Pictures
Run Time: 170 minutes
Official Site

Probably the best known and most often quoted movie of all time, the film that all other crime-type movies are judged by would have to be the 1983 hit, Scarface starring Al Pacino as Tony Montana. As an essential part of part of American pop culture as this is, it almost didn’t make it because of the controversial violence (the MPAA tried to slap an X rating on it) and it hardly even made a profit at the box office when it was released. Now, it’s almost 25 years later and Scarface is still going strong.

I’ve always been a big fan of Al Pacino’s larger-than-life acting style and yet somehow I never did manage to watch Scarface until this past weekend. I’m amazed at how much I enjoyed it... even if I did think the wardrobe’s and sets were tacky!

I don’t know if Scarface will last another 25 years or not but if I was a betting person I’d say it will. Like Tony says, "You need people like me. You need people like me so you can point your fuckin' fingers and say, "That's the bad guy... So say good night to the bad guy! Come on. The last time you gonna see a bad guy like this again, let me tell you."

Wikipedia, imdb.com, and Gonemovie.biz all have information available for Scarface and here’s a fansite as well.


Trailer:

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

All Alone in New York City

Robert Neville (Will Smith) is a brilliant scientist, but even he could not contain the terrible virus that was unstoppable, incurable...and manmade. Somehow immune, Neville is now the last human survivor in what is left of New York City...and maybe the world. But he is not alone. He is surrounded by "the Infected"--victims of the plague who have mutated into carnivorous beings who can only exist in the dark and who will devour or infect anyone or anything in their path. For three years, Neville has spent his days scavenging for food and supplies and faithfully sending out radio messages, desperate to find any other survivors who might be out there. All the while, the Infected lurk in the shadows, watching Neville's every move, waiting for him to make a fatal mistake. Perhaps mankind's last, best hope, Neville is driven by only one remaining mission: to find a way to reverse the effects of the virus using his own immune blood. But his blood is also what The Infected hunt, and Neville knows he is outnumbered and quickly running out of time.

Title: I Am Legend
Release: December 14, 2007
Genre: Science Fiction, Horror
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Writer: Akiva Goldsman, Mark Protosevich, & Richard Matheson (Novel)
Director: Francis Lawrence
Produced By: Akiva Goldsman, David Heyman, Erwin Stoff
Distributed By: Warner Brothers
Run Time: 100 minutes
Official Site

I Am Legend is a creepy, post-apocalyptic film that seems to take Stephen King’s The Stand and instead of the (man-made) virus killing everyone, it turned them into freaky monsters. To be brutally honest, I didn’t like the movie because the plot felt borrowed, it played the “last man left in New York” scenario up too much, and I really didn’t care for the ending either.

Now Will Smith is a different story altogether because he was wonderful and I thought he completely carried the film. There are very few who won’t agree that Smith is one of the most versatile actors today. He can easily play a comedy, a romance, and even a tear-jerker. Actually I thought he was the only redeeming quality of I Am Legend!

I’d like it to be known that I went to see the film with four other people and only one of them enjoyed it but according to various websites, more people seemed to like it than not. That’s actually why I suggested seeing the film in the first place!

If you would like to read more information about the film itself Wikipedia, imdb.com, and reelzchannel.com all have interesting facts and interviews.

Trailer:


Premiere:

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A Whale of a Tale

This gamegirl has wreaked havoc on the high seas—but the tide is about to turn…

In the Internet Virtual Reality game of “Buckling Swashes,” Earless Erika and Black Corbin are two of the most deadly pirates to sail the online seas. And now they’ve met their matches: each other.

But fearless Earless Erika is really just Amy—a financial analyst with little time in her life for anything but work. And Corbin is none other than the man behind the game—owner and CEO of the parent company. He’s intrigued by Amy, the only buccaneer to best him in this test of digital testosterone, while she just wants to take his arrogance down a peg. But soon the two find themselves comrades at arms against a merciless rival bent on Corbin’s destruction—both on the virtual high seas and in real life. Only by setting aside their differences can they locate the actual people behind the swaggering swashbucklers—and along the way, find that love can tame even the most fearsome of pirates.

Shiver me timbers…

Title: Blow Me Down
Author: Katie MacAlister
Published: 2005
Publisher: Signet Eclipse (Penguin Group)
Pages: 359
Genre: Romance-Contemporary, Historical, Science-Fiction

I had never read a
Katie MacAlister novel before I picked Blow Me Down up so I was more than a little wary, especially when I realized it was set almost entirely inside an online video game (something I can’t say I’m very fond of) but I absolutely adored it! The plot of the book was very strange and yet it was also almost believable.

I loved how the characters were original, relatable, funny, and almost real. I especially liked Amy because she could be a tough pirate one moment but still be able to ask for help when she needed it. Amy’s “pirate with a shining rapier” Corbin wasn’t too bad either, although not someone I would usually like because to be quiet honest, he was a geek. A cute piratey geek not afraid of expressing his feelings, but a geek nonetheless. Besides those two, the other most interesting characters in the game... I mean book, would be Bas and his bird Bran. Well, Bas was just a weird little kid (with a hook for one of his hands!) obsessed with death that no one liked until Amy decided to pretty much adopted him but I really liked his bird.


I think the reason why I was able to enjoy the book so much was because it was set in present day (with James Bond references and everything) but at the same time it was authentically set in the piratey times too. I’d love to be able to travel to other time periods just by putting on a pair of glasses and sitting in front of a computer but I most definitely wouldn’t want to get stuck there like Amy and the others did!

If
you would like more information on the author and her books, Wikipedia has an article. As MacAlister says in her behind-the-scenes podcast (and at the end of the novel itself), she was inspired to write Blow Me Down after playing the real multiplayer online role-playing game called Puzzle Pirates. Yarr!

First Sentence: "You know what your problem is?"

Related Reviews:
A Girls Guide to Vampires (2003)
Hard Day's Night (2005)
Ain't Myth-Behaving (2007)
My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon anthology (2007)

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Exciting Fast-Paced Romantic Suspense

Living paycheck to paycheck in Paris, American book translator Chloe Underwood would give anything for some excitement and passion — even a little danger. So when she's offered a lucrative weekend gig translating at a business conference in a remote chateau, she jumps at the chance to shake things up.

Then by chance Chloe discovers her employers are anything but the entrepreneurs they appear, and suddenly she knows far too much. Her clients are illegal arms dealers, and one of them is ordered to kill her. But instead, Bastien Toussaint drags Chloe away, and the next thing she knows she's on the run with the most terrifying and seductive man she's ever met. What were his motives — and would she live long enough to find out?

Title: Black Ice
Author: Anne Stuart
Series: Ice Series, Book 1
Published: 2005
Publisher: MIRA Romantic Suspense (Harlequin)
Pages: 444
Genre: Romance- Contemporary, Suspense

Anne Stuart has written quite a few novels in her lifetime, some of these being part of series but her most recent are her romantic suspense Ice Series set in various interesting places with various leading characters. The first book in this series is Black Ice in which Chloe and Bastien’s story is told.

I’d been hearing a lot about Anne Stuart’s Ice series on various blogs for the last couple of months when I won the third book Ice Blue from
J. Kaye’s Book Blog Raffle so I figured it was as good a time as any to start the series. I have to say that I really liked it!

I thought Chloe was an interesting and strong main character because she never got too hysterical the entire time her life was being threatened (which was more times than not) and the fact that she could speak dozens of different languages was really cool but the real reason I loved Black Ice was of course Bastien. He was such an appealing devil! Cynical, jaded, and yet still the knight in shining armor... sorta.

Black Ice was an enjoyable experience for me but I have to admit that the book wasn’t unforgettable. The atmosphere and mood seemed to carry the story a lot and Bastien was much more interesting and complex than Chloe. Still, I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of the series pans out.

Stuart says, “This was a gift book for me, one the universe delivered when I was riding in a taxi in Paris, and it comes with a sound track. Listen to Japanese Rock and Roll, French Rock (Marc Lavoine, Florent Pagny) and maybe some Pretenders. Enjoy!” Well I wouldn’t know where to start with the Japanese stuff but I looked up the other people she mentions including Chloe’s great weakness Charles Aznavour (
listen to Bohemia here) and although I couldn’t understand a word, it’s still very beautiful!

There is an
excerpt from Black Ice available on Anne Stuart’s website and if you would like more information on Anne Stuart than her website provides, Wikipedia has an article on her with a list of her books in chronological order.

Ice Series:
1. Black Ice (2005)
2. Cold as Ice (2006)
3. Ice Blue (2007)
4. Ice Storm (2007)
5. Fire and Ice (2008)

First Paragraph: People might go on and one about springtime in Paris, Chloe Underwood thought as she walked down the street huddled in her coat, but there was really nothing to compare to winter in the City of Lights. By early December the leaves were gone, the air was crisp and cool and enough of the tourists had left to make life bearable. In August she always wondered why on earth she'd chosen to pull up stakes and move three thousand miles away from her family. But then winter came, and she remembered all too well.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

An Emotionally Captivating Novel

“Of the Black Death, they said it was the end of the world; I knew better. The world can withstand the sickness of the body, but it remains to be seen whether it will survive the sickness that eats at the souls of our persecutors...”

So professes Mother Marie Fran├žoise, born Sybille, a poor midwife who is taught pagan ways and magic by her grandmother and is forced to take refuge among the Franciscan sisterhood as the Inquisition threatens. Her extraordinary life story unfolds when a monk is charged with determining whether the mysterious abbess is a saint or a witch.

Sybille is possessed of exceptional powers, and she is in full command of them - practicing magic, winning the hearts of people with her wisdom, and terrorizing church authorities with her cunning. But even witches are not immune to earthly love, and Sybille embarks on a passionate, dangerous quest to be reunited with her beloved. As she confronts an exceptional destiny - one that will require her to face the flames in order to save others like her - she relates a tale of impossible triumph that forever changes the inquisitor who hears it.

The Burning Times brilliantly weaves the mythology of the Knights Templar, witchcraft, and Gnosticism against a backdrop of actual historical events: the Black Death, the Hundred Years' War, and the catastrophic defeat of France by England. Demonstrating the same meticulous research and page-turning plotting that made her Diaries of the Family Dracul series a success, Jeanne Kalogridis crafts together a vivid portrait of this turbulent and fascinating period in world history and, at the same time, delivers a searing love story with a redeeming moral of it's own: The greatest magic is that of compassion.

Title: The Burning Times
Author: Jeanne Kalogridis
Published: 2001
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Pages: 394
Genre: Fiction

The Burning Times is a fantastic piece of literary fiction and historical romance woven together by Jeanne Kalogridis. The book it is set in medieval France but other than a few common French words that are peppered throughout the book, it was completely understandable.

This was the first book I have ever read by this author but I can guarantee you it won’t be the last! For awhile Phillipa Gregory was the queen of historical literary fiction, (in my book at least) but now that I’ve read Kalogridis, I believe Gregory has now been dethroned! I’m so glad my online book group (Witch Novels- now deleted) picked The Burning Times as it’s December group read or else I probably wouldn’t have found this wonderful book! I was completely enthralled by it from the beginning to the end because you never knew what would happen next, just like in a real life story.

Wikipedia has an
article on Jeanne Kalogridis which includes a complete bibliography of her works. Since The Burning Times was published in 2001, there isn’t too much information about it available on the internet but I did manage to find an interview with the author! Reading Group Guides has a discussion guide available for the book as well.

First Sentence: It is a hard, deafening rain.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Jack Frost is Here

Related by Pardon-Me-Pete (voiced by Buddy Hackett) the official groundhog of Groundhog Day, this animated charmer tells of a girl so beautiful she melted the heart of Jack Frost (voiced by Robert Morse) himself. While visiting the village of January Junction, Jack Frost falls head-over-snowflakes in love with Elisa (voiced by Debra Klinger), the town's prettiest maiden. Turning into a human boy, Jack begins his courtship -- only to lose Elisa to the evil clutches of Kubla Kraus (Paul Frees) the Cossack. Teaming up with his elfin friends, Jack must use all his icy powers to free Elisa from Kubla's army of mechanical men.

Title: Jack Frost
Release: December 13, 1979
Genre: Animation- Holiday TV Special
MPAA Rating: G
Writer: Romeo Muller
Director: Jules Bass & Arthur Rankin Jr.
Music By: Maury Laws
Produced By: Jules Bass & Arthur Rankin Jr.
Distributed By: Rankin/ Bass Productions
Run Time: 43 minutes

The tales of Jack Frost have been made into books, poems, and movies (although admittedly,
most aren’t very good) for many years and there will probably be more in many years to come. So far Rankin/ Bass (the people who bring everyone such happiness during the holidays) are the only ones who have been able to come up with a film that captures the essence of Jack Frost in their stop-motion animated film called accordingly, Jack Frost!

I’ve always found it odd that this is promoted as a Christmas
movie. Sure there are couple of scenes about Christmas but Jack Frost is really all about winter. It even begins and ends in February with Pardon-Me-Pete (who is the narrator) voiced by Buddy Hackett. Nevertheless, I’ve always had a soft spot for this little story even if it didn’t end the way I wished it had.

It wasn’t until a few days ago that I learned that the film that I’ve loved and watched for years was actually edited! I’d been missing at least a good 10 minutes of this beautiful film but now I’ve finally found a complete version in which all of Kubla Kraus’s songs were put back in. Kubla was voiced by the uninimitable Paul
Frees, who is probably best known for his role Burgermeister Meisterburger in another Rankin/Bass film called Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Jack Frost may not be the best of the Rankin/ Bass films by any means but it will always be something I watch every year.

Wikipedia, imdb.com, and the Christmas specials Wiki all have pages on this often forgotten gem.

Clip:

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Yippee-ki-Yay!

Bruce Willis stars as New York City Detective John McClane, newly arrived in Los Angeles to spend the Christmas holiday with his estranged wife (Bonnie Bedelia). But as McClane waits for his wife's office party to break up, the partygoers are taken hostage by a group of terrorists headed by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman). Disregarding the orders of the authorities surrounding the building, McClane takes on the villains, armed with only a service revolver and his cunning, McClane launches his own one-man war.

Title: Die Hard
Release: July 13, 1988
Genre: Action
MPAA Rating: R
Based On: Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp
Writer: Jeb Stuart, & Steven E. de Souza
Director: John McTiernan
Music By: Michael Kamen
Produced By: Charles Gordon, Lawrence Gordon, Beau Marks, & Joel Silver
Distributed By: 20th Century Fox
Run Time: 114 minutes

By the late 80's the action genre was becoming tired and repetitive then Die Hard came along and raised the bar by blending humor into the action packed thrill. This little film rocketed Bruce Willis permanently into fame, firmly cast Alan Rickman as the ultimate villain, and finally went on to become a popular franchise that has so far spawned three other movies!

I have to admit that until recently I had never seen the Die Hard movies even though I really like Bruce Willis and think Alan Rickman is so much fun to hate. Now that I have seen them all I can say without a doubt, that this is one of the best action-packed series of films I’ve ever seen! Willis’ sarcastic and foul-mouthed humor is absolutely hilarious in every film but especially this one.

If I was to pick favorites out of all the Die Hard films, this would have a pretty fair chance at being in the number one slot followed closely behind by Live Free Die Hard (4) simply because it’s mindless “shoot-em-up” fun but still manages to be funny and thrilling almost 20 years since it’s first release.

There is information on Die Hard at Wikipedia and imdb.com as well as a video of Siskel & Ebert’s review in which there are several clips from the film.

Trailer:



What is it about John McClane and the holiday’s?! Here it is, Christmas Eve, and McClane (Bruce Willis, returning to his iconic film role) is off-duty in the nation’s capital. But a team of terrorists, in town to rescue a drug lord from justice, has taken over a major international airport, holding thousands of travelers hostage. Amidst a blinding blizzard, McClane must race against time to defeat the terrorists and their murderous leader (William Sadler). And if that’s not a big enough lump of coal in his stocking, he’s also contending with an inept airport police chief (Dennis Franz), the stubborn head of the army’s anti-terrorist squad, and the knowledge that his wife (Bonnie Bedelia) is trapped in a plane desperately low on fuel, circling overhead!


Title: Die Hard 2: Die Harder
Release: July 4, 1990
Genre: Action
MPAA Rating: R
Based On: 58 Minutes by Walter Wager
Writer: Steven E. de Souza, & Doug Richardson
Director: Renny Harlin
Music By: Michael Kamen
Produced By: Charles Gordon, Lawrence Gordon, & Joel Silver
Distributed By: 20th Century Fox
Run Time: 124 minutes

Die Hard 2: Die Harder is pretty much the same as the original Die Hard but with a different setting, more daring stunts, more gruesome deaths, and mainly TV actors in all the supporting roles (there are a few reprises of roles from the first film though) . Essentially it’s a cheap knock-off of the original and like McClane said, “How can the same sh** happen to the same guy twice?!”

I think the main problem I had with Die Harder was the gory death scenes in which McClane uses whatever is handy to help kill the bad guys and the main terrorist wasn’t a very interesting character either. I did think it was neat to see what airports were like back then although I doubt very seriously that the security was that incredibly lax, especially so close to the White House.

I did however like the special effects and of course Willis’ witty, sarcastic comments. I just felt like it could have been better. It does manage to be good enough to not earn the title of “just another sequel” but I liked it the least out of the Die Hard movies.

There is information available on Wikipedia and imdb.com on Die Hard 2. Plus here is a video of Siskel & Ebert’s review in which there are several clips from the film and Fox has up a page for this film on which you can watch behind the scenes footage and interviews with the cast.

Trailer:



New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) just can’t seem to relax. Now he’s the personal target of the mysterious Simon (Jeremy Irons), a terrorist determined to blow up the entire city if he doesn’t get what he wants. Accompanied by an unwilling civilian (Samuel L. Jackson), McClane careens wildly from one end of town to the other as he struggles to keep up with Simon’s deadly game. It’s a battle of wits between a psychopathic genius and a heroic cop in this third chapter of the hugely successful Die Hard series.

Title: Die Hard: With a Vengeance
Release: May 19, 1995
Genre: Action
MPAA Rating: R
Based On: Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp (characters)
Writer: Jonathan Hensleigh
Director: John McTiernan
Music By: Michael Kamen
Produced By: John McTiernan & Michael Tandross
Distributed By: 20th Century Fox
Run Time: 131 minutes

Die Hard: With a Vengeance may be the funniest film in the Die Hard series but sadly the plot is kind of weak so the movie was left entirely up to the fabulous talents of Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, and Jeremy Irons who plays the brother of Hans Gruber (the main villian from the first Die Hard).

I was very pleased with this Die Hard and not only because it had incredibly cool stunts (lot’s of stuff gets blown up this time) or the fact that it was utterly hilarious either. I loved Die Hard: With a Vengeance because someone acknowledged that Alan Rickman (who played Hans Gruber) was the ultimate villain and that only one man could possibly be believable as Gruber’s brother... the smooth, calculating Jeremy Irons of course! And what a great bad guy he makes too!

If it wasn’t for these fabulous actors and their many talents, Die Hard: With a Vengeance I probably wouldn’t have made it more than 15 minutes into the film before falling asleep. As it stands I loved it and I can’t wait to see it again soon!

There is information available on Wikipedia and imdb.com on Die Hard 3. Plus here is a video of Siskel & Ebert’s review in which there are several clips from the film.

Trailer:




An old-fashioned cop emerges to foil a high-tech attack on the country's computer infrastructure as Bruce Willis brings back one of the biggest action franchises in screen history. It's been over a decade since audiences last saw New York cop John McClane (Willis), but now, as the world's greatest criminal mastermind (Timothy Olyphant) attempts to cripple the entire country with an innovative act of technological terrorism, only one cop can insure that the integrity of the system stays intact.

Title: Live Free or Die Hard
Release: June 27, 2007
Genre: Action
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Based On: Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp (certain characters)
Writer: Mark Bomback & David Marconi
Director: Len Wiseman
Music By: Marco Beltrami
Produced By: John McTiernan, Bruce Willis, Arnold Rifkin, & Michael Fottrell
Distributed By: 20th Century Fox
Run Time: 129 minutes
Official Site

The very latest in the Die Hard series which has spanned over almost 20 years is Live Free or Die Hard in which McClane goes up against virtual terrorists with his classic one-man-army technique. Unfortunately McClane’s use of humor that made the Die Hard films what they are is few and far between. Instead the hacker-kid Matthew (played by Justin Long) gets most of the good lines and poor McClane somehow manages to look like he’s giving up his coveted “King of the Die Hard Series” seat.

I’m not by no means saying that this wasn’t a good film because it was! Actually besides the first one it was my favorite out of the whole Die Hard series. Justin Long is a great actor but other than Bruce Willis of course, the person that made Live Free or Die Hard such an enjoyable experience was Timothy Olyphant playing the nasty villain (as usual!) Gabriel. He’s no Alan Rickman but he’s definitely perfect for the job!

I watched all four of the Die Hard movies in one sitting (hence the fact that I made this one long post) so everything was really fresh in my mind. I was amazed at how Willis was able to slip right back into the role of McClane except for the fact that he seems to have majorly cleaned up his language (which is why this is only film in the Die Hard series that isn’t rated R). At least there is still quite a few great stunts and special effects!

There is information available on Wikipedia and imdb.com as well as an interview with Bruce Willis and other interviews with the cast at the premiere. Yahoo has a page featuring this movie too with clips and other stuff on it.

Trailer:


Related Reviews
Alan Rickman
Sweeney Todd (2007)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) (& Jeremy Irons)
Samuel L. Jackson
Jumper (2008)
Timothy Olyphant
Hitman (2007)
Scream 2 (1997)

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