Thursday, April 30, 2009

Little Wooden Head

Italy's most famous fairy tale- the adventures of a mischievous puppet who becomes a real boy.

Pinocchio plays pranks upon the kindly woodcarver Geppetto is duped by the Fox and the Cat, kills the pedantic Talking Cricket, and narrowly escapes death, with the help of the blue-haired Fairy. A wooden puppet without strings, Pinocchio is a tragicomic figure, a poor, illiterate, naughty peasant boy who has few choices in life but usually chooses to shirk his responsibilities and get into trouble. This sly and imaginative novel, alternately catastrophic and ridiculous, takes Pinocchio from one predicament to the next, and finally to an optimistic, if uncertain, ending.

Title: The Adventures of Pinocchio
Author: Carlo Collodi
Illustrator: Roberto Innocenti
Start & Finished: 2/17/09
Published: 1881-1883
Publisher: Consolidated Press
Pages: 234 (Hardcover)
Genre: Classic- Children’s Literature

Florentine author Carlo Lorenzini or as he his more commonly known Carlo Collodi, wrote one of the initial stories for the first Italian newspaper for children between the years 1881-1883 that became world famous and it was called Storia di un burattino (The Story of a Marionette) or Le avventure di Pinocchio (The Adventures of Pinocchio).Collodi, respected though he was for his contribution to the then new genre known as children’s literature, however died unaware of the immense popularity of his little puppet in 1890. Exactly 50 years later, a man called Walt Disney made Pinocchio his second animated film and because of this, the “little wooden head‘s” story has continued to endure the years unweathered.

Pinocchio (which literally means pine nut in Italian) has been translated into almost every language over the years by many people and has been illustrated by almost as many people as well. The copy of the story I read was illustrated by the Italian painter Roberto Innocenti and it was he in all honesty that made me continue to read the story. While Pinocchio’s rascally rude cheekiness might have been cute to some people, his constant tantrums not only bored but annoyed me as well.

True, it is a allegorical story that reflects the values of the era by putting the main character into situations where if he does something good (like getting an education or working for a living) he gets something good in return but if he does something bad (like listening to false friends, skipping school, etc.) or even careless then he’ll also be paid back in kind. A fairly common theme in children’s literature at the time, it was nevertheless not that great of a story and in all honesty, I much preferred Disney’s loose adaptation.

Speaking of which, my favorite character in the film was of course Jiminy Cricket (voiced by Cliff Edwards) who is known in the story as only the Talking Cricket, Pinocchio actually kills him after a lecture on doing nothing but playing (“you‘ll become a perfect donkey“). I do believe that Disney’s is the only adaptation of Collodi’s story I have seen although there are of course many, many more including a musical starring Mickey Rooney (1957), a stop-motion animated series by Rankin and Bass, a Jonathan Taylor Thomas one in 1996, and Disney even made a live-action one for TV called Geppetto in 2000 starring Drew Carey. These are just to name a few and I’m not even including the ones where Pinocchio is a minor character (like in the Shrek films).

The story of Pinocchio has inspired people the whole world over (there are even derivatives of the novel and “sequels”) and just because I didn’t care for it doesn’t mean you or your children won’t love it. If anything else, it was remarkable enough for me just to see where the Disney movie ideas came from… not to mention the now common conception of a liar’s growing nose.

Related Posts: Disney’s Pinocchio

Links: Pinocchio Website (in Italian), Author Wikipedia, Book Wikipedia, Pinocchio Wikipedia, Disney Film Wikipedia, Entire Book Online (Project Gutenberg), Pinocchio Park

Picture Explanations
Sick in Bed: Illustrated by Maria L. Kirk
Kills the Talking Cricket: Illustrated by Roberto Innocenti
At the Puppet Show: Illustrated by Alice Carsey
Embraced by Puppets: Illustrated by Maria L. Kirk

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Garnet Lacey, Books 2 & 3

Author: Tate Hallaway
Series: Garnet Lacey, Books 2 & 3
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Genre: Paranormal- Adventure Romance

Magic is not for the gutless. And I, Garnet Lacey, have become a seriously powerful Witch. Let's just hope I can stomach what's coming.

I should've known I'd never get away with murder. Especially when the people I accidentally unleashed the dark Goddess Lilith on were Vatican Witch hunters. Besides, I've had other things to worry about. I really don't want my vampire boyfriend to find out that my vampire ex is stowing his coffin in my basement...

Meanwhile, pesky frat-boy zombies are popping up everywhere, even at Mercury Crossing, the occult bookstore I manage. And if that weren't enough, I've got a gorgeous FBI agent hot on my trail.

What to do? A teensy little love spell might encourage cute FBI guy to listen to my side of the story, and I could break it anytime...right? Between love spells gone wrong and sharing my body with the Goddess Lilith, a plea of innocence won't be so easy to conjure up...

Title: Dead Sexy
Start & Finished: 2/15/09
Published: May 1, 2007
Pages: 294

Vampires, Vatican assassins, a hot FBI agent, and even zombies show up in Tate Hallaway’s Dead Sexy, the second story in her series featuring Garnet Lacey (formerly known as Meadow Springs). All of course is dealt with by the heroine-- usually in hilarious ways! Hallaway also writes science-fiction/ fantasy novels under her real name Lyda Morehouse.

Garnet actually started off as a cozy mystery heroine "who, using astrology, would solve murders BEFORE they happened. However, [Hallaway’s] editor was really looking for paranormal romances, so [she] tweaked her around and gave her a dark past, dark goddess, love interest, etc," and I’m so glad that she did. Garnet alone is interesting and still unique but her magic-made vampire boyfriend Sebastian, her regular vampire ex-boyfriend Parrish (whom I really, really like- probably since he was a highwayman in life and even more… interesting as a vampire), and her friends are what help give the story vitality.

There is a lot of vampire romance out there lately but none quite like Tate Hallaway’s series. Perhaps because the author herself is a witch as well though she does take liberties because “real-life witchcraft can be pretty dull,” she also makes a lot of it seem almost real. Of course, that does have its drawbacks since this story does have zombies in it which really scare me but I was so intent on what Garnet was thinking and feeling that I had very little time to be scared for anyone but her! This is truly a fun series in the same vein as MaryJanice Davidson and Erin McCarthy.

Picture Explanations
Holy Grounds: A coffee shop where Garnet’s friend Izzy works
Crow: Helps Garnet in the story


I'm on top of the world. The Vatican witch hunters think I'm dead, the FBI has closed my file, I might get to buy the occult bookstore I manage, I'm cofounding a brand-new coven - and the vampire I love has just proposed. How lucky can a girl get? Wait...

Oh, drat. I've jinxed myself. My fiance, Sebastian, is missing and I'm worried sick. Has he been kidnapped? Or could he have run off with that leggy blonde from the coven? Now I'll have to seek the help of my future stepson - the same brat who once turned me over to the witch hunters, all for a pimped-out Jag. Plus, the Goddess Lilith, who camps out in my body, has been making embarrassing appearances. Now, all I need is some crazy shape-shifting killer on my tail. Hold on...Double drat.

Title: Romancing the Dead
Start & Finished: 2/15/09- 2/16/09
Published: May 6, 2008
Pages: 304

The third story in Tate Hallaway’s Garnet Lacey series is Romancing the Dead which the author was inspired to write by a local Wisconsin werewolf myth "The Beast of Bray Road." When asked what inspired her to write this particular story Ms. Hallaway said, "A lot of the romance I read when I first started reading romances were “first blush,” as in the main point of the story was the excitement of meeting someone new. At the end of these novels, things faded very quickly into the nebulous (and unrealistic) happily, ever after. One of the things I’m trying to do in the Garnet Lacey series is promote the romance that can be found in a long-term relationship."

A series that has quickly become one of my favorites is the Garnet Lacey books. The main character "is a lovable flake with a dark side, namely the Goddess Lilith with whom she accidentally bonded when some witch hunters killed her coven" and she has a ton of neat friends not to mention a totally gorgeous magic-made vampire (he’s practically human besides the being immortal, drinking blood, and is incredibly strong) for a boyfriend… nope, make that fiancé now!

Of course, she has a really snotty stepson to look forward to named Mátyás but he can be somewhat decent at times during Romancing the Dead. Like all of the stories in this series, mythical and magical beings do show up and are usually part of the plot like the “werewolf” in this one. All in all this is a truly magical series that I enjoy quite a lot and though the premise is a bit a la Undead and Uneasy by MaryJanice Davidson, Hallaway’s story has more than enough uniqueness and flair not only make it work but it also draws you completely in and has you coming back for more.

Garnet Lacey Series:
1. Tall, Dark and Dead (2006)
2. Dead Sexy (2007)
3. Romancing the Dead (2008)
4. Dead If I Do (2009)
Many Bloody Returns Anthology


Links: Author Wikipedia, Author Blog, MySpace, YouTube Channel, Louisiana Voodoo
Interview: Mike Brotherton, Jenna Black, David B. Coe's, Lori Devoti, Amberkatze, Jeri Smith-Ready, and ME!

Picture Explanations
Werewolf?: Seems to be stalking Garnet
Wind Chime:
Someone lauches a magical attack against Ms. Lacey and uses the crystal wind chimes in her store to do it.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

It Takes a Graveyard to Raise a Child

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy.

He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead.

There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy-an ancient Indigo Man beneath the hill, a gateway to a desert leading to an abandoned city of ghouls, the strange and terrible menace of the Sleer.

But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod's family. . .

Title: The Graveyard Book
Author: Neil Gaiman
Illustrator: Dave Mckean
Start & Finished: 2/12/09- 2/15/09
Published: 2008
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 307 (Hardcover)
Genre: Children’s Fantasy
Official Book Site

"The Graveyard Book it's got scary bits, but it’s a very funny book. It's a very loving and warm
and friendly book with an awful lot of dead people in it. And it has vicious murders and sweet headstones and it has a long dead witch and it has a hero who I think is the best hero I've ever written. I love him and his name is Bod..." Neil Gaiman said of his Newbery Award winning novel.

This story was probably one of the best Newbery award winners I’ve ever read (or at the very least, in the top 5). It’s not spooky (despite the cemetery’s occupants-, which includes not only ghosts but other creatures as well), it’s not scary either. It’s entertaining, sweet, and occasionally funny. True, it’s kind of “dark” but it doesn’t come off that way at all despite the beginning. One of the reasons why I liked it so much is it is structured so that each story can be read almost entirely separately as although the main plot line is never compromised, just about every chapter is a new adventure (kind of like EB White’s Stuart Little, but it flows better). This would be a great story to read maybe just before bedtime (the chapters are a little long though).

There are several illustrations in the book by an illustrator named Dave Mckean that the author has collaborated with several times. Personally, I didn't really care one way or the other for the illustrations. To me they were just there (like Quentin Blake who did the illustrations for Roald Dahl, whom ironically Gaiman’s children literature reminds me of), not exactly pleasing to the eye but they conveyed the author’s story almost as if he had drew them himself.

Inspired partly by Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, Gaiman has said that he may write a second Graveyard Book (since Kipling did write a second Jungle Book, "it's not inconceivable") and it would be interesting to see Bod on his travels and whether or not if he ever makes it back to the graveyard where he grew up or if he ever finds out his birth name. In an interview the author said, "Children tend to read The Graveyard Book as an exciting sort of book with a hero they would love to be. Parents I think, tend to read it essentially as a giant metaphor for childhood and the joy and tragedy of parenthood," but all I know is that this was truly one of the finest books I’ve read in a long time and at the end I was left with tears and the strangest feeling... of wanting to read it again.

Links: Author Wikipedia, Illustrator Wikipedia, Book Wikipedia, Author's Reaction to Winning Newbery, Discussion Questions, Video Tour (with author reading entire book)
Interview: Borders (video), Florida News, Mtv Movie Possibility

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Talk About Lost in Translation...

In the wake of a failed love affair, brainy beauty Jilly Lovitz takes off for Tokyo. She's expecting to cry on her sister Summer's shoulder, then spend a couple months blowing off steam in Japan. Instead, she's snatched away on the back of a motorcycle, narrowly avoiding a grisly execution attempt meant for her sister and brother-in-law.

Her rescuer is Reno, the Committee's most unpredictable agent. They'd met once before and teh attraction was odd-- tattooed Yakuza punk meets leggy California egghead-- but electric. Now Reno and Jilly are pawns in a deadly tangle of assassination attempts, kidnappings and prisoner swaps that could put their steamy partnership on ice.

Title: Fire and Ice
Author: Anne Stuart
Series: Ice, Book 5
Start & Finished: 2/9/09
Published: 2008
Publisher: MIRA
Pages: 379
Genre: Romance- Suspense

There is a group of assassins who are as cold as ice until one by one, each has found their soul mate, fell in love, and retired. Reno (real name Hiromasa) first came into the series during his cousin Takashi O’Brien’s story in Ice Blue but he was immediately a favorite of the author’s as she had him model himself after a character in a game. Now in the fifth and (currently) the final story by Anne Stuart, this newest and most flamboyant member of the Committee ("that covert organization of ruthless do-gooders"), known as Reno, will finally find his match in Fire and Ice.

All of the heroes-- Bastien, Peter, Takashi, Serafin-- of the Ice series are deadly but they're also cynical, jaded knights in shining armor(sorta) too... all except Reno that is. He’s my favorite character over all, mainly because he is the epitome of bad boy-ness or a more accurate description: the "punk black sheep" of the family. He is very reminiscent of Axel from Disney’s Kingdom of Hearts video game (though he did base his look on a Final Fantasy character who in turn was the model for Axel), in looks and attitude, Ms. Stuart has been quoted as saying that he was her favorite character of the series as well.

Unlike the other books in this series, Fire and Ice and I didn't really get along at first even if it does feature one of my all-time favorite characters. The main reason why is I was completely disgusted with Jilly. Knowing who her sister had married and the kind of danger their world is a part of (for crissakes, Jilly was kidnapped in one of the books) she still acts like a total fool for a good bit of the story so to say that I was annoyed with her would be putting it gently. Honestly, I didn't expect her to just let Reno takeover but I was at least hoping that she would be anything other than whiny and petulant. Thankfully, by the end I was singing a different tune! She was still a little whiny but I liked her a whole lot more.

The Japanese culture is one I know very little about but through this story and the third book Ice Blue (which features Summer who is Jillly's sister and as previously stated, Takashi O'Brien who is Reno's cousin), so the brief immersion into a culture I'm not familiar with was interesting and refreshing too. Therefore, while I did have problems with some things at first, by the end not only was I thoroughly pleased with this great story, but also I was also very sad to see these characters go. Yakuza hitmen, sexual tension and a delicious bad boy to boot. Fire and Ice was awesome!

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

Links: Author Wikipedia, Author Blog

Picture Explanations
Almond Soap: Reno's soap of choice that ends up adding fuel to the sexual tension fire for both characters when the other one uses it.
Capsule Hotel: Jilly and Reno stay in one of these (together I might add) while on the run.
Miso Soup: "I brought you oyakudon and miso soup. The Japanese version of macaroni and cheese and chicken soup."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Well... It’s Shaped Like a Book

(From the Publisher)
Do you SUCK?
Would you like not to SUCK?
Do you know other people who SUCK?
Would you like to tell them how to SUCK less or how to possibly become SUCK-free?

Then buy this book, because inside Dr. Denis Leary is ready to help you overcome all the sucky things that make you such a suck[sic]. Not to mention all the fat, loud, lazy and stupid suckholes you have to deal with at the office, family gatherings or while using public transportation.

Part memoir, part self-help tome but definitely a full-time funny assault on all the posers, politicians and pop culture icons who have sucked in public for far too long, this book is a call to arms for everyone who feels the way the good doctor does:

* Skinny jeans are for skinny people.
* Men will never change. Not even into clean underwear.
* If God didn't want us to eat meat, why did He make the cow so slow (Ever eaten a cheetah-burger? Nope. And you never will.)

But this book and you will hopefully laugh out loud, call your mom a little more often and never vote for a member of the Bush family ever again.

At the very least, though, you'll have yourself a nice big twenty-six-dollar coaster to place your drink on while you watch TV. And isn't that reason alone to buy it?

Title: Why We Suck: A Feel Good Guide to Staying Fat, Lazy, and Stupid
Author: Dr. Denis Leary
Start & Finished: 2/7/09- 2/9/09
Published: 2008
Publisher: Viking Penguin
Pages: 240
Genre: Satire/ Memoir

Denis Leary and his book Why We Suck: A Feel Good Guide to Staying Fat, Lazy, and Stupid is going to and has made a lot of people mad… it’s what he’s good at. Some of what he says is completely true, some, he says just to get a rise out of people. “This is a comedy book. Which means it’s meant to be funny,” the now Dr. Leary says in his second note near the beginning of the book. It’s his opinions and his voice can be heard loud and clear, he warns his audience that he’s “not here to make you feel all warm and fuzzy or superior to everyone else,” in other words: he’s not going to play nice- as usual!

I was very tempted to do as the author suggested in the prologue and put the book down quite a few times. He’s right, he did shock me and even disgust me at points but I doubt he would consider he had done his job if he hadn’t! I did keep reading even though it wasn’t quite as funny as I thought it would be (at least not to me). However, I did find a lot of it amusing. Will I continue to see his movies and stuff? Yes, but I might be a little more wary the next time he writes a book.

When Why We Suck first came out there was a big scandal covered by Fox News and even autism advocates because of the sixth chapter of the book in which Leary attacks parents who have gotten their children labeled as autistic. This is what has made so very many people angry (and therefore boosted the sales of the book): "There is a huge boom in autism right now because inattentive mothers and competitive dads want an explanation for why their dumb[sic] kids can't compete academically so they throw money into the happy laps of shrinks and psychotherapists to get back diagnoses that help explain away the deficiencies of their junior morons. I don't give a [sic] what these crackerjack whackjobs tell you---yer kid is NOT autistic. He's just stupid. Or lazy. Or both." The odd thing is, is that Leary then goes on to say that he has met actual autistic kids and they are “extremely bright and attentive” so by taking this out of context, people hear what they want to hear. What is really sad is that he is sort of right, there are parents who do abuse the system and take away from kids who really do have special needs.

Out of all the comedians on this planet if I were asked which my favorite was, the first person to come to mind is Denis Leary (then Robin Williams, but I digress). He’s genuinely funny because he’s brutally honest and although that sometimes can be misconstrued as cruel, he’s also a pretty good guy most of the time (he gives to charities a lot, set up a few himself, and has even did some voice work for a few animated films). However, as much as I like him and enjoy his performances in film and otherwise, there were quite a few parts of his book that I didn’t like at all (and unsurprisingly found quite a few things very offensive) but there were more than a few topics on which I agreed with him. Will his book change America and stop its citizens from being stupid, fat, and lazy? I sincerely doubt it, but his little “self-help” book will make people laugh (sometimes).

Links: Author Wikipedia, Book Wikipedia, Author, Borders Video, Borders Audio (excerpt)

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Vampires Vs. Lycans

In the Underworld, Vampires are a secret clan of modern aristocratic sophisticates whose mortal enemies are the Lycans (Werewolves), a shrewd gang of street thugs who prowl the city's underbelly. No one knows the origin of their bitter blood feud, but the balance of power between them turns even bloodier when a beautiful young Vampire warrior and a newly-turned Lycan with a mysterious past fall in love. Kate Beckinsale and Scott Speedman star in this modern-day, action-packed tale of ruthless intrigue and forbidden passion - all set against the dazzling backdrop of a timeless, Gothic metropolis.

Title: Underworld
Release: September 19, 2003
Genre: Action- Horror
MPAA Rating: R
Writer: Kevin Grevioux, Len Wiseman, & Danny McBride
Director: Len Wiseman
Music By: Paul Haslinger
Produced By: Robert Bernacchi, Gary Lucchesi, & Tom Rosenberg
Distributed By: Screen Gems (Sony)
Run Time: 121 minutes
Official Site

The saga continues as the battle rages on between the aristocratic Death Dealers (vampires) and the barbaric Lycans (werewolves). This film traces the beginnings of the ancient feud between the two tribes as the beautiful vampire heroine Selene (Kate Beckinsale) discovers that she has been betrayed by her own kind and must seek revenge. The fast-paced, modern-day tale of deadly action, ruthless intrigue and forbidden love takes her into battle to end all wars as the immortals must finally face their retribution.

Title: Underworld: Evolution
Release: January 20, 2006
Genre: Action-Horror
MPAA Rating: R
Writer: Kevin Grevioux, Len Wiseman, & Danny McBride
Director: Len Wiseman
Music By: Marco Beltrami
Produced By: Len Wiseman, Danny McBride, & Kevin Grevioux
Distributed By: Screen Gems
Run Time: 106 minutes
Official Site

"Whether you like it or not, you're in the middle of a war that has been raging for the better part of a thousand years. A blood feud between vampires and lycans. Werewolves," Selene tells Michael and so begins the first chapter in the Underworld film franchise. She’s a Death Dealer (“a warrior vampire”) played by Kate Beckinsale and he’s a human recently infected by the Lycan virus played by Scott Speedman and their both the main players (sometimes pawns) in the war. This is an almost Gothic-looking film that was shot mainly in Hungary and it was also Len Wiseman’s directorial debut.

Sexy, sleek, and deadly vampires have always fascinated me so when this movie first came out I knew immediately that I would enjoy it. Werewolves on the other hand have never really been my thing and the ones in this film are no exception. To be honest, I find them downright creepy and gross! However, I enjoyed the story as much if not more than I thought I would because of Beckinsale’s performance in both films. Selene and Micheal battle it out with Lycans and with the elder Marcus, whom if you remember at the end of the first movie became a hybrid himself (Marcus is a bit scarier than Micheal though, he looks like this huge bat).

Several years and two sequels later, Underworld is still a good film but I was struck by the fact that it just wasn’t as amazing as I remember and it kind of grossed me out more than a few times too. The special effects do hold up for the most part still but it’s the second film where they become really impressive. The actors and the script that earned staying power with Underworld and the same holds true for the second film Underworld: Evolution which starts right where the first one left off and it’s fast-paced action through-out the whole movie.

Links: 1st, 2nd, 1st Wikipedia, 2nd Wikipedia

(Sorry for the quick mini-review)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

An Epic Fantasy

Two masters of epic fantasy have combined in this brilliant collaboration to create a rousing tale of the sort that becomes an instant favorite. This is the story of Shana, a halfbreed born of the forbidden union of an Elvenlord father with a human mother. Her exiled mother dead, she was rescued and raised by dragons, a proud, ancient race who existed unbeknownst to elven or humankind. From birth, Shana was the embodiment of the Prophecy that the all-powerful Elvenlords feared. Her destiny is the enthralling adventure of a lifetime.

Title: Elvenbane
Author: Andre Norton & Mercedes Lackey
Series: Halfblood Chronicles, Book 1
Start & Finished: 2/4/09- 2/6/09
Published: 1991
Publisher: Topeka Bindary
Pages: 566
Genre: Fantasy

"There will come a child," Alara whispered. "One born of human mother, but fathered by the demons, possessed of magic more powerful than the elven lords! By this shall you know the child, that it shall read the very thoughts upon the wind, travel upon the wings of demons, and master all the magics of the masters ere it can stand alone! The child will resemble a human, yet its eyes will be those of the demons; of the very green of the elf-stones. The child shall be hunted before its birth, yet shall escape the hunt. The child shall be sold, and yet never bought. The child shall win all, yet lose all.".... "And in the end," she concluded, her voice rising, "the child shall rise up against the masters and cast them into the lowest of hell, there to make of them slaves to the demons of hell!" So is the Prophecy that the dragons have passed down through the ages among the human slaves in Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey’s first book in their Halfblood Chronicles, aptly named Elvenbane. Little did they know just how true it was…

The first time I read Elvenbane (in 2002), I wasn’t even aware it was part of a series. When I re-read a book, generally, I’ll wait until I can only remember only parts of the story so when I read it again, it’s like reading for the first time. That’s exactly how it was when I decided to pick this story up again. I remembered most of the beginning and of course I remembered the authors’ wonderfully descriptions of the dragons but other than that, it was totally new to me. Yet, somehow I believe I enjoyed it even better this second time! It’s simply amazing how the authors created such an interesting and unique world that truly seems to come to life.

This story and eventual series was a collaborative effort between two great authors Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey and was their only series together but it isn’t considered complete because Ms. Norton passed away three years after the third book. They had planned to do four in all but while each story does benefit from reading the previous one, they can stand-alone. "Hear the Prophecy!"... "Hear and remember! Remember, and whisper it, and pass it onward! Remember the foretelling of the Elvenbane!"

Halfblood Chronicles:
1. Elvenbane (1991)
2. Elvenblood (1995)
3. Elvenborn (2002)

Links: Series Wikipedia, Andre Norton Wikipedia, Mercedes Lackey Wikipedia, Halfblood Chronicles Encyclopedia

Picture Explanations
Desert Oasis:
Where Alara discovered Shana and where Shana eventually returns
Cave: Dragons live in caves
One Horn: Vicious animals that the Elves bred for looks but couldn’t tame.
Salvoski Illustration: Keman and Shana

Thursday, April 16, 2009

To Succeed, Jump as Quickly at Opportunities as You do at Conclusions

What would happen if you discovered that your family was one of the most powerful in human history? What if you were told that the source of the family's power was hidden around the world, in the form of 39 Clues? What if you were given a choice-- take a million dollars and walk away... or get the first Clue? If you're Amy and Dan Cahill, you take the Clue-- and begin a very dangerous race.

Title: The Maze of Bones
Author: Rick Riordan
Series: 39 Clues, Book 1
Start & Finished: 2/4/09
Published: September 9, 2008
Publisher: Scholastic
Pages: 224
Genre: YA- Mystery, Adventure
Official Series Site

Benjamin Franklin was one of the founders of the United States of America, an incredible inventor, "printer, satirist, political theorist, politician, scientist, civic activist, statesman, and a diplomat" too. However, according to author Rick Riordan’s first book in his 39 Clues series The Maze of Bones, he and just about every other powerful famous person over the years was a part of the Cahill family. In the ultimate scavenger hunt, two young children Dan and Amy along with their inherited cat and babysitter, must race the rest of the family to the 39 Clues hidden around the world that reveal the secret power behind the Cahill name. Whoever wins will be the richest people in the world…

Rick Riordan is the author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympian series, which is also an adventure story, but it features gods, goddesses, and creatures from Greek myths. Scholastic pitched him the idea of the 39 Clues series and asked him if he would be interested. The author said, "When they described the idea to me, I said, 'Wow that sounds really great!' I mean, you get to do all this cool stuff with history, and you get to make it like a scavenger hunt across the world. So as a teacher myself I was intrigued, so I said yeah, sure I'll do that."

The Maze of Bones is a fairly fast read (and the author said it didn’t take him very long to write either) but it is jammed full with interesting things and places. I’m really looking forward to the movie version that is currently in the works by DreamWorks with Steven Spielberg involved as well. There are also collectible cards with every book and one in each story that corresponds to an online game in which you can win prizes.

"The neat thing about 39 Clues is that it's so grounded in history," Mr. Riordan said and he was right. That's what makes the story so very interesting! The bare bones of the plot isn't exactly new: two mistreated orphans set out against several unlikable characters to win something and in that way it's a classic adventure that will appeal to both boys and girls. However, basing a lot of the story in real history (Franklin really was an author and he did create the inventions used in the book in search of the clues such as the lightening rod and the glass harmonica) is what makes this incredibly fun series very unique and one that I really look forward to reading.

The 39 Clues:
1. The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan
2. One False Note by Gordon Korman
3. The Sword Thief by Peter Lerangis
4. Beyond the Grave by Jude Watson
5. A Missed Call by Patrick Carman
6. Unknown by Jude Watson
7. Unknown by Peter Lerangis
8. Unknown by Gordan Korman
9. Unknown by Linda Sue Park
10. Unknown by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Links: Series Wikipedia, Book Wikipedia, Author Wikipedia
Interview: Other Schloastic Video Interviews, Borders Media

Picture Explanations
Benjamin Franklin's Statue:
Amy and Dan run into this when looking for the next part of the first clue.
Egyptian Mau: Aunt Grace's cat Saladin, whom Dan and Amy inherit.
Glass Armonica (aka glass harmonica, bowl organ, etc.): Another part of the clue: famous composer wrote music for it when it was still popular.
Paris Catacombs: Where Benjamin Franklin hid the directions to one of the clues in one of his many puzzles.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Nobody’s Perfect

The line between magic and sanity is very thin. That's part of why I, Garnet Lacey quit cold turkey. Never touch the stuff. No exceptions.

But magic is so addictive.... and my inner Goddess, Lilith, is hard to resist. Besides, restraint isn't easy when you manage Wisconsin's premier occult bookstore, and get customers like Sebastian Von Traum-- piercing brown eyes, a sexy accent, and a killer body in black leather and denim. The only thing missing is an aura. Which means he's dead...

That means trouble. I guess I'm a sucker for it. The Vatican witch hunters are on to us. My long-lost vampire ex has crawled out of the woodwork looking for action. And Sebastian's frustrated ex is stirring in her grave.

What's a girl to do if she's hot for a dead man walking? Run like hell-- and take full advantage of the nights...

Title: Tall, Dark and Dead
Author: Tate Hallaway
Series: Garnet Lacey, Book 1
Start & Finished: 1/28/09
Published: May 2, 2006
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Pages: 304
Genre: Paranormal- Adventure Romance

An award-winning author of science-fiction/ fantasy novels, Lyda Morehouse changed her name and her genre in 2006 with the release of Tall, Dark and Dead by Tate Hallaway. It’s a paranormal romance adventure that is the first book in her on-going Garnet Lacey series. In an interview, the author claimed that her favorite thing “about writing paranormal romances/urban fantasy is that you get to have all the relationship/girly stuff married to the high-octane adventure/boy stuff. That’s pretty near perfect for me,” and her readers seem to agree.

The paranormal anthology Many Bloody Returns edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni LP Kelner, contained stories by some of my favorite authors but this is where I first became acquainted with Tate Hallway’s story Fire and Ice and Linguini for Two. Ms. Hallaway’s witchy heroine Garnet Lacey and her vampire boyfriend Sebastian were such amazingly interesting and different characters that I was immediately intrigued by the author’s “voice”. Even if the story was only 25 pages long and takes part mainly in a car during a blizzard, so I knew it was something I just had to read.

There were a few times when I was on slightly unfamiliar ground but the author does make sure I was never lost. I wasn’t very surprised to learn that she is a practitioner herself (by the way, real magic isn’t like it is in Hollywood but this author does let a little bit of Hollywood glamour into her story so real practioners will be amused) but I never got the sense that she was preaching even if the bad guys in the story are part of the Vatican.

Tall, Dark and Dead had a laugh-out-loud-ness to it that I usually attribute to MaryJanice Davidson but with a bit of solidness behind it, like Charlaine Harris herself. I’m already completely hooked on this series too. I found myself re-reading passages aloud many times and laughing. Actually, I spent almost the entire story with a grin on my face- it was just so entertaining! Having a bit of knowledge about a lot of the magical things (Ms. Hallaway leaves several gems of truth in the book) that are talked about and happen in the story do seem to help with how much I enjoyed it.

Garnet Lacey Series
1. Tall, Dark and Dead (2006)
2. Dead Sexy (2007)
3. Romancing the Dead (2008)
4. Dead If I Do (2009)

Links: Author Wikipedia, Author Blog, MySpace
Interviews: Mike Brotherton, Strange Horizons, Jenna Black

Picture Explanations
The plant that brought Sebastian into Garnet’s life.
Bow and Arrow: An arrow through the heart will keep a vampire transfixed but won’t kill him
Altar: Garnet is a practictioner.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Disney's First Robin Hood

Brimming with gallantry, romance and adventure, this classic tale of England's most celebrated outlaw-patriot ranks as one of the finest examples of Disney storytelling magic.

While the noble King Richard the Lionhearted is away, the evil Prince John and wicked Sheriff of Nottingham (Peter Finch) try to seize the throne. Only the quick-witted young Robin Hood and his band of Merrie Men can fight off their attempts, save the fair Maid Marian from harm, and preserve the throne for the rightful King!

Join Robin, Little John, Friar Tuck and all the Merrie Men as they rob from the rich to give to the poor and provide rousing good entertainment.

Title: Robin Hood and His Merrie Men
Release: June 26, 1952
Genre: Family- Adventure
MPAA Rating: PG
Writer: Lawrence Edward Watkin
Director: Ken Annakin
Music By: Clifton Parker and George Wyle
Produced By: Perce Pearce & Walt Disney
Distributed By: RKO Radio Pictures and Walt Disney Productions
Run Time: 84 minutes

Some people say that Robin Hood was a real person and other say he was fictional then still others sometimes say he's a commoner or the complete opposite: an Earl robbed of his rightful title. He's been called 'Robinhood', 'Robehod' 'Hobbehod' and even 'Robert Hood' at times too. Nor has he (or at least those in tales passed down that had assumed his name) always "robbed the rich to aid the poor" either. For the most part however, the folklore legends and stories of Robin Hood and his band of outlaws (not to mention his lovely Maid Marian) have remained mostly the same. However, they have been re-told in numerous different ways: ballads, novels, and especially film and television. Walt Disney was one of the filmmakers to take on this legend with his film The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men.

There are quite a few notable films (and TV shows or cartoons) based on the Robin Hood legend with quite a few notable actors playing the title character but I haven’t seen very many of them. Not even the Douglas Fairbanks or Errol Flynn ones that many consider to be the very best ones ever made (they came out a couple of decades before this one). Sadly, Disney’s first take on the Robin Hood story has been mostly forgotten or actually supplanted by their 1973 animated version, which was my introduction to the legend. Neither of the Disney films was particularly better than the other as they were both good but only the live action one has been forgotten.

The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men may have fell between the cracks of time and memory (it’s even extremely hard to buy nowadays unless on VHS but it rumored to be making its way to DVD sometime in 2009) but it’s tightly woven plot and beautiful sets and locations (it was filmed in Buckinghamshire, England near where many of the legends claim that it really took place) do withstand the test of time. So does the humor provided by some incredibly talented actors like Richard Todd as Robin Hood who had been nominated for Best Actor at the Academy Awards a couple of years before, the inexperienced English actress Joan Rice who played Maid Marian (this was one of her only big roles in her career), the Ocsar winner Peter Finch (the Sherriff of Nottingham) who was said to have “brought sincerity... with a lot of bite [to the part]", and dozens of Merrie men too (my favorites are Little John (played by James Robertson Justice) and Friar Tuck (James Hayter), and Will Scarlet (Anthony Forwood).

This film benefits greatly from having a cast of mostly English actors since it is an English film and story and it was made in England since Walt Disney couldn’t use the money he had made overseas before World War II anywhere but there. This was why he made his first completely live action film Treasure Island and also his second one: this film. It’s a brilliant film that stays authentic to the medieval time in costume, set, and most of the time action as well. This Robin Hood should have never been forgotten! “I’ve tidings to tell and new songs as well of the wonders I’ve seen far and wide.” “Oh Robin, who is called Fitzsooth is dwelling in the wood. His coat is changed to Lincoln green and his name to Robin Hood…”

Links:, Film Wikipedia, Robin Hood Wikipedia, Robin Hood in Popular Culture (books, ballads, films, etc.) Wikipedia, Disney’s Robin Hood Fan Blog,
Interview: Ken Annakin (the director), Richard Todd, and others. Plus, Stephen Knight- Robin Hood Professor

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